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"He-Man Season 2 Vol. 2": Greyskull's Final and Finest Honor

With 130 episodes, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe has one of the largest libraries of any American animated action series; it was even more prolific than the venerable Batman: The Animated Series or Justice League. However, despite its massive popularity, the show’s reign at the top only lasted two years. It might be said He-Man was a victim of his own success. When the series debuted in September 1983 weekday afternoon TV schedules were a graveyard for dusty old shows like Looney Tunes. Once He-Man began generating massive ratings and toy revenue, though, the airwaves quickly became crowded with competing series like Transformers, G.I. Joe, Voltron, MASK, and Thundercats, many of which were better animated and faster paced than the gentle barbarian they soon displaced.

Image. It’s as if the staff, seeing the writing on the wall, just cut loose and did what they really wanted to do with the characters. We see He-Man perform goofy slapstick, battle Satan in hell, and even retire from the hero business. I’m no huge fan of the show, but I must admit at the end of this volume I was hungry for more surreal silliness.

On that note an absolute must-see is “The Greatest Show on Eternia,” a completely nonsensical and heavily Looney Tunes influenced episode that suggests Filmation’s staff liked something stronger than Sweet ‘N Low in their coffee. Orko is thrilled when a traveling circus visits the palace, but a jealous Skeletor is outraged that Snake Mountain has been snubbed, and he sets out to sabotage the festivities Grinch-style. Much goofiness ensues, culminating in an outrageous trapeze showdown that has He-Man and Skeletor doing their best Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam impressions. Boneface meets his most ignominious defeat ever when he unwisely lights a match in a dark room full of fireworks, sending him violently rocketing around the palace like a human pinball until his head becomes lodged in a wall. This episode’s sidesplitting animation staff commentary track is easily the highlight of this set. The constant Mystery Science Theater riffing had me in tears, which normally only happens with a Filmation series when I stop to count how many episodes I still have to watch.

, but I think it’s time to let go. Farewell sweet prince, the power was truly yours.

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