One of the highlights of the recent Mattypalooza event at San Diego Comic Con 2014 was the announcement that Dark Horse would be creating an art book dedicated to everything Masters of the Universe. So far, fans have been shown the cover and a few select preview pages. The book will cover every era of the Masters of the Universe mythos from the vintage 80s line (and Princess of Power!) through New Adventures, the 2002 relaunch and Masters of the Universe Classics.
The information Dark Horse released had many MOTU fans eager to hear more about the project, and left people with a few questions. The team at Dark Horse graciously agreed to an interview about the The Art of He-man and the Masters of the Universe, so that fans could learn more about the project. Interviewed are Dark Horse editor Daniel Chabon, as well as writers and coordinators Tim and Steve Seeley.
Read the interview below and see what other fans have to say on the Org forums!
Interview by Jon Wesley Huff.
Q: How did the project to create an Art of He-man book start?
Daniel Chabon: In 2011, Dark Horse was working with Mattel on three Masters of the Universe mini-comics that were to be collected with their Classics line action figures. We hired Tim Seeley to write the comics because we knew he was a huge fan and expert of the media franchise. We had a lot of fun working on those and had brought in fantastic artists to participate such as Eric Powell, Raymond Swanland, and Wellinton Alves.
Following that we had been pitching the idea of an MOTU art book to Mattel over the last couple of years. There is over thirty years of material to choose from by many great artists. We thought that it would be a real treat for MOTU fans if we published an official and comprehensive retrospective chronicling the art from this pop culture phenomenon.
Q: How did you go about assembling the creative team working on the book?
DC: We had such a great time working with Tim on the MOTU mini-comics and on several Dark Horse comic book series (more recently on his creator-owned ongoing title Sundowners) that when we had began pitching writers for the art book we had Tim at the top of the list. Mattel agreed that he was a great choice and Tim brought in his brother Steve to help us with organizing and writing the book. Both of them have been absolutely fundamental. They are both MOTU experts and have a lot of friends in the MOTU community who have been extremely helpful and beneficial to the book. My assistant on the book, Ian Tucker, and the book designer, Jimmy Presler, are both MOTU fans and experts as well and have been indispensable.
Q: It's great to hear so many fans are working on this book! I'd love to hear how you guys came to discover MOTU. What's your first MOTU memory?
Tim Seeley: For my sixth birthday, in 1983, my aunt bought me the very first He-Man and Battle Cat set. It blew my mind. I immediately read, and reread the mini comic until it fell apart.
Steve Seeley: We were obsessed from the beginning. I remember all of the Seeley boys getting Man At Arms and being upset that the figure didn't have a mustache like the cartoon, so my dad drew one on. I'm pretty sure Tim still has that one.
DC: I had most of the original series toys when I was a kid. I remember trying the remove the fake blood from the Mosquitor toy.
Q: So, I have to ask… what's your all-time favorite MOTU toy?
TS: Faker or Teela. It's a tough call for me. I think Faker is maybe the coolest looking action figure of all time. But I have a special place in my heart for Teela.
SS: Oh god. So many. I'd have to agree with Tim, Faker is definitely up there. The colors on him are so ingrained in me and all aspects of my creativity. So classic. So weird. I'm also a huge Hordak fan, especially the original figure (Buzzsaw and Hurricane ain’t got nothing on him!). Other toppers: Clamp Champ, Blast Attak, Scareglow and Spikor.
DC: Modulok! Hands down. I also liked Roboto.
Q: So how far along are you on the project at this point?
DC: I’d say we’re about 60% completed. We anticipate completion around October or November.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the process for tracking down the artwork?
DC: We hit up a bunch of different people who were super kind and willing to donate art from their private collections. Art that I had never seen before. We met some of these folks at conventions or tracked them down through the internet and through Tim, Steve, and Val Staples.
Q: Any idea of what rough percentage has come from Mattel and how much came from individual collectors?
DC: It is hard to tell at this point. Mattel sent us a bunch of great material from their archives to use. They sent boxes and boxes of great pieces to be scanned from their archives. It was a treasure trove of MOTU material. It took us a long time to get all of it scanned for use in the art book.
Q: Was there a piece that you were particularly excited about discovering or finding?
DC: There’s an Alex Ross pencil piece I never knew existed. We also managed to track down a lot of the McQuarrie art and a nice image of the 2002 Frank Quitely cover.
Q: Do you have an all-time favorite piece of MOTU art? Is there one that just really struck you as a kid, for instance? What about as an adult?
TS: My favorite of all time is a weird one, but I think it's the back cover to the original Alfredo Alcala mini comics. It was the first stuff I saw, and that drawing just filled me with imagination and wonder.
SS: Both as a kid and as an adult, the cover/poster of He-man magazine issue #14, where He-man is fighting Skeletor in space, by Earl Norem. Brilliant. Also, Earl's Hordak and the Horde poster from issue # 3 is incredible.
Q: Masters of the Universe fans seem particularly drawn to the art that has been featured over the years in association with the line, do you have any theories about why that might be? What draws you to it, personally?
DC: There were so many great names attached to the art. Rudy Obrero, Earl Norem, Ralph McQuarrie, Dave Stevens, Moebius, William Stout. The list goes on and on. It’s amazing to see how many talented people participated in one franchise. There are so many creative characters to draw that were a part of MOTU. I think it provided the artists with a lot of fun characters to choose from when they drew them.
TS: I think it's because MOTU is so versatile. It can be portrayed in so many different ways from dark fantasy to sci-fi to cartoony and kiddy. Everyone can have their own MOTU, and let their imagination run wild.
SS: Tim nailed it. Also, it really was the first of its kind. Something truly new for our generation. In a time before the internet and message boards and blogs, you didn't know how cool something was until you saw it on the shelf and I think so many of us had that jaw-dropping moment when we first saw He-man (or Skeletor, etc) in the store. And then later, you had the toy in your hand and it was in a cartoon on TV. It was so gratifying.
Q: So, Tim and Steve—as brothers, you both grew up in the same house with MOTU... did you have one big collection you shared? Did you keep them separate? And, be honest... did MOTU ever lead to any fights?
TS: We had separate collections. Steve and I were the MotU guys while our youngest brother Brad was a dabbler who had some He-Man figures but was primarily into G.I.JOE. We mostly all played together pretty well, but I do remember arguments with Brad over which was the superior toy line.
SS: We had a lot of duplicates among us, but we were pretty good at keeping stuff separate, however between all three of us we had everything. The only thing we never got of the US releases was Eternia. I don't think we argued too much, but I know for a fact, over the years, I acquired some of Brad and Tim's figures. Hell, I still have "my" original Sorceress, which I'm pretty sure was Tim's. I still feel guilty looking at her.
Q: Do you still have any of your other original vintage figures?
TS: I have my original He-Man, my original Battle Cat, and my King Hiss and Tyrantisaurus. Everything else I stupidly sold when I was 13 because...well..13. I have since collected the entire series, and replaced all my lost toys, with Steve's assistance.
SS: I have a few originals, my Faker, Clamp Champ, and Scareglow. Like Tim said, when he was 13, I was 11 and Brad was 10, we decided to "grow up" and we sold all our stuff (minus a few keepers) to one lucky ******* at a garage sale at our grandparents. It took like three years for me to release how stupid that was and to start recollecting again. Today, I have a toy problem. And I have way, way to many vintage toys, all because I still kick myself for selling that original collection...to that *******!
Q: Have you guys followed MOTU through all it's various incarnations (New Adventures, 2002 relaunch and Classics) over the years?
TS: Yeah! It was tough to follow New Adventures, as I was a teenager, and it was hard to find. But I watched the 200x cartoon, and collected the toys, and my studio is full of MotUC figures.
SS: Absolutely. Even though NA was a huge departure, it was still fun as hell. I was in college when 200x came out, so I was chasing the ladies and drinking the booze more than I was watching the He-man. My priorities were all out of whack.
Q: Certainly with some of the projects you've done in the past (Colt Noble, Mini Comics Included,) one can see the MOTU influence quite clearly. Would you say the art of MOTU is an influence or inspiration for you? If so, in what way?
TS: Oh for sure. I learned how to draw from those mini-comics, and MOTU got me INTO comics. I got He-Man first, THEN Spider-Man & Batman. The stuff I've done that homages MOTU comes from a recognition of how much it changed my life.
SS: It's been a huge inspiration, and besides family and other important people in my life, it's been my biggest influence. As an artist, my color theory is based on the MOTU palette. And like Tim said, all of us Seeley boys learned to draw because of He-man. 100% honesty here, but when we used to draw our family, both Brad and I would give ourselves, Tim and Mom and Dad furry underpants and boots. That's what we thought everyone wore, since we based everything off He-man. I'm sure Ma still has some drawings to prove it.
Q: Can you talk a little about how you're preparing the artwork for publication? For instance, how much restoration (if any) is the art having to undergo?
DC: Dark Horse had a large production department and we will be taking some steps to do some mild restoration, but nothing too overbearing on the art. We scanned some of the Earl Norem posters from the He-Man magazines and we’re cleaning high res scans of those so they are perfect for print.
Q: A lot of the art appears to be cropped on the pages we've seen thus far. Is this cropping of art typical of the book, and would you talk a little bit about how you're approaching the design and layout of the book in that regard?
DC: We don’t want to crop too much because the art is so good as is. Chip Kidd’s Batman Animated has been somewhat influential towards the design work and there was a fair amount of cropping you can see in that book. We want to achieve a design that looks good aesthetically while giving us some room to include innovative commentary on the franchise along with pages for some interviews. We certainly want to show as much of those Earl Norem pieces as possible. Erika Scheimer, Gary Goddard, Alan Oppenheimer, and many, many more have contributed text pieces to the collection.
Q: It sounds as though you had a wealth of art to choose from between what Mattel sent and what private collectors shared with you. Can you talk a little bit about what went into selecting the pieces that made it into the book?
TS: Steve and I went through the assets and tried to pick the stuff that best represented a diverse array of great MOTU art from every media we could think of. We also tried to grab "little-seen' stuff, and I think we pretty much decided if WE hadn't seen it, it must be quite a treasure.
Q: That’s an impressive list of contributors to the text of the book. Can you talk a little about what you're hoping to bring to the book, text-wise?
TS: Basically, we're just there in service to the art. We'll make sure to let ya know who did what, and add a few observations and factoids. But otherwise, this is about the art, 100%.
SS: Its an art book, first and foremost. We supplied the facts and interviewed the plethora of superstar guests, but Tim is right. It's really all about the art.
Q: Just for fun—who’s the best MOTU villain? Skeletor, King Hiss, or Hordak?
TS: Skeletor. No competition. Skeletor is one of the best villains of all time, period.
SS: Best: Skeletor. Coolest and most bad-ass: Hordak.
Q: If the book is a success, does Dark Horse have any ideas for further MOTU books? I know, for instance, that many fans have been dying for a complete book of re-printed mini-comics.
TS: I'd love to able to do one that focus completely on the stuff that never came to be...figures that were pitched that didn't make it, the SON OF HE-MAN cartoon...the stuff we never got to see!
SS: Or a book of all the MOTU knock off figures!! Eh?? Anyone? Sigh. But seriously, I would kill for that.
Q: Any last words for all the MOTU fans out there about the project you'd like to share?
TS: Dark Horse is totally behind this book, and they're going all out in getting every bit of art that they can. It's gonna be awesome.
I’d like to thank Daniel, Tim and Steve once again for their time. The Art of He-man and the Masters of the Universe will be a presented in a hardcover 9’’ x 12’’ format and is currently scheduled for release on April 14 2015. You can pre-order the book on Amazon.