UK London Editions Comics
Release Date: January 1987
The Factory of Fear
The Great Water Theft
Cover by: Joan Boix
This issue’s cover depicts a scene from the story “O’Foole’s Gold”. Notably, this is the first issue of the She-Ra comic to include the full title of “She-Ra Princess of Power” on the cover, the ‘Princess of Power’ brand name having been omitted from previous issues due to editor Brian Clarke’s fear that the word ‘princess’ could deter young boys from buying the comic. Brian Clarke recalls that the addition of 'Princess of Power' to the cover had to do with being encouraged to align the comic with the World mini books about She-Ra, some of which were written by Brian himself.
This issue’s editorial states that the issue features a story guest starring Frosta, to coincide with the winter season. However, the story in question does not technically star Frosta at all due to a major continuity error seemingly overlooked by both the writers and artists (see review of “The Great Water Theft” to read more).
Story 1: “O’Foole’s Gold”
Writer: Pat Kelleher
Art: Joan Boix
Synopsis: Horde Prime is becoming impatient with Hordak’s failure to fulfil his quota of gold, so Hordak starts pushing his minions to obtain the gold he needs. Later in the Whispering Woods, She-Ra and Madame Razz spot a small object in the sky being chased by a Horde Batmek. It is shot down, and upon falling to ground level turns out to be Madame Razz’s old friend Finian O’Foole, one of the magical Mound Folk, atop his bird pet Cornelius. As Razz greets her old friend, Catra spies upon the Rebels and reports what she sees to Shadow Weaver. Shadow Weaver tells Catra that if one of the Mound Folk is captured, they are obliged to grant their captor one wish before they can be set free – so if she can capture Finian O’Foole, she can use his magic powers to obtain the gold for Hordak. Later on, after a party with She-Ra, Madame Razz and Broom outside Razz’s cottage, Finian O’Foole takes a nap in a shady nook in the woods. As he sleeps, Shadow Weaver sneaks up on him with an iron cage, shrinks him and traps him inside. As Shadow Weaver teleports to Doom Tower with her captive, Cornelius tells She-Ra about his master’s capture and she goes to find Bow to rescue Finian. She-Ra and Bow make their way to Doom Tower, where Shadow Weaver is presenting her captive to Hordak. Hordak wishes for a large pile of gold, and Finian has no choice but to grant his wish. Just then, She-Ra and Bow come to Finian’s rescue and retrieve the tiny iron cage. Shadow Weaver tries to counter them with her shadow coils, but Finian uses his magic to deflect the coils back on her. She-Ra and Bow escape with Finian, but Hordak remains satisfied as he now has the supply of gold he needs for Horde Prime. Back at Whispering Woods, She-Ra scolds Finian for getting captured by Hordak and granting his wish, but Finian is not worried and says Hordak is in for a nasty surprise. Later at Doom Tower, Hordak uses the viewscreen to contact Horde Prime and presents him with his gold, but Prime is angry as all he sees is a pile of leaves. Hordak realizes he has been tricked as the gold Finian conjured up for him has transformed to leaves, and the enraged Prime sends him back to work to get the gold for him!
Review: By this stage in its run, the She-Ra comic has adopted the technique of shifting frequently between more serious, action-based stories for older readers, and lighter stories with a fairytale-like tone geared towards younger readers, to equally satisfy the different age demographics reading the comic. Writer Pat Kelleher, by now one of the comic’s most prominent writers, has proven highly adept at coming up with both types of story, and following his excellent “The Crimson Fury” in Issue #10 to satisfy the older readers, he shifts back to a softer tone for the younger ones with “O’Foole’s Gold”, which draws inspiration from Irish folklore and mythology.
The story opens with a surprise appearance by none other than Horde Prime himself. Having been introduced several months earlier in the Twins of Power Special as the big bad guy behind the scenes, the previously unseen boss of both Hordak and Skeletor, this is the first time Horde Prime has appeared within a regular story in either comic. He is notably coloured differently from his appearance in the aforementioned special, his skin a brown-grey colour as opposed to yellow as in the special, although his appearance is otherwise the same.
Horde Prime is berating Hordak for his constant failure to fulfil his quota of gold, and Hordak awkwardly promises Prime to get right onto this matter. The next panel sees Hordak adopting the exact same tone to his own minions as Prime does with him, chastising them for failing to obtain the gold much as Prime did him. This shows us how while Hordak comes across as the big strict, intimidating boss to his own minions, behind the scenes he is just as incompetent himself, kowtowing to his own master as his minions do to him.
The scene shifts to Whispering Wood, where as usual, Madame Razz is practising her spells on Broom, with the typical comedic results. She-Ra, Razz and Broom spot a small object flying through the sky above them, which is shot down by a Horde Batmek and falls to ground level. It turns out to be a strange little leprechaun-like character named Finian O’Foole, atop a large bird called Cornelius, and the Batmek serves little purpose other than to bring the two of them to ground level, for it seems they were randomly shot by an opportunistic Batmek rather than targeted for any specific reason.
Madame Razz immediately recognizes Finian, and explains to She-Ra that Finian is one of the Mound Folk from the Valley of the Lost. The Valley of the Lost is a location referenced throughout numerous She-Ra media, most prominently in Filmation’s She-Ra: Princess of Power cartoon series. This is the first time it has been mentioned in the London Editions comics, and the fact that magical races such as the Mound Folk live in the region in the comics’ continuity would seem to contradict the TV show’s portrayal of the area as a desolate and barren land from which no-one ever returns. Finian reveals that he has not seen his old friend Madame Razz for four hundred years, so has come to pay her a visit.
Unseen, Catra is spying on the small party while scouting for ways to obtain Hordak’s gold, and reports what she has seen to Shadow Weaver at Horror Hall. Shadow Weaver says that if one of the Mound Folk is captured, they are obliged to grant their captor one wish – so this could be the perfect way to easily obtain the supply of gold Hordak seeks.
The scene switches back to Whispering Wood, where She-Ra, Razz, Broom and Kowl are having a party with Finian and Cornelius outside Madame Razz’s cottage. Finian’s dialogue is very much written with a stereotypical Irish lexicon, and it is easy to imagine him speaking his dialogue in an Irish accent – “Well some do an’some don’t. I don’t hold with it meself.” Perhaps in the UK Comics’ continuity, the Valley of the Lost is Etheria’s own equivalent of the Emerald Isle! Madame Razz serves the others drinks of Roddenberryade – a reference back to ‘Roddenberries’ in a previous Pat Kelleher story “A Thorny Problem” in Issue #7, obviously named after Gene Roddenberry, the legendary creator of Star Trek! Kowl impatiently demands more cakes, and Finian conjures one up out of thin air for him, which when Kowl tastes it turns out to be made of leaves, Finian having intended to teach Kowl a lesson that greed is a bad thing – thus foreshadowing the final moral of this story at the end. (Although She-Ra, Madame Razz and Broom do look rather shocked at Finian's little trick...)
After the feast, Finian wanders off to find a shady nook to sleep in, and Madame Razz warns him not to wander too far, so as to avoid stumbling into Horde territory. Finian finds a resting place and falls asleep, Cornelius sleeping in the tree above him – but sure enough, he winds up captured by the Horde, as Shadow Weaver sneaks up on him and uses her magic to shrink him, trapping him in a tiny cage made of iron, a substance that the Mound Folk are powerless against. As Shadow Weaver teleports to Doom Tower to deliver her captive to Hordak, Cornelius flies off to alert Madame Razz and She-Ra, and She-Ra uses her abilities to communicate telepathically with animals to understand what Cornelius is saying. Cornelius tells her Finian was kidnapped by a hooded woman in red, and knowing this must be Shadow Weaver, She-Ra sets off to find Bow so they can go to rescue Finian.
She-Ra and Bow manage to arrive at Doom Tower just as Shadow Weaver is presenting Finian to Hordak, and Hordak immediately takes advantage of the Mound Folk’s obligation to grant a wish to their captor, by demanding Finian conjure up a large pile of gold for him. Finian, rather brave and resilient in the face of his captives, gets some amusing dialogue as he grants the wish – “An’ here’s me thinkin’ you were a man o’ science!” No sooner has he conjured up the gold than Bow sets about freeing Finian by firing one of his arrows at the rope Finian’s cage is hanging from, causing the cage to fall, and She-Ra quickly retrieves it. Shadow Weaver attempts to stop She-Ra and Bow escaping with her Shadow Coil spell, but Finian uses his own magic to deflect the Shadow Coils back on her. Hordak simply berates Shadow Weaver’s magic for allowing their enemies to escape, remarking “I should never trust in magic. Science is the only thing that counts.” Hordak delights in the fact he nonetheless has his supply of gold, and leaves Shadow Weaver to suffer the effects of her own spell as he takes the gold to Horde Prime.
Later in the Whispering Wood, She-Ra is scolding Finian for wandering off too far, getting caught and having to grant Hordak’s wish. I can’t help but think She-Ra is being slightly unfair here, for the Horde were targeting Finian specifically after all and would surely have captured him no matter where he slept – and this is hardly Finian’s fault! But as it turns out, Finian was one step ahead anyway – repeating his moral about greed from earlier in the story, he says “Hordak is in for a nasty surprise!” and the scene shifts back to Doom Tower, where Hordak is presenting the gold to Horde Prime via the viewscreen, only for Prime to remark “Is this some kind of joke, Hordak? If it is, it isn’t funny!” – and looking down at the gold, Hordak is dismayed to see it has all turned into leaves – he has been tricked by Finian! (This is also a popular trope in Irish folklore, of greedy villains being tricked by being given a supply of gold that later magically turns into leaves.) The story ends with some nice comedic dialogue from Prime – “I think you’ve been overdoing it, Hordak. Have a rest for a few minutes… THEN GET BACK TO WORK. I WANT MY GOLD!”
While “O’Foole’s Gold” may not rank among the comic’s stronger or more memorable stories, as a lighter story strong on fairytale elements it works very well, offering us something different with its influences from Irish folklore, and some quality comedy moments with Hordak. A solid job by writer Pat Kelleher.
Some interesting letters and responses in this issue’s letters page. The first reader’s request for a colour version of the poster in Issue #1, depicting all of the Rebels and Horde members, was later satisfied in the Princess of Power one-off special published after the demise of the fortnightly comic. The second letter enquires as to whether Madame Razz is from the planet Trollah like Orko in the MOTU comics. She-Ra responds that Madame Razz comes from a different world and promises to tell a story about it in a future issue – sadly this was never to be, nor did we ever learn the name of Madame Razz’s homeworld. This, together with the responses to the next two letters, serves as a teaser for the new “Tales From the Crystal Castle” strip shortly to debut in the comics, which would serve as the She-Ra comics’ equivalent of “Secret Files of Scrollos” in the MOTU comics, telling the origins and backstories of the characters and mythology.
Story 2: “The Factory of Fear”
Writer: Pat Kelleher
Art: Francisco Javier González Vilanova
Synopsis: Hordak’s army of Horde Troopers is being reduced in numbers by the power of the Rebellion, so he decides he must step up Horde Trooper production and will need more slaves in the factory to accomplish this. He sends Catra out to raid some villages and obtain more slaves for him. Over the next week, Horde Transporters land at unsuspecting villages, capturing the people and taking them off to work in the giant Horde Trooper Factory. Days later, Adora and Bow stumble upon a village and are shocked to find it completely deserted. Adora sends Bow to report this to the other Rebels, and once he is gone she transforms to She-Ra and uses the jewel in her sword to see into the past and find out what happened in the village. In the jewel, she sees the villagers being transported by Horde Troopers into a Horde Carrier. She mounts Swift Wind and they fly to Mystacor to enlist Castaspella’s help in tracing the villagers. Once there, Castaspella uses her Pool of Vision to find the whereabouts of the villagers, and sees that they have been taken to the Horde Trooper Factory. She teleports herself and She-Ra to Whispering Wood and they report their findings to Bow. Castaspella then transports herself, Bow and She-Ra to the Horde Trooper Factory itself, and they are shocked at the huge size of the place and the innocent captives being forced to work on the slave line manufacturing the Troopers. With Horde guards everywhere, it will be impossible for the Rebels to find their way around or attempt a rescue without being seen. From their hiding place they call out to one of the men working on the assembly line, and the man explains that although he and the other captives are powerless to escape, they still do their bit to aid the Rebellion by sabotaging the Troopers they build, putting in faulty parts to prevent the Troopers from carrying out tasks competently. This is why so many of the Troopers are ineffective and cannot shoot straight. Meanwhile, Hordak spies the invading Rebels on a spy monitor, and leads a squadron of Troopers to greet them. The Rebels are outnumbered by the Troopers and are quickly captured, chained by electro-bonds to a wall and guarded by Grizzlor. Bow spies a Stun Arrow on the ground a short distance from where they are imprisoned, and just manages to reach it with his feet, kicking it into Grizzlor’s path. He then tricks Grizzlor into standing on the Stun Arrow and Grizzlor is immediately shocked as its power courses through him, causing him to stumble backwards, knocking the lever on the wall and turning the electro-bonds off. This enables the Rebels to get free, and they head to rescue the slaves. Hordak spots them and sends a squad of Troopers after them, so Bow flicks a switch in the wall that turns on a large electromagnet fixed to the ceiling, causing the metal Troopers to rise into the air and cling to the magnet. Hordak transforms himself into a Destructo-Tank and attacks the Rebels himself, but he is caught in the pull of the Electro-Magnet and sucked up towards the ceiling. All he needs to do to escape is change back – but this causes him to plummet to the floor, causing a hole to break in the ground upon impact. He blasts the Rebels with his arm cannon but She-Ra flicks the switch in the wall and turns the magnet off again, causing the Troopers to crash down on top of Hordak. Castaspella uses her magic to open a portal and She-Ra and Bow free the slaves, who pass through the portal to the Whispering Wood. Once all the slaves have entered the portal, Bow fires an arrow at the main supporting pillar of the factory, and he and his comrades leave through the portal, joining the freed slaves in Whispering Wood, where the slaves cheer the Rebels for freeing them. Back in the Horde Trooper Factory, the falling pillar causes the entire factory to break apart and crash to the ground, and Hordak vows that the Rebels will pay for this.
Review: While the She-Ra comic has balanced steadily the lighter stories aimed at younger readers and the more action-based stories for older ones, “The Factory of Fear” essentially combines the two approaches – it leans mostly towards the former with its strong emphasis on the comedy angle, but at the same time addresses a serious theme reflective of real-life totalitarian regimes – the subject of slavery, and innocent civilians being forced to work on factory lines.
The story opens with Hordak instructing Catra to raid villages for slaves, to enable the Horde to step up Horde Trooper production given the constant reduction of the number of Troopers by the Rebels. The next panel shows some Troopers, under the command of Catra, loading villagers onto a Horde Transporter. Cut to Adora and Bow riding their respective horse steeds through the woods on patrol, revelling in the sense of peace until they stumble upon a village that is completely deserted, with no sign of life. Adora tells Bow to go and report this to the other Rebels, enabling her to “get rid of Bow” (she actually says that, rather amusingly, almost implying she’s happy to be ‘rid’ of him!) so she can investigate as She-Ra.
Transforming into She-Ra, she uses the jewel in her sword to see into the past, and sees the villagers being loaded on board the Horde Transporter – so she flies to Mystacor, where Castaspella uses the Pool of Vision to locate the villagers at the Horde Trooper Factory. Returning to Whispering Wood to inform Bow and using a portal created by Castaspella to teleport to the Factory, the heroes see the huge production line on which the innocent slaves are being forced to work.
They call out to a man working on the production line – who is given an appearance like the Vulcans in Star Trek, with pointy ears, and the man reveals that he and the other slaves, despite living in Horde captivity, still do their bit to help the Rebels by putting faulty components into the Troopers, which cause the Troopers to be incompetent and easier to defeat. Bow remarks “So that’s why so many of them are stupid and can’t shoot straight!”, thus providing an explanation for the tendency across most media (particularly the Filmation cartoon series) for the Troopers to be incompetent and bumbling.
After the Rebels are spied and ambushed by Hordak and taken prisoner, we get a nice comical scene in which the Rebels are chained to a wall by electro-bonds, guarded by Grizzlor. We get a great comedy scene here – noticing a fallen stun arrow on the ground nearby, Bow takes advantage of Grizzlor’s stupidity by calling out to him and saying “These electro-shackles feel a little loose. Do you think you could tighten them up?” While of course no other Horde members would be likely to be fooled by this, Grizzlor is taken right in, responding “Loose, huh? Hordak would get really mad if you got free” and he moves forward to tighten the shackles, thus stepping on the stun arrow and suffering a shock, causing him to fall back against the wall, hitting the switch that operates the shackles and switching the electrical charge off.
The panel of Grizzlor being stunned is very similar to another illustration also by artist Francisco Javier González Vilanova, back in Issue #8’s “Broom Saves The Day” of Grizzlor receiving an electrical shock from the Weather Helmet.
The Rebels escape and set about rescuing the slaves, leading to a comedic action sequence in which Bow activates a magnet in the ceiling to attract the bodies of the Horde Troopers as they chase after them, leading Hordak to employ his shape-shifting powers to turn into a Destructo-Tank and come after the Rebels himself only to himself get pulled to the ceiling by the force of the electro-magnet. All he needs to do to escape is change back – but we see again that Hordak really does not possess much abilities of foresight, for he’s failed to realize this will mean him plummeting heavily to the ground, breaking a hole in the ground upon impact and enabling She-Ra to deactivate the magnet causing the Troopers all to fall to the ground on top of him. Castaspella opens another portal, through which the slaves pass to the safety of Whispering Wood, during which Bow shoots an arrow at the main supporting pillar in the factory, which causes the whole factory to crash to the ground. The final panel shows Hordak, who has managed to escape to safety, watching in rage as the factory falls apart. (Of note is that another Horde Trooper Factory on Etheria was seen not long after this, in Issue #24 of the MOTU comic in the story “Super Trooper”, in which the completed Troopers were tested for safety before a firing line of Horde Troopers before being approved – continuity buffs can assume this measure was implemented by Hordak after rebuilding the factory to ensure the Troopers were more efficient.)
“The Factory of Fear” has many of the tropes of the Filmation cartoon series and you can definitely feel the influence of the show echoing throughout this story. Incompetent bumbling villains, a capture-and-rescue mission for the Rebels, comedic action sequences, it’s all there – and while this story is more likely to satisfy younger readers than older ones, it does a good job of maintaining the feel of Etheria being a planet living in fear of a totalitarian regime (albeit a highly incompetent one) and subtly echoing certain elements of real-life dictatorships. An entertaining story with lots of fun moments.
Story 3: “The Great Water Theft”
Writer: Brian Clarke
Art: Joan Boix
Synopsis: Hordak has made contact with an alien creature called Hydron, from the planet of Ocenus, a water-world. Hordak offers Hydron the Rebel Frosta, whose powers over ice and water could be used to make Hydron the most powerful creature on Ocenus if she were to become his slave. In exchange, he asks that Hydron use his ship to steal the water from Etheria with his Compacto-Field, which reduces the space between droplets of water, allowing him to contain entire lakes in a pea-sized field. Once all the water on Etheria has gone, the Rebels will have no choice but to surrender to Hordak. Hydron puts Hordak’s plan into action and flies his Trans-Ship over the Etherian oceans, absorbing all the water. Mermista sees this happening and attempts to escape to warn the Rebels, but she is caught within the ship’s ray and sucked on board. As she is captured, she sends a mental command to a flying fish nearby telling it to contact She-Ra. The fish flies to the beach where it finds She-Ra’s steed, Swift Wind, and tells him what has happened. Swift Wind flies to his mistress and She-Ra mounts him, flying towards Hydron’s ship as it absorbs the oceans. As they fly overhead, She-Ra is hit by a power-beam from the ship, and falls towards it, getting sucked into the ship. On board, she is imprisoned in the Compacto-Field with Mermista, and Hordak reveals his plan to the two captives. Satisfied that his machines are successfully executing Hordak’s plan, Hydron demands that Hordak present Frosta to him as promised, but Hordak refuses to do so until the job is finished. Hydron is doubtful that Hordak will keep his part of the bargain, so he shuts the machine off, telling Hordak he will only resume stealing the oceans once Hordak presents Frosta to him. Hordak is angry at being given commands by Hydron, so he uses his arm cannon to blast him, and as the two villains fight, She-Ra takes advantage of their distraction to break free from the Compacto-Field. Hordak starts to fire at her, but she dodges the blast and it instead hits the ship’s power-coil, which will cause the ship to self-destruct within minutes. Hordak converts to rocket form and flees the ship, and Hydron’s only choice in order to save his ship is to dump all the water he has collected – so he releases the water, restoring it to Etheria’s oceans. She-Ra and Frosta* escape the ship and Frosta uses her freezing powers to turn the falling water into ice, providing a safe way down for herself and She-Ra.
*In a significant continuity error in this story, the character of Mermista is mistakenly replaced with Frosta, although she is still drawn as Mermista.
Review: “The Great Water Theft” follows the sci-fi theme prominent in a lot of Brian Clarke’s stories, and gives us a memorable guest villain in the form of Hydron, the alien creature whose method of stealing water for his homeworld is employed here by Hordak.
The story opens with the character of Hydron meeting Hordak in the latter’s throne room, having been contacted by Hordak using the vast communication network provided by the Horde Empire. Hailing from Ocenus, a water-world, Hydron naturally has the appearance of a humanoid sea creature – however, his appearance will likely strike fans of the wider MOTU mythos as remarkably similar to that of Slushhead (known as Kalamarr in the UK and Europe), one of Skeletor’s henchmen from the later ‘New Adventures of He-Man’ toy line from 1989. As well as his green, scaly skin, Hydron’s head is encased in a dome filled with water, exactly like Slushhead/Kalamarr – and it is particularly interesting how he also shares his name with one of the heroes from the New Adventures of He-Man line, who also had a design not dissimilar, also wearing a glass dome on his head. This may well just be coincidence, but it would be intriguing to think that maybe the designer at Mattel who came up with the characters of Slushhead/Kalamarr and Hydron may somehow have seen a copy of this particular comic and been inspired to create the two characters based on the design of this one-off guest villain.
Hydron is a mercenary who is willing to do anything for the right payment – and he states that his price is power. So Hordak offers him the Rebel Frosta as his captive, for with her powers over ice and water, were she Hydron’s slave she would be able to make him the most powerful creature on Ocenus. In order to win the prize of Frosta, Hordak asks that Hydron use his ship to steal all the water from Etheria with its Compacto-Field, so once the water is gone, the Rebels will be forced to surrender to him. Hordak’s thoughts are depicted, showing She-Ra and Mermista surrendering following the theft of all the water from Etheria, Mermista now helpless without her natural habitat of water, and some presumably dead fish lying on the land where the sea used to be.
Hydron expresses uncomfortable surprise that Hordak knows of his practice of stealing water from alien worlds, to which Hordak responds “The Horde Empire knows all things!” This marks the increasing focus in the comics on the Horde as an intergalactic force as opposed to being purely concentrated on Etheria and Eternia – following the recent introduction of Horde Prime in the Twins of Power Special, more emphasis would be placed from this stage on the intergalactic presence of the Horde.
Hordak takes Hydron to a nearby lake to allow him to demonstrate the abilities of his Compacto-Field. Hydron shows how his ray reduces the space between drops of water to the point that an entire lake can be held in a field smaller than a pea. Ever conscious of the need to reflect real-life science in the comics, writer/editor Brian Clarke comments: “We deliberately had to break our rules with that story, on the laws of physics. Because although he shrinks the water, and holds it in his hand, we knew it would still have the same mass, so it would be impossible to hold! But we thought, we’re going to have to ignore that … So we just thought, it’s a nice idea from a story perspective, we know he couldn’t possibly hold it, but we’re not going to have him say ‘And I managed to neutralize its mass’ or something, so I just thought, yeah, we’ll just let that one go by.” (See this site’s Interview With Brian Clarke for more details.)
The scene cuts, naturally, to Mermista, who unsurprisingly plays a focal role in this water-based story. Mermista is enjoying her usual fun and frolics in the ocean with her fish friends, when she spots Hydron’s ship hovering overhead, and the ship begins stealing the water from the oceans. Before she can escape, Mermista is caught in the ray herself and just manages to beam a mental command to one of the fish nearby, telling it to contact She-Ra. The fish is capable of flight, and flies above the water to locate She-Ra, finding Swift Wind on a beach and relaying its message telepathically. The following panel shows She-Ra, flying atop Swift Wind towards Hydron’s ship, with some amusing dialogue from Swift Wind: “If we can’t [stop Hordak] we had better find somewhere else to live!”
She-Ra is knocked off her steed by a blast from the ship and falls toward it, being sucked into the ship itself. She finds herself imprisoned in the Compacto-Field alongside Mermista, and remarks “who is that finny fiend?” upon seeing Hydron. As Hordak explains the scheme, Mermista – who has undergone some brilliant development in previous stories, particularly Issue #6’s “The Siren Fish of Etheria” which explored her love of the sea and devotion to its waters and creatures – reacts emotionally, saying “My oceans and seas! You’re stealing everything! But what of my water-friends?”
By this point, satisfied that his scheme is working successfully, Hydron demands that Hordak give him the captive Frosta – amusingly referred to by Hydron as ‘the Frosta creature’ – who he promised him. It becomes apparent here that Hordak – who has not gone as far as to actually capture Frosta – does not intend to keep his part of the bargain and has only promised Hydron this reward to serve his own interests. With Hordak refusing to give Frosta to Hydron until the job has been finished, Hydron becomes suspicious and stops the machine, refusing to continue the work until he has Frosta, setting the course of the ship for the polar cap where Frosta lives. Angry at being blackmailed and issued with commands by Hydron, Hordak converts his arm to cannon form and fires a blast at Hydron, and as she watches the two villains begin to fight, She-Ra hatches a plan to escape.
Hordak attempts to destroy Hydron outright, believing he does not need him anymore and can use his own abilities to operate the Compacto-Field and complete the scheme. She-Ra takes advantage of the villains’ distraction and smashes her way free from the Compacto-Field, and Hordak fires a blast at She-Ra, which she dodges, causing him to hit the Power-Coil of the ship, which will cause the ship to explode within minutes. Hordak escapes from the ship in rocket form, while She-Ra and Mermista retreat through an Air-Lock hatch, as Hydron is left with no choice but to dump all the water back in the oceans, the only way to save his ship.
However at this point, on the final two panels of the story, a bizarre continuity error occurs – She-Ra addresses Mermista as Frosta, and the final panel shows Mermista using Frosta’s ice powers to freeze the water as it falls from the ship, allowing her and She-Ra to slide safely to the ground. Yet the artist still draws her as Mermista, and her line “And he’s being forced to return our water!” sounds typical of Mermista, who naturally would be overjoyed at the return of the water to Etheria’s oceans. Yet She-Ra’s dialogue and the narration panel both refer to her as Frosta, and the fact she actually uses Frosta’s ice power suggests the story may have been rushed at the last minute, for continuity errors like this were not typical in the comics and this is the first time such an error has been significant enough to impact the narrative’s effect. While Frosta has in a sense figured heavily in the story as she has been promised by Hordak to Hydron as a captive in return for his assistance, she has not actually appeared and the narrative does not really call for her, as Mermista could just as easily have used her own water-based abilities to help her and She-Ra return safely to Etheria’s surface. But unfortunately, it seems there was some major confusion in the completion of this story and the character of Mermista was thus confused with Frosta – and it went unnoticed enough that the editorial at the beginning of the issue even mentioned “an adventure in which Frosta is the guest star”. Most likely this error was a result of the story being rushed to meet a tight deadline, and it is unfortunate as it detracts somewhat from what is overall an exciting and satisfactory conclusion to a very entertaining story.
Regarding this continuity error, Brian Clarke says: "That mix up with Frosta was spotted as we passed the pages over to production but by then it was too late to change. Looking at the sales figures I could see that the comic wouldn’t last much longer and therefore didn’t have a replacement story from inventory. The only alternative would have been a reprint story - and that would not be good value for the reader."
While this untypical continuity error may unfortunately lessen the story’s impact somewhat, the resulting confusion in the reader detracting from their enjoyment of the story’s effective resolution, “The Great Water Theft” is overall a very strong and entertaining story, with its creative premise, its heavy emphasis on science fiction, its spotlighting of Mermista, always one of the best-written of the supporting cast, and its particularly memorable guest villain in the alien creature Hydron, himself a force to be reckoned with. As such, this confusing error can be forgiven in the context of a generally strong and effective story, which is nonetheless probably the highlight of this issue.
The back page features this illustration and profile of Peekablue.
© Aidan Cross, 2021.