Friday, 5 December 2014

Interview - Mattel's Head Writer - Rob David on 'The Eternity War'

Mattel's Head Writer Rob David was kind enough to answer some questions about the She-Ra story arc and what to expect from the upcoming comic series!

This interview was originally done for Check it out here!

***Interview contains spoilers if you haven't read up until issue #19 the comic series!

The latest story-arc "The Blood of Grayskull" by Dan Abnett was really terrific with learning more history about King Grayskull and seeing Adora discover her destiny in becoming She-Ra. To boot that story in #19 answered a lot and raised more questions!

Thanks, Jukka! I love answering questions. It's a great chance to explain creative decisions and shed light on where we're heading next! 

Before getting into “The Blood of Grayskull” and Despara's transition to She-Ra, I just want to echo what you said.

Dan did a terrific job. We're so lucky he's on the book. He just gets it. The tone. The characters. He's also the hardest working writer in comics. If you're not reading his "Wild's End" comic you're really missing out. I love that book.

I think the team at DC is really on fire now -- Dan, Pop, Mark -- and they’re just getting started. 

Sounds great. It was awesome to read about Adora's journey.

I'm glad you liked "The Blood of Grayskull". The arc was particularly satisfying to me because two years ago, I created Despara as a re-imagining of the "Force Captain Adora" character in order to make She-Ra's transition from villain to hero as dramatic as possible. 

I love "The Secret of the Sword", and She-Ra's backstory. I just wanted to give it a little more room to breathe, and look at the "Force Captain" concept from a different perspective. 

If Hordak abducted Adora as a baby, he probably wouldn't let her keep her name. Especially if he wants to keep her true heritage a secret. He'd give Adora a new name. Something dark and spooky that would strike terror in his enemies. 

He'd forge her into the deadliest weapon Despondos had ever seen, a blade for him to stab out Etheria’s heart. He would raise her like his own daughter. She'd be pitiless, and worship him, like a father.  

I went to Gabriel De La Torre, MOTU's senior Art Supervisor and lead designer. Gabe really responded to the father/daughter dynamic and came up with such an inspired design. 

Despara concept by Gabriel DeLaTorre.

Despara's armor makes it look like she literally is Hordak's daughter. Her armor pays tribute to him; she's wearing her father's face to war! 

In the "Blood of Grayskull", Adora is on a path to redemption. 

Saryn is meant to represent the darkness inside Adora that she has to root out. The two characters mirror each other. They're both "daughters" of Grayskull, both manipulated by villains (Hssss/Hordak) into becoming murderers of Grayskull. Saryn literally; Adora figuratively.  

Adora had to follow in the footsteps of Saryn, step by bloody step, to find and slay the witch. Only then could she begin her destiny as She-Ra!

We're all so glad people are connecting with the story and comic! Fan feedback is invaluable to us at DC and Mattel.
Issue #18 represents the end of the Despara chapter -- and the start of the next! 

Onward to "The Eternity War!"

In #13 we saw King Grayskull wear the Cross Pattee-symbol, while in his "battle armor" he had the Zoar-symbol. Can you elaborate on the symbols since later in the story we saw Gar-folk with painted crosses on their bodies.


The Cross Pattee symbol comes from Grayskull, his family and ancestry. 

The Zoar symbol comes from Veena, the oracles of Zoar and Fires of Eternity. 

Symbolically, the Cross Pattee represents Grayskull, as a Man. A mortal. Flesh and blood and sweat.

Whereas the Zoar symbol represents the part inside each of us that is eternal, divine, and capable of infinite power.  

The ultimate union of these two forces (Man and Eternity), and the one for whom the Goddess has been waiting, is He-Man: the most powerful man in the universe. 

The Gar paint the Cross Pattee on themselves to signify their guilt and shame in murdering King Grayskull. It's not a hard and fast rule, but you'll notice the monk/philosopher class (Adi's class) wear the cross on their faces, and the warrior class (Gorto's class) on their chests.  Adi and Gorto were the two chief architects of the coup. 

The battle-scene with King Grayskull and Hordak shows Leeches that some are brown and some green. Are they variations on the same race?

For sure! We saw the first, "Mother" of all Leeches (Leech Prime) in the "Origin of Hordak" one-shot.

This creature was so horrible that it has survived until this day in the collective unconscious of all life in the universe. That's why you see it in the Ring of Dreams in issue #9.

We also see the Horde Troopers in the past. Are the Horde Troopers demons inside armors? Dead? Alive? Something else?

All of the above! The nature of the Horde troopers will be answered in the Eternity War. (Shameless plug alert!)

Also we see in the Forge 3 statues in honor of King Grayskull's "council of Elders". What is the story behind creating statues for them inside the Forge?

To King Grayskull, the statues of the Elders represent "Wisdom," especially the one of Adi, his closest friend. (Little did he know that Hssss had taken over Adi). Their presence is symbolic and meant to be constant reminders to him of the importance of Wisdom in all things.

To Grayskull, power without wisdom is a dangerous thing. Without wisdom to temper it, power leads to tyranny. The presence of the giant statues in the iconography of his Forge signifies the importance of Wisdom over Power. Grayskull forged the Power Sword in the figurative purview of Wisdom.

It was very cool to see Kuduk Ungol and a young Teela Na in the past. Veena was described as "Priestess of Zoar" and the others as Oracles. How does that work in the overall lineage of Sorceresses? 

They're all Oracles of Zoar, actually, even Veena, but she's the head of their order, the High Priestess. Once there were lots of Oracles -- Mt. Zoar was their most sacred site -- but the coup that brought down the Age of Grayskull destroyed their order as well; Teela Na became the lone surviving Oracle of Zoar, a young sorceress in training. 

She aided He-Ro in overthrowing the Gar, and then chose to live within Castle Grayskull, as the castle's lone occupant and sole protector, for all time if need be, to keep the Fires of Eternity (the Power of Grayskull) safe. In short, she became the Sorceress of Castle Grayskull. Long life being one of the perks of the job. 

Teela Na took what Veena asked of her in issue #13 to heart. She never forgot the horror she witnessed that night of the coup. She understood more than anyone what villains will do to get their hands on power, and why Castle Grayskull must be guarded for all time, at all costs. Even at the cost of her life.

Issue #17 showed us glimpses of He-Ro (who most fans know as the original Ancestor of He-Man from 1987 Powers of Grayskull). He now is the lone surviving son of King Grayskull and Veena. Is he an only child? Where was he during the Gar coup? How did he survive to lead a resistance? 

I love He-Ro! The introduction of King Grayskull in the Mike Young series may have stolen some of his thunder, but He-Ro is still awesome. 

Consider: He's Adam's ancestor. He's a young man who transforms into the Most Powerful Wizard in the Universe. He fought an ancient war against the snake men. His name is even more to-the-point, in-your-face than He-Man's! The guy's on fire. 

I desperately wanted to include He-Ro in the comics. But it's tricky to put He-Ro in the same continuity as King Grayskull. The two characters overlap in keys ways.

In any direct mash-up between He-Ro and Grayskull, King Grayskull has to come out on top.

It's his name on the Castle. And Castle Grayskull is the single most important location in MOTU. Bar none.

The solution, for me, was to make He-Ro King Grayskull and Veena's son. That way, he's still Adam's ancestor.

And making Veena his mom justifies why he's a magical character. Magic is in his blood.

The general idea is that his brothers and sisters were murdered in the coup (he wasn't an only child), but the young Prince Gray (He-Ro's original name) escapes (kinda like Banquo's son in MacBeth). 

He's found and mentored by Eldor, who shares with Gray the Book of Living Spells (which came from Veena), and helps train and raise Gray, and ultimately helps Gray transform into He-Ro, the Most Powerful Wizard in the Universe.

He-Ro overthrows Adi's tyranny. And since Adi was actually Hsss, He-Ro was actually fighting against the Snake Men. ;)

It would be great for us to tell his story someday. It doesn't end there. You'll notice in the time of King Randor the capitol of Eternia is Eternos Palace, rather than Castle Grayskull. 

Did He-Ro play a role in that? You'll also notice that in the Age of Randor most people, except for a select few, view King Grayskull the way we view King Arthur. As a legend meant to inspire people, but not actually a real person. Did He-Ro, through some sorcery, make that happen?

What better way to protect his father's Power than to make people believe that it never really existed!

Like Teela Na, He-Ro understood that the Power of Grayskull must be protected at all costs. 

In the latest arc, we learned that King Grayskull forged the Sword of Power in "The Forge", as well as Sword of Protection. If the Sword of Power looked the same when Adam first transformed, why did the Sword of Protection change its shape the first time that Adora transformed?

The swords of Power and Protection are "twin" swords, but they're not identical. They're more like fraternal swords! :) They have slightly different powers and abilities. He-Man's sword is definitely stronger -- in terms of raw, physical power (hence its name), but She-Ra's sword can do things that He-Man's can't.

It can heal people, for example. It can also transform itself -- which was established in Filmation -- into new configurations, to become the right tool for the right job, so to speak. Whereas with He-Man, he would have to return to the Forge to update his sword. 

But the real question isn't how do their swords transform, but why now? Why did the Sorceress lead He-Man to the Forge in issue #4? Why had she never done that before? The same goes for She-Ra.

She-Ra concept art by Gabriel De La Torre
Why did her sword transform itself instantly upon her saying the words, "I choose Grayskull"? The short answer is that they're both being primed and readied (by the Power of Grayskull) for the Eternity War, and the unique roles they'll each need to play in that conflict. 

Grayskull knew this day would come. 

Why is the Jewel in She-Ra's sword Red? (when previously it has always been blue with Filmation cartoon, mini-comics, etc)

Great question! That will be explained in the Eternity War!

He-Man gave Adora the locket from Queen Marlena, that has a familiar symbol to She-Ra fans. What does that symbol mean in the new canon? Also will the Locket be significant in future stories and was it a nod to Filmation cartoon (where Sea Hawk gave Adora a locket)?

For the first time, He-Man and She-Ra, in their updated designs, share a common symbol, just as they share a common power source. But I wanted to pay homage to her classic symbol, which we all love -- hopefully in a way that would be very personal and emotional for Adora. 

The symbol comes from Earth; it's an embossed design on a locket that's been in Marlena's family for generations. It represents the family Adora never knew she had -- but always felt in her heart. It represents her mom, Marlena. It represents home. It represents safety. And in the end, it represents love.  It'll continue to be significant in future stories insofar as love is at the very core of Adora's character. 

"The Locket" is a great episode! One of my favorites. But it wasn't a nod to it. (At least intentionally!!)

Now that She-Ra has entered the scene properly, and she seems to have a big role next to He-Man with upcoming Eternity War; is there a chance that she would get an additional one-shot issue, digital or perhaps a mini-series? 
For it might be a good opportunity for the creators to showcase more of Etheria?

That's a great idea!

Right now everybody is focused on The Eternity War, but if that does really well…you never know!

Tri-Klops was a great addition to show up in the story. He was wearing his 2002-version armor. I'm very glad for this nod as its a fantastic look to the character but is there any reason why he changed his armor from the initial appearance from digital chapter #1?

I'm glad you liked Tri-Klops! He'll be back in The Eternity War, more brutal and dangerous than ever.

Tri-Klops is a bounty hunter and adapts his armor/gear to suit his missions. Plus, he works for Hordak now, so unlike everybody else he still has access to his walk-in closet back home. ;)

Castle Grayskull got deformed in issue #18 to resemble Hordak. Does the Castle change its appearance in regards to whoever is occupying it?

Castle Grayskull is a magical castle, but it doesn't automatically change its appearance when someone new moves in. In Hordak's case, he had to "decimate" the castle first -- and then recast it into "ground zero" of his Fright Zone. Even so, there are still hidden chambers and magical secrets within the castle's grounds that even Hordak has not been able to access.

In the case of Skeletor, in issue 2 of the original mini-series, Castle Grayskull looks very different there, for sure. That's only because on that particular day, in an ill-conceived attempt to redecorate, Skeletor cast a rare optical illusion spell known as: "FFO LEDOM." 

Thankfully, the spell wore off after thirty days and he never tried it again.

Issue #19 shows you credited solely as the writer. Now, we already know you've done your share behind the story-ideas that Dan Abnett has beautifully honed. How did this come about for you to pen an issue by yourself?

It was half creative, half scheduling.  

I had a story for a prelude that will payoff later in Eternity War.

Dan was already hard at work scripting Eternity War #1 for December, so I took the idea to script for November, to fill in a gap in schedule before the launch of the new series.

The team at DC is such a joy to work with. Michael McCalister, the issue's editor, and I have now known each other for a while. And Hank Kanalz, who runs the department, is very supportive and a great partner of Mattel and Playground Productions. 

(Don't worry, Dan will be back next issue!)

What was your favorite moment to write for issue #19?

The scenes between Keldor and Adam. It was fun giving them a mentor/pupil relationship before Keldor became Skeletor. I hope fans like it.

Adam really loved his uncle. Keldor made him believe in himself for the first time. They really do have so much in common. I think Keldor cared for Adam, too, in his own twisted way. 

I also loved seeing Tom Derenick's pages come in. Tom's known for his big action scenes, but I think he's great at quiet moments too. Two of my favorites: Randor's silent reaction to Adam on page seven, last panel. And the somber close up of Adam on page nine, panel four. Awesome! 

And then Mark Roberts came in with all these lovely Filmation flourishes in color, and it just made my day. 

After reading issue #19, many fans pointed out that Keldor has not transformed into Skeletor yet when being present in Prince Adam's youth. Yet he appears as Skeletor in the flashback when trying to kidnap both Adam and Adora as babies. Can you elaborate on this? 

It's part of the larger ongoing story.  Sorceress even has a line in the issue that alludes to the discrepancy. The reason for the discrepancy will be revealed in the Eternity War.

The events in #19 are described "12 years ago". Just how old is Prince Adam in that story?

He's twelve going on thirteen.

Chronologically, issue #19 takes place just before the "Origin of Skeletor" one-shot issue. 

Issue #19 depicts the start of Keldor's rebellion. The "Origin of Skeletor" depicts the end of it.

In between those two issues, Mendor is able to heal the king (as Zodac anticipated). Randor is then able to mount a resistance. There's a bloody, brutal battle between his forces and Keldor's, which dovetails directly into the events seen in the "Origin of Skeletor".

At the very end of the "Origin of Skeletor", Keldor, is on the verge of death, with no options left; he then decides to sell his soul to Hordak completely. He does something he had held off doing up until that moment: he steals Randor's blood and delivers it to Hordak. The "Origin of Skeletor" ends in Despondos with Keldor becoming Skeletor.

Skeletor then spends the next five years in Despondos with Hordak. What was he doing during this time? We'll explore that soon.

The "Origin of He-Man" one-shot issue takes place five years after the "Origin of Skeletor". Skeletor returns to Eternia at last -- with a vengeance. What made him return? Why then? You'll find out in the Eternity War!

The Adam you see in the "Origin of He-Man" has lost his way. The spark you saw in him in issue #19 has almost gone out. His uncle's betrayal really affected him. Keldor had been the one who had believed in Adam. Championed him. Mentored him.

The man who had made Adam feel like he could make a difference. But it had all been a lie. His uncle had been manipulating him. Worse, Adam had allowed his uncle to use him in a plot to hurt his father.

Adam's dream had almost cost his father his life! And Adam loves Randor more than anything. So after issue #19, Adam starts to spiral into further waywardness. He's lost.

Randor too started to act even more protective of Adam after issue #19. Adam was clearly a target.

But everything changes for Adam in the "Origin of He-Man" when Skeletor returns to Eternia.

And it all comes to a head in the Eternity War!

We learned from Keldor that King Miro landed on the Forbidden Island of Anwat-Gar and met Saryn there.. Ending up with Keldor as offspring. While it is fascinating to learn all of this, it continues the theme of many histories told to the heroes and viewer, by the villains.

Should we trust anything Shadow Weaver, King Hssss or Keldor have told us?

That's a really interesting question, Jukka! I guess we should always consider the source.

For King Hssss, he's gloating and enjoying himself. The truth is on his side, and he's enjoying torturing Adam with it. But even so, Hssss sees himself as the hero of his story, not the villain. And his telling of his tale reflects that.

Shadow Weaver truly loved Despara and was telling the truth as she understood and remembered it. But when it comes to relaying things like Teela Na's motivations, how could Shadow Weaver know what was in the Sorceress' heart? Shadow Weaver views Teela Na through her own perspective, and as such, she has a hard time seeing other people as truly noble.

Keldor is speaking truthfully to Adam in issue #19. (At least, I believe him.) That's the story as Miro told it to him and as Keldor imagines his mother having felt. He's being very sincere when he says to Adam that he views his nephew as a kindred spirit. That's what makes his betrayal of Adam so much worse (to me, at least).

Hordak has acquired Randor's blood before and now he has He-Man's blood too! Why did he need both?

Is it that he needed both? Or is it that he didn't find what he was looking for in Randor's blood…and ultimately had to move on? The answers will be revealed in the Eternity War! (As King Hssss might say, "Shamelesssssss!!!!")

The last page in #18 showed Hordak with a more familiar white-colored face, instead of the blue. Is he going back to his Preternian look? Or will Hordak get a new re-design?

The "white-colored face" in issue #18 is just the color of the holographic projection. He's still the same Hordak you've seen in the ongoing series, and "Origin of Skeletor" one-shot. 

But will he get a new form? A re-design?? You'll find out very soon in the Eternity War! (Now it's a drinking game ;))

Where can fans go to subscribe and get the fan-contest cover-variant for Issue #1 of "He-Man: The Eternity War"?

Eternity War? What's that?

[fan winner] Tara Carter's photo cover is so funny and cool. 

Joe Ferencz, marketing manager for the Masters of the Universe Franchise, had the great idea for the contest. He's always looking for ways to get the fans involved creatively. There are so many talented MOTU fans!

Couple interviews described "He-Man: the Eternity War" as a "maxi-series". Can you elaborate what does this mean?

A maxi-series is a series with a planned ending, one that's longer than a miniseries, so over six issues. "Crisis on Infinite Earths" and the original "Secret Wars" were both Maxi-Series, for example. "He-Man: the Eternity War" is a big tale with a definite ending ahead. 

What happens after those issues?

An event that will hopefully blow our collective minds. 

You described the new series as "epic". So what can we expect from it?

It's a massive cross-over event for MOTU. Characters from different pockets of the universe and franchise who have never met will now clash! 

The Evil Horde, all the Snake Men, the evil forces of Skeletor, the Masters, obscure characters from Filmation, Mike Young, and more!  

The lines between parties won't be totally clear-cut. War often makes for strange bedfellows! 

Expect massive battles in the vein of Star Wars and 300!

Also a lot of one-on-one smack down brawls in the vein of classic MOTU!

Expect a deep exploration of the lore, filled with revelations!

Expect Pop Mhan to continue to own this series! Just wait till you see the double page spread that opens "Eternity War" #2.  Holy crap!

Eternity War is a great jumping on point for new readers; the whole conflict will be made clear in issue #1. But if you've been reading all along, you'll be rewarded.  The ongoing series was prologue to the Eternity War! 

The stakes are tremendous. But it's also a personal tale. The story of three best friends: Adam, Adora, and Teela. Each coming of age. Each stepping into their larger destiny. Adam as King. Adora as She-Ra. Teela as the Sorceress. 

"Eternity War" is their trial by fire. 

Nothing will be the same after this!   

With some lovely nods to Filmation and the MYP cartoon in issue #19, in terms of visuals and dialogue. And getting characters like Dragstor in #18, can fans expect more vintage-themed nods in upcoming issues?

Count on it! None of us would even be working on Masters of the Universe if it weren't for all the amazing stories that have come before! We're all basically standing on the shoulders of Tytus.

Thank you again very much for this opportunity and taking the time to answer some questions! :) Good Journey!

Thank you, Jukka for all your great questions!  Like I said, it's great to have the chance to give context for what's going on in the books. And what's coming up.

Dan, Pop, Mark, DC and everybody at Mattel are pouring their hearts and souls into "He-Man: the Eternity War".  

This is the big one. We hope you like it. Let us know! 

Thank you,

Special thanks for additional help on questions to Michael Jenkins, Eric DeLima, Tom O'Callaghan and Joseph Rodriguez!


  1. This is easily the BEST version of MOTU in many, many years. Keep up the amazing work!