The Return of He-Man in 2002
Most everyone has a passing familiarity with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. The super-popular action figure line combining science fiction and fantasy from toy giant Mattel in the 1980s is famous for many reasons, but it faded as the '80s ended. The brand is also well known also for it's very popular Filmation television show, as well as it's spin-off She-Ra Princess of Power, but less known is it's an attempt to re-brand with a larger emphasis on science fiction in the 1990s. The New Adventures of He-Man was met with little interest in the 1990s. It wasn't until 2002 that Mattel decided to bring back He-Man and the Masters of the Universe again as a more detailed toy line, and a redone show by Mike Young Productions that took the original concept and tried to keep faithful to the original ideas but tell a more serialized story.
The brought back toy line did not do as well as Mattel wanted, and the show only got to air 39 episodes, a 26 episode first season, and then a shortened 13 episode second season. Many fans of the original series enjoyed the greater detail of the toys, which carried over into the Matty Collector exclusive line soon after. Also, the attempt to have a more focused cartoon that took the original Masters of the Universe ideas and worked on building toward larger ideas in a serialized storytelling fashion the original Filmation series lacked. Beyond focusing on the main original villain Skeletor and his henchmen, the 2002 cartoon also included episodes focused on Hordak and the Evil Horde known more in animation from She-Ra, as well as bringing the Snake Men and their leader King Hiss (or King Hssss) fully into animation. In addition, fans of the He-Man brand, writer Val Staples and artist Emiliano Santalucia, got the rights to do a companion comic book through MV Creations publishing. The comic was published initially by Image and even had issues written by the Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman. However, as the cartoon wrapped in 2004, so too did the comic and new He-Man and the Masters of the Universe content disappeared again. (The Masters of the Universe future now lies with Dreamworks and Netflix. They saw their She-Ra and the Princesses of Power series just end, and two new He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series to air on Netflix, including the Kevin Smith led Masters of the Universe Revelation.)
BCI Brings Back He-Man, to DVD
In 2005 He-Man returned again, this time to DVD as BCI Eclipse brought the original Filmation series to DVD, followed by She-Ra Princess of Power, and then the New Adventures of He-Man. Each box set had extensive artwork throughout by Emiliano Santalucia, and exclusive collectible art cards by a wide range of comic book artists, including Bruce Timm and Adam Hughes, and extensive documentaries produced by Andy Mangels. Then in 2007 BCI Eclipse brought the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe 2002 series to DVD, with some small changes. The box-sets were a bit slimmer, still with extensive artwork throughout by Emiliano Santalucia, and exclusive art cards still included, but now the slimmer sets were designed to fit in a larger Best Buy exclusive box, issued with the first set sold at Best Buy. 2007 saw store exclusives for each Masters of the Universe 2002 set (a now common practice), with each getting a Target exclusive and a Best Buy exclusive. For the third set, Target included an exclusive key chain. However, Best Buy got the chance to produce a much more desirable exclusive, a comic book ashcan sized adaptation of the un-produced 40th episode, titled "Captured."
Episode 40, "Captured" as a Comic Book
The cancellation of the 2002 He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was not a total surprise, but Mike Young Productions had been working and still producing episodes when the show was canceled. The creative team had ideas where the future episodes would go, and one of the main writers Dean Stefan, had scripted the 40th episode, "Captured." Taking that script, MV Creations in 2008 produced a full 22-page comic book, adapted by Ryan Foley and drawn Emiliano Santalucia, with colors by Val Staples.
The comic picks up right where the 39th episode left off with King Hssss defeated by Zodak and He-Man, and King Hssss' main head destroyed. Imprisoned by Man-At-Arms in a new prison, the leader of the Snake Men is not rescued by his own forces but is liberated by Skeletor's henchmen, so that Skeletor may have revenge.
The comic balances the action and dialogue well, but tries to squeeze a lot into 22 pages since it is based on a television script designed to last 20 minutes.
The comic also shows a major plot thread going forward, that has become a significant staple in He-Man fiction. It is included even in the Tim Seeley written Dark Horse / Matty Collector comics from 2012 and the upcoming Mondo exclusive figure, that of Man-At-Arms as a Snake Man.
The comic book was printed the one time and has never seen another printing or re-printing. It was included as a digital pdf in the re-issued DVD collection for the 2002 He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series by Mil Creek in 2012, but that set as well is out of print. On the secondary market, eBay, Amazon, not one site had a copy up for sale. So while you can definitely find it online to read, physical copies apparently are very rare.