Kevin Smith Hopes that 'Masters of the Universe: Revelation' Part 2 Sticks the Landing
The showrunner of Netflix’s animated throwback weighs in on Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, and what that big teaser ending means for the future of the series.
He-Man fans, rejoice! The loinclothed “most powerful man in the universe” is back in Netflix’s Masters of the Universe: Revelation Part 2. And no—contrary to what the internet might’ve led you to believe, showrunner Kevin Smith did not kill off your beloved musclebound hero. Back when Revelation Part 1 debuted in July, it ended with a colossal cliffhanger: It seemed as if the nefarious Skeletor (Mark Hamill) finally bested Eternia’s champion. Episode 5 concluded with Skeletor skewering Prince Adam (He-Man’s alter ego), claiming the Power Sword, transforming into the hulking SkeleGod, and declaring himself ruler of all Eternia.
While Revelation Part 1 was hailed by critics, earning a commendable 98% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a fraction of the franchise’s passionate fanbase begged to differ, and unleashed a whirlwind of contrarian opinions, knee-jerk reactions, and venomous speculation about where the series would go—and, unfortunately, Smith took the brunt of the toxicity.
Now, Masters of the Universe: Revelation Part 2 (which consists of Episodes 6–10) is here to complete the second half of Smith and crew’s overall vision, and guess what? Even as the Part 2 trailers already indicated some time ago, He-Man is alive and well—cue the fanbase’s epic sigh of relief. As expected, Revelation Part 2 is laced with nostalgia and loaded with winks and nods that will give eagle-eyed fans plenty to chew on. And yes, and you’ll get to see He-Man (Chris Wood) and Skeletor duke it out in perhaps one of their grandest smackdowns, ever.
While donning a backwards Mooby Moo hat, complete with horns and all, the maestro of the View Askewniverse (Clerks, Mallrats, Jay and Silent Bob, and more) himself took some time to engage in a lengthy and nerdy Masters of the Universe chat over Zoom with Thrillist. Here, we discuss where exactly Skeletor stands next to Darth Vader and Joker in the pantheon of greatest pop culture villains of all time, why he was drawn to give Evil-Lyn (Lena Headey) such a beautiful story arc, and what exactly that big tease at the end of Part 2 means for Season 2 (assuming he lands the opportunity).
This post contains spoilers for Masters of the Universe: Revelation Part 2.
Thrillist: You clearly love Skeletor. If you had to make a greatest pop culture villains of all time list, where would you place him?
Kevin Smith: This could be controversial due to the fact that I'm working on Masters of the Universe, but honestly, I think it goes Darth Vader, Skeletor. Thinking about pop culture villains, who else ranks as high? And I'm not just talking about your misunderstood villains like Frankenstein or Dracula. I'm talking about true villain—somebody who has nothing but bad intended. So I feel like you got Darth Vader, Skeletor, Joker, and then somewhere down the list, you got some Marvel villains, but I put him high up there, man. Even people who don't know Masters of the Universe know Skeletor because he's just a badass visual. He's got a skull for a face. That's metal as hell.
Masters of the Universe: Revelation Part 1 was well received by critics, but there was also some toxic fandom in the mix. Are you hoping that Part 2 wins back the naysayer fanbase? Because in a way, they were judging you by only seeing half of your vision.
Yeah, that was always the frustrating thing. A lot of people were dismissive, but at the root of it, yes, I'm sure there were some people who were just jumping on a political bandwagon. But you had some cats who were legit like, "This was my childhood, and you did sad things to all of them." If you only watch the first five, that's how it plays. We thought people would go out on a cool cliffhanger with Episode 5, and then they would be like, "Oh, I can't wait until Episode 6!"
But it did leave us in this position where we broke all the toys, and they didn't know that they were fixed in the next five. So instead, we had to take a lot of heat. Some cats literally thought we killed Orko. In retrospect, I wish all ten had gone up because then it would've negated all that. I'm not saying releasing all ten would've made everyone love it. I'm sure there'd still be some people who are like, "I don't like it. It ain't for me." Some won't come back. But maybe years down the road, someone will tell them, "No, it sticks the landing." The best you can hope for is that they give it a roll, eventually.
You did all these cool things that had never been done before. For example, you brought in Scare Glow, Vikor, He-Ro, and all these other obscure characters who made their animated debut, yet some fans were hung up on minuscule things like Teela’s new haircut. Was that a bit frustrating?
I'll be honest with you. I had nothing but enthusiasm right up to the moment the episodes dropped. Because honestly, I didn't think we screwed with anyone's childhood. I thought we honored it. If you know the Mattel source material, this thing is so crazy true to what was created years ago. Which, by the time you get to the second half, you see what we were going for. I honestly felt like, "Oh man, any kid who's ever loved Masters of the Universe who’s an adult now is going to love this." I knew there were going to be some people who were like, "It ain't for me,” but I never thought we would make people unhappy.
In the way that I sat by the sidelines and watched people react to The Last Jedi and thought, "Man, people really take this stuff seriously!" I suddenly found myself at the epicenter of something like that and it was heartbreaking for me because I honestly thought we were giving people the ultimate Masters of the Universe, so it was a bummer.
In Part 2, we see some familiar faces get reintroduced. We catch a glimpse of Stratos and Buzz-Off. We also got a small dose of Ram Man. Did you have a list of characters you wish you could've featured, but it just didn’t work with the story? There are so many characters we didn’t get to see such as Mekaneck, Granamyr, and Zodak.
You literally just mentioned two names we tried to shoehorn into our story. If we get to do a Season 2, be assured you will probably be seeing those cats. But we tried. We were like, "All right, what if we did this?" But it turned out we were like, "If we get to do a Season 2, based on what we seeded in Season 1, Mekaneck will be a very useful character there." And same thing with Granamyr as well. But it's an embarrassment of riches with Masters of the Universe because the bench is so deep. I'm sure by the end of Revelation, there will be people who are mad at us, not because of anything we did the story, but because we didn't include their favorite figure.
Speaking of Ram Man, he is voiced by Danny Trejo. He's likely the last person anyone ever expected to voice Ram Man.
For us, we were looking at the cast and it's incredibly diverse across the board. Eric Carrasco, one of our writers, he was like, "I'm looking at the cast. I'm not seeing any Latinos here." And I was like, "Oh my God, you're right." And so we were like, "Who is the ultimate person that we could get to play Ram Man?" And we were like, "What about Danny?" Jason Mewes, who plays Stinkor, is very tight with Danny. So I was like, "Hit him up and see if he'd be into it." And mercifully Danny was like, "Oh my God, absolutely." So Danny came into the booth and he'd done voiceover work before, so he was familiar with it, but he loved that he was playing Ram Man. He's like, "I know this action figure!" And I was like, "That's why we gave it to you, man."
You also managed to squeeze in two very obscure villains: Goat Man and Pigboy. You even crack a joke in the dialogue: "They're really scraping the bottom of the barrel here." What made you pick those two guys out of everyone else you could’ve used?
The joke was the idea that we get to show off the toys. I think it was our Powerhouse Animation directors, Pat Stannard and Adam Conarroe, who were like, "I really feel like we should show them all." Show all the henchmen, show a lineup of figures. And so that's where that Evil-Lyn scene came from, where she's like, "The bumbling of the past won't be tolerated.” That was a nice way to showcase all our baddies. When we introduced Pigboy and Goat Man, the idea was they've already gone through everybody, so who's left? And mercifully, they were like, "You get to play both." So I got to play both Goat Man and Pig Boy.
Evil-Lyn has a very interesting character arc this season. What drew you to focus on her?
Once you remove Skeletor, suddenly, you get room to breathe and you get to investigate the other villains and Evil-Lyn is a really interesting character, particularly with the backstory we played with—she’s a victim herself. We came up with that in the writer's room. When we knew we had Lena Headey, we were like, "Oh my God, let's lean into this heavily." She's a brilliant actress and she could pull off the heartbreak, because it wasn't about "Evil-Lyn is now Super Evil-Lyn!" Clearly, she's somebody who's traumatized and trying to end her pain by ending all existence. So it was the combination of, "Oh, look at how interesting this character is once you take the big guys out of the way," with, "Hey, we have an actress who can pull this off, man. Let's really write to it." So that was my favorite.
We tell a lot of stories in Revelation, but her arc is wonderful. It's the one that I don't think anybody sees coming, but I think it's the one that nobody begrudges because this is a character who's been with the franchise since they released the very first action figures. And in the same way we're investigating Teela and her relationship to He-Man and Adam, we get to really investigate Evil-Lyn and her relationship with Skeletor without him being a looming force of like, "Here's yet another plan," she finds a moment to figure out what she wants.
And unfortunately, her perspective is skewed. After being beaten down for so long, when she looks into the infinite, she sees nothing. Whereas Teela sees something and that was so important for us with the big fight at the end. It's a franchise of action figures, so you want to smash the figures into each other and fight, but we couldn't have Teela beat Evil-Lyn into submission. What would that prove, if anything? So the battle is in her heart at the end of the day. They fisticuff it out, but then ultimately, Teela has to appeal to her humanity in order to save her from herself—really beautiful stuff. The two writers of Episodes 9 and 10, Tim Sheridan and Eric Carrasco, did such an amazing job. And Teddy Biaselli, who's our boss at Netflix, he's a massive Evil-Lyn fan. At the beginning of this, he kept pushing, "Make sure you do her justice. She's a great character and she's never really had the stage to herself." And so we feel like we addressed that.
Revelation is the first animated iteration that totally goes there with the Skeletor and Evil-Lyn romance. Even though Skeletor doesn’t have lips, they're making out. But if you look at the 2002 series or even the 1987 movie, there were hints of a romance between the two.
It's been hinted at everywhere that they are more than just archvillain and sidekick. They've got a bond that goes beyond that. And so, we wanted to play with her sensuality in that sequence where she's going to trick the sword away from him. Evil-Lyn is so much more clever than him and she knows him so insanely well that she's able to disarm him with a kiss, more or less. Play that relationship. In the same way, he always played the relationship with her and puppeteered her, she gets to turn the tables and the victimized becomes the victimizer in this instance.
Part 2 ends with another big cliffhanger. Obviously, we see the Horde symbol. People tend to equate Hordak with She-Ra. Do you want them to be introduced in your universe?
Of course, I want to play with Hordak. If you're playing with Skeletor, and you're playing in the world of Masters of the Universe, yes, naturally he's mostly identified with She-Ra, but the Fright Zone is a Masters of the Universe play set. So naturally you want to play with that toy, but they did such an amazing job fleshing out that character over multiple seasons of She-Ra, that it's a little daunting to be like, "All right, now I'm going to play with him," because we're not going to have three seasons to turn him into this insanely compelling character like they did.
So at that point you go, "Well, do you give them a Hordak? Or do you give them the greatest Hordak ever made, which you don't have enough time to pull off if you get a whole season to do it?" But then that way is fear, right? The only reason we wouldn't use Hordak is we're scared that people would be like, "You did it wrong!" And to be fair, I just lived through that [laughs]. And I came out the other end okay. So people are always going to have an opinion that's counter to yours. You know that I'm going to get blamed regardless now. After the first go-round, that's where the buck stopped. It was like, my writers, my directors, and my cast—no shit on their shoes whatsoever. Every one of those articles was like, "Kevin fucking Smith ruined it!" So if I'm going to get blamed for everything, I might as well make sure that I put in stuff that matters to me in terms of storytelling.
In addition to your show, Netflix also had the CG He-Man and the Masters of the Universe debut this year, which was a very different, kid-friendly take that made drastic changes to some of the characters. With that show, you got to sit back and watch someone else play in the sandbox. What was your opinion on their changes to the mythology?
Their trailer came out after people saw what we did with Masters of the Universe: Revelation. When I first saw it, all I could think was, "These poor sons of bitches." If they went after us, what are they going to do to these cats? The point of their show is, "We all have the power." And I was like, "If we got called up on the carpet, what's going to happen to them?" Nothing happened to them. And people were like, "It's a kid's show. There's a difference. That show is for kids. Revelation was for adults!" They were mad at us because we maintained that we were sequel to the original series.
Whereas He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is what they all give a pass as like, "Well, that's a kid show, and they're allowed to be creative, and they're allowed to reinvent it. But you had the responsibility to make sure the story we grew up watching was served and we didn't think you did it in some cases." So I thought those cats were going to get crucified and I felt so bad because I think the show is beautiful. I think the message is great. I was so jealous, I was like, "Wait a second. Their whole message is ‘We all have the power’? Why didn't we do that? That's great!” And they asked me to be involved, I'm a voice on the show.
I think it's more important that He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was embraced because that's the future of the franchise. Whereas we're still telling stories from the past, which don't get me wrong, that's fun to do, but if Masters hopes to continue on into the 21st century, I think it's going to be He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. The CG cartoon will have to be the standard bearer.
This interview has been edited and condensed.