Princess of Power

Princess of PowerPrincess of Power was a series of action figures directed specifally towards girls. The series profited of the success of Masters of the Universe and was produced by Mattel, probably as a test to see if girls would buy such figures or not.
Die figures centered around the main character She-ra were sold from 1985 to 1987 and some of the characters have been revived as new action figures for a short time some years later when there was a new go at Masters of the Universe action figures.

She-ra resp. her alter ego princess Adora is the sister of He-man/Prince Adam, the hero of the back then very popular toy line Masters of the Universe. Depending on which storyline you follow she has either been kidnapped and was brought to the neighbour planet Etheria as a baby where she grew up alone in Crystal Castle or she was kidnapped and raised on Etheria as one of the bad ones and later broke free of the mind control her stepfather held her under.
Similar to Superman She-ra usually leads an unremarkable life as princess Adora and almost none of her numerous friends knows that she is the mysterious She-ra who time and time again saves the land from the plans of the evil catdemon Catra.

Princess of Power is rather similar to action figures than to dolls since most of the clothes like shoes, armlets and the "bathing suit" are modelled and printed on. Only skirts and a few accessoires are made of fabric and the dolls have combable hair. The dolls are appr. 14cm tall and they can move their arms and legs to the front and the head sidewards. Their legs are made of hard plastic and can not - like e.g. Barbie often can - bend in the knee. Each comes with a comb and a shield and most have a gem in their chest or belly. Apart from doll figures there was also additional stuff like the crystal horses, the Crystal Castle or the big swan Enchanta which allows to dolls to ride on it. Of course Clawdeen, Catra's pink cat mount with locks and diamond eyes, was available too. There were also additional fashion sets for the numerous parties.
There was only one male doll, the bowman Bow who of course is deeply in love with She-ra and fought over by all the other ladies.

Princess of PowerEach doll comes with a special gimmick fitting its role.
She-ra for instance comes with the special mask that's seen on the photos. On the first photo she is princess Adora, on the other picture she's She-ra, the Princess of Power. Her arms move simultaneously to play out the transformation process and she comes with her magic sword and stars on the inside of her cape. (Actually this is Magic Cape She-ra. I never saw the first, regular She-ra anywhere in Germany.) The third photo shows Angella, the friend and spy whose wings open when the button behind her head is pushed. Then there's the mermaid Mermista, besides others, who has a removable mermaid fin and carries a shell on her back which allows her to spurt water from her necklace. The spy Peek-a-blue carries peacock feathers on her back which can open to the typical peacock wheel. Perfuma, princess of wild flowers, carries a large flower on her back which can open and is scented and butterfly faerie Flutterina can flutter up and down on a cord with her butterfly wings moving. Sweet Bee glows in the dark and her wings have two sides - one glittery, normal one and a red one which she uses to warn her friends of danger. Angella's daughter glimmer, the Guardian of Light, also comes with a tiara and magic wand that glow in the dark. Catra has some kind of karate chop function which makes a scratchy noise and double agent Double Trouble even has two faces beneath her helmet and can wear one or the other. Other figures like Frosta or Netossa have special weapons.

Merchandize for Princess of Power included a series of audio dramas (at least in Germany, with 10 regular episodes and one promotional episode which was bundled with the She-ra doll) and a cartoon series and some movies which were crossovers with Masters of the Universe. Additionally each figure came bundled with a tiny, often nicely drawn comic book. If unlucky these comics were written in English (or worse, in French or Spanish), which furthered my efforts to start learning English in primary school to be able to understand these stories as soon as possible.
A real comic series like they did for Masters was not made for Princess of Power, at least not in Germany.

The stark contrast between the cartoon, the audio dramas, the comics and the quarterly catalogues was irritating even for me as a child. In the cartoon Adora grew up in the Horde, a criminal organsation that reigns terror on Etheria. After being converted to the "good guys" by her brother He-man she joins the rebellion as one of their leaders and fights there against the Horde's Troopers, her main opponent being Hordak, who's a known bad guy from Masters. Catra and several others are his lieutnants here. The Horde's goal is to conquer all of Etheria and squash the rebellion, while the rebellion of course strives to drive the Horde off Etheria once and for all.

When following the audio dramas, however, Adora is the leader of all Etheria, the peaceful, sunny planet which knows only one thread - a vulcano on the other side of the river. In this vulcano lives a magician who's Catra's master and sometimes he sends black clouds across the river to take away Etheria's sunshine. Sheer horror! Then Adora turns into She-ra and scares off the clouds with her magic sword. Catra's own evil plans usually consist of spinning intrigues between the princesses. There are parties of all kind all the time and that one princess or faerie who felt treated worst at the party is usually talked into doing something exceptionally bad later by Catra. Then She-ra cleans up the machinations, everything is well again and the next party is held. Catra's ultimate goal is the conquest of Crystal Castle to become leader of Etheria herself. This is despite more and more facts becoming visible each episode that she can't even conquer Crystal Castle, due to the magic well or thanks to other permanent spell effects she can't bare. So why she wants the castle so dearly - especially since there is seldom any talk of population and Adora doesn't do any visible leading of anyone - is beyond me.

So while in the cartoon Adora/She-ra shoots laser beams with her sword all the time to dismember robots, throws monsters several miles away like she were Hulk or helps calm down an angry dragon by adding bowties to its hair the audio dramas consist of coffee parties with cat fights and cloudy skies.

The small comics however contain stories which fit the typical fantasy line for young people best. Here Catra may lead a demon horde against Crystal Castle, Frosta uses her icewheel to freeze opponents or flesheating plants put the lives of the faeries and princesses in danger. Even Bow may admit his love for Adora once. In the comic which came with the She-ra doll the story is told how Hordak takes Adora away and brings her to Etheria. He doesn't seem to have raised her in this story though. (Which fits the storyline of Masters of the Universe, since actually he came back to Eternia with new powers some years later and did not stay on Etheria.) Zoar, the guardian of Castle Grayskull, sends He-man off to Etheria to find her and thus the secret about the siblings is solved.
Of all stories I liked these tiny comic books best, especially since their drawing style was rather like e.g. Conan the Barbarian comics and less like typical comics for kids. Sadly they had very few pages each and thus could never tell really strong stories.

 

My opinion of Princess of Power:

Princess of PowerSince I used to play with my brother's Masters figures before I was totally excited by Princess of Power, of course. She-ra had a sword, after all, and I loved the overll strong fantasy influence of the toy line, which was full of princesses and faeries with wings, mermaid fins or peacock feathers on their backs. Stylable hair and the glittering gems posed an additional point of interest to the little girl I was. Sadly there weren't many figures.
Of course even back then there were things that annoyed me. It only took days for the paint on the shoe tips and heels to scratch off and the stickers on the clothes - which at least were usually sewn on - kept breaking and loosing bits and bobs. The worst were the horses. All of my friends ended up with horses with no tail, since those were only fixated by a tiny plastic tube inside the transparent horse. I acted quickly and saved them with rubber bands at the hairline or by braiding their tails so the hair couldn't get loose.

Of course many things broke because I was little and well, played a lot with these figures! When I think about that they endured quite a lot and just yesterday I thought that the elastics which keep She-ras cape in place around her wrists are in quite good shape for something that's over 25 years old. When I look at the elastics I bought for my sewing stash two years ago... had to throw out some of them unused since they started to crumble.
One day the magical well Crystal Falls didn't bubble anymore without wetting the carpet, Sea-Harps build-in harp broke with one last "PLONG", the ridable butterfly Butterflier lost the hooks that held the figures, small clothing items like chokers or belts ripped or devided into separate materials and Peek-a-blue's feathers had to be glued on because I insisted on opening them as wide as on the photo.
When I remember how often these dolls were sunk in the garden pond, accompanied me to the sandbox or forest and that I played with them for about seven years straight then the quality is actually abnormally high!

There are only two things which annoy me besides the horse tails: First of, Bow - of all things - is the only one who didn't age well. The figure is sticky from head to toe and usually that's a sure sign of softener going awry. I had this effect on several old Barbies and other dolls and never found a working method to counter it. The poor guy sits in a plastic bag and hopes for the day I do find a working solution in the depths of the internet.
Secondly, there was one really badly designed detail, and that's the horse's wings. Crystal Sunbeam and Crystal Moondancer one day simply lost their wings - they were connected with the saddle girth and went through holes in the saddle. One day the strain just got too much. In case of Crystal Spirit I even cut off the wings on my own accord. Why? Because he is just a simple crystal horse when Adora is herself. Only when she turns into She-ra Spirit becomes the winged unicorn Swiftwind. It was impossible to take off the wings without taking off the whole saddle though. So I cut them off and used rubber bands and duct tape. Will be fun to get that back into decent shape today. ;)

I liked the catalogues and the mini comics and as a child I naturally also listened to the audio dramas and later watched the cartoon, the latter I was never fond of though. Although She-ra was from time to time allowed to really fight in that none of the characters had any resemblance to the toys though and there were barely any characters I knew anyway. Most characters from the cartoon were never available as toys in turn, which I didn't mind because I didn't like them.

Sadly the series died off quickly and there were figures all the time which were never avaibable in Germany. Of the first She-ra and Catra I only saw drawings on the back of another doll's package. Sweet Bee and the magical owl Kowl were also offlimits here - luckily someone bought them for me in the Netherlands. I never got my hands on the sorceress Castaspella though, which always saddened me. Towards the end Mattel probably gave up trying to sell the figures everywhere. While Netossa was on sale here - and I loved her as she was the first black person in the series! - the other characters and new versions of She-ra and Catra advertized with her I could never find anywhere. And then Princess of Power was dead.

Everything I own of Princess of Power sits in a box on the attic, including the Crystal Castle, the magical well Crystal Falls and all mounts and additional outfits. Many items aren't complete anymore and sometimes need heavy restauration. I will do my best to repair these figures as best as I can since they shall not stay missing in the galleries. Princess of Power cemented my love for fantasy and I can't count how many hours I spent drawing these figures, copying poses from the tiny comics or thinking up stories. So my love for writing and drawing originates from these toys too and I will never give them away. :)



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