By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
All the newspaper strips from 1986-91 of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (MotU) is getting printed by Dark Horse Comics into a hardcover book, and I will be there when it hits shelves Feb 1st! Amazon lists it for Feb 15th, but I’m not waiting that long. By the power of Grayskull, it shall be mine, and that’s not because I still enjoy the cartoon series. I heard of the strips, but my local paper did not print it.
The forward in this book explains how archivist Danielle Gelehrter became an enthusiast. The real search began when the strip’s primary writer Chris Weber and wife Karen Willson, who edited it, wanted to create an online archive of their work. After talking to Gelehrter, they were hard at work scanning all the material they had all through the night. Around this time was when Dark Horse announced Art of He Man and the Masters of the Universe. Gelehrter was one of the advisers and interest was reignited for the strip. Flash forward to now, what they managed to find and compile represents 98% of the full four and a half year run. To fill the missing bits, scripts fill in the missing panels, and there’s approximately 520 pages of goodness to savoir! The interviews are particularly enlightening because it revealed some of the ideas that did not make it to the strip and how the process of creating a syndicated comic strip worked back then, when public access to the Internet was at its toddler stage.
The volume begins with “Day of the Comet,” where Rokkon (of a Rock people tribe) is seen whizzing through space to find the Planet of Eternia because he needs He-Man’s help to save his people and prevent another world from falling. Even as I look at the advance digital preview, I can hear the voice talents from the animated series speak and the music play in my head. When comparing the book to the online posts, the obvious reason why anyone should own the print edition is simply because all the lettering is redone and the artwork is crisper.
The early attempts at scanning were met with technology limitations. No matter how crisp the digital translation is, not a lot of people have the data required to download a 50 megabyte file over a compressed 5 mb (creating more grain on the image) to enjoy these strips again. The cleanup is very remarkable. Removing the moire effect that occurs from scanning newspaper images needs to be finessed by hand instead of a computer algorithm. The restoration work is beautiful to behold, and that alone has me enthusiastic to seek owning my own proper paper copy this Wednesday.
Partial Table of Contents:
– Interview with Gérald Forton (artist)
= Vengeance of the Viper King
– Ninjor Stalks by Night
– Terror Takes Time
– It’ll Be A Cold Day
= At the Edge of the Darkest Night
– Interview: Karen Willson
– He-Man in Wonderland