Opening the Vault Interviews
Phil White - Writer

When some people think what the future of Masters of the Universe may have held, they tend to reference The Powers of Grayskull: The Legend Begins. This future was being developed with the help of writer Phil White. White, a member of CAPS (Comic Arts Professionals Society), has written the stories for some of the most talked-about minicomics. Not only that, but he helped to create the backstories for a number of the toys and vehicles in the Masters of the Universe toyline.

White's area of expertise centers on marketing and advertising, and his hobbies have always been involved around fantasy and comics. Despite this, White may never have gotten involved with Masters of the Universe had fate not intervened.

Originally working for an engineering company for about six years, White's career there was ended by cutbacks from an oil crisis. So, he found himself searching for a job, ultimately landing a position in Mattel's Creative Resources Group (CRG). This department was in charge of the copyrights on packaging and instructions as well as working with the minicomics.Mattel engineers would design toys, then come to the CRG to get names and story ideas to explain why the toys did what they did. Then, while the toy was developed, the CRG would research the copyright info on the name and developed the actual story for the packaging and, in some cases, the minicomic.

White had a lot to do with the development of the Princess of Power toy line and actually created the Spinnerella doll. Mattel made a special effort to make both Princess of Power and Masters of the Universe toys have gimmicks. This played into designs such as Spinnerella's pump-and-spin action. "The toys had to be two things in one, because of the whole Transformer thing."

In addition, White worked with the Bravestarr toyline as well. But, his work with Mattel was short-lived. Mattel found itself financially burdened and started making cutbacks. Being an employee for only 3 months, White fell victim to lay-offs. White suspects that this came from the fact that Mattel put a lot of money into the failed development of the Intellivision, a gaming system intended to rival Atari and Coleco. Mattel had also made recent acquisitions such as the purchase of Barnum and Bailey Brother's Circus, which added to the problem. However, Mattel still commissioned White to write stories afterwards.

White went on to develop his own comic strip. However, publishers weren't interested in anthropomorphic characters at the time, and swung more towards strips like Doonesbury. So he tried his hand at his own comic entitled Ogre. It was a 4-issue limited series that sold great at first, but timing would be against White. Releasing the book in 1994-95 coincided with a major decline in comic sales.

Afterwards, White went on to work with an office machine manufacturer, and then with a major tax software company. White now lives in Nevada and still continues to work freelance as a writer and does a weekly cartoon strip.

White talked a little about some of the questions that have arisen from one of the more popular minicomics: The Powers of Grayskull.The three-part minicomic never made it past part one. The whole purpose of the series was to help set up the bridge between Masters of the Universe and what was going to happen with a new proposed series. "They were going to introduce a new toyline, a spin-off from Masters of the Universe and Princess of Power ... a whole new universe."As many know, the new line of toys, The Powers of Grayskull, was to be based on dinosaurs. But the development of the new line came to a halt as attention turned to the new Bravestarr line.

Mattel's financial hardship sealed the fate of The Powers of Grayskull. "There was going to be a TV show and new toys, but because of the Mattel cutbacks, they had to put a lot of plans on the shelf."

The combination of poor investment decisions and the Bravestarr line ultimately killed off any hope of He-Ro and company battling the forces of evil. With The Powers of Grayskull now debunked, a lot of questions were left unanswered. White helped explain a little of what was intended.

It turns out He-Ro was going to be the lead character of the new series, while Keldor was planned to be the antagonist. "He-Ro was probably meant to be a leader ... I'm not sure if he was one of the council of Elders ... Eldor was probably going to offer advice."

And what about Keldor? Many have asked what his connection is to Skeletor, and we finally have official word: "Keldor and Skeletor were the same person, hence the similar spelling of the names." White explained that much of this was created on the fly, so, no definite story was every really decided upon. But he was able to talk in brief about the toys for the new series. "The toys couldn't be just dinosaurs ... they had to be like transformers that had things that flipped open, with control panels, fire projectiles, and features like that."

During the interview, White pulled out some plans for the proposed Giagantisaur toy and explained some of its layout. "The brontosaurus' side flipped down ... it had control panels and things inside, I guess so they could work on him ... It was like a mobile unit for the army."

Apparently no story had been developed for why the dinosaurs were part mechanical. White described how the Snake Men and the Towers of Eternia were also an important bridge between Masters of the Universe and the Powers of Grayskull. But, sometimes marketing played a role in that as well. "We were putting a lot of emphasis on the Eternia toy, because it was so expensive and elaborate."Much of the Snake Men's story had already been told throughout the comics. But some have wondered if a more elaborate story exists. White explains, "Not really, none of the characters had really been developed ... the Snake Men were probably heavily influenced by Conan the Barbarian."

Regardless, no one was fortunate enough to see the dawn of this new series. "The toys were trying to keep up with what the animation was doing and what the market was requesting."Unfortunately, we would never see what the future (or past) would hold for Masters of the Universe.

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