UK London Editions Comics

Issue #18

Release Date: November 1986

Stories:

Orko's Mistake
Return of the Faker
The Secret Files of Scrollos

Cover by: José María Ortiz Tafalla

This issue’s cover features a scene from the story “Orko’s Mistake”.

This issue's editorial from Scrollos features the result of the 'Villain You Love To Hate' poll from Issue #4; the readers having voted Hordak their favourite villain.

****

Story 1: “Orko’s Mistake”
Writer: Brian Clarke
Art: José María Ortiz Tafalla

Synopsis: Orko has been sent by King Randor to the village of Ev-Van, which has recently been devastated by a tidal wave. The village is in ruins and Orko has been sent to provide entertainment for the children of the village at the time they need it most. The children are very excited to see Orko and he begins to entertain them with his magic. He casts a spell to make a ruined hut as good as new, and it works better than he expects when the hut is miraculously restored to pristine condition in a split second. Becoming overconfident, Orko asks the children to make a model monster out of sand, and when the model is complete, Orko uses his magic to turn it into a real monster. The monster appears so ferocious that the children are unnerved by it, and just then He-Man arrives at the village, having also been sent to entertain the children with his feats of strength. Seeing the monster Orko has created, He-Man suggests he make it disappear before it causes any destruction, and Orko casts a spell to make the beast disappear. But the spell goes wrong and Orko instead makes himself disappear, materializing inside the monster itself. He-Man holds open the jaws of the creature, enabling Orko to float to safety, but He-Man is now faced with the task of disposing of the creature himself, which proves ferocious and attacks He-Man with its strong tail. He-Man uses his great strength to lift the creature, but concerned that it may fight back and destroy more of the village, he thinks of another plan to get rid of it and asks Orko to use his magic to create a rainstorm. Orko does so, and just as the creature traps He-Man with its foot, the rainstorm falls down and the water dissolves the creature, which is still made of sand on the inside. He-Man makes Orko apologize to the villagers for causing this trouble when it was the last thing they needed, and the two of them amend by helping the villagers rebuild their huts. Afterwards, Orko finally puts on a proper magic show for the children, entertaining them with some more basic magic tricks.

Review: As with the two most recent stories to feature Orko in a focal role – Issue #13’s “Orko and the Genie” and Issue #15’s “Demon Attack”, this story features Orko unwittingly causing trouble for Eternia with his magical activities. At this stage in the comic’s run, we are beginning to get more stories focusing on other threats besides the two main evil forces on Eternia, rather than every story featuring either Skeletor or Hordak as the villain. This story is interesting in that it features no villains; rather the story’s threat is the result of a spell by Orko that winds up endangering innocent people.

We begin with Orko travelling alone to the coastal village of Ev-Van, which has recently been devastated by a tidal wave, destroying most of the villagers’ homes and possessions. (The village is named after writer Brian Clarke's wife Jane, whose maiden name is Evans.) King Randor, it seems, is offering his support in aiding the villagers’ recovery from this natural disaster, and has sent Orko to cheer the children up with a magic show.

The children greet Orko like a celebrity, and it seems he has a strong following among the children of Eternia; indeed later issues would further explore Orko’s popularity among the younger of the regular denizens of Eternia. Rather unusually, the children have been drawn with particularly large, wide eyes, which is perhaps intended to convey their youthful wide-eyed wonder, but instead actually makes them look disturbingly freaky.

Orko’s first trick works better than he expects, as he casts a spell on one of the destroyed huts, which restores the hut to pristine condition in an instant. The children are amazed by this trick and shower Orko with praise, thus causing him to become overconfident, leading to his next trick – an overly adventurous trick that winds up causing the main threat of this story.

Getting rather boastful, Orko asks the children to make a monster out of the sand on the shore. Once they have completed the task, Orko uses his magic to turn the lifeless heap of sand into a real monster, and a huge, ferocious-looking demon appears, amazing the children but also rather unsettling them.

At that point, He-Man arrives at the village, having also been sent to entertain the children with his feats of strength. Seeing just how adventurous Orko has become with his magic by creating the monster, He-Man assumes a parental role towards Orko and reminds him of how his magic has the habit of going wrong, advising Orko to make the creature disappear so the villagers are not made to suffer any more than they have already.

The children greet He-Man with similar enthusiasm to how they did Orko, and he promises to entertain them once Orko has made the monster disappear. But Orko’s spell goes wrong and he instead teleports himself inside the monster, leading He-Man to prise the creature’s jaws open to get inside and rescue Orko. As he does so, he notices that the creature is still made of sand on the inside, meaning Orko is in no immediate danger providing he can get him out. The creature’s inside is completely hollow, allowing He-Man to see Orko as he pushes the mouth open, enabling Orko to move towards the light, and Orko shoots straight out of the mouth, projectile-style.

He-Man is now faced with working out how to get rid of the creature, which turns out to be both fierce and stronger than it looks, attacking He-Man with a swipe of its tail. As the monster is not a living creature, He-Man does not have to worry about ‘killing’ it, and he lifts the creature with his tremendous strength, seemingly intending to hurl it away, but realizing this may only destroy more of the village, he decides instead to use the creature’s sandy construction to his advantage, and as is often the case with Brian Clarke’s stories, the story’s conclusion draws in some real-life science to save the day as well as serving an educational purpose to the younger readers.

He-Man tells Orko to use his magic to create a rainstorm, just as the creature attacks him with its foot. The monster has He-Man trapped, and though he could easily use his strength to hurl it away from him, He-Man dares not risk doing so lest it destroy more of the village. Orko casts the spell, which works and a rainstorm falls from the sky, the rain dissolving the creature in an instant. The creature is turned into a featureless heap of sand, though its dissolution is not illustrated in much detail, perhaps to avoid any potential controversy that could result from showing the creature being ‘killed’.

He-Man orders Orko to apologize to the villagers for the trouble he has caused, and the two of them amend for Orko’s mistake by helping the villagers with the rebuilding of their huts. Once this is done, the final panel shows Orko entertaining the children with the magic show he came to the village for, sticking to more basic magic tricks such as pulling small animals from a hat, which themselves are amusing enough to keep the children happy, He-Man joining the children in the audience to cheer Orko on.

With Orko generally confined to the ‘Orko the Magician’ three-panel strip at the start of each issue, and only minimally featuring in the regular stories, it is always interesting on these occasions when we get a story with Orko in the focal role, as they explore his character from different angles. We often see just how tremendously powerful Orko’s magic can be, and we have seen him use it to save the day in Issue #1’s “Orko to the Rescue” and Issue #4’s “The Carpet of Chaos”. As mentioned before, this story is more akin to Issue #13’s “Orko and the Genie” and Issue #15’s “Demon Attack” in that it involves Orko unwittingly causing trouble for the Eternians through sheer carelessness, though while both those stories featured him accidentally unleashing an evil threat on Eternia, this time Orko causes the trouble directly through a spell that works better than he expected. We often see similar instances of this kind of scenario in the comedic ‘Orko the Magician’ strips, only this time such an accident winds up causing severe trouble that places the lives of innocent people in danger. It is a reminder of why Orko rarely participates directly in the battles between good and evil on Eternia – for while he can be extremely powerful, his lack of control over his magic and his youthful naivety can all too easily lead to trouble, meaning he is safest sticking to the role of court jester.

He-Man here serves a parental role towards Orko, admonishing him for his mistake and to a degree punishing him by making him help in the reconstruction of the huts, but as we see in the final panel, He-Man realizes Orko’s heart is in the right place and it is his over-eagerness that leads him to cause trouble as opposed to any ill intent. Perhaps the best achievement of this story, and others focusing on Orko, is how they succeed in keeping the character likeable to the reader instead of him becoming annoying – we are frequently shown that at heart, Orko is an intelligent and potentially super-powerful sorcerer, and he has only the best intentions for the people around him – although his youthful exuberance can occasionally lead him to boast and wind up causing trouble, the character’s honesty of heart and his willingness to apologize and compensate when things go wrong show that he is a true hero at heart. Writer Brian Clarke states regarding Orko:

"Orko was always a difficult character for me as he was obviously one of the most powerful and could easily end any plot he was involved in. Hence my underwriting of him. It was just the same way that John Byrne realised that Sue Storm was the most powerful member of the Fantastic Four."

While it can be argued that Brian Clarke has made a sensible choice by keeping Orko mostly to the sidelines in the comics instead of giving him too focal a role, at this stage we are coming to realize just how potentially interesting the character is and how much more can be done with him, much as later stories did indeed go on to explore.

Although this is the type of story a reader may overlook given its lack of villains, “Orko’s Mistake” is an effective story for exploring the character of Orko and his strengths and flaws, as well as providing a glimpse of Eternian life outside of the battles with Hordak and Skeletor. As such, it makes for a solid opener for this issue.

****

This issue's Master Mail page.

****

Story 2: “Return of the Faker”
Writer: Brian Clarke
Art: Amador García

Synopsis: Some time after the Faker’s defeat at the hands of He-Man, the Faker is sitting in front of a river, brooding over his defeat. He has spent time recovering and planning his return, and feels the time has finally come for him to challenge He-Man again. Full of rage and determined not to rest until He-Man is destroyed, the Faker uses his powers to again take on the form of He-Man, and sets off for the Royal Palace. At the Royal Palace, Orko is entertaining the Royal Family with a magic show, when Faker breaks into the throne room, and the Royal Family is faced with what appears to be He-Man, declaring he will destroy them all. Man-At-Arms, however, recognizes the intruder as the Faker, and the Faker seizes hold of Queen Marlena, declaring that he will destroy her unless the real He-Man presents himself and accepts his challenge. Prince Adam sneaks off and transforms into He-Man, then He-Man presents himself to the Faker. Tossing the Queen aside, the Faker engages He-Man in violent battle, picking up He-Man and hurling him into a mirror, which smashes into fragments. He-Man recalls the last time he and Faker fought, and how their battle tore apart a whole landscape, and realizes it is far too dangerous to battle Faker in the throne room, where they risk destroying the Palace. He concocts a plan in his mind, and feigns surrender, offering to surrender his sword to Faker if he agrees to leave the Palace. Faker accepts his surrender and takes He-Man’s sword from him, leaving the throne room to spread his destruction across Eternia. Man-At-Arms, fooled and appalled by He-Man’s apparent surrender, attempts to challenge Faker himself, but He-Man holds him back, saying he must not try to stop him. Furious, Man-At-Arms confronts He-Man about his cowardice, but He-Man laughs and tells him to wait and see what happens. A few moments later, outside the Royal Palace, Faker is attacking the Palace Guards, knocking them aside effortlessly with his great strength, when He-Man emerges from the Palace and tells Faker he has changed his mind and now wishes to challenge him. Confident of victory now he has the sword, Faker accepts the challenge and attacks He-Man, and he is about to deliver a blow with the sword when suddenly, his He-Man guise starts to wear off and he transforms back into the Faker. Back in his true form, the sword burns Faker’s hand, and he drops it, fleeing the scene while declaring he will return. He-Man returns to the Palace and ensures the Queen is safe and well, then he explains to Man-At-Arms why he feigned surrender. He knew that the sword can only be used by someone worthy of its power, so when Faker attempted to use it, the sword’s powers countered the spell and restored him to his natural form. Man-At-Arms asks He-Man’s forgiveness for believing he had become a coward, while commending him on his convincing performance – to which He-Man quips that he was a ‘good Faker’!

Review: Eight issues on from his excellent introduction in Issue #10 of MOTU, the character of Faker – or ‘The Faker’ as the UK Comics called him – finally makes his much-anticipated return. In his debut story, “When Strikes… The Faker” in the aforementioned issue, Faker easily blew all other villains out of the water with his supreme strength that was very nearly a match for He-Man, his complete lack of cowardice and refusal to flinch from a fight with He-Man, and his seething rage and hatred for the man in whose image he had been created. This was clearly a villain with devastating potential, and so it was inevitable that a return appearance for the character would be necessary – and “Return of the Faker” proves a more than worthy sequel to his introductory story, brilliantly expanding on one of the London Editions Comics’ most intriguing and well-written characters.

The opening page of this story is particularly memorable for several reasons. The first thing about it that stands out is the fact the colourists have chosen to go for a surreal colour scheme consisting solely of various shades of blue, purple, yellow, orange and brown, as if we were viewing the scenes through a filter of some sort rather than showing everything in its natural colours. This sets a trippy, dreamlike tone for the story, and the reader knows right away that this will be no ordinary MOTU story. The second thing that will strike the reader as unusual is the fact that Faker is drawn wearing the attire of Prince Adam, He-Man’s very own secret identity. This unusual but particularly creative move contrasts greatly with Mattel’s depiction of the character – the regular look for Faker is that of He-Man with blue skin and armor like Skeletor’s, only coloured differently, like a hybrid of He-Man and Skeletor. Issue #10 deviated from this by having Faker still wearing He-Man’s armour when in his natural form, and this story takes a far more unusual turn by giving him his own copy of Prince Adam’s attire, making him a clone not only of He-Man, but of He-Man’s very own alter ego. This naturally sets off a lot of questions in the reader’s mind – does this mean that Faker is somehow aware of He-Man’s secret identity? Faker comes face-to-face with Prince Adam on the next page and does not seem here to be aware in any sense that the prince is He-Man, yet his attire can only really make sense if he is indeed somehow aware of his adversary’s double identity. It could perhaps be speculated that he may subconsciously possess some innate copy of He-Man’s memories that he may not be able to explain himself, which could explain why he has been inclined to dress in the manner of the prince, perhaps without knowing why. Either way, Brian Clarke stated in my interview with him on this very website, on the question of whether Faker knew Prince Adam was He-Man:

“That’s what we were getting at. Faker started off as our version of Bizarro. We thought, what if we took a kind of Bizarro-type character and put him into the world of MOTU? So he could pass himself off for Adam or He-Man but he’d be getting things slightly wrong, so yes, we were implying that he somehow had that knowledge.”

Another particularly striking element of this opening page is the portrayal of Faker. For we get to see the villain in a state of contemplation and pensiveness the likes of which villains are very rarely seen in, in this particular comic series. Given the character’s animalistic rage, it is a refreshing change to see him in this mellow, thoughtful frame of mind, full of regret over his previous defeat at the hands of He-Man. The situation of Faker sitting on the rocks in front of a river, tossing stones into the water as he broods over his defeat, gazing at his own reflection in the water, gives the character a strikingly human edge that adds an interesting layer of depth to him, on top of the raging savage psychopath we saw in his previous story. For a character so aggressively evil, with an inherently monstrous nature, Faker strikes us as strangely human, and easily one of the most – if not the most – well-developed villain in the whole comic series. The complexity of this character, his hatred for He-Man, and his independence of his creator Skeletor (“When Skeletor created me with an evil spell he could not have foreseen the rage that I would feel for He-Man”) make him a character with infinite story possibilities who definitely deserves to be featured a lot more heavily in the comics. With a character this well-developed, it’s easily to understand why Brian Clarke chose to make Faker a magical creation instead of a robot as in most media!

The attention to detail is also impressive – Faker’s thought bubble on the second panel clearly depicts the character’s final kick thrown at He-Man before the two parted ways in Faker’s previous story. (Both stories are illustrated by Amador García).

Having been biding his time, awaiting the right moment to strike back at He-Man, Faker feels that time has finally come and re-assumes He-Man’s form, heading to the Royal Palace. The scene cuts to the Royal Palace, where Orko is entertaining King Randor, Queen Marlena, Prince Adam and Man-At-Arms with a magic show (Man-At-Arms is nowhere to be seen in this panel, although the next page indicates he is present), using his magic to juggle several items in the air. We also see a distinctive-looking guard standing aside the King and Queen, his sword placed before him. Orko’s magic words “Izzy Wizzy” are a reference to the popular British children’s TV character Sooty, the glove-puppet teddy bear operated initially by stage magician Harry Corbett, whose regular catchphrase before tapping his magic wand was “Izzy Wizzy, let’s get busy”.

We get a quick comedy scene with Orko before the action begins, Orko boasting about how his magic never fails, before it does exactly that, with the objects he is juggling falling on his head.

The next panel shows the Faker’s entry to the Royal Court, as he enters the room and declares “I have come to destroy you all. Prepare to feel the wrath of He-Man!” The fact Faker has got as far as the Royal Throne Room is an indication of just how dangerous he is. It is not made clear whether he has fought his way past the guards outside or whether he has simply impersonated He-Man and asked to see the king – most likely the latter, but either way, a villain who can get this far so effortlessly is clearly a force to be reckoned with. At this stage, Faker is still impersonating He-Man, and Randor at first is fooled, exclaiming “He-Man! Have you taken leave of your senses?” before Man-At-Arms identifies the intruder as Faker, recalling his previous encounter with him. The word balloons are drawn clumsily as Randor’s word balloon seems to be pointing to Prince Adam, and Man-At-Arms’ balloon seems to point to Randor! Orko hiding behind the curtain from the villain is a nice touch.

Faker then attacks Queen Marlena, grasping his arm around her while using his other fist to deliver a mighty blow to the aforementioned guard, who attempts to defend the Royals against him. Faker threatens to harm the Queen unless He-Man presents himself, and Prince Adam sneaks off to become He-Man. Returning as He-Man, he challenges the Faker, who thrusts the Queen aside violently. We recall here how the previous Faker story in Issue #10 was easily the most violent story the comics had printed yet, and it still remains such, with He-Man finally matched by a villain whose brawn was almost equal to his own. This sequel story is clearly living up to its predecessor in that department. As before, the artist is careful about illustrating any of the violence in too much detail (Mattel were particularly strict with their rule that the comics should feature no violence, but the writers and artists were often keen to work around this rule as much as they could – so violence was often implied or suggested rather than directly shown, with punches and kicks being indicated but not actually shown connecting), but as in the previous Faker story, the boundaries are being greatly pushed, as Faker hurling a woman aside so she will evidently topple heavily to the ground is considerably more violent than anything the comics would usually touch.

The two enemies engage in mortal combat once again, with Faker and He-Man’s respective battle cries of “For Skeletor!” and “For Grayskull!” Faker’s battle cry seems quite interesting seeing as once again, the comic is portraying him as an independent villain rather than a minion of Skeletor (Skeletor does not even feature in either of the two Faker stories). This indicates that Faker still has some loyalty to his creator, although he seems to have become completely independent of him and with his strength, could very likely easily beat him unless Skeletor were able to outsmart him with his magic.

Faker picks up He-Man and hurls him into a mirror, which shatters into fragments. He-Man recalls his previous battle with Faker and how the two of them tore apart a whole landscape, and realizes it is useless to fight Faker in the throne room where they risk destroying the palace. So he comes up with a genius plan, and as with many previous stories, it is He-Man’s brains rather than his brawn that save the day. In the previous Faker story there was little time for brains, and it was only Faker’s narrow realization that his foe was stronger than him that caused him to retreat from the fight when he realized it was not yet possible for him to win. Presumably Faker has become stronger this time round and is more of a match for He-Man – so it is time for He-Man to use that one thing he possesses that Faker doesn’t – the power of foresight and strategic thinking.

He-Man feigns surrender, pretending to give in from the fight and telling Faker he cannot beat him, offering to surrender if Faker agrees to leave the palace. Faker demands that He-Man surrender his sword, clearly feeling that with the sword -  “the only real difference in our powers” – in his possession, Faker will now gain the power he desires. Man-At-Arms is completely fooled by He-Man’s act and urges He-Man not to surrender, but He-Man gladly gives Faker his sword, and Faker turns to leave, allowing his enemies to survive so that they may “spread the word”. And finally, he declares that he may challenge Skeletor, and this is definitely something many readers would love to see – as Faker is easily the most powerful of the comic’s supporting villains and the only villain we could imagine becoming more powerful than Skeletor or Hordak, it makes perfect sense for him to challenge Skeletor and this itself is an idea with great story potential, the Faker becoming a kind of Frankenstein’s monster in surpassing and destroying his creator.

Man-At-Arms, ever brave and battle ready, attempts to challenge Faker himself, declaring “If He-Man is too scared to battle you then I will do it for him!” But he is held back by He-Man himself, who allows Faker to escape, and Man-At-Arms is shocked and appalled by He-Man’s apparent cowardice, remarking “He-Man is defending an enemy of the court. Truly this is Eternia’s blackest day!” With Faker gone, Man-At-Arms confronts He-Man angrily about his cowardice, but He-Man breaks his act and laughs, telling Man-At-Arms to wait and see what happens.

Outside the palace, Faker is effortlessly hurling the guards aside as they attempt to stop him, and He-Man steals after him, ready to fight him now they are outside without the risk of innocents being harmed. He-Man shouts out to Faker that he has changed his mind and now wishes to challenge him, which only amuses Faker even more, confident of victory now he has the sword. Faker swipes the sword at He-Man, and He-Man dodges the blow, but Faker hurls a punch at He-Man, which succeeds in connecting – although again Amador García is careful and does not actually show the punch connecting with He-Man, the dialogue and action enough to indicate the violence that is happening. With He-Man having fallen to the ground, Faker raises the sword, ready to deliver the fatal attack, but He-Man knows what will happen next – the sword counters the spell that enables Faker to assume He-Man’s form, and he begins to revert to his true self, again shown in the clothes of Prince Adam as seen at the start, only coloured purple as opposed to the Prince’s red attire. The sword then burns Faker’s hand, causing him to flee, declaring that he will return.

He-Man has no choice but to let Faker go, for he needs to attend to his mother, the Queen and ensure she is okay. After he has done so, He-Man explains to Man-At-Arms why he feigned surrender, knowing that once Faker tried to use the sword, its powers of goodness would backfire on him. (This was a regular feature of much early MOTU media, the idea that the Sword of Power would itself hurt any evil warrior who attempted to use it.) Man-At-Arms asks He-Man’s forgiveness for having fallen so completely for his act, but this is exactly what He-Man had hoped for, ending the story on the quip that he was a “good Faker”.

And so ends this more than worthy successor to Issue #10’s “When Strikes… The Faker”, one of the comic’s best stories and easily the most violent, and this direct sequel more than does justice to its predecessor. In some ways it even surpasses it, with its excellent development of Faker and the surprisingly human depiction of the character at the start, with his contemplative frame and his emotional complexity. There is definitely the indication that Faker has become more cunning and powerful second time round – first time he was over-confident and ill-prepared for just how strong He-Man proved to be, but this time he has a better idea of what to expect and has taken the time to prepare for this battle, and he winds up outsmarted by He-Man’s brains rather than overcome by his brawn. This makes for a more than satisfying conclusion to the story, with one of Brian Clarke’s trademark thinking-based solutions.

However, there is one thing about this story that is so bad that it is unforgivable…

It does not have a sequel! Yes, sadly, this was it for the Faker in the UK Comics. Although this story has done an electrifying job of expanding the character as a villain, and has set him up as a character with near-infinite story potential, this was sadly the last we ever saw of him in the comics. It is extremely hard to believe the Faker would not come back, as there is no way his hatred for He-Man would allow him to give in so easily, and he was easily capable of working further to better match his enemy’s power – very likely that after this defeat, he would try to emulate He-Man’s abilities of strategic thinking to see if he could outsmart He-Man in this department, following the humiliation of his second defeat. He is not a character who would lay low for that long, so the reader can logically assume he would have come back eventually – it was just, sadly, not a story the comic’s staff ever got round to writing.

As mentioned in my review of Issue #10, Faker is a character particularly underused across all MOTU media, with only minimal story appearances no matter the medium. There is no doubt the London Editions Comics did the best job with him portrayal-wise, so it is a great shame they did not feature him further. As the comic’s stories became longer and more complex throughout its run, with more multi-part epics, this would have been the perfect opportunity to give Faker the ultimate epic he deserved. Indeed there is so much that can be done with the character – he is capable of impersonating He-Man and potentially landing the hero in trouble, were Faker to hurt or kill someone and He-Man be blamed. That is perhaps the one major flaw of the two stories Faker appears in in this comic series, as he does little actual ‘faking’ and is more concerned about challenging He-Man directly and beating him in combat. Perhaps after this story, he could have sought to shame his mortal enemy’s reputation by committing a crime in the guise of He-Man and convincing the Eternians that He-Man had turned against them? And if he really does possess the knowledge that Prince Adam and He-Man are one and the same, surely he would not pass up the opportunity to exploit this for his own gain, perhaps by revealing He-Man’s secret identity to the Evil Warriors, or attacking him in the weaker form of Adam – or maybe even somehow impersonating the Prince himself rather than He-Man? And as Faker himself suggests in this story, he could challenge Skeletor and perhaps attempt to overcome his own creation and maybe take over leadership of the Evil Warriors, so he would have a full army at his command against his foe? Also, there is so much mystery surrounding the character, making him something of an enigma among the comic’s countless villains – we are never told exactly how Skeletor managed to create him or what his real intentions for him were. It would certainly have been interesting to have had a story that explored Faker’s origins in more depth. Surely Faker is Skeletor’s greatest creation yet, and given that Faker has become independent from Skeletor, perhaps he has been too successful a creation; one that could very easily overpower his creator and supposed master? There are so many amazing story possibilities that it really is a huge shame London Editions never used any of them – following this story, the character of Faker was completely forgotten about.

Nevertheless, while his overall role in the UK Comics may have remained minimal, there is no questioning that they have done an amazing job with this character and given him his strongest portrayal in any media. We can definitely applaud Brian Clarke for deviating from Mattel’s depiction of Faker as a mindless android and instead making him a magical creation possessed by an insane rage and hatred for the man in whose image he was created, and a determination to surpass and destroy him. Both Faker’s stories are among the best in the comic as well as being easily the most violent, pushing the boundaries against Mattel’s ‘no violence’ rules as much as could surely have been possible. Not to mention giving us one of the best and most psychologically complex villains in the comics’ entire run. Like its predecessor, “Return of the Faker” ranks among the comic’s best.

****

Story 3: “The Secret Files of Scrollos”
Writer: Brian Clarke
Art: José María Ortiz Tafalla

Synopsis: Scrollos presents his secret files to the reader, profiling the members of the Heroic Warriors. Profiles are: He-Man, She-Ra, Moss Man, Sy-Klone, Roboto, Orko, Buzz-Off, Mekaneck, Fisto, Teela, Man-E-Faces, Stonedar and Rokkon.

Review: This was the first instalment in a series that became well-known and popular throughout the UK Comics. The Secret Files of Scrollos strips told the origins of the characters and background to the MOTU saga. As the regular stories in the comics dealt mainly with the various evil schemes of Skeletor and Hordak, The Secret Files of Scrollos series was essential for fleshing out the London Editions depiction of the MOTU mythos and giving greater development to the characters and the saga as a whole.

The debut of the Secret Files of Scrollos strip in this issue can be said to be a turning point for the UK Comics, as this was the point when the comics steered away from focusing solely on the regular, present day conflicts on Eternia and began to delve deeper into the saga’s history. One of Brian Clarke's reasons for starting this strip was "This was also a period when characters and lines were rapidly expanding in the MOTU and I knew we would have many more characters to feature in the following months." Hugely popular with readers, who would regularly send in letters requesting a Secret File focusing on a specific character, the Secret Files of Scrollos strip was to last right through to the end of the fortnightly MOTU comic series.

Another notable point about this strip is that it finally showed the readers the character of Scrollos in physical form, as well as expanding his role and purpose as a character. Created by editor Brian Clarke to provide a friendly in-universe voice to narrate the comics and answer readers’ letters, the character has been relatively mysterious up until this point, described only as ‘the keeper of the scrolls’ but now he has finally gotten his own comic strip of sorts, fleshing out his role as the overseer and chronicler of all the Masters’ adventures, who records their adventures and presents them to the readers in comic form. The first panel gives us our first glimpse of Scrollos, although his face is not shown, so as to maintain an aura of mystery about the character. It would not be until the character was given his own story strip in the MOTU Adventure magazine three years later that his face was finally revealed.

The opening narration panel – “Well done young warriors! You have all passed the tests I have given you during your daily lives” – gives the readers their sense of personal involvement in the MOTU saga. This strip, rather than being a story, takes the form of a panel-by-panel summary of the various heroes that make up the team of Heroic Warriors. The first few Secret Files of Scrollos strips took this form, though later ones were to take the form of actual stories telling the origins of the characters.

Naturally, the first panel presents He-Man, who appears to be rather calmly and effortlessly breaking free from a set of chains. The narration panel still uses the incorrect catchphrase “I AM the Power” as opposed to the cartoon’s “I HAVE the Power”, though this was corrected in later issues. The next panel presents us He-Man’s sword and also alludes to She-Ra, who the following panel depicts fighting alongside He-Man. Though She-Ra has not featured in any stories in the MOTU comic (and sadly never would, not counting a fake hologram of her in Issue #35’s ”The Nowhere Bomb”) it is good to see her get a cameo of sorts here, especially when her own comic series, released in alternate weeks to the MOTU comic, has been going brilliantly so far at this stage.

The strip next switches to presenting us with the various members of the Heroic Warriors who assist He-Man. In accordance with Mattel’s pushing to prominently feature the latest toy releases, it starts with the newest toys on the shelf, who have likewise been the most prominently featured supporting characters in the comics so far. The first of these is Moss Man, referred to here as “The marvellous Moss Man”, detailing his powers of camouflage and his telepathic control over plants.

Secondly we see Sy-Klone, who the narration panel tells us “often rushes headlong into trouble. While he is one of the bravest people on Eternia he sometimes annoys his friends by his almost continual boasting!” While the character has been portrayed as excitable and youthfully energetic, occasionally brash, in his numerous story roles so far, we have not seen a great deal of his apparent boasting or rushing headlong into danger. Some of this was touched on in later issues, although the character was always well-written and never arrogant enough to the point of being unlikeable, portrayed generally as a sometimes overconfident but genuinely brave and noble hero, eventually to receive an excellent origin story in a much later Secret File, in Issue #71.

Next character is one we surprisingly have not seen for quite a few issues although he is also one of the latest wave of action figures – Roboto, whose story appearances have been relatively minimal so far but memorably saved the day in Issue #8-10’s “The Forgotten Army” three-parter. The narration panels detail his role as one of the most powerful warriors on the side of good, with his inability to feel human pain, his purpose as a “moving, thinking shield whenever the warriors need to get close to any threat”, and his super-intelligent computer brain’s ability to solve complex problems. One panel here depicts him playing chess with a more simple robot, and interestingly the 2002 MOTU cartoon series by Mike Young Productions would actually portray Roboto as himself a simple chess-playing robot who upgraded himself to warrior form. While he may have been rather underused in the London Editions Comics so far, he would receive some excellent spotlight roles and further development in issues yet to come.

Next is Orko, who while so far has been mainly confined to the Orko the Magician comedy strips that begin each issue, has proven an interesting and well-developed member of the heroes on the sporadic occasions he has received a focal role in the regular stories. The narration panels detail how he was an extremely powerful magician on his homeworld of Trollah, but is not used to the world of Eternia, hence why his magic works less well there. Most interestingly we learn here that “it has been suggested that he is over 500 years old”! This is particularly interesting given his seemingly youthful, teenage personality, but with his advanced knowledge of magic as showcased in later issues, is certainly believable nonetheless.

Next up is Buzz-Off, another character with only a few story appearances so far, who the narration panel states has various advantages over his flying companion Stratos, who being one of the earlier toy releases, has received far more minimal appearances in the comic so far. (Stratos and Ram-Man, two of the earliest toy releases who have featured only minimally in the comic so far, are noticeably left out of this Secret File.)

Next is Mekaneck, whose advantages over the flying spy warriors are detailed here, his ability to peer over barriers by using his extending neck enabling him to act as a spy without drawing too much attention to himself. Likewise, other than his role in Issue #4’s “Raiders From the Sky”, we have seen rather little of Mekaneck so far.

Next up is a character we’ve seen a bit more regularly – Fisto, who has been depicted as a particularly close companion to He-Man in most of his stories, due to his strength being a near-match for He-Man’s own. His fist is described as “specially constructed fist-armour”; it is not yet clear whether the fist is a glove or actually part of his body.

Next warrior is Teela, who naturally we have seen frequently in the comics, as one of He-Man’s closest comrades. The narration panel emphasises her particularly excellent battle skills, noting that “Although she doesn’t look powerful, she can usually defeat the strongest of foes”. The next panel notes her relationship to Prince Adam and He-Man and her lack of awareness that the two are one and the same, and the fact that “she loves He-Man but finds Adam too much of a coward to respect”; this Clark Kent/Superman/Lois Lane dynamic have been showcased most prominently in Issue #16’s excellent “Menace of the Magnetron” and which would be built on in further issues including Teela’s very own Secret Files origin in Issues #57-58.

The next panel details how Teela is destined to succeed The Sorceress as the guardian of Castle Grayskull, and depicts what could be a future vision of Teela being greeted by The Sorceress outside Grayskull, the latter of who appears to be half-transparent here.

Most interestingly of all, the next panel showcases Man-E-Faces. Readers unfamiliar with the toy line (though it’s unlikely there were many of these) could be excused for thinking “Man-E-Who?” for despite being one of the first figures released in the MOTU toy line, Man-E-Faces has not had a single proper appearance in the comic so far, and has been acknowledged only by a panel in Issue #1’s “The Legend of Grayskull” showing him among the other Heroic Warriors (in which he appeared to be flying, not a power he possesses in most media) and only the faintest hint of a story appearance when he was shown far in the background in one panel of Issue #13’s “The Reality Shaper”. Other than that, he has been completely overlooked by the comics so far, making this showcase in the first Secret File the first direct acknowledgement of the character by the London Editions Comics.

A unique member of the Heroic Warriors, Man-E’s appearances across all MOTU media tend to be sparse, and this is perhaps because while he is a very intriguing character with unique features, he is actually very difficult to feature in a story, and he is only really able to feature in stories that focus specifically on him, for he can never really be part of the regular team of Heroic Warriors – and naturally there will be very few stories able to focus on him directly. (The Mike Young Productions MOTU cartoon in the 00s finally managed to succeed where all 80s media failed in integrating him into the regular team of heroes – but that’s another story!) The narration panel explains that Man-E-Faces was a famous actor renowned throughout Eternia, until “The evil Skeletor used his powers to transform the actor into one of the saddest people on Eternia” by inflicting him with a split personality, causing him to be afflicted with two potentially dangerous alter egos. Without warning, he can become either a mindless monster or a super-clever robot (Monster = Id, Human = Ego, Robot = Superego, Freud would be proud!) – which can sometimes help the Heroic Warriors,  although “whenever he becomes the monster it can mean only one thing… trouble!” We see here that this overlooked character is a particularly tragic character with a conflicted psychology and doubtlessly great story potential, who could potentially bring the comic into deeper and darker territory. He clearly much deserves a focal story but it would not be until a later Adventure Magazine that he would finally get one, and he never featured in a regular story at all in the fortnightly comic series (not counting Issue #64’s “The Return of Man-E-Faces” which was a reprint of a German Ehapa story). An interesting point to note about the panel depicting his three faces is that his human face here resembles not the action figure but the face he was given in the Mattel minicomic “The Ordeal of Man-E-Faces”, while his robot face here is drawn strangely resembling the human face of the action figure.

Lastly, we see Stonedar and Rokkon, two of the newest toy releases who have so far made only two appearances in the comics; their origin story “Hordak’s Satellite” in Issue #12 and a brief cameo in Issue #13’s “Orko and the Genie”. The narration panel’s promise that “we can expect a lot more action from them in future stories” comes across like a reassurance to Mattel, as if to say “We haven’t featured them much yet, but don’t worry, we will be showing them more!”

The strip closes with Scrollos inviting the reader to write in and tell him who and what they would like to see in future Secret Files. “The Secret Files of Scrollos” brings to a close a great issue that has marked a kind of turning point for the comics, not only by introducing this strip focusing on the characters’ origins, but also the first issue to actually feature no appearances from either Skeletor or Hordak, proving just how much the comic is expanding into new territory! Editor/Writer Brian Clarke says, of this stage:

"I was getting worried that stories were getting too narrow focused and wanted to open up the universe - hence the absence of Big Name villains."

In this issue, he does a superb job of expanding the focus as well as elaborating on the universe the readers are familiar with, making this issue a particularly important one in the evolution of the London Editions MOTU comic series.

****

© Aidan Cross, 2021.

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