Opening the Vault Interviews
Lee Nordling - Editor

Nearly all of the best minicomics have one editor's name listed: Lee Nordling. He is responsible for piecing together the elements for some of the best Masters of the Universe stories ever printed. Nordling, a member of CAPS (Comic Arts Professionals Society), has developed a wide array of experience in his years, having dipped his feet in one thing after the other; among other things, he has worked as a cartoonist, an artist, and a writer. Needless to say, when it comes to comics, he has probably done it.It all started after he graduated San Jose State University with a Bachelor's in Advertising in 1975. After taking on miscellaneous tasks, Nordling went on to work as the Art Director for the LA Times Syndicate for a few years. This eventually gave way to a job as a strip writer for some of Walt Disney's most popular comics. After about seven years, Nordling went on to write Aladdin for Marvel Comics, but never completed the assignment because he was hired by DC Comics as the Group Editor for Creative Services.

Nothing was permanent for Nordling, who was always on to something new and fresh.He worked with Nickelodeon as the editor for the Rugrats comic strip and freelanced on several assorted projects. In 1999, Nordling found his current job at Platinum Studios, which is responsible for many of the more popular comic book-based movies in the works today. Nordling has lived in many places throughout his career, but is currently in the process of settling into a new home in Pennsylvania. Here he enjoys the option of working at home, with the occasional short commute to his job at Platinum. Most of his hobbies revolve around his career, but he also finds time to go antiquing with his wife when not involved in the hustle and bustle of his job.

Amidst all of this, Nordling worked with many wonderful artists producing the minicomics we all know and love. Nordling says that the minicomics were a good start for a lot of great artists: "They were a great training ground ... they gave a lot of people, who normally didn't have the option, the chance to work in comics." Adds Nordling, "It was great to work with people who hadn't done comics before."

Although he worked with a wide variety of artists, his initial choice of artists were ones he came to rely on for issue after issue. These included Larry Houston (co-producer of the X-Men animated series) as penciller, Michael Lee as inker, and Skip Simpson as colorist. Bruce Timm, who went on to play an influential role in Batman: The Animated Series, The New Batman/Superman Adventures, and Batman Beyond, was also one of Nordling's choices for inks and pencils. "I'm pretty sure it was Timm's first sequential work," says Nordling. He went on to say that Timm also did a fully illustrated book that was released with one of the Evil Horde vehicles or playsets. It was a larger format, and fully painted. He chuckles, "The book almost got us fired because it had the word 'evil' in the title."

Nordling's first work in a minicomic was on The Secret Liquid of Life. He was quick to note that Mattel gave them free reign in the way of character design. They were given the story and allowed to do with the art as they pleased. Nordling noticed there wasn't a lot of ethic diversity in the books. After talking this over with the artists, they went for a change. Larry Houston suggested that they make the characters in this book of black descent like him. Nordling agreed. Thus, Geldor is one of the few black antagonists to grace the stories of Masters of the Universe. It was such a good experience, other cultures were used, such as Asian (as seen in Double-Edged Sword, done in regards to Michael Lee) and Native American (as seen in Slave City). "It was a good feeling to integrate different races into the comics," Nordling says.The minicomics were never really considered by Mattel as much of a resource for the toy." They had no intent other than to just give some additional tidbits with the toy."

The minicomics were done this way on purpose. "They did not tie into the toy, and were not very interesting ... they were stories that kids could read ... Mattel's total interest was just in making comics to include with the toys ... That is why you have characters you'd never see toys of or never see in the TV show."

Eventually Mattel's relative disinterest with the minicomics changed. Mattel came to realize that the minicomics were being used by children as a roleplaying guide. Thus, they turned towards making minicomics that actually went along with the toys they were packaged with, giving children some type of background to use in play.Mattel tried to take total advantage of this option. "At one time, I didn't know whether they were telling stories or doing toy illustrations." But Mattel gave Nordling and his artists room to do as they wanted and they concentrated more on the storytelling elements of the comics, rather than turning them into 12-page ads.

According to Nordling, the books were always done in a hurry. The stories were usually thought up on the fly and the art done quickly, allowing about one book to be completed per month. About two weeks for pencils, a week for inks, and a week for colors ... unlike today's comics, which are typically done months in advance in order to allow artists time to complete them.

Sadly, the art for all the minicomics is probably long gone by now. The original black and whites were split among the pencillers and inkers, while Mattel held onto (and likely later discarded) the colored versions.

Nordling is modest about his role as editor. He is actually rather embarrassed to find his name printed in the books just because he doesn't like to make a great deal out if his contributions. That's not to say he is embarrassed to have worked on the minicomics themselves; to the contrary, he loved it. Many stories went along with the creation of the minicomics, a few of which Nordling had time to tell.

The book Slave City was notable to Nordling. He remembered it as "having one of the most violent covers ever." This cover even prompted Mattel to try to package the figure and accessory inside in such a way that it covered up the art.As Slave City was nearing its deadline for pencils, Larry Houston told Nordling that he had stretched the story as far as he could go and they were still three pages short. Nordling suggested that he extend the fight scene for the additional length. Thus, three pages of additional battle were inserted in the story.Nordling also recalls some internal continuity problems with the book. "The book was supposed to be packed out with a toy character of Zodac. After the comic was drawn, a marketing person at Mattel wanted to know why Zodac didn't resemble the toy. That's the question my art director asked me. I responded, "Zodac is a toy? We had two choices, redraw every misdrawn Zodak (here, spelled with a 'K'), or do what I suggested: change his name to a character who isn't a toy.""Lodar is my creation. I made all the corrections to the finished lettered overlays, retouching out the horizontal top of every 'Z' in his name, so that it became an 'L.' Then I wrapped the top angled stem of the 'K' so that it resembled an 'R.'"

Another book that stood out in Nordling's mind the most was Spikor Strikes. The deadline for the book was near and all the art from penciller Jim Shull had not yet been turned in. Tempers were flaring and the book had to be done post haste. When all the art was turned in, it turned out Shull had drawn the story one page too long. Thus, through some quick, creative editing, two pages were combined in the book.

Nordling also had a lot to do with the Princess of Power minicomics. He says that some of the comics were like storyboards, while others were treated as comics. So, he decided to combine both these elements, and Jim Mitchell (who has drawn for Marvel) came on as penciller. However, Nordling says that girls just weren't interested in the minicomics.

Eventually, all good things must come to an end. Nordling, then working for Disney, finished his last assignment, the New Adventures minicomic Revenge of Skeletor. Mattel had hired a new art director and Nordling no longer had the same control he once had over the minicomics. He left, but still remembers those years fondly."It did not pay well ... but it sure was fun while it lasted."

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