Masters Of The Fourth World?

 A few weeks back, I mentioned how the Masters of the Universe live-action movie from 1987 was, in essence, the closest we’re ever gonna get to a New Gods movie. This isn’t my theory, by the way—former comics great/current comics crackpot John Byrne said as much in a Next Men letters column some years back, and MOTU director Gary Goddard confirmed Kirby’s influence in a letter printed in a later issue. A recent installment of the excellent Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed even discusses the connections between MOTU supporting character Zodac and New Gods mainstay Metron. I first saw the MOTU movie on cable in the Eighties when it was fairly fresh, and my only familiarity with Kirby’s New Gods characters would have been their inclusion in Kenner’s Super Powers toy line a few years before that. However, watching it again after having familiarized myself with (some less charitable souls might say becoming obsessed with) Kirby’s crazy mythology, the parallels were unavoidable.  Let’s have a look at the similarities, shall we?

 -Both feature a war between godlike beings on a higher plane of reality.

 -Both feature a cosmic despot (Darkseid/Skeletor) locked in combat with a noble yet barbaric warrior hero (Orion/He-Man).

 -In both, the struggle eventually comes to Earth, where a group of innocent humans become involved. In New Gods, the most ready examples of this are Claudia Shane, Harvey Lockman, Dave Lincoln, and Victor Lanza. In MOTU, it’s Courtney Cox (who, just like when Springsteen pulled her on stage in the video for Dancing In The Dark, is always being called on by a higher power).

There’s even a surly cop played by James Tolkan (Principal Strickland from Back To The Future) who embodies the “Terrible” Turpin role. Like Turpin, he doesn’t care for all this cosmic hoo-hah, he just wants to put the bad guys behind bars.

 -Both Darkseid and Skeletor dispatch underlings who displease them with energy bolts that dissolve them to nothingness (in Darkseid’s case, the Omega Effect; in Skeletor’s case, it’s energy from his fingertips that is in desperate need of a cool name).

 -Easy parallels can be found between said underlings; Granny Goodness=Evil-Lyn (played here by They Live’s Meg Foster with her trademark creepy eyes), Kalibak=Beast-Man, Kanto=Blade), any one of the Deep Six=Saurod, maybe?

 -Both feature a science fictiony Mcguffin that can open a doorway from one reality to the next—in New Gods, it’s a Mother Box. In MOTU, it’s called the Cosmic Key, and it is immediately mistaken for a fancy new keyboard that puts on an electronic lights show. Hey, it was the Eighties.

 So, there you have it. If you feel the need to investigate further, Masters of the Universe can be found on DVD for about four bucks, and at the risk of sounding snarky, it’s money well spent. Stick around for the end credits, you don’t want to miss the sequel tease! No, Samuel L. Jackson does not show up and ask He-Man to join the Avengers. That would be just plain confusing.