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'Masters of the Universe' battles on

Official Press Release

Masters of the Universe has experienced its fair share of trouble lately.

With the toy line and cartoon rumored to be cancelled, fans fear the same about the Volume 3 comic which has not appeared on Diamond's shipping list for February.

"A lot of rumors with nothing concrete," said MVCreations' Val Staples, who heads up production on the Masters of the Universe comic. "The comic is late, and the toy and cartoon are not officially cancelled."

Val Staples also owns He-Man.org, the largest Masters of the Universe site online. The site has been massing support for Masters of the Universe. They even have an online petition boasting more than 11,000 signatures. Fans can still sign to show their support: http://www.he-man.org/petition/index.php

"Masters of the Universe is our passion," declared Staples. "The comic won't go away without a fight. We are well aware that the comic has a niche audience. Only select readers pick up the title for whatever reason. And that's to be expected with the cost of comics and so many good books on the stands. This is a comic for fans of Masters. We give it everything we've got and hope that it hits home, just like any other publisher."

After not being scheduled to ship the end of February, rumors circulated that the comic was cancelled. "Not true," said Staples. "But it will be late. Obviously, everything Masters of the Universe related in the US is having a bit of a hard time. Everything stems somewhat from the success of the toys. And since the new toy line battled things like poor case ratios and a lack of child support, everything associated with it has to fight related battles."

"Because the future of the line is in limbo, the direction of the comic is limited. We were recently hit with the burden of character usage rights. It turns out that Mattel does not have full rights to all characters for entertainment development. This was something that was not presented to us when we originally pursued this license, probably because no one at Mattel knew the specifics either. It goes beyond that, to the point where we can't even create new characters. When the continued production of licensed Masters products in the absence of toys became a possible scenario, the details came forward. I find the inability to create characters absurd, but I understand the legalities of it and there's not a lot you can do. Mattel's hands are tied just as tightly as our own."

Staples went on to explain how this affected the production of the comic. "We had to scrap an entire six issue story, and almost two issues worth of art. A devastating blow to our production time and resources. We had to redo everything, and it has pushed us behind... way behind. Of course, in true MV fashion, we don't plan to stay behind for long."

The new Masters story will still be pencilled by fan-favorites Emiliano Santalucia and Enza Fontana. How does this make a difference, one may ask? "Originally our idea was to have Emiliano and Enza do rotating issues of Masters," remarked Staples. "What it also allowed for was two completed issues each month. We planned to surprise fans by announcing that the comic was going to be released twice a month after issue 3."

"Of course, now that plan has been held up a bit. But we still have that production schedule in place. Issues 1, 2, and 3 will ship late, but issue 4 and beyond should be on time. After issue 8, we still aim to have Masters hit the stands twice a month. We wanted to give something more to fans. In an industry where some titles (ours included) do two covers a month to help drum up much needed sales, we decided to throw caution to the wind and do twice the story for the same cost of buying multiple covers. We only have this license for a few years, and we intend to give our fellow fans as much story as we can while attempting to avoid permanent residence in the poor house."

MVCreations is no stranger to complications. MV is still dealing with the effects of CrossGen's widely publicized financial difficulties. "It's had a huge impact on our proposed titles," Staples said. "We had hoped to have all our artists caught up over the holidays. But we have yet to see a dime from our former publisher in almost five months. This has created a gap in payment that is hard to close, but we're still working hard to get things caught up despite the lack of payment."

"Because of this, we've had to delay Masters and creator-owned mini-series that we had planned. The one we had announced, the Masters prequel mini-series with writer Marv Wolfman and penciller Andie Tong, has been temporarily postponed. We can't justify doing a number of new projects when we have hard working artists that still await payment."

For that same reason, Staples announced a change in his involvement on the Masters comic. "I will no longer be writing the comic," added Staples. "Some fans will be disappointed, others will be thrilled. Regardless, I have devoted myself to freelance projects that can help us maintain MV and catch up on payments to creators. As much as I love Masters, we all have to do whatever is possible given the current situation."

The new writer will be Lori Ann Scott, a Masters fan who has impressed the MV crew with her approach to the characters and Masters world. "Lori will be scripting a plot developed by Emiliano Santalucia and myself. I feel Lori has a great strength in bringing more emotion to the characters, and helping to flesh out their personalities. Some people think that Masters needs to be an action book, but that's not our focus. We want people to look past the toy names and follow the story of characters to whom they can relate. This new arc is about exploring some of the history of the characters, and it's important to bring their personas to life."

"Masters is about giving fans what they have asked for and allowing others to join in the dream that we at MV had the chance to experience. Talented creators rarely get a chance to prove themselves in an industry that is so competitive. So that is what we're doing, and we have been very happy with the results."

The first six-issue story arc takes place between Episodes 38 and 39 of the cartoon. "Don't worry," said Staples. "We touch base on all that has happened in the past so readers won't be in the dark. While the story does work with the cartoon, you won't have to watch the series to know what is going on. That's something a few people have been concerned about, and we're very aware."

What lies beyond the first six issues? "There will be a short fill-in story about Stratos' origin (a popular birdman character from a kingdom named Avion) drawn by MV's Leanne Shaw and written by me," Staples remarked. "Then a new six issue arc will take place with a new talented writer."

And what about the previous story that had to be scrapped? "That story is the one Emiliano Santalucia and I really wanted to tell. But due to legal complications, we can never sell that story... but we still plan to tell it. It's something that many fans have wanted for years. We can't give up on something we're enthusiastic about."

The story, that takes place beyond the current cartoon canon, will be shown online for free at He-Man.org. The new story deals with characters fans have asked for since the new line has launched, including the Evil Horde, She-ra, Preeternia, and a complete cast of fan-favorite characters. "We aren't sure how frequent the free comic will be posted. Quarterly? Twice a year? It all depends on when we can squeeze it in between Volume 3 and other projects. This comic has never been about getting rich. It's about living out a fantasy we've had since we were children growing up with Masters of the Universe. This free comic may just be an online fan comic, but it's something that we are determined to share. We've been a big voice behind Masters; He-Man.org and its patrons are one of the biggest reasons this whole line was relaunched, and we plan to keep the dream alive for as long as we can."

Masters of the Universe, Volume 3 Issue 1 is schedule to be in stores the end of March / early April.

Issue 2 should be in stores mid/late April, with Issue 3 in stores late April / Early May. Issue 4 should be in stores, on time, the end of May. Check http://www.mvcreations.com/ and http://www.he-man.org/ for updates.

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