Popular culture has a way of living beyond its expiration date on the internet. The song, film or cartoon that was once popular may disappear from the mainstream, but re-emerges years later and evolves into something else entirely online. The comeback of Skeletor on the internet is a perfect case study.
The muscular blue demon with a skull in place of his head became a household name after the release of the animated series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe in 1983. Based on Mattel’s toy line, the adventures of He-Man centered around the titular hero’s efforts to prevent Skeletor’s evil forces from conquering the planet Eternia. Loosely inspired by Robert E Howard’s Conan the Barbarian stories, the He-Man franchise’s sword-and-sorcery tales and his declaration “I have the power” were very popular throughout the 1980s, including in India, where the series was broadcast on Doordarshan.
The failure of the franchise’s first and only live-action film, Masters of the Universe (1987), spelled doom for Eternia. The toys, comic books, and the spin-offs disappeared, and a new animated series was not produced until 2002.
Cut to 2017: Skeletor continues to run amok on the internet thanks to the Twitter account @GrumpySkeletor. The account draws inspiration from various elements of the character, including his disdain for He-Man, his repeated attempts to fight the bulky hero and his sarcastic quips targeted at his subordinates. Skeletor’s misanthropy is fused them with contemporary pop-culture references to create jokes that he would most likely crack.
Followed by over 87,000 Twitter accounts, @GrumpySkeletor is only the latest incarnation of a Skeletor meme since the 2000s.
In 2005, Skeletor appeared on the internet for the first time as a meme. A parody video, Fabulous Secret Powers, was released on YouTube, which showed He-Man singing 4 Non Blondes’ 1992 hit What’s Up. The video was uploaded on various websites and re-blogged under various titles, most popularly as He-Man Sings.
The video featured Skeletor yelling “Myaah” for a split second. The moment was taken out of context and remodelled into memes, fan art and remix videos.
This was followed by “Inspirational Skeletor”, an image macro series consisting of screenshots featuring Skeletor from the ‘80s animated series along with sagely life advice.
In December 2014, Skeletor reappeared in an online campaign by Honda wherein the character “took over” the automobile company’s Twitter account.
Honda’s Twitter account began to tweet quotes by and images of Skeletor who listed the benefits of owning a Honda product. The short-lived campaign was an early teaser for what Skeletor was to become on Twitter thanks to the efforts of @GrumpySkeletor.