BEST BETS: "Jessica Jones," "Big Trouble/Escape from New York" & More October 2016 Highlights
If you’ve ever wanted to find out what happens when the Masters of the Universe stop being polite and start getting … impolite, look no further than The Real Masters of Eternia.
DreamWorks TV’s new “reality show” moves eight Eternians — He-Man, Skeletor, Sheera, Man-At-Arms, Evil-Lyn, Orko, Mer-Man and Beastman — into Castle Greyskull, where they (of course) immediately come into conflict: The “well-adjusted” Skeletor calls dibs on the upstairs bedroom, a fight breaks out over dim-witted He-Man’s cooking, and so on.
Mattel’s Masters of the Universe has endured for more than three decades, inspiring animated series, comic books, video games and, yes, that spectacularly bad live-action film. And now it’s the basis for an incredibly earnest fan film.
Funded through a $12,000 Kickstarter campaign, director Daniel Benedict’s “Fall of Grayskull” stars pro wrestler Brian Cage as He-Man, who of course fights his arch-nemesis Skeletor for the power of Grayskull and the fate of Eternia. If you’re a fan of the franchise, chances are you’ll find a favorite character in this 30-minute short: Teela, Tri-Klops, Evil-Lyn, Hordak (played by Val Staples) — they’re all there.
As if the promise of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and G.I. Joe weren’t enough to get you excited for Toy Soldiers: War Chest, Ubisoft has released a trailer trumpeting the addition of playable Cobra and Assassin’s Creed armies.
We previously characterized the fourth game in the Signal Studios series as an epic bedroom-floor battle imagined by sugar-fueled 8-year-old, and this announcement only reinforces that: Eight armies, made up from beloved toys (and now video game characters), battle for supremacy.
If Ubisoft’s Toy Soldiers: War Chest wasn’t on your radar before, it undoubtedly will be now: The company revealed this morning the toy-versus-toy action and strategy game will include characters from Masters of the Universe and G.I. Joe.
The fourth game in the Signal Studios series, it’s billed as a battle of eight armies, with “one toy box to defend.” Judging from the trailer, it’s effectively an epic bedroom-floor battle imagined by sugar-fueled 8-year-old, using all the toys in the box. Only, y’know, played out in a video game.
Dark Horse has revealed the previously announced Art of He-Man and Masters of the Universe will also be released in a limited edition of just 4,000 copies.
Produced in partnership with Mattel, it’s the first official art book devoted to the enduring multimedia franchise. Packaged in a die-cut, two-piece Castle Grayskull slipcase, with a foil-embossed cover and portfolio print, the nearly 400-page limited edition includes rarely seen concept sketches and prototypes from the Mattel archives, restored art from Earl Norem, and interviews with the likes of Dolph Lundgren, Paul Dini and Erika Scheimer. In addition, there’s commentary written by Tim and Steve Seeley.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, a federal judge last week sided with the toymaker in its 2013 lawsuit against writer Donald Glut, who claimed he created the characters in 1981, owns the copyrights and merely licenses them to Mattel (a license, he said, that would expire in 2016).
The company insisted Glut was commissioned 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 noted the writer acknowledged as recently as 2001 that the minicomics were work for hire for which he received neither credit nor royalties. Besides, the toymaker argued, if there were any confusion about the rights, Glut had a legal obligation to come forward years ago.
Glut’s attorneys countered that his delay wasn’t unreasonable, as he believed his claim fell within the termination period stipulated by U.S. copyright law. But Mattel insisted that because the minicomics were work for hire, Glut never owned the copyright to be able to license or terminate it.
Glut, who wrote the novelization of The Empire Strikes Back, also penned episodes of such animated series as Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, The Transformers and Centurions, as well as issues of Marvel’s Captain America, Conan Saga, The Invaders. Kull the Destroyer and The Savage Sword of Conan.
Creators | Beetle Bailey creator Mort Walker received messages from the likes of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Dolly Parton and Prince Albert II of Monaco ahead of his 90th birthday today. The cartoonist, who introduced Beetle Bailey in 1950, still supervises daily work on the strip at his Stamford, Connecticut, studio. [The Associated Press]
Creators | Gene Luen Yang discusses his newest work, Boxers and Saints, a 500-page, two-volume set that examines China’s Boxer Rebellion through the eyes of two very different characters. [Graphic Novel Reporter]
The Masters of the Universe toys came out when I was about 11, and some of my friends went nuts for them. I didn’t like them: They were too big to use alongside my Star Wars figures, too short to play alongside Action Man, and I was starting to get more into the novels of Albert Camus anyway. Oh, and the cartoon was some trite crap, even to the 11-year old me.
Last night Eric Canete posted a stream of MOTU sketches via his Instagram account. Maybe Mattel’s figures meant more to the young Canete, maybe they’re preparatory work for a new project, maybe he’s just nostalgic for the time he spent working on He-Man storyboards a decade ago. When asked by some random guy in the comments after the Man-At-Arms sketch, Canete declared these as “just messing around.”
Anyway, good to see Skeletor looking so happy in his work. What does a guy like that put on his CV anyway? “Incompetent would-be cosmic dictator”? That guy couldn’t run a whelk stall, let along an evil empire.
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.
For ROBOT 6’s fourth-anniversary celebration, I wanted to find some special Shelf Porn, and luckily I remembered that Tim Seeley of Hack/Slash, Revival and ExSanguine (among others) fame had mentioned he might be willing to share some with us a few months ago (around the time I interviewed him for our Robot Roulette feature). So I dropped a note to Tim, who grabbed his camera and started snapping pictures at the studio he shares with several other comic creators. So big thanks to Tim and the rest of the folks at 4-Star Studios!
If you have some shelves of comics, action figures or other related collectibles you’d like to show off, send me a write-up and some jpgs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And now here’s Tim:
If not for this CNN article, I’d have missed entirely that DC Comics last week released a digital one-shot introducing a darker take on the origin of She-Ra, the 1980s toy property (and cartoon star) introduced by Mattel as an alternative to its own popular Masters of the Universe line.
The twin sister of Prince Adam of Eternia (aka He-Man), Adora was kidnapped as an infant and whisked away to the planet Etheria, where she was raised as Despara, a force captain of the Evil Horde. Eventually, she learns her true origins and is given the Sword of Protection, which allows her to transform She-Ra and join the rebellion to free Etheria from the clutches of the Evil Horde.
The new comic, by writer Mike Costa and artist Drew Edward Johnson, focuses on the time before the character’s transformation into She-Ra, when the future heroine wasn’t quite so heroic.
Passings | Cartoonist and animator Bill White has died at the age of 51. According to his Lambiek page, White studied animation at the Kubert School and was a penciler and inker for a number of publishers, including DC Comics, Marvel, Archie, Disney and Harvey. His animation work included stints on Ren and Stimpy and Inspector Gadget. Infinite Hollywood has a nice remembrance. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Comics | Jim Beard looks at the apparent contradiction between the mass popularity of superhero movies and the relatively limited audience for the comics that spawned them; Mark Waid attributes this to a lack of comics shops, while Ethan Van Sciver thinks that most people simply have a hard time reading comics. Two local retailers weigh in as well, making this an interesting and well-rounded overview of the problem. [Toledo Free Press]
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.
The Walking Dead #100 has already been trumpeted as the bestselling comic, in initial orders, since 1997, so it comes as absolutely no surprise that those 383,612 copies were more than enough to lead Diamond Comic Distributors’ Top 10 list for July. It’s the first time in its nearly nine-year run that the horror series by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard has topped the chart.
However, it also marks another milestone: It’s the first time in almost a decade that a comic published by a company other than Marvel or DC has claimed the top spot in the direct market. That honor, in November 2002, went to another Image title, Masters of the Universe #1, by Val Staples and Emiliano Santalucia. Of course, that comic sold about 270,000 fewer copies than the 100th issue of The Walking Dead, according to the invaluable Comichron archives.
Before that, though, the now-defunct Dreamwave Productions had a pretty good run, with its Transformers series leading the monthly sales charts for a full half of 2002.