Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Best Character Ever 10: Hordak

The Masters of the Universe Classics version of Hordak.
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I am a huge fan of 80s and 90s cartoons. But often when I am interested in a show with a tie-in toyline, it is the villains that prove as cool as the heroes to me. Never was that more so than with Hordak, leader of the Evil Horde.

I first came across the character through television ads introducing a whole new wave of villains to the Masters of the Universe toyline. The Evil Horde were villains even Skeletor feared. Heck, voiceover Optimus Prime was even warning us to be wary of these fiends. (An aside: it is fun with his current fame just waiting for Peter Cullen to pop up in odd roles in just about every 80s cartoon.)

Hordak re-designed by Stjepan
Sejic. Click for larger view.
Hordak was easily my favorite of the early figures, a menacing figure with a more menacing skull-head than Skeletor and some really cool accessories. But I remember being really angry that I never saw him or his allies on the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon. This was actually a reason for me to give up regularly watching the cartoon, which was silly even in my seven year old mind. I still wanted the toys though, but with a heavier focus on M.A.S.K. and Transformers and a parent that did not like all those “demon looking things”, I never saw them.

I later learned that Hordak and the Horde did have their own animated series. She-Ra: Princess of Power needed more villains so they were moved over to menace Adora in a much more tightly written series than He-Man ever got. Hordak actually ruled the world of Etheria, a dark dictator with magical powers and deadly allies.

Of course, much like Skeletor, he would eventually be turned into a joke before the figure and toyline died. Still, I could not get over how visually cool he was. I was disappointed when He-Man was revived in the early 2000s without a new Hordak ever appearing, but the recent Masters of the Universe Classics line finally fixed that with new versions of Hordak, Hurricane Hordak and Buzzsaw Hordak figures.

Hordak promotional art by Alvin Lee.
Click for larger view.
The recent DC comic has made him one of the series’ major villains. It even gave him an origin that ties him to long-time character Zodac. But no media has ever turned him and his group into the super-menace that he always was in my head. While series material established the Horde as something of a malevolent force wiping across the galaxy destroying and pillaging whole planets, no show or material ever gave that to me the way I wanted to see it.

But something about that little plastic man always did. Hordak is a dangerous threat, the leader of a powerful universe spanning evil. It doesn’t hurt that he looks like a million bucks doing it.

In the end, I suspect my vision of Hordak as a child (as opposed to the more bumbling version from She-Ra) really did frame my mindset on what a cosmic scale villain should be like. He seemed like true evil personified, far more than his bright blue, skull-faced counterpart. That image of a galactic level threat certainly played an inspiration to me when I started to frame the Grand Magister in the pages of Lightweight: Beyond, though I'm certain even he won't be as massive a foe as the Hordak of my eight year old imagination.

For more on the modern version of Hordak check out the excellent He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Vol. 2: Origins of Eternia from DC Comics.

Keith Giffen's cover for the breathtaking Masters of the Universe: The Origin of Hordak
collected in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Volume 2.)

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