In some ways, the premise of DC's He-Man and The Masters of The Multiverse is almost so obvious, it's no surprise it hasn't been attempted before. What if the famous Crisis on Infinite Earths event happened... but inside the He-Man universe? And if you're not on board with seeing that question answered, then this new series is probably too much fun for you anyway.
The six-issue series has officially begun, sending the evil Anti-He-Man traveling from one parallel universe version of Eternia, slaying his heroic doppelgangers, and claiming their power swords -- meaning only HE has the power. Now to prevent his plan from being completed, and utterly destroying all the Eternias of the Multiverse, an alliance of alternate He-Men have hopped realities to recruit their most surprising ally: Prince Keldor... the version of Skeletor who turned out to be a hero, instead. Screen Rant had the chance to interview writer Tim Seeley and artists Dan Fraga and Richard Friend about this too-good-to-be-true series, the collapsing of universes, and the fan service for He-Man lovers that is still on the way. Read the full interview below.
I'll start by asking you Tim, I know the only thing better than getting to write a He-Man comic is getting to write another He-Man comic, so can you tell me how this story, and this premise went from a neat idea in the wake of the He-Man/Injustice series, to an actual green-lit book?
Tim Seeley: Well Rob David at Mattel and I liked working together on the Injustice book, and he knows my religious dedication to this brand, so we were just kicking around what we would do next. There were lots of partial ideas, and maybe some crossover thoughts, and then I had pitched this idea of, 'Let's do Anti-Eternia.' Because that's just such a cool concept and it's never been used. And then they came back with, 'Well, we want to do a thing that's playing with all the different iterations of Masters of the Universe. Sort of like a Crisis in Masters of the Universe.' So they asked me pitch it and I combined ideas and came up with this weird idea where a bad He-Man tracks the others across the universe and tries to absorb them all. Which also involves a crazy cartoon He-Man and the 1987 Dolph Lundgren He-Man.
So was it then a case of uniting equal devotees to He-Man? How did all three of you unite for this one?
David Fraga: Yeah, I would agree with that.
Richard Friend: For me, the funny thing is I knew of He-Man and Masters of the Universe as a kid, but I'd really gotten into it heavily over the last two years. And it's been a chain of events. It was Sideshow doing the re-issues of He-Man pieces and a Skeletor piece. Then The Toys That Made Us, I bought Tim's [Injustice] book, and then they offered me this and I literally was having He-Man mania. I would be on YouTube watching toy collector videos for forty-five minutes of people going through every single six-inch, eight-inch figure they've ever collected of He-Man. I've been obsessed with it.
TS: That's awesome, I'm glad that came full circle.
What was it that sparked that devotion from you so late in life?
RF: The designs of the characters are so fun, they're so creative, they're so colorful and unique. I think it's just... Tim's book is beautiful, it's amazing.
TS: Yeah I can't take all the credit for that, the designers were really good.
Can you speak to how you arrived at this specific team of He-Men versions to start with, was it a case of a finding a variety in writing and art, or different versions that would be best known to He-Man fans? When did you know you had gotten the right mixture together??
TS: That's part of it, because they don't look as different as other Multiversal versions of characters, so I felt like I knew going in it had to be the 1987 movie He-Man, because I needed a character who was sort of a gruff, 'War He-Man' I guess? To me he's that guy. In the movie we never hear about Prince Adam, or any of those sort of things. So he's different as far as He-Men go. I wanted to contrast him with our Prince Keldor, who is a pre-Skeletor version. This idea that one He-Man's world was already destroyed by Skeletor, and Keldor is trying to stop himself from becoming that. He's got this legacy that he knows he's supposed to be a bad guy. And he can kind of feel it coming, you know?
Is it difficult to not just end up pushing your own favorites?
TS: Yeah! I'm trying to not make it a Wikipedia listing of everyone you want to see. I'm trying to make it a story that--
DF: You're failing, Tim! You're failing on that mission, because it is literally everybody.
RF: I was noticing--I was flipping through the book while waiting for the call for the interview, just like, 'We've done that character, we've done that character...' I've got a two-page spread open right now and every single character in the pages is in the book so far. Which is cool though!
TS: I feel bad for Dan because he has to lay that stuff out and figure out how to draw them all in their style. But if you're going to go to the the world of New Adventures and you're not going to have Flogg in there... why are you going there, man? You have to use all of this stuff! A lot of these characters will never get the kind of love we would all like to see. I've only got a few issues so I felt like they have to be fun emotional stories, but we have to jam them with characters that people are wishing to see.
I think as clear as it is to the reader just how much fun it must be to write this story, it's also clear how fun it must be to draw these different heroes, each with their own style. For you Dan, this almost feels like the antithesis of what a comic artist is usually setting out to do. How do you not try to work one specific style?
DF: It's a fun challenge and I think one of the reasons Mattel had asked that I come on bard is I have some experience. I directed the animated parts of an MTV show called The Hard Times of RJ Berger. Each episode the animated portion had a different style, so through the two seasons we had to do over twenty-four different animation styles. I developed a system of observation to identify aesthetics of what makes this style a style. Then I was able to apply them not just on a surface level, but in the grammar and vocabulary of the thing. So for example in our book with the 'Tappers of Grayskull' He-Man, once we dialed in which version of the Tappers He-Man it was, I wanted to make sure I saw how he moved. He didn't have a full range of movement, he was like a sprite, in software terms. So I tried to make him look like that.
But the main thing, especially on this book, is it's a real team effort. Tim is writing the characters in a way where there is humor involved, but what makes them different is embraced in a very humoristic sort of way. You have the Tappers of Grayskull He-Man cracking his bracelets together to make coins rain from the sky, but why? Because that's what he does. Then I do my part with pencils, Rich does his part making sure--the thing you're seeing, the sort of gelling together where it shouldn't, but it does. Rich is a major ingredient there, then the guy who ties it all together is Matt Yackey, our colorist. He tries to keep things in the same color range but also allows for the differences.
I obviously have to ask about the villain of the story. You've finally gotten justice for Faker, and now we're moving onto Anti He-Man. Why him? I suppose that answer may go hand in hand with the role for Skeletor, or Keldor, who some people might expect would be the villain of this kind of story.
I wanted to tell a story about what makes someone He-Man, specifically? Which sounds silly, but there's something about the character that works across all of this media, and over thirty-five years--there's something about him that still resonates. I think the idea had to be exploring what that is. Then to contrast that we have this corrupted version, and we add to the mythology of the whole universe, or multiverse, of the Masters of the Universe. I think it's pretty well explored where Skeletor comes from, and all of these versions of his origin have a consistency. But here I felt like we could add to the overall development of, 'Why is there an Anti-Eternia? How does this all start?' I thought I could add some pieces to the mythology if I went outside the usual Skeletor story.
Well you end this first issue on an incredible note for fans of the toys and cartoon, and the solicitations have revealed the Filmation cartoons will also be a part of the story. I didn't expect this ending coming, so is that going to be the norm for readers?
TS: Good, that's the goal. Obviously these things can be kind of predictable, so the job is to be unpredictable and surprise you. But the way we structured this is every issue is a different iteration. So Issue #2, from what you've seen, is obviously New Adventures Masters of the Universe and then we do some other stuff. That changes the tone of the story, and the progress of the characters, and you see what Keldor's journey through this is. Once Anti-Teela tells him he's destined to be this monster and he senses that, and then it's confirmed, he's trying to do something about it. I feel like that is the heart of the story. We take him through all these different worlds to have him confront that legacy.
For you Dan and Richard, was this just a case of strange bucket list things you never thought you'd be drawing?
DF: For me, there is a lot of things I didn't know I'd be drawing and got to draw. I think the surprising part for me is the challenges, you know? I knew He-Man as a kid growing up, mostly the Filmation stuff. I was eleven or twelve when it came out so I was familiar with those characters. But coming in on Issue #2 with New Adventures, I didn't know those characters at all. I didn't even know it existed. And I had worked at Mattel for five and half years and still didn't know they existed.
TS: What, there's not an entire wall of Mattel dedicated to New Adventures of He-Man? I'm surprised.
DF: No, it's a janitor's closet. But we're definitely going to change that, because what we've done together is make a whole lot of fun. Now it's like I want to watch. Because we've been in that world, I want to watch New Adventures of He-Man. At first glance you go, 'Oh, He-Man in space? C'mon.' Then once you realize what it is, the dynamics of the characters... I love the bad buys, the bad guys are fun. And this particular Skeletor was just so much fun to draw! I had a great time.
RF: Yeah it was a no-brainer for me, like I said. I was already on the He-Man obsession thing. When I get into something, all I'll do all day while I'm working is listen to He-Man videos or whatever [Laughs]. So when I got the email and Michael asked, 'Would you be interested in working with Dan Fraga on He-Man?' I was like, 'Yes. I will clear the deck for that. That sounds like the funnest thing ever.'
Before I go I'll just double-check: readers are supposed to read every one of the 1987 He-Man's lines in Dolph Lundgren's voice, right?
DF: 'And if they die... they die.'
He-Man and The Masters of The Multiverse #1 is available now at your local comic book shop.