He-Man ("The Most Powerful Man in the Universe!") (IPA: /ˈhiː.mæn/) is a heroic fictional character in the Masters of the Universe franchise. He is the alter ego of Prince Adam and also the twin brother of She-Ra. The character's name comes from the word he-man, which was once used to describe a strong, masculine and virile male. He-Man and his friends defend Eternia and the secrets of Castle Grayskull from the evil forces of Skeletor.
By the time the Filmation series was being developed, He-Man's origins had been revised as follows: his true identity is Prince Adam of Eternia, son of King Randor and Queen Marlena who live in the palace of Eternos along with Adam and the rest of their inner circle. Marlena was a lost astronaut from the planet Earth. The Sorceress of Castle Grayskull endows Prince Adam with the power to transform into He-Man, which Adam does by raising his Power Sword and proclaiming: "By the power of Grayskull...I have the power!". The original He-Man and Skeletor figures came with matching swords that could connect together.
Prince Adam's pet is a cowardly green tiger named Cringer. While Adam is He-Man, Cringer can become a giant, brave armored green tiger named Battle Cat, assuming He-Man decides to hit him with the magical power cast from his sword. Battle Cat serves as He-Man's steed and fierce fighting companion; like He-Man, he was created prior to his alter ego.
Adam is friendly with the beautiful and strong-willed Teela, the adoptive daughter of his mentor Duncan. Adam and Teela grew up together and now, as Captain of the Guard, Teela is entrusted to protect the prince. She often sees Adam as lazy and cowardly because she is unaware of his alternate identity as He-Man. Teela is revealed to be the only daughter of the Sorceress and the future inheritor of Grayskull; the Sorceress gave her up for adoption after Teela's father died, when Teela was just a baby.
Duncan, also known as Man-At-Arms, is the Eternian royal family's innovator of technology and weapons. In many episodes, Man-At-Arms unveils new and fantastic weapons that help He-Man and his friends.
Castle Grayskull, which resembles a gigantic skull, is the source of He-Man's powers. Inside the Castle lives the Sorceress, who grants Prince Adam his transformative abilities, and communicates telepathically with He-Man. She also created He-Man's harness from a rare Eternian mineral called Korodite, which adds to his physical strength.
To protect his family, He-Man keeps his double identity secret, sharing the knowledge only with Man-At-Arms, Orko, Cringer/Battle Cat, and the Sorceress; with the advent of the She-Ra: Princess of Power series, this list is expanded to also include Adora/She-Ra, Spirit/Swift Wind, Light Hope, Loo-Kee, Madame Razz, and Kowl. The original cartoon series also includes the dragon Granamyr, the cosmic enforcer Zodak and at the end of a later episode, "The Rainbow Warrior" it is lightly hinted, although never confirmed or played on, that Queen Marlena may possibly also know his secret. He-Man is usually accompanied by an assortment of allies in his battles, such as Ram-Man and Stratos.
Later it is revealed that Adam has a twin sister, the Princess Adora, a leader in The Great Rebellion against Hordak on the planet Etheria. Adora, like Adam, is given the gift of the power of Grayskull and has her own sword which she uses to transform into She-Ra, Princess of Power. He-Man makes a number of appearances in the She-Ra: Princess of Power television series.
He-Man's chief adversary is Skeletor, a blue-skinned sorcerer with a skull for a head, wearing a cowl. He is skilled in black magic as well as all forms of combat. Skeletor's weapon of choice is his Havoc Staff, a ram's skull atop a large rod, which serves to channel his magic and amplify his powers. The Havok Staff also allows Skeletor to engage in the remote viewing of events on and around Eternia. Though his origin is mysterious, and the cartoon describes him only as a "demon from another dimension," a tie-in comic implies that Skeletor's true identity is Prince Keldor, younger brother of King Randor, thus making him He-Man's uncle. It is revealed in the He-Man motion picture He-Man and She-Ra: The Secret of the Sword that Skeletor was Hordak's right-hand man up until his capture, and supposed release.
Skeletor's base of operations is Snake Mountain, a fortress made of polished black basalt, which has a giant stone snake coiled around it. Snake Mountain is located on the Dark Hemisphere of Eternia. Skeletor leads a motley crew of henchmen against He-Man and his associates; the most popular are the sorceress Evil-Lyn, the bumbling lord of the animal world Beast Man, the bionic Trap-Jaw, multi-sighted Tri-Klops, and fish lord Mer-Man.
In the 1980s series, He-Man/Adam is voiced by John Erwin, for many the definitive He-Man, a congenial hero with an endless supply of one liners. In the 1987 live-action feature film, he is played by Dolph Lundgren. Gary Chalk provides the voice of He-Man for the 1989 series The New Adventures of He-Man, and later the voice of Man-At-Arms for the 2002 series. He does not provide the voice of Prince Adam; Adam is instead voiced by Doug Parker, unlike the 1983 and 2002 series, where Adam and He-Man were voiced by the same actor. In the 2002 series, He-Man is voiced by Cam Clarke.
According to Lou Scheimer, executive producer of the Filmation animated series, the idea of He-Man having a teenage alter-ego was derived by from the Fawcett/DC Comics character Captain Marvel, about whom Filmation had already produced two TV series: Shazam! and The Kid Superpower Hour with Shazam!. He-Man's twin sister She-Ra was created as a female spin-off, as Captain Marvel's twin sister Mary Marvel had been.
Starting with the third wave of figures in 1984, a different He-Man variant, and corresponding Skeletor variant, was released with each new wave. The first alternate version was entitled Battle Armor He-Man. The chest contained a springloaded rotating drum bearing three "damage indicators". As before, the power sword and battle axe were included. The figure was also re-released the same year, in a two-pack with Battle Armor Skeletor, and the figure was also available packaged with the Road Ripper vehicle. In 1986, the figure was released again, together with Battle Armor Skeletor and Orko.
Another alternate version was released in 1985, with the name Thunder Punch He-Man. The toy was powered with caps to make a bang when he threw a punch. The power sword, colored mustard gold with this version of the character, and a new design shield (which could carry the power sword) were released with the figure, together with some red caps. "Dragon Blast Skeletor", featuring a water spraying armor and chains was its counterpart. Battle Armor He-Man was re-released with Battle Cat, and again in a collector's pack with Man-at-Arms and Man-E-Faces.
1986 saw the release of another version, named Flying Fists He-Man. The figure's arms moved as his waist rotated. The figure included a spinning trident mace and a rotating shield. A double-pack was later released containing both Flying Fists He-Man and Terror Claws Skeletor.
In 1988, a final version was released for the original toy line, entitled Laser Power He-Man, which lit up He-Man's Power Sword powered by batteries inserted into the back of the figure. The figure was limited to releases in Italy and Spain, although it also appeared in some major department stores in London, England, and is one of the rarest and most highly sought after figures of the toy-line due to its limited release. This figure is also notable in that, whereas previous alternate versions had stuck to the basic original He-Man head, this new version had a completely new head sculpt, inspired in part by He-Man's appearance in the 1987 movie.
It should also be noted that He-Man, along with all of the early figures, was originally released with a hollow rubber 'squeezable' head. In the later days of the line, the He-Man figure, as with a number of the early figures, was altered to have a solid head. The soft head version is the far more common of the two, with the hard head version being relatively scarce. Thunder Punch He-Man and Flying Fists He-Man were released with hard heads; Battle Armor He-Man, like the original version, was originally released with a soft head, but later also appeared with a hard head. Not all countries of production adopted the later hard head alteration.
Although generally portrayed in much the same manner as other media, there were several notable differences in the character of He-Man within the movie. His additional use of a gun in several scenes, rather than only his characteristic sword, caused controversy among fans, although some gun accessories for He-Man were featured in the original toyline. Also, there was no mention of his secret identity of Prince Adam within the film, which some fans have interpreted as an implication that the makers envisioned him as having only one permanent identity, as is the case in the early mini-comics. There was not even any direct indication that his powers came from Castle Grayskull; nor that he possessed overtly superhuman abilities, save for a few depictions of enormous strength; such as overpowering Beast Man in a fight and pushing over a giant statue. He is portrayed generally as a standard hero, although widely recognized and regarded as a great leader and Eternia's best hope of survival. However, at the climax of the story he does retrieve his sword from Skeletor and cries "I have the power!", seemingly replenishing and increasing his strength. It has also been suggested by fans that, as the movie starts partway into the story, with Skeletor already having captured the Sorceress and taken control of Castle Grayskull, that Prince Adam could have transformed into He-Man prior to the events we see on-screen, and simply did not transform back into Adam during the story due to the critical nature of the situation leaving him little rationale to switch back and forth between identities.
As of 2008 another Masters of the Universe film is in the works.
His physical prowess is not limited to strength, however, and he is also depicted as being extremely fast and acrobatic. These traits do not show themselves in He-Man's movie appearance, but this may have been due to budgetary reasons, as well as the fact that Dolph Lundgren, in the absence of a fitting stunt double, was forced to perform all his own stunts.
On the other hand, He-Man as a character is largely non-violent and usually only resorts to combat as a last resort, usually preferring to outsmart his adversaries, his most violent actions usually consist of picking up an enemy and tossing him away like a rag doll, though the 1987 film and 2002 series show him fighting more aggressively. He-Man is also depicted as a leader, most noticeably in the movie adaptation where he is referred to as the leader of the resistance. Sometimes He-Man's intellect appears to cross a point not within his character, but this usually happened in the original 80s cartoon.
He-Man's primary weapon is his sword, but he also uses other weapons, such as a laser-gun in the film, and equipment while battling his foes. His sword is able to deflect bolts of energy both magical and technological. Originally He-Man's primary weapon was an axe. His chest harness is made of an Eternian mineral called Korodite that helps add to his physical strength.
Due to his costume he can rarely carry large items with him. The 1980s cartoon depicts He-Man sometimes carrying items in his chest-plate and in some cases in his belt. This has caused some irritation with fans who consider the latter cases as embarrassing to the character. The He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon by Filmation also gives He-Man a number of powers many fans considered silly or over-cartoonish and which in result have not appeared in other versions. Such powers include:
There are also dubious feats specific to plot, such as an inexplicable ability to fix a broken chain by merely connecting both ends ("Evil-Lyn's Plot"), to adjust the course of one of Eternia's moons by flying a Wind Raider to it and pushing it ("Jacob and the Widgets"), and shattering/deflecting a falling moon (on a collision course with Eternia) by throwing a rock from the ground at it ("Eternal Darkness").