In the long and often cheesy history of the American superhero there have been some truly silly names — who could ever forget Matter-Eater Lad or Brain Boy? And what about Man-Thing, that shambling muck monster from Marvel Comics who sounds more like a gay porn film. And then there was He-Man.
Ah, does anything say 1980s more than He-Man, that muscle-bound hero from Saturday morning cartoons and the pages of DC Comics? The wholesome, muscle-bound hero from Castle Grayskull may have been a bit stiff but for thirtysomething fanboys just the sight of a Power Sword or Skeletor can bring smiles to their faces. The beefy blond hero obviously had some traction in the pop culture memory — just consider “Under the Influence: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” a quirky exhibit and art sale at Gallery 1988 (7020 Melrose Ave.), running through Jan. 29 and co-sponsored by Mattel. Fifteen percent of the gallery’s profits will be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of Greater Los Angeles.
The gallery has been transformed into a Castle Grayskull and 100 up-and-coming artists have created pieces that celebrate, mock or subvert the big guy and all the other denizens of magical Eternia — among them She-Ra, King Randor, Orko, Teela and Man-At-Arms (seriously, who comes up with these names?).
During the Reagan years, “Masters” was a hot corner of the toy aisles and the property even reached the big screen in 1987 with Dolph Lundgren swinging a Power Sword and bellowing, “I have the power!” which transforms him from Prince Adam into the mega-strong He-Man. Frank Langella, long before he was nominated for an Oscar for “Frost/Nixon,” was the skull-faced Skeletor but he may not remind people too often. The movie was a massive failure.
He-Man was already fading by the time the movie reached theaters, the kids had roamed Castle Grayskull long enough and were ready to move on. But old heroes never die — apparently they just become kitsch on Melrose. If you know a guy who was 8 in 1985, take him over to the exhibit and watch him grin and spend some cash. Don’t laugh, it’s a man-thing.
— Geoff Boucher
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CREDIT: Exhibit images, Gallery 1988