thrift store finds: masters of the universe- caverns of fear

(Thrift Store Finds is a mostly-weekly “column” of sorts where I discuss some of the cool books I’ve happened upon in my neighborhood St. Vincent DePaul store. Please don’t mistake me for an expert on any of the books I am writing about… I’m just a fan of a bargain.)

For the next two weeks, we’re looking at a collection of children’s books featuring He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, published by Golden Books in the early 1980’s.

MotU was an early obsession of mine, hitting toy shelves and television screens just around the time I was old enough to appreciate such things. He-Man looms large in my mind as a show full of magic and adventure, but as with most things beloved in childhood, his televised adventures are best left to memory. Revisiting them as I did in this comic, a few years ago leads to diminishing returns.

Far more fun and interesting to me were the toys, which I collected and played with for years. These books recapture some of those memories for me.

I’ll look at one this week, and one next week. If you have no interest in Masters of the Universe, you may want to skip TSF for the next half-month.

The first book we’ll be looking at is Caverns of Fear, published in 1983, was written by Mary Carey with illustrations from Al McWilliams.

McWilliams’ art might look familiar to some of you- he did a lot of newspaper comic work throughout his career, including the short-lived Star Trek comic strip. If I have to guess, McWilliams seems to have been working off early character designs for the Masters’ license, as some of the artistic choices he makes aren’t really in step with the animated series. Ditto Carey’s story, which involves He-Man and the Masters stopping Skeletor from gaining access to the fabled Castle Greyskull through an underground cavern.

There are some nicely evocative pages here, like this one where He-Man finds himself in the titular cavern for the first time…

but the characters look slightly off from their most well-known incarnations. Beast-Man has that weird bald thing going on

Man-at-Arms is mustache-less, Teela is wearing that weird snake head-piece rarely featured on the animated series

Again, from what I gather, these distinguishing features mark the book as being created early in the MoTU process.

This book also has something in common with my last He-Man discovery, the comic included in this issue of Masters of the Universe Magazine. Caverns of Fear is, at places, a weird picture book/comic hybrid. It’s very oddly done and I wonder why they decided to include word balloons at all. There’s only two instances of word balloons and they occur with no rhyme or reason that I can distinguish.

Although I try to avoid purely nostalgic purchases like this, I owned this book as a kid and I absolutely could not resist Caverns of Fear. This book was burned into my memory… but I remember this book being originally presented to me as an audiobook. Very likely you remember these: listen to the cassette provided with the book, turn the page when the narrator tells you. I am not sure if my copy of Caverns of Fear was originally a book-on-tape copy, or if Golden Books sold the book sans cassette.

In any case, I was completely pleased to find the entirety of Caverns of Fear available on YouTube:

Dig those eerie background sound effects! They really sold me on He-Man as a wee one.

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3 Responses to “thrift store finds: masters of the universe- caverns of fear”

  1. […] The second Masters of the Universe book in this set is Time Trouble. Written by Roger McKenzie with art from Eduardo Barreto, this was published by Golden Books in 1983, a year after last week’s TSF, Caverns of Fear. […]

  2. […] MotU toys like crazy. They’ve started requesting He-Man stories at bedtime, including these two previous Thrift Store […]

  3. My son grew up in the He-Man / Masters of the Universe / Thundercats time frame. When I was a teen, I was a big sci-fi fan and LOVED a Canadian show called “The Starlost.” It didn’t last more than a season and is probably fairly obscure to most, but when the episodes were released on DVD a few years ago I was thrilled. And my reaction was much the same as yours — disappointment and incredulity. Really low-budget and dated (this futuristic show still had the characters using cassette tapes) and not at all forward-thinking like Star Trek. Still, it was fun while it lasted.

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