A funny thing happened when DC Comics released a rather unexpected “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” series earlier this year — it became a genuine hit.
The series, which was recently transitioned from miniseries to ongoing, based on Mattel’s iconic ’80s cartoon and toy franchise, has spawned an even more unexpected spinoff series in the form of “DC Universe Vs. The Masters of the Universe.”
Keith Giffen, who also writes the ongoing “Masters of the Universe” series, and “Captain Marvel” artist Dexter Soy, dive headfirst into the six-issue crossover event this August, but CBR News couldn’t wait to see the highly anticipated undersea battle between Aquaman and Mer-Man so we connected with the ever-affable Giffen, who not only praised his adopted universe but the makers of the franchise, the fine men and women of Mattel, Inc.
Featuring covers by superstar artist Ed Benes, “DC Universe Vs. Masters of the Universe” follows Skeletor’s journey to Earth following a defeat at the hands of his nemesis, He-Man. Like Eternia, Earth is bountiful with magic and Skeletor is hungry for it all but is the ultimate puppet master really the one pulling the strings this time?
Giffen teased the answer for CBR and also shared his thoughts on Batman’s opposite number from “MOTU,” the likelihood of a Wonder Woman/Teela confrontation and the obvious role John Constantine and the rest of Justice League Dark play in the story.
CBR News: When you first signed to write “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” did you have any idea this crossover was going to happen?
Keith Giffen: No, not at all. It really came about due to the success of the “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” series. I finished up the first miniseries and I was waiting to hear what was going to happen about the second series because it was only two weeks ago that I found out that “He-Man” was going to be an ongoing book. That’s how in the loop that I am. [Laughs]
Like the New 52, this came completely out of the blue. I guess Mattel wanted to do it and DC figured it wasn’t going to set it within continuity so they approved it. It’s funny because when the West Coast office called me about a He-Man/New 52 crossover, I said, “Get on the horn to DC Comics and give me a list of thou shall nots.” And they called back and said, “Anything goes. Do whatever you want.” And I said, “Well, call them back and remind them that it’s me.” And they said, [Whispers] “We’ll get back to you.”
And when I talked to [DC Comics co-publisher Dan] DiDio, he said, “I don’t care if you cut off Wonder Woman’s head. It’s not in continuity.” And I said, “Yes.” Because I wanted to know how much I could push DC because I wanted to have this very specific scene. I wanted a scene with He-Man and Teela and while He-Man and Batman are talking, Teela is wandering around looking at the glass cases full of Robin suits and at one point she walks up to He-Man and says, “Yeah, we have to get out of here. I think he kills kids.” [Laughs] And I was told: “Sure. Put it in.”
Does this story spin out from the pages in the ongoing or is this a different continuity?
It’s just a story. Maybe Mattel will says it’s part of canon. But again, for DC, it’s definitely out of continuity. I’ve been told that point blank. And I’m kind of glad. I’m not arrogant to think: “Now I get to do Batman right.” Because I hate Batman and he wouldn’t be right for me unless he killed somebody.
I just want to have some fun and it gives me a chance to touch some characters that I am otherwise never going to get to touch. Realistically, I’m never going to get a chance to do Wonder Woman. Or The Flash. Actually, I will because of a project that I have coming up but it’s technically not them even though it is. And if that makes no sense it’s okay because it’s comics.
This is: “Wouldn’t if be cool if…” It’s the closest thing we’ll have to an Elseworlds tale.
We’ve read the teaser that appeared in the announcement, which is Skeletor has come to the New 52 to do what he couldn’t in Eternia. Should we assume this means he plans to make Earth his to rule?
Skeletor is actually brought to Earth. There is a master prime beyond Skeletor. Skeletor is the primary villain in the piece but he’s not the prime mover. In other words, he answers to somebody. And that, I’m hoping, will be a jolt. I am hoping. But God knows with the Internet that jolt might be stolen away.
He-Man and Superman have met once before in 1982 in “DC Comics Presents” #47 and that story heavily features Superman’s susceptibility to magic. Any chance Superman and the Justice League will call upon magic character like Shazam or even John Constantine and the Justice League Dark to assist in the fight against the Masters of the Universe?
Justice League Dark plays a big part in it. At this point, I’ve really only banged out the first issue. And I am waiting for notes on that. There’s going to be a big difference between what I want and what I can do.
When I work on “He-Man,” and actually this runs true for DC too, it’s not always about the story you want to tell. It’s the story that you are allowed to tell. I don’t own He-Man. I don’t own any of the DC characters that I am doing in the book so I don’t get to come in do the stories I want to tell. I’m luckier than most guys but I’m mostly just a caretaker of these characters. They don’t belong to me.
It’s not up to me to kill a He-Man character. Or kill a DC character. You have to go through the channels. I always tell people, “Imagine you own a comic book and you hired someone to write it and they killed one of your characters without asking.” You’d be kind of pissed off.
But again, hopefully, we’ll be able to tell a fun story.
As to the previous meeting between He-Man and Superman, I have to ask the question. Since the New 52 relaunch, does that story even exist anymore? That came out the wrong way. The story obviously exists. It’s been printed so it’s there. It exists. But does that story have any continuity validity? The fact we even have to dance around this whole continuity thing shows why I hate continuity because continuity is not my job. It’s your job. Marvel did not start with Stan Lee saying, “I think I will have a cohesive universe.” The fans started knitting together these stories where Thor would show up and knock Spider-Man off his perch or Captain America would show up in “Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos.” I guarantee that back then, it was more like, “This sounds like a neat idea. Let’s do this.” It was the fans that said, “Well if Thor was over in ‘Fantastic Four’ Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. and ‘The Avengers’ Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. then…” Let them figure it out. It’s not our job. Our job is to tell good stories. And if we leave it alone long enough, some will solve the problem. I’m not kidding.
He-Man and Superman are an obvious matchup but who counters Batman? Man-At-Arms?
Batman? Believe it or not, Hordak, but we can’t use him. [Laughs] Every counterpart for Batman that I stumble upon in the Masters of the Universe universe, and this is me, is a villain. Keep me in mind, I am trying to play against the obvious. I know everyone wants Teela and Wonder Woman to go toe-to-toe, which I’ll do if it suits the story. If it doesn’t suit the story, sorry, I won’t do it. Sorry. Come up with your own Masters of the Universe/DC fanfic.
Justice League Dark plays a big part because Eternia is a place where magic transcends time. And I’m sure Justice League itself will play a big role in it because you would be stupid not to use The Flash and Batman and Green Lantern and Wonder Woman. But they have to work within the story.
Superman versus He-Man, yeah. That’s going to happen. And it makes sense within the story too. But Batman? Is it really necessary to have opposite numbers? Superman versus He-Man or Thor versus Superman? Is it interesting when you are bumping up against characters that are you? While I’m keeping in mind that a big part of my job is giving the fans what they want, I also hope that the fans are aware that another big part of my job is to give them what they don’t know that they want.
If it were always giving the fans what they want, there never would have been a Marvel Age of comics. Image would have never happened. You don’t know you want this stuff until it happens. That’s why writing new books is always fun. You don’t know if you are going to hit that cultural zeitgeist that is out there to be hit.
â€¨DC Comics recently revealed a new look for He-Man, and from the promo art, it appears that that look carries over into the crossover —
That’s his look now. Mattel gave me the marching orders on that and that’s the look he’ll have because that’s the look they want. When you see an obvious change to the Masters of the Universe mythos, it ain’t coming from me. It’s coming from the source.
In the current storyline playing out in “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” featuring She-Ra, that came from Mattel. I like her because she’s on Hordak’s side but that’s them. I don’t get to randomly pick a Masters of the Universe character and say, “You’re going to die in combat!” I have to ask Mattel, “Can I kill a Masters of the Universe character?” And they say, “No, you can’t.”
There is a lot of stuff that I would love to take credit for that’s been going on in the book but it’s really that the guys at Mattel are pretty savvy. They’re looking to shake up their universe. They’re not just nostalgia merchants. They want new stories and they want things to happen that have consequence. They are aware that the toys were really popular in the 1980s but it ain’t that time anymore. This is a whole new audience and it’s been fun to be involved because of that.
“DC Universe vs. The Masters of the Universe” #1, written by Keith Giffen with art by Dexter Soy, is scheduled to be released on August 28.