Skeletor is the main antagonist of the Masters of the Universe franchise by Mattel, Inc. Featured in three animated TV series and one (not very successful) movie, he was always portrayed as a muscular blue humanoid with a purple hood partially covering his yellow bare-bone skull. He constantly fought his archenemy, heroic protagonist He-Man, trying to take control of the secret powers of Castle Grayskull (to no avail, mostly because of his inept henchmen) in the fictional planet of Eternia. In the 2002 TV reboot, he was revealed to be originally Prince Keldor, the half-brother of Prince Adam/He-Man's father King Randor of Eternia; in that show, he lost his entire human face to an accidental acid splash.
Appearances in media
Mineternia: the pre-Filmation minicomics
The first minicomics accompanying the 1981–1983 line of Masters of the Universe toys showed the earliest version of continuity, and displayed many differences from the more widely known continuity of the later Filmation-produced cartoon series, and the later minicomics which complemented it. He-Man was depicted as the scarcely superhuman champion of a tribe of stone-age jungle-dwellers. There was no royal court of Eternia, King Randor, Queen Marlena, or Prince Adam yet.
These very first minicomics, actually more like storybooks with a single image per page footed by prose, stated that Skeletor was originally an inhabitant of another dimension, populated with others of "his kind." During "The Great Wars," an ambiguous concept largely ignored in later continuities, a hole was opened in the dimensional wall and Skeletor was thrown from his world into Eternia. Significantly different from the lonelier and entirely self-serving Skeletor of later depictions, the villain's key motivation in this first story is to reopen the rift between his world and Eternia, thus allowing Skeletor's race to invade and conquer Eternia alongside him. This was the initially stated reason behind Skeletor's desire to obtain the powers of Castle Grayskull, not merely seeking power for its own sake as is generally the case in later depictions. However, as this first incarnation of the franchise's continuity was particularly short-lived, many questions about this version of Skeletor's origin remain unanswered.
Filmation He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983)
In the 1980s cartoon series, Skeletor is a former pupil of Hordak, leader of the Evil Horde. When Hordak and his Horde invaded Eternia and stormed the royal palace, Hordak broke in and kidnapped one of the King and Queen's twin babies, Princess Adora. Man-At-Arms and the Royal Guard captured Hordak's apprentice, Skeletor, and forced him to spout his master's whereabouts, who had retreated to his base of operations, Snake Mountain. When cornered, Hordak opened up a random dimensional portal (later revealed to have led to Etheria) and leaped through with baby Adora in his possession. Skeletor remained on Eternia, raised an army of powerful minions of his own, and took over as ruler of Snake Mountain. Skeletor's main goal is to conquer the mysterious fortress of Castle Grayskull, from which He-Man draws his powers. If he were to succeed, Skeletor would be able to conquer not only Eternia, but the whole universe. At the same time, his other goal is to take revenge on Hordak and overthrow Horde Prime in his bid to conquer the universe.
Skeletor appeared in 71 of the 130 episodes of the 1980s He-Man cartoon (33 episodes in the first season, 38 in the second). While he was occasionally seen as a bumbling figure whose plans were always foiled by He-Man and his friends, his intentions to conquer Eternia were taken seriously by He-Man. He-Man regarded Skeletor as his arch-foe, and Skeletor's plans were sometimes ruined through the fault of his own henchmen rather than by his own incompetence.
Post-Filmation series minicomics
In the minicomics that followed the cancellation of the Filmation animated series, which can be seen as following on from the same continuity as the Filmation series, although there are still various contradictions, it is hinted that Skeletor is in fact Keldor, King Randor's long-lost half-brother.
This implication occurs specifically in the 1986 minicomic entitled "The Search for Keldor", a story that involves Prince Adam and Randor searching for Randor's lost brother Keldor. When Skeletor learns of their quest, he muses that "they must never discover the secret of Keldor", as the truth will lead to his destruction.
In this story King Randor announces that Keldor disappeared years ago. "He thought to master magic, when his experiments went wrong and he was lost in a dimension beyond time!" One of the few elements of Skeletor's back story that remains consistent throughout the various continuities is that he had come to Eternia from another dimension.
It is likely that Randor's statement about Keldor disappearing to another dimension is an attempt to reconcile Skeletor being He-Man's uncle with his Extra-Eternian origins. To find out what happened to Keldor, Randor and the Sorceress attempt to peer through a space-time rift that opens once every year.
Randor announces "I think I see Keldor... Or is it..." Before he can see anything else, Skeletor appears, determined to stop them from finding out any more. Although Skeletor is defeated, he is able to prevent Randor from discovering Keldor's fate as the rift once again closes for another year.
Skeletor's frantic effort to cover up what happened to Keldor, combined with the fact that Keldor vanished to another dimension when attempting to become a master sorcerer, is taken as a heavy implication that the two characters are indeed one and the same. Unfortunately, because the original MOTU toyline came to an end before the story could be resolved, it was never fully disclosed if this was officially intended to be the case.
Steven Grant, the writer-for-hire of the minicomic in question, stated in a he-man.org interview that "As far as I remember, Keldor was Skeletor... But, I don't think that was ever going to be revealed... I seem to remember it as one of those things Mattel came up with out of the blue... Slur Keldor and you end up with Skeletor... His back-story wasn't really worked out. Some sort of evil cosmic energies altered him. I think they were going for a Darth Vader thing, but it was a tack-on... The main idea was that if they found out Skeletor was Keldor, they'd be able to find out what had changed him and might find some way to reverse it."
In the new continuity of the 2002 animated series, Skeletor's original name was definitely Keldor; his appearance as such is shown and his exploits partially depicted. However, it seems unlikely that he is related to Randor in this continuity, as he has Skeletor's blue skin and some other slightly non-human features while he was still Keldor. In a he-man.org interview with one of producers of the 2002 series, it is revealed that Keldor is the half-brother of Randor; they have different mothers.
In the Masters of the Universe Classics toy line, further character development was introduced. This line has offered more in depth origins to the Masters of the Universe characters and a collaboration of all origins in attempt to create a new coherent continuity. According to their revised back story, Keldor is Randor's half-brother. Keldor's mother was a member of the Gar race, and he was ousted from the royal castle due to his Gar heritage. He roamed Eternia for knowledge, eventually learning the Dark Arts from Hordak. He then sought to unite Eternia by ruling it himself and battle his own half-brother with his army of fellow misfits. After losing the battle and desperate to survive, he turned to his mentor Hordak who merged Keldor with an entity known as the Demo-Man. Together they formed Skeletor. Keldor also appears in the DC comics, but was cursed by his father and became Skeletor.
Masters of the Universe (1987 film)
Skeletor was the primary villain in the 1987 live-action film portrayed by Frank Langella. As this was a motion picture, Skeletor was allowed to be far more menacing and less comical. To prepare for the role, Langella had asked his kids questions about the character and watched the series. During the course of the movie, Skeletor captures Castle Grayskull and imprisons the Sorceress. Later, he absorbs the power of the Great Eye and transforms into a golden-armored warrior god, but is ultimately defeated by He-Man. Langella's version of Skeletor is clad in more regal attire than is traditionally seen. Rather than dark purple, he wears all black, and his costume is less scant, covering his entire body with a robe and a flowing cape. Langella's performance is highly regarded by fans and critics as being a high point in the film. Langella himself has also mentioned several times that Skeletor has been one of his favorite roles during his entire career.
The New Adventures of He-Man (1990)
The New Adventures series sees Skeletor with a new outfit, chest armor, cybernetic implants, and a mauve cape. Skeletor fools the Galactic Guardians, Hydron and Flipshot, into thinking he is the force of good they need to save their home planet, Primus, when in fact they came looking for He-Man. Unable to decide who is good and who is evil, Skeletor and He-Man are both transported to the futuristic planet Primus, where Skeletor reveals his true evil nature to the Primans as the Mutants attack. Skeletor and the Mutant leader, Flogg, come to an agreement: Skeletor will help Flogg conquer Primus in return for Flogg's help in destroying He-Man. One of Flogg's terms is that he will remain in charge of the Mutants. Skeletor agrees, and is able to manipulate and control Flogg from behind the scenes, while making himself a force to be reckoned with among Primans and Mutants alike.
In the episode "Sword and Staff", Skeletor finds a powerful crystal on Moon Nordor and absorbs its power, making him more powerful and evil than ever before, and changing his appearance drastically, including a yellow face with red eyes, and different armor and helmet, based on the "Disks of Doom Skeletor" toy. Throughout the series, Skeletor concocts various schemes to destroy He-Man and conquer Primus.
Although The New Adventures series follows the continuity of the Filmation cartoon, Skeletor is quite a different character. He possesses a sarcastic sense of humor and often jokes and laughs, taking his own failures much better than in the previous series. He has a genuine relationship with Crita, a female mutant with purple skin. He even dances with her in one episode. He also works well with Flogg, Slush Head and the other Mutants as part of their team as well as having a pet named Gur. Though often displaying a more relaxed attitude, when enraged he simply becomes a maniac and lashes out in anger at anyone around him. He is able to instill fear into Flogg, despite being perfectly willing to take his orders when it suits his own purposes. Overall, the Skeletor in this series is portrayed as a far more competent and threatening character, despite his often comedic lines.
The first toys for the "New Adventures" line, which was marketed simply as "He-Man", gave a different explanation for how He-Man and Skeletor ended up in the future via a mini-comic packed in with various figures, as well as actually providing a reason for the cybernetics Skeletor employed in the first few episodes of the "New Adventures" TV series. In this mini-comic, Skeletor also learned that He-Man and Prince Adam were the same being, only for Adam to become He-Man permanently. The energy output caused by this final change from prince to warrior was partly the reason for Skeletor's new cybernetic look when the character was forced to take drastic measures to treat wounds that would have otherwise been fatal without treatment.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002)
In this new version, it is shown that Skeletor was formerly a warlord named Keldor who had trained in the dark arts. Keldor was taught the ways of black magic by summoning Hordak, who was trapped in the dark dimension, Despondos. He gathered a small band of warriors to attack the Hall of Wisdom. They encountered resistance from Captain Randor and his officers; Keldor fought Randor personally, wielding two swords with astounding proficiency, but when Randor disarmed him, Keldor threw a vial of acid at him. Randor deflected it with his shield, and the acid splashed on Keldor's face.
As Kronis (who later becomes the villain Trap-Jaw) called for retreat, Evil-Lyn took Keldor to Hordak's sanctuary, where Keldor summoned Hordak to save his life. Keldor agreed to pay whatever price Hordak wished for his own life, and Hordak transformed him, stripping the damaged tissues from his skull and dubbing him Skeletor; Keldor's head had been completely stripped of soft tissues, leaving only a floating skull. When Keldor saw his new appearance, he laughed maniacally about it, the incident perhaps shattering whatever sanity he had left. Hordak can also apparently speak to Skeletor from Despondos through telepathy which also causes Skeletor great pain.
Trapped in the Dark Hemisphere by the Mystic Wall, Skeletor designed a machine that would smash it, but it needed the Corodite Crystal as a power source. When Mer-Man retrieved it, Skeletor destroyed the Mystic Wall and returned to menacing Eternia.
Unlike his previous portrayals, Skeletor is not concerned with Castle Grayskull right away, until a giant fish-monster that had swallowed the remnants of the Corodite Crystal –thus making him hunger for power– heads toward Grayskull. The Eternian warriors, led by Man-At-Arms and He-Man, stop the monster, forcing Skeletor to ponder what could be in that ancient pile of stones worth dying for. At the time, the Heroic Warriors seem ready and willing to let Grayskull fall, and would likely have done so, if not for the urgings of Man-At-Arms, who had been swallowed whole by the monster. Skeletor directly attacks it with his Council of Evil: himself, Count Marzo, Evilseed, the three evil Giants and Webstor. When King Hiss and the Snake Men are freed from the Void, Hiss imprisons Skeletor, having him devoured by a giant snake, but Skeletor escapes after the Masters defeat Hiss.
Despite owing his life to Hordak, Skeletor destroys Hordak's sanctuary to prevent him from returning. Skeletor did not want to hold up his end of the bargain and free Hordak from Despondos because he wants Eternia for himself. At the end of the Second Season, King Hiss revives Serpos, the Serpent God, who had been transformed into Snake Mountain by the Elders; Skeletor and his minions were inside the mountain at that time. However, Serpos is defeated and restored to its Snake Mountain form.
In the show, Skeletor is again portrayed as a bully towards his henchmen but with an even more malicious edge, using his powerful abilities to threaten his followers or to silence them. He also constantly blames his minions for their defeats at the hands of the Masters, and rules through a policy of fear, which makes him somewhat different compared to King Hiss. Many episodes end with him either punishing or torturing his minions for their failures. Also like previous versions, he is shown to possess almost no loyalty towards his followers as demonstrated in the last episodes of the first season, where he sends his own Evil Warriors into a trap to get captured just to lull the Masters into a false sense of security. He even goes as far as replacing them with his 'Council of Evil'. He is further shown to be power mad and unwilling to share the spoils of war, as demonstrated when he tells Count Marzo when questioned if they will gain anything from Castle Grayskull, that he will give them a reward if he feels like doing so.
In the beginning of the first season, he demonstrates a deep-rooted hatred towards King Randor for his part in destroying his face and making him what he is now; though he also attributes that to Evil-Lyn for saving him. This gradually shifts towards hatred against He-Man for standing in his way constantly. Furthermore, his maniacal laughter can perhaps indicate that he might have become insane by the loss of his face, something that is mentioned in the Icons of Evil comics when Trap-Jaw, mentions that Skeletor is no longer the leader he once followed. Finally, despite his evil, Skeletor has been known to grovel when his life is in jeopardy, though this is usually an attempt to get the upper hand before betraying his savior, which is seen on a few occasions to trick He-Man into dropping his guard before attacking and escaping.
As with all the Mike Young Productions series' characters, Skeletor's appearance is based on his figure from the Four Horsemen-designed toyline which the cartoon was produced to promote. Skeletor is the character that received perhaps the least-extensive redesign from his original toy/cartoon version. However, when this new design was then translated into animated form, MYP's artists usually gave him a voluminous cape; something which neither the new toy, nor the original incarnation of the character ever wore. The cape is typically adorned in situations where Skeletor chose to employ powerful magical spells. Skeletor is still commonly seen without his cape in the 2002 series while at rest or in combat situations not requiring extensive use of magic. When a later convention-exclusive figure of Keldor was made using the existing Skeletor body, a removable cloth cape was included. As the figure came with three swappable heads including his Keldor face, his burning, acid-splashed visage, and his final Skeletor head, this figure could thus be configured into a "show-accurate" caped Skeletor.
Another note is that his eyes appear, glowing red, in his sockets whenever he becomes enraged or demonstrates his magic powers. When Hiss was going to turn him to stone, he claims his eyes are closed, but Evil-Lyn proclaims he has no eyes.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2012)
Skeletor is disappointed that Beast Man failed yet discovered that Adam is not without skill. Their attempt to wipe his memory completely failed to erase his instinctive understanding of battle. Skeletor shows Beast Man mercy, but warns that his troublesome nephew must die....if he doesn't stay within the boundaries. When Skeletor sends words to his allies that Adam must be prevented from learning who he really is, the first to take action is Trap Jaw and his riders who ambush Adam in the desert.
Skeletor mused at how he had previously worked so hard to capture Adam's sword thinking that it was the source of He-Man's power. Skeletor now knows that the sword is merely a conduit to the powers of Castle Grayskull. His dinner guest is a catatonic Sorceress of Castle Grayskull as he tries to get her to give him the knowledge of accessing the powers of Castle Grayskull. When Adam and Teela are on a ship at sea, Skeletor sends word to Mer-Man to dispose of "Prince" Adam.
Skeletor is getting annoyed at the fact that none of his allies have successfully killed Adam. He can't leave Castle Grayskull to do the job himself or else he won't get back in. Even with all the torture he has caused the Sorceress of the castle, he worries that she is the key to unlocking the castle's power.
Evil-Lyn reports the misplacement of her prisoners Adam and Teela to Skeletor. When she points out that the bird Zoar caused Adam to fall and discover the means of escape, Skeletor realizes that the Sorceress of Grayskull has been undermining him. Angrily, he bursts into her cell and demands to know where in his mind she was hiding. She reveals that she hid in plain sight within a pleasant memory....moments he rarely revisits. Grabbing her by the neck, he explains that he does not need her to get at Grayskull's power and snaps it dropping her limp body to the floor.
At Castle Grayskull, Skeletor has been informed by Beast Man that He-Man will be coming for him now that he has regained his memories, and wants to prepare Castle Grayskull for a siege. Skeletor tells Beast Man to do so if it brings him comfort. He then engages in a conversation with a head that has been advising him throughout the series, and eventually throws it through the window in a fit of rage. At Castle Grayskull, the preparations for the expected attack are complete. Skeletor, Beast Man, and Evil-Lyn overlook the battlefield in front of the castle, and await He-Man's arrival. Skeletor magically removes Evil-Lyn's mouth when she continues to speak even after he has ordered her to be silent.
He-Man tells Teela that he believes Skeletor is dead, then is seen calling himself a liar under his breath. Skeletor is revealed to have survived the fall into the chasm, but his skull is now cracked and broken, with his lower jaw appearing to be absent. Skeletor finds himself faced with the head that he threw out of the castle earlier, and it is revealed that this is some sort of minion that encourages Skeletor to not accept defeat. The final frames reveal that an unknown enemy that wishes Skeletor dead, but is not yet prepared to see it happen, has been manipulating Skeletor throughout the entire saga.
Powers and abilities
Skeletor possesses an array of mystic powers and is an extremely powerful sorcerer with control over a vast range of dark magical powers, such as the ability to teleport himself and others over vast distances, send telepathic commands to his minions, grow plants, hypnotism, illusions, reflection, freezing rays, and open gateways between dimensions. He also possesses considerable scientific skill, and is shown to have skill in creating various machines and devices in both the Filmation and New Adventures animated series. The 2002 series also shows him as a highly skilled swordsman, wielding dual swords and taking on multiple opponents.
He is usually armed with a magical weapon called the Havoc Staff, a long scepter crowned with a ram's skull—sometimes depicted with an embedded crystal ball. He can discharge bolts of mystic force from the head of the Staff, or use it as a focus for more powerful forms of magic such as the theft of dreams. Skeletor has also displayed the ability to discharge energy from his own body, as is seen in the 1987 film where he casts lightning from his hands and in the original animated series where he projects energy from his fingertips. In the 2002 series, his innate powers seem much more limited; though his abilities, when in conjunction with his Havoc Staff seem nearly unmitigated in scope and highly potent in raw power.
In the early mini-comics, Skeletor sometimes possesses one half of the Power Sword. From this weapon he could also project magical energies. He also performed remote viewing via crystal ball. He has also shown himself to be a gifted swordsman. As a master of the occult arts, he is also privy to much secret knowledge about the universe.
All versions portray Skeletor as being extremely cunning and intelligent. He is also very strong, although his strength is no match for He-Man's. He has few weaknesses, aside from his inability to control his anger, and on occasion his overconfidence can also be his undoing.
Despite his generally callous attitude towards his henchmen and others, Skeletor displays a certain degree of affinity towards animals. Skeletor's most constant animal companion is Panthor, a giant purple panther who serves as an evil counterpart to Battle Cat. Panthor is portrayed as Skeletor's pet or familiar spirit, being at the right of his throne. However, unlike He-Man's Battle Cat, Panthor only appears in a handful of stories in the original series. While his role is similarly limited in the 2002 series, he is more prominent in the episodes in which he appears compared to his appearances in the earlier series.
In He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special, Skeletor also shows some affinity towards Relay, a partly robotic dog who is a part of the Manchines. When shot down by Hordak late into the special, Skeletor is at first ready to leave Relay behind on a snowy mountain top, but decides to carry Relay with him when he can't bear to listen to his whimpering. Although Skeletor appears annoyed by Relay licking his face, he refuses to let Miguel or Alisha carry the creature.
In The New Adventures of He-Man, Skeletor becomes friends with a small mutant creature named Grr. After intimidating Grr to submission, he pets it and decides he likes it because the creature is apparently as vicious as him.
- In the Doctor Who episode "The End of Time, Part 1," the Doctor compares the Master to Skeletor.
- Skeletor is often parodied in Robot Chicken voiced by Dan Milano.
- In the 2011 Neal Stephenson novel Reamde, Skeletor is the nickname of hack fantasy author Devin Skraelin, who had been notably obese, but later became obsessive about walking on a treadmill while writing.
- The skull mask worn by a stunt actor in Star Trek: The Next Generation (as a part of Lt. Worf's holodeck calisthenics program) was acquired from the Masters of the Universe film.
- A recurring segment of Wil Wheaton's SyFy television show The Wil Wheaton Project was "Skeletor Reads Angry Tweets", in which old Filmation footage was redubbed to feature an angry Skeletor putting appropriate emotion in reading out assorted angry tweets from netizens.
- In the 2002 British comedy film Ali G Indahouse, Ali G mentions that the main antagonist of the film, Prime Minister David Carlton, is 'even more eviler than Skeletor'.
- Skeletor was featured in a series of ads for Honda and voiced by Jeff Bennett.
- The comedian Stewart Lee often comically uses Skeletor as a benchmark for evil. For example, he said that he believes Richard Hammond to be more evil than Skeletor.
- The webcomic Penny Arcade has a panel showing Skeletor defacing He-Man's (in-universe) page on Wikipedia.
- March 2017, Skeletor, dancing to the song "Fame", appears in a television advertisement for Moneysupermarket.com
- 3 September 2017, Skeletor appears in a second Moneysupermarket.com television advert, dancing alongside He-Man to the song "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" from the motion picture Dirty Dancing.
- ↑ "Ian Richter's answers to fan question revealed! Please discuss in this thread...". He-man.org. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
- ↑ "Phil Villarreal's Review: Still a surefire hit with 6-year-olds". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved 2009-10-21.
- ↑ > Resources > Archives > Opening the Vault > Steven Grant - writer. He-Man.org. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
- ↑ Online Store - Keldor Figure. Mattycollector.com, 2011-02-15. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
- ↑ Water Goodman, "Film: He-Man Seeks Key". The New York Times, 1987-08-08. Retrieved 2010-03-03.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 "The New Adventures of He-Man Volume 1": Fighting Mutant Slime in a Future Time. Toon Zone. Retrieved 2009-10-15.
- ↑ Masters Cast - Episode 25. Masters Cast. Retrieved 2009-10-17; archived August 20, 2008.
- ↑ "Masters of the Universe 2002": The Power Returns, In Style. Toon Zone. Retrieved 2009-10-20.
- ↑ "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Complete Series (2002) DVD Review". IGN. Retrieved 2010-07-26.
- ↑ He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #1
- ↑ He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #2
- ↑ He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #3
- ↑ He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #4
- ↑ He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #5
- ↑ He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #6