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Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Book Review

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With a brief introduction by Alan Oppenheimer (the voice of Skeletor, Mer-Man, Man-At-Arms, and Cringer along with countless others) the Art of He-Man doesn’t waste time getting right to what we want to see. The pictures start and don’t let up until the final page, tossing conceptual drawings, official card art, sketches, toy pictures, animation turnarounds and more in a veritable volcano of visual volleys. Working in concert with the Power and Honor Foundation, Mattel, Dreamworks, and individual creators, Dark Horse Books has delivered the perfect coffee table book for any Masters of the Universe fan. For an interview with the Power and Honor foundation about the creation of the book, see Veebee’s interview here!

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Following a very linear, chronological pattern, the book begins with reproductions of the earliest communications between Mattel staff, where fevered brainstorming sessions begin brewing to compete with Kenner’s recent retail juggernaut named Star Wars. From those beginnings we’re taken through rough sketches, hastily composited designs, throwaway concepts, sculpts, all while watching the core toyline taking shape. We MOTUC fans have already seen many of these early concepts take physical form as Demo-Man, Vykron, and Vikor.

From those beginnings we’re treated to visual elements of the vintage toy line itself, from a quadruple-page spread of cross-sell packaging illustrations to various box and card art reproductions. Fully painted card art remains one of the most evocative elements of the toys of my childhood, so to see it reproduced here makes me feel like a kid again.

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From there we head to the greatest marketing tool of ’80s toys: the mini-comics. While not as much time was spent on this area as I would have liked, the recently announced collection of the mini-comics more than makes up for that.

Heading into the Filmation section, we get several design sketches, interviews, and an actual animation cel hidden in a sleeve on one of the pages. This is a very cool addition, and a handful of painted backgrounds are included so you can place the cel on top and imagine the scene.

In the section on magazines, comics, and extraneous material, we’re treated to several full-page recreations of the artwork of Earl Norem that cements one simple idea: it is absolutely impossible for anything to look less than completely badass under his brush. My toys live on the Eternia he painted.

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Muppet head my pearly buttocks.

IMG_0386 (800x540) William George’s full character roster paintings are also given their due as well, and the Star Comics and early DC mini-series is not left out either.

While not as plentiful, Princess of Power is not left out as we get material covering the rise of She-Ra’s popularity, both in print and animation.

IMG_0388 (711x800)The Masters of the Universe movie Starring Dolph Lundgren divides fans, but there’s no quibbling with the awesomeness of some of the Ralph McQuarrie concept designs that are shown here, including a truly bestial take on Beast Man and a frightening Skeletor. As with other sections, we get interviews with several artists, plus director Gary Goddard and Dolph Lundgren himself.

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The next stop is the New Adventures of He-Man, which is even more divisive among fans than the movie. Did you know it was originally going to be a militaristic take called H.E.M.A.N.? I didn’t either.

IMG_0396 (800x600)Onward to a more modern time, first we stop at the earliest days of the new millennium as the Four Horsemen redesign the familiar for a new audience. We’re given a glimpse at the earliest designs before a more anime influence really took over. Then we move into our current reality as we’re given a look at Masters of the Universe Classics, from art to toys to mini-comics and comics, including a huge quadruple-page spread showing off the MOTUC line backed by Rudy Obrero’s illustration for the Classics version of Castle Grayskull.

The book ends with a look at the future, whether movie or beyond, and some images of what we might possibly expect from a 21st century cinematic take on the Masters of the universe.

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That’s the briefest of overviews for this info-and-image-packed book. Hopefully that will give you the idea of what you’re in for when you crack the spine and smell the paper of this book for the first time. It is absolutely worth it, and it’s something you’ll be reading and rereading for quite some time.

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