Mattel released the Masters of the Universe line of toys between 1981 and 1983, little knowing that the franchise would become a juggernaut in the years to come! They quickly outgrew the normal action figure-based toys, and He-Man and the wicked Skeletor tales began to take shape.
The toys were packaged with mini-comics that contained information on the characters and instructions on how to play with them. It quickly became a popular cartoon, and it was entertaining to follow the adventures of He-Man and his comrades as they faced Skeletor and his minions.
Skeletor grew to be one of the most recognisable villains of all time, yet his backstory was riddled with discrepancies. Because of these origin myths that perplexed the audience, there were occasions when the demon made no sense at all.
He was first portrayed as an alien invasion with aspirations to conquer Eternia, but the legends quickly morphed into everything from an extraterrestrial to someone with a severely damaged face and anger issues.
Skeletor’s origin, mannerisms, powers, and even his diabolical ambitions have changed dramatically from the mini-comics to the cartoons and the live-action film. We’ll try to elucidate the specifics of his convoluted history in this video because, as previously stated, he’s still one of the great villains who offered hours of amusement for many people’s childhoods.
Masters of the Universe (Minicomics)
As previously stated, the original line of toys was accompanied by the pre-Filmation series of mini-comics. These were more like mini-stories, with a single image per page and a brief explanation of the character and their plot. There are significant variations between this incarnation of Skeletor and later media.
For instance, you have no royal court of Eternia or KingRandor and Queen Marlena. He-Man is depicted as a champion warrior in a primitive jungle tribe. This was Skeletor’s first story arc, and it depicted him as a being from another dimension of existence.
This place was teeming with more of his type, but a gap in the spatial barrier allowed him to enter Eternia. According to this pamphlet, one of his main goals was to reopen the portal between his planet and Eternia. This would allow his species to conquer the latter, thus justifying his quest for Castle Grayskull’s abilities.
While we see a version of Skeletor’s backstory, a lot of the questions are left unanswered. We get no details about Skeletor’s own people and what his status was among them! It would have been exciting to learn more about their motives and appearances, but all we got was a panel that hinted that they were averse to showing their faces just like Skeletor. The storyline is particularly short-lived, and the continuity is abruptly cut short by the other versions.
After the cancelation of the Filmation animated show, another mini-comic followed, and this one has several contradictions with the Filmation series. This time around, Skeletor was portrayed as King Randor’s long-lost brother Keldor.
We learn about this startling truth in the story titled The Search for Keldor. Prince Adam and Randor are looking for Keldor, and after learning about their mission, Skeletor is seen stating how they must never discover the real truth! Keldor had disappeared many years ago, and this was caused due to his fascination with magic.
One of his experiments accidentally got him lost in another realm. King Randor comes very close to finding Keldor, but Skeletor interrupts the process desperately. He is defeated, but he manages to ensure that they never find out anymore about the long-lost brother.
While it is not explicitly stated that the two individuals are the same, Skeletor’s desperate attempt to conceal the search makes it plain. It also coincides with Keldor’s disappearance into another reality while he was learning sorcery talents! Later, writer Steven Grant disclosed that they were never planning to outright say Skeletor was Keldor, but that it was an idea Mattle had come up with.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
Skeletor, the main villain of the 1980s show, is a fiendish monster from another dimension. From his headquarters at Snake Mountain, we see him as an evil warlord who rules the dark side of Eternia. Hordak, a formidable tyrant from Eternia’s sister planet Etheria, taught him everything he knows.
Skeletor began his career as Hordak’s right-hand man, but when the time arose, he betrayed his mentor and founded Snake Mountain in the process. Skeletor was the one who built Snake Mountain, according to one of the episodes.
The series was a delightful watch, and it started off presenting Skeletor as a vile, sinister personality. However, the show had to change the narrative to make him into a comical and incompetent villain because the target audience was children. At times, it treated Skeletor as a pantomime villain, even though a few episodes tried to hint at his great evil powers.
The Live-Action Movie in 1987
When Cannon Picture decided to make a PG-rated feature film adaptation of Masters of the Universe, they had the opportunity to introduce a much darker Skeletor. They succeeded, and Frank Langella’s performance as Skeletor received acclaim from all corners.
The merciless villain’s campy, comedic overtones were a thing of the past, and this film featured a sequence in which Skeletor destroyed one of his henchmen just for failing him.
He’s also gained a lot more depth, as evidenced by his chats with He-Man, in which he inquires about the loneliness of being good and whether it’s the same as the loneliness of being wicked. Instead of the commonly used purple attire, we see Skeletor donning an all-black costume that covers his entire body with a robe and a flowing cape.
There is another notable difference that you will find in this version of Skeletor. He manages to unlock the powers of Grayskull, unlike in the previous versions. It makes him a God-like entity and a villain with ultimate powers.
He then discharges energy beams from his eyes, and it is by sheer luck that He-Man manages to make him lose his abilities. Just as he was about to kill He-Man, he was pushed off the cliff by a swing of He-Man’s sword. The climax had an interesting scope for a sequel because it showed Skeletor emerging from the waters with a green skull, clearly surviving the fall.
The New Adventures of He-Man – The Infamous Reboot
Filmation’s He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was supposed to be continued in this cartoon series. We saw a completely new Skeletor here, as well as a new costume. His villainous ways, on the other hand, remain unchanged, and the game opens with him attempting to deceive Captain Hydron and Lieutenant Flipshot of the Galactic Guardians by convincing them that he is the force of good that would preserve their home planet, Primus.
They had come hunting for He-Man, but Skeletor had contrived to lure them astray. Because they can’t tell the difference between Skeletor and He-Man, they send both of them into the future, where Skeletor shows his true character right away.
When the Evil Mutants attack Primus, Skeletor makes a deal with the Mutant commander to help him seize the planet in exchange for He-death. Man’s Despite the fact that the Mutant leader Flogg was meant to be in command, we witness Skeletor manipulating him and essentially being the true leader behind everything.
This series, like the others, shows various attempts by Skeletor to destroy He-Man. He even succeeds in conquering Primus by deceiving the ruler into believing that the mutants want peace. As Flogg takes charge of the planet and the mutants win, Skeletor is seen chasing He-Man and the rebellion against the conquerors.
Slowly, the entire planet rises up in revolt, and the mutants are forced to leave after a brief reign. There is also a romantic angle that was established between Skeletor and a mutant admirer named Crita. They were often seen flirting and dancing, but the romance never materialized into anything fruitful.
Skeletor and the Mutants launch another final attack on the planet, and though recapturing it briefly, they eventually lose! Skeletor wants a face-off with He-Man, but the latter uses the Power Sword to trap him and his lady love in a shuttle pod.
Skeletor was depicted as even more psychotic this time, and we adored his wicked sense of humour. He had a typically laid-back demeanour, although he had frightening outbursts from time to time. Skeletor’s love with Crita reveals a human side underlying all the evil, and it’s only natural that Skeletor and Crita were confined in a shuttle pod together and exiled into space.
2002 Animated Series
Skeletor is proved to be Keldor in this incarnation, and Randor and Keldor’s appearances change due to their separate mothers. Skeletor was a Hordak-trained warlord who led an attack on the Hall of Wisdom with his followers.
Captain Randor stepped forward to provide some resistance, and a violent battle ensued. Keldor engaged him in a personal battle, but Randor triumphed. Keldor tried to throw an acid vial at Randor after he was vanquished, but Randor used his shield and the acid was redirected onto Keldor’s face.
Hordak managed to save his life, but all the damaged tissues had to be removed from his skull, and it left a stripped-offskeletal figure. This incident probably took away the last ounce of sanity that he had and so he returned to Eternia as the tormentor.
In this animated version, Skeletor doesn’t go for Castle Grayskull straightaway! He is intrigued when he finds He-Man and Man-At-Arms fighting to stop a giant fish monster heading towards it. He owed his life to Hordak, but he still destroyed his sanctuary so that he couldn’t return.
There are some interesting interactions with King Hiss, and Skeletor is shown to be far more competent than the previous versions. He still has comedic moments, but they are merely to add to his ruthlessness.
He doesn’t spare a thought for his followers and often bullies his minions. He might not have won any great victories, but he certainly made an impact with his homicidal tendencies.
The Origin of Skeletor (DC comics – 2012)
The backstory of Skeletor was ultimately revealed in the 2012 DC comics. Skeletor was intended to be the heir to the throne, but his father, King Miro, made Randor the king instead. Keldor was a half-blood whose blood had been blended with that of a beastlygar.
All of this made Keldor resentful, and when he was dying of a curse, he stabbed Randor and turned into the terrifying Skeletor using his blood. He had made a contract with Hordak, and despite certain emotional connections with his brother, he remains committed to his evil side. Hordak rewards him with his new title, Skeletor, as a reward for all of his efforts.
Another Unpublished Origin Of Skeletor!
If you thought there were already too many Skeletor stories, here’s another one that was never even published! Whitman Publishing devised this one, and it was discovered in 2009 that such a scheme existed.
Those of you who read the early mini-comics may recall seeing multiple ads for Whitman Publishing. They collaborated with Mattel on the first minicomics, and if everything went well, Mattel was planning to enlist them help on a more complicated revival of the property.
Unfortunately, the plan was shelved, and they embarked on their voyage with DC. So, let’s take a look at the scenario that was going to be a pretty plausible origin story for both He-Man and Skeletor.
The protagonist, He-Man, is shown as a shepherd’s son, and he is accompanied by a young woman named Shelda. She is in love with him but is bound to Tez. As the couple is walking, they are interrupted by Tez and his friends, who start to bully the innocent shepherd’s son, calling him He-Man in sarcasm.
Tez even tries to coax him into fighting for Shelda, but he seems too weak to even lift a sword. Suddenly, Skeletor and his demonic minions attack the group, and Shelda falls victim to the fiery breath of Skeletor’s dragon. Tez and his friends are slain with Skeletor’s half of the Power Sword, and He-Man tries to fight him in vain.
Skeletor stabs shoots him with arrows before proceeding to interrogate him about the other half of the Power Sword. He remains defiant, and the demons leave him to be preyed upon by the wolves. Man-At-Arms appears on his Battle Ram and chases away the wolf, leaving He-Man to perish in his wounded and helpless state.
He transports our hero to Eternia’s capital, where an elderly physician named Moonspinner attempts to revive the half-dead He-Man. This is when Moonspinner mentions the legend of a champion born of fire, ice, dragon’s flame, and blood crimson snow.
This champion would get access to Greyskull’s secrets and rise to the position of great monarch. He-Man is helped by a miracle contraption called Lifemold, which also makes him the strongest man in the universe.
The story introduces a fierce female warrior called Teela, who offers to be the emotional support for a grieving He-Man. The narrative also shows a giant Battle Cat that He-Man manages to subdue and ride.
Towards the end of this unfinished tale, Skeletor and his demons attack Teela and He-Man while they are having a romantic moment in the woods. He-Man fights bravely, and Teela runs off to warn the people in the city.
Just as the demons seem to be too powerful for He-Man alone, a growling sound is heard in the background, and presumably, the Battle Cat that they had released in the forest was coming back to defend He-Man.
This version of He-Man is certainly unique in that he begins as a weak character and matures into a great hero. We can’t help but draw connections with Captain America’s origin narrative because the themes are so similar! It’s a pity that the storyline wasn’t retained because, by all appearances, the story deserved full-fledged, extensive development.
What remained common?
Despite the fact that his storylines have seen numerous revisions, Skeletor’s underlying personality has generally remained the same. In all of the tales, he is shown as ruthless and domineering, and his insatiable desire for power drives him to be exceedingly ambitious.
He is always depicted as a ruthless tyrant who has little compassion for his own subjects, let alone his foes. The opportunistic villain is willing to go to any length to achieve his objectives.
Our Final Words
To say the least, the imaginary universe of He-Man and Skeletor is interesting, and the villain’s allure is equal to that of the hero. He may have a variety of backgrounds, but each one, even the unpublished one, is fascinating! Let us know which origin story appeals to you the best in the comments section.
Regardless of his various story arcs, he was entertaining to watch in all of his avatars. Skeletor has been the biggest struggle for our strong He-Man, from his dark and sombre portrayals to the more comedic ones, and we owe our childhood to these amazing masterpieces.