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Interview: The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe – The Power and Honor Foundation

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So are you excited about the Masters of the Universe art book? If you are a self-respecting He-Man fan, you bet you are! Well, in anticipation of the wide release next week, we had a fantastic opportunity to speak to The Power and The Honor Foundation about their involvement in bringing this amazing book to life.

If you did not know, the Power and Honor foundation is dedicated to documenting and preserving the art of Masters of the Universe and Princess of Power. Thus, they are very uniquely qualified to take part in the grand endeavor of creating a history of the art of the amazing MOTU property.

We sat down with James Eatock, Josh Van Pelt, and Emiliano Santalucia to talk about their involvement with the book and some finer points of He-Man and She-Ra.

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Guys, thanks so much for taking the time to sit down with us to chat about the new Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe book. 

Hi Nic, thanks for having us on TheFwoosh!

What do you feel is the “mission” of this book? What is it trying to accomplish?

Emiliano: We can’t speak for the licensors of course, but I think there are two specific targets for a book like this one. One is to take a look at how the brand grew from being a straightforward toyline to a pop culture sensation. The other is to celebrate the diverse artistry that many creators brought to this brand.
MOTU has always been associated with great artwork, due to the likes of Rudy Obrero and Errol McCarthy working on the box artwork, as well as Alfredo Alcala with his work on the minicomics. I know many fans, including myself, who were not only captured by the amazing figures, but also by the breathtaking artwork!

Do you think of this a “history” book, or more of a story? Or a combination of the two?

Emiliano: Neither of those. I think this book more of an anthology of artwork. The book focuses on the art rather than the story of the brand. And with Masters of the Universe being so huge, there is only so much you can show for each iteration of the brand, even in a 350 page book! There are, of course historical facts and aspects, but this book is more like an exhibition with a wealth of incredible artwork! 

How did the P&H Foundation come to work on this book?

Josh: We were contacted by Dark Horse to provide additional images and review the content of the book. Once we all agreed on the terms, our collaboration really took off and continued up to the day it went to print.

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What kind of work did the P&H Foundation do for the book? Did you supply art, reference, or expertise? All of the above?

Emiliano: The Foundation team provided consultation on the history of the brand, reviewing and adding historical information, artist credits, etc. We offered suggestions on how to expand certain sections of the book. We brought in Errol McCarthy’s huge portfolio of work on the vintage merchandising and style guides.  We also provided the DVD art-card artwork, the artwork for the NECA mini-statues that I created, the New Adventures mini-comics, and added lots of She-Ra material. We shared over 200 images from our archives, covering a variety of sections of the book. And, where possible, we also provided higher quality versions of some of the art already in the book. For example, I carefully restored many of Earl Norem’s paintings. With no original art available for those, I worked on restoring the actual posters from the magazine and removing text elements.

James: When it came to the Filmation section, Emiliano and Josh (and Dark Horse) let me have free rein with it! I wrote all of the material, explaining each stage of the animation process, chose all of the artwork (much of which came from my own personal collection) and suggested the layout. I cannot stress how proud I was with how that section turned out.

Using your knowledge and the P&H archive, what was the process for contributing to the book? Was it by request from Dark Horse or was it collaborative?

Josh: I’d say it was both. Dark Horse requested us to specifically contribute to one section of the book (featuring the vintage toy and concept artwork), but they were happy to take many of our suggestions for the other sections as well. We would often submit a bunch of images, with suggested layout, to show Dark Horse’s design team how best to use the images. We also provided the text that would go with the new images.

MOTU is such a rich and diverse property, there is a LOT of art and story out there — how did you even manage to decide where to start? That had to be daunting all on its own.

Emiliano: When we began contributing to the book, in mid October if I remember correctly, a lot of work had already been completed, so our focus was on working within the structure that was in place. The challenge was to decide what image(s) would be the most representative for a specific section, topic, or author. Which, given the amount of art we have in our archives, is not always easy!

Another daunting task was deciding what to sacrifice. Even with such a massive book, there isn’t room for everything, so we helped narrow down the content, whilst maintaining the spirit of the book.

Is there a particular focus for the book, does it focus more on specific times and era? Or does it try to cover “everything?”

Emiliano: As previously mentioned, it is an anthology, covering almost everything. It begins with the genesis of the original toy line, all the way to the current DC comic books. Only a few minor things were left out but mostly for space reasons. For example, I wanted to dedicate one page to the Filmation-based artwork featured across the many DVD releases by Eamon O’Donoghue and myself, but there was just not enough space.

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Working with Dark Horse and the author, what did you feel was the most important thing about bringing this book to market?

Emiliano: I think the most important thing for a book like this is to establish a historical and cultural context for the brand, almost looking at Masters of the Universe from the outside, whilst bringing all the insider knowledge from the people that worked on it. In the western world it is not that common to have books (especially official ones) exploring toy brands. While some brands have had books published focusing on their toy aspect, MOTU was a glaring omission. With this book Dark Horse have corrected that oversight!

Josh: For us, the most important aspect of this book is the historical accuracy and in-context presentation of the art, along with crediting the artists themselves.

At this point, was there any room for new discovery for you guys in terms of stories or art for the property? Will fans be seeing some things for the very first time?

Emiliano: When Dark Horse first sent over their draft, we were surprised by just how much artwork we hadn’t seen before, as well as the artwork that had be located in Mattel’s archives! Fans will see a great deal of artwork never before uncovered. Much of the “New Adventures” He-Man development artwork that Martin Arriola dug up resurfaced here for the first time. I think one of the best things about this book is that it will bring some familiar pieces of behind the scenes artwork to many more fans that have never been exposed to it before.

James: I was stunned when I saw that Mattel still had many of the cross-sell paintings (the illustrations of the figures that appeared on the backs of the cards). When I was a kid I used to collect those. Whilst many of them are featured across two pages, two of them are show in all their glory. And they look incredible!

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What was the most enjoyable thing about working on this book, from a fan and/or historical aspect?

Emiliano: For me it was getting to work on the brand officially after a lengthy hiatus. I’m currently working on many major toy brands at the moment, but MOTU remains my first love.
Historically, it’s nice to have been part of the team that created (what we hope) is one of many official He-Man and She-Ra art books!

What was the most difficult thing to work on in terms of this book?
Josh: Given that we came in pretty late to the game, time constraints were the most difficult thing to deal with. We had to juggle our other day jobs along with this assignment on the book, which is, of course, something all The Foundation’s members really wanted to do! But I think it was worth the efforts and the stress.

Emiliano: At times it was frustrating to know that some of the original artwork existed (such as the Earl Norem paintings), but that none of us were able to get our hands on it for the book. The problem is that a great deal of original art was either lost or destroyed. And this is the exact reason The Power and The Honor Foundation was created!

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Do you feel a sense of responsibility when working on a project like this? MOTU is so beloved the world over, was there any work in particular you felt was really for the “fans?”

Emiliano: We surely felt lot of responsibility towards the fans, the brand, and the artists, in working on this project. We wanted this book to be perfect, and we knew we could bring some extra value to it. That’s why we wanted to work on it so strongly. What The Foundation does is primarily for the fans, so it’s our responsibility to lend a hand whenever possible.

What do you think fans of MOTU are going to enjoy the most about this book?

Emiliano: My hope is that fans will truly appreciate the work that so many artists have accomplished in so many different eras of the brand. And I’m sure they’ll be delighted to take a peek at some of the concept art for both the toys and cartoon, which I feel are the true gems contained within this book.

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Is there something you feel fans will have a new appreciation for with the release of this book in terms of MOTU lore?

Emiliano: Totally! I think they’ll get a better look at the work of Mark Taylor, and just how much he crafted what we all came to know and love. And they will rediscover the accomplishments of Errol McCarthy, an artist that remained uncredited, but is the man behind some of the most well-known and most-utilized pieces of MOTU art.

James: I’m hoping that the casual fans will see that a great deal of hard work and love went into making the Filmation series. Some of the layout artwork and the backgrounds I featured in this book really do show the depth of talent that was present at Filmation during the time of He-Man and She-Ra.

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Having been immersed in the overall history of MOTU, what do you think is the most important or pivotal time/event that is responsible for what MOTU is today?

Emiliano: Being an artist myself, I may be biased, but I really think it’s the art. All of the visuals created by the artists. While I’m conscious that every aspect of MOTU has been a team effort, it is the visual work of the designers, the sculptors, the illustrators, and the animators, that really grab our attention and let us experience the worlds of Eternia and Etheria.

It all started with Mark Taylor, Ted Mayer, and Tony Guerrero, who gave birth to the figures and accessories at the beginning of MOTU and set the tone. And then the illustrations by Rudy Obrero, William George, Errol McCarthy, and Alfredo Alcala enabled us to immerse ourselves in these fantastical worlds. And with Filmation taking He-Man to the next level, and enabling it to become a billion-dollar property, MOTU became immortal! And to this day, the legacy continues, with the work of the Four Horsemen and all the people that contributed to visualize the world of MOTU.

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What is your favorite part of MOTU history? A particular era?

Emiliano: Even though my career was launched with the 2002 line, my favorite time for MOTU is the original toy line and cartoon. Because it’s where it all started and it’s where these characters were born.
Being able to meet, and then be able to call friends, many of the original creators only reinforces these feelings. I was lucky to see MOTU through the eyes of its creators, Mark, Lou, Ted, etc. This is why I started The Power and The Honor Foundation with Josh and James. We all want to preserve this great history that we grew up with!

James: For me, the cartoon is always going to be my favorite part of MOTU. But I also love the mini-comics, especially the seven DC Comics-produced ones illustrated by Mark Texeira, which are so far removed from the Filmation cartoon that people may find it surprising to hear me say that!

I am always curious to know everyone’s favorite characters when it comes to MOTU, so if we took out He-Man and Skeletor, what characters are your favorites?

Emiliano: Orko! Because I love him and he’s easy to draw! And Lubic of course!

Josh: I’m with Emiliano on this one even though I would say that I lean more towards the toys than Filmation.  Orko was definetley my favorite character growing up..

James: Trap Jaw. He’s awesome on so many levels. Filmation’s version, whilst bumbling, was given so much life with the crazy magenta color scheme, and Lou Scheimer’s wonderful voice!

What part do you feel this book will play in overall history of MOTU?

Emiliano: It will be the first official acknowledgement of MOTU as a popular culture icon. It will also be the brand’s first real presence in bookstores as a nonfiction book.

We sincerely hope it will also be just the first of many books! We’d like this property to receive the same treatment other brands receive in Japan, with books about toy development, the cartoons, and all the other aspects. There is so much to explore in MOTU and our archives have been barely touched with this book. The volume of She-Ra development that we have acquired in our archives borders on the ridiculous!

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From a property/cultural aspect, what do you think is MOTU’s most famous or important legacy?

James: MOTU had a huge impact on both the toy and TV markets. The toys became a billion-dollar brand, and the cartoon series was pivotal in the history of television animation, keeping the industry alive in the US throughout the 1980s, whilst creating a strong syndication market.

Emiliano: Many things that now we take for granted as fans and collectors changed thanks to MOTU. In short, the modern idea of the action figure was created. Not all these innovations are acknowledged by fans, but MOTU did change the way in which toys and cartoons associated with toys are produced!

MOTU seems to be a bit of a crossroads right now, and the potential for it to permeate pop culture at large seems to be getting close, what are you most excited about for the future of the brand?

Emiliano: I don’t know if it’s any closer now, as the interest in the brand is nowhere near as close as it was in the 1980s, but I do believe the potential is still intact and it’s only a matter of time before it is explored. The future success of MOTU depends on what will come next. Many people believe that, because of my attachment to the history of the brand, I can’t look past the vintage line. Having worked on several iterations of Transformers, I can tell you nothing is further from the truth. New ideas and new visions are definitely what is going to bring MOTU back into the mainstream. I don’t know what the plans are for He-Man and She-Ra, but if Mattel does bring new life and new concepts while keeping the heart of MOTU intact, I’m sure there will be a lot of interesting things.

Working in toys, I get to see and enjoy a great many products, and I’d love to see MOTU toys evolve once more and reach new levels. In seven years, since the MOTU Classics line was launched, there has been a great deal of progression in the toy industry, and it would be very exciting to see these achievements applied to MOTU, too. Specifically, I’m excited about what this book could do, in terms of paving the way for more books that explore the brand in a variety of ways.

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Finally, what would you like to say to MOTU fans about this book and work that went into it? Is this going to be THE MOTU book that every fan will need?

Emiliano: It is an awesome book, but fans should not expect a complete catalog of all the art produced for MOTU.

James: Because that book would be about 5,000+ pages in length and would break a bookshelf!

Josh: Just to give fans an idea of what The Foundation has amassed over the years, between original and digital copies, we probably have close to 40,000 pieces of art in our collections! We provided roughly 250 images for this book. In 320 pages you can only scratch the surface of the artwork behind MOTU.

Emiliano: That said, for what there is inside and for what it represents this book is a must have for every MOTU fan! It is the book that every fan needs. And with the full support of the community this book could be the first of many!

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Thanks so much for taking the time, guys — we really appreciate it, and I cannot wait to see the book!

Emiliano: Thank you so much for giving us chance to talk about our experience!

Please visit the Power and Honor Website and check out their efforts to document and preserve the art of Masters of the Universe and Princess of Power!


Also, be sure to grab a copy of the new Art Book, it is available for pre-order from Amazon now (shipping on 4/28)!

Finally, thanks to our pal Alessandra Fucarino for helping to arrange this interview!

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