© Aidan Cross, 2019.

UK London Editions Comics

Issue #5

Release Date: May 1986

Stories:

Hordak's Assault

It's a Small World

Glove of Globolah

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

This issue of MOTU is particularly memorable for its excellent and striking cover, which few will argue is one of the most powerful and memorable covers of all the London Editions MOTU comics. This cover pays homage to numerous classic iconic comic covers, such as the below left image of The Flash (image courtesy of Brian Clarke) and the Conan image on the right, which also inspired another MOTU poster as seen below, drawn by Esteban Maroto, who based a lot of his MOTU art around Conan originals. (Images courtesy of Joe Amato)

Below are the images of the cover in development together with the sign off detail, courtesy of Brian Clarke.

Brian also suspects that this cover of a 1989 issue of The Mighty Thor may have been inspired by the MOTU Issue #5 cover itself:

In this issue’s editorial, Scrollos invites the readers to write and let him know whether they prefer stories focusing more on magic or science fiction themes, as well as which villain they prefer, Skeletor or Hordak. Of course, as the comic progressed and the mythology evolved, stories with Skeletor as the villain would generally focus on magic and sorcery while the Hordak stories shifted towards sci-fi.

Story 1: “Hordak’s Assault”
Writer: Brian Clarke

Summary: Hordak brings his henchmen, Grizzlor and Modulok, to the foot of a small mountain, where he reveals to them his latest scheme to crush Castle Grayskull. He has put together a series of Anti-Gravity Devices which cause heavy objects to become weightless and float. He intends to use these devices on the mountain to float it above Grayskull, following which he will turn the power source off, causing the mountain to drop on Grayskull and crush it out of existence. The only problem is how to lift the mountain from Eternia’s surface, and Hordak intends to trick He-Man into enabling this. In the garden of Castle Grayskull, He-Man receives a visit from the Cosmic Enforcer Zodac, who warns him of a massive force about to be used against Grayskull. He-Man summons Fisto, Battle Cat and Roboto to his side and informs the Sorceress of what Zodac told him. Just then, Castle Grayskull is attacked by Hordak, who sets an army of mechanical Horde Troopers on the castle, which themselves are emerging from a Trooper Generator machine. As the Heroic Warriors fight back, He-Man notices Hordak slipping away, and he and Fisto leave the other warriors to defend the castle while they follow Hordak. They pursue Hordak to the nearby mountain, where Hordak instructs Grizzlor to fire a Gamma Blaster atop the mountain. He-Man and Fisto use their weapons to fire at the blaster to destroy it, but as their bolts hit the Gamma Blaster its force is directed along power lines surrounding the mountain, continuing down them until it hits the Anti-Gravity Devices, causing the mountain to break from the surface and float upwards. Hordak then reveals his scheme to He-Man before fixing the control box of the Anti-Gravity Devices to the bottom of the rising mountain. Fisto attempts to shoot the control box to cancel its effects but is unable to reach it unless he gets under the mountain himself. He realizes this will cause the mountain to fall on him and crush him when it drops, but is prepared to sacrifice his life to save Eternia and runs beneath the rising mountain, shooting at the control box and destroying it. The mountain begins to fall on Fisto, so He-Man dives beneath it to save his friend, holding the mountain’s weight with his muscle strength and hurling the mountain away from them, onto the Horde Trooper Generator which smashes apart. Hordak retreats and teleports back to the Fright Zone, and He-Man and Fisto return to Grayskull, the castle now safe from the Troopers, which have collapsed into useless junk following the destruction of the machine. Once the heroes are inside Grayskull, The Sorceress uses the castle’s super-science and magic to heal Fisto’s injured leg, and proclaims him a hero for being willing to give his own life to save Eternia.

Review: This is a significant story in developing the role of the Horde within the comics, but more importantly it is a showcase of excellent character development for Fisto. His noble action of willingly stepping forth to give nothing less than his life to save his friends and planet raises his role hugely, promoting him from being just another background good guy to a true hero on a par with He-Man himself. Throughout the comic’s run, Fisto was frequently depicted as being almost equal to He-Man himself in terms of strength and courage, and the two would undertake many adventures together, proving a highly effective heroic duo in their own right. This is the first such story that shows that Fisto is far more than just a generic Heroic Warrior, rather he is a truly courageous hero who is second only to He-Man himself.

As the story’s main villain, Hordak is still new to Eternia and has still had only minimal exposure in the comics when compared to Skeletor, Issue #4’s “Raiders From the Sky” being his breakthrough story as a villain, showcasing his use of advanced technology to threaten Eternia. This story continues in that vein: whereas Skeletor employs magic in his attempts on Eternia, Hordak relies on advanced technology and this story presents such technology in the form of the Anti-Gravity Devices – small, innocent-looking boxes which have the power to potentially destroy Castle Grayskull. It is also worth noting how this story depicts Hordak as eager to destroy Grayskull rather than to possess it – Issue #12’s “Hordak’s Satellite” would build on this element of Hordak’s character, with his desires to destroy the powers of Eternia if he is not able to possess them for himself.

This story is the first strip in the comics to showcase the comedic nature of Grizzlor’s personality. As the comic progressed Grizzlor would become one of its predominant sources of humour, with his low intellect and childlike personality. His comical misunderstandings of Hordak’s plan at the start of this story provide a brief moment of light humour as the story kicks off, but they were to be the character’s launchpad into much greater humorous contributions as the comics found their feet. This is also the first story to give Modulok a proper role, as he has only been seen in the background up to this point. He is not given much to do here and only has one line of dialogue, but it was not long before his role, as the most unusual and eccentric-looking of the initial five Horde members, was also to gain significant development. He is shown here with only one head rather than his usual two, as the artists were often creative in playing with Modulok’s appearance in the early comics, showcasing various ways in which his action figure’s multiple body parts could be assembled, sometimes to the confusion of the readers as they grew accustomed to this new character in the toy line and his unique abilities.

The next scene of He-Man exercising in the garden of Castle Grayskull is an interesting touch, for not many story media depicted Grayskull as having gardens (the surrounding abyss that featured predominantly in the Filmation cartoon series was not a feature of the London Editions comics). This scene is memorable for its use of Zodac in his first appearance in the comics. Zodac was mentioned in Issue #4’s “Mountains from Space” in which he was revealed to have warned The Sorceress from behind the scenes of the impending danger to Eternia. Here he does the same, although this time he appears in person to He-Man himself. His role as a mere watcher of the universe rather than a participant prevents him from specifying what exactly the danger is, and while his indirect participation in the previous issue’s story was actually crucial to the heroes’ saving the day, here his role does not seem as essential, since the way events progress, He-Man would very likely have taken the same actions even if Zodac had not pre-warned him. So his appearance here serves little other purpose than to give the character an actual appearance rather than a mere mention. Unfortunately it was to be only one of just two appearances Zodac would make in the comics’ entire run, the second being in the following year’s Twins of Power special. His role as a behind-the-scenes observer who only intervenes when the balance is shifted heavily in favour of either good or evil could potentially have been the focus of some great stories, particularly if the character’s moral standpoint had been examined more thoroughly (since of course, Zodac’s presence means that neither the Heroic or Evil forces can ever actually win the war) or had he been shown providing guidance to the Evil forces, which other issues stated he sometimes did, but never actually showed in story form. But instead, the comics pretty much forgot about him altogether after this miniscule appearance, perhaps because of the potential awkwardness in handling the deeper implications of this character. Nevertheless, as a character who was little-used across all MOTU media throughout the 80s, it seems a shame that the London Editions comics could not have done at least one story giving Zodac a focal role, especially given their general high quality of storytelling.

This story next gives us the first appearance of Horde Troopers commanded by Hordak. I say ‘Horde Troopers’ rather than ‘The Horde Troopers’ because it is immediately made evident they are not the same Horde Troopers that fans of the Filmation series were by this stage used to seeing in the She-Ra: Princess of Power cartoon series. These robotic Troopers, which are being produced automatically by a Horde Trooper Machine, are far more basic in appearance and design, looking more like something from a 1950s sci-fi B-movie. They are easily dealt with by the Heroic Warriors and even Hordak knows they are not an effective weapon; he uses them here only as part of a diversion plan to lure He-Man away from Grayskull. The regular Horde Troopers as seen in the Filmation series would be introduced some issues later in Issue #12’s “Attack of the Hordesmen”, while later issues would explain that the early Troopers seen in this first story were a basic model designed by Horde Prime, which Hordak later upgraded to the more advanced Troopers used on Etheria and seen in the later MOTU comics.

Hordak’s scheme to trick He-Man into firing at the Gamma Blaster, thus allowing its energy to travel down power lines to power the Anti-Gravity Devices and detach the mountain from Eternia’s surface is executed nicely, using entirely scientific means without any magic or sorcery. His scheme to raise the mountain above Grayskull before bringing it crashing down on the castle is very quickly thwarted by the heroes and comes nowhere near completion, for Fisto fires at the control box and brings the mountain crashing down pretty much immediately after it has been raised from the surface, thus the mountain does not even come anywhere near Grayskull. While this causes Hordak to still seem rather amateur in his schemes compared to Skeletor, who came close to winning in the previous issue’s “Mountains From Space”, it shows how Hordak is still only just getting used to Eternia and the enemies he faces on this particular world. His own selfishness is one of his major weaknesses, for he had not reckoned with the sheer bravery of the Eternian heroes, failing to anticipate that Fisto would be quite content to step underneath the rising mountain and sacrifice his own life to defeat Hordak’s scheme. Likewise, as in previous issues, he still underestimates He-Man’s strength, for once He-Man dives beneath the falling mountain to save Fisto, Hordak is certain that the mountain will now crush them both and winds up astounded when he sees that He-Man is so strong that he is capable of lifting the mountain itself.

Fisto’s near self-sacrifice is a dramatic moment and there are some great illustrations here of Modulok dividing his body parts into separate components as he attempts to stop Fisto firing at the power source. While Modulok may still be awaiting a focal role and significant character development, he is already proving a highly visually memorable villain. In-keeping with Mattel’s rules against depicting direct violence and physical injuries, we do not actually see Fisto receive the leg injury from which he has to be healed at story’s end, but it is evident from these panels that it is Modulok’s detached limbs that deal him the deadly blow. This is a nice subtlety on the writer and the artist’s parts, incorporating the elements of physical violence and injury without directly showing or describing it. Again, the comic does an excellent job of keeping itself child-friendly whilst at the same time being mature enough in tone to keep older readers entertained. The camaraderie between He-Man and Fisto is a nice emotive touch as He-Man dives beneath the falling mountain to save his friend. As Fisto implores He-Man to save himself, He-Man states “We’ve been through too much to let a mere mountain come between us, old friend.” Evidently the two of them are long-standing and trusting battle comrades, and this would be built on very well in future stories in which He-Man and Fisto shared the spotlight. He-Man displays one of his greatest feats of strength yet as he physically holds the mountain aloft before it can crush him and Fisto, and hurls it at the Trooper Machine.

The story ends with The Sorceress healing Fisto’s injury in Castle Grayskull and commending him for his bravery and his near self-sacrifice. While this story may seem a little basic at first given how quickly Hordak’s scheme is thwarted, the character depth and development more than make up for this and elevate this story far above the level of your run-of-the-mill straightforward MOTU adventure. This is a story with real heart to it that shows the strength of the bond between the Heroic Warriors, and the nobility and courage possessed by one of their number, Fisto, as he comes so close to becoming a martyr for his cause and giving his life to save Grayskull. Again, in a mere five pages, the comic achieves more emotional depth and dramatic impact than a typical 20-minute Filmation episode would attempt, in tackling the heavy subject of self-sacrifice for a noble cause, and it gives great development to a character who was previously just a generic supporting cast member by making Fisto the character to place himself in this situation. And all the while managing to satisfy Mattel’s rules and restrictions by avoiding the heavier words such as ‘die’, ‘death’ and ‘kill’. Hats off to Brian Clarke and the London Editions team for another excellent boundary-pushing MOTU story!

This issue sees the debut of the Master Mail letters page, in which Brian Clarke, as Scrollos, would answer letters from the readers. This letters page would continue to feature in the comic right through to its end.

The very first letter printed is from a female reader who challenges the perception of MOTU as a ‘boys’ magazine’ and enquires as to whether She-Ra will be featuring. Scrollos responds with a teaser for the upcoming She-Ra comic planned by London Editions. The second letter poses a particularly interesting question as to whether He-Man is related to any of the Evil Warriors. Scrollos’ answer is highly intriguing and has stirred occasional debate among MOTU fans through to the present day, by hinting that yes, He-Man is related to one or more of the Evil Warriors. This answer is intriguing primarily in the light of subsequent developments in the MOTU franchise, for it is now the norm across contemporary MOTU media that Skeletor is depicted as being Keldor, the transformed brother of King Randor, mutated by dark magic – thus making him He-Man’s uncle. This idea was not around in the early-to-mid-80s heyday of MOTU, but by the time of this comic’s publication in 1986, it was in the conception stages at Mattel, with Mattel intending to feature this story in the planned (and later aborted) Powers of Grayskull prequel line, and 1986 also saw the release of the minicomic The Search for Keldor with the new wave of action figures, which hinted at the possible true identity of Skeletor, prompting years of speculation among fans before it was finally made concrete canon in the early 00s. Scrollos’ response has led many fans to speculate that the London Editions staff knew something of Mattel’s plans and this was an allusion to Skeletor’s planned origin story. So I asked Brian Clarke himself, and he told me:

“I was just thinking of interesting ways to add emotional depth. We may have been asked by Mattel to play that down.”

So it seems London Editions were not in the know about the Keldor plans – but all the same it makes for fun speculation given the way the mythos has developed since!

Another reader also points out the now notorious artwork errors in Issue #1’s “Legend of Grayskull”, while the final letter is an amusing one addressed to Skeletor, with the response from Scrollos that Skeletor has sent Beast Man and Jitsu to Earth to take care of the reader. I shouldn’t think those two would have lasted long on the streets of 80s Britain!

Story 2: “It’s a Small World”
Writer: Brian Clarke

Summary: Deep in the heart of the Howling Forest, the great Eternian scientist Jodder works in the solitude of his cottage on a powerful serum, which enables the user to shrink any living creature to near-nothingness. Just as he is about to report his achievement to Man-At-Arms at the Royal Palace, a forest ape swings through the window and swipes the serum from Jodder’s grasp. The ape delivers the serum to its master, Beast Man, who proceeds to take the serum to Skeletor, expecting a reward. Skeletor is grateful that Beast Man has brought the serum to him but berates him for not testing it himself first, so he proceeds to test it on Beast Man himself, causing his henchman to shrink to near-nothingness. Skeletor saves the tiny Beast Man in a bottle, and immediately plots to use the serum on He-Man. Skeletor travels to Jodder’s cottage in the Howling Forest, and when he arrives, He-Man is already there, Jodder having reported the theft to the Heroic Warriors. Skeletor flings the serum through the window at He-Man, causing He-Man to shrink until he is gone from sight. Skeletor then instructs Jodder to make more of the serum, threatening him with dire consequences if he fails. Skeletor teleports back to Snake Mountain, but the tiny He-Man has clung onto Skeletor’s belt unseen, and allows himself to drop to the ground when Skeletor reaches his domain. However, He-Man is then attacked by a Spiker, a tiny insect creature which can barely be seen by normal-sized humans, but at He-Man’s tiny size is extremely dangerous to him. The Spiker grips He-Man in its jaws, and He-Man narrowly manages to defeat it by brandishing his shrunken Sword of Power, which emits a bright light that shocks the Spiker’s compound eyes. However, the miniscule flash is witnessed by Skeletor, who picks up the shrunken He-Man and plans a grisly fate for him, imprisoning him in an hour glass, through which he passes sand. He intends for He-Man to witness the fall of Castle Grayskull from the hour glass before the sand suffocates him. Skeletor travels in the Land Shark towards Castle Grayskull where his army awaits him, intending to use the last of the serum on Grayskull, causing the castle to shrink as He-Man himself is destroyed. As he travels there, he receives a telecast from Kobra Khan at Snake Mountain, who tells him that Beast Man returned to his normal size a short time ago. Shocked to find that the serum’s effects are only temporary, Skeletor realizes this means He-Man will also return to normal size – and at that very moment, He-Man smashes through the hour glass as the serum’s effects wear off. He-Man seizes the serum and tosses it down a deep chasm, before taking on Skeletor in a man-to-man fight. Knowing he stands no chance of winning, Skeletor teleports away. He-Man returns to the Royal Palace together with Jodder, and King Randor agrees to arrange for an alarm system to be stored in Jodder’s cottage, so that Jodder can continue to work in solitude and the Heroic Warriors can be immediately alerted to any further attempted invasion by Skeletor.

Review: This issue’s cover story is a particularly strong and memorable one, and is notable not only for introducing the character of Jodder, a recurring character unique to the London Editions comics, but also for its dramatic plot of He-Man shrinking to near-nothingness and coming within inches of a gruesome fate. As in the previous issue’s “Mountains from Space”, Skeletor actually comes very close to winning here, and it is merely through a turn of luck that He-Man is able to win the day when the shrinking serum’s effects turn out to be only temporary.

The ‘shrinking’ theme is extremely commonplace in sci-fi and fantasy franchises, and just about every major cartoon of the 80s and 90s had a ‘shrinking’ episode in which the show’s heroes were shrunk to a tiny and helpless size by the villains. The MOTU cartoon was no exception, for He-Man and his friends fell victim to this scheme in the season 2 episode “No Job too Small”, while She-Ra also fell victim to it in her season 1 episode “Small Problems”. However, the London Editions comic tackles the shrinking theme completely differently by playing upon the darker implications of such a fate, and subjecting He-Man to a potential gruesome death in a disturbing circumstance that no Saturday morning cartoon show of the time would have gone near.

The story sets its premise by establishing the character of Jodder, a brilliant but reclusive scientist who has turned his back on humanity to explore science in complete solitude – with the intention of using his discoveries for the betterment of humanity. In order to work without disruption, he has taken up residence in the depths of the Howling Forest, a location that humans rarely venture near, and it is here that he conducts his experiments from the safety of his cottage. Jodder is a particularly memorable guest character, and he was to be a prominent fixture in the UK Comics’ canon, for he was to recur in later stories such as Issue #23’s “The Giant of Eternia” and Issue #49’s “Insect Invasion”, while he continued to be mentioned as late as the German Ehapa reprints in the comics’ twilight days, when the German stories were rewritten for consistency with the earlier London Editions canon. He is, thus, a signature guest character of the London Editions comics, and it is worth mentioning that he was also based on a real person – his name and appearance are based on John Cummins, a friend of writer and editor Brian Clarke. (See this website’s Interview With Brian Clarke for further details.) John Cummins has been immortalized in MOTU lore, for not only was his fictional counterpart to become a recurring guest character, but Jodder is today widely-known by the wider international MOTU fan base including fans who have yet to read the UK Comics, and has even been alluded to in the current biographies accompanying the Masters of the Universe Classics toys, thus giving him the potential to someday appear in toy form.

The forest ape stealing the serum from Jodder and taking it to Beast Man is a nice touch, since it shows how Beast Man, ever the helpless underling of Skeletor, is regarded with high authority by the wild beasts of Eternia, for he speaks their animal tongue and provides them with food in exchange for anything valuable they find that he can use to aid Skeletor. Beast Man is keen to be rewarded by Skeletor, but Skeletor, in his typical maniacal fashion, is quicker to berate Beast Man for failing to test the serum himself before giving it to him, suspicious that Beast Man may have intended Skeletor to suffer its effects. So in true dastardly fashion, Skeletor tests it on Beast Man and allows his henchman to suffer its consequences. Skeletor, still coming across as particularly dark and worryingly insane, concocts a diabolical plot to use the serum on He-Man and Castle Grayskull. He effortlessly manages to shrink He-Man merely by flinging the serum at him, but naively assumes this in itself will constitute He-Man’s end, not realizing the tiny titan has gripped hold of his belt and thus manages to pursue his enemy back to Snake Mountain.

Tri-Klops and Kobra Khan are shown drinking what look like alcoholic beverages at the Snake Mountain council table, bringing to mind Skeletor’s relaxing with a goblet of some such drink in Issue #2’s “Hordak’s Revenge” and evoking adult readers to wonder exactly what sort of beverages are favoured at Snake Mountain!

He-Man’s battle with the Spiker is a great sequence, and as with previous issues, this brings in some real-world science since the Spiker does not look all that different from the kind of microscopic arthropod creatures that surround us everyday on Earth, which would appear as terrifying monsters to us were we to be shrunk to their size. The Spiker comes very close to killing He-Man by crushing him in its jaws, causing He-Man to muse upon the irony of being killed by one of the tiniest creatures on Eternia. It is only by using the flash of light from his sword to shock the creature’s compound eyes that he is able to escape.

But He-Man’s escape from the Spiker only brings his presence to Skeletor’s attention, and in one of his darkest moments yet, the Lord of Destruction truly lives up to his moniker by plotting a particularly grisly fate for his adversary by imprisoning him in an hour glass, intending for He-Man to witness Skeletor shrinking Grayskull to nothingness before he is himself suffocated by the sand. Considering the London Editions team were not permitted by Mattel to openly acknowledge the concept of death or use words such as ‘death’, ‘die’ and ‘kill’, this certainly did not dissuade them from placing the characters in situations so dire that the ‘d’ word was not even necessary for even the youngest readers to be able to tell what was happening! Indeed, in the panel where Skeletor places He-Man in the hour glass, our hero is drawn looking so limp and helpless that he actually looks dead.

It is merely a fortunate twist of fate for He-Man when the effects of the serum turn out to only be temporary, thus allowing him to smash through the hour glass as the serum wears off. Had the effects been permanent, then Skeletor could have been almost certain of victory. Whereas in the first few issues of the comics it sometimes seemed as though the Evil Warriors stood next to no chance of winning due to Skeletor’s lack of logic and foresight, stories like this and the previous issue’s “Mountains From Space” have really upped Skeletor’s game by showing us that no, Skeletor really could stand a good chance of winning; it is only by chance accidents in these cases that He-Man is able to defeat his schemes.

Once He-Man is back to normal size, the battle quickly shifts heavily in He-Man’s favour, and we are treated to one of those rare instances of an actual man-to-man fight between He-Man and Skeletor, in which He-Man of course easily has the upper hand and delivers a great line bristling with deadpan humour as he swings his opponent by the wrist: “Even in a world of magic and science old-fashioned wrestling can do wonders!” But as Skeletor teleports away, He-Man laments on his failure to capture the villain once and for all and thus bring him to justice, reminding the reader that in a way Skeletor wins every time, for while He-Man may succeed in thwarting his schemes, Skeletor repeatedly succeeds in evading capture and arrest and thus facing justice, remaining free to continue exerting his evil upon Eternia.

The story ends at the Royal Palace, where Jodder is granted permission by King Randor to continue working in privacy, provided that an alarm system is installed by the Heroic Warriors in his cottage to protect it from further evil invasions. (King Randor, in line with the early Mattel minicomics and DC Comics, is depicted here as an old white-haired king in contrast to his younger, dark-haired appearance in the Filmation series.) Of course, this very alarm system would later fail in its purpose when Skeletor manages to work his way past it in Issue #23’s “The Giant of Eternia”. The final panel delivers a moral of sorts as He-Man states that Jodder explores science in all innocence, but the likes of Skeletor wait at every turn to take advantage of scientific advances and use these for evil purposes – thus evoking Jodder to abandon this particular project and work on something safer. This is something relevant to the real world, in that war, nuclear weapons and terrorism are very much examples of abuses of scientific and technological advances for corrupt and malevolent purposes.

As the story that brought about the UK comics’ most striking cover to date, this is naturally the strongest story in this issue and one of the best stories yet at this early stage. It shows Skeletor at his most maniacal, He-Man faced with possibly his most dire situation yet as he comes within inches of a gruesome death, and introduces a strong guest character in Jodder, in the process raising issues regarding the importance of science for the betterment of humanity and the crucial nature of ethics and morality in the use of scientific advances. A great story and an example of the London Editions comics at their very best.

This issue’s competition is notable for the unusual error in the accompanying text, which state that Tri-Klops ‘sees all around him with his one eye’. Um, he’s Tri-Klops, not Cyclops…

Story 3: “Glove of Globolah”
Writer: Brian Clarke

Summary: At an archaeological dig, a team of scientists from the Eternos Archaeological Society uncover the Glove of Globolah, an ancient artefact that possesses the one true mystical force that can rival Castle Grayskull itself. They close the dig and report to the Royal Palace, unaware that the evil Mantenna is spying on them from a distance. Mantenna springs an attack on them and fires a stun beam from his eyes that paralyses the scientists. He steals the Glove of Globolah from them and delivers it to Hordak at the Fright Zone. Hordak places the glove on his hand and asks Mantenna to give him the Book of Spells that accompanies the glove. But Mantenna has no knowledge of the Book of Spells, which angers Hordak, who explains that the glove’s powers can only be used by reading from the Book of Spells, the key to unlock its powers. Meanwhile, He-Man, Roboto and Sy-Klone have arrived at the site of the dig and the effects of the stun beam have worn off the scientists, allowing them to tell the heroes what happened. He-Man knows that Hordak is certain to come after the Book of Spells, so the Masters must be ready. In a nearby wood, the Horde set up a trap along the route that the Heroic Warriors will need to travel to bring the Book of Spells to the Royal Palace. As the Masters pass along the route, the Horde ambush them and Hordak uses a teleporter to teleport the scientists to his Fright Zone. Hordak then teleports himself and his Horde to the Fright Zone and uses the Fright Zone dragon to threaten the scientists, declaring he will only set them free if they give him the Book of Spells. Frightened, the scientists agree to give him the book and say they will even explain how the spells work. They do this and Hordak lets them go, then leads his Horde to Castle Grayskull, ready to use the book to unleash the glove’s powers on the castle. He speaks a spell to unleash wyverns on the castle, but the spell backfires and the wyverns attack Hordak himself instead. Leech and Mantenna manage to fend the creatures off, and Hordak instead uses a spell to conjure up a whirlwind to attack the castle. But again it backfires and the whirlwind lifts Hordak and his henchmen several feet off the ground. Leech uses his suction powers to draw them back to ground level, and Hordak decides he needs to practice with the glove before attempting to use it. He is about to return to the Fright Zone, but then the Heroic Warriors arrive on the scene and Hordak uses a spell to conjure up a savage demon to attack them. But yet again it backfires and the demon attacks the Horde instead of the Masters. To break the spell, Hordak throws away the glove, and the demon disappears as the Horde fall to the ground. He-Man then explains to Hordak that he has fallen for their trick – while awaiting his inevitable attack on them, the Masters worked with the scientists to produce a fake copy of the book in which the spells were all written in reverse, meaning they would have the opposite effect from the intended one. He-Man places the glove on his own hand and uses its magic to teleport the Horde to the Purple Desert, a location they will take a very long time to return from. He-Man then commands the glove to go to Castle Grayskull for safekeeping, and together the Masters go to find the scientists who helped them trick Hordak and return to Eternos with them.

Review: It is worth mentioning the rather amusing inspiration behind this story’s title in that it actually came from a well-known British footballer of the time – Bruce Grobbelaar, goalkeeper for Liverpool FC. Brian Clarke was inspired to write the story after overhearing a football commentator on TV proclaim “Saved by the glove of Grobbelaar!” during a match, and immediately saw potential for a MOTU story! (See this site’s Interview With Brian Clarke for more details.)

This story follows in the footsteps of “It’s A Small World” in this same issue, in that it involves the villains taking advantage of a scientific discovery to further their own evil ends. In this instance it is an archaeological dig that uncovers an ancient historical artefact, rather than a new scientific invention as with Jodder’s serum in the previous story. This story thus serves to expand the role of the scientific community within Eternia, and their close connections with the Royal Palace.

Archaeological expeditions were a common feature of the Filmation cartoon, with Eternia having a wealth of history from which to draw ancient artefacts, spells and civilisations. The comic here explores this theme that will be familiar to frequent viewers of the show, with its own artefact uncovered from Eternia’s ancient past – the Glove of Globolah of the title. Its exact origins are left a mystery, but its powers are apparently strong enough to rival those of Grayskull itself. It is Hordak rather than Skeletor who attempts to obtain the glove’s powers for himself, marking the first time that Hordak has had two stories in a single issue, and also the first time he has taken interest in a magical force as opposed to a scientific invention (note here that Skeletor actually took interest in Jodder’s scientific invention in the previous story, reminding the reader that magic and science often work hand-in-hand on Eternia, and the villains will go after either resource to achieve their aims). He is accompanied by Mantenna and Leech in this story, and this time it is Mantenna who gets the most significant character development. We see here that he is a villain motivated by riches and power, less concerned about the idea of his name living on through history than about immediate wealth and power. The illustration of Hordak as he excitedly demands the Book of Spells, before realizing to his annoyance that Mantenna does not have it, is an amusing one, Hordak’s double take being illustrated in such a way that it almost resembles the comedy and tragedy masks of the theatre.

As has become a trademark of the London Editions Comics by this point, this story is resolved with a neat twist. After we have been entertained by the comedic backfiring of the spells Hordak casts, the Heroic Warriors are revealed to have given Hordak a fake copy of the book with the spells written backwards. Thus, logical deduction and anticipation of the villains’ moves has again won the day for the heroes, the scientists’ capture by the Horde having been anticipated and permitted in order to trick the villains into thinking they have the upper hand, only to find out they have been outsmarted by the heroes.

We see an entertaining return appearance for the Fright Zone dragon from the toy playset, as the scientists are imprisoned before the dragon, used by Hordak to threaten them into giving them the book. As the readers are still in the dark at this stage as to the heroes’ scheme to trick Hordak, we are just as unaware as Hordak that the scientists’ hopeless terror of the Horde is in fact being feigned to delude Hordak into thinking he is winning. Keen-eyed and older readers will quickly notice that the spells Hordak speaks (“Kcatta stsaeb”, “wolb dniw”, “esir nomed”) are backward versions of the intended effects of the spells, and may suss out the Heroic Warriors’ scheme. Their effects backfire on Hordak to comedic effect, and we get a good showcase of both Mantenna and Leech’s abilities as they use their powers to get themselves out of these sticky situations. Leech in particular, as in Issue #4’s “Raiders From the Sky”, seems very powerful indeed, his suction powers first draining the energy of the wyverns and then succeeding in drawing the three villains back to ground level when they are raised into the air by the whirlwind. Even though these henchmen may be lacking in brain power, they are clearly very physically powerful and a great assistance to Hordak, yet typically, not once does Hordak acknowledge or credit their usefulness. We also get a particularly amusing line from Mantenna when he remarks, “Maybe you’re wearing the glove on the wrong hand, master!”

Having successfully tricked Hordak into thinking the glove is useless and throwing it away, the heroes reveal to Hordak what they have done, and use the glove to teleport the Horde to the Purple Desert. The one thing that seems unusual here – especially in light of this issue’s preceding story, in which He-Man lamented his failure to capture Skeletor once and for all – is that surely, with the power of the glove at his command, He-Man could apprehend the Horde members, arrest them and potentially bring them to justice. Merely banishing them to the Purple Desert – a location they will return from, however long it may take – seems like a light slap on the wrist by comparison. Especially following the previous story, would it not make more sense for He-Man to apprehend the Horde and potentially defeat their evil once and for all? But of course, we know that from a story perspective that would mean no more Horde in the comics and upset the status quo, so it’s forgivable from a creative perspective. Indeed, in the next panel Sy-Klone suggests they use the glove to rid Eternia of all evil, only for He-Man to explain that this would not be playing fair, for it is the heroes’ duty to fight evil day-by-day until all people come to understand why evil is wrong.

In contrast to “It’s A Small World” which verged on rather dark territory, “Glove of Globolah” takes a lighter and more comedic approach with the Horde’s amusing mishaps and humiliating defeat, while still remaining deadpan in tone and not ruining the villains as characters, and depicting the heroes winning with their tactics of logic and foresight, giving us one of the London Editions comics’ trademark twist endings.

A solid end to a particularly strong issue that has broken new ground, seeing the Horde significantly raise their profile within the comics, as well as given us one of the comics’ most dramatic stories yet with its cover story.

This issue’s “Brains, Not Brawn” puzzle. Note how the text actually manages to sneak in the word ‘death’ here!

© Aidan Cross, 2018.

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