(conducted by Matt Jozwiak on December 14-16, 2001)
Matt Jozwiak: First off, I feel silly because I mis-spoke myself about having the four mini-comics. I currently only have two of the four. (I'm searching for the others.) But my understanding is that "He-Man and the Power Sword" details how He-Man left his jungle tribe to fight evil abroad.
Donald F. Glut: I think I have some extra copies of three of the books "He-Man and the Power Sword" (basically the origin story wherein He-Man leaves home), "Battle in the Clouds" and "Master of Castle Grayskull” (which I'm willing to sell, if you're interested.) By the way, at least one of the titles was kind of my in jokes. "Battle in the Clouds" was the title of a very old silent science-fiction movie I had in my film collection.
MJ:My primary question is: How close to the original concept of He-Man were your stories? Did you invent the background of He-Man, or were the tales written to accommodate someone else's preconceptions?
Originally, when I came onto the project, there were no stories at all.
Not all the characters and places were yet named and not all of the characters
had been invented. All that existed then were some prototype toys and some
general ideas of who and what they were and what they could do.
MJ: I've always assumed that everyone involved in the start of the toy line agreed with the origins detailed in the first four mini-comics. But in later years, especially with the advent of the television cartoon, they started to change things around. (There was never a Prince Adam in the originals, since He-Man came from the jungle, right?)
DFG: I didn't watch the cartoon show and had no interest in the movie, so I didn't really know or care what they did with my original concepts, especially since I wasn't getting any royalties on toys or other items (e.g., the View-Master adaptations) based on my concepts. Remember that my work was simply done as a "work for hire." I did it fast and turned it in. Not much thought or time went into any of it. When my part was over I moved on to other projects not related to Masters of the Universe.
MJ: Naturally, I feel the first four mini-comics are "canon material". It's the following ones that are confusing, though the comics introducing Ram Man, Tri-Klops, and others are still of a similar class. Aside from the official company viewpoint, do those next few mini-comics (before Prince Adam and company) also fit in with what you envisioned Eternia to be?
DFG: The first four were "canon". Thanks, I'm flattered. But I never read or even saw the booklets done after the ones I did, so I have no comment on this or their characters. My idea of Eternia, a name I invented, by the way, was simply a timeless realm in some unspecified place in the universe, where both magic and science were the order of the day.
Matt Jozwiak:On a slightly different note: Do you know who did the magnificent box art for the Masters of the Universe vehicles and playsets? I wonder if the company saved the originals. Those would make a wonderful book.
Donald F. Glut: Sorry, I don't have the foggiest idea.
MJ: I'd like you to describe how you envisioned the characters and places, personalities, histories, races, occupations, whatever you dreamt up to fill in the blanks so you could write stories. Please include as many details as possible, however insignificant.
DFG: It's hard to remember much of this, as it was long ago and so quickly executed. Basically, I was given Polaroid photos of the prototype toys. I'd written lots of sword and sorcery and heroic adventure type stories by this time and so it was relatively easy to come up with the personalities. He-Man, for instance, was your typical "noble savage stereotype" a kind of combination Tarzan and Conan. I just used the same standards and principles I'd applied to earlier stories to "Master of the Universe". And the plots were similar, too. Most such plots involve a villain who needs "something" (a magic jewel, a secret formula, etc.) to achieve a goal (conquer the world, achieve immortality, etc.) and a brave hero who fights to prevent the villain from accomplishing this. You simply "fill in the blanks," changing the particulars from story to story.
MJ: You wrote that Castle Grayskull was "built by unknown hands before the Great Wars". Please elaborate on whatever history you may have invented for Eternia. For example, how did the monstrous people (like Beastman and Mer Man) end up on Eternia? Were they native species, mutants, or dimension wanderers like Skeletor?
I don't think I ever took it that far or thought about it that much. I
simply put as much work into the stories as they were paying me to do.
If something didn't concern Mattel or Western (e.g., the background of
Beastman) I didn't let it bother me. Stating that the castle was "built
by unknown hands before the Great War, and not having to explain whose
hands or what that war was all about, was an easy way out for me. I have
know idea who built the castle or fought in that war!
MJ: What about vehicles like the Battle Ram and Wind Raider? Any history or special abilities for those? And of course Castle Grayskull, if you haven't already discussed that, I suppose that's the big one.
DFG: I was not asked to come up with specs or backgrounds on the hardware so I didn't, I just used them in the stories to promote product. In the case of Castle Grayskull, they told me what the various gadgets of the toy could do and asked me to work them into the stories.
Matt Jozwiak: According to all you've told me, there's very little beyond the self-explanatory references in the mini-comics. So, since I can't think of any more questions, do you have anything you'd like to mention about your work on Masters of the Universe? Character information, funny stories, similar work on different toy lines?
Glut: You pretty much summed up everything, I think. The only other
toy line I worked on was, again for Mattel, the ill-conceived "Wheeled
Warriors," which I knew from the start would flop. The whole idea made
no sense to me and the only conclusion either Mattel or Western had that
I had to work on was that in the end, somehow, everything was "all right
again." There was also more censorship on this series. For example, I couldn't
have an explicitly aggressive action of the characters against one another.
One character could lunge "toward" another but not "at" another; real subtle
differences that drove me crazy. I told Mattel and Western that, unlike
my "Masters" stint, I would not make up any characters, any character names,
any names of places, etc., only write stories in which to put characters
and locations that were supplied to me. I didn't want to get into the same
situation as on "Masters," where I was literally "creating" things that
became toys, cartoon shows, movies, etc., but for which I got no future
rewards, only my flat-rate "work for hire fees. This, of course, did not
set well with the folks at Mattel and I was afraid for a while that it
would cost me the gig.
MJ: Hey, I've got an idea (or maybe I'm getting carried away). If you had to speculate on how you would have continued the story of the Masters of the Universe, how do you think it would have gone? (You, apparently, aren't restricted by knowledge of the later mini-comics.) What further details would you have added to the environment and characters, if you had continued?
DFG: I hate to be a "wet blanket," but I never had any idea of where my versions of the characters would have gone or what they would have done beyond my little booklet stories. Again, remember that this was just a job, one of many I have done and continue to do, and I saw no reason to use up any additional brain power unless I was getting paid for it.
MJ: Know anything about Robert E. Howard, the original creator of Conan?
DFG: I know a little about REH. I did, for a while, write a number of the Kull and Solomon Kanes stories, plus a few "Tales of the Hyborian Age," for Marvel Comics back in the 1970s. And, around the same time, I created and wrote "Dagar the Invincible" for Western (Gold Key/Whitman Comics). Now there's a whole new interview!
by Matt Jozwiak
website copyright © 2001 D.F.Glut