A lot of people have asked which type of articles are my favorite to write. That's tough to answer since all this crap charms the shit out of me, but He-Man would definitely rank pretty high on the list. Its really fun to watch now with a retrospective view, because it clearly indicates how much of an idiot I was as a kid. I understand that it was a children's show, but man, there's a real fine line between catering to kids and forming stories based on retards. And make no mistake about it: everyone in Eternia was a retard. The only reason they all had super powers was to compensate for the sheer amount of mental deficiency plaguing Eternia. I'd say over the course of this site we've seen around 30-40 different Masters of the Universe characters in all their assorted glories. 90% of those characters can't talk in complete sentences, much less get out a coherent thought without grunting twice or falling down a flight of stairs. Tonight, in the return of the MOTU Chronicles, we take a look at our latest victim, Man-E-Faces.
Before you scroll down to make sure, yes, there is an accompanying download following this review. I gave the series a break for a while after we reviewed the Secret of the Sword, but there's only so many weeks that I can stand living through without making fun of Man-At-Arms. Today's episode, The Mystery of Man-E-Faces, seeks to explore the super secret origins of one of He-Man's most trusted and altogether fucked up allies. Basically, in Eternia, if you weren't part of the royal family, or very close to it, you were subject to some of the strangest physical abnormalities ever seen. In some cases, you were born a big bee. In others, you had a 4' metal neck and triangular sunglasses. In the worst cases, you got a giant hand and a speech impediment. In Man-E-Faces' case, things are a bit different. He's the guy with three interchangeable heads that dictate his personality. In human form, he's pretty normal. In robot mode, as the episode we're about to take a look at shows, he likes to break expensive vases. And, in the dreaded monster mode, Man-E-Faces snarls a lot. Amazingly, that's the extent of his personality. Not that much of a range. Still, amongst my circle of friends way back when, he was a pretty popular character. We couldn't resist the guy with the spinning heads. I just never knew his past was so...what's the word? Stupid.
With that, join me on this mystical tale of wonder, as we seek to find out just how Man-E-Faces became such a star player in Eternia's fabled history. I promise that after reading this review and watching it for yourself, it still won't make much sense. But that's what He-Man is all about. Nonsense.
Its a big day in Eternia! Looks like everyone's getting ready for a big party - including Orko and Cringer, who piss off Prince Adam by dropping the cake. Adam, come on, like you didn't see that coming. Cringer and Orko running with a cake, they were going up against some pretty tough odds. Letting them handle cake transportation is like letting two circus clowns perform open heart surgery. Fortunately, Adam doesn't have much time to belittle his idiot friends, since there's still a lot left to be done before tonight's big party. Adam was in charge of hiring the entertainment...and wait till you see who he has in mind.
You got it, Man-E-Faces, which brings up an interesting footnote to the roles of 'heroes' and 'villains' in the He-Man universe. Whereas in most cartoons, the good guys are defined simply by their eternal battles against evil, the lines were a lot blurrier on this show. Granted, I don't have an encyclopedia of Man-E-Faces appearances in MOTU lore, but assuming this was his sole contribution, he's done little to prove himself heroic. He's just a regular guy, one of He-Man's friends, who likes to entertain. No big plans to save humanity, no inherent fighting spirit that tells him to devote his life against the evils of Skeletor or King Randor's haphazard iron fist. He just wants to live a normal life - or as normal a life as a guy with three spinning faces and metal underwear could possibly have.
I'm a little concerned that Man-E-Faces doesn't recognize that he's being exploited here, though. Adam hired him under the guise that he'll be a 'magician' at the party. Someone to entertain the audience with a bountiful lot of magic tricks. Pfft. Come on, do you believe that one? Its pretty clear that Prince Adam's just showcasing his latest freak find. Man-E can pull all the rabbits out of a hat he wants, they're all still gonna be gawking at that weird morphing cylinder of a head he's got. Man-E is like those guys on the Howard Stern show that come to your birthday parties for a few hundred dollars. They're there to be laughed at and generally scorned, but at least they know that, and they are getting paid for it. Man-E is too naive to realize that he's just a pawn in Eternia's obsession with the old-fashioned sideshow. So naive that he's been working on a few more illusions for his stage debut...
Adam, Orko, and Cringer patronize Man-E by feigning interest in his latest parlor tricks, but I really feel bad for the guy. How'd he end up with this triple-head predicament? Surely he wasn't born that way. Its like everyone in Eternia is defined by their physical deformations. I guess it has to be that way, since they all have the combined conversational skills and overall wit of a broom. But seriously, think about what life must be like for these guys. They can't impress women with how much money they make, or with nonexistent charm. And none of them drive cool cars, so it looks like the only thing they have going for them are these hideous abnormalities. So Man-E-Faces had to find a woman who preferred three heads over a big fist or a bee costume. A bit different that finding a girl who likes tall, skinny guys or boys with an accent.
The thing I really don't get is what the different faces actually mean for Man-E. They don't seem to change him all that much. The only notable differences I've seen are as follows: when Man-E goes all robotic, he tends to break down doors a lot. When he puts on the green monster face, he growls. But other than that, its the same person. The thing that sucks about He-Man is that it leaves all these questions unanswered, but you know that the people who put the show together really didn't care all that much about things like Man-E-Faces' different personalities, or Teela's relationship with Adam, or the fact that there's a talking green tiger running around. We're debating and killing ourselves over things there were never explanations for to begin with.
Its giving me a headache, so I'll just move on. At this point in the episode, we go into flashback mode. Man-At-Arms tells Man-E that he's 'quite an actor,' to which today's hero replies that he owes that to He-Man. Not joking. That's what he said, clearly implying that his acting ability was learned from He-Man. So, you see what happened there, right? I agree to give up on the universal questions surrounding this crap, and with one foul swoop of a person-to-person exchange, they just opened a whole new can of worms. Did He-Man gives Man-E-Faces acting lessons? Was it out of kinship over a shared frustration of not only having just a first name, but a hyphenated first name? As it turns out, Man-E made a literary faux pas - He-Man didn't help him become a good actor...just a good person. Let's take a trip back in time and see what Man-E-Faces was doing with himself before getting involved in magic acts.
Hahah, Jesus CHRIST, no way. No way in hell. Man-E-Faces spent all his time before meeting up with He-Man trying to pester a bunch of elves? What the fuck? This may be the only animated show ever completely drawn in ab-lib. Number one, where'd these elves come from? We've seen enough of Eternia to know that it consists only of three or four castles and the occasional pyramid full of human chess pieces. NO elves. The really freaky thing is that they're animated in a totally different way than the rest of the cartoon, which furthers my belief that I'm watching some sort of foreign bootleg He-Man show. I know they've taken some liberties in the past - but colorful, chubby elves? Something ain't right.
Man-E-Faces implores that the elves open the door, but since he's made no bones about his intentions on kicking the shit out of them, they're won't be opening it up anytime soon. True to form, Man-E busts out the robot face, huffs, puffs, and breaks it down. It looks like, for some reason, he wants to serve as ruler over these elves. I have no idea why, they're just elves living in a shack. Oh yeah! Man-E is evil at this point in time - and nothing screams evil than tormenting the little people. Despite that, Man-E-Faces has a pretty strange way of getting his point across...
He breaks pieces of metal. Uhhhhh huh. The ol' sledgehammer of plot is working overtime tonight, they're dishing out everything they can think of to get us to understand that Man-E-Faces is positively dastardly. They already missed the boat by having him pester a bunch of annoying midget elves, which safely places him into my cult hero category right alongside Jodo Kast and Vaporeon.
But don't think these elves are bastions of humility and defeat...while they know they can easily be overpowered by Man-E, they still don't take him too seriously. But the whole premise of this is lost on me, because all Man-E and the elves really do is argue over whether or not he should be there. Little do any of them know that they're being watched the whole time....
Ah! Thank God, with Skeletor in the fray, maybe we'll get some semblance of sanity back. Using his mystical orb of enlightenment, Skeletor realizes that Man-E-Faces' triple-head action would be better suited serving Snake Mountain...whether Man-E likes it or not. Skel also manages to call Man-E a 'mysterious stranger,' officially making that the most often used term to describe anyone in Eternia.
I'm a bit intrigued seeing how Skeletor spends his time when he's not trying to unlock the secrets of Greyskull. Does he just watch orbs all day with Beast Man, scouting possible new slaves? In any event, the recent happenings are enough of a cause for the Sorceress to wake Prince Adam up. Those elves are friendly with Eternia, so they've got to protect them from the evils of Man-E-Faces' brutal snarls before he breaks every piece of metal they have. Constantly watching over annoying elves in the middle of the night wouldn't be the job I look for, but if there's anything the myriad pastel outfits of Eternia have told us, there's just no accounting for taste in this place.
You know you're jaded when a bird comes to your window and telepathically tells you that a bunch of midget elves are being troubled by a guy with three heads doesn't phase you. But Adam's seen a lot in his time, bullshit like this happens in Eternia every damn day. Growing up, I'm sure a lot of kids dreamt about how cool it'd be to be He-Man, but really, its not all its cracked up to be. Sure, you might be able to render a small moon to pieces with a single punch, but the extent of your life only goes as far as talking to a bird, Man-At-Arms, and fighting people like Trap-Jaw week after week. Anyway, the Sorceress tells Adam to call upon the power to stop Man-E-Faces. He-Man's never denied the bird satisfaction before, and he's not about to start now.
See? Even the elves don't take Man-E seriously. Like I said, the definition of heroes and villains is blurry at best. Man-E-Faces really hasn't done anything wrong aside from trespassing and breaking vases. You can't fault him for growling and shaking his fists...that's what freaks do. But its villainous enough for He-Man to take action, so he turns up to set things straight. Amazingly enough, he and the elves are on a friendly, first name basis, which leads me to believe that they've got some previously established rapport with one another. He-Man hangs out with elves?
The two lock horns, but before they can start throwing punches, Skeletor uses a 'Collector' ray to beam Man-E aboard his ship. Don't be surprised, we've learned many times in the past that virtually any invention is just a heartbeat away with Skeletor. But he doesn't want to just chat with Man-E-Faces, he wants to enslave him. I'm not sure if he has any long term plans in mind, but Skel can't let a half hour go by without doing something heinous, and this'll have to suffice. Now, check out how he puts Man-E under his control....
Beast Man, Skel's main henchman, is an interesting fellow. Overall, he's completely worthless, can do nothing right, and serves as nothing more than a channel for Skeletor to vent his need to use insulting expletives in every conversation. But on rare occasions, he shows off some pretty impressive powers. In this case, he's modified his power to control animals in such a way that it also controls Man-E-Faces - a completely unexplained modification that doesn't make much sense, but hey, that's the running theme. Man-E sheds a tear over the situation, and with that I not-so-fondly recall feeling really bad for him while watching this as a child. I empathized with friggin Man-E-Faces. People wonder why our generation is so screwed up. We grew up watching this.
The time has come for Skeletor to try out his new three-faced toy of terror. Under normal circumstances, Skeletor himself would try his luck against He-Man...but why risk another brutal defeat when you've got an unwilling slave at your disposal? And let's face it, there's not much else Man-E-Faces is good for. Its not like Skeletor needs a court jester or a cook. He just needs someone to beat up He-Man. Sure enough, he beams Man-E back down to fight his battles...
...And almost as immediately, Man-E-Faces breaks free of the spell and throws Beast Man sixty yards. That's how I like my plots - fast and furious. True to form, Skeletor escapes before He-Man realizes that it'd probably be a good idea to finally incarcerate the fool, but let's call a spade a spade here...at least peace has been restored. Man-E is so taken aback with He-Man's help that he vows to live a life of virtue from this day forth. Luckily, the elves are a forgiving lot, so everyone lives happily ever after. Now let's fast forward back to the present...its time for Man-E-Faces' magic act!!!
Haha, poor guy's still living under the delusion that these people are here to see 'magic.' Let me ask you a question. How much attention would you pay to the actual magic when the magician is a guy with three faces and an eyemask? Maybe that's the whole trick - everyone's so preoccupied with Man-E's freaking appearance that it enables him to perform all the intricate illusion of magic completely undetected. Or maybe, like I theorized, this is just Adam's way to pocket a little cash by charging people to see Eternia's version of the Elephant Man. Then again, these people are used to freaks...let's take a look at who's actually in the audience...
I'm a little rusty, but if I'm not mistaken, we've got Ram Man, the fat guy with springboard legs. We've got Stratos, the guy who dresses like a bird and absolutely refuses to speak at all costs. We've got cheerfully animated elves. We've got a royal family. We've got three guards dressed like Man-At-Arms who do absolutely nothing for Eternia. We've got a woman who calls herself the 'Sorceress' who likes to transform into an orange falcon. We've got Prince Adam in purple underwear. Its endless. Point is, maybe in Eternia, Man-E-Faces wasn't all that strange. After all, its all relative, right? We wouldn't shy away from lepers if everyone was covered in brown spots. I for one am happy that Man-E's found his place in society. He's still a freak ass, though. Don't take my word for it, see the action for yourself! I've encoded the episode in .rm format...a little choppy, but certainly viewable and not too large of a file at 5 MB. Enjoy!
Meanwhile, on the toy side of things, Man-E-Faces' action figure is a pretty popular one from the line, but definitely not a high priced item. You can get the loose figure for just a few bucks. Like most He-Man figures, its not exactly structurally sound. The fact that his head weighs more than the rest of his body makes standing him up virtually impossible, but I've always envisioned Man-E as more of a 'sit on the sidelines' type of guy anyway. Still, while getting the figure won't cost much, the above-pictured variation will. At one point, the toy was marketed with extra weapons, consisting of a red sword, gun, and so on. Amazingly enough, those stupid pieces of plastic jack up the price a ton. As always, if interested, check out eBay.
Past He-Man Episode Reviews: Dissapearing Act - Fisto's Forest - Gamesman - Batros' Books - He-Man Sunglasses
PS - Shout out to Hiro Protagonist of the X-E Forum, as we congratulate him on his new baby girl! She eats alligators!