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Interview about the making of the He-Man and the MOTU minicomic collection, part 1
October 20, 2015 9:55 pm by JVS3

Check out the interview below, and click here to join the discussion on the He-Man.Org forums.

One of the most anticipated He-Man and She-Ra book projects is soon to become a reality thanks to Dark Horse Books. The He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Minicomic Collection goes on sale at comic book shops this Wednesday, October 21st and then at book retailers on November 3rd. (click here to order yours now on Amazon.com)

Comprised of all the vintage He-Man and She-Ra minicomics and more, this collection boasts an impressive 1232 pages of restored artwork that showcases the minicomics at 50% larger than their original size. It appears that a lot of time and love went into this project. So we thought we'd find out directly from the people behind it exactly how this project came together and what it involved.

Fans often wonder how projects like this get off the ground. So we turned to editors Daniel Chabon and Ian Tucker to learn more. “I had initially worked with Mattel and DreamWorks on three He-Man minicomic books around 2012,” said Chabon. “During that time we had pushed them to let us do The Art of He-Man and Masters of the Universe book which came out in April 2015. We had so much fun working on that book and with the licensers that we asked to do more.”

One of those next books is the forthcoming minicomic collection, to which Chabon stated, “Val Staples of He-Man.org proposed a collection of all the minicomics as he already had access to most of them and they had never been collected before. He was so great to work with on the Art of He-Man book that we moved forward with that proposal and it led to this minicomic book that is hitting stores on November 3rd.”

Working with fans has been a component to the development of these books. “MOTU fans may comprise one of the most knowledgeable and spirited communities in the land,” said Tucker. “I've been continuously amazed by the staggering, encompassing scope and depth of their dedication. Much of the content of Dark Horse's first He-Man book, The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, was contributed by fans from their own collections. I've not worked on another project that can boast that sort of claim, and it speaks volumes of the fans' awesomeness.”

Chabon went on to add, “MOTU has a very loyal and solid fan base. A lot of fans and collectors had collaborated with us on both the Art of book and on the minicomic collection. All the fans who participated in the making of these books have been super-nice to work with and have greatly contributed to how fantastic these books came out.”

On the other side of the equation is the licensers DreamWorks and Mattel. When it came to working with them, Tucker revealed, “Mattel and DreamWorks have been amazing partners in bringing these books to life. In some other cases, the licenser/licensee relationship can be a bit stiff and bureaucratic, but everyone at Mattel and DreamWorks have been cheerful, responsive, and helpful. Most importantly, they exhibit a tangible passion for this material, which makes working on it all the more rewarding.” Chabon went on to say, “They're wonderful licensers to work with. Very collaborative, flexible, and open to ideas.”

So once the project was approved, then came the task of how to bring this book to life. “It does possess some unique challenges,” admitted Tucker. “One such complication is sheer volume. At 1232 pages, the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Minicomic Collection is the longest book on which I've ever worked. When Daniel and I first started work on the project, I suggested that we break the Minicomic Collection into two or three shorter volumes, but Dan was adamant that we provide fans with the best possible value with one enormous book. It was a lot of work, but I have to agree that it's made for an excellent, all-inclusive package.”

And when it came to the design and layout, Dark Horse turned to their own Jimmy Presler. “Creating the layout and design for a book like this minicomic collection was an involved process,” said Presler. “It was accomplished by working with the Digital Art Technician, and the Editors, and looking at the impressive amount of material that we had to fit in to this book. We had several discussions about the size of the type, the placement of footnotes, what spot art to use, etc. We did some tests to make sure that things are nice and readable, and went through a few rounds internally to review the content.”

Presler went on to say, “There were definitely some challenges when creating the layout and design for a book like this minicomic collection. When I approached this project I had two major goals. The first was to make sure that the book would look like it belonged with The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. The second was finding a consistent way to present 1000+ pages of minicomics which come in several different sizes along with several interviews of different lengths. As you could imagine, it took some time to figure out how to present all of the material in a way that would make sense to the reader.”

While Presler and the creative team at Dark Horse was designing the book, the acquisition and restoration of the pages was taking place. This process was coordinated by Val Staples. “Tracking down and getting access to all the content was the initial task,” revealed Staples. “Fortunately, one of the few Masters of the Universe items I still own is my childhood vintage minicomic collection. Then thanks to a number of generous fans we were able to track down everything else over the course of a couple of months.”

Once the content was acquired, then the restoration process began. “I could bore people with all the technical details of the restoration. But instead, let's just say it was a feat,” confessed Staples. “I developed a list of steps and conditions that would translate scans into proper, print-ready files that removed damage, wear and tear, and old artifacts from printing. Then as a team we tweaked and added to those steps. We even went back and re-restored pages after we fine-tuned different techniques. It was a long, arduous process that took hundreds of hours over the course of months by a dedicated team.”

That restoration team was made up of the husband and wife duo Rod and Leanne Hannah, plus Jon Kallis, Rachel Crockett as well as Val Staples. When it came to the work, Rod Hannah revealed, “This was a huge project. It involved scanning every page from all the minicomics, repairing damage, sharpening up the images, eliminating the print showing through from the opposite pages, and restoring the word balloons. In some cases, small segments of artwork had to be recreated where the glue had stuck pages together. Comparing multiple copies of each minicomic and trying to find pieces that made perfect art was near impossible. A lot of time went into getting this book ready, but everyone who was involved was a fan and we all knew what we were doing was for the preservation of our childhoods and a piece of pop culture history.”

Leanne Hannah went on to say, “I put in a lot of long, long hours on scanning and restoration solidly over the course of a few months. Some of the work could be insanely challenging depending on the quality of the comics themselves and how much work was involved in repairing damaged pages and art, but it was fun at the same time and in the end it really paid off. A lot went into making sure that the art and color in the digital files matched what readers saw on the original printed pages to give fans the best experience possible.”

The intensity of the work was also felt by Jon Kallis, who added, “I personally put a lot of time in to each of the comics I was assigned to restore. Given that I am such a huge fan of He-Man and She-Ra, I wanted to make sure I did my very best so that these pieces of art would be presented at their optimum potential. The most intensive part, I feel, was restoring the speech bubbles on the pages. Frustrating at times, but completely worth it to ensure full readability of the text that drives the stories along.”

Staples not only restored, but reviewed and tweaked all pages, aided by his fiancee and She-Ra fan Rachel Crockett. Staples said, “I would go in and do additional tweaks and final prepress steps to prepare all the pages well beyond what you get with a simple scan. Thankfully I had a good team who really worked their fingers to the bone on so much of the restoration. And I also had Rachel there to help me with the final prepress.” Crockett went on to say, “Thanks to everyone else restoring the art, I was able to focus on the final colors and line work over the weekends. We carried the restoration all the way up to the eleventh hour of the deadline, doing whatever we could to make the pages look as good as possible.”

Join us tomorrow for part 2!

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