It’s She-Ra 2.0: The dramatic beginning

Story highlights

New She-Ra comic is a revamp of the story about how the Princess of Power came to be

Digital release is a dark twist on She-Ra's origin

Artist: "She-Ra is iconic. She stood, and stands, as a strong and good-hearted character"

CNN  — 

She-Ravers rejoice! A new She-Ra comic has arrived.

The comic is one in a series of “Masters of the Universe” character origin digital one-shots published by DC Entertainment. Not a continuing story of She-Ra, it is rather a dramatic retelling of her beginnings.

Wondering what a one-shot is? Here’s a primer if you’re more a fan of the animated “She-Ra: Princess of Power” TV series that began airing in 1985:

“A one-shot is simply an issue (or digital release) that tells a full story on its own,” writer Mike Costa said. “… All the way up through the 1990s, telling single-issue stories was the norm. But today stories are increasingly told over several issues that are later collected into books, so a one-shot is becoming an unusual, special thing.”

The She-Ra digital one-shot delves into our heroine’s pre-Princess of Power’s past – before the Sword of Protection came to her, before she became the Most Powerful Woman in the Universe and before she ever uttered the phrase, “For the honor of Grayskull!”

Kidnapped as a baby by the evil Skeletor, She-Ra’s alter ego Princess Adora – twin sister of Prince Adam (who later became He-Man) – was raised by the evil Lord Hordak in the dark dimension of Despondos. Lord Hordak renamed Adora Despara and brainwashed her into become a villain. Despara became a force captain in Hordak’s army and Hordak’s own personal assassin. Upon return to her birth planet, Eternia, Despara was initially Adam’s enemy.

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“Readers unfamiliar with her history might be surprised to learn that she was a very different person before that transformation,” Costa said, “but the hero she would become is there, slumbering inside of her, and that’s what our story is really about.”

Put simply: An unhappy young girl who dreams of a better life discovers she’s a princess and her dreams come true.

“But She-Ra’s story is such a great inversion of that,” Costa said, “because rather than being just a passive dreamer, she’s actually already a very powerful character. Sure she’s a powerful character working for evil, but that only makes her journey all the more heroic and interesting. The messages of strength, capability and redemption, those are some really empowering and sophisticated ideas for a princess character aimed at girls from 30 years ago.”

The new release presents a darker, more unusual take on She-Ra.

“I think the trick for me was drawing this version of She-Ra as not really evil but detached and cold,” artist Drew Edward Johnson said. “She wasn’t born as this deadly Hordak enforcer but was made one, and over the course of the story, we can see how she’s been kept in line and made to do things that are against her nature. I tried to show in a couple of close-up shots that her eyes are not those of a killer, and in those shots, divided her face down the middle with the panel borders to show her split nature.”

In creating the planet Etheria, Johnson worked with colorist Kathryn Layno to “create the most infernal atmosphere possible.” They surrounded She-Ra with fire, smoke, dead trees and hopeless people to get that bleak, drab, uninviting feel.

An individual dragged down by dire circumstances beyond her control, She-Ra – in true hero fashion – rose above those circumstances to become an inspiration to the world around her.

Johnson said he believes She-Ra still resonates with audiences because “like Wonder Woman, She-Ra is iconic. She stood, and stands, as a strong and good-hearted character that anyone of any age can get behind.”

The other “Masters of the Universe” comic releases consist of a printed miniseries in which Skeletor – having rewritten the laws of reality on Eternia – rules from inside Castle Grayskull.

In addition, there is a digital series of 10-page stories featuring fresh takes on the origins of individual characters that are fan favorites, such as Orko and Trap Jaw. The new She-Ra is one in a series of full-length one-shots showcasing the origin of a particular character. Past comics told the back stories of He-Man and Skeletor.

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“The line is diverse,” Mattel executive Rob David said, “but every title shares one thing in common: We’re not playing things safe. ‘Masters of the Universe’ isn’t just part of our cultural past; it’s alive and constantly growing.”

For the most part, fan response has been overwhelmingly positive, but some die-hards resist the retooling of classic characters.

“Fans are thrilled to see He-man and the Masters of the Universe back in action,” David said. “Not everybody wants to see any changes, of course, but He-Man – ever since he first premiered – has evolved. Hey, when he first came out, there was no Prince Adam! So long as you stay true to the core concepts, it’s always fun to explore the possibilities.”