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Interview with Danielle Gelehrter and Eric Marshall, new MOTUC Collector's Choice bio writers
February 9, 2018 6:54 pm by JVS3

The MOTUC Collector's Choice bios seemed to disappear in 2016. But in actuality, new bios were written but not released on most of the 2016 cardbacks. So starting this Monday, February 12th, those bios will be released every two weeks here on He-Man.Org thanks to Super7's Masters Mondays.

But, who wrote these bios that continued the MOTUC mythos? That job was taken on by respected fans and Dark Horse book pros Danielle "Penny Dreadful" Gelehrter and Eric "gbagok" Marshall. And with approval from Super7, He-Man.Org has interviewed both of them to find out their thought process behind crafting the on-going Classics canon.

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

How did you become the official MOTUC Collector's Choice bio writing team, and how long have you been working in that capacity?

Eric: Val Staples (Power-Con Event Director and He-Man.Org owner) invited me to write the bios for the 2016 Power-Con exclusives back in 2015. Later he asked if I wanted to collaborate with Danielle on 2016 bios, to which I answered emphatically YES! We wrote bios for everything planned for the year, although none of the bios made it onto packaging until the Roton. When Super7 took over, Val asked us to continue.

Danielle: To add to what Eric said, Val (via his company MVCreations) secured the job with Mattel and asked if I wanted to co-write the official Classics bios with Eric. As a longtime fan of Eric's amazing Unofficial Bios, I was very excited by the idea of working with him! Due to the relatively late start with Mattel, and the changeover from Mattel to Super7, most of our 2016 bios didn't get released on the packaging, except for shortened versions of Roton and Skelcon.

Will you talk about your backgrounds with regard to writing, as well as your backgrounds as fans?

Eric: I've been a fan since my grandmother gave me the toys for my birthday in 1983. As for writing, I obtained a BA in creative writing a long time ago, and I've been writing the Unofficial bios on the fan forum for a while. We both worked on the World Compendium for Dark Horse, which was handy for the bios as well.

Danielle: I've been hooked ever since I saw the Castle Grayskull commercial and the box art in 1982. My first figure was Faker in 1983, and I've been part of the online fandom since its inception in the mid 90s. As far as writing goes, I have a BA in Writing and Literature as well as a Master's Degree in English. By day, I work as a university writing and lit. professor. My short story "The Writing Workshop" was published in The Bridge literature journal, and I won a fiction award for that piece. I've also written for a couple of magazines and newspapers, and worked on several of the Dark Horse books.

What was your goal with the bios, and how did you work to tie it into the existing canon?

Eric: I think we wanted to continue what Classics had started, combining as many previous canons as possible under a single umbrella. There were a lot of obscure sources that the bios hadn't used yet and that we wanted to include.

Danielle: In addition to writing about the individual characters, we wanted to address some of the dangling plot threads and unexplored eras. Scott "Toyguru" Neitlich put together a huge storyline which took place over eons. He left us with a big sandbox to play in. We're having fun looking at ways to tie things together and fill in some gaps, if it makes sense to do so within a specific character's bio. We try to employ material from the many existing canons whenever we can.

Why a continuation of the story vs. a straight reboot?

Eric: If Super7 is going to make figures of characters who are new to Classics, we didn't want to entangle them into an all new canon, leaving the previous 200+ figures' roles in question.

Danielle: There was a brief discussion about doing a reboot when it came to the Ultimates bios, but the consensus was to continue things from where they left off. Classics is so far in at this point that it just made sense to keep the ball rolling and see what we could do with it. Plus, Scott helped build the Classics canon for seven years and we wanted to respect that.

How much information do you get about the upcoming figures when you write the bios (accessories lists, design style, etc)?

Eric: All we know are the names. We did know about the color schemes for the Power-Con figures.

Danielle: When it came to Karg, we knew for awhile that he was going to be the MOTU Magazine version. His bio characterization couldn't be an exact copy of how he was portrayed in the film.

How far in advance do you write the bios?

Eric: I guess it varies because we wrote the bios for 2017 Power-Con about six to eight months in advance, well after most of the others. Yet people saw those Power-Con bios before most of everything except for the Ultimates and the two partial 2016 bios.

Danielle: As Eric said, it really depends. It can be a lengthy process because we revise and rewrite many of them, and we shoot ideas back and forth. There were three totally different versions of Plasmar's bio. A lot of ideas were tossed around tossed around for that guy when he went through some name and armor changes.

What's the writing process like? Who writes which bios?

Danielle: Val gets the list of characters and sends it to us, and then Eric and I take turns choosing, sort of like picking teams on the playground. When one of us finishes a draft, we send it along via group message. Sometimes, we'll make suggestions or pass ideas to each other. In between bio writing sessions, Eric and I like to brainstorm character and story ideas. Val oversees everything, in a "Lee Nordling"-esque capacity, but he lets us do our thing.

Eric: Yeah, it's really very open and loose, though we do talk about what we'd like to do before we know who will get a bio. Then we often revise, revise, revise. I think we had the most rewrites on the He-Man dopplegangers. Anti-Eternia He-Man and Faker were more challenging than a lot of others.

Do characters mentioned in the bios foreshadow upcoming figures from Super7?

Eric: Ah, if only we had that power!

Danielle: A mention in a bio does not necessarily mean the figure is coming. For instance, He-Ra is mentioned in the Serpentine King Hssss bio and Queen Balina is mentioned in Lodar's bio, but figures of those characters are not currently planned, as far as we know.

Eric: And that's a good example where it made sense to name drop Balina, the queen of Targa in Filmation, in a bio for Lodar, who ruled Targa in the mini-comics. Not that a random name drop is the worst thing in the world either.

Were there any bios you wrote that were never released?

Eric: We've mentioned we wrote bios for 2016. They were for figures, vehicles, and more, but I think only the Roton and Skelcon bios were partially included. We also wrote a lot of bios for things that didn't have bios before but were released in the Classics line.

Danielle: I believe there are 23 fully approved, but unreleased (or partially released), bios. Brief summaries of most 2016 bios wound up in the Dark Horse Character Guide & World Compendium because they were supposed to have been released by then. The "bios for things that didn't have them before" are still completely unseen. They include bios for artifacts like the Book of Living Spells and Keldor's Dual Bladed Sword, as well as bios for characters like Imp, Broom, Delora, etc. These bios have all been approved by Mattel, and will be coming in Super7's Masters Mondays bio posts on He-Man.Org.

Can you talk about the Reawakening, and your decision to bring previously deceased characters like Skeletor and Stratos back to life?

Eric: Well we knew Skeletor could not stay dead. Even the movie didn't really kill him off if you watched to the end credits (before Marvel made that mandatory). But notice nothing says the Reawakening is permanent. It's a chance to continue featuring dead characters in the ongoing narrative, but there is most likely a price for it too.

Danielle: The last in-canon Classics story we saw before taking over writing duties was minicomic #8. At that point in the story, many iconic characters were dead and Castle Grayskull was destroyed. We asked ourselves, "what happens after that?" When we were given the Ultimates figures with the directive that we should continue the Classics story from where it left off, things fell into place pretty quickly.

The Reawakening is sort of like the "post-Son of He-Man" era, where things have started to come full circle. If you think of the Third Ultimate Battleground as this near-apocalyptic occurrence, it makes sense to rebuild, both literally and symbolically. It's a story cycle where things are heading back to more familiar territory. In some ways, it's a return to "where it all started," but we have the old and new characters on the table now.

With regard to the Reawakening itself, the idea of character resurrection is a staple of fantasy fiction. We're dealing with magic and mysticism. As Eric points out, there will most likely be a price involved. Because this was an act of forbidden sorcery, one of the upcoming bios refers to the need to "purify" the Reawakening. At the end of the day, a mass resurrection event enabled us to revive beloved characters. This allows us to write about their continued adventures.

What are some of your favorite things about writing the bios?

Eric: Working with Danielle is great! I couldn't ask for a better collaborator! And to be playing with something we've all loved since childhood is such a treat. I'm very grateful.

Danielle: It's been wonderful working with Eric! I'm always super excited whenever he sends me one of his bio drafts to read. As a lifelong fan, it's honestly a dream come true to be working on MOTU/POP/NA in a creative capacity. I'm certainly thankful for the opportunity to be part of this and am having a complete blast!

What are some challenges you face in writing the bios?

Eric: It's always tricky to keep straight which story elements and details we've discussed are now part of the canon and which ideas we saved for later. With several bios still in the vault, I have to check the notes often. Danielle's memory is way sharper than mine!

Danielle: There are so many existing bios, and there are so many plot, character, and timeline threads in Classics that it can be very difficult keeping track of things. We have to tread carefully and double check facts so that we don't contradict anything that's been established.

The Filmation design was used for the Hawke figure, yet the bio says she is Stratos' sister. Why not go with a straight Filmation bio for her?

Eric: I think we both prefer Delora as Stratos' wife rather than his sister, so that made it easy to use 200x as the model for Hawke's bio.

Danielle: Plus, at the time, we were only given a name. We had no idea which version of Hawke was going to be made. After some back and forth, and observation of fan discussions over the years, it was clear that the name "Hawke" was most often associated with Stratos' sister, and the name "Delora" was most often associated with his wife. Thus, we went with the 200x comic idea that Hawke is the sister and we kept Delora as the wife, since she's his wife in at least three other canons. Hawke's Filmation story does get a definite nod in the bio, though.

Eric: Right, the Filmation version isn't totally irreconcilable with 200x since she does see the error of her ways at the end of "Betrayal of Stratos". It's interesting to see some of the heroes making mistakes that big while still being redeemable.

Now that fans have seen some of your bios and reacted to them, what are you most happy about and what would you maybe want to change or tweak if you could?

Eric: There are always ideas you get when it's too late, but mostly I've been very grateful for the good responses I've seen.

Danielle: Like Eric, I'm really grateful for the responses, both positive and critical. A dad posted that his kids played with Terroar and used his screaming power in their play. They had fun making him "roar" to knock other figures over. That made my day. As for things I'd change, I would probably streamline my Ultimates bios a bit more. Eric's are amazing, but I went a little overboard. I felt like, "I need to honor the character and address what became of them in the Classics canon in case this is the last bio the character ever gets!"

Eric: No, you're doing great! I think we always have to be careful to not forget the bios are about the characters at hand, not about the larger narrative. If a name drop makes sense we can use it, but we don't want that to distract from the figure that comes with the bio. And then we have to struggle with that word count as well!

Danielle: Yeah, that bloody word count! It's a challenge sometimes because you have to let go of details that might otherwise have made it into the bio. And Eric nailed it regarding the idea that the bios are about the characters at hand. If it makes sense to tie that character into a previously established story thread, then we may try it out and see how it goes. The character itself must always be the main focus though.

Have you created any new characters for the bios?

Danielle: We stick with existing characters as much as possible, but yes, we've created a few new characters or fleshed out older character names when it made sense to do so. We've worked with the wonderful Axel Giménez on design ideas for a couple of these, and he drew up fantastic concepts for them. Typically though, new characters are there to enhance and flesh out the story of the figure in the package. The figure is always the central focus. That said, Masters of the Universe is a saga that spans eons, so there's certainly room for a new character introduction if it makes sense and adds something of value to the story.

Eric: You know it feels like we're creating new characters just by writing bios for characters who haven't been in official canon before. To give the first official history to Fang-Or or Wrap Trap is amazing, a real treat! As far as name-dropping new characters, actually most are based on unused concepts like from 200x or the Create a Character contest. If we make up someone totally new it's usually because it uniquely supports the subject of the bio and no existing character was well-suited for the part. Someone like Wrap Trap's doomed love interest, for example, had to be new because there wasn't an established character who we thought it appropriate to kill off like that.

Danielle: Exactly. That's a good example of a new character being brought in to enhance and flesh out Wrap Trap's story, which itself draws inspiration from archetypes in mummy tales and films. If an established character is a better fit for a role in a bio, then we work them in.

What bios are you hoping to write some day?

Eric: Any of the "new" characters will be great to write or even just to read because they have so little official canon associated with them. I'm always eager to write more about Keldor's family as well.

Danielle: I'd love a chance to tackle some of the obscure characters in the mythos such as Minox, Shezar, Joya and others. Of course, that'll depend on whether those characters get figures in the line. And we'd love to write a bio for She-Ra! We have some definite plans for her character.

Will there also be Filmation-specific bios for Club Grayskull? Who will be writing those?

Eric: There will be!

Danielle: Definitely. And James Eatock just recently revealed he is the author. Given his knowledge of Filmation He-Man and She-Ra, and his past working on official projects, he is the perfect choice for the job!

Do you have anything you'd like to hint about to fans regarding potential upcoming bios?

Eric: There are some very fun name drops coming. Some gaps in the timeline may be filled in a little more, but we're not at liberty to discuss unpublished or potential story ideas.

Danielle: Filling in timeline gaps would be great, for sure! Otherwise, to quote our predecessor, "Keep reading the bios!" *ducks barrage of eggs and rotten vegetables* ;-)

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