Sunday, 25 May 2014

Interview - Mattel's Head Writer - Rob David



To get to the real scoop on DC's He-Man, you need to talk with Mattel. The guy for that is Rob David, Head Writer and Lead Creative on Masters of the Universe. He helps create, write and supervise new storylines, such as the comic.

Check out the Interview for more information!



[This interview was done originally for He-Man.org. Check it out here]

Hello Mr. David.
I've seen your name credited on the MOTU comic, alongside with Lloyd Goldfine. Can you tell more about what are your duties and Lloyd's? How did you both land on the comic-project?

Sure! I'm Head Writer and Lead Creative on "Masters of the Universe" for Mattel's Playground Productions. Playground Productions is Mattel's new Entertainment and Story department, led by Dave Voss.

My job is to create, write and supervise new storylines for the brand, across platforms (including comics). Lloyd is Supervising Producer. He's also my editor, occasional writing partner and friend. I love the guy. Lloyd recruited me to work for Mattel. We go way back, both of us come from TV, and we worked together on a bunch of shows including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Turtles Forever: the 25th Anniversary TMNT movie.

Your name is attached to the App-game "He-Man: The Most Powerful Game in the Universe". What was working on that like?

A total crack-up! It was such a fun team to work with. I wrote the game, and the game trailers, and was lead creative on the project, alongside Mattel's Gabe DeLaTorre, MOTU's Design Supervisor, who designed the look of the game. Gabe's brilliant, and one of my chief joys at Mattel is getting the chance to sit down and watch Gabe at his Wacom tablet.

Joe Ferencz was the marketing genius behind the App, and the knowledgeable Nick Torchia produced it, without whom none of it would be possible.


The game was timed for MOTU's 30th anniversary. The idea was to reach as wide an audience as possible. Not just the fans who are still actively engaged with MOTU, but the casual fans, the lapsed fans; the fans who loved He-Man as a kid, but haven't really thought about him in thirty years. The best way to reach everybody is through comedy. This was an opportunity to have fun and not take ourselves too seriously. But at the same time celebrate what we all love and remember about MOTU. My inspiration was the movie “Galaxy Quest.” I thought that film did a brilliant job of being self-aware, tweaking a legend, while at the same time being an unabashed love letter to Star Trek.


Before this, fans have mostly heard from Scott "Toyguru" Neitlich some info in regards to the comic. He was also present at the comic-panel in 2013 Power-Con. What is his role in regards to the comic?

Scott's awesome! Scott handled marketing on the comic when it first started up, but he hasn't been involved on the book since the earliest issues of the ongoing series. Marketing (on Mattel's side) is under the thoughtful care of Joe Ferencz from Mattel's Franchise Development.


The last story arc brought up many cool concepts. Fans of the 2002-cartoon know the name Serpos being attached to the Giant Snake that King Hiss awakened. In the DC Comic the name is referenced to Life-Bringer/Zoar. How did that come about on pulling all these names together for one entity?

I really wanted to explore MOTU's great mythology, dive deeply into it, and look at it new ways.

One thing I love about Eternia is that it's located at the center of the universe -- Ground Zero of the Big Bang. It's the first planet of creation. At its core is the magic that created the stars, the planets, all of us. Everything.

Eternia would therefore be uniquely important -- to everybody. Every race in the universe would have a legitimate claim to Eternia. And just like many cultures here on Earth share similar myths, just told differently with different names, it occurred to me that the races in MOTU would be no different. All their myths would eventually lead back to Eternia. The source. The magic. They may have different names for that magic. But they'd all be talking about the same thing.

Eternians, Snake Men and the Horde are MOTU's three main factions. In the DC Comics Continuity, these three tribes each believe that the magic of Eternia (the magic that created the universe) has a "consciousness" and see it the same way the ancient Greeks saw Gaia, as a Mother Goddess, the mother of everything. But they each see that Mother Goddess in their own way.

Three facets of the same deity, like the Hindu's Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Or in their case: Serpos, Zoar and Horokoth. Serpos being related to Creation and the Dawn of Time, Zoar to Preservation and Eternity, and Horokoth to Destruction and Entropy.

In the DC continuity, the snake is the symbol of Serpos, the falcon is the symbol of Zoar, and the bat is the symbol of Horokoth.


What King Grayskull did was build a fortress around the planet's singular access point to Eternia's magic. He did so to protect it from those who would use that magic for evil. But bad guys don't see themselves as bad guys. In many ways Hssss and Hordak have just as much claim to the power inside Castle Grayskull as Grayskull did. It's their birthright as well. Culturally. Historically. It's all of our birthrights, really. Skeletor certainly feels that way. In his case, it's all in the family.

It's analogous in some ways to the real world, where we often see religious groups and whole nations fighting over the same temple mount, with each faction believing theirs to be the rightful claim, all of them too blinded by hatred to see their similarities as people. We have an opportunity in these comics to dive deeply into the mythos, and tell it a way that hopefully speaks to the modern world we live in.

After the Orbital Blast, we haven't seen Man-At-Arms or Roboto. What happened to them?

We haven't seen the last of 'em! Remember, the first rule of Man-at-Arms: "Always be prepared!"

That twist with Randor and King Hssss was quite something. It brings up a lot of questions from the readers' side. When can we learn more of that?

Expect a lot more from King Hssss! I love King Hssss. He was always one of my favorites. He's Gabe DeLatorre's favorite character too. The whole "disguised leader of the snake men" is just awesome. The one thing I've always found strange about him, though, is that he always went back to the same human disguise, the man in the green armor. Why? Once he reveals himself, that disguise would be useless. And it's not like he's particularly fond of Humans and just likes the way that disguise looks on him. So I thought it would be interesting to take his core concept and give it a new twist, and play it out logically.

Make it so that he's actually wearing the skins of his victims. He slithers inside his victims and consumes them whole from within (just like a snake swallows its food whole, only with Hssss it's inverted). He then inhabits their bodies. Wearing their skins, taking their place, moving from person-to-person, hidden. Hssss could be anyone. Your best friend, your wife, husband, anyone. In this manner, Hssss has existed on Eternia since nearly the Dawn of Man. As the shadow serpent. Whispering in people's ears, manipulating history, plotting the come back of his people. When he sheds his human skin, he reveals his true multi-headed serpent form, and then must move on to the next human host (if he wishes to remain hidden). He is of course extremely dangerous in whatever form.

The inspiration for the Hssss arc was "Dante's Inferno" if Virgil was actually the devil in disguise.

I wanted to return fans to that feeling they had when they first met Hssss as kids, when they were first shocked by the reveal of his true snake form hiding behind the guise of a human being. I also wanted his new disguise to be a big deal and impact Adam in a profound, emotional way. That's why I chose Randor as the first reveal.

We know when Hssss first became Randor, but we may not reveal it anytime soon. After all, He-Man doesn't know. And Hssss enjoys torturing He-Man, and it's important that we see the world through He-Man's eyes.

But Hssss will be back. Count on it! And he could be anyone.

King Hsss blasted He-Man's new armor off him. How was he able to do that?

He-Man's armor was specifically conjured to help him deal with the technological threat of the Horde. Hssss uses magic. Supreme, primordial magic. So it wasn't suited for that kind of attack.

That's the story logic of it. But the thematic reason is that He-Man is being figuratively stripped of many of his safeguards in this war. Castle Grayskull. His father. Teela. He needs to find his inner strength. His strength of character to win.

In the next arc, after the Origin of She-Ra, we're going to double-down on Adam as a character and showcase what makes him greater than any man, any king. What makes him worthy to be the He-Man.

We'll also explore the meaning of his different armors, and more importantly the significance of the new sword.

He-Man new armor concept art by Gabriel DeLaTorre

That easter-egg of seeing Filmation Sorceress inside Star Seed was fantastic. Does that mean it is her true form?

Yes! And it always will be! :)

Will we ever see what Life-Bringer/Zoar actually looks like?

The Life-Bringer/Zoar, if she truly exists, is beyond human comprehension. If we saw what she actually looks like it would make our eyes burn and our heads explode.

Teela becoming the New Sorceress was a major step in the overall story. How did that come about?

I wanted Teela's character to move forward in this arc. Her special relationship with the Sorceress has been a part of MOTU since the first mini-comics, and I just wanted to take her to that next step, and have her become the Sorceress. But I'm not a fan of her just putting on the same falcon garb and taking her mom's place in the exact same way. Just like any daughter, she's her own person -- and it's fun to have her forge her own path. Ever since I was a kid, I've always wondered why Teela's figure came with snake armor, and this was too good a chance not to come up with a fun story reason for it, one that would go straight to the heart of the mythology.

But really, her journey has just begun! In the Origin of She-Ra arc we'll start to explore what it means to become a Sorceress, the awesome responsibility of it – and just how much of her humanity she’s retained. And that's just the beginning.

It's going to be fun to showcase all her new powers. Some will be similar to her mom's, but with a twist. For example, Teela Na could transform into a falcon, so it stands to reason that Teela can now transform into a s<SPOILER!>ke.

Teela as new Sorceress concept art by Gabriel DeLaTorre
We've seen Adora as Despara in her own digital comic, and then the ongoing first story arc. Now the upcoming story arc will have her on the path to her destiny. Dan Abnett revealed in an interview that "everything will change". Can you elaborate on that?

Isn't Dan Abnett incredible? Lloyd and I are both big fans of his writing. If you haven't read "The New Deadwardians" you should stop reading this interview and go read it now. He's a great collaborator, writer and a total pro. He also understands this genre in his bones. Go check out his “Warhammer” novels, and after that crack open his "Guardians of the Galaxy" comics. The new movie is based on his groundbreaking work. We're so happy he's on MOTU.

The upcoming She-Ra arc is both epic, but also intensely personal at the same time. It's a character piece that’s rooted at the center of the mythology, and connects to He-Man’s lore in surprising ways. And at the end, there's no going back. It'll be a victory for our heroes, but also for Hordak. He'll be able to move forward with his plans. Seeds planted in other issues, like the "Origin of Skeletor" one-shot for example, will pay off. But no doubt about it, She-Ra's arrival is a game changer. Now, it's war! The next two arcs after the Origin of She-Ra are huge.

Will we see She-Ra on Etheria at some point?

At some point, very likely. Adora is too good a person, deep down, to abandon Etheria. She will always feel an emotional connection to that world, and a moral duty to help restore it, if possible. But first she has to help her brother save Eternia, and defeat Hordak once and for all. She's a very busy lady.

The new story arc "The Blood of Grayskull" begins with a prologue-issue about King Grayskull. In the 2002-cartoon we saw him defeat Hordak, sadly dying in that final battle. But this time it will be different? How did you approach King Grayskull and his story?

I don't want to spoil anything in the issue! You'll find out next week! I can't wait for you to read it! :) But I will say King Grayskull is a supremely important figure in MOTU, and also specifically in the mythology of these comics. He forged the Sword of Power. He took the power of creation and weaponized it. He did so to save the universe. But it's like when they built the first H-Bomb. Once it was created, it could never be uncreated. It changes the dynamics of power on Eternia forever. I also approach Grayskull as a man, a human being, and not just a legend.

With all this talk about Goddesses and the power of the universe, it's important to remember that Grayskull -- and Adam -- are human beings. It makes them even more aspirational. They took it upon themselves to wield a great power -- a power far greater than themselves -- in the service of a noble cause. It's an awesome responsibility. And neither of them ever loses touch with their humanity. If you think about Adam, that's the real reason he doesn't stay He-Man forever. He-Man is his warrior form. When the battle is over, it's important to Adam to lay his weapon down, to give the power up, and to stay human. He fights to restore peace. That's why he's worthy of the Sword of Power Grayskull forged so long ago.

Will there be the prophecy of the Twin Swords?

There will be a prophecy. But as with all prophecies, its meaning won't be as simple as it seems at first. Each side in this war has their own interpretation of it, usually one that suits their own agendas, whether good or evil. It's actually related to prophecies we've heard before in the one-shot origin issues.

Solicits mention Anwat Gar. Is that a hint we might see Sy-Klone?
Sy-Klone won't be in the next arc. He's a great character, tho, and he could always appear in future arcs.


As for the look of She-Ra. The cover-appearances so far have had her in the classic look. Will we see her in that outfit?

She-Ra's outfit will be both instantly identifiable as She-Ra, her iconic costume, but also updated for the comic.

Thank you very much Rob!

Thank you, Jukka!
I also just want to take a moment to thank and give a shout out to some of the people at DC who work so hard making this comic. People like Michael McCalister who's been on this book from the beginning, and edited the first arc of the ongoing series, and who makes the whole process run so smoothly. And Pop Mhan who delivers page after page of awesomeness. I call him He-Mhan. Just wait to you see his She-Ra pages. They're insane.

And Kathryn Layno who colored the first Despara arc, and literally worked through earthquakes to deliver her pages, and they were so beautiful. So many people work so hard on this book because they love MOTU. And they're not the only ones. He-Man fans have kept this brand alive, even when nothing was going on, for so long. Just by their passion and intelligence. People like Danielle Gelehrter, Val Staples, Josh de Lioncourt and so many more. It’s so clear how much Masters of the Universe has affected us all, and how much we all still get from it. We're all in this together!

Thank you!
Rob

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