In October, the “Masters Of The Universe” media franchise, originally created by toy company Mattel, adds a new horror-tinged chapter to it’s long history when DC Comics releases the one-shot comic book, “Masters Of The Universe: The Origin Of Skeletor” written by Joshua Fialkov, best known for his work on darker books such as DC’s “I, Vampire” and his horror Image Comic “Echoes.”
“They came to me with the opportunity and told me that they wanted me to take the type of hard, thoughtful horror that I love doing and bring it to the character,” Fialkov said, speaking one on one with CBR about his “Skeletor” origin story.
Teaming up with British artist extraordinaire Frazer Irving, according to Fialkov his thirty-two page “Masters Of The Universe: The Origin Of Skeletor” issue will do exactly what the title promises — reveal a new origin and dive into the background of the He-Man’s longtime antagonist.
“It’s really a once in a lifetime chance to have a big effect on a character that’s so beloved,” Fialkov added.
Begun in 1981 as a toy line from Mattel, the company hired comic book writers and artists to fill out the line’s back-story in a series of mini-comics expanding the world. Set in the land of Eternia, the earliest incarnation of “Masters Of The Universe” followed the muscle-bound action hero He-Man who fought the evil Skeletor and his minions.
The line quickly exploded into an animated children’s series produced by Filmation in 1983 as the first syndicated show based on a toy. A spinoff animated show (and spinoff-toy line) “She-Ra: Princess Of Power” followed alongside a 1987 live action movie and two new animated shows in 1990 and 2002, as well as more comic miniseries from DC, Marvel Comics, Dark Horse and other publishers.
With literally decades of “Masters Of The Universe” continuity to choose from, Fialkov readily admitted the first animated show marked his own foray into Eternia and the wonders of action figures as a kid.
“I’m pretty much the exact right age, maybe a little too young, but I definitely watched [‘He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe’], I definitely had the toys, and, I specifically remember how much I loved pulling the arms and legs and heads up and mixing them up,” Fialkov joked, labeling himself a watcher of the early ’80s show.
This year saw the most recent exploitation of the “Masters Of The Universe” property is a “He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe” DC series. The series cast Skeletor as ruler of Eternia, mind-wiping and disposing of Prince Adam (He-Man’s non-super powered identity) and the other Masters of the Universe. However, Fialkov notes his one-shot is not one hundred percent directly tied in to the events in the “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” story.
“I think the idea has been to start to build a whole new take on the universe — one that incorporates all of the best bits from throughout ‘MOTU’s’ long history. So, in that sense we’re all telling the same story,” Fialkov said. “I really hope that all of the other books get to take our take on Skeletor into them and use him.”
The origins of Skeletor have varied almost as much as the varying media presentations of “Masters of the Universe.” In some incarnations, he’s a misplaced inhabitant of another dimension trying to use the powers of Castle Grayskull to go home. In others, he’s the evil long-lost brother of King Randor, ruler of Eternia and father of Prince Adam/He-Man. Though mum on the specifics of his Skeletor origin, Fialkov explained his one-shot revolved around two unnamed brothers.
“This is set long before the other stories,” Fialkov said. “In everything I do, I try to find the relationships that I can hang on to, something that exists as a true touchstone for a character that’s also completely identifiable. For me, that was the story of two brothers, one beloved, and the other reviled. Who those brothers are and how they lead to Skeletor — well, you’ll just have to read to find out.”
Along those same lines, Fialkov explained he and Irving went in to reworking Skeletor with knowledge of the prior incarnations.
“Mattel really encouraged Frazer and I to pick and chose the best version from what’s come before and to put our own spin on it. Hopefully the fans will agree,” Fialkov said.
The skull-faced, blue-skinned bad guy has been a comedic figure in the franchise as much as a villain, especially in the animated shows. Despite pulling bits and pieces from earlier versions of the character, Fialkov doesn’t plan to fall back on the humorous Skeletor, but hopes to reveal a darker, more mature direction for the character and really help set the property down a new path.
“I really wanted to legitimize the threat of the character, grounding him in a stronger reality with actual motivations that may not redeem him, but certainly explain where he’s coming from,” Fialkov said.
Helping set that tone is Irving whose well-known for his use of monochromatic coloring and ink washes to establish mood in books like the darker “Xombi” with writer John Rozum or “Seven Soldiers: Klarion The Witch Boy” with Grant Morrison.
“When you’re lucky enough to get Frazer Irving drawing a book you wrote, you let him do whatever he wants. The man is a genius through and through,” Fialkov said, praising the artist’s work.
Fialkov also compared working with Irving on “Skeletor” with the various other artists he’s had the opportunity to work with on shorter stories and projects, like his issues of “Superman/Batman,” saying that his relationship with his artists are the same whether their project is an ongoing series or quick one-shot.
“I do my best to stay in touch with everyone I’m working with — it can be tough with time zones and other responsibilities, but the key for me is while you’re working with each other to always be available and be ready to jump in when needed,” Fialkov said. “Having a brilliant editor like Ben Abernathy backing us up goes a long way to making that much easier to accomplish.”
Still at work on “I, Vampire,” Fialkov admitted that while one could look at writing a one-shot as more challenging then working on an ongoing series, it’s part and parcel with his brand of storytelling.
“I’m of the school that every issue should be a complete story no matter what,” Fialkov said. “I like to think that you can pick up just one issue of any of my books and know where the story is and what’s going on — and hopefully be drawn in enough to read the next one, too. So, I approach every story from both the macro and micro levels. With a one-shot like this it’s a bit easier because the macro is the micro.”
“Masters Of The Universe: The Origin Of Skeletor” hits stores October 31.