You may have noticed that PopWatch has been on a nostalgia kick of late, looking back on some of our most beloved 1980s kids TV shows and debating who among their casts is the coolest. (Panthro, Rowlf, Red, Michelangelo, Optimus Prime — you’re all in good company.) For me personally, there is no show from my childhood that lights up the nostalgia regions of my brain more than He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Just re-watching the opening credits transports me back to my family basement, sitting too close to the TV, soaking in what in hindsight was one of the most homoerotic pieces of children’s programming this side of the World Wrestling Federation. (The 1987 feature film Masters of the Universe starring a perpetually oiled-up Dolph Lundgren pretty much took the animated show’s buried gay subtext and made it text — but we’ll have to save that discussion for another day.)
When I ask myself who is the coolest He-Man character, though, I’m pretty well stumped. For one thing, there are so many! He-Man/Prince Adam, Teela, Man-at-Arms, the Sorceress, Battle-Cat/Cringer, Orko, Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, Beast Man, Trap Jaw, and on and on and on, forever cluttering the toy chest in the basement and/or the basement floor and/or my friends’ basement toy chests and floors. But let’s just cut it off at 10 and you can yell at me in the comments later for leaving off Man-E-Faces and Tri-Klops. So let’s break it down:
He-Man (a.k.a. Prince Adam)
Standard Outfit: As Prince Adam — wonder why this show spoke to me so much — he sported a pink, unbuttoned vest overtop a skin-tight white long-sleeve shirt (they have spandex on Eternia?), mauve tights, a pair of furry purple outerwear briefs, and calf-high purple Uggs with white fringe. (As Eternian princes do.) As He-Man, the furry outerwear briefs and Uggs change color to brown, and the rest of the clothes disappear save a skimpy silver chest plate with what appears to be the German Iron Cross at its center. Both looks feature a the same unironic blonde Prince Valiant hairdo.
Thing You’ve Always Wondered: So, um, how does he prevent chafing?
Standard Outfit: A bronze tiara that doubles as a headband holding up her fiery red hair; bronze arm bands; white wrist-cuffs; a white one-piece bathing suit; and a bronze vest sporting croissant bosom embellishments, a tassel dangling just over her lady business, and the highest collar this side of Studio 54. Also: knee-high boots, with at least a two-inch heel.
Thing You’ve Always Wondered: So she’s never wondered whether He-Man and Prince Adam are the same person, despite the fact that they have the same physique, the same haircut, and the same face? Seriously, never?
Standard Outfit: Overtop a skin-tight green unitard, Teela’s adoptive father is rocking gold arm-plating, gold shin-guards, gold chest-plate with a large mouthguard attached just above what looks like a permanent gas canister, and a thick light-blue helmet in the shape of (yet another) Prince Valiant hairdo. Also: a killer ‘stache.
Thing You’ve Always Wondered: He’s totally taking hits of something from that mouth guard, right?
Standard Outfit: The guardian of Castle Grayskull sports an avian-inspired outfit: a headdress in the shape of a falcon’s head, a white onesie with feather embellishments at the bottom, and a cape attached at the arms in the shape of bold orange feathers. This is all likely due to the fact that she herself becomes a falcon whenever she leaves Grayskull for extended periods of time.
Thing You’ve Always Wondered: What does she do all day cooped up in that old, empty castle?
Battle Cat (a.k.a. Cringer)
Standard Outfit: As Cringer, he’s just perpetually skittish, and green with yellow-orange stripes. As Battle Cat, he wears (grows? materializes?) an ornate red saddle and head-piece…in the shape of a Prince Valiant hairdo.
Thing You’ve Always Wondered:
Cringer can talk, but Battle Cat can’t. Thanks to some eagle-eyed commenters, my memory stands corrected — Battle Cat can, in fact, talk. But though he is fearless, he must wear a mask, whereas the fearful Cringer strides boldly forth without any disguise. So is He-Man making a profound statement on the nature of sacrificing brute strength for psychological strength? (I may not have always wondered this.)
Standard Outfit: Oversized smock with an “O” on the front, pointy wizard-y hat with ear holes, and a purple scarf.
Thing You’ve Always Wondered: As a kid, I spent months trying to remove Orko’s hat from my plastic toy version; when I finally succeeded, I was surprised to discover his “head” was just a black blob with yellow eyes and blue ears. (Upon reflection, this should not have been quite so shocking.) So, you know, what the heck is under there?
Standard Outfit: Blue skin, purple chest guard with matching hood and epaulets, tight black briefs, purple boots. Also: fan of really close chemical peels.
Thing You’ve Always Wondered: What is wrong with your faaaaaaaace?
Standard Outfit: Vaguely Statue-of-Liberty-esque purple headdress with blue spikes; blue and purple onesie with the same croissant-shaped bosom embellishments as Teela’s; black cape.
Thing You’ve Always Wondered: She’s obviously powerful and appears not to suffer fools, so why is she hanging out with Skeletor again?
Standard Outfit: Blue furry outerwear briefs; bicep bands with outward facing spikes; and a blue amulet that sits atop a giant clump of orange body hair stretching from his happy trail up over his shoulders and onto his back.
Thing You’ve Always Wondered: Is that body hair natural, or just very specific manscaping? (Again, perhaps a more recent curiosity.)
Standard Outfit: Pinkish-red furry outerwear briefs with a sea-foam green belt; pinkish-red and sea-foam green leg guards; a pinkish-red metal helmet that also holds the bottom half of his jaw; and a multi-purpose mechanical right arm.
Thing You’ve Always Wondered: Where does he keep all those wonderful toys?
So which character is coolest? I leave it to you!
Adam may not be a prince, but you can still follow him on Twitter