Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer(s): Tim Seeley, Steve Seeley
Release Date: 15th April, 2015
Anyone who knows me knows that I have three distinctive geek weaknesses (geeknesses?). Thanos, Swamp Thing, and – well – pretty much anything to do with He-Man. So when I found out that Dark Horse were planning on releasing a three-hundred page artbook chronicling the rich, varied history of one of my all-time favourite franchises, there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that I simply had to get my hands on said book and review the hell out of it. So, to business…
The collection is broken down into chronological chapters, ranging from the initial development and inception of the franchise all the way to the latest DC Comics series, with lengthy stops at Mattel and Filmation along the way. Collection ‘curators’ Tim and Steve Seeley provide the captions along the way, guiding us through this treasure trove of content with the same fanboy enthusiasm no doubt shared by the vast majority of readers – myself included.
Along the way, we are treated to notes from the initial brainstorming meetings for the franchise as the creators laid out their ideas for what makes a successful ‘boy’s toy’, and are given access to some fascinating concept artwork for just how the He-Man character could have turned out. We then move swiftly along to the early releases of the action figure line, including beautiful reprintings of some of the iconic packaging artwork, as well as early designs for several key characters.
Now, while the packaging and concept art contained within this collection is absolute catnip for a He-Man fanboy like me, the most impressive visual aspect of this book is undoubtedly the absolutely stunning artwork of Earl Norem, lovingly restored in all its glory here. His beautifully detailed, painted pieces really pop off the page, serving as perhaps the most impressive rendering of the character in its thirty-plus year history.
Aside from eye-wateringly beautiful artwork, the book also has some real ‘meat’ to it in the form of exclusive interviews with several significant names who have contributed to the franchise over the years. While the occasional interview does feel a little pointless (such as the one with Steve Grant, writer of some of the cracking He-Man mini-comics, who doesn’t actually seem to remember anything about what he wrote or the characters involved), the vast majority are truly fascinating, particularly the ones with Erika Scheimer (daughter of Lou, one of the original founders of Filmation) and Gary Goddard (director of the much-maligned 1987 live action movie).
The book also contains some tasty little exclusives like glimpses at ideas for unreleased action figures, different variations of certain character’s costumes and physical appearances, as well as some truly fascinating unreleased pages from the never-published issue #14 of Marvel’s ‘Star Comics’ imprint series.
While it’s worryingly easy to dismiss the franchise as being camp, cheesy nonsense, the impact He-Man had on the pop culture landscape simply cannot be overstated, and this book serves as a glowing testament to the strength, passion and variety of the franchise over the last thirty-plus years. Lovingly curated and beautifully balanced in its approach, this is an utterly gorgeous collection that any He-Man fan simply needs to have on their bookshelf.
Dark Horse haaaaaas the poooooower!!
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