KEITH GIFFEN Has the HE-MAN Power, Explains Creative Shift

 

Fan-favorite writer Keith Giffen is not only getting to utilize his unique voice on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, but he's going to be doing a little penciling for the series as well.

DC recently announced that the six-issue series, which was launched by writer James Robinson, would have Giffen as its new writer beginning with #2. And while it's an odd time for a new writer to take over a mini-series, Giffen has stepped into that type of situation before — most recently by finishing Grant Morrison's Authority with issue #3.

Now Giffen has told Newsarama that not only is he penciling a one-issue story for the He-Man comic, but he's also hoping the series sticks around longer than its six issues.

While Giffen wasn't able to explain the need for a new writer with issue #2, he did offer some explanation for his own assignment shuffling recently. DC had originally announced that he was writing Superman Annual #1, but later announced Scott Lobdell would do that issue instead.

"That wasn't DC's fault," Giffen said. "Something happened where I couldn't do the Superman Annual, but DC was completely understanding about it and made that move for my benefit. But I'm still penciling the O.M.A.C. story in DC Universe Presents #0 in September, and now I'm on He-Man and I have other DC projects coming up."

On He-Man, Giffen is working with penciler Philip Tan, who is revamping the characters for their debut in the series, as well as his Magog collaborator Howard Porter. Tie-in stories have also been appearing on DC's digital apps and website (including a recent new character from DC's C.C.O. Geoff Johns), and the company has released new action figures based on He-Man characters.

As Giffen is now guiding what happens next with the He-Man series, Newsarama talked to the writer/artist to find out more about the project.

Newsarama: Keith, as you take over He-Man with issue #2, are you continuing some of the concepts that were already set up in issue #1 of the mini-series?

Keith Giffen: I'm continuing the concept that's been set-up so far. It's really no different to me from stepping onto any book. I know it's kind of odd to step onto a book between the first and second issues, but I'm just approaching it like I do any project.

When I took over, they showed me all the stuff they'd been working on to that point. And the basic idea with the He-Man book is the "questing hero." Almost like Joseph Campbell. Adam is on a quest to find out why he has blank spots in his life. He's asking, why am I here, and why does it feel wrong? He's searching for his identity. It's Adam's quest for the sword and Adam's quest to reclaim the He-Man legacy.

Nrama: Will we see all the main He-Man characters showing up over the six issues?

Giffen: Definitely. You're going to see all the perennials. You'll see the big, major characters. If He-Man actually turns out to be popular enough to continue, then we'll play around with some of the minor characters too.

But you'll see some of the popular characters, like Mer-Man and Evil-Lyn. Of course, there's Man-At-Arms, there's Teela, and the supporting cast.

So if you're a He-Man fan, you'll see your favorites. You'll see what I call the lynchpin characters, which is not only the most important characters from the cartoon series, but the more popular toys too.

Nrama: How much does this resemble the cartoon series?

Giffen: I'm not approaching this from the cartoon or from the toy line. I'm not coming in and saying, "It's got to feel like the old He-Man cartoon." Or "my son used to play with all these He-Man characters, so I have to write this like a kiddie book."

No, I'm writing this as if they gave me Conan.

I'm doing world-building here, while also giving characters as much respect as humanly possible. These are great characters with a lot of potential, and I'm trying to tap into that potential.

 

It's not coming out of the cartoon. It's not coming out of the toy line. It's a good, solid comic book.

Nrama: What are some of the relationships that have emerged that you've enjoyed writing in the He-Man universe?

Giffen: The relationship between Adam and Teela is my favorite. They're best friends, and as I write them, I find myself comparing them to Blue Beetle and Booster Gold.

Nrama: Wow, from you, that says a lot.

Giffen: Well, I'm talking that in terms of dialogue. Not in terms of action. Because I am going to play these characters as straight as humanly possible. And so far, Mattel and I are getting along fine.

Nrama: So this isn't a matter of the companies not giving you the freedom to revamp these characters?

Giffen: Not at all. We're tinkering a bit with the look to bring it to a more contemporary setting. We're not tapped with Mer-Man having to look exactly like the Mer-Man from the cartoon or the toy. Philip can go in and tinker with it and try to bring the visual more in line with what the current comic book reader expects from a comic book. So we're not bound by the past. There are different ways to approach the characters.

Nrama: Are you working with Philip Tan as you do those redesigns?

Giffen: Yes! He's fantastic.

Nrama: He seemed to be so excited about working on these characters when I interviewed him.

Giffen: I haven't encountered that level of raw excitement and enthusiasm for a project in a long time. Whenever I talk to him about the He-Man stuff or plans for the book, he just launches himself into ideas and visuals and different ways of thinking about the story.

And then every so often, Howard Porter helps out with the project. Howard's my boy from Magog. So it's great to keep working with him.

So I'm in great shape with these artists. Just fantastic people to work with. I like both of the guys' work, and they're telling the story wonderfully.

And I'm having more fun doing He-Man and the Masters of the Universe than I would have thought is possible.

Nrama: It's strange to hear about a writer starting on the second issue of a six-issue mini-series, even though I know you've picked up a story like this before. How did you end up coming onto He-Man with issue #2?

Giffen: I talked with editor Ben Abernathy about maybe doing some work for that part of DC. And a couple days later, he called and asked if I'd be interested in working on Masters of the Universe as of issue #2.

I know fans are going to say, "what happened to Robinson?" And they're going to be surprised I didn't ask for details, but I honestly don't want to know. The only thing I asked was, "is the assignment open?" In other words, am I stepping into an assignment someone else is already working on? Because I won't do that. But apparently the book was open.

So I pitched a few of my ideas, and they liked them. And I'm on the book. My job is to take the book and steer it to issue #6 and see if we can get something beyond that.

Nrama: Do you have ideas for what might come next, if the series is successful enough that it continues?

Giffen: I do. I'm actually going to step in and pencil an issue that I think is going to be a stand-alone story. It will feature the character Hordak and his origin. And I'm planning to do it up really big and cosmic.

So there is life after the six issues. But I would love to continue the series itself after its six-issue run. I would love to spend more time with these characters and plunder the rest of the He-Man universe. But that's up to the fans. If they support the book enough, of course it will continue. But if all I get is a special here and a special there, I'd still be happy working in this universe. I'm having fun in Eternia. It's more creative freedom than I've had in awhile.

There are so many great characters there, and I feel like we're just getting to the tip of the iceberg. I'm really enjoying delving into this world, building this world and getting to reinterpret these characters for the comic.

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