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Masters of the Universe
by yo go re

With He-Man's popularity in the '80s threatening to eclipse that of Mattel's other big cash cow, Barbie, the powers that be decided to try to create some sort of combo of the two - a He-Man that girls could play with. The solution was She-Ra, Princess of Power.

Years ago, Princess Adora was stolen She-Ra away from Eternia by the Evil Horde. She grew into a strong and beautiful woman, but remained unaware of her secret past. That is until the day she lifted her magic Sword of Protection in the air and called upon the honor of Grayskull. It was then she fulfilled her true destiny: to be She-Ra, Sister of He-Man and the most powerful Woman in the Universe.

So you see, She-Ra wasn't just He-Man with boobs. He was all about power: Sword of Power, power of Grayskull, he had the power... pretty much a one-trick power pony. Adora, meanwhile, got protection and honor, which meant that she was twice as diverse as her twin brother. Or that Mattel execs and writers didn't think it made sense to give a girl power. Girl power!

The return of He-Man to the airwaves in 2002 got a lot of fans' hopes up for a return by his sister, as well. Well, the cartoon has come and gone and the toy line is all but folded, so the chances of that aren't very good. However, to throw the fans a bone, Mattel decided to have their sculptors, the Four Horsemen, create an exclusive She-Ra figure for the summer conventions.

Available at SDCC and Wizard World Chicago, the figure was sold only to people who won a raffle for the chance to buy one, which is a pretty asinine thing to do - at least this year, they didn't make fans choose between the two exclusives.

Like Evil-Lyn, She-Ra is a heavy retooling of the Teela figure, right down to the One Giant Boot. The Horsemen really went all out to turn this into the best figure they could. She's wearing her classic costume, a white bustier and miniskirt under a bright red cape. She's got her winged headdress and, just like the original figure, real rooted hair.

You know, Princess Adora/She-Ra may be the only hero in history who looks more imposing in their secret identity than in superhero mode. Really, who would you rather trust with your life in an emergency situation: someone wearing a sensible leather vest and pants or someone dressed up like a great fairy queen? You make the call!

The '80s version of She-Ra really didn't bear much facial resemblance to her cartoon counterpart - she looked more like a glamour doll than a real woman, but then what do you expect from the people behind Barbie? The Horsemen gave this figure a decent head sculpt, but the paint (particularly the huge blue eyeshadow) just makes her look trampy. Still, overall, the figure looks more like She-Ra than the original toy did.

She-Ra's accessories are just as authentic as the rest of her - she's got her jewel-encrusted Sword of Protection, her dinky little buckler shield and a small red hairbrush/comb thing. Early prototype images showed She-Ra with sculpted hair rather than rooted, and while it wouldn't have been as "'80s accurate" as the rooted hair, it still would have been preferable. Though I guess girls like to play with the hair, braiding it and such. You know, girly things.

The sword is actually pretty nice. In the '80s, it was just an undersized version of He-Man's sword with a big plastic "gem" glued on it. Since this time He-Man's sword is that big metal monstrosity, they couldn't just repaint that. Instead, the Horsemen sculpted a brand-new version that is influenced by the original, but still has the technological elements of her brother's. Very nice work.

The She-Ra cartoon was much better than He-Man and the Masters of the Universe could have ever hoped to be. Its budget was larger, so the animation was better, and with people like J. Michael Straczynski writing, the stories were stronger and more cohesive. It's a shame that we didn't get to see an updated version as part of the big He-Man relaunch, but that's really Mattel's fault more than anyone else's.

-- 08/13/04

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