Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: 10th May 2017
Dark Horse Comics are at it again, releasing their latest hardcover He-Man resource – a Character Guide and World Compendium – early next month. An extensive team led by Val Staples have put together a truly mouthwatering collection, clocking in at over 680 pages and including over 4,000 individual entries covering every character, beast, vehicle and location from this iconic universe. It’s a monster of a book, with the same dimensions as the previously released Animated Adventures Guide and Art Book, albeit a little thicker due to the ridiculously impressive page count.
The book is split into seven different categories; Characters; Beasts, Creatures and Monsters; Factions, Organizations, Species and Races; Artifacts, Devices and Weapons; Spells and Magic; Locations; and Vehicles and Transportation. Now obviously some of these are more appealing than others, with the Characters section commanding the bulk of the page count and some of the other categories (Spells and Magic, really?) feeling a little bit like filler, but the sheer effort that has gone into creating this collection really can’t be understated, and if you’ve ever called yourself any kind of He-Man or She-Ra fan, you’re bound to get a real kick out of flicking through this bad boy.
The Characters section is likely going to be the main selling point for this collection, and good lord is is exhaustive. Pretty much every character to ever appear in a He-Man cartoon, comic or magazine is included here, complete with illustrations and meta-data including ‘Affiliations’, ‘Weaponry’ and ‘Special Abilities’. Each character also has at least one blurb (referred to as ‘canons’) giving us a little background information about them, including the details of their appearances and any unique characteristics they may have.
But here’s where it gets cool. If a character appears more than once (like say, in the Filmation cartoon and the original MotU Mini Comics), they get a canon for each appearance, noting any differences between their appearances. It’s a fantastic idea, and means that throwaway characters only get a small paragraph while more well-known characters can get as many as several pages (out of interest, Skeletor seems to have the longest entry at seven pages, with the Most Powerful Man in the Universe himself coming in a close second at six). It’s also great seeing different versions of some characters, and, as always, Dark Horse is absolutely on-point when it comes to the quality of their artwork, whether it be scans of original comics, stills of cartoons or photographs of toys.
That said, while this is undeniably another lovingly curated collection, it’s also probably the first of Dark Horse’s He-Man releases that feels like it has been padded out a little, with some frankly inessential categories being tacked on in the name of ‘completeness’. Yes, I’m sure these sections will probably appeal to completists, but for the rest of us He-Man fans, this collection could quite possibly have been trimmed down by a couple of hundred pages without it having any real noticeable impact.
Ultimately though, this is a book that any self-respecting He-Man fan could spend literally hours flicking through, using it either as an educational resource to expand their knowledge or as a wonderful trip down memory lane, watching characters or places they had long since forgotten suddenly come flooding back. As a lifelong He-Man fan, I’m ridiculously grateful that Dark Horse is facilitating these fantastic collections, and the hard work of the team behind the scenes simply cannot be praised enough. If you’re a He-Man fan, you need this in your life. It’s as simple as that.