BONUS BOOK – Masters of the Universe (November, 1982)
“Fate is the Killer”
Writer – Paul Kupperberg
Pencils – Curt Swan
Inks – Dave Hunt
Letters – Ben Oda
Colors – Anthony Tollin
Editor – Dave Manak
Still recovering from Christmas, and so I decided to repurpose something I’d written a long while back… perhaps even seguing into the next iteration of this blog!
I’ve long wanted to discuss the old “Bonus Books” program that DC Comics ran back in the long ago… I wanna say the first time they tried it (in modern times… in an organized way) they just referred to the stories as “Insert Previews”, and these ran from 1980-1983. Then, post-Crisis we’d get a smattering of “Bonus Books”. I’m guessing many of us are familiar with these… it’s always a treat digging through the cheap-o bins and suddenly coming across a book that feels twice as thick as it ought to be, and realizing there’s likely an off-the-wall extra inside! These are the things I’m kinda wanting to talk about for the next little while.
We’re going to kick things off with the Masters of the Universe “Insert Preview” that ran in a whole lotta books with a November, 1982 cover-date.
This story ran in the following books:
- Action Comics #537
- All-Star Squadron #15
- Arak Son of Thunder #15
- Batman #353
- Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew #9
- Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #1
- Detective Comics #520
- DC Comics Presents #51
- Firestorm #6
- Justice League of America #208
- Legion of Super-Heroes #293
- New Adventures of Superboy #35
- New Teen Titans #25
- Superman #377
- Warlord #63
- Wonder Woman #297
Hope you all enjoy!
We open with
Metron Zodac riding the Cosmic Winds into Eternia. He is there to save a single life… a life which very well might bring (and keep) peace to Eternia. Though, he fears that he also might be damning them. I dunno about you… but, I’d err on the side of caution… maybe sit this one out.
We hop inside Castle (Grayskull… I think?) where the Royal Court of Eternia is having a bit of a party. The King and Queen wonder where their son, Prince Adam might be. No sooner do they ask, than he saunters in with a “wench” on each arm.
(A mustache-less) Man-At-Arms ribs him about only having two “wenches”, and suggests he’s lost his touch at “wenching”. Suddenly, Zodac appears before them, with threats that Eternia’s gonna go to pot, lest they produce their Greatest Champion. Prince Adam hears him out… then runs off (with Cringer) to “change clothes”.
He heads off to a cave… and (as He-Man… little disappointed we didn’t get a scene of the change) chats up the Goddess. She tells him that Zodac isn’t a threat… he instead needs to focus on, you guessed it, Skeletor. Duh. Double duh.
Speaking of Skeletor… he, flanked by Beast-Man, is chatting up Mer-Man. He asks the fishy fella to track down the other half of the Power Sword. Rumor has it, it’s in the deepest trench of the dark sea. Fair enough.
We shift scenes to… Metropolis? Well, that’s unexpected. Superman is delivering a crate of valuable electronics to the mainland from a broken down freighter. He is suddenly attacked by a mustached octopus! Maybe he took Man-At-Arms’ ‘stache!
They struggle for a bit… but Superman is distracted by a trio of glowing balls flying overhead. He abandons the battle with the beastie to give chase. He follows them into the drink, and gets caught up in a vortex. Feels like we missed a few pages, doesn’t it?
Back in Eternia, He-Man and Battle Cat meet Zodac. He-Man asks his cosmic visitor to stand down, as he has no quarrel with him. He’s more interested in taking down Skeletor. While you’d figure Zodac would be all-in with this plan… he ain’t! This, naturally… leads to a fight.
We rejoin Superman as he emerges from the water… only to find himself no longer on Earth, but in Eternia! There was a portal underwater, donchaknow. He recognizes it from the last time he visited (DC Comics Presents #47). He knows Skeletor is behind everything… which, c’mon… who else it gonna be?
Speaking of Skeletor… he now has both halves of the Power Sword. Yeah… this definitely feels like it’s missing a grip of pages. After pontificating a bit, he gives Beast-Man… what I can only describe as a “playful swat” on the tush with his Power Sword. Superman than swoops in and steals’em both!
Rather than just running (flying) away with them, Superman throws ’em… one returns directly to Skeletor, the other somehow finds its way to He-Man’s back. This (somehow) ends the battle between he and Zodac. We learn that Zodac is only fighting He-Man to keep him from getting to Skeletor, because he’d seen in the stars that such a meeting would result in He-Man’s demise. Undeterred, He-Man heads Skeletor-way. Upon arrival, he sees that Skull-face has already defeated Superman… and is about to go for the killing blow.
He-Man and Skeletor attack each other at the same time… with He-Man actually impaling the baddie with his half of the Power Blade. It manages to consume him… and sends him far away. He-Man survives the blast he was hit with… and he, Superman, and Zodac celebrate their victory. Yay?
Can’t lie, folks… didn’t much care for this. Outside of having a handful of the action figures, I didn’t really get into He-Man as a kid. I’m sure I’d have dug this if I saw it back in 1982… keeping in mind, I was still a couple of years away from learning how to read at that point.
Today? I dunno… it’s just all over the place. Pacing was shoddy-at-best… we get panel after panel of pontification, either by Zodac or Skeletor while important actual occurrences are left out altogether. We always here that comics are about “showing, not telling”… but, that’s certainly not what we get here.
I mean, we waste so much time with monologues… and we don’t even get the “By the Power of Grayskull…” scene? Lame. Tying Superman into the story? I guess it’s neat to see him side-by-side with He-Man… but, his involvement didn’t exactly rock my socks.
Reading this makes me remember that weird time back around the turn of the century, where all of those 80’s properties were coming back in style. I remember sorta “buying in” to that fad, and quickly coming to the conclusion that… outside nostalgia, there just wasn’t much there for me.
The folks at Wizard certainly did their part to foment the post-speculation speculation (above)… I even checked through several of their price guides to see if this issue of Justice League of America got a “bump” for having the Masters of the Universe bit. It didn’t… but, that’s not much of a surprise… the Wizard gang never seemed to give a rip about DC, unless Kevin Smith was writing something.
Overall… if you’re a fan of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe… you’re probably going to want this too. Won’t break the bank in either case. Many of the issues this story appears in are available digitally… and are listed as having “40 Pages”, so there’s a good chance this Bonus Book is included!