He-Man’s New Animated Series Looked to Marvel for Inspiration

He-Man’s New Animated Series Looked to Marvel for Inspiration

When a filmmaker like Kevin Smith gets ahold of a popular franchise, it’s natural to be curious what he’ll do with it. That goes double for something like his new He-Man show at Netflix, because the streamer so successfully reimagined She-Ra and the Princesses of Power not too long ago. Recently, Gizmodo spoke with Smith, who explained that while he’s in awe of what the team did with She-Ra, his show, Masters of the Universe: Revelation, is going in another direction.

“Our manifest was to be fanservicey,” Smith told Gizmodo on the phone last month while promoting his new book. “We did not have a kind of creative, let’s call it, freedom to reinvent the franchise the way that She-Ra did and did it brilliantly. [Noelle Stevenson’s] She-Ra cartoon played to a lot more people than it probably ever would have played to if they just kept it in its original incarnation. But She-Ra, even in its era, wasn’t as well known as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe so there’s more room for creativity there. And in fact, that’s what they were allowed to do. ”

Instead of reinvention, Smith and his team went the other way: they leaned hard into what the original animated series was, which is the only reason Smith took the job in the first place. “To be honest with you, I wouldn’t have taken the job if they were like, ‘You get to reinvent He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,’” Smith said, “I’m really not that creative. I would not be the guy you’d tap to reinvent something. But if you want to keep it going lovingly, true to the franchise and just growing up the characters a little bit so their conversations are a little more adult-oriented? [I’m your guy.]” He clarified, “And I certainly don’t mean they’re all talking about sex. Not at all. There’s no sex in the show whatsoever. It’s definitely a family-oriented show. The idea going in was we have to be able to show the characters both audiences can enjoy. The audience that grew up watching it, who are now like in their 40s or 50s, and their kids — who, presumably, they’re going to watch this show with.”

Image: Netflix
Image: Netflix

That’s where the Marvel inspiration came in. Smith said in the writer’s room he and the others tried to use what he called the Marvel method. “And by Marvel method, we mean the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” he said. “Which is when I go to the Marvel movie and I take my kid, I’m enjoying it and I’m enjoying sharing it with my kid because I was like, ‘This is the shit I grew up on.’ Now you’re growing up on it, too … That’s what we baked into the DNA of Masters of the Universe: Revelation.”

Smith said he had the same experience when his father took him to see Raiders of the Lost Ark and, more recently, watching WandaVision. “It’s meant to be enjoyed the same way that I enjoyed WandaVision with my wife,” Smith said. “My wife didn’t know shit about the Marvel Universe. And finally, she was like, ‘I will watch this WandaVision,’ [and] every three minutes on the show I got to pause it to be like, ‘Let me explain the history and do a whole tutorial.’ So if you know [Masters of the Universe], you’re going to be flabbergasted at how true to the original show, the show you grew up on [this one is.] We are just taking it the next logical step in kind of more current storytelling.” But the creator doesn’t want fans to get worried when he says things like “more current storytelling.”

“Again, it’s not like we break everybody and now they’re all cyberpunk versions of themselves,” he said. “They are recognisable to what everybody used to watch on the classic version of the cartoon … if they were like, ‘Hey, man, we want you to take this and fucking blow it apart. We want you to do with Masters of the Universe what they did with She-Ra,’ I would be like, ‘I’m the absolute wrong guy for that.’ You need a visionary for something like that. But if you’re asking me to just continue the story? That’s what I do in comics anyway. Like when I wrote my Daredevil run, when I wrote my Green Arrow run, and I approached this the same way. This is just me doing a run of issues of Masters of the Universe and the characters are in my care for this very limited time. But I didn’t create these characters. So I also don’t feel the need to recreate these characters.”

We’ll meet those characters — voiced by Chris Wood, Mark Hamill, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Lena Headey, Diedrich Bader, Alicia Silverstone, Susan Eisenberg, Kevin Conroy, and more — on July 23 when Masters of the Universe: Revelation debuts on Netflix. Stay tuned to Gizmodo as well, we’ll have more from Smith soon.

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