The Davis Girl (TDG): Are you ready to be interviewed, Brian C. Baer?
Brian C. Baer (BCB): Let’s do this!
TDG: Ok…here we go. Hello Midnight Society Readers! I am joined today via Google Hangouts by Brian C. Baer. Brian, please say hello to our readers. Say it Brian.
TDG: Is that it?
BCB: Um, yes. I think so. Brevity is the soul of wit, right?
TDG: No. I’ve asked you here today to talk about the amazing book you wrote!
BCB: Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it. And I’m always happy to talk more He-Man.
TDG: I haven’t read it.
TDG: I did see the title. HOW HE-MAN MASTERED THE UNIVERSE. Magical. So I want to know a few things. First: what in all of Greyskull possessed you to write a book about He-Man?!
BCB: Ha! It’s with an A.
BCB: It’s G-R-A-Yskull.
TDG: Grayskull?! Oh, neat! Thanks! Now answer the question.
BCB: Well, I grew up with the toys and the cartoon and the movie I spent roughly half of my time on Twitter defending. I always loved the characters and was interested in the backstories, like all obsessive fans get. But when I realized all the “firsts” of the franchise – the first toy turned into a cartoon, the first toy turned into a live-action film – I saw it as a real cornerstone in the way modern entertainment franchises work. And nobody had written a book about that! It was up to me.
TDG: What was it about the franchise were you defending?
BCB: The movie! It’s not too fondly remembered by a lot of people, but those tend to be the people who haven’t watched it in years.
TDG: There was a He-Man movie?!
BCB: Yes! In 1987. Dolph Lundgren as He-Man, Frank Langella as Skeletor. It was fun as hell, and there’s some incredible design work in there, too. About half of my book is talking about the movie.
TDG: You published through McFarland–a publisher noted for their respect of the intersection between Pop-Culture and academia. How did you find them?
BCB: McFarland is a great company. I actually wasn’t aware of them, and didn’t think I could find a publisher interested in a He-Man book, until I went to WorldCon a few years ago, when it was held in Spokane, Washington. I got a pass for the day, found their booth, saw all the awesome, serious books about fun pop culture topics. And they were very approachable about querying, too. They got back to me very quickly and we got the ball rolling.
TDG: That’s great! When did you first consider writing a He-Man book?
BCB: Probably a decade ago. I’ve been collecting trivia about the movie and the overall franchise for at least that long. And around that time, I decided that if I could write about anything in the entire world, I’d want to write about He-Man. It’s been that sort of dream project you always assume is hopeless, which makes me even more grateful and amazed to see it’s actually on shelves right now!
TDG: What was your process for collecting the trivia?
BCB: I printed off pages of interviews from websites, jotted down little bits of trivia I found out here and there… by the time McFarland came into the picture, I had a lot of stuff to work with.
TDG: Wow. Now, lets go back a few decades. How did you first discover He-Man?
BCB: The t-shirt story (in my book) is true. My brother introduced me to He-Man within a few hours of my birth. So when I say I grew up with the characters, I mean it. My brother was 3 and a half, I believe. I pretty much had to dedicate the book to him after all that.
TDG: That’s awesome. What does he think of it?
BCB: He’s been ready for this book for a while. So… This is actually my second book published. I had a novel out in 2015. When I signed the contract for that one, I called him and said I was getting a book published. His immediate response was, “The He-Man book?!?!” And then he had to try to act not disappointed when I said no.
TDG: Vengeance was yours!
BCB: Yes, it’s always nice to write something someone actually wants to read.
TDG: What’s your favorite part of HOW HE-MAN MASTERED THE UNIVERSE?
BCB: I really enjoy trivia and little anecdotes from behind the scenes of movies and TV shows, so I had a lot of fun writing the chapters about Filmation, who did the famous ’80s He-Man and She-Ra cartoons, and Canon Films, who were infamously shady and did the ’87 film. Not sure if those chapters are as much fun for anyone else, but I love them.
TDG: What was your system for keeping track of the research you’d gathered over the years?
BCB: I have about a hundred websites saved as Favorites on my browser still, all with interviews or old reviews or other things like that. I probably should’ve made a binder for all the stuff I printed out, but they were just kept in stacks. I’m typically pretty organized, but this was my first non-fiction project of this scale and there was a lot to keep track of.
TDG: How did writing non-fiction differ from your fiction process?
BCB: My writing method involves a lot of prep work and outlining, so that didn’t change much. I liked writing non-fiction, though. There’s so much less stressing out over what comes next. You just look at what actually happened next and take it from there.
TDG: What was the most enjoyable part of bringing this book into the world?
BCB: It was enjoyable because those characters have been a big part of my life. It felt like I was giving a little something back to the franchise, even if it’s just sort of a love letter.
TDG: What was the most frustrating part?
BCB: Having to stop! There are so many more things I could’ve explored, or spent more time on. I didn’t even get to the part about the live-action stage show that went on tour! That’s going to haunt me. But I had to try to keep my focus narrow.
TDG: What else besides the tour would you have wanted to explore?
BCB: It would’ve been nice to spend more time on the origins of the figures, because there’s a lot of controversy over who created He-Man altogether. There’s a good handful of people who claim they did. Some have better arguments than others. But there’s no real answer, sadly. I could’ve written a lot more but I didn’t really have a solution, so I think that would’ve just been frustrating for the reader.
TDG: Who is your favorite character in the entire canon?
BCB: I always loved Man-E-Faces. He had such a cool design and the action feature of changing his face was a lot of fun when I was a kid. To pay my respects, I named the first chapter “Man-E-Prefaces”. I’m still surprised McFarland let me get away with that.
TDG: When I was four I got a She-Ra doll for my birthday and she had this awesome little sword that I would always hide in the palm of my hand and this one time I was playing with it on our back deck and the sword fell through the cracks in the deck and landed in this pile of huge cement slabs my dad and uncle were breaking apart and I looked for it every day for like a month and it is still down there and I hope who ever finds it gets special powers because of how much I loved it.
TDG: Who was the worst character in the entire canon?
BCB: Hmm…Worst characters are tough. Some from the cartoons, like The Starchild, are just obnoxious. Personally, I was never a big fan of Snout Spout. He just seemed too silly for my mental picture of Eternia.
TDG: If you could change anything about the canon, what would it be?
BCB: I don’t know about changing canon. What’s so great about the franchise is the way it adapts. It’s never really the same, from mini-comic to comic to the different cartoons… I like how flexible it is. So I don’t think I can make any changes to the canon that haven’t already been made at one point!
TDG: What do you think it was that made the canon so flexible?
BCB: It started out flexible. The toys were packaged with mini-comics that explained who they characters were. But by the second wave of figures, they were already starting to contradict the older ones. By the time they got that continuity down, the comic books started, and they ignored most of that. Then came the cartoon, in which Filmation reimagined the concept pretty thoroughly. The movie was more true to the mini-comics but mostly did its own thing. Then the next cartoon series tossed all that out and started again, even though it’s sort of a sequel… It’s all a bit of a mess. But it’s easy to pick and choose what you like, and not get too bogged down.
TDG: If you and He-Man were going to dinner, where would you go and who would pay?
BCB: I’d like to think we’d eat at the Royal Palace, because I’ve always been curious what roast goobles tastes like. And I’d offer to pay, because I imagine he doesn’t carry money with him.
TDG: How did they pay in Eternia?
BCB: I have no idea. That sort of thing varied from story to story.
TDG: What is your most prized possession from the canon?
BCB: I have a vintage He-Man belt buckle I wear every day.
TDG: No way.
TDG: Who would win in a fight: He-Man or She-Ra?
BCB: She-Ra could take him, to be honest. He-Man is such a noble guy, he would probably hold back or not want to really fight her, and She-Ra would take advantage of that. Plus the Sword of Protection (hers) has more powers than the Sword of Power (his). He’s stronger, I’d say, but I think she’d have an advantage.
TDG: She-Ra or Skeletor?
BCB: I want Skeletor to win because he’s just so cool. He could probably have some great tricks or spells to get her. But the way these characters work, the good guys have to win at the end.
Maybe He-Man could come back and they’d team up to stop him?
TDG: Oh nice. I like that. Skeletor or Voldemort?
BCB: Skeletor. Easily.
TDG: Skeletor or all the goddamn Care Bears?
BCB: How come everyone gets to team up on Skeletor? That’s not cool. Hmm… I think Skeletor could beat them all. But the Care Bears could probably get him to sing a song first. He is vulnerable to cute, fluffy animals. And that’s in canon! It’s in the Christmas Special!
TDG: What? No. What?!
BCB: Look it up on YouTube! He’s trying to be evil but there’s this cute fluffy dog-thing, and children and telling him about Christmas, and he’s so conflicted!
TDG: No. I thought those gifs were just doctored up!
BCB: Nope! All real. The Christmas Special is something else.
TDG: That is outstanding. Brian C. Baer, thank you so much for your time today! Is there anything else you’d like to share with the group? About He-Man? Your Book? Your unyielding love for Skeletor?
BCB: If you’re in the LA area, check out Power-Con in September. It’s a great He-Man convention. I’ll be at Power-Con, but I made the difficult decision to not get a table there because there’s too much cool He-Man stuff to see there!
TDG: Awesome! Thank you so much, Brian C. Baer! We’re done.
Brian C. Baer hails from Walla Walla, Washington. After receiving a degree in creative writing from Eastern Washington University, he moved abroad to teach English in the Czech Republic, London, and Manchester, UK. Upon moving back to the States, he published his first novel, “Bad Publicity”, through the now-defunct Porfirio Press. His essays on pop culture have been posted on ComicBookMedia.com and in Vex Mosaic, and his short fiction has been published in various websites, anthologies, and been read aloud on the Drabblecast. Follow him on Twitter @BrianCBaer
March 7, 2017
Elaborate cinematic universes and sophisticated marketing tie-ins are commonplace in entertainment today. It’s easy to forget that the transmedia trend began in 1982 with a barbarian action figure. He-Man and the other characters in Mattel’s popular Masters of the Universe toy line quickly found their way into comic books, video games, multiple television series and a Hollywood film. The original animated series (1983–1985) was the first based on an action figure, and the cult classic Masters of the Universe (1987) was the first toy-inspired live-action feature film.
But it wasn’t easy. He-Man faced adversaries more dangerous than Skeletor: entertainment lawyers, Hollywood executives, even the Reagan administration. The heroes and villains of Eternia did more than shape the childhoods of the toy-buying public—they formed the modern entertainment landscape.
Courtesy of McFarland