Wait? He-Man? That He-Man? A Barbarian? Yep. Not only that but
truly a lost barbarian because he was retconned into something else
a couple of years after he first appeared. I only learned of the
character's alternate origin yesterday while searching for
information for an upcoming post about comic book artist Alfredo
Alcala, and I thought some of my fellow sword & sorcery fans
might find it of interest.
Legend has it that the Mattel toy company originally was going to
do a toy line based on the 1982 Conan the Barbarian movie but the
deal fell through so they came up with their own barbarian, however
various toy collectors have told me that this story is apocryphal.
(This is apparently a major point of contention among He-Man
However, Mattel definitely had the big barbarian in mind as this
very early sketch for a He-man design shows.
This much I already knew, since back in 2011, Mattel included a
figure made from this sketch, called Vikor, in their Masters of the
Universe Classics line. I picked one up, of course. As action
figures go, it's a pretty damned cool Conan figure. Personally I
always thought the Vikor sketch bore quite a resemblance to this
Neal Adams drawing of Conan from the cover of Marvel's Savage Tales
However, it was this illustration by the aforementioned Alfredo
Alcala from the very first He-Man mini-comic, which was included
with some of the toys, that gave me the idea for this post. Note
that in the text under the picture that He-Man is a member of a
jungle tribe, a true barbarian. Check out the flint spear and the
A couple of pages later, He-Man rescues a green-skinned sorceress
from a dangerous beast and she rewards him by giving him weapons and
a set of armor that increases his strength to a superhuman level.
There's no secret identity in the original version. No Prince
Adam and no mention of a mother from Earth or all the trappings from
the Filmation cartoon series that would come a few years later. The
Original he-man was a flat out, Conan style Barbarian. I think I
prefer him that way. Anyway, Alfredo Alcala, who did quite a bit of work on Marvel's Conan comics and about whom I'll have more to say later, drew several He-man mini comics for Mattel. I've got a couple on the way from Ebay as we speak.