Kevin Smith unpacks Masters of the Universe: Revelation's world-shattering premiere
Masters of the Universe: Revelation (TV series)
Warning: This article contains spoilers for the first five episodes of Masters of the Universe: Revelation.
Picking up right after the events of the original cartoon from the 1980s, this new animated show doesn't wait long to throw the whole world of Eternia on its head. Skeletor (voiced by Mark Hamill) and his forces attack Castle Grayskull, hoping to claim the power of the magic orb that created all of Eternia. The ensuing battle with He-Man (Chris Wood) not only results in everyone learning about how Prince Adam has secretly been moonlighting as the Master of the Universe, but also the death of He-Man, Moss Man, and magic in the realm.
Years later, after Teela (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has started a new life for herself away from Grayskull, she gets the gang back together to forge the Power Sword once again, and even bring back Adam from the afterlife in Preternia. But episode 5 throws another big curveball with Skeletor reappearing out of hiding, seemingly killing Adam for the second time, and claiming the Power Sword himself. So yeah, a lot has happened.
Smith, who created and executive-produces Revelation, spoke with EW about all this and where we're heading in part 2, a premiere date for which has yet to be announced.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Making a Masters of the Universe show that pretty much destroys what we've known about Masters of the Universe up until this point is a pretty bold move.
KEVIN SMITH: It is to some degree, but you've seen part 1, I've seen part 2. As much as one can break a toy, you can also put it back together, perhaps in a more interesting way. Our manifest was, "You're a spiritual sequel to the legacy cartoons in the '80s that everybody knows." It wasn't "reinvent this, blow it apart." It was literally "keep the story going." There's got to be reverence as hell. All these characters still look and sound and feel exactly like the characters from the other show. We just mature them. When we bring in Moss Man and Skeletor kills Moss Man, the whole thing turns on dime. Suddenly, we enter a world of stakes. We don't think of it as we're changing everything about Masters of the Universe. It was more about let's just add stakes. That's the one thing the old cartoon never really had. You never thought for a second that Skeletor was ever going to kill He-Man. This was about, what happens if they crossed swords? And if somebody could lose a life, something that never would have happened on the old show. We got a body count on this show in the first part, and part 2 as well.
Pitching this idea to the gatekeepers of He-Man, was it difficult to be like, "Hey, we're going to do a He-Man show and take He-Man out of it for a bit"?
Honestly, my two partners in this, my two bosses, [Mattel Television's Rob David and Netflix's Ted Biaselli], they were creative influences. I've never experienced that making something before. Generally the upstairs folks, the creative execs, you never want to hear from them because they ruin things by giving you notes. These two cats made it better. Both of them know more about the lore of Masters of the Universe than most people will ever know. So the pitch was simple. The original title for the series was The End of the Universe. Teddy was like, "That's a little too spoilery. Let's go with a title that's a little more neutral." That's where Revelation came from. When I pitched to Rob, he was like, "That's great. Let's go." I assumed we would have to pitch it to Netflix and get them to try to buy the show, but I was delighted when Rob was like, "This deal's already done. It's just a question of whether or not you're going to be in charge." So pitching it was a breeze, man.
We approached He-Man like you would Superman. You have one of the most powerful beings in the entire world, who can literally do anything. For storytellers, okay, what do I do with that? Where's the conflict? There's been conflict for 40 years between Skeletor and He-Man, so you start there. What happens if one of them finally gets their way? What happens if they finally died in battle? What happens if you take Superman out of Metropolis? Everyone's identity in Metropolis is predicated on Superman. Everyone in Eternia's identity is predicated on He-Man. Everybody has to grow up and change and take charge of their own lives.
We kept [He-Man] alive, obviously, throughout flashbacks, and we meet him again at the end of episode 4 when he turns out to be alive in Preternia. I stole that story beat from the great [comic book writer] John Ostrander, who created the Suicide Squad. He wrote this comic book years ago called Grimjack. At one point, Grimjack gets killed and goes to their version of heaven. A few issues later, somebody reanimated his corpse, starts killing all his friends, and then Grimjack has to make the decision: Do I stay with my eternal reward, or do I go back to the people I love? Now, if we're lucky enough to get a second season, the real work would kick in when now we tell a story with Adam all the way through with He-Man.
I felt maybe this was grooming Teela to become Master of the Universe. Do you think that would be something character-wise that she would do?
We've got big things in store for Teela, as I'm sure people have seen thus far. There's a few moments throughout the show where characters are like, "Yes, Teela! You have a special bond that…" And then, "No, no, no! We got things to do." And they move on. We don't address it. That's kind of where we're headed with the story.
Teela's always been one of the heroic warriors. Teela has been in every episode of the show, fighting side-by-side with He-Man. He didn't need to protect her. In fact, she protected him when he was Adam. She was his bodyguard. We watched every episode of the old series, and there was a story element in one of the episodes that was really interesting. It had to do with Teela and her relationship to the Sorceress. That was the kernel where we were like, "Let's see where that would go." It enabled us to bring Teela front and center. It's her journey that we're watching. She's somebody who gave her all for the cause, was champion of Grayskull as much as He-Man, and then found out that it's all predicated on a lie.
In part 2, everything that people keep trying to talk about with Teela, somebody finally gets to say it. As you can see, by the end of episode 5, we bring Adam back and then we kill him again. Something tells me he'll be back. If you're sitting there going, "They killed He-Man!" don't worry. He's like, Kenny [from South Park]. He'll come back.
Masters of the Universe: Revelation Part 1 is currently streaming on Netflix.