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Thread: Interview about the making of the He-Man & the MOTU minicomic collection, part 1 & 2

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    Color'licious! JVS3's Avatar
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    Interview about the making of the He-Man & the MOTU minicomic collection, part 1 & 2

    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.”

    ---Part 2---

    But the book isn't just restored minicomics. It also includes interviews and trivia. Handling the interviews was Danielle Gelehrter. “It was a privilege having the opportunity to interview these very talented individuals whose work meant so much to me when I was growing up. I spent a substantial amount of time formulating questions that were tailored to each creator. In several instances, I wanted to ask them specific questions about the stories they worked on. Once I had their responses, I sometimes followed up with questions that spun out of their previous answers. It was an enjoyable process. I conducted most of the interviews over email, but in some cases creators were more comfortable speaking on the phone. Either way, it was fun.”

    And many pages of the book are highlighted by pieces of trivia, composed by Jukka Issakainen. “It started out as a small suggestion I made during a conversation with Val Staples about other He-Man products released many years ago and luckily resulted in becoming an addition to the minicomic collection, after a blessing from the fine folks at Dark Horse,” informed Issakainen. “One of the easiest and at the same time hardest things with writing trivia was determining what would go into it all. I had written down some notes about minicomics for personal projects that I planned as part of a video series I create. So having a preliminary list in place, I wanted to add as much trivia as I could find. Notes and tidbits that would hopefully be entertaining and informative to a casual fan and something also for the long time fans of Masters of the Universe.”

    The project was grueling, but everyone walked away with new outlooks about the minicomics. “There were times, near the end, that I had to remind myself how much I loved Masters of the Universe because after the first few dozen restorations, the scale of the undertaking, along with the deadline, could become daunting,” Rod Hannah recollected. “What kept the project fun was being able to relive the enjoyment of reading the minicomics and really absorbing the art. I had also never seen the entire collection of the minicomics until I was brought on board for this project. I had never seen a single Princess of Power minicomic before and I was really blown away by the Jim Mitchell and Charles Simpson style toward the end of the run. The pastel colors over Jim's animated style made a pleasant contrast for what was primarily aimed at a target audience of young girls.”

    Similar feelings were expressed by Leanne Hannah, who said, “One of the things I most loved about the project was working on the earlier minicomics and seeing how the characters and vehicles evolved over time. From personalities to costume and color changes-- Teela's pink costume, Stratos' peach-colored skin, the white Sorceress, the gold Attak Trak-- it was all awesome and I loved seeing these different versions of the classic characters I grew up with. Knowing that things weren't yet set in stone when these minicomics were made somehow makes them seem fresh and exciting to me as a fan.”

    Jon Kallis went on to add, “During the restoration, I really grew to appreciate the art of the minicomics. For such small books that were promotional vehicles, so much time and creativity was actually put forth. It is amazing that such famous artists such as Bruce Timm worked on the various books.”

    The minicomic collection is a chance for fans everywhere to relive these stories and experience new revelations. “In interviewing the creators, I discovered many fascinating things,” shared Danielle Gelehrter. “I love coming across treasures that haven't been seen in decades. Sharing those finds with fans brings me great joy. With that in mind, the most amazing and exciting thing for me was discovering the Ring of Dreams script for an unpublished minicomic featuring characters like Faker, Evil-Lyn, and Queen Marlena. When I was interviewing Michael Halperin, he mentioned the title in passing and I remarked that I had never heard of it before. He was kind enough to send me the script and, lo and behold, this was an entirely new vintage era story that had never been seen by fans before. Thanks to Mr. Halperin and Dark Horse, fans will get the chance to read the script for the story in this new book.”

    Just like the diverse universes of He-Man and She-Ra, every person has their favorite minicomics. So we asked the minicomic collection team to share theirs.

    • Ian Tucker, “My favorite is probably The Power of the Evil Horde! with art by Bruce Timm. I've always been a big fan of Timm, and his early work as seen here is very unlike his later more minimal style, but is still so cool and energetic.

    • Daniel Chabon, “Hmmmmmm. That's hard. Maybe Rock People to the Rescue or The Treachery of Modulok.”

    • Jimmy Pressler, “I really love Bruce Timm's work on The Terror Claws Strike. There are a lot of dynamic and expressive images of both He-Man and Skeletor in that issue.”

    • Rod Hannah, “I think it is probably Dragon's Gift, because it is an adaptation of such a great Filmation episode, although Grizzlor the Legend Comes Alive! stands out as well for the liberties and fun Bruce Timm enjoyed turning each page into a work of art in its own right.”

    • Jukka Issakainen, “My personal favorite minicomic in the book is Enter... Buzz-Saw Hordak! from the vintage Masters of the Universe issues. It was illustrated by Bruce Timm whose art I simply love, and while I feel the story isn't the best written, I still think it makes use of every page it has to drive the story forward.”

    • Jon Kallis, “My absolute favorite inclusion in the release is The Power of the Evil Horde!, a rare mini book that I contributed to the project. This book is very hard to come by and I am so happy that a wide audience of fans can now experience it first-hand.”

    • Rachel Crockett, “The Ultimate Battleground. While the story is well written, it's all about the art to me in this one.”

    • and since it's not always easy to choose, Danielle Gelehrter said, “Picking a favorite minicomic is similar to picking a favorite figure. I just can't do it.”

    Looking back on the project, everyone expressed similar feelings. “The team that worked on the collection were really some of the best people to do so,” expressed Crockett. “Dark Horse set the stage for a better product by bringing on passionate fans instead of simply shopping the work out to a random project team. It wasn't a job to us. Instead, it was preserving the collection for other He-Fans and She-Ravers to enjoy.”

    “I hope this minicomic collection is enjoyed by longtime MOTU fans who are revisiting these classic comics, or those fans seeing them for the first time,” said Leanne Hannah. “It's amazing to actually have them all in one book so lovingly put together by fans who grew up with and genuinely care about the Masters of the Universe property. This project was a complete labor of love and I was incredibly honored to be a part of it!” A feeling shared by her husband Rod who added, “Masters of the Universe is iconic and so well remembered by fans and the public. I'm proud to have my name in the book and to finally have the complete collection in a nicely bound hardcover.”

    It's a collection decades in the making. “To finally have all of the He-Man, She-Ra, and even New Adventures releases all in one place is such a blessing,” rejoiced Kallis. “The collection is a must-have for any He-Man and She-Ra fan that collected the toy lines as a child.”

    “Great content, in a great collection, put together by a great team that I was fortunate to work with. This book is made for the fans by fans, and brings together multiple generations of memorable art and stories,” said Staples. “I hope fans everywhere enjoy it!”

    And Dark Horse is thankful to all the support from fans of these books. “Everyone at Dark Horse is so grateful to the He-Man and She-Ra community for their excitement and support of these projects,” exclaimed Tucker. “We're all fans too, and we put lots of hard work into making these books the best that they can be, but we couldn't do it alone. We've had such amazing cooperation from Mattel and Dreamworks, and from the fans around the world. You're the best. Thanks!”

    Gelehrter joyfully expressed, “Between the ongoing Masters of the Universe Classics toy line and licensed products like these amazing books from Dark Horse, it is a great time to be a Masters of the Universe fan.” We couldn't agree more.
    Hope to see you at Power-Con 2020!
    JVS3 = Val Staples = Power-Con, Event Director | He-Man.Org, Owner | Guy who has been fortunate to work on a LOT of MOTU & POP projects
    Please check out my Facebook page

  2. #2
    Heroic Warrior Ivan's Avatar
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    Very interesting! Thinking about the state of the comics I have, I can only imagine how much work was involved. Just out of curiosity, which comics were best/worst to work with? The first four, the later mini comics, pop, NA?

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    Heroic Hyperborean NorthCoast's Avatar
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    Wow! Great read! I didn't realize the level of restoration needed to compile this, what a tremendous feat!

    I appreciate all the love and hard work you good folks put into this and will enjoy sharing with my children for years to come!

    Can't wait!!!
    Snake Mountain, FINALLY!!!

  4. #4
    Heroic Warrior mikerobertschamp's Avatar
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    I personally want to thank all involved, I'm saying this because of the glimpses I have seen are beautiful and I'm reving to get ahold of this book. Its going to be great for all fans, die hards like me and newbies alike.
    My wants all NA POG SOH filmation Garth Lady Slithor Meteorbs Zark Michi, Kothos, King Taurius, King Helios, Kittrina, Illumina, be plastic IMMORTALIZED

  5. #5
    Color'licious! JVS3's Avatar
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    Part 2 has been added to the first post! Hope you all enjoy.
    Hope to see you at Power-Con 2020!
    JVS3 = Val Staples = Power-Con, Event Director | He-Man.Org, Owner | Guy who has been fortunate to work on a LOT of MOTU & POP projects
    Please check out my Facebook page

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    Heroic Warrior wayne-klops's Avatar
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    As someone who has never given much importance to the mini comics, I am really looking forward to this book. The fact that the panels are enlarged, and ALL the mini comics will be available in one book are what make me most excited to get this. I love to hear how much passion and devotion went into making this as well. From the days of the original DVDs coming out, I have always known that MOTU fans care so much about this brand that they are willing to go the extra mile to make this stuff with top-notch quality.
    CC: 1) Lizorr, 2) Sagitar, 3) King Miro, 4) Hunga, 5) Hoove, 6) Kayo, 7) Artilla, 9) Master Sebrian, 10) MoP Demons, 11) Twiggets, 12) Raj-Jar, 13) Hans Hammerholder, 14) Staghorn, 15) Spinwit, 16) Vizar, 17) Butthead, 18) Nocturna, 19) Melaktha, 20) Vy-Por
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    Evil Villain!!! adam03's Avatar
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    And to think you guys did all that work and all I had was daunting task of mailing you guys my collection to scan lol You guys did a hell of a job and I'm honored to be a part of it, honored to be named in an official motu product and honored to have an original collection from which this book was made. Thanks Val and Dark Horse for this unique experience I will cherish it for the rest of my days20151021_112637.jpg

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    2002/DC He-Man Video guy
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    Great answers! So many Bruce Timm fans! And who let that Jukka dude in there???


    Is it still possible to maybe get a comparison-pic of how much work everyone put to a wear & tear minicomic page so it'll look awesome in the final product.

    I know we've all had some copies of the minicomics that are pretty beaten down, but I feel it would be great to see how clean the final result can be.
    Last edited by Jukka; October 23, 2015 at 03:10am.
    He-Man & She-Ra fan, writer to official Dark Horse MOTU/POP books

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  9. #9
    Color'licious! JVS3's Avatar
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    I don't have the original scans. The files took up so much space that I deleted files not necessary as we progressed.
    Hope to see you at Power-Con 2020!
    JVS3 = Val Staples = Power-Con, Event Director | He-Man.Org, Owner | Guy who has been fortunate to work on a LOT of MOTU & POP projects
    Please check out my Facebook page

  10. #10
    Warrior of Evolution 13977's Avatar
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    Great interview One think I noticed was the following:

    "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"
    Looks like we might have more books coming Fingers crossed for a newspaper strip collection
    MOTUC Most Wanted: Kayo, Vizar, Hoove, Lizorr

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  11. #11
    Heroic Warrior
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    Thanks Val!

    Interviews and backstory on things are always fun to read and appreciated.

  12. #12
    Heroic Warrior He-Guy's Avatar
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    Great read, thanks for sharing! Looks like a real labor of love from a large group of people.

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