Having thrilled fans of all ages for over 35 years, there have been many different iterations of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe over the past three decades. As a sinister threat in Anti-He-Man, the villainous incarnation of He-Man from Anti-Eternia, sets out on a destructive rampage across alternate versions of Eternia and its champions, the various He-Men embark on an epic team-up for the ages to stop him once and for all in the upcoming miniseries He-Man and the Masters of the Multiverse.
In an interview with CBR, writer Tim Seeley and artists Dan Fraga and Richard Friend shared their love of the mythic franchise, what elements of the fan-favorite mythos they particularly enjoyed weaving into the ambitious crossover and why He-Man and the Masters of the Universe continues to endure more than 30 years later.
CBR: Masters of the Multiverse is this kind of expansive love letter to the entire mythos of He-Man. How did something this ambitious and wild all kind of come about?
Tim Seeley: This starts with Rob David at Mattel and he had been talking with DC about doing more Masters of the Universe and they were kind of considering what direction to go in. They thought about doing another crossover like we did with Injustice vs. Masters of the Universe or doing another ongoing series, and then he stumbled on the idea of let's doing Into the Spider-Verse with He-Man characters because there's so many great iterations of this and they all have their own fanbases, they all have a very distinct flavor to them. So he pitched this to me and I came back with wanting to put Anti-He-Man in there and he went, "That's perfect, that's one of the universes that has some nostalgic fan love and we want to make it all real." So we stuck it all together.
You mentioned that everyone has their own love of different iterations of He-Man. I was wondering what each of your guys gateway into the Masters of the Universe was as fans?
Seeley: For me, it was the mini-comics that came with the original toys, the original Alfredo Alcala-drawn mini-comics, and I got those when I was five. So those and the toys were my first thing and I still am hugely affectionate of them.
Dan Fraga: For me, it was the Filmation stuff, the cartoon and the cackle from Skeletor, the way he would talk; I just loved him. As kids, we had Megatron and Cobra and Skeletor, those are the big ones, but I loved Skeletor from day one.
Richard Friend: For me, it was a Sideshow [Collectibles] statue about two years ago. [They] started to do a He-Man line, and I had been familiar with the characters as a kid with the cartoons, but loved the way that the statues were looking. The Netflix [series] The Toys That Made Us had a He-Man episode and I just got more and more obsessed with it. So I'm a newer fan and I really just love it. I think it's the one of the coolest things ever and I'm glad that I finally discovered it because it's just so amazing.
Seeley: I'm in the background of The Toys That Made Us. We got interviewed for it but they didn't use it because I'm ugly [laughs] but we're in the background standing there.
Friend: It's funny because when you said the comic book, I remember [one of the co-creators was] telling that story like, "It comes with a comic book!" and [another co-creator] was like, "It does?" [laughs].
Tim, you've been working with He-Man for some time. You did The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe back with Dark Horse Comics and, as you mentioned, you did Injustice vs. Masters of the Universe. What is it about this character and property that has endured for over 35 years and what keeps you coming back for more and ignites your imagination with it?
Seeley: The unlimited nature of it. It's science fiction and fantasy and superheroes and the characters have pun names. It's just this really weird mythology of disparate elements that someone slammed together and they work. And I think the flexibility of it, that you can do this sort of barbarian story or you can do a science fiction story or you can do a sort of light-hearted story, all those things are my favorite things about He-Man. And it also helps it survive where [other] things can't be rebooted or don't have the appeal that they once had because they're products of their era. Masters of the Universe can just turn on a dime and become another thing.
To that point, you guys have brought a stuff of stuff to this fight against Anti-He-Man for the fate of the multiverse. What are some of the elements that kind of surprised you weaving into this miniseries -- you guys go pretty wacky right from this first issue!
Seeley: For me, I was surprised I got so much mileage from [the 1990 animated series] The New Adventures of He-Man, the sort of Space He-Man sequel. I wasn't as familiar with it, it came out when I was just old enough not to be super dedicated to it, but there's some cool stuff in there. I mean, a haunted spaceship that's possessed by an ancient spirit and mutant warriors? Giant spaceships that they can surf on top of? There's some cool stuff in there!
Fraga: I enjoyed drawing [iOS game] Tappers of Grayskull He-Man. He was kind of an exploration because there were so many different versions of him -- there was a load screen version, the game version, the promo version, the Facebook version -- so it about locking him down to a place where he looked really, really good with the rest of the gang. But I'll just go back to Skeletor: Every time I get to draw a new version of Skeletor, it's like eating my favorite meal cooked by different chefs.
Friend: [laughs] Good one, Dan. For me, it's Skeletor and there's two beautiful, beautiful toy sets, the New Castle Grayskull and Snake Mountain. Anytime those two are on the page -- I don't care if it's just a little tiny drawing of it -- it makes me excited because I know how insane those designs are and a double page spread of that, I'd be like, "Yes!"
We're dancing around one of the bigger questions: Dolph Lundgren He-Man?
Fraga: You got him in the first issue!
Fraga: When I was a kid, there was a muscle magazine by Joe Weider [Muscle & Fitness] and they had He-Man on the cover and I remember thinking "Oh my gosh, it's [Lundgren's Rocky character] Ivan Drago as He-Man!" Like, I didn't call him Dolph. But it was Ivan Drago as He-Man so I needed to see it. Yeah, man, I love that look and the movie. And I'm a big fan of Gwildor, I enjoy drawing Gwildor.
What made Prince Keldor the right P.O.V. character for this miniseries?
Seeley: I felt like if you're going to tell the story of what makes someone a He-Man, you have to put someone in that position who is challenged by it. Having Anti-Eternia He-Man be the villain -- to see a He-Man that's been corrupted or ruined -- I thought it'd be interesting to see the other side of that. What if you could see a Skeletor who was in the process of that and had to resist that sort of temptation and really play around with this idea that Skeletor is as important to this as He-Man is.
There's such an extensive supporting cast, who are some of your favorite supporting characters?
Friend: Teela. My favorite character in all the Masters of the Universe stuff is Teela and she's kind of the first girl I had a crush on too [laughs].
Fraga: I like Trap Jaw. He's got everything. He's got cybernetics, but they're like Mad Max cybernetics so they're sort of greasy, grimy cybernetics, and you've got that zombified sort of skull-creature face. But he's got the cool leather and paramilitary sort of aspects. So he's up there in favorites.
Seeley: All the character designs are cool, though. I mean, there's not really a bad one.
You're leaning a bit into nostalgia by the sheer premise of it; going into these different areas and weaving them all together. How do you maintain that balance between nostalgia and bringing something new to the table with this miniseries?
Seeley: I feel like that's the hardest part so far. Making this a story and having it have stakes and have character moments and everything but also making sure that fans get to see all the things that they want to see. I think the hardest one was in Issue #3 we go to the 2002 era cartoon and there's a lot of expectations about how that show ended and feeling like I have to at least touch on some of these stories is really hard but also that I have to get everybody in there. You want to see King Hiss. You want to see Hordak. The version of Trap Jaw from that cartoon is the best design, I think, so making sure that's all in there is the hardest part.
Like you were saying earlier, Tim, you're taking all these disparate elements and smashing them together. What are you guys most proud about forging this new future and ambitious chapter in He-Man history?
Seeley: I'm glad I finally get to use all this knowledge. I'm so proud that I figured out a way to use these years and years of Masters of the Universe ideas and thoughts and knowledge I have about it. That I can dig deep and pull this stuff out and it still works? I'm pretty proud of that.
Friend: Holding the collection, when it's done, will be a big one for me. I think holding the six issues in a hardcover will just be really rewarding.
Fraga: For me, seeing Issue #1 was really thrilling because I hadn't been on comic book stands in 17 years. Getting the comic books last week, holding it and looking at it and knowing the sort of journey it took to get us there is super exciting so I think each time an issue comes out, I'll get that thrill.
He-Man and the Masters of the Multiverse #1 is written by Tim Seeley and illustrated by Dan Fraga and Richard King. It goes on sale November 20 from DC Comics.