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.

Catch a Falling Starlog

 Ah, Starlog magazine. Before the internet, where else could geeks, nerds, and dweebs of every colour and creed get together to share their opinions on whether or not a Federation Starship could take out Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer? By the way, I’m not acting superior here—I usually gave my money to Fangoria, which was even more shunned by polite society. Anyway, some time ago, a collection of SF memorabilia made its way into Strange Adventures, and scattered amongst it were some random issues of 'Log  (as I can only imagine its diehard fans call itfrom the 1980s. The allure of articles about Buckaroo Banzai and The Last Starfighter was too much for me to pass up, so I rescued them from the Quarter Bin without delay. Happily, the March 1988 issue provided me with one of the funniest letters pages I’ve ever come across. The column, or, Communications, as it was known in its heyday, featured this letter sandwiched in between an angry missive from the then-President of the Friends of Nichelle Nichols and several rave reviews for The Living Daylights:


I think I had the action figure of this guy--Studioplantor, was that his name? This letter is pretty funny, mostly because Masters of the Universe totally tanked at the box office, and was pretty much universally (see what I did there?) derided by the few who did see it. This guy’s opinion was, shall we say, not exactly a common one. However, much funnier is this deadpan response from the editor, which shows that Starlog is not without a sense of humour:


Swish! For my part, I actually like and own MOTU on DVD—sure, it’s goofy as shit, but it’s got some great designs by Jean Giraud, AKA Moebius, and a cool Bill Conti score that does its level best to sound like John Williams, which I’m sure was the idea. There’s also a pretty solid argument to be made that MOTU is the closest thing we’ll ever get to a New Gods film, but that’s a blog entry for another day. Sooner than you think, probably.

 However, the real gold is within the many letters dedicated to the 1988 surprise sci-fi hit, RoboCop. Check this out:


Not bad, right? Wait for it…


Y’know, I could be mistaken here, but last time I checked, Asimov’s Laws of Robotics were FICTIONAL, as opposed to FACTUAL, Laws of Science. Does this mean that if I, say, defy the rules from Gremlins and feed my pet Mogwai after midnight, he’ll actually turn into a scaly, mischievous monster? Or that, if I do as I’ve so often dreamed and push my Flux Capacitor-enhanced Delorean up to 88 MPH, I actually will be able to generate the necessary 1.21 Jigowatts I need to travel to 1955, where I can live out my dual lifelong dream of inventing both rock & roll and the skateboard? At least this guy acknowledges that it’s a great film, despite its flagrant violation of hard science.

 (To further prove that I am as big, if not a bigger, nerd than these folks, and am in no way mentally or biologically superior, I will admit to you that I know Vader’s Star Destroyer is called the Executor. There, I said it. )