The animated sequel will be split into two parts with Part 1 premiering on Netflix July 23, 2021.
By Nick Romano for ew.com
By the power of Grayskull, He-Man is having a pop culture moment.
After Netflix’s She-Ra and the Princesses of Power ended its five-season run, Prince Adam and the world of Eternia are coming back full force to the limelight with a planned live-action movie, in addition to a CG-animated He-Man and the Masters of the Universe show aimed for kids. But Masters of the Universe: Revelation, a separate animated series from the mind of Kevin Smith, is designed for fans of the ’80s cartoon.
EW’s exclusive first look at Revelation brings back Prince Adam/He-Man (now voiced by Supergirl‘s Chris Wood) and the gang with a new design by Powerhouse Animation (Castlevania) and an updated story set directly after the events of that original piece of childhood entertainment.
“Everything I’ve ever worked on in like 27 years, this is easily in the top five of my favorite, most satisfying projects,” says Smith, a He-Man superfan who showruns Revelation and executive produces with Mattel Television’s Frederic Soulie, Adam Bonnett, Christopher Keenan, and Rob David. “When I die, they’ll be like, ‘He made Clerks, remember?’ ‘Cause that’s the most memorable thing I think I’ve ever done. I think this has a running shot at being like, ‘He made Clerks and that one cartoon that one time.'”
Split into two parts with the five episodes of Part 1 premiering on Netflix this July 23, the show features an all-star voice cast ensemble. That includes Star Wars veteran Mark Hamill as Skeletor, Game of Thrones‘ Lena Headey as Evil-Lyn, Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Sarah Michelle Gellar as Teela, Clueless star Alicia Silverstone as Queen Marlena, iconic Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy as Mer-Man, and the original voice of Skeletor, Alan Oppenheimer, now in the role of Moss Man.
Since this is a sequel series, the main mythos remains intact. Prince Adam, the son of the ruling family of the realm of Eternia, uses the Sword of Power to transform into the chiseled He-Man (you know, “I have the powah!”) to defend his kingdom from threats — mostly from Skeletor and his forces. But now, as Smith says, “the shackles are off” to build a richer lore and explore different aspects to these beloved characters.
“We get to see them engage not just in clashing swords, but in far deeper conversations than we’ve ever seen them before,” he explains. “It’s not just simply like these two dudes [He-Man and Skeletor] have been trying to beat each other up for decades. We get to tell stories of abuse. We get to kind of tell stories of isolation, grief. We use these characters as long as they’ve been around — and most people consider them toys or action figures — to tell insanely human stories set in a very inhuman world.”
Rob David, who previously developed He-Man comics at DC, was brought in by Mattel to redevelop Masters of the Universe across entertainment landscapes (for one, he’s showrunning He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.) The creative had read Smith’s Daredevil comics, Guardian Devil, at Marvel and was struck by how he had “found new ways to tell the story” while honoring the source material.
Together, they crafted what he refers to as “a love letter” for the fans who watched the original show as a kid and are now adults. That doesn’t mean Revelation is on the level of something like Amazon’s blood-splattered superhero show Invincible, which Smith mentions and admires. But it does mean that the writers room — consisting of Marc Bernardin, Eric Carrasco, Diya Mishra, and Tim Sheridan — got to “raise the stakes in ways you wouldn’t normally do,” David adds. “Characters could die. Not saying they will, but they could.”
Smith remembers speaking with Netflix’s director of original series Ted Biaselli, who also came with a childhood love of this sword-and-sorcery saga and sat in on the writers room tossing out ideas.
“He said, ‘Do me a favor. When I used to watch the shows as a kid, I legitimately thought that He-Man was always on the verge of getting killed by Skeletor. I believed in the stakes. Just make me believe that again,'” he says. “People would see some of this as goofy IP, but this is a rich tapestry, a world full of characters. [Biaselli] said, ‘Please just don’t talk down to it. Don’t make fun of it. Don’t wink. Just treat it like Shakespeare.’ Those were our marching orders.”
The first episode of Revelation begins “in lockstep with the old show,” Smith mentions. Then, about halfway through, “things take a shift which allows all the characters to go through these periods of growth.” David mentions a “cataclysmic event that would shake it up.”
The pair keep any further specifics about what that cataclysm is under lock and key, but Smith does go on to explain that “only certain people know the secret that Prince Adam is really He-Man. We build our entire story on who was left out of the secret and the damaging trickle-down effects of that.”
It’s a story about “a hero who has to live under deception in order to protect those he loves, but it’s about how that deception rots at the core.”
David sees the story told in Revelation in two acts, which is why Netflix is releasing the episodes in two parts. “Part 1 felt like a really great act break,” he says. “You get to it and you’re like, ‘Oh man! This is just dramatic. The game has changed.'”
“The characters at the beginning of Revelation are going to be very different than they will be at the end,” he adds.
The devotion to the world of Masters of the Universe feels palpable. That extends to everyone involved. David shares fond memories of learning “how to tell stories from playing with the toys growing up,” while Smith, the kind of person who can speak about this material for hours without catching a breath, notes that composer Bear McCreary “gave us a score this show doesn’t even deserve.” (Smith was brought to tears in a video he shared online of listening to the music for the first time.)
The showrunner also points to the cast. “[Hamill] had talked about wanting to step out of animation, but he was like, ‘When you came at me with Skeletor, how could I say no?'” He had a similar experience chatting with Headey. “There was such fervency and love for the property,” he says.
Liam Cunningham as Man-At-Arms, Griffin Newman as Orco, Stephen Root as Cringer, Diedrich Bader as King Randor and Trap Jaw, Tiffany Smith as Andra, Henry Rollins as Tri-Klops, Susan Eisenberg as Sorceress, Jason Mewes as Stinkor, Phil LaMarr as He-Ro, Tony Todd as Scare Glow, Cree Summer as Priestess, and Kevin Michael Richardson as Beast Man round out the main parts.
For David, “becoming the best version of yourself” has always been at the heart of He-Man, and it’s true now of Revelation. “We wanted to reiterate that, but make it even more broad,” he says. “It’s not just He-Man that has something special inside him, but every character and every viewer. We all have the power.”
This article originally appeared on ew.com at https://ew.com/tv/masters-of-the-universe-revelation-photos-premiere-kevin-smith/