Masters of the Universe: Revelation Shows Kevin Smith’s Classic Inspiration

Kevin Smith’s Masters of the Universe animated series is bringing a reimagined ‘80s aesthetics to Netflix.

Skeletor and He-Man in Masters of the Universe: Revelation.
Photo: Netflix

Masters of the Universe will once again have the power, this time on Netflix, which has unveiled a new animated series under the creative auspices of showrunner/executive producer Kevin Smith. Unsurprisingly, The latest iteration of the Mattel Toy property, which dominated pop culture during the 1980s, is carrying classic-inspired sensibilities, as the new show’s first images clearly prove. It’s a retro direction—in stark contrast to other revivals of the property—that Smith confirms was no accident.

Two years after it was announced, Netflix animated revival Masters of the Universe: Revelation has officially revealed a first array of preview images (see below), with a release date set for July. Said images (mostly) check off a “who’s who” lineup culled from the franchise’s famously deep well of characters. However, the aesthetics appear to be an artful amalgamation of the 1982-launched property’s early era—notably Filmation’s 1983-1985 He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series, which remains its most famous version—and Mike Young Productions’ 2002-2004 contemporary reinvention of the same name, the latter of which stylistically leaned into the technology aspect of the property’s traditional medieval-meets-sci-fi motif.

“Narratively, our show is set up as the next episode in the legacy ‘80s animated series,” explained Smith in a statement. “This is a continuation of that story. We’re playing with the original mythology and characters, and revisiting and digging deeper into some of the unresolved storylines. Visually, we also made the conscious decision to lean into the Masters of the Universe line of toys for inspiration as well.”

He-Man on Battle Cat in Masters of the Universe: Revelation.
Skeletor in Masters of the Universe: Revelation.
Moss-Man in Masters of the Universe: Revelation.
The Sorceress and He-Man in Masters of the Universe: Revelation.
Prince Adam in Masters of the Universe: Revelation.
Orko, Teela, Roboto, Evil-Lyn in Masters of the Universe: Revelation.
Beast Man in Masters of the Universe: Revelation.

Smith certainly chose the right property for which to draw inspiration from toys, and, naturally, Mattel already has an impressive-looking 7” scale Masters of the Universe: Revelation action figure line ready to hit toy shelves (complementing its current retro-styled “Origins” line) upon the show’s release. The classic-minded, toy-friendly visuals create a formula that could make the series into a worthy revival, a notion compounded by the star-studded voice cast the series has put together. Indeed, the presence of characters such as “the most powerful man in the universe” himself, He-Man (voiced by Chris Wood), and his blue-skinned, bone-faced, fists-shaking rival, Skeletor (Mark Hamill) are a given, but the show’s list of iconic-in-their-own-right supporting players makes it worthy of attention even from those uninitiated with the franchise or who still choose to see it through the satirically flamboyant lens of the Prince Adam “What’s Going On?” meme.  

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Masters of the Universe: Revelation Moss Man, He-Man, Skeletor and Evil-Lyn figures.

Revelation’s list of toy-destined characters consist of Evil-Lyn (Lena Headey), Teela (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Man-At-Arms (Liam Cunningham), Roboto (Justin Long), Trap Jaw and King Randor (both voiced by Diedrich Bader), Queen Marlena (Alicia Silverstone), Moss Man (Allen Oppenheimer, the original voice of Skeletor), Sorceress (Susan Eisenberg), Orko (Griffin Newman), Cringer (Stephen Root), Mer-Man (Kevin Conroy), Tri-Klops (Henry Rollins), Beast Man (Kevin Michael Richardson), Scare Glow (Tony Todd), and Stinkor (Jason Mewes, you know, since it’s a Kevin Smith joint). Additionally, the series will introduce some newcomers like Priestess (Cree Summer) and Andra (Tiffany Smith), the latter of whom seems to be inspired by an obscure character from the 1980s-era Masters of the Universe comic book series published by Marvel under its kid-friendly Star Comics label (which simultaneously published a title for its currently movie-bound rival franchise, ThunderCats).

“I watched all of the TV series growing up, it was everywhere in the ‘80s,” Smith said. “These characters started off as toys and ended up becoming part of the global pop culture fabric. So much of this show has been possible because of the love and affection for this world at every level of production and the fandom surrounding this franchise. A big reason we got such top tier voice talent is because people genuinely want to be a part of this world. So many of us were touched by these stories and these characters early in our lives and were so happy to come back to Eternia.”

Masters of the Universe may have initially been conceived as a hybrid boy’s toys franchise that drew upon ideas from Star Wars, Conan the Barbarian, and Jack Kirby’s Fourth World comic titles, but its amenability to world-building remains its bread and butter. Even in the initial, eventually-apocryphal versions of the mythology showcased in the earliest mini-comics included with the figures, the setting of Eternia was simultaneously savage, mystical, and technologically wondrous, an idea that would be maintained across every iteration (even the cult classic 1987 live-action film flop) throughout the ensuing decades.

“Even if you’ve never watched a single episode of the show or don’t know this universe at all, you can jump right into the story,” Smith said. “It’s a really classic, universal action-adventure epic about growth, discovery, magic, and power. This series explores destiny in a fresh way. There’s a lot of reconciling with secrets, betrayal, trust, acceptance, love, and ultimately, loss.”

Of course, Masters of the Universe: Revelation won’t be the only recent representation of the Mattel IP in the pop culture panorama, seeing as Netflix ran five seasons of an animated revival for He-Man’s estranged spun-off sister, She-Ra and the Princess of Power, from 2018-2020. However, the continuity of that hyper-stylized series, which garnered a new generation of fans, is unlikely to be carried over here (although Revelation might eventually introduce a new She-Ra).

Additionally, in 2019, Sony Pictures was deep into long-gestating plans for a new live-action Masters of the Universe movie from directors Aaron Nee and Adam Nee, based on a screenplay started by David S. Goyer, with Noah Centineo cast as He-Man. However, like many projects after the outset of the pandemic, the film’s lofty plans are currently derailed, and Centineo reportedly exited the picture this past April. Therefore, at least for now, Revelation will be the primary flier of the franchise flag.

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Masters of the Universe: Revelation is scheduled to premiere the five-episode first part of its inaugural season on Friday, July 23.