Following on from our recent interview with He-Man & The Masters of the Universe writer Dan Abnett, we’re excited to be able to have a chat with the series artist moving forward, Pop Mhan. With the eagerly anticipated He-Man: The Eternity War looming on the horizon, we wanted to see what Pop had in store for the epic showdown to come, and had a chance to talk to him about getting his start in the business, his dislike of drawing horses, and all manner of other fun stuff.
Big Comic Page: Thanks fort taking the time to chat with us, Pop. Now, for those of our readers who might not be fully familiar with your work, who is Pop Mhan?
Pop Mhan: Pop Mhan is a weirdo who speaks in the third person a lot. He likes long walks in darkened alleys, puppies and roasted marscapone with bacon ice cream.
BCP: You got your start at as an intern at Wildstorm under Jim Lee, I believe? That’s got to be pretty cool, right? What kinda of things did you learn working so closely with the legend himself?
PM: It was awesome working under Jim. In fact, I started drawing comics because I come upon an old Jim Lee X-men comic and was inspired to pursue the career.The man is a walking encyclopedia of art knowledge your own knowledge is expanded by merely shaking his hands. Osmosis. Better than art school.
Just kidding – go to art school if you can afford it.
BCP: Tell us a little about your artistic process from a technical point of view. What kind of techniques are you using right now?
PM: I currently employ a hybrid method that is about half digital and half analog. I draw layouts using Manga Studio EX 4 and then print the layouts onto board to be penciled and inked. The artwork gets scanned and I do corrections and post production work with a combo of Photoshop and Manga Studio.
The printing and scanning seem like a lot of work but I feel that it’s worth it. I ink on board so I can still use a brush to get those fat, meaty lines that I love so much. I can’t replicate that with a computer. Although the computer is a very nice tool to help speed work flow, it’s too sterile and precise. You have to work three times as hard to breathe life into the art when you work digitally.
BCP: So, let’s get to the He-Man goodness… how did the gig with DC come about?
PM: I came in as a fill in artist to help with the miniseries and just kinda squatted. I’m the house guest that never left. Hahaha.
BCP: We’re you a fan of the series beforehand?
PM: I was a casual fan. I watched the Filmation cartoons when it came on and although I wanted the toys as a kid, I never did get any.
BCP: Do Mattel give you much in the way of artistic license in terms of character design? Are you able to suggest changes, or are they all set in stone from the higher-ups?
PM: I feel like I have some artistic license but honestly, I try not to stray too far away from the concept designs. Mattel has been very supportive of my work and have been exceptionally fun to work with. In that way, I know that I can suggest changes if I feel strongly enough about something that warrants a change.
BCP: Do you feel any pressure working on a franchise that has such an incredibly passionate fan base? There’s already been the occasional bout of fan outcry over certain aspects of DC’s series (He-Man’s ‘new look’, the way Teela has been portrayed, etc.). Do these kind of things play on your mind at all when you’re drawing the issues?
PM: Certainly, there’s a lot of pressure that goes along with working on such a legendary franchise with an incredible and wonderfully impassioned fan base. While I do my best to listen to all comments and criticisms and implement them back into the work, it’s impossible to satisfy everyone. But I always do what I can.
BCP: The vast majority of fans really seem to be responding to the most ‘grown up’ take on the property, with a lot less of the cheesy, cartoony ‘hi-jinks’ of the 80’s. Have Mattel given you any cues in terms of how they want the characters portrayed in this newly ‘serious’ He-Man world?
PM: Yes, most definitely. While I’ve learned a lot through my immersion of the MotU property, I’m still far from being an expert. I rely a lot on Mattel to point me in the right direction for this vision of MotU.
BCP: Obvious question maybe, but do you have a favourite He-Man character to draw, or a character from the universe you haven’t worked on yet that you’d love to take a crack at?
PM: I really like drawing He-man and Battlecat. I’m also having a lot of fun with Adora and Swiftwind. Before this series, I hated drawing animals, particularly horses. I suck at drawing horses. However, after being forced to draw panels and panels of horses I kind of like it now. Well, “like” is too strong a word – more like, I “tolerate” it now. Hahaha.
BCP: We spoke to [series writer] Dan Abnett recently about He-Man: The Eternity War, and he seemed genuinely excited about the epic scale of the conflict. How are you feeling about tackling such a massive showdown?
PM: If you guys have seen my work throughout my run of He-man, you’ll see I like to do these big, epic, battle sprawls. Double page spread of just bodies mashed together, fighting and chaotic energy everywhere. I look forward to showing that in an even more epic scale – Hordak style. Go big or go home, I guess.
BCP: Dan also mentioned that, after some swapping in and out of artists in recent issues, that you were going to be ‘the guy’ moving forward with this series. Are you planning to stay on board for the foreseeable future?
PM: Yes, I plan on being the “Mhan” for the job.
BCP: You’ve got to give me something, man… what kind of things can we expect to see in The Eternity War? ;)
PM: He-man! She-ra! Hordak! Huge fights! It’s going to be EPIC.
BCP: And finally, He-Man aside, what other projects do you have coming up that we should look out for?
PM: Oh, be on the lookout for…. HE-MAN: Infinity War! Hahaha, sorry man. This will be where all of my energy will be devoted here for a while. :)
BCP: Thanks again for taking the time to chat with us.
PM: Thanks, fellas!
He-Man & The Masters of the Universe #17 goes on sale on 24th September, with He-Man: The Eternity War following in December – both from DC Comics.