UK London Editions Comics
Release Date: October 1986
The Disappearance of Madame Razz
The Book of Potions
She-Ra the Bad
Cover by: Joan Boix
This issue’s cover depicts She-Ra untypically in a position of peril, falling down a waterfall as Madame Razz flies after her on Broom to save her. Such a scene does not feature in any of the stories in this issue.
This issue’s intro page features a short bio for Catra, revealing that she was taught by Clawdeen to transform into a cat. (Illustration by Francisco Javier González
Vilanova.) Her cat form is shown here as a tiger, although later issues would depict her as a panther like in the cartoon series.
Story 1: “The Disappearance of Madame Razz”
Writer: Brian Clarke
Art: Joan Boix
Synopsis: While flying over Etheria atop Broom, Madame Razz believes she has finally got the hang of flying, but is proven wrong when she and Broom crash land in a small pond in the woods. Adora, Frosta and Entrapta, witnessing Razz’s little mishap, laugh good-naturedly, but Madame Razz feels insulted by this and determines to prove she is capable of truly great magic by casting the Spell of In-Visa’Lity to impress them. She casts the spell and succeeds, making herself completely invisible – but there is one consequence of the spell she had not foreseen, in that it has also made her blind, since her eyes are no longer able to absorb light now that the light passes through her. Adora promises to help her and sneaks off to become She-Ra. Returning as She-Ra, she sets about helping Madame Razz become visible again, and uses her sword to cast a spell of recall to enable Razz to remember the magic words to bring her back to visibility. The spell works and Madame Razz remembers the magic words, but there is one complication – the spell to make her visible again will only work if the person speaking the words moves their hands in a specific pattern between Razz’s own hands while speaking it – and how will She-Ra be able to do this when she can not see Madame Razz? She-Ra thinks up a solution, and pushes Madame Razz in a mud pool, making her semi-visible by causing a mud outline to form around her body. Now that She-Ra can see Madame Razz’s hands, she moves her own hands in the specific pattern between Razz’s while speaking the magic words, and Madame Razz is restored to full visibility. Madame Razz gives She-Ra a huge hug in gratitude, but since she is still covered in mud, this causes the mud to rub off all over She-Ra, and all their friends laugh affectionately as She-Ra winds up very dirty!
Review: While it remains the definitive tale of invisibility over a century after its publication, one of the main criticisms of H. G. Wells’ classic 1897 novel The Invisible Man has been that its title character, scientifically speaking, should have been blind, for the human eye functions by absorbing light and would not be able to function were light to pass through it. It is thus a credit to the insight often shown by Brian Clarke and the rest of the London Editions team that they took it upon themselves to address this issue when the She-Ra comics came round to tackling a story about invisibility. Brian Clarke and his co-writers were always adept at inserting real-life scientific insight into the MOTU and She-Ra stories they wrote, to educate the younger readers as well as render the fantastical world of the stories more palatable for older readers. They do that here with great comedic effect in a fun, jovial story that brilliantly fleshes out the characters of the She-Ra mythos and the friendship between them.
The first thing notable about this story is that unlike previous She-Ra stories, it features no villains nor any form of combat. The fairytale-like setting of the She-Ra mythos, and the focus on a girls’ audience, which allowed for a more emotive edge to the stories, proved advantageous in many ways in that it allowed the writers to explore the kind of stories that the MOTU comic would never have touched. “The Disappearance of Madame Razz” is an excellent example of this, a story that focuses purely on the friendship and everyday life of the princesses and the magical world they inhabit.
The spotlight here is on the character of Madame Razz, and she is characterized very nicely here – while her general purpose in the She-Ra mythos is as a source of comic relief, she also serves to bring out the heart of the other characters, her comical blundering bringing the others together with their shared love for her as someone who brings out the best in them. The story begins with a familiar scenario for the character, with her crash landing in the woods atop Broom, her little mishap amusing her friends – Adora, Frosta and Entrapta – as she crash lands in the lake.
The appearance of Entrapta among the princesses is a curious point of this story, with her and Frosta both serving background roles here, with little characterization (their roles in this story could easily have been filled by Bow and Glimmer, but the presence of these two supporting cast members satisfies Mattel’s demand for toy exposure). Entrapta’s appearance is a surprise not because this is the first time she has appeared in the comics, but because she is supposed to be a villain – she was marketed by Mattel as an evil ally of Catra, and depicted as such in most other media. It is likely that either the writer or artist simply made a mistake here and got the character’s allegiance wrong, but this was resolved creatively in the following issue – Issue #4’s “The Null-Stone of Nabob” explained that Entrapta was confused and undecided about her allegiance, causing her to occasionally help the Rebels and other times the Horde. Her characterization in Issue #4’s story nevertheless seemed quite different from here, for it portrayed her as an intense, distrustful and reclusive character, whereas here she appears perfectly relaxed and at ease with the other characters – and more confusingly, in the following issue she was drawn with a completely different appearance, resembling the character of Double Trouble rather than Entrapta. There is certainly a lot of confusion regarding the way the London Editions Comics handled this character, but on the plus side it at least sets her apart nicely from her portrayal in other media, whilst making her a particularly intriguing character in the context of the UK Comics.
Although they are laughing with her, not at her, Madame Razz takes their amusement the wrong way and feels insulted, attempting to prove she is capable of truly impressive magic by casting the Spell of Invisa’Lity. But Broom knows right away this can only mean trouble, for while Madame Razz is capable of casting a successful spell, her absent-mindedness often lets her down – and it does so here, for not only has she not taken into account that making herself invisible means making herself blind, but she is unable to remember the necessary incantation to return herself to normal.
Some comical blundering follows, with the invisible Madame Razz bumping into a tree, causing Broom to remark “She definitely finds trees attractive!” It’s up to She-Ra to save the day, via quick thinking and strategy. She uses the magic of her sword to help Madame Razz remember the correct words to reverse the spell, then she pushes Madame Razz in a mud pool to form an outline of her shape.
This enables her to move her hands between Madame Razz’s in the necessary pattern to reverse the spell, allowing Madame Razz to become visible again. This allows for a suitably humorous ending as Madame Razz thanks She-Ra by hugging her – forgetting she is still covered in mud, which causes She-Ra herself to become very dirty, much to the amusement of the others!
This is a great story for developing the world of Etheria and its characters without the need for villains or conflict of any kind. Placing the characters in what is for them an everyday setting, with the challenge of the story being to reverse one of Madame Razz’s spells that has gone wrong, allows us to explore the warmth, family spirit and friendship that exists between the princesses. We see how well the character of Madame Razz brings out this very spirit in them; she is a source of humour and a great deal of love among the princesses. And while this allows for a fun and comedic story with great overtones of warmth, it also surprises us by sharing a common trait of the action-based stories in the comic and bringing in a touch of real-life science, allowing for a strategic, thinking-based solution. “The Disappearance of Madame Razz” fleshes out the London Editions She-Ra universe brilliantly, hitting all the marks spot on – a definite winner!
This issue's letters page finally features letters addressed to She-Ra rather than Scrollos as the She-Ra comic received an increasing volume of mail. Some interesting questions here, including a marriage proposal to She-Ra from a reader! She-Ra’s response to one letter, describing herself and He-Man as “the mightiest couple ever” is rather unusual if not a little disturbing… Of particular curiosity is the response to the last letter, which states that Kowl and Madame Razz do not know that Adam is He-Man, despite knowing of Adora’s double identity. The response about Madame Razz not taking kindly to the reader’s suggestion that she looks like a Twigget is very amusing! (Interestingly enough, many years later the bios for the Masters of the Universe Classics toy line went the opposite way from this and stated that Madame Razz is indeed a Twigget.)
Story 2: “The Book of Potions”
Writer: Pat Kelleher
Art: Francisco Javier González
Synopsis: On a warm spring day, Madame Razz is practising a spring-cleaning spell in the woods. Nearby, a young girl, playing fetch with her dog in the woods, stumbles upon an old book of spells, and unsure of what to do with it, takes the book to Madame Razz for advice. Madame Razz tells her the book once belonged to Madame Herbista, her teacher’s teacher, and contains recipes for magic potions to be made from herbs and flowers, which are very dangerous. Meanwhile, deep in the Forest of Fear, Shadow Weaver is spying on what is happening, and orders Catra and Grizzlor to go after the book and bring it to her. Later on, Perfuma and Sweet Bee are taking a walk in the woods, when Madame Razz stumbles into them, desperately looking for She-Ra to ask her advice on what to do with the book. At that moment, Catra and Grizzlor spring out from a hiding place and snatch the book from Madame Razz, running back to the Forest of Fear with the book. Sweet Bee flies after them, but not wanting to risk entering the Forest of Fear, she instead chooses to fly back to her friends and tell them where the villains have gone. Back in the woods, Madame Razz has found Adora and tells her what has happened. Sweet Bee returns to her friends and tells them where Catra and Grizzlor have taken the book, and Adora sneaks off to become She-Ra. Returning to the other Rebels with Bow at her side, She-Ra sets about going after the villains, and Perfuma disguises them with one of her scents, so Catra will not smell them coming. Reaching the Forest of Fear, the Rebels come across Shadow Weaver’s lair, where Shadow Weaver is testing one of the potions in the book on Catra and Grizzlor to prove its effectiveness. She-Ra and the Rebels enter the clearing and demand the book back, but are attacked by Catra and Grizzlor, who have been endowed with super-strength by the potion. Perfuma manages to retrieve the book, but is caught in the act by Grizzlor, who is about to hurl a huge boulder at her, but then suddenly falls asleep, dropping the boulder, which knocks the cauldron over and spills the potion. Catra has also fallen asleep, and Shadow Weaver blames them both for messing up her scheme and flees. She-Ra then explains that although the potion increased Catra and Grizzlor’s strength, it also caused them to use up their energy much faster than usual, causing them to tire out quickly and fall asleep. Knowing they cannot risk allowing the book to fall into enemy hands again, She-Ra decides to take the book to the Crystal Castle for safekeeping by Light Hope.
Review: This is a more conventional She-Ra story that packs a good cast of both heroes and villains into an entertaining fantasy adventure. The set-up is executed nicely, with the young girl’s dog, Mojo, stumbling upon an ancient book of spells in the Whispering Woods. In-keeping with the TV series, generally animals in the London Editions Comics were of a surreal, alien nature, yet Mojo is an ordinary dog, of a typical Earth-like breed. The book once belonged to Madame Herbista, Madame Razz’s teacher’s teacher. (Although Madame Razz’s teacher’s name is not mentioned here, the UK Ladybird Books revealed she had a teacher called Madame Whizz, giving us three generations of ‘Madames’ across different media.) Knowing the book could be dangerous if it falls into the wrong hands, Madame Razz determines to take it to She-Ra to work out what must be done, but Shadow Weaver has been spying on the scenario from her lair in the Forest of Fear, and sends Catra and Grizzlor to steal the book for her.
As in the previous issue’s “The Tablet of Truth”, Shadow Weaver assumes the role of lead villain in this story, rather than Hordak. In a similar manner to how the MOTU comics switch frequently between Hordak and Skeletor as the lead villains across the stories, the She-Ra comics seem to be taking a similar approach with Hordak and Shadow Weaver, the latter having very much her own style of scheme, based in magic as opposed to Hordak’s scientific approach, whilst satisfying the need for stronger emphasis on the female characters within the She-Ra stories. Although officially she is still allied with Hordak, rather than being a separate evil leader in her own right, Shadow Weaver is particularly effective as a lead villain and her style makes for a nice contrast with Hordak’s technology-based approach.
There follows a scene featuring two of the newer releases in the Princess of Power toy line who have had only minimal exposure in the comics so far – Perfuma and Sweet Bee. Both put their abilities to good use throughout this story – Sweet Bee serving as a kind of scout, while Perfuma uses her power over scents to prevent Catra being able to smell them coming with her animal sense of smell. Perfuma also shows particular distress at the prospect of the Horde using wild flowers in their evil schemes, due to her affinity with plants.
A fun battle sequence follows, when Catra and Grizzlor’s strength is boosted to superhuman levels by the effect of the potion, and they attack She-Ra and Bow by hurling boulders at them. It is notable that Grizzlor’s portrayal here appears slightly different from the way readers of the MOTU comic are used to seeing him – he appears here more in line with his portrayal in the Filmation cartoon series (and indeed he is drawn to resemble his cartoon counterpart, as opposed to his action figure like in the MOTU comics), as a strong but slow-witted brute. There are notable differences from his more childlike, almost sympathetic portrayal in the MOTU comics, in which he is used mainly for comedy value and rarely participates in combat.
Perfuma manages to retrieve the book, and almost falls victim to a boulder attack from Grizzlor, before the villains suddenly fall asleep, their energy having been used up extra quickly due to the potion’s effects. Shadow Weaver teleports away angrily, and She-Ra chooses to take the book to the Crystal Castle for safekeeping.
This is a pretty basic story overall, without the usual thinking-based solutions and unexpected plot twists the UK Comics are known for, and therefore may not stick in the readers’ minds quite as much as other stories. But nevertheless, “The Book of Potions” is a fun She-Ra adventure with an amusing conclusion, and develops the world of Etheria nicely in these still early days of the comic’s run.
Story 3: “She-Ra The Bad”
Writer: Pat Kelleher
Art: Joan Boix
Synopsis: In the Fright Zone, Hordak is thinking of ways to crush the Rebels once and for all. He realizes that the most important thing holding the Rebels together is their mutual friendship and trust of one another, and that if he is able to break their friendships and turn them against one another, they will no longer have the strength as a team to resist the Horde. Hordak and Shadow Weaver summon Catra, and Shadow Weaver casts a Spell of Illusion over Catra, causing her to take on the form of She-Ra herself. Hordak sends the disguised Catra to the Whispering Woods, ordering her to stir up as much trouble as she can to turn the Rebels against one another. Reaching the Whispering Woods, Catra encounters Glimmer, who thinks she is She-Ra and greets her warmly. ‘She-Ra’ instead dismisses Glimmer and calls her a “spoilt, arrogant girl”, telling her that Bow also shares this opinion of her. Glimmer bursts into tears and walks away, saying she will never talk to She-Ra again. Enjoying the mischief, Catra moves on to a group of Twiggets, who are pulling along a cart of apples they have picked in the woods. The Twiggets ask ‘She-Ra’ for help with the apple cart, but she refuses and instead kicks the cart over, causing all the apples to roll away into the woods. Next, she encounters Madame Razz, who asks ‘She-Ra’ to hold some dew for her while she picks up her basket, but ‘She-Ra’ deliberately drops the dew, spilling it all over the ground, then calls Madame Razz “old, fat and ugly” and says Glimmer has described her this way. Madame Razz, upset by this insult, goes away with Broom and begins to cry about it. At that point Glimmer sees her crying and asks what is the matter, and Madame Razz confronts Glimmer about what she apparently said about her, telling her She-Ra told her. Glimmer denies ever having said this and tells her that She-Ra was also rude to her earlier. Bow then passes by and greets the ladies hello, but Glimmer refuses to talk to him, saying She-Ra has told her that Bow described her as ‘arrogant’ and ‘spoilt’. Overhearing the conversation, Kowl tells them that The Twiggets told him She-Ra upset their apple cart on purpose, and the Rebels wonder why She-Ra is being so unpleasant all of a sudden. Adora passes by and asks her friends what is the matter, and they tell her how She-Ra has been upsetting them all. Knowing she has done nothing of the sort, Adora promises to have a talk with She-Ra, then sneaks away to transform into her, and sets out with Swift Wind to find who is impersonating her. Eventually she stumbles upon the imposter, and just at that moment, the Rebels arrive on the scene and are confused at the sight of two She-Ras. Both She-Ras insist they are the real one and the other is the fake, so the Rebels get them to summon Swift Wind to the scene. Swift Wind lands nearby and uses his animal sense of smell to identify She-Ra’s scent. He identifies which of the two is the real She-Ra, and recognizes the scent of the other as that of Catra. Catra reverts to her true form and, humiliated, leaves the scene. Reunited as friends, the Rebels celebrate the fact that their friendship keeps them together and gives them the advantage over the Horde, who do not trust anybody.
Review: With the She-Ra comics being aimed predominantly at a young female readership, this in many ways allows the writers more flexibility than the MOTU comics. As well as the standard action-adventure fare, the She-Ra comics are freer to explore the characters and their world from an emotional and humane angle, and focus on stories that are more character-based in nature. As well as stories of a fairytale-like nature, this allows also for stories more akin to a soap opera, or a teen drama. “She-Ra the Bad” is a story that very much falls into the latter category, and in the process allows us some of the best comedy the comics have featured so far.
The premise of this story could seem a little silly at first, particularly alongside the more dramatic stories that have been featured in both the MOTU and previous She-Ra comics – the idea of the villains causing trouble for the heroes not by way of combat or some kind of deadly assault, but by gossiping and ‘shit-stirring’ among the heroes may seem on the corny side. But it is an idea with excellent comedy potential and is executed brilliantly in this particular story, which shines with the UK Comics’ classic British deadpan humour.
The idea of an evil version of the main hero has been used in the MOTU comics, in MOTU Issue #9’s “When Strikes The Faker”. The difference in in “She-Ra the Bad” is that we get more of a ‘mischievous’ rather than evil She-Ra, who rather than attack the heroes, sows distrust among them by spreading rumours and speaking rudely to them. And who better to play this role than Catra – marketed in the Mattel toy line and certain other media as the main villain of the She-Ra franchise, and frequently portrayed as jealous of She-Ra’s powers and friendships, this is a role she will relish.
As corny as the premise might initially seem, Hordak’s idea of sending Catra out into Rebel territory disguised as She-Ra to sow distrust among the Rebels is a valid scheme, for the Rebels after all have a very strong bond of friendship and it is natural that if those friendships were to fracture and give way to distrust, this could be a solid step in enabling the Horde to infiltrate their opposition more easily. It has been stated in earlier issues that Catra is not particularly evil, rather a jealous and awkward character who is not officially allied with the Horde, but is inclined to help them out of pure spite and jealousy towards She-Ra rather than out of any deep-rooted malevolence. Hordak knows this and thus takes advantage of Catra’s mischievous nature in this scheme. As Catra sets out, in the magical disguise of She-Ra, to “get my own back on those self-righteous princesses”, she retains her animal sense of smell and picks up Glimmer’s scent as she approaches.
The following exchange is hilarious, Glimmer greeting She-Ra warmly and cheerily only to be rudely rebutted by She-Ra coming out with a torrent of insults at her, and telling her “Bow thinks so as well”, causing Glimmer to burst into tears and walk away. By the next panel, with the mischievous look on She-Ra’s face as she laughs to herself “This is fun” the reader is getting as much amusement and fun out of this scheme as Catra is.
The next scene with the Twiggets is equally amusing, with She-Ra dismissing them as “scruffy little wood urchins” when they cheerily ask her to help with their apple cart, followed by her kicking the cart over and causing the apples to spill and roll downhill. She then encounters Madame Razz, who asks her to hold some dew for her while she picks up her basket, and She-Ra ‘accidentally’ drops the dew, sarcastically remarking “How silly of me. I’ve dropped it. What a pity!” By this point the reader could justifiably wish this idea could have been used in an episode of the cartoon series – it would have been great to have seen this comedy played out by the characters’ animated counterparts.
‘She-Ra’ then tells Madame Razz “Glimmer was right… you are an old fool, Madame Razz. Old, fat and ugly!” causing Madame Razz to walk away with Broom, offended. The consequences of the fake She-Ra’s gossip then begin to play out when Madame Razz encounters Glimmer herself in the woods and confronts her about what she has apparently said. Bow then happens upon the situation, to be rebuffed by Glimmer over having apparently called her ‘arrogant’ and ‘spoilt’, and Kowl overhears the conversation, relaying what She-Ra did to the Twiggets’ apple cart. Enter Adora with Spirit, and Madame Razz tells her about how She-Ra has been upsetting them all – herself of course being aware that Adora is also She-Ra, there’s likely an element of confrontation in her approach here.
Bow, being She-Ra’s closest battle comrade, whose secret admiration of She-Ra has been notable in previous stories, is quick to remind the others that She-Ra is their friend and they should give her the benefit of the doubt and try to understand why she is behaving this way. Adora awkwardly offers to go and ‘find’ She-Ra to see what is going on, remarking on the next page that “Madame Razz knows my secret and thinks I’m to blame”.
She soon stumbles upon the fake She-Ra in a woodland clearing, and we get another great comedy scene when her friends stumble upon the sight of two She-Ras. The following panel is hilarious, with Bow asking the simple question “Which of you is the real She-Ra?” to which they both simultaneously respond “I am!”, causing Kowl to remark “Well, I suppose it was worth a try.” There are clear echoes of the Filmation cartoon here, in which Bow was often portrayed as naïve and foolish and Kowl a comedic foil to him, with his sarcastic put-downs.
At the request of Kowl, both She-Ras call Swift Wind to the scene, and Swift Wind is able to use his animal sense of smell to recognize the real She-Ra and identify the impostor as Catra. Catra then reverts to her true form and flounces off from the scene, humiliated at having been rumbled by a horse. The story ends with a panel showing the Rebels all embracing one another arm in arm as She-Ra delivers a moral about friendship, Broom and Kowl also holding hands for extra cute effect.
This could easily have been a plain silly story that could have spoken down to its readers and reduced the conflict between the Rebels and the Horde to a mere school playground quarrel, making a mockery of the characters. Yet it is handled so well and with so much knowingly deadpan wit that it ranks among the classics of the London Editions She-Ra comics, and we even buy this comedic scheme of Hordak’s as a naturally valid scheme in the context of the wider war on Etheria. It makes perfect sense after all for the Horde to subtly infiltrate the Rebels from within by stirring gossip among them and fracturing their friendships, and the comedy and interplay between the characters is pure gold. Catra gets the chance to shine in her true mischievous glory, and similar to “The Disappearance of Madame Razz” in this issue, we get a great sense of the deep-rooted warmth, friendship and camaraderie that exists between the Rebels. We are rarely shown such aspects in that much depth in the MOTU comic, so this story serves as a perfect example of the somewhat greater flexibility allowed by the She-Ra stories, and we can understand why Brian Clarke actually preferred writing for the She-Ra comic over MOTU (see this site’s Interview With Brian Clarke for more details). There is the sense that more could have been done with this idea – for instance, had the scheme worked and brewed further distrust among the Rebels, the story could have taken a more serious turn and allowed for the Horde to take advantage of this to mount a direct attack on them; or alternatively, there could have been the potential for even more comedy if the fake She-Ra had encountered Adora in her regular form, which would have given us the amusement of seeing Adora’s shock at suddenly finding herself taking abuse from her own alter ego! But in the context of the 6-page limit in the comics, the story does a great job of handling this theme as it is, and the characters lend themselves very nicely to the bitchy teen drama that ensues, with comedy that is certain to amuse any reader, no matter their sex or age.
Overall, Issue #3 of She-Ra has been a hugely successful issue that has done a brilliant job of approaching the She-Ra universe from different angles – while we’ve had a regular She-Ra adventure in “The Book of Potions”, “The Disappearance of Madame Razz” and “She-Ra the Bad” have done a fantastic job of exploring the characters via the media of soap opera and comedy, and brilliantly flesh out the world of Etheria, the more tragic and sombre side of the conflict showcased in earlier stories like the Preview Issue's “The Ghost Blossoms” balanced out beautifully by the light-hearted fun and comedy of the stories in this issue. The UK London Editions Comics are building an enchanting, magical and dramatic She-Ra mythology, and with this issue they are very much onto a winner!