Years before Bruce Timm made his mark on superheroes with his work on Batman: The Animated Series, he plied his trade in the early 1980s as a background and layout artist for the animation studio Filmation. While he spent his days working on cartoons like G.I. Joe and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Timm devoted his nights to pitching Marvel and DC Comics. After a chance meeting with a Marvel editor, Timm got his break — but not at the House of Ideas. Instead, he made his professional comics debut in 1984 on the Masters of the Universe minicomics.
For three years Timm worked on this series, packaged with the Mattel action figures, sometimes inking other artists and sometimes drawing his own. He contributed several covers to the series, especially in the European editions. Here’s a sampling of the various covers and pin-ups he’s done, as well as some interior pages. Be warned: It’s a lot different than the Bruce Timm time you’ve grown to love from animation, but it still has a special charm.
Have you ever heard the expression, “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well?” Have you heard about DC Comics’ He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, whose first six-issue miniseries was just collected? Have any of the people involved with the creation of those comics heard of that expression? Because from the results, it sure doesn’t seem to be the case.
The comics are poorly made — among the worst I’ve seen produced by an industry-leading publisher — but they’re bad in a very particular way.
They aren’t unreadable; I made it all the way through He-Man and The Masters of the Universe Vol. 1 without giving up. If pressed, I’m sure I could come up with some worse, more poorly made comics from DC in the recent past, but I might have difficulty thinking of worse comics from creators of such a relatively high caliber as some of those involved with this project, or an example of a series so bewilderingly bad.
Seemingly rushed through production like a term paper written the night before it’s due, many of the comics’ problems appear to originate with there being just too many creators working too fast and with little communication to meet a particular deadline. But,the funny thing is that it’s just a He-Man comic that no one in the comics-reading audience seemed particularly excited about, let alone interested in.
So it’s hard to imagine a reason DC decided to steam ahead with its creation to meet an arbitrarily chosen deadline before, say, nailing down a single creative team. Put another way, this is a bad comic book, and I can tell you what makes it a bad comic book, but I can’t hazard a guess as to why the people responsible for it made the decisions they did that resulted in it being so bad.
Mattel hopes it has the power to tamp down claims by writer Donald Glut that he has a copyright stake in the original Masters of the Universe minicomics packaged with the action-figure line three decades ago.
In a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in Los Angeles, and first reported by Courthouse News Service, the toymaker seeks a declaration that it is the sole owner of the lucrative multimedia franchise, asserting that Glut’s four stories were work for hire. Mattel refers to the writer’s claims of ownership as “both baseless and stale,” insisting the statute of limitations long ago expired.
According to the complaint, Glut was commissioned in 1981 to write “He-Man and the Power Sword,” “The Vengeance of Skeletor,” “Battle in the Clouds” and “King of Castle Grayskull” and to create backstories for He-Man and other characters under the direction of the toymaker (“Mattel told Glut what the toys could do and directed him to have the characters in the minicomics do these things as much as possible,” the document states). The company notes the writer acknowledged as recently as 2001 that the minicomics were work for hire for which he received neither credit nor royalties.
The Masters of the Universe first crossed over with the DC Universe — well, Superman, at least — in July 1982′s DC Comics Presents #47, which found the Man of Steel teleported to Eternia, where he teams with He-Man to battle Skeletor, and again that same year in a special preview story. Three decades later, it’s happening again with DC Universe vs. Masters of the Universe, which kicks off in August.
However, one superhero appears to be getting a head start.
DC Comics has debuted Ed Benes’ cover for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #4, which reveals a radically new look for the hero of television, film and toyboxes.
Gone are the trademark furry shorts and metal harness the character has worn since toymaker Mattel launched the line of action figures in 1981, replaced by what appears to be Eternia’s version of football gear, complete with honest-to-goodness pants.
“In the epic war against the forces of Hordak ripping through the pages of the current series, He-Man must don the sacred armor of his ancestors,” DC states on its blog. “While fans may be surprised by this turn of events, this dynamic direction for one of the world’s best-known heroes is firmly rooted in the classic legacy of MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE. After all, so long as you stay true to the core concepts, it’s always exciting to explore new possibilities, right?”
Masters of the Universe #4 goes on sale in July.
To entice fans to subscribe to its new He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series, DC Comics has partnered with Mattel to create a limited-edition variant cover created using Masters of the Universe action figures. A 12-issue subscription can be purchased here.
Written by Keith Giffen and penciled by Pop Mhan, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #1 features the return of She-Ra to Eternia as He-Man’s newest enemy. It goes on sale April 17.
Thirty-six questions. Six answers. One random number generator. Welcome to Robot Roulette, where creators roll the virtual dice and answer our questions about their lives, careers, interests and more.
Today’s lucky creator is Rob Guillory, artist and co-creator of Chew. Today sees the release of Chew #30, “the issue that is gonna take EVERYBODY by surprise.” It marks the halfway point of the the Eisner-award winning comic published by Image Comics, in addition to being a big wedding issue, so check it out.
My thanks to Rob for agreeing to answer our questions. Now let’s get to it …
This weekend, fans of Masters of the Universe, She-Ra: Princess of Power and ThunderCats will descend on Torrance, California, for the second annual Power-Con/ThunderCon, an event devoted to the 1980s media franchises.
While much of the programming is dedicated to the toy and animation aspects of the pop-culture mainstays, there are panels devoted to the He-Man and She-Ra minicomics (they came with the original action figures) and the ThunderCats comics, “the Art of Eternia,” MVCreations (which created He-Man comics from 2002 to 2004), and the rarely seen He-Man newspaper comic strips.
Comics guests include Blond, Shannon Eric Denton, Leanne Hannah, Larry Houston, Josh Howard, Pepe Moreno, Tone Rodriguez, Nei Ruffino, Mark Dos Santos, Tim Seeley, Felipe Smith, Matt Tyree, Anthony Washington and Dave Wilkins.
Power-Con/ThunderCon kicks off Saturday morning at the Torrance Marriott South Bay and continues through Sunday.
DC Comics today announced a fairly last-minute shuffle on its He-Man and the Masters of the Universe comic. According to The Source blog, Keith Giffen will take over writing duties from James Robinson starting with the very next issue, September’s #2.
“He-Man and friends were a big part of my son’s young life,” Giffen said. “That meant that they became a big part of my life too. I can still rattle off the plotlines to more than a few of the cartoons and am still pretty good at reattaching the arms and legs of woefully abused action figures. I’m thinking that more than qualifies me to write the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe comic book. Well… that and the fact that I so want to. I mean, c’mon… it’s He-Man!”
Robinson was solicited as the writer for issues 2 and 3, and in fact is still listed on the DC Comics website as the writer for both (as I type this, anyway). The post doesn’t mention why they’ve made the abrupt change. Robinson is in San Diego this week, so no doubt the question will be asked.
Robinson is certainly busy enough right now, what with Earth 2 and apparently some sort of Image series that will be announced on Saturday.
As a prelude to this summer’s He-Man and the Masters of the Universe comic book revival, DC Comics and comiXology today kicked off a digital-first He-Man comic series. The first issue, written by Geoff Johns with art by Howard Porter and John Livesay, is available now for 99 cents.
The comic features Sir Laser Lot, a MOTU character that Johns first envisioned when he was eight years old. Sir Laser Lot will debut as an action figure this summer at the San Diego Comic-Con as a part of the line’s 30th anniversary.
“I’ve been a huge fan of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe since I was a kid, so it’s cool to write a story for this new series — not to mention teaming up with Howard Porter and John Livesay, my old Flash partners in crime,” stated Geoff Johns. “And to create an all-new character that will become an action figure – Sir Laser Lot — it’s beyond fun. I’m going to buy like 100 of them.”
The digital series will debut new chapters twice a month on Saturdays. The second chapter, due July 14, is written by Mike Costa with artwork by Jheremy Raapack, and it tells the story of Battle Cat. The third digital chapter, written by Kyle Higgins with artwork by Pop Mhan, is an adventure with the captain of the Eternia guard, Man-At-Arms.
Check out the cover as well as the Sir Laser Lot action figure after the jump.
“The first issues of Before Watchmen will be published next month. Among the writers working on it is former He-Man scripter J. Michael Straczynski, who once penned a comic in which Spider-Man sold his marriage to the devil. (This is the rough equivalent of having Z-movie director Uwe Boll film a studio-funded prequel to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.)”
– Tim Marchman, in a broadside to the superhero-comics industry that began as a nominal review for The Wall Street Journal of Leaping Tall Buildings. Straczynski wasn’t the only comics creator targeted, however: Marchman also took aim at Brian Michael Bendis, Joe Quesada, Grant Morrison and Dan DiDio, characterizing them as “the men most responsible for the failure of the big publishers to take advantage of the public’s obvious fascination with men in capes.”
“Your behavior was dickish. I became a better writer after He-Man. You will always be a dick.”
– J. Michael Straczynski, issuing his “final word” in the ensuing Twitter exchange with Marchman that began with JMS confronting the reviewer on “a cheap shot.” “You had to go back to 1984 to insult me? Really?” Straczynski wrote. “And ['One More Day'] was Marvel’s decision not my call.”
“When I first started doing webcomics back in the dark ages of the early ’00s, word of mouth was how people found your stuff, but it was on a much smaller scale, and much slower. You’d have to get your comic passed around via e-mail, or posted in forums or linked to by other big artists. The whole crazy gag/meme/weird fandom social media comics thing didn’t really exist back then, so maybe people were doing more original stuff, but that’s just from what I remember and might not be true. I’ve never been a big fandom person. I feel like online comics nowadays are perhaps more mainstream, whatever that word means. Like everyone’s making comics and everyone’s passing comics around and comics are just this one part of the Internet, like cat pictures or whatever, rather than this specialized section, which was how it felt when I first started making them. Comics back then felt… I guess kind of niche. Now they’re part of the rainbow of fun that is the Internet. It feels like a good thing to me, but I’m sure there’s a downside to it. I guess people could complain that the craft of online comics is slipping, like, ‘Oh, this stupid gag comic about He-Man gets a million tumblr notes, but this impassioned comic about one’s state of being only gets 400.’ But I don’t even really see that, because it seems to me that the good stuff is always rising to the top. Sure, stupid He-Man comics will always get popular play, but whatever, that’s the Internet.”
– Faith Erin Hicks, in a thoroughly entertaining interview with Tom Spurgeon about how she got started in comics, her latest project Friends with Boys and much more. Maybe what we need is an impassioned comic about He-Man’s state of being.
DC Comics will return to Eternia in July with a six-issue He-Man and the Masters of the Universe limited series by James Robinson, Phillip Tan and Ruy Jose, MTV Geek reports.
Although several companies, from Marvel to Image to CrossGen, have released comics based on the Mattel toyline, DC was the first, introducing Superman to He-Man, Battle Cat, Skeletor and other characters in July 1982′s DC Comics Presents #47, followed by Masters of the Universe inserts in more than a dozen titles and, later that year, a three-issue miniseries.
In the new series, Skeletor has discovered a way to reshape reality, making himself ruler of Castle Grayskull while leaving the heroes of Eternia as peasants with no memories of their former lives. As for Prince Adam, the alter-ego of He-Man? He’s a woodsman who thinks his visions of wielding a sword in battle are merely dreams.
“Adam is in a place where he really has to reconnect with what it means to be a Master of the Universe,” Robinson tells MTV Geek. “It’s his odyssey, much like the Greek myth in fact, that is the backbone of this series.”
It’s a painting The Goon artist did for a mini-comic inserted in selected toy action figure packages for He-Man recently. This gem popped up on my radar when it came up as an eBay auction by Powell’s account there, and although there’s little chance we’ll see Powell ditching his creator-owned digs for a trip to Eternia, the fact that Dark Horse is the one publishing this comic for He-Man is interesting … could they be acquiring the license for He-Man, side by side with Conan?
I love He-Man and I don’t care who knows it. To my mind, the Masters of the Universe is one of the great untapped influences/resources in nerddom, a breathless (some might even say senseless) amalgamation of fantasy, science fiction, space opera, superheroes, pulp barbarians, and toyetic skunk dudes named Stinkor that in many ways prefigures contemporary comics’ fast and loose genre riffs and mash-ups, from Orc Stain to Prison Pit. The toys and the cartoon were good fun, but for sheer imagination-firing power, it’s tough to beat the line’s concept art. Aeron Alfrey of the indispensable art blog Monster Brains has assembled two eye-popping galleries of MOTU madness, one dedicated to paintings (in particular the work of the great Earl Norem), the other to comic and cartoon art. They have the power.