Masters of the Universe Mini Comic Collection

Leanne and I were hard at work in early 2015 for Dark Horse comics on the hardcover He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Minicomic Collection
which was released on November 5, 2015.

For anyone who grew up with the Masters of the Universe toys, this is a great coffee table book collecting all the mini-comics that came packaged with every action figure. Not only is it a complete set of all the Masters of the Universe comics, but it also includes She-Ra: Princess of Power, and the New Adventures of He-Man comics that followed. Leanne and I individually scanned nearly every page from original copies, then we spent hours on every issue retouching the art, and entirely re-lettering every word balloon. It was a monumental scale project and you can read about our experiences, and those of the others involved in the making of this book by going to the interviews here, and part 2 here.

We felt very privileged to be involved in this project and do our part to preserve a piece of childhood for so many people.

The restoration team was made up of the husband and wife duo Rod and Leanne Hannah, plus Jon Kallis, Rachel Crockett as well as Val Staples. When it came to the work, Rod Hannah revealed, “This was a huge project. It involved scanning every page from all the minicomics, repairing damage, sharpening up the images, eliminating the print showing through from the opposite pages, and restoring the word balloons. In some cases, small segments of artwork had to be recreated where the glue had stuck pages together. Comparing multiple copies of each minicomic and trying to find pieces that made perfect art was near impossible. A lot of time went into getting this book ready, but everyone who was involved was a fan and we all knew what we were doing was for the preservation of our childhoods and a piece of pop culture history.”

Leanne Hannah went on to say, “I put in a lot of long, long hours on scanning and restoration solidly over the course of a few months. Some of the work could be insanely challenging depending on the quality of the comics themselves and how much work was involved in repairing damaged pages and art, but it was fun at the same time and in the end it really paid off. A lot went into making sure that the art and color in the digital files matched what readers saw on the original printed pages to give fans the best experience possible.”

Read the full behind the scenes interviews here, and part 2 here.

Hickory Hippo and the Snow Mystery

Hickory Hippo: The children’s storybook that Leanne and I have been working on is now available! It’s the first book in the ongoing adventures of a little hippo who finds adventure helping others– from walking talking snowmen, to the cats of Catlantis!

If you have placed an order, or are interested in a cute gift item for any kids in your family or life, then please check it out and spread the word.

And please, like our Hickory Hippo page on Facebook, and Hickory Hippo on Twitter.

hippoHickory Hippo is available for immediate purchase and shipping. See our website for details. Also, if you purchase from then please write us a kind review.

New children’s storybook series

Some exciting news. Leanne and I are on the verge of setting up the website for Hickory Hippo, our first children’s storybook as a husband and wife team. Hickory Hippo will be a series of adventure stories for young readers, telling the tale of the titular Hickory, an anthropomorphic hippo who has a number of fantastical adventures with his friends. Inspirations included Carl Barks’ work on Uncle Scrooge and Alfred Bestall’s Rupert Bear books. We hope to have the website launch in March and begin taking preorders on the print edition of the first story in the series.

Watch this space!

Adventures in Space and Time – Hartnell Misconceptions

Later this month, the BBC will air a special docudrama about the origin and production of the sci-fi series Doctor Who. Adventures in Space and Time stars David Bradley, as William Hartnell and recreates the 1960s era British Broadcasting Corporation behind the scenes. However, writer and long time fan, Mark Gatiss, is expecting a fan backlash and “howls of protest” toward what he has described as his “love letter” to the show. The script cuts some key moments and characters involved in the show’s beginnings such as script editor, David Whitaker.

“Writing Doctor Who, you don’t give a monkey’s. You write it for your audience, not for the people who will watch it anyway. Doctor Who fans exist for the minutiae. They’ll complain about everything. They’ll probably complain about Verity Lambert’s shoes. But I made it for everybody and I hope it’s very touching. I don’t mean to sound contemptible at all – I’m a fan so there are a lot of things that I want to nod to or embrace – but you can’t be ruled by that. Here, this is holy writ; they’re real people.”

It’s easy for Gatiss to feel that way. After all, he is a fan who is writing for the show and working in the television industry, whereas 99% of fans are not. But that doesn’t mean that any fan who finds fault with his own choices, should have their opinions devalued as mere whinging. There is a lot of pettiness in all fandoms, but that doesn’t mean that those criticism aren’t sometimes justified.

Gatiss chose to conflate Mervyn Pinfield and David Whittaker into one person. I understand the difficulty in time and narrative constraints, but actually merging two people together effectively blurs facts and changes history. While I am disappointed that this was deemed necessary, I am much more concerned about the portrayal of William Hartnell that has historically lacked a vital factual component.

There is a bit of a myth surrounding Hartnell being cantankerous by his own nature and I’m concerned this will simply be perpetuated in the upcoming biopic. For anyone that has done any reading on Hartnell, they will be aware he was suffering from arteriosclerosis causing his arteries to harden and a great deal of pain. For anyone who has lived with someone suffering from a debilitating disease, or has one themselves, they will have some idea how this would have contributed to Hartnell’s occasional touchiness. Both the pain itself and the frustration that come with memory loss must have made his ability to continue as star of the show extremely challenging. He had to work a 48-50 episode per year shooting schedule. This context, I think, is crucial to giving an honest and sympathetic perspective on Hartnell that is long overdue.

William Hartnall & Maureen O'Brien as the First Doctor and VikiMuch of the criticism that exists about Hartnell comes from a small group of people who only knew him briefly. I am sick and tired of hearing Anneke Wills’ extremely finite view on Hartnell. Together with Michael Craze, she was the last co-star to work with Hartnell on the show. Considering everything that had been going on behind the scenes during the tumultuous tenure of John Wiles and Donald Tosh that directly preceded them, WIlls never had the full picture. She only recorded three serials with Hartnell before he was forced to leave the show, so her judgments on the actor have always been very narrowly biased all these years.

Before Anneke Wills arrived, producer John Wiles and script editor Donald Tosh had been actively trying to get Hartnell removed from the show. Neither of them cared for the show in its current format and Hartnell did not agree with their plan for future. The actor presented a major obstacle to their television ambitions. Hartnell was not alone in giving them feedback they disagreed with. They effectively fired Maureen O’Brien, the actress that played Viki, reportedly upsetting Hartnell and no doubt contributing to the flame up that occurred between him and the producer during Master Plan.

There was a LOT of drama behind the drama, and my fear is that the comments by actors and people who came into the show fleetingly, or late during Hartnell’s era, never had the bigger picture. And today, their comments continue to provide only half truths about the man himself. It’s important, in my view, that something of this is addressed, even if it is simply the mention of his battle with a debilitating disease. I think it helps paint a much more heroic view of Hartnell than the often simplified one that has proliferated over the years.

I am very excited to see Hartnell, and an era of Doctor Who that I hold in such esteem, being celebrated with a special television drama on the show’s 50th anniversary. I just hope that it manages to present Hartnell’s passion for the program along with his health struggle.