UK London Editions Comics

Issue #5

Release Date: October 1986

Stories:

The Wuglies, part 1
The Wuglies, part 2

Cloud Over Etheria

Cover by: Joan Boix

As with previous issues of the She-Ra comic, this issue's cover has no connection with the actual stories in the issue. The cover features two of the newer toy releases, Sweet Bee and Peekablue, but neither of these characters appear in this issue's stories, nor does the fire demon threatening them on this issue's cover.

This issue's intro page. Bow illustration by Francisco Javier González Vilanova. The description of Bow's abilities states that one of his arrows makes enemies fall in love. It would have been interesting to have seen this ability put to use in one of the stories...

****

Story 1: “The Wuglies, part I”
Writer: Pat Kelleher
Art: Joan Boix

Synopsis: It is a hot day on Etheria and Princess Adora is visiting Madame Razz. As they are both feeling overheated, Madame Razz suggests that she flies them to the Northern Mountains in the Kingdom of Snows to cool down. Adora agrees so she and Madame Razz fly on Broom to the Northern Mountains, where they amuse themselves by building a snow-Hordak and having a snowball fight. When Madame Razz throws a particularly huge snowball at her, Adora accidentally falls down a hole in the ground, where she finds herself in a strange underground kingdom populated by a race of troll-like people. The creatures take her prisoner, though they speak a different language and Adora is unable to understand them. The creatures present Adora before their king, and she tries to explain she means them no harm, but they do not understand her and imprison her in a jail cell. Back on the surface, Madame Razz conjures up a rope and thrusts it down the hole in an attempt to rescue Adora, but accidentally falls down the hole herself and winds up also taken prisoner by the creatures. Left alone on the surface, Broom decided the only person who can help him is Frosta, who lives in the Kingdom of Snows. He flies to Frosta’s Ice Palace, where he tries to explain to Frosta what has happened, but she is busy working on an ice sculpture and does not listen to him.  Broom leaves Frosta’s Ice Palace, deciding that all he can do now is try to rescue Adora and Madame Razz himself.

Review: The first part of this issue’s 2-parter, which takes us to explore new territory in Etheria as we visit the planet’s Northern Hemisphere and the Kingdom of Snows. The story begins with Adora visiting Madame Razz’s house on a sweltering hot day in Etheria. Overheated and running out of Frizzyade and ice cubes, Adora desperately needs to cool down, and Madame Razz comes up with the idea of flying over to the Northern Mountains in the Kingdom of Snows, for a cooling trip.

Once landed, Madame Razz conjures up a hot pudgy-cake snack for her and Adora. (If she is able to conjure up food so easily you wonder why she didn’t use her magic to conjure up Frizzyade and ice cubes back at her house…) Broom, having no need to eat since he is made of wood, keeps himself amused by building a snow-Hordak, which he revels in throwing snowballs at.

One of the snowballs hits Adora by mistake, who throws one back and accidentally hits Madame Razz, who gets her back by throwing an extra-huge snowball Adora’s way. Unwittingly, her extra-huge snowball leads to more trouble than intended when it causes Adora to stumble back and fall down a hole in the ground, into a shaft that leads into an underground kingdom, populated by a strange race of troll-like people, who we will soon learn are the ‘Wuglies’ of the title.

The Wuglies speak a different language from the humans of Etheria, which we later learn is called Freezian, and their dialogue is illustrated by strange symbols in their word bubbles. Although Adora is quick to apologize for her accidental intrusion on their kingdom, the Wuglies are clearly unsettled by her presence and, armed with swords, march her to their king, the sound of machinery audible in the distance. Adora tries her best to explain to the king that she stumbled into their kingdom by pure accident, but neither of them are able to understand the other, and she winds up in a prison cell, suspecting she has walked into something they wanted to keep secret.

Back on the surface, Madame Razz winds up in the same predicament as Adora when she conjures up a rope to reach into the hole, but falls down the shaft herself and winds up in a separate prison cell, leaving Broom alone on the surface. The following scene is an all-time classic scene in the She-Ra comics, partly because of the character development it gives Broom, but more so for its memorable introduction of Frosta, who is given a brilliantly humorous moment in the spotlight.

As a member of the supporting cast, Frosta has had a background role in Issue #3’s “The Disappearance of Madame Razz”, but other than that she has yet to get a proper role in any of the stories, and a trip up to the frozen north of Etheria provides the perfect opportunity for just that.

Broom makes an awkward entrance to Frosta’s Ice Palace, slipping on the icy floor and falling on his front. This gets him right off to an awkward start with Frosta, who lightly ticks him off for having nearly crashed into the sculpture she is working on – an ice sculpture in the likeness of Bow. What follows is a truly hilarious scene with some classic dialogue from Frosta. Broom tries to explain that Madame Razz and Adora have fallen down a hole, but Frosta is completely uninterested, busy at work on her sculpture and dismissing Broom as an annoyance. But while the scene is amusing enough in itself, what makes this panel particularly memorable – at least among the London Editions staff – is that it had to be significantly edited before the comic was sent to the presses, because artist Joan Boix had sneaked in a rather too obvious ‘dirty joke’! The previous panel showed Frosta clearly holding a hammer and chisel as she worked on the sculpture, and these tools are conspicuous in this subsequent panel by their absence – the reason being because Joan Boix had illustrated the chisel close to Frosta’s mouth in a rather suggestive position, so she looked like she was about to give a blow job! In order to avoid complaints, the London Editions team had to white out the chisel before the comic went to the presses – so the only clue in the printed panel is a mysterious ‘blank spot’ near the Bow sculpture’s shoulders!

Frosta's chisel, missing from this panel, could have led to great controversy if left in...

The following panel is a true classic moment, as Broom tries in vain to explain the danger Madame Razz and Adora are in, to be met with a hilarious comeback from Frosta: “I’m sure Madame Razz and Adora are quite old enough to go down holes if they want to”!

Poor Broom is left with no choice but to leave the palace to try and rescue his friends all by himself, lamenting “If only I wasn’t a broom, then she’d listen.” This is a great scene to end the first part on – Frosta has been given a brilliant introduction, establishing her nicely as a seductive, aloof character segregated from the other Rebels in her remote home location, with her fantastically deadpan comedic dialogue giving her an extra endearing aura. And Broom gets some great development in the scene as well, as his well-meaning but timid nature is showcased nicely here, trying his best to help in whatever way he can but finding himself awkwardly dismissed by others just for being a broom. This would be a recurring trait of the character throughout the London Editions comics, as he frequently felt inadequate and not taken seriously by others based on his state as an anthropomorphic household utensil. This makes the perfect ending to the first part of a fun, light-hearted story, leaving the reader eager to see how Broom can possibly help his friends escape their predicament.

****

On this issue’s letters page, one reader suggests the comic feature short comedy stories about Madame Razz, like the three-panel ‘Orko the Magician’ strips that open each issue of the MOTU comic. Although Scrollos promises such a feature, this would never materialize. Another reader points out that Catra is drawn turning into a tiger in the comics whereas in the TV series she turns into a panther, and Scrollos promises to tell his Etherian (in reality Spanish!) artists to draw Catra as a panther from now on. In this instance Scrollos was to deliver on his promise, for Catra was indeed drawn as a panther in future issues.

****

Story 2: “The Wuglies, part II”
Writer: Pat Kelleher
Art: Joan Boix

Synopsis: Adora, having transformed into She-Ra, has broken out of her cell and begins to explore the strange underground kingdom. She finds that now she has transformed, she is magically able to understand what the creatures say, but the creatures are frightened of her and surround her with their swords. She-Ra tries to explain she won’t harm them and asks to speak to their king, so they present her before the king, who introduces himself as King Rark, king of the Wuglies. She-Ra tries to explain to him that she means them no harm, but King Rark is angry and condemns She-Ra for what her people are doing to the Wugly Warrens, telling her they have been digging in the Wuglies’ kingdom and dammed the underground river, turning it into a lake and flooding the great cavern, and that in the spring when the snows melt, they will now flood the warrens and drown the entire race of Wuglies. When the king has calmed down, She-Ra explains to him that she has had nothing to do with this and suggests that Hordak is behind the digging. She offers to help the Wuglies, and King Rark orders his sergeant to take She-Ra to the lower levels of their kingdom to show her what is being done to the warrens. The sergeant does as commanded, and in the cavern She-Ra sees a Horde mining operation, overseen by Scorpia, who is commanding the Troopers to find the rare mineral Celestium for use in Hordak’s experiments. She-Ra feels there are too many Hordesmen for her to handle on her own, so she asks the sergeant to take her to the surface, and above ground she finds Broom, who has got stuck trying to climb down the hole to rescue his friends. She-Ra asks Broom to fly her to Frosta’s Ice Palace, and when they reach the palace, She-Ra explains to Frosta what has happened and Frosta apologizes for not listening to Broom before. She tells She-Ra she has always ignored the Horde in the past as they have never ventured into the Kingdom of Snows before, but now they are threatening her territory she realizes she must aid She-Ra against them. The three of them board Frosta’s Ice-Yacht and Frosta conjures up a polar wind with her wand to carry them to the Wuglies’ kingdom. When they reach the Wugly Warrens, King Rark releases Madame Razz and the friends make their way to the lower levels. She-Ra asks Madame Razz to create a diversion to distract the Hordesmen, and shows Frosta where the Horde have dammed the underground river. Frosta uses her ice wand to burst the dam, and the water from the river pours through to the cavern, short circuiting the Troopers and washing them away. She-Ra is then confronted by Scorpia, but she throws a bag of flour conjured up by Madame Razz at Scorpia, and Scorpia finds her claws stuck together by the flour as it combines with the water to form a paste. Scorpia retreats, leaving the machines behind, and Frosta uses her ice wand to freeze the machines so they will never work again. She-Ra and Frosta then use their weapons to cause a rockfall, blocking the mine so no-one will be able to gain entrance to the Wuglies’ mountain via this route again. The river is set back on its natural course, and the Wuglies’ kingdom is safe. King Rark thanks She-Ra and her friends for saving the Wuglies’ kingdom,  and back on the surface, Frosta uses her ice wand to seal the hole so the Wuglies can be left undisturbed and in peace once more.

Review: Part 2 begins with She-Ra, having transformed from Adora, exploring the Wugly Warrens. Unusually for the comic her transformation has not been shown this time; we last left her as Adora in part 1, trapped in the prison cell. Clearly she has transformed and escaped in between then and now, presumably using her strength to break down the prison door. Now that she has transformed, the power of Grayskull acts as a kind of ‘universal translator’, enabling her and the Wuglies to understand one another. In the taller, more intimidating form of She-Ra, she finds the Wuglies are frightened of her, and as they surround her with swords, she persuades them to let her speak to their king, and she is presented before King Rark, ruler of the Wugly Warrens, who is extremely angry and not too keen to listen to her.

She is finally able to understand now that the Wugly Warrens have been subject to digging from above-grounders, which has dammed the underground river and turned it into a lake, that will flood the warrens in the spring, when the snows melt and drown their entire race. She-Ra explains to King Rark that she has had nothing to do with this and it must be the work of Hordak. Finally gaining King Rark’s trust, She-Ra is led by his sergeant to the lower levels of their kingdom, where the Horde mining operation is taking place.

The following scene sees the introduction of Scorpia, in her first story role within the comics. Although she only made a few appearances in the London Editions comics, their portrayal of Scorpia is particularly notable, for she was depicted as one of the more strong and competent members of the Horde, an independent worker who often led missions alone and was unafraid to take on the Rebels by herself. This was quite at odds with her portrayal in the Filmation cartoon series, which presented her as a dim-witted and usually incompetent villain. Her stronger portrayal in the comics is quite refreshing and in my opinion far more apt for the character – and this far more complimentary depiction of the character was carried even further in the Mini-World She-Ra books, themselves written by Brian Clarke, which stated outright that she was the strongest and most fearless of the Horde minions, and was unafraid to fight She-Ra face-to-face. Given that most of the Horde villains are frequently shown to be bumbling and hopeless, it is a shame that the more competent Scorpia was not put to more regular use in the comics.

Scorpia is ordering the Troopers to mine the warrens for Celestium, a rare mineral needed for Hordak’s experiments, found only in this particular mountain. Realizing she will need help, She-Ra is escorted back to the surface by the sergeant, where she finds Broom, who has tried to climb down the hole to rescue his friends himself, but has got stuck halfway. She-Ra flies on Broom to Frosta’s Ice Palace, hoping to persuade Frosta to listen to them both. Frosta gives She-Ra a far less frosty (excuse the bad pun) reception than she did Broom before – “She-Ra! What a lovely surprise. And Broom! Didn’t you come here earlier?” The next few panels illustrate Broom comically slipping on the icy floor, trying to stay straight while She-Ra explains the situation to Frosta. Frosta immediately realizes she should have listened to Broom earlier and apologizes, explaining she has always ignored the Horde in the past as they have previously left the Kingdom of Snows alone, but now she realizes the severity of the threat they pose, she will not hesitate to help She-Ra.

Frosta is drawn beautifully by Joan Boix, who has really gone the extra mile when illustrating her and paid real attention to detail, with her thick mane of icy blue hair, complimented by the icy blue shades of her striking eyes and her full, frozen lips, her high cheekbones and stunning, sensuous expression. The character’s remoteness and segregation from the main cast in her isolated home imbues her with a seductive mystique and an enchanting aura, and Boix’s style of illustrating her really enhances her mystique, giving her a powerful and captivating presence on the comic’s pages. Combined with Pat Kelleher’s writing of her, as aloof and reclusive but ultimately well-meaning, compounded by the exhilarating deadpan comedy of her dialogue in the first part, she is easily one of the most powerfully memorable and enchanting members of the comic’s supporting cast.

Frosta transports She-Ra and Broom back to the Wuglies’ kingdom via her Ice-Yacht, propelled by a polar wind conjured up by her wand. Back in King Rark’s throne room, the king is very apologetic for having imprisoned Madame Razz, upon realizing she is a friend of She-Ra’s, and also for imprisoning Adora, though She-Ra covers her tracks by telling him she has already rescued Adora and taken her to safety. She-Ra leads her friends to the lower levels, where Frosta is surprised to see the Horde have come this far north.

It is up to Madame Razz to create a diversion to distract the Horde, and we get an amusing illustration of Broom covering his eyes nervously, anticipating the usual disastrous results of his owner’s spells. As expected, the spell does result in unintended consequences, though thankfully these work to the Rebels’ advantage – although Madame Razz attempts to conjure a shower of flowers, she instead conjures up huge bags of flour, that fall down on the Horde members! She has nevertheless done her job of distracting the Horde, which allows Frosta the chance to use her wand to shatter the wall that has dammed the underground river. Once the dam has burst, the water spirits the Horde Troopers away, causing them to short circuit. Scorpia tries to confront She-Ra face-to-face, but suffers a humiliating defeat when She-Ra hurls one of the flour bags at her, and she winds up drenched in flour, which mixes with the water to form a paste, leaving her in a sticky situation!

Once the Horde have fled, She-Ra and Frosta use their powers to block the mine and divert the river back onto its natural course, saving the Wuglies’ kingdom. She-Ra is thanked by King Rark for her help, and She-Ra tells Madame Razz she will find Adora waiting safely for her by the hole. Presumably she says this to cover her double identity in front of Frosta and the Wuglies, for the next panel shows her in the form of Adora again, with Frosta, Broom, Madame Razz and the Wugly sergeant, back on the surface, although it is not clear how She-Ra managed to sneak off and become Adora again without the others noticing (or becoming suspicious!).

Back in the form of Adora, she is once again unable to understand the Wuglies, hearing them in their natural language, but fortunately Frosta speaks their language herself, which we learn here is called Freezian, seemingly a native language of the polar regions. He asks her to seal the hole so the Wuglies can be left undisturbed once more, and Adora celebrates the fact that at least a small corner of Etheria is now free from the Horde. The final panel shows Frosta using her ice wand to seal the hole, with the snow-Hordak from part 1 shown melting in the sunlight in the background – a great touch, serving as a kind of metaphor for the Rebels’ latest defeat of Hordak’s evil empire.

And this rounds off to a nice close a very solid, fun and entertaining two-parter, which has done an excellent job of combining humour and light-heartedness with the more serious side of the She-Ra saga, with its themes of pollution and environmental destruction on the part of the Horde, and the dangers to the lives of the race of Wuglies. Pat Kelleher has done a splendid job writing all the characters, particularly Broom and Frosta, and Joan Boix’s distinctive art style has complimented this story perfectly, giving it an ethereal, magical feel. A very successful story which does an excellent job of exploring an unfamiliar area of Etheria, while giving the character of Frosta a great introduction and portraying the whole cast of heroes as strong, likeable and very endearing to the reader. This story has real heart to it and is an example of the She-Ra comics at their finest.

****

Story 3: “Cloud Over Etheria”
Writer: Unknown
Art: Joan Boix

Synopsis: In the Whispering Woods, She-Ra is helping the Twiggets with their washing, as they prepare for a visit from Princess Adora.  When the washing is finished, she leaves on Swift Wind, and returns as Adora, accompanied by Bow, Madame Razz, Broom, Kowl and Spirit. The Twiggets have prepared a feast in Adora’s honour, and they begin to eat, but unbeknownst to them, they are being watched by Shadow Weaver from her lair. Shadow Weaver uses a spell from the ancient book of Rangor’rath the Mighty to conjure up the Cloud of Evil, which travels to Whispering Woods. Rain begins to fall from the cloud onto the Twiggets, and as they are soaked in the rain, the Twiggets suddenly turn aggressive, throwing rocks at Adora and her friends. Adora and the others run, but the cloud follows them, so Madame Razz conjures up an umbrella to protect them from its rain. But Bow is still under the cloud when the rain hits him, and he becomes aggressive himself, firing arrows at Adora and Madame Razz, tying up Madame Razz and Kowl. Adora quickly escapes and becomes She-Ra, turning Spirit into Swift Wind. Swift Wind flies her back to her friends and She-Ra unties Madame Razz and Kowl, taking them to a safe place, then she follows the cloud atop Swift Wind. Shadow Weaver witnesses She-Ra following the cloud, and casts a spell to bring about a lightning storm. Narrowly dodging the lightning bolts, She-Ra realizes the lightning is attracted to her sword, and decides to use this to her advantage. Flying over Shadow Weaver’s lair, which has been created by her magic, She-Ra throws the sword through the window, and the lightning follows the sword into Shadow Weaver’s lair, causing the whole fortress to crash apart. Swift Wind then uses his wings to disperse the Evil Cloud, and Shadow Weaver, having teleported to safety as the fortress fell, retreats to the Fright Zone. She-Ra turns back to Adora, and returns to Whispering Woods, where she finds her friends safe and back to normal.

Review: This story begins with a brilliantly creative use of Swift Wind’s wings – flapping them extra fast to dry the Twiggets’ washing! It turns out that She-Ra and Swift Wind are helping the Twiggets prepare everything for a special visit from Princess Adora, without realizing that She-Ra is Adora. (Of which the reader is reminded via her thought bubble: “I should know. I am Adora.”) With She-Ra bidding goodbye to the Twiggets and flying off on Swift Wind, before coming right back in the forms of Adora and Spirit, it is one of those occasions where we can’t help but feel it’s a little sneaky the way She-Ra does not tell her supposedly close friends that she is Adora. Either way, the Twiggets give Adora (who is accompanied by Bow, Madame Razz, Broom and Kowl) a very warm reception when she arrives, Bow remarking “The Twiggets love Adora – as do we all!”

The scene switches to Shadow Weaver, who is spying on the party from a private lair, having apparently watched the Twiggets for weeks waiting for the day Adora appeared. The expositional dialogue, presumably necessary for new and unfamiliar readers, reminds us that “She is one of the Rebel leaders and so an enemy of my ally, Hordak!” It is notable here that she refers to Hordak as her ‘ally’ rather than her master, and indeed Shadow Weaver has established a nicely independent identity from Hordak by this stage in the comic. While the MOTU comics switch evenly between Skeletor and Hordak as the main villains, the former representing magic and the latter science, the She-Ra comics are doing a good job of doing the same with Shadow Weaver occupying the former role, her solo schemes concentrating on dark magic as opposed to Hordak’s science and technology. Indeed, Hordak does not actually appear at all in this issue (not counting the ‘Snow-Hordak’ in the first story), and there is a strong feel of how the London Editions’ version of the She-Ra universe has built a wonderfully diverse and detailed identity, rather than relying on one single villain for every story.

Using an ancient mystical tome, the book of Rangor’rath the Mighty, Shadow Weaver conjures up the Cloud of Evil, which she sends after the Rebels. Joan Boix has done a very good job with the artwork here, which if anything uses the black and white page format to good advantage, with detailed use of shadowing to create a striking, eerie effect in how Shadow Weaver and the Cloud of Evil are rendered.

When the cloud reaches the Whispering Woods, Adora and her friends are shocked to see the Twiggets suddenly turn aggressive and hateful when the rain starts falling on them. Running from the Twiggets’ attack on them, Adora and her friends realize the cloud is following them, and Madame Razz conjures up an umbrella to protect them from it, resulting in a typically comedic effect when the spell instead conjures up a massive toadstool, which nevertheless does its job and keeps the rain off them. Bow, however, winds up falling victim to the rain and turns aggressive himself, Kowl delivering some sardonic dialogue with his lines “I knew I should have stayed in bed today” and “We’d join you, but we’re a bit tied up at the moment”.

Adora runs off and transforms herself and Spirit into She-Ra and Swift Wind respectively, and returns, freeing Madame Razz and Kowl before going after the cloud to find its source. Shadow Weaver, through her magic mirror, spies She-Ra approaching and uses her magic to send a lightning storm after her, leading She-Ra to deduce that Shadow Weaver must be behind this attack, its magical nature appearing more like Shadow Weaver’s evil than Hordak’s technological machinations.

She-Ra realizes that the lightning is attracted to her sword, and Swift Wind remarks “But if you give up your sword you’ll be weaker than when you are Adora!” This is where the story makes the same mistake as the particularly weak “Trapped by Hordak” in Issue #2, with the hugely illogical flaw of claiming that She-Ra is completely helpless and powerless without her sword. This idea simply does not make sense – not only does it seem nonsensical to assume that without her sword, She-Ra would be less powerful than Adora even when still in the form of She-Ra, but were this the case, she would be a pitifully easy enemy for the Horde to defeat and seems greatly undermined as the saga’s lead heroine. Fortunately not too many stories in the comics made the mistake of stating this, but given that the comics were notable for taking an intelligent approach to the stories and crediting the readers with skills of logic and critical thinking, this is a particularly clumsy mistake for the London Editions comics of all POP canons to make.

She-Ra eventually reaches Shadow Weaver’s castle fortress, which it seems she has created with her magic. She-Ra defeats Shadow Weaver’s scheme by hurling her sword through the window, smashing Shadow Weaver’s mirror, and causing the lightning to follow the sword into the fortress, causing the whole edifice to crash apart. The story then comes full circle with Swift Wind using the flapping of his wings in a similar manner to how he did at the start, this time to disperse the Evil Cloud.

The following panel shows She-Ra retrieving her sword from the wreckage of the castle, while Shadow Weaver, having teleported to safety, takes refuge behind a twisted tree. Although nothing is stated outright to this effect, the manner She-Ra uses to defeat Shadow Weaver’s scheme seems to debunk the notion that She-Ra is completely powerless without her sword, for it seems unlikely she would so confidently throw the sword into the castle to be retrieved from the ensuing wreckage, if this was really the case.

The final panel sees She-Ra and Swift Wind back in the forms of Adora and Spirit, finding their friends back to normal in Whispering Woods, ending with a pun by Kowl about Shadow Weaver’s plan being ‘wet’.

While this is one of the more basic stories in the comic and not one that is likely to stay in the reader’s memory, “Cloud Over Etheria” is nevertheless a fun and entertaining story for the most part, nicely showcasing the bond of friendship between Adora and the other members of the main cast. While the mystical, fairytale-like elements of the She-Ra mythos are brought nicely to the forefront here, the artwork is a key strength of this story, and distinct in the fact that the black and white illustrations, if anything, are actually more impressive than the colour ones, with Joan Boix’s excellent artwork particularly commendable for its distinctive usage of shadowing effects, imbuing the story with an enchanting, eerie atmosphere.

****

This issue's 'Ask Kowl' page.

© Aidan Cross, 2020.

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