Dan Abnett’s most prolific works comes from the the series 2000AD in his native UK, but he has made his mark on American comics after working on the likes of Heroes for Hire, Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy. He was recently given the helm for the Eternity War series for He-Man. We got a chance to talk with about the new series.
: The Masters of the Universe carries with it so much pre-existing stories but also cliches of the characters as being for kids. How do you approach this series to break through that?
Dan Abnett: I was basically briefed by Mattel and DC to write the series ‘seriously’ and play up the epic sword and sorcery angle. I think they came to me because of my experience working on major fantasy properties like Warhammer. The idea was to make it heroic and dramatic, but without losing the sense of fun and escape. That meant taking even the ‘silliest’ and most unlikely characters and saying ‘no, this isn’t a joke. It’s a part of this world and we treat it with respect’… but still have fun when appropriate.
GP: Were you a fan of the characters as a child?
DA: it was a little late for me, actually, though I was aware of it, of course. Early in my career as a writer and editor, I worked on many licences (at Marvel UK etc), and over that time wrote for Transformers, Thundercats, Galaxy Rangers, GI Joe… just about every classic property of the era. Except He-Man, so it was very nice to ‘complete the set’ and get a chance to write Masters of the Universe too. And it’s nice to do it in such a high profile way, with a great, glossy monthly DC book, with fantastic art (Pop Mhan is amazing), wonderful color and the support of Mattel and DC. And, of course, being allowed to do massive things, like bringing back She-Ra, is a real treat…
GP: All-out war has never really taken place for He-Man, rather he is usually depicted foiling some plan from one of his enemies and then moving on. Has it been hard to change the focus?
DA: I think the scope is absolutely there, given the size of the potential cast and the scale of things. It suits an epic handling. If you tipped out your toybox, you’d have so many warriors ready to assemble into armies and factions…
: In terms of writing a battle focused story, how do you balance the story so that the battles do not overwhelm the plot?
DA: I’m not sure that there’s a specific technique. I just try to maintain an over all sense of the scale and confusion… lost of things going on, then zoom in onto specific characters to personalize the mayhem.
GP: Eternity War has featured new takes on some classic characters such as Teela, Skeletor and She-Ra. Are you worried at all that fans might not accept them?
DA: I hope they do, and they seem to have. Mattel has been brilliantly ‘hands on’ with this, guiding me every step of the way, and suggesting characters to use… and how to use them in cool ways that fit into their lore. They’ve been really great, and I’ve been reassured that I’m not damaging things by doing anything too radical. If the Masters’ ‘masters’ are happy with it, I’m pretty sure the fans will like it too…
GP: The series has been a balance of of sci-fi and fantasy, true to the characters roots. How do you approach this as a writer to balance these two genres which are similar but also somewhat different?
DA: I think the mix is really entertaining. The blend of blades and tech reminds me (in a really good way) of classic “Planet Stories” like Robert E Howard’s Almuric and Edgar Rice Burroughs’s “Mars” and “Venus” sagas, so it’s a very honorable tradition. This is a world of warriors and magic, but it’s also a world of ancient and power civilisations, with sophisticated technology and crafts, so the blend is very comfortable.
: This series focuses less on the difference between Prince Adam and He-Man. Is that less important for the character than it has been in the past?
DA: I’d say not, actually, as the difference or ‘split’ between those two sides is becoming increasingly important as the Eternity War unfolds.
GP: Can you give us an idea of what is ahead for He-Man?
DA: Things are really going to get epic. This is the biggest He-Man story ever, a saga on a “Lord of the Rings’ type scale, with the fate of worlds in the balance. If you’ve enjoyed it so far, you’re going to love how massive it becomes as all the opposing parties begin to clash.