1987 The Washington Post
The Washington Post
February 27, 1987, Friday, Final Edition
SECTION: STYLE; PAGE C1
HEADLINE: He-Mania, The Heroes' Welcome: The Cartoons Come Alive on the 'Masters Of the Universe' Tour
BYLINE: Victoria Dawson, Washington Post Staff Writer
If Richard Wagner had been born in 1913 instead of 1813, he would have spent his twilight years in Hawthorne, Calif., working for Mattel.
The company's licensing department would have rented rights to his Nibelungen, Valkyries, Giants and Norns and the country's children would be looking at the Ring Cycle through View-Masters, wearing Wotan Underoos, and reading about the incestuous love between Siegmunde and Sieglinde in a Golden Book.
There would have been no need for Mattel to invent the Masters of the Universe, He-Man, She-Ra, Eternia, Etheria, Skeletor, Hordak, Clamp Champ, Snout Spout, Rokkon and Grizzlor.
Valhalla would have been a pink plastic carrying case and Wotan, Fricka, Freia and Loge would have been "fully articulated" dolls with "look-around" eyes and "glow-in-the-dark" fashion accessories.
And, of course, there would have been no "He-Man, She-Ra and the Masters of the Universe Power Tour" booked into the Patriot Center through Sunday.
But Wagner is dead; the Ring saga remains in the opera house; and children are filling the Patriot Center instead of the Kennedy Center, waving their jaundice-colored Power Swords, bearing bouquets of blinking styrofoam stars, singing the Eternia National Anthem and leaping from their seats at intermission to eat blue cotton candy and duel unsparingly with any other sword-bearing tyke.
The two-year nationwide Power Tour, ($ 10.50 and $ 11.50 per ticket) began in January in Memphis, and just completed a sold-out run at the 6,000-seat Radio City Music Hall in New York. Sixteen shows could not quench the He-hunger of New York's youngsters and three performances had to be added.
"Hello, Fairfax, my name is Songster," said the glittering crooner who narrates the Power Tour show. He wears silver high-heel boots and a purple cape. He plays a blinking guitar that looks like something broken off a marquee in Times Square.
"Are you ready to hear the legends of Eternia?"
For those who need work on their Hordaks, their He-Men and their Skeletors, the story sort of goes like this:
Once upon a time there was an earthling named Marlena who went cruising in a rocket that crashed on a planet called Eternia so she married Eternia's King Randor and they had a son called Adam in a castle called Grayskull that was guarded by a Sorceress who flies around disguised as a falcon and defends goodness and tells the baby prince Adam his destiny and gives him a Power Sword that makes him He-Man the most powerful man in the universe whose arch enemy is a former student of Hordak and the dead leader of the Masters of Evil and only the Smurfy-looking Orko and Man-at-Arms know the secret ...
It's really complicated. Ask a kid.
What you need to know is that somewhere in this epic swirl, He-Man/Adam's baby sister Adora is stolen by Hordak. Brother and sister meet up in a battle and just before Adam is about to commit sororicide against Adora the Sorceress appears and tells them of their relationship and He-man splits his Power Sword and gives one half to Adora who becomes She-Ra and this way they each get a syndicated television show.
As for the He/She-rans in the audience, they are primed.
Their childhood has been inundated with Masters of the Universe products since the first He-Man doll came off the assembly line in 1982: dishes, watches, pajamas, luggage sets, vitamins, toothbrushes, bathing suits, belts, backpacks, slippers, cake decorations, kites, comic books, Halloween costumes, sleeping bags, cake pans, raincoats and even wind socks.
And on their night out, they want the lasers. The lights. The smoke-filled auditorium. The roller derby showdown between the forces of Good and Evil. They want a circus of giant puppets -- Talliwallis, Jooglers and Zebrites. The two large-screen TVs that flank the stage, providing that in-the-rec-room feeling for otherwise disoriented children.
They are ready for He-Man and She-Ra.
Five-year-old Donald Bruce is a He-Man addict. According to his mother Gina Bruce, Donald owns at least 45 Masters of the Universe figures. Thursday night, as he stood chewing on the handle of his Power Sword, he listed a few of the characters: "Cringer and Panther and Scare Glow and Snake Man and ..."
Barry Alperstein, 3, was ready. "Hee haa ... Heeee haaaa ..." he growled as he thrashed his just-purchased Power Sword in a garbage can in the Patriot Center lobby. Asked to identify himself, he dug his Power Sword into his father's side and commanded: "TELL!"
"He's Skeletor," his father replied obediently.
Ameika, Tiffany and Cristal Clark (8, 7, and 5, respectively) were so ready that the whole of Section 7 heard them. As Songster introduced the famous intergalactic characters (Man-at-Arms, Teela, Rio Blast, Snout Mouth, Orko ...) the pitch and volume of their screams would have shamed a Bruce Springsteen fan.
And then, there they were. Silvery. Blond. He, rippling with real Nautilus muscles. She, full of small-waisted, long-legged Spa Lady beauty.
The Clark girls' screeches were blood-chilling. "HE-MAN! Don't do it! Don't!" they screamed when the hero was about to lose his Power Sword. "She-Ra, hi! Hi! She-Ra! Hey, She-Ra!"
Real life was never this vivid.
Mattel calls He-Man a "male action figure." He is 5 1/2 inches tall, "fully articulated" with "spring-loaded arms" and a twisting waist.
She-Ra, it would stand to reason, is a "female action figure." But, Mattel says she's a "fashion-action doll," born in 1985 to a product "line" called "Princess of Power." She has her own special "adventure" clothes. He-Man doesn't. "Basically, what we did was to combine the action theme of power action toys with the fashion element to create an entirely new doll category," says Mattel's Cathy Thorpe.
Some people -- just a few -- aren't buying the whole Masters of the Universe/Princess of Power package. Robert Joy, owner of the Red Balloon toy store in Georgetown, puts them in the "merciless marketing" category and doesn't sell them. What "Chrysler commercials with beautiful blond girls" are to adults, Joy says, He-Man and She-Ra are to kids. "The only way that it touches my life," he says, "is that my 8-year-old [daughter] seems to want to watch the show on television."