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June 22, 2012

He-Man returns: DC remasters a universe from the 1980s

Posted in: Comics

motu01cover He Man returns: DC remasters a universe from the 1980s

The cover of a “Masters of the Universe” digital comic book featuring Sir Laser Lot. (DC Entertainment)

Hollywood used to find movies ideas on the New York Times bestsellers list, but lately it seems like studios are handing around an old Toys ‘R’ Us  catalog from the Reagan years. Battleship, Transformers, G.I. Joe, Tonka and Ouija have all made headlines, and any day we’re expecting to hear about a visionary producer who thinks that proposed View-Master movie just might click. Surely, though, this ongoing toy story in pop culture can’t continue, can it?

“By the power of … Grayskull!”

Ah. Right. We almost forgot that DC Comics announced in April that “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” would be launched as a six-issue series in July. Writer James Robinson and artist Phillip Tan are crafting this new interpretation of the muscular Mattel brand that launched in 1981 and became a cartoon series in 1983.

The premise of the new series is that Skeletor has triumphed and lords over Castle Grayskull while the Masters have no memory of their former glory — and He-Man is a simple woodsman haunted by strange dreams. (So if you think ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” ripped off “Fables,” then you can view this as DC payback.)

This weekend, fans can make an early visit to Eternia with the first in a series of digital comics that zero in on individual characters in the Masters of the Universe mythology. Battle Cat and Man-at-Arms will be in upcoming installments, but the story that goes on sale Saturday features a new name: Sir Laser Lot.

he man He Man returns: DC remasters a universe from the 1980s

A vintage advertisement for Master of the Universe toys. (Mattel)

Sir Laser Lot is the creation of none other than Geoff Johns, the star DC writer and the chief creative officer at DC Entertainment, and he put a lot of time in on the project: He was a kid (and a He-Man fan) in Michigan when he first created the noble galactic knight — and he dug out his old childhood drawings so he could show Mattel what he had in mind. Mattel’s designers took Johns’ new words and old art and created an action figure that will debut in July at Comic-Con International.

“It’s pretty cool,” John said with a chuckle. “He-Man was like this sci-fi, medieval universe that I really got into as a kid after a neighbor gave me an action figure. There was a lot of creativity that went into that universe and all these weird characters. Mattel had heard that I was a fan when I was young, so they came to me and said they were creating some new characters and asked me to do one. So I did a short, eight-page story, and it was a lot of fun, and it’s a bizarre process to create an action figure and coming up with the back story…. I actually have one of the early [versions] of the action figure at home now.”

masters of the universe He Man returns: DC remasters a universe from the 1980s

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the “Masters of the Universe” film.

The digital comic that arrives Saturday features art by Howard Porter. The digital series will debut new chapters twice a month on Saturdays. He-Man’s most trusted companion, Battle Cat, stars in the July 14 installment (written by Mike Costa with art by Jheremy Raapack) and the captain of the Eternia guard, Man-At-Arms, takes the spotlight in the July 28 release (written by Kyle Higgins with artwork by Pop Mhan).

Even though Johns had a deep affection for the toys and mythology, he didn’t buy a ticket to see “Masters of the Universe,” the 1987 live-action film — you remember, it had Dolph Lundgren (co-star in upcoming “The Expendables 2″) as He-Man, and the nefarious Skeletor was brought to life by Frank Langella (yes, that’s right, the “Frost/Nixon” Oscar nominee).

“I never saw it, I never went,” Johns said, “so I don’t really have an opinion on it.”

Funny, that’s how we feel about “Battleship.”

– Geoff Boucher

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