Monday, January 27, 2014


Lou Scheimer: Creating the Filmation Generation is Scheimer’s 2012 autobiography, which he wrote with Andy Mangels. Scheimer co-founded Filmation in 1962, and he was the only one left when the sale to L’Oreal shut the company down in 1989. As such, this book also serves as a comprehensive history of Filmation, which is best known for such cartoons as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, and Star Trek: The Animated Series.

The book begins with Scheimer’s parents’ immigration to the United States and his childhood and schooling; from the foundation of Filmation onward, Scheimer keeps things mostly chronological but largely gives a show-by-show account of events. I only have one real complaint about the way the book is laid out—it would have been nice to get more information on the animation process earlier in the book so that certain portions would be easier to follow.

The book has a very conversational tone, which makes it extremely engaging. Scheimer’s personality really comes through unfiltered, and by all accounts, he was quite a character. He never met a tangent he didn’t like, but most of what he has to say is so interesting that it’s easily forgiven (e.g., his dad purportedly punched Hitler in the face).

Scheimer heavily emphasizes his passion and vision for animation throughout the book. He was a trailblazer, he says, for incorporating racial diversity into children’s cartoons, and for producing material that communicated values, morals, and instruction. He was also committed to keeping animation jobs in the United States when most studios were sending large amounts of work overseas (this is, in fact, one of the primary reasons for Filmation’s well-known and oft-maligned stock animation system.

This is a huge book—8.5” by 11”, and almost 300 pages—and it’s kind of unwieldy. It’s worth wrestling with, though, because of the vast number of pictures. Contrary to what its Amazon page would lead you to believe, however, the book is not in full color. Only pp. 209–224 are; the rest are in black and white, so caveat emptor. The book really could have done with some serious copyediting, especially to clean up Scheimer’s serial misuse of “I” when he should have used “me” and the redundancies in the writing (Mangels, isn’t that your job?).

For me, at least, the production and editorial knocks on the book are readily forgivable. Lou Scheimer: Creating the Filmation Generation gave me a new appreciation for Scheimer, for Filmation, and for some of the cartoons I grew up with; I’m grateful simply that the book exists.

If any of the Filmation shows you grew up with are still meaningful to you as an adult, odds are you’ll find Lou Scheimer: Creating the Filmation Generation well worth your time.


Monday, January 6, 2014



He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #7–9 (DC) are written by Dan Abnett and illustrated by Rafael Kayanan and Michael S. O’Hare. Here, when Randor leads an attack on a Horde archaeological dig, Hordak nukes the site from orbit, leading the Heroic Warriors to undertake a forbidden journey to Subternia in an attempt to resurrect the Sorceress. No, seriously.  

From the first panel, Abnett tries to go high fantasy with the dialogue and narration. You’ll recall that Giffen did too—sometimes. Abnett, at least, is a lot more consistent, and so it works a lot better. The scripting isn’t anything fantastic, but there’s a conspicuous absence of any petty bickering. In fact, Abnett’s Teela isn’t too far off from the 200X Teela: sassy, but not obnoxiously so. On the heels of the complete disaster that was Giffen’s scripting, this is a major upgrade that imbues every page of these comics with the refreshing breeze of not flagrantly sucking.  

Beyond the fact that on the face of it, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, the plot is also fair; I’m not sorry to move the story away from the Horde for a while. Unfortunately, the pace isn’t great. There’s too much fighting and too much expository speechifying (including a great deal of mystical mumbo jumbo concerning the Goddess). Since we’re not getting any character development for any of these people, we need to be getting a good amount of storytelling accomplished, and we just aren’t—there seems to be a ton of ground to cover (or to skip over) to resolve this storyline by the end of #12.   

Other thoughts on the writing: Iron Pants He-Man still isn’t doing much; he’s just part of the team. In fact, it’s obvious who the most powerful of the Heroic Warriors is: Moss Man. For reals. It’s not even close. And everybody just calls Iron Pants He-Man “Adam.” Given all this, it might be time to retitle the book. If you don’t like Adam and the Masters of the Universe, plain old Masters of the Universe would certainly fit better, as would, perhaps, Justice League of Eternia.

The decision to make Grizzlor, of all people, the Horde’s sophisticated tactician is an interesting one, but it works well enough. Man-At-Arms is conspicuous by his absence, although Randor fills his role as the group’s strategic planner, wearer of sweet knobbly armor, and gun-haver. Abnett also seems to be going out of his way to drop these characters’ “real” names from the MOTU Classics line whenever possible. Gur’rull Gu’rroooow? Sure, buddy. Whatever you want. Also, we really could have used some better editing.

Kayanan does the art for #7 and #8. There are some nice touches: a lot of the classic vehicles appear, for example, and Grizzlor’s cloak is clearly made from the Mattel Fright Zone dragon puppet (but why does Stratos look like Spider-Man?). However, Kayanan uses heavy, messy inks, his figures often look flat, and his human faces aren’t good at all—it’s an ugly style that doesn’t work for me at all. It also makes for a jarring transition to O’Hare’s art in #9, which is clean, bright, and vibrant. It’s a style that fits what He-Man is supposed to be all about (although…would one background be too much to ask for?). The short-term good news is that O’Hare is listed as the artist on #10–12. The only other art-related comment I have is that the cover for #7 is probably the worst I’ve seen since Marvel put Hordak’s giant head on the cover of Masters of the Universe #4 (in which he didn’t even appear) in 1986.

So then: while these are, overall, some pretty mediocre comics, they’re also the most unterrible He-Man comics we’ve seen in many moons. By God, these things are readable. I’ve been subjected to too much to get my hopes up, but #10–12 certainly have the potential to be the most unterrible comics yet.