01 October 2012

Star Comics cereal:geek article #1

As many of you will know I continue to self-publish cereal:geek magazine; the one-hundred page glossy magazine dedicated to the cartoons of the eighties. I have incredibly talented individuals write articles for the magazine. However, when I required an article covering the Masters of the Universe comic book published by Marvel's Star Comics imprint I knew I had to write this article myself, given that I have such strong views on this series! As I have rarely covered the Star Comics series on this Blog I thought it would be good to showcase the article I wrote for the magazine across a group of posts.

So here I present the first part of the article...

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was one of the most popular cartoons of the eighties. But while shows such as Transformers, G.I. Joe and ThunderCats were being heavily supported by comic books, the "most powerful man in the universe" had nothing. The characters had appeared in comic book form under DC Comics back in 1982, prompting Mattel to commission the company to write and illustrate a further seven minicomics that would be packaged with the figures. These stories were all based on the early conceptual identity of the brand (a more barbaric, magic-laden Eternia). Mattel soon realized that at the height of the cartoon's popularity a comic book to promote their toys would work far greater than before.

At the beginning of 1986 Marvel's Star Comics imprint was in full flow having picked up many popular licenses, including Care Bears, Muppet Babies and most notably (for the sword and sorcery fans) ThunderCats. It should be noted that even though they were based on toy properties neither Transformers nor G.I. Joe were ever brought across to the Star Comics imprint.

Marvel Comics acquired the rights to publish a He-Man and the Masters of the Universe comic from Mattel and they made a big deal about it; He-Man himself appearing on the cover of Marvel Age, an editorial magazine showcasing the latest events and behind the scenes action at Marvel Comics. Even Transformers never got that kind of fanfare. Editor Ralph Macchio hired writer Mike Carlin and artist Ron Wilson both of whom had just finished working on The Thing comic when it was cancelled.

Mike Carlin was quoted as saying in Marvel Age that he would not write down to his audience, and that the stories would be regular ones with regular conflicts. Ralph Macchio didn't hide the fact that, like the cartoon, the comic would have a sense of humor, citing Carlin's feel for light stories and comedy as one of the many reasons he was hired. Apparently so impressive were the sample character sketches that Ron Wilson did for the heads at Mattel that they wanted to hire him on the spot.

From the interviews carried out over the next few months, it was clear that all those involved with the Masters of the Universe comic were looking forward to working on it, and that Marvel were proud to be producing a comic featuring one of the most popular cartoon characters of the time.

Which prompts me to ask this question; how did it go so very wrong?

To be continued...

(click on the image to see it at full-size)



Kevin Martinell said...

Interesting, as I was only familiar with the mini comics and some which appeared in the comic section of the newspapers. I like the idea of using a "sense of humor" as well as He-Man's smug expression in the illustration! :)

M. L. Martin said...

Busta--While Transformers was never formally moved over to Star, the advertising and subscription pages made it feel like it was being treated as 'quasi-Star' for a chunk of its run. Star Comics were highlighted in the 'coming attractions' and subscription offers, ads skewed younger, etc. This would be the 56-66 range of issues--ironically, just after Simon Furman joined us here in the US and the comic took a dramatic upward turn in writing and maturity. (The art was uneven and would have to wait until around 68 to become reliably good.)

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