© Aidan Cross, 2019.

UK London Editions Comics

Preview Issue

Release Date: August 31, 1986

Stories:

Twiggets in Trouble, part I

Twiggets in Trouble, part II

The Ghost Blossoms

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

The cover to this special preview issue of the UK London Editions She-Ra comic series, which was packaged as a free giveaway with Issue #12 of the Masters of the Universe comic. The first regular issue of She-Ra was released the following week. As with the MOTU comics, the artwork was provided by the Spanish art team at Selecciones Illustradas (SI).

As an added point of interest, the comic was launched with a special industry event in London where the comic was pitched to potential retail buyers. Editor Brian Clarke had hired a model to appear at the event as She-Ra, but unfortunately the model agency made a mistake and sent along a model to play a Sherpa – so the ‘She-Ra’ they got was laughably tiny for the role! (See this site's Interview With Brian Clarke for more details.) Here is a shot of Brian about to be run through by the smallest She-Ra ever:

****

The Intro page for this preview issue begins much as the MOTU comics do, with an opening editorial. Like the MOTU comics, the She-Ra comic is edited (and mostly written) by Brian Clarke, although the editorial voice for this comic series is She-Ra herself rather than Scrollos from the MOTU comics. The ‘Etherian Puzzles’ section is a misnomer as it is a quiz rather than a set of puzzles, but works well as an opening to the comic by testing the reader’s knowledge of the She-Ra characters and universe, assuming that the reader is likely already familiar with much of these from the cartoon series.

Story 1: “Twiggets in Trouble, part I”
Writer: Brian Clarke

Synopsis: Deep in the Whispering Woods, the Twiggets are looking for a place for their afternoon nap. Spotting a hollow within the trees, they think this looks like the perfect place, and settle down to sleep. However, just as they fall asleep something outside begins shaking the tree, and nervously, the awakened Twiggets look outside. They see Hordak with his accomplice Catra. Hordak is complaining about the constant defeats he is suffering at the hands of She-Ra and the Great Rebellion, and demonstrates his power by turning his arm into a cannon and firing at the tree. Terrified, the Twiggets run from their place of sanctuary and scurry into the woods. Hordak recognizes the Twiggets as friends of She-Ra, and sends Catra after them. Catra transforms into a mighty jungle cat and chases after the Twiggets. As the Twiggets run, Spritina falls into a hole, bring Sprocker and Sprag to a halt – which allows Catra to close in on the other two Twiggets and take them prisoner. When Spritina climbs out of the hole, she sees the Horde taking her friends off to the Fright Zone. Spritina runs to tell the Rebels, and she is seen by Flutterina, who flies down and helps her, taking her to Castle Bright Moon where she can explain everything to She-Ra. She-Ra and Bow mount their respective steeds, Swift Wind and Arrow, and set off for the Fright Zone to rescue the Twiggets. On the way, they encounter a fleet of three Batmex. The Batmex attack them, and although She-Ra and Bow are able to deal with the first two, She-Ra is unable to dodge the third in time and is knocked onto the Batmex wing. The machine has been set on fire by a collision with the wreckage from the other two, and She-Ra finds herself trapped, with the flames rapidly approaching her as the machine crashes towards the ground.

Review: While it took several issues before multi-part stories began appearing in the MOTU comic, the very first of the She-Ra comics begins with a two-parter. There are no origin stories or formal introductions to the characters in this issue; rather everything is written under the assumption that the readers are already familiar with the world of She-Ra and her friends as has been presented in the cartoon series. Origins were saved for the regular comic series which began the following week; the preview issue instead gives us two standard She-Ra stories which could with hindsight have appeared anywhere along the comic’s run. Aside from a few clues here and there that the writers are only just getting accommodated to writing She-Ra stories, this preview issue very much has the feel of a regular edition of the She-Ra comic.

Rather surprisingly, the first She-Ra story of the UK comics chooses to focus on some of She-Ra’s supporting cast members – The Twiggets, the small woodland sprites who inhabit the Whispering Woods. The Twiggets – individually named Spritina, Sprocker and Sprag – are portrayed as peaceful forest creatures who love nothing more than a good nap. What is immediately apparent here is that the She-Ra comic has a noticeably softer tone from that of the MOTU comic, as ‘cute’ comedy characters such as Orko and Cringer have generally been shafted off to the sidelines in the MOTU comic rather than being focal story points. According to Brian Clarke: "Whilst upping the action I definitely didn’t want [the She-Ra comic] to be He-man with tits. So it had more of the softer elements."

Nevertheless, it is not too long before the action gets started, as the Twiggets feel something shaking the tree (whether or not this is an intentional Peter Gabriel reference is anyone’s guess).

We are then shown the first appearance in the She-Ra comic of Hordak, with whom readers of the MOTU comic are already highly familiar as the joint main villain with Skeletor, but who TV viewers know purely as She-Ra’s villain. Appropriately, he is accompanied by Catra – as well as being one of the most popular female villains of the She-Ra show, Catra was actually marketed by Mattel as the lead villain of the She-Ra storyline, so she was to feature very prominently in the comics. A slight difference in Hordak’s portrayal from his regular depiction in the MOTU comic is immediately apparent, for he is shown to have the ability to shapeshift by turning his arm into a cannon, and his whole body into a rocket. These were abilities he displayed regularly in the She-Ra cartoon series, but had not been seen at all in the MOTU comics up to this point (later issues would explain that Hordak’s shapeshifting ability only worked on Etheria, whereas his powers were more limited on Eternia). Of course, Hordak has many additional advantages in the She-Ra universe, for he actually rules the world of Etheria himself, rather than being a standard villain aiming to conquer the planet as he is in the MOTU stories.

Hordak’s display of his cannon arm powers serves to introduce the readers to this element of the character as well as being the catalyst for the action in this story. By demonstrating his powers on the tree, Hordak frightens the Twiggets away, and recognizing them as friends of She-Ra, he sends his minions after them. We are shown here the Horde Troopers from the She-Ra cartoon series, who had also just been introduced into the MOTU comics in Issue #12, with which this preview comic came free. As in the MOTU comics, it is unclear in this issue whether the Troopers are robots or men in armour.

We are subsequently shown a demonstration of Catra’s ability to transform into a fearsome jungle cat. Although she transformed into a panther in the cartoon, the comic shows her transforming into a tiger (later issues eventually changed her cat form to a panther, in line with the cartoon).

As Spritina heads towards the Rebel base to tell She-Ra of her friends’ capture, we get a brief cameo of the character Flutterina, at the time one of the newer figures in the Princess of Power toy line. We are then introduced to the heroic team of She-Ra and Bow, who are depicted throughout this issue as tight sidekicks, Bow serving as She-Ra’s right hand man. The portrayal of Bow here is notably different from his regular portrayal in the cartoon series – the Filmation series increasingly portrayed Bow as an immature and naïve (if well-meaning) character who was often the butt of jokes, but here he is presented to us as a solidly competent hero, whose bravery and efficiency is never called into question. His horse Arrow here serves as his winged battle steed, in contrast to the cartoon in which Arrow was merely an ordinary horse, who often accompanied Bow but never participated in battle, nor possessed the power of flight.

As is to be expected, this issue features a lot of heavily expositional dialogue, necessary for helping establish the world of She-Ra to the readers. One unusual error, however, is that the characters of Bow and Hordak are shown to be aware that She-Ra was formerly a Force Captain in Hordak’s army (seen in this panel where She-Ra says “He tricked me into helping him rule Etheria”). This would imply that these characters were aware of She-Ra’s secret identity of Princess Adora, the form in which she was tricked into helping the Horde in her youth (as in the cartoon series). Yet there is no mention of Adora throughout the whole issue – indeed, this issue gives the impression that She-Ra has no secret identity at all, and that her past allegiance to the Horde is common knowledge. Of course, later issues would feature She-Ra’s double identity as Adora and indicate that only Madame Razz, Kowl and Light Hope were aware of her secret, much as in the cartoon – so we can put these errors down to confusion as Brian Clarke accustomed himself to the She-Ra mythos.

Part I of this story ends with a fantastic action sequence which quickly allays any ideas the reader may have had that the tone of this comic is going to be permanently soft and fairytale-like. This rather aggressive sequence, easily on a par with the best action scenes in the MOTU comic, sees She-Ra and Bow doing battle against the Batmex, Hordak’s robotic pilotless fighter-planes, and the odds are quickly tipped against the heroes as She-Ra finds herself knocked off Swift Wind by the third Batmex, and clinging for her life to the wing as the whole machine is engulfed by flames caused by the falling wreckage of the other two. This is a surprisingly dramatic and life-threatening situation after the fairytale-like tone of the first pages, and probably surpasses any of the cliffhangers in the MOTU comic so far as She-Ra is left clinging for dear life to the wing of the exploding craft. As the story leaves off with She-Ra potentially facing a gruesome fate and the reader wondering how she can possibly escape this, we can quite firmly say that the She-Ra comic has got itself off to a very effective start.

****

This is the first letters page of the She-Ra comic, serving as the She-Ra equivalent of the MOTU comic’s Master Mail – the title ‘She-Mail’ a cause of much amusement for older adult fans! This letters page features letters from readers that have been addressed to the MOTU comic expressing interest in a comic about He-Man’s sister. Notably the first letter is from a male reader, bringing to mind how the first Master Mail page in Issue #5 of the MOTU comic featured a letter from a female reader first, conveying the gender balance between fans of both He-Man and She-Ra.

****

Story 2: “Twiggets in Trouble, part II”
Writer: Brian Clarke

Synopsis: As the burning Batmex craft plummets towards the ground, the trapped She-Ra commands her sword to turn to a rope, which she ties to one end of the Batmex wing and uses to swing below the burning craft. As the Batmex nears the ground, She-Ra turns the rope back into the sword, enabling herself to fall free of the craft, landing safely in the trees as the Batmex crashes to the ground. Bow, Arrow and Swift Wind land, relieved to see that She-Ra is safe. They continue their mission on foot, and as they pass through a dilapidated camp, a team of Horde Troopers ambush them. The Troopers have taken prisoner a tribe of Elvoks, a race of small creatures who live in the village. The Troopers fire at She-Ra and Bow, and She-Ra counters them by using her sword to turn a nearby rock into a strong magnet, which draws the metallic Troopers towards it. She-Ra and Bow free the Elvoks and continue on their way, but at that moment they are attacked by Hordak himself, who is holding Sprocker and Sprag prisoner nearby. As She-Ra and Bow engage in battle with Hordak and Catra, Swift Wind flies the Twiggets to safety, and upon seeing the Twiggets are safe, Hordak realizes his plan has been foiled and converts to rocket form, returning to the Fright Zone with Catra running behind him. Bow gives She-Ra a ride back to Castle Bright Moon atop Arrow, and back at the Castle, Spritina has been reunited with her friends. And the three Twiggets decide the ordeal has been worth it – they now have a perfect place to sleep, on the cushions in the palace bedroom!

Review: Part II of this first London Editions She-Ra story opens with She-Ra’s escape from the drastic predicament in which Part I left her, by showcasing one of the distinctive powers she possessed in the cartoon – the ability to turn her sword into any other object of her choice! She is able to escape from the burning craft by transforming her sword to a rope and thus swinging free from the flames, before turning the rope back to the sword and allowing herself to fall into the trees below. She gets a rough but safe fall, and the dialogue is great in the following panels – Bow expressing his heartfelt devotion to She-Ra in his anger when he thinks she may be hurt, and She-Ra responding with “Only my pride, Bow” when asked if she is hurt. We get the impression here that the Horde is a particularly dangerous force on Etheria, with She-Ra having come very close to being defeated in a single battle here, without Hordak even being present himself.

The subsequent scene in the dilapidated village sees the heroes being ambushed by a team of Horde Troopers, and introduces us to one of Etheria’s races, the Elvoks, a tribe of small elf-like creatures. In a similar manner to the MOTU comic, She-Ra comes up with a scientific solution to defeat the Troopers, by using the magic of her sword to turn a nearby rock into a magnet, thus drawing the Troopers towards it; Bow delivering a cheesy pun about this being one of She-Ra’s more ‘attractive’ ideas. We then get a confrontation between the heroes and Hordak himself, as Hordak makes his presence known.

The conflict is resolved surprisingly easily – The Twiggets do not seem to be being bound in any way, which enables Swift Wind to rescue them easily, allowing them to jump on his back and be flown to safety. Hordak proves to have made a careless move by allowing them out of his sight, and as soon as he sees they have been rescued he gives up and retreats, having hoped to use the Twiggets to learn the secrets of the Great Rebellion. Since the Horde have been presented as a pretty convincing and competent threat so far, this easy defeat and careless move on Hordak’s part does feel a little anticlimactic, but given that this is technically the first issue, with only a limited amount of space to tell the story, we can let this go. As he retreats we see for the first time Hordak converting into his rocket form.

We get a nod to the MOTU comic as Bow refers to Hordak’s attacks on Eternia as he and She-Ra fly home on Arrow. Although She-Ra’s adventures and her world feel very different to those of He-Man, the connection between the two worlds is very solidly established.

There seems to be some confusion over exactly where the Rebel base is – although they were earlier established to be at Castle Bright Moon, the panel on page 5 states “When She-Ra and Bow arrive at Crystal the Twiggets have already been reunited”. This should read Castle Bright Moon – ‘Crystal’ is clearly a reference to the Crystal Castle, the fortress from which She-Ra draws her powers, but later issues established that as in the cartoon, other characters besides She-Ra are unaware of the Crystal Castle’s location and unable to enter. The final page restores the cuter, softer feel of the earlier pages, ending with a lighthearted moment as the Twiggets resolve the dilemma they faced at the start of Part I – the need to find somewhere to sleep – by choosing to sleep on the cushions in the palace bedroom. (The Twiggets’ lazy nature was not a factor of their personalities in the cartoon, but was often showcased in the comics.)

Although the resolution to this story does feel a little anticlimactic, overall the story has presented us with a fantastic vision of the world of Etheria – where fairytale elements exist uncomfortably alongside the technological mayhem wreaked by the Horde – and we have been given a real sense of the menace of the Evil Horde as well as fantastic chemistry between the lead characters. She-Ra herself is written particularly well, a true female role model who we feel the urge to see more of. Overall, “Twiggets in Trouble” is an effective opener that has got the She-Ra comic off to a great start.

****

Story 3: “The Ghost Blossoms”
Writer: Brian Clarke

Synopsis: She-Ra and Bow are on patrol atop Swift Wind and Arrow, having heard stories of Hordak’s Fright Zone expanding into new regions. As they fly towards the Fright Zone, they see that its borders have moved worryingly close to a small peaceful village inhabited by the Koala People. They land to assist the villagers, but are at that moment attacked by Batmex. The two heroes quickly take care of the Batmex, and attend to the Koala People. The villagers explain that they want to move their village away from the Fright Zone, but are currently unable to as their babies are weak from a debilitating illness, for which the only cure is the Ghost Blossom – which is found only on the side of an active volcano. She-Ra and Bow set out to find an active volcano so they can obtain the Ghost Blossom. Approaching one of the largest active volcanoes on Etheria, She-Ra takes a deep breath of air into her powerful lungs to avoid having to breathe the poisonous air around the volcano. She ascends the volcano and picks a selection of the Blossoms, but finds herself being fired at by Horde Troopers from below. As she and Bow engage in battle with the Troopers, Hordak lands in rocket form and joins the battle. She-Ra feigns fear of Hordak and pretends to beg him for mercy. Hordak fires a blast from his arm cannon at her, but She-Ra quickly dodges it, diving to the ground at super-speed, and the blast hits the volcano instead. She-Ra then delivers a punch to Hordak’s face, as the volcano behind them erupts. Hordak converts back to rocket form and flies off, and She-Ra and Bow mount their steeds and fly into the air as the lava flows towards the army of Troopers. The heroes return to the village and give the Ghost Blossoms to the village doctor. Soon the Koala People’s babies are fit and well, and the villagers gather their equipment and move their village away from the advancing Fright Zone.

Review: The second story in this preview edition of the She-Ra comic showcases the danger the Horde poses to the ordinary Etherians, and how She-Ra and her friends are literally their only hope.

We have already seen in the MOTU comics how the Horde frequently preys on innocent villages, some of which are unfortunate enough to be located near Hordak’s Fright Zone. This is clearly an even bigger problem on Etheria, where a much larger portion of the planet is under Horde control. We are introduced here to the Koala People, a fairytale-like race who would later go on to appear in Issue #1 of the regular comic series.

Once again, She-Ra and Bow are in the spotlight as the leading heroic duo. We get a glimpse of Bow’s romantic interest in She-Ra in the bottom right panel of page 2, where his thought bubble expresses his wish that he and She-Ra could be together without the constant threat of danger some day.

She-Ra ascends to the summit of the volcano to pick a selection of Ghost Blossoms, so named because they can only grow in areas where no other life forms can exist, such as the dead zone found in the poisonous air of the volcano.

It does not take long before She-Ra and Bow are attacked by the Horde, and we get another showcase of Hordak’s shapeshifting abilities. Like He-Man in the MOTU comics, She-Ra is adept at using strategical deceptions to beat her enemies by tricking them into thinking they have won, and here she displays that ability by actually feigning fear of Hordak and begging him for mercy.

Playing into his ego, Hordak is all too easily fooled by this charade and fires a blast from his arm cannon at She-Ra. (We get another error here as he addresses She-Ra as his “ex-captain of the Horde Troopers”, a sign of the early confusion over She-Ra’s identity and who knows of her former Horde allegiance.)

She-Ra displays impressive agility here as she quickly dives free from Hordak’s blast before springing right back up and delivering a direct punch to his face! The tone of this comic may be slightly softer in nature than the MOTU one, but that does not stop it from pushing the boundaries of the ‘no violence’ rule as the MOTU one frequently does. This is clearly no stereotypical girls’ comic; there’s just as much action and excitement here as in the MOTU comic.

Overall, “The Ghost Blossoms” is a solid and effective story that gives us a good glimpse of the Horde’s grip on the world of Etheria, while further enhancing the development of She-Ra and Bow. The scene is very much set for the She-Ra comic series, and with characters and storylines just as engaging as those of the MOTU comics, we are ready to see more of the London Editions take on the She-Ra mythos!

****

The ‘Ask Kowl’ section serves as the She-Ra comic’s equivalent of the ‘Strange Universe’ feature in the MOTU comic, although the subject matter of the facts given is more general knowledge-based rather than science-based as with Strange Universe. Marketed by Mattel as the ‘know-it owl’ it makes sense to have Kowl at the head of this feature, though it is notable that otherwise he has not featured in this issue at all – also some other major players from the cartoon series, namely Madame Razz, Broom and Glimmer, have been absent from this preview issue; their spotlight to follow in later issues.

© Aidan Cross, 2019.

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