Masters of the Universe Literature from Dark Horse Books
I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with this feature: I’m taking a look at books instead of action figures, music, or ranting about WWE! What a change-up! In all seriousness, the books I’m going to look at today are related to Masters of the Universe, so it fits in with the theme of my site.
The idea to do this feature came after reading stuff on various Facebook groups and forums where people see a figure, a toy line, a music release, or something they’re interested in and ask where it came from, when it got released, where it’s available and so-forth because they’re out of the loop. Sometimes even with the Internet giving us instant information, I’m surprised there are fans of Masters of the Universe who had no idea Classics even happened or caught on years after the start-up of the line.
I’ve done features on some collectibles and figures on here and sometimes I am amazed when I get contacted by people asking where I got something or when it came out. I have to step back and remember that people’s online habits aren’t the same and many of the groups, forums, or places where I get my information, I’ve stumbled upon through the years. Hell, I’m sure there are many awesome blogs, sites, forums, and groups I have no idea about and they may get information out there faster than the places I lurk and take in information. Send me some suggestions (and places that may like the stuff I write about).
Long story aside, I just wanted to feature all the books published over the past two years or so from Dark Horse Books in the order they were released. I figure that there are people out there that a) may not know about any of these books or b) know about them but perhaps forgot about them or weren’t sure what was in them. Just like I take pleasure in showcasing collectibles and sharing my thoughts on music and professional wrestling, I think it’s about time these books get their due on my site because I have enjoyed them (or am in the midst of enjoying them) and I’m sure many people will, too!
I will also say that all these books are a huge undertaking for those involved. Make sure to check out all the credits in the books because it’s those people, and probably people that weren’t credited but did stuff out of love for the brand, that keep this line and property alive and growing. I applaud Dark Horse for publishing these books and give props to all involved for their time and hard work. That is another reason I think it’s important to showcase these books – all of you involved have given me such great material to read and, one day, share with my daughter.
The Art of He Man and the Masters of the Universe –
Dark Horse Books (Apr 28, 2015) Various Authors/Contributors
The first book released by Dark Horse Books is 320 pages and it’s basically a visual history of the Masters of the Universe brand. It features sketches and information about the creation of MOTU as it was being developed all the way to the latest DC comics that came out a while back. That means you’ll see ideas and sketches that never came to fruition all the way to some of the most recent takes of the MOTU characters and worlds. There seems to be no part of MOTU history that isn’t featured here.
If you’re looking for a book that gives a more in-depth narrative to the creation of MOTU, any behind the scenes turmoil, or battles between who deserves credit for what, this isn’t the book. This book celebrates all those involved in taking MOTU from concept sketches to the diverse, ever growing macrocosm we all love.
There was a special edition of this book that featured an art print exclusive to that edition and a special packaging mimicking Castle Grayskull. I would have gotten that edition but the conversion between the Canadian dollar and US dollar (plus the huge shipping price) kiboshed that.
For those interested, as of the time of writing this, Amazon has this book for: $36.10 CDN or $25.41 US.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Minicomic Collection –
Dark Horse Books (November 3, 2015) Various Authors/Contributors
Oh, the mini comics…so many memories!!! If you had the vintage Masters of the Universe figures as a kid, you had mini comics because they came with each figure! I used to love reading them over and over as a child and, when you think about it, it was a cool idea to add these because not only was Mattel promoting more characters for you to purchase by featuring them in the comics (and on the back), but it was helping engage kids in reading!
While the mini-comics aren’t that hard to come by (well, most anyway), this anthology brings them all together across 1232 pages. The book features all the mini comics from the vintage MOTU line as well as the She-Ra: Princess of Power line AND the more recent ones that came with a few of the Masters of the Universe Classics figures.
I love seeing how the early comics were so gritty as Mattel was really searching for the direction MOTU was going to take and then how the comics followed the same direction as the Filmation cartoon with character traits and direction. I suppose that’s what you call having a cohesive brand.
As a bonus, there are interviews with people who created these mini comics and it really gives you an great sense of what it was like to work for Mattel back in the day, the marketing direction for the brand, and the genius behind the creators of the stories and art. I would have been happy just with the comics collected, but I’m glad we got extras like this! Bravo!
For those interested, as of the time of writing this, Amazon has this book for: $31.50 CDN or $19.19 US.
He-Man and She-Ra: A Complete Guide to the Classic Animated Adventures –
Dark Horse Books (September 13, 2016) Author: James Eatock
Let’s say you wanted to attend a MOTU cartoon trivia night and wanted a cheat sheet. If you could shrink this massive 592 page book down, you’d be guaranteed to win.
Authored by James Eatock, this book breaks down every single episode of the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and She-Ra: Princess of Power cartoons by Filmation in amazing detail.
Every episode in the book features production notes, a synopsis of the episode, a review, illustrations, trivia, and more. This is the kind of book that most people would drool over for their favourite TV show. When I try and get my daughter into this show (she just turned two), this book will be beside me when I start my DVD collection from the beginning so I can go along with each episode. I have gone through quite a bit of this book, but I think I’ll appreciate it even more when actually going through it with the cartoon, as I’m sure that’s what was intended.
Much props to James for compiling this and sharing his thoughts on every episode. His dedication and passion for the property and this cartoon is apparent throughout this book. I follow him on his Instagram page and Twitter (cerealgeek77/@cerealgeek) and you should, too! While you’re at it – follow me as well (electrified_porcupine or @elecporcupine)! Shameless plug, I know.
For those interested, as of the time of writing this, Amazon has this book for: $41.42 CDN and $27.19 US.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Newspaper Comic Strips –
Dark Horse Books (February 14, 2017)
Various Authors/Contributors: specifically
This book is 496 pages of material I never had read previously. Like some brands/properties, MOTU had a daily newspaper strip that fleshed out a story over many weeks and ran from 1986-1991. On Sundays, you would actually get a larger piece of the story in colour. This comic strip wasn’t in any newspaper where I lived when I was growing up.
These stories feature many familiar characters with their traits from the Filmation cartoon, characters from the MOTU 1987 live-action movie, new characters, and even familiar faces from The New Adventures of He-Man!
Some of the stories are fleshed out well, although there is a bit of overlap here and there. That’s mainly because how these strips were presented. If someone missed a day or two, you couldn’t have them so lost they wouldn’t be able to continue with the story. Many of the stories are engaging and well done but there are a few that just didn’t resonate with me. I will also say that with so much build up in some of the stories, I find the denouement (or falling action in a good old plot diagram) and resolution comes so damn fast that I found them to be a tad unsatisfying. Nonetheless, the majority are good reads.
There are interviews with the people that were involved with creating the stories and art for the newspaper strips in between some of the stories. It is quite educational to read about the process of going from an idea to getting them published.
There were many people that worked on this project. From hunting down all these strips from across the world, to restoring them, helping make the text legible, and more. There was a lot to do to bring these obscure stories (and little known part of MOTU history) to us fans. On behalf of those that bought and enjoyed this book, thank you!
One last note: as you get close to the end of the book (and the run of the comic strip series itself), there are some strips that could not be located. Appropriate space is left with very detailed descriptions of what happened in those missing strips so you’re not left in the cold. Hopefully if they are ever tracked down, we can get access to them and be able to print them out to insert into the blank areas. I’ve got my glue stick ready!
For those interested, as of the time of writing this, Amazon has this book for: $35.79 CDN or $20.39 US.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: A Character Guide and World Compendium –
Dark Horse Books (May 23, 2017) Various Authors/Contributors
This most recent release is 512 pages long and jam packed with every single person, planet, machine, beast, piece of technology, and weaponry that has ever been featured in Masters of the Universe/Princess of Power lore. I mean everything. If anything was left out, I’m sure it would surprise the numerous people who worked on this book.
This book kind of reminds me how every character that ever appeared in a Star Wars movie slowly got their own backstory, and name. For example going from “Walrus Man” in the cantina on Tatooine to being Ponda Baba and getting an elaborate back story.
Pop-culture comparison aside, I got this book a few months ago and I’m STILL going through it. I’m soaking it all in slowly during these wonderful summer days and taking in all the stuff I’m unfamiliar with.
I’m also enjoying how the major characters get so much attention. For example, in the page above, you can see how Orko is presented by giving information about his character from each different cannon/media he was a part of. You get everything from the Filmation cartoon, to mini comics, to the Ladybird books, various comics, the 200X cartoon, and up to Classics. There are some similarities and differences and it’s really interesting to see what stays with specific characters and what differs over the years with different people writing for the character at various times.
For those interested, as of the time of writing this, Amazon has this book for: $55.84 CDN or $33.97 US.
I think all these books are well worth the money if you’re a fan of Masters of the Universe. Just when you think (or thought) you knew everything about MOTU, these books will show you otherwise.
Once again, thanks to Dark Horse for publishing these books and to those I’ve mentioned (and those I didn’t) who worked very hard on these books. I’m up for even more MOTU goodness but I’m not sure what could actually be compiled next!