MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS: A NEW CANON
As more and more figures join the Classics line, I have found myself wondering if this rebirth of the Masters Of The Universe is more than the sum of its parts. My initial reaction to the fact that the line was going to include characters from outside the original 1980s line was one of disappointment. I would still prefer to see the originals redesigned before characters from the POP and NA lines. However, I confess I am mellowing somewhat, as I acknowledge the huge popularity among fans of the non-original characters.
As a fan of the very first interpretation of the MOTU, when the characters were rugged warriors living in a swords and sorcery landscape, I remember the changes which took place when the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon transformed the Eternia I knew into a very different place with the introduction of an alter-ego for He-Man - Prince Adam. Adam and some of the cartoon characters became part of the toyline. This was the first major change to the canon, or background story, of the Masters.
And yet these new characters were still part of the MOTU line, and I accepted them, albeit reluctantly. They were not original, but they were there from almost the earliest days of the line. Many fans love the Filmation era and consider it to be the official MOTU canon. It did not stop there though, because new directions were taken in the form of the Princess Of Power line, and the He-Man (New Adventures) line. I have written elsewhere on this site about how disastrous the latter was for the MOTU concept. Taking He-Man and Skeletor into space was wrong.
I may not be completely happy about it, but part of me does admire the audacity of the Classics team to bring such ridiculously diverse elements into one line. I don't think it fits together very well, but I concede it fits better than I thought it would. Part of the tactic to make it work is to spread characters out over a longer timeline than was originally implied.
The most obvious way this has been done is the creation of several different He-Men characters. Originally there was never any suggestion of this - there was just one He-Man in the beginning. Even with the introduction of Adam, it was still the one He-Man, but with a dual identity. The Classics have taken a different path though, and He-Man is now a title rather than a name. The barbarian character of the first series minicomics is a different character to Adam's He-Man. Wun-Dar was a He-Man of ancient times. It would not surprise me at all if we see other He-Men in this line.
The truth is that this rewriting of MOTU history amounts to a brand new canon, no matter how faithful some aspects of the new story are to original ideas. And while a new background provides a framework, it does not necessarily provide the depth - that will always come from the imaginations of the fans. I am sure every fan interprets the characters and the world of Eternia in his own way. For me, the pre-Filmation era provides the foundations. For you it may be something completely different.
I also acknowledge that I am as guilty of adjusting the MOTU canon for my own ends as anyone else. The stories on this site, which were the primary reason for putting Vaults together in the first place, are based in the pre-Filmation Eternia. However, I have definitely manipulated aspects of MOTU history to create my own timeline of events. The illustration of Zodac on this page follows an original theme found in my Grayskull trilogy.
One of the best fan fiction writers is T. F. Cooper, and I recommend you read his stories on Tales Of Mineternia. In one of his tales, he develops the idea of different Eternias existing in different dimensions, and uses this to bring together He-Man (Adam) and He-Man (the barbarian) on a shared task. Original ideas like that cleverly blend canons into a strong story, and fan fiction has an important place in MOTU history. The barbarian He-Man has been named Oo-Larr in the Classics.
The Classics may well be rewriting MOTU history and creating a new canon, but I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing. It is a process that has occurred many times since the first incarnation of the Masters back in the 1980s. There is a push to make the the Classics biographies the official canon, but I think most fans will be very selective about which aspects of the biographies to follow.
For this reason, I am happy for the Classics to explore new ground, and I
am pleased that so many fans are finding their interpretations of Eternia in the
new figures. This line will be just what the fans make of it. Enjoy your own
version of Eternia, whether or not you embrace all of the Classics figures.
It is your imagination as a fan that counts above everything else.