Both the Masters of the Universe and Thundercats franchises have lasted as toy lines, cartoon series and motion pictures for nearly 30 years. Power-Con & ThunderCon was the first such fan convention held in the United States. It took place at the Four Points Sheraton LAX on the weekend of September 24th-25th 2011. These franchises have some of the most dedicated fans of any pop culture or nostalgic properties. It’s a misnomer to think that since this convention was held in the US, that only Americans would be in attendance. Considering that this event catered to a very specialized fan base, there were people who not only flew in from other states, but from countries such as Canada, France, Italy, Bolivia and Australia This convention would not have been possible without the hard work from He-Man.org founder and convention director Val Staples.
The convention was set up with the typical vendor/dealer hall as well as a room where all of the panels took place and there was a room dedicated to displaying the various toy lines as well as showing off some well drawn pieces of art, some of which were created by fans. After most convention goers had arrived, registered, collected their badges and exclusive swag, they proceeded to stand in line for the first panel.
This was The Matty Collector Presentation, featuring Masters of the Universe Classics toy line. The panel consisted of Scott “Toy Guru” Neitlich, Terry Higuchi, Mike Guarniere and Bill Benecke who all work for Mattel. Not only were the toys from the classics that had been revealed at San Diego Comic Con shown again, there were several new and upcoming figures for next years line revealed. The previously announced but not released figures are Icarius (October), Snout Spout (November), Bubble Power She-Ra (November), Swiftwind (November), Battle Ground Evil Lyn (November), Demo-Man (December), the Windraider vehicle (December), The Sorceress (January), Fearless Photog (January, 30th anniversary), the Star Sisters three pack (January), Fisto (February), Kobra Kahn (March), Draego-Man (March), Thunder Punch He-Man (March) and the 2012 subscription exclusive figure Shadow Weaver. The figures being announced and shown off for the first time were, Stinkor (April), the Griffin beast (April), the Snake Mountain figure stands (April), Slushhead (May) and The Might Spector (May, 30th anniversary) and the traveling convention exclusive, Temple of Darkness Sorceress. They also had a slideshow detailing the process of how a Masters of the Universe Classics figures is made, from concept through finished product.
An additional panel of interest was the Masters of the Original He-Man Toy line. In this panel the guests, Mark Taylor, Ted Mayer, Martin Arriola and Paul Cleveland discussed how the character of He-Man was created and other aspects regarding the original toy line that launched the Masters of the Universe franchise. Absent from the panel was Roger Sweet, yet another person who claims to have created He-Man. He is at such odds with Mark Taylor, that he would not show his face unless he was given credit for creating the character and toy line. Mark Taylor went into a lengthy, but informative talk on how he conceived the idea of and created He-Man. He boasted how he was unable to make this possible without the help of Ted Mayer who helped with the initial designs and was working for the Intelevision electronics division of Mattel at the time. The other panelists told how they fit into the Masters toy line process and which figures and toys they were responsible for having created.
The following panel was, Filmation: Focus on He-Man. Moderating the discussion was James Etock, who wrote an unofficial episode guide for the Filmation’s He-Man and the Masters of the Universe animated series. The panelists featured were Larry DiTillio, Rowby Goren, Michael Halperin, Tom Sito and Charles Zembillas. Missing from the panel was of course the founder and executive producer of the Filmation animation studio, Lou Scheimer. Michael Halperin talked about how he was hired to create the series bible, which is to write the back-story and mythos for all the characters and locations for the series. Both Larry DiTillio and Rowby Goren were writers on the series. Rowby was brought on for his comedic writing background to put humor into the show. Larry also wrote for She-Ra. Tom Sito on the other hand, was a storyboard artist for the series. Charles Zembillas told stories of how he got his job as an animator for the series.
Next up was the long awaited panel for The Classic Thundercats. This featured Larry Kenny (Lion-O, Safari Joe and Jackalman) and Gerrianne Raphael (Pumyra and Chilla.) The two talked about how they became voice actors and what it was like for them to be a part of the classic cartoon. They both spoke on how they created the distinct sounding voices for the characters they played. Larry reminisced about fellow voice cast members Bob McFadden (Snarf) and Earl Hammond (Mumm-Ra) who passed away since the series had aired. Also, what would a Thundercats panel be with out Larry Kenny belting out “Thunder, thunder, thunder, Thundercats HOOOOOOO!”, which he did while holding up a role-play sword from the current series, given to him by an audience member.
Between panels there was time to roam the vendor hall and mingle with fellow convention goers/fans. Johnny’s Perfect Costumes, Zolo World and Spy Monkey Creations, who sell custom figures and accessories, The Power and Honor Foundation, who are collecting and preserving rare He-Man art preserving PowerMorphicon the Power Ranger’s convention, Cereal Geeks magazine, Mattel & Matty Collector , Coast City Style t-shirts, comic book artist Tone Rodriguez. Also, there were a few vendors selling vintage Masters of the Universe toys and collectibles. In the back is where the autograph sable was. This is where fan could meet several of the convention guests and panelists.
Across from the vendor hall was the art and collectible room. This room consisted of action figures and art pieces. The figures displays consisted of pieces from all series from the vintage Thundercats, Masters of the Universe through 200X and everything in between, including playsets. Not only was there rare and design art on display, there was several pieces of fan drawn art. This room was a welcome break from the chaos of the rest of the convention.
The last panel of Saturday was for the Toy Masters documentary. The two filmmakers, Cory Landis and Roger Lay Jr. have spent many months filming interviews of influential people in the He-Man universe such as toy creators, animators, voice actors and super fans, just to name a few. Their goal is to chronicle the story of Masters of the Universe. The guests on the panel aside from the filmmakers included Mark Taylor, Ted Mayer, Mark DiCamillo and Gary Goddard. Not only was the documentary discussed, but how each of the panelists we involved with the franchise. Gary Goddard was the special surprise guest. He took the property into the live-action realm with the mall and Power Tours as well as directing the 1987 Masters of the Universe film. This panel was a highlight of the convention.
Despite the main convention having closed for the day, there were several after hours events. The most prestigious was the Roast Gooble Dinner Dinner. Where fans could pay about $350 to have dinner and mingle with the panel guests. For those without a deep pocket, there was a screening of the fan film The Wizard of Stone Mountain. This was a low budget fan project set in the He-Man universe. It was made by John F. Carroll and Mussel Minton. They were there to answer questions after the screening and sad there are two sequels in the works. Next up was the wonderful costume contest. The winner was Johnny, from Johnny’s Perfect Costumes dressed as King Randor. Then, “Pixel Dan” Eardley took the stage to premiere an episode of his video series Power & Honor. This episode focused on original figure of He-Man. These events went on past 12PM
Sunday kicked off with a rather big panel. Melendy Britt and Alan Oppenheimer voiced the characters of She-Ra and Skeletor respectfully. These two individuals have never appeared at a convention before let alone together. This was a highlight for all convention attendees. They had much to say about what it was like to get into recording cartoon voices and how much of an impact they had on the viewers of there shows. Naturally, throughout the panel they broke out into several of their character voices which drew loud cheers from the audience. They could have never expected so much positive fan response, especially over 25 years after their cartoons have been made. The fans have so much respect for these voice actors.
After that was the New Thundercats panel. This was for the series currently airing on Cartoon Network. This consisted of Larry Kenny, the voice of King Claudus and Matthew Mercer, who voice Tygra. It was fun to see how the two of them not only kept the old series alive, but brought something fresh and different to the new cartoon. Matthew started out dubbing voices for anime, so it was different for him to not have to voice match to already animated footage. Larry Kenny not only talked about how pleased he was with the new series, but how he has high hope for what it will become. One day he hopes that he and Will Friedle, the current voice of Lion-O will get the chance to meet in person. There are high hopes among convention goers that Will can be a guest at next year’s event. Matthew also, discussed about having been a fan of Thundercats when he was a kid and that this was a dream come true to get to voice Tygra for his first roll in an American animated series. These two were great to represent the original and the brand new Thundercats series’.
The final panel of interest was He-man art through the ages. The two guests for this were legendary artist Earl Norem and Emiliano Santalucia, founder of the Power and Honor Foundation. Earl got his start in art not only illustrating pin-up magazines, but drawing the wonderful covers for the early Conan comics and books. Once Masters of the Universe became popular in the 1980’s, Earl became the premiere artist for the official He-Man magazine. He drew epic paintings used as the cover for many issues of the magazine. The second panelist, Emiliano Santalucia is not only an artist in his on right; he established the Power and Honor foundation. This is a group with the goal of collecting and preserving rare artwork and prototype drawing from all facets of the He-Man property. As of now, there is a nice hardcover book that has been made which features rare prototype and unused designs for the Masters of the Universe and New Adventures of He-Man toy lines. The book was not only available for a donation of $55 at the convention, but it can be ordered through the foundations website. With donations from the fan community, Emiliano says that there are enough pieces that can be collected and preserved for the foundation to publish about 6 or 7 more volumes of their wonderful catalogue.
Overall Power-Con and ThunderCon was a resounding success. Considering its size and dedicated fan base, who traveled from all over the world to attend, it look like this convention will only be getting bigger in years to come. While not ever panel and fine detail was covered, hopefully there is enough information to give anyone who was unable to attend a good picture of what went on. This is encouragement not only for getting more people out to the con for next year, but being able to make it bigger and better. Despite there being many foreign fans who flew in from out of the state and even the country, it was a great place to meet fellow He-Man and Thundercats aficionados. If you missed the convention this year, it will be back in LA next year, larger and more expansive and in 2013 the con will move to New York City. Thanks to people such as Val Staples, James Etock and Emiliano Santalucia and many countless other super fans that are dedicated to preserving and continuing Masters of the Universe and Thundercats properties alive.
More information on Power-Con and ThunderCon at http://www.stuffwelike.com/2011/10/08/power-con-thundercon/