Review by C.J. Bunce
Next month Dark Horse Comics releases a must-read for fans of He-Man, She-Ra “Princess of Power,” and the Masters of the Universe world of toys, animated series, magazines, chapter books, posters, comic strips, and comic books. The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Limited Edition Hardcover includes more than 300 pages full-color art, a portfolio featuring an exclusive print by Gerald Parel, a foil-embossed cover, and a die-cut two-piece Castle Greyskull slipcase. A standard edition of the book will also be available. Many well-known creators worked with these characters since its inception in the early 1980s, including Ralph McQuarrie, Drew Struzan, Dick Giordano, J. Michael Straczynski, George Tuska, Klaus Janson, Boris Vallejo, Tony Moore, Darwyn Cooke, Geoff Johns, and Tommy Lee Edwards.
Designers from every stage of the creation of He-Man, She-Ra, Skeletor, and the large cast of sword and sorcery heroes and villains, offer insight into character development, decision-making, and the impact on 1980s kids. The best feature is the inclusion of hundred of pieces of full-color art, concept artwork, page layouts, sketches, storyboards, packaging art, prototypes, never before seen and unused imagery, advertising art, original comic art, and final comic book pages, covers, and animation cels. It features restored art from master illustrator Earl Norem, as well as interviews with Dolph Lundgren, who played He-Man in the 1987 movie, director Gary Goddard, well-known TV producer/comic book writer Paul Dini, and voice actress Erika Scheimer, among many others. Captions for photos were written by comic book creators Tim Seeley and Steve Seeley.
Particularly of interest to toy collectors are the original notes from the development stage of the toy line at Mattel. Mattel, which had passed on the ground-breaking Star Wars action figure line, developed He-Man as a direct competitor to that toy line. Mattel drove the look of the characters–this was first and foremost a toy line, inspired in part by the fantasy art of Frank Frazetta. But it grew beyond that. Artists and writers and other creators remark with pride about the focus on the stories that went beyond the toy line.
The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe includes chapters on the mini-comics, which introduced kids to new characters, the Filmation animated adventures and later animated series, and the 1987 film. One section includes reprints of art cards included with a DVD release, with great work by Adam Hughes, Frank Cho, Dustin Nguyen, Gene Ha, and Bill Sienkiewicz, among others. Mattel partnered with both DC Comics and Marvel Comics to tell these adventure and fantasy stories over the course of the brand’s three decades.
Fun for both fans of the franchise and those wanting to learn more about the step-by-step process of developing a story from idea through animated series production, The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe can be pre-ordered at a discount off the list price from Amazon.com. Check out the deluxe limited edition–limited to 4,000 copies only–here, and the standard release here.