© Aidan Cross, 2019.

UK London Editions Comics

Issue #12

Release Date: August 31, 1986

Stories:

Hordak's Satellite, part I

Hordak's Satellite, part II

Attack of the Hordesmen

Cover by: Unknown Artist, supplied by Selecciones Illustradas (SI)

This issue’s cover is notable for its introduction of She-Ra, depicting He-Man and She-Ra wielding their swords atop a large dragon. The illustration does not relate to any of the actual stories in this issue for She-Ra does not appear in any of the stories within; rather it signifies that this is a special bumper issue of the MOTU comic, packaged with a free She-Ra comic, launching the new fortnightly She-Ra comic that will come out alternate weeks from MOTU.

This issue’s editorial welcomes the readers to this special issue, packaged with a free She-Ra comic introducing She-Ra and her adventures to the London Editions mythos, as well as launching the new fortnightly She-Ra comic. Brian Clarke had been keen to convince London Editions management to make the MOTU comic weekly but had been unsuccessful (see this site’s Interview with Brian Clarke for the full story), so compensated for this by having the She-Ra comic come out in alternate weeks from the MOTU comic, so the readers would get a He-Man comic one week and She-Ra the next.

Story 1: “Hordak’s Satellite, part 1”
Writer: Brian Clarke

Synopsis: He-Man, Moss Man and Sy-Klone are busy repairing the turret of Castle Grayskull after a recent attack by Hordak. Once the job is complete, the heroes spot a pair of meteors falling from the sky towards the ground, some distance from the castle. Fearing the meteors could cause a lot of damage upon impact, they go to investigate. Arriving at the site of the meteor fall, the heroes are surprised to see the meteors lying fully intact in two craters in the ground – which is unusual as most meteors burn up in the air long before they hit the ground. They are even more surprised to see what look like footprints leading from the meteors themselves. Just then, the meteors begin to creak open, and take on the forms of two humanoid warriors. The warriors assure the Eternians they have come in peace, and explain their story. They are Stonedar and Rokkon, members of a race of Rock People from another world. Their world was a peaceful place until it was invaded by Hordak, who wanted to use the energy from their planet to power a Doomsday Weapon he had invented. As he stole the energy from their world, the planet began to crack up and quakes and eruptions occurred across the planet. Fortunately, the Rock People possess a secret power that Hordak did not know about – they are able to transform themselves into meteors and travel freely through space, and they used this power to attack Hordak’s satellite and drive him away from their world. Their spies subsequently learned that Hordak was testing his weapon on Eternia, intending to suck the energy from Eternia and leave the planet a lifeless husk. So Stonedar and Rokkon travelled to Eternia to warn the planet’s residents of the impending threat and assist them in thwarting it. Together with Stonedar and Rokkon, the heroes journey to the Fright Zone. They find the Fright Zone deserted and empty of equipment, but the huge satellite is hovering far above them in the sky. Stonedar and Rokkon transform into meteors and fly into the sky above to attack the satellite, but discover that the satellite is protected by a teleport field, which causes them to be teleported to the opposite side upon impact, thus preventing them damaging the satellite.

Review: As the London Editions MOTU comic hits the dozen mark, this special issue not only serves to introduce the new She-Ra comic, it also brings in the first new additions to the established cast of heroes and villains since the comic’s beginnings – the characters of the Rock People, Stonedar and Rokkon. (According to Brian Clarke, Mattel gave London Editions only very short notice regarding these new characters - they received details of them on a Thursday and a story was required by Monday, meaning this story was written under great pressure!) This introductory story for these new action figure releases also focuses on Hordak’s most elaborate scheme yet. In the comic’s early issues, Hordak’s schemes were often a lot more basic than those of Skeletor, as he got used to Eternia and gradually discovered his enemies’ strengths and weaknesses. His schemes have become a lot craftier in recent issues, and finally Issue #12 sees him execute his most dangerous scheme yet, which could bring about the destruction of Eternia itself.

It is also notable that “Hordak’s Satellite” is the first 2-part story to feature in a single issue. We have had our first three-part epic in “The Forgotten Army” which ran through issues #8, #9 and #10. Now that the comic had secured a loyal readership, Brian Clarke was able to become more adventurous with the stories and include more multi-part stories in single issues – gradually we would come to see not only 2-parters, but 3-parters that took up a whole issue.  The spotlight throughout this particular issue is also very much on Hordak; while it has been the norm to give Hordak and Skeletor a roughly equal number of stories throughout previous issues, this is the first issue not to feature Skeletor at all. It is perhaps apt that the issue that introduces She-Ra’s comic should be a Hordak-centric one, since Hordak was after all known to TV viewers as the villain of the She-Ra cartoon series.

The opening panel begins by stating that He-Man, Moss Man and Sy-Klone are repairing Grayskull’s turret after a recent attack by Hordak; again indicating how strongly the focus is on Hordak as the main villain. This panel also makes use of the lasers atop Grayskull, one of the action features of the Castle Grayskull playset, also previously seen in Issue #8’s “Riddle of the Sanns”.

The heroes are distracted by the falling meteors nearby, and we are introduced to the MOTU toy line’s newest two releases – Stonedar and Rokkon, the Rock People (an attempt by Mattel to cash in on the popularity of the Transformers toy line by incorporating two warriors whose ability was to transform into rocks). As the heroes investigate the fallen meteors, they see that these are no ordinary meteors given that they have hit the ground fully intact rather than burning up in mid-air as meteors should do. Also there are footprints leading from them – although the footprints make little sense from a story perspective, since these imply that Stonedar and Rokkon have already transformed and explored Eternia on foot – yet when they transform before the heroes they very much appear to be doing so for the first time since making planetfall. The Spanish team of artists have given Stonedar and Rokkon a very different colour scheme from the action figures; their shells and skin a brownish colour as opposed to the grey and blue of the toys.

Stonedar and Rokkon go on to explain why they have come to Eternia, following Hordak’s attack on their own world, an unnamed planet home to an entire race of Rock People. Hordak’s new scheme is apparently to destroy Eternia by draining the energy from the planet with his ‘Doomsday Weapon’, having decided that if he cannot conquer Eternia, he will destroy it. This brings to mind Issue #5’s “Hordak’s Assault”, in which Hordak attempted to destroy Grayskull itself.

Upon arrival at the Fright Zone, the heroes see that Hordak clearly means business, as he has removed all his equipment from his base as he has embarked on his scheme to destroy the planet. As Stonedar and Rokkon attempt to attack the satellite above, only to find that it is surrounded by a teleport field that only causes them to pass right to the other side, the reader is left wondering just how the heroes can possibly thwart this particularly elaborate scheme.

****

This issue’s Master Mail shows just how observant some of the readers are, as one queries an apparent discrepancy in He-Man’s strength between issues, while another points out the resemblance between the two demons in Issue #8 – Kallu from “Riddle of the Sanns” and The Demon of Desos from “He-Man the Powerless”. Another letter enquires about whether Hordak has a master, and Scrollos mentions for the first time Horde Prime, who was later to receive a dramatic introduction in the Twins of Power special.

****

Story 2: “Hordak’s Satellite, part 2”
Writer: Brian Clarke

Synopsis: As Stonedar and Rokkon head deeper into the depths of space after passing through the satellite, Hordak and his Horde prepare to use the energy-stealer within the satellite to crack Eternia open. His plan is to give the Eternians an ultimatum – banish He-Man and surrender Grayskull to him, otherwise he will destroy the whole planet. Stonedar and Rokkon fly back to Eternia and explain to He-Man what happened. Just then, the ground begins to quake as Hordak uses the energy-stealing machine on Eternia. He-Man thinks of a potential plan to counter the attack, and leads the heroes back to Castle Grayskull. He ascends to the castle turret while leaving the other heroes on ground level, and combines the power of his sword with the magic of The Sorceress to fire at Hordak’s satellite. However, Hordak has already foreseen this attack and a giant mirror from the side of the satellite reflects the beam back at He-Man and The Sorceress. Down below, Stonedar and Rokkon agree that there is nothing they can do to help the Eternians, and convert back into meteor form, taking off into the sky. Although they appear to have deserted the heroes, they are in fact putting into action a last ditch attempt at attacking the satellite that could lead to their own destruction. They separate from one another and fly to opposite sides of the satellite, where they open up and use their weapons to fire at the ship from opposite sides, causing the blasts to meet in the middle of the satellite. The satellite begins to fall apart, and loses power, becoming a useless heap of junk floating in space. He-Man, Moss Man and Sy-Klone have witnessed the satellite’s destruction from below, and just then, the Rock People return to Eternia’s surface and explain what they did. They offer to remain on Eternia and join the heroes in their fight against the forces of evil. He-Man accepts their offer, and welcomes the Rock People into the ranks of the Heroic Warriors.

Review: In the second part of this epic story, we see Hordak come his closest yet to winning as he sets his energy-draining satellite on Eternia, causing quakes across the planet. The opening panel is particularly dramatic, showing Hordak and his four Hordesmen at the controls of the ship as they prepare to execute the attack. On the second page we get a nod to the new She-Ra comic series as Hordak states his intention to concentrate his forces on Eternia’s sister planet Etheria, once he has destroyed Eternia.

We see just how much Hordak has developed as a villain when he is effortlessly able to counter He-Man and The Sorceress’ attack on the satellite. Whereas in early issues Hordak often underestimated the strength and power of the heroes, here he has had the foresight to anticipate their counterattack and installed a giant mirror within the satellite that deflects He-Man and The Sorceress’ blasts back at them.

As all seems lost for the Eternians, Stonedar and Rokkon appear to desert them by returning to meteor form and flying away into the skies above. Moss Man berates the Rock People for deserting them, while Sy-Klone refuses to be too hard on them, seeing the hopelessness of the situation. Personally I think it would have been better had Sy-Klone been the one to become uptight about the alleged desertion; since previous issues have shown him to be one of the more impulsive and excitable of the heroes, this would have seemed in-keeping with his character.

Fortunately, just when it appears the Rock People have rather insensitively deserted their comrades, it turns out they are in fact putting into operation a counterattack of their own which they expect to lead to their own destruction. The following action scene makes use of the Rock People’s action features, as they unfold into human form on either side of the satellite and use their weapons to fire at the satellite from both sides so their beams collide in the middle, thus destroying the satellite’s source of power. This would have seemed like the perfect opportunity to showcase the weapons that came with the action figures, which plugged into a hole on the figures’ chests, and it may well be that this was what Brian Clarke had in mind when writing the story. However, the artists have not illustrated the weapons at all – it is evident that the Rock People are armed somehow, but the weapons are not shown. Most likely this is due to the Spanish artists not yet having images of the weapons for reference.

As the Rock People land, the bright green of the trees and grass illustrated, in stark contrast to the barren terrain seen before in the story, convey a sense of victory and recovery from a particularly deadly threat.  The Rock People offer to remain on Eternia to assist with the struggle against evil, and He-Man accepts their offer, welcoming them to the Heroic Warriors.

The Rock People have been given little character in this story besides being generic heroes, but this is more than made up for by the drama of their act of courageousness at story’s end – plus the fact that had the Rock People not come to Eternia, Hordak could actually have succeeded in this scheme. Thus they have earned their role as valuable members of the Heroic Warriors. And Hordak is undoubtedly the true star of this story, with a scheme that almost enables him to surpass Skeletor as the comic’s most dangerous villain. “Hordak’s Satellite” is an excellent two-parter that deserves its place in this landmark issue!

****

Story 3: “Attack of the Hordesmen”
Writer: Brian Clarke

Synopsis: Deep inside Hordak’s Fright Zone, Hordak has just finished his new invention. Having finally realized that the Heroic Warriors are too powerful for him to defeat with his current resources, he has built a Space Porter machine to transport some of his Hordesmen from Etheria to Eternia. The machine brings to Eternia one hundred of Hordak’s Horde Troopers, which he hopes will be enough to crush the Heroic Warriors. A short while later, He-Man and Fisto pay a visit to the Vargo Village, near which Hordak and his Horde have recently been sighted. Upon arrival, they are surprised to find the villagers wielding banners with ‘Hail Hordak’ written upon them, and the villagers explain that Hordak has changed his ways and provided them with clothing and food, promising to give them even more in future. He-Man and Fisto investigate the other local villages and find the same story everywhere they go. After visiting ten villages in the area, it seems everyone is convinced Hordak has turned over a new leaf – but He-Man is suspicious. He and Fisto venture to the Fright Zone to pay Hordak himself a visit, and find the Fright Zone clean and the dragon muzzled. Hordak welcomes the heroes into his domain and invites them to join him for a meal, to discuss how he can assist the Royal Court. However, after He-Man and Fisto have sat down, Hordak springs a trap on them, encasing both their bodies in steel bonds, while electronic helmets are placed on their steeds, Battle Cat and Stridor. Although He-Man knows his strength can easily break through the bonds, Hordak warns him that any pressure he applies will be transferred to the helmets on their steeds, which will destroy them. Hordak then introduces them to his new army – the Horde Troopers, brought over from Etheria. Although the heroes seem helpless, He-Man concocts a plan in his mind, and orders Stridor to take three steps forward and one to the side, so he can use his lasers to fire at Hordak’s control box. Stridor does this, and with the control box destroyed, He-Man and Fisto are able to smash out of the bonds without harming their steeds. Hordak orders the Troopers to attack the heroes, but they prove to be no match for them and Fisto uses his iron fist to smash the Space Porter, causing the Troopers to be drawn back to Etheria. The heroes leave the Fright Zone, and head towards the nearby villages to explain Hordak’s scheme to the villagers.

Review: With the previous story in this issue having been something of a breakthrough for Hordak, the closing story continues in advancing Hordak’s role in the comic, by introducing his army of Horde Troopers, familiar to viewers of the She-Ra cartoon. Again, with this issue serving to introduce the new She-Ra comic, the preview edition of which comes free with it, it seems like the perfect time to introduce the Horde Troopers of She-Ra’s universe to the MOTU comic.

Although the events of the previous story are not specifically alluded to here, this story seems to follow on naturally from “Hordak’s Satellite”, for it seems that after Hordak’s most elaborate scheme so far has failed, Hordak has finally realized he does not have the resources necessary to defeat the Heroic Warriors on Eternia and must therefore bring a portion of his army on Etheria over to Eternia to tip the scales in his favour. Indeed, back in Issue #11's "Hordak's Captives" Hordak said at the end that "The next time we meet I will use my Horde Troopers" - if "Hordak's Satellite" occurred before this story then it was not technically the next time, but the continuity still works well as it seems he's been planning for a while to bring the Troopers over to Eternia!

We have already seen a few very basic Horde Troopers in Issue #5’s “Hordak’s Assault” and Issue #6’s “Pact of Evil”; these resembled 50s B-movie robots and were in themselves no threat to the heroes, serving as a mere distraction. The Horde Troopers from Etheria are clearly much more advanced, and indeed it is actually ambiguous in this story whether the Troopers are robots or men in armour – Fisto at one point refers to them as “men in silly armour” and nothing in this story serves to contradict that. Later issues of both MOTU and She-Ra, however, would establish that the Troopers were robotic and produced in a Trooper factory located on Etheria, having been upgraded by Hordak from the more basic design of the earlier Troopers. This ambiguity over the Troopers’ true nature – organic or robotic – was also the case in the early episodes of the She-Ra cartoon series, which at first strongly implied they were men in armour before later episodes revealed them to be robots.

The sequence of panels showing He-Man and Fisto investigating the nearby villages is particularly memorable, as we see four radically different villages, each home to one of the many diverse races on Eternia. (The village of Vargo is named after Vargo Stratten, the author of The Creature From the Black Lagoon.) Naturally He-Man is suspicious of Hordak’s apparent change of heart, and his suspicions are confirmed when he and Fisto fall victim to one of Hordak’s traps at the Fright Zone. (The muzzled dragon in the background is a nice touch!)

Upon seeing the Troopers, He-Man alludes to his first meeting with them on Etheria; the panel inciting the reader to read more about this encounter in the upcoming first issue of the She-Ra comic.

As ever, He-Man is able to use logic and strategic thinking to enable himself and Fisto to break out of the trap, and Stridor helps the heroes escape by shooting at Hordak’s control box. This is the second appearance of Stridor in the comics after the previous issue’s “The Space Race” and here he is Fisto’s steed, as he was generally portrayed by Mattel and most other MOTU media. We get a good action sequence in conclusion, with Fisto putting his metal fist to effective use by smashing the Space Porter, causing the Troopers to be teleported back to Etheria. (Note the mistake as Etheria is written as ‘Ethernia’ in two consecutive panels.)

Although this is a much more basic story than “Hordak’s Satellite”, “Attack of the Hordesmen” brings this special issue to an effective close by expanding Hordak’s army and further enhancing the role of the Horde within the comic. And the reader is left with many teasers and incentives to buy the She-Ra comic the following week as He-Man’s sister finally becomes part of the London Editions’ MOTU universe!

****

This issue's competition page.

© Aidan Cross, 2019.

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