Metal and Light: An Instant Interview with T. F. Cooper
In 1998, T. F. Cooper set out to write a series of short fiction adaptations of the first Masters' minicomics, beginning with He-Man of the Vines and ending with Raiders of Point Dread. This conversation, originally done for Cooper's site, gets you up close and personal with the author on every level. Now that Cooper has announced his conclusion of the TALES, this in-depth exploration of the ideas that shaped and inspired his epic series take on a unique and unexpected significance. No question was off-limits. No stone was left unturned.
HMT: what is cooper's MOTU about?
****POP: its about a world caught between light and dark, fear and hope.
HMT: you swiped that right out from under me.
****POP: no, thats how i always saw it unfolding. the fear and hope part is a big part of Eternia Lost, in my opinion. the war between them and which has the upper hand.
HMT: the power.
****POP: aye the power.
HMT: well, blow me down
****POP: blow me?
HMT: nevermind. and 'no thank you'.
HMT: it's weird having this conversation, after hanging out with you and all the editing you've let me do these past years. i feel like i know everything.
****POP: you don't. i'm a woman.
HMT: are you kidding me?
HMT: you're really transgendered. no f-ing way!
****POP: kidding. scratching me stones as we speak.
HMT: GROSS! back to he-man. there are no he-man-less scenes in your stories. why is that?
HMT: Is it because the stories are written from he-man's perspective? you want us to see what he-man sees?
****POP: i want you to see things unfolding the way he-man sees and feels them unfolding, and what he feels and thinks is what centers the stories for me. the war in motu is a war that begs the question will we live in fear or not? will we allow our fear to turn us into beings like triklops, mer-man and the other beings serve [Skeletor], who terrorize and murder out of fear of Skeletor's power - this fear that they are powerless without him. or are we going to live a more hopeful and optimistic existence, and that is a harder life to live - must be fought for and fiercely protected.
HMT: wow. this is a revelation for me, since i never knew that is how you see your evil warriors, as beings living in fear. i always figured that it was more a survival of the fittest thing for them, and that their strength came more from greed than fear. Darwin would not agree with you.
****POP: i don't believe fear makes you strong. it is a weakness that can be exploited by enemies. the evil warriors are greedy, but even greed is born of the fear we may have to do without or that we will have less than we should. that fear is instinctive and some of us, the weaker willed, allow that fear to dictate our actions.
HMT: you're talking about foreign policy. that kind of fear shapes the foreign policy of many nations here in the real world and really shapes the world we live in.
****POP: we do really horrible things to people out of a fear it will be done to us first, and we have to bugger them first you see. we have to stick them before they get us.
****POP: we look the other way, while horrible things happen to others, thinking better them than me. then we condemn them for being weak out of the shame that we did not stand up to their transgressors, who are also OUR transgressors you see.
HMT: whoa. please continue.
****POP: we are ashamed of it i think. we see real-life Skeletors right here on earth and watch them violate and humiliate others and ultimately do nothing. we then come up with convenient philosophies like hell take the hindmost and darwinism to justify our fearful behavior. it gives us an excuse to sit on our arses while you're invaded and say nothing against it. do nothing, but sit back and condemn your weakness.
HMT: i think we're secretly ashamed of it. i think all of us have seen an unfair fight at least once, and walked away while some poor guy got f-ed up or humiliated. i'll cop to that. so part of your he-man's strength is his hope, faith that we'll all be okay.
****POP: there is strength in hope i think. perhaps darwin would agree with me.
HMT: i think that is very lou scheimer, really. i think that idea is at the core of the classic cartoon he-man's appeal, wouldn't you agree?
****POP: oh absolutely. what child wouldn't respond to that kind of optimism?
HMT: would you say that your he-man is childlike in that sense?
****POP: childlike, but not weak. he is more wed to his optimism and hope than a child, who becomes disillusioned with it. he has a childlike faith in his goddess i think.
****POP: yes. mighty teela also. heuay is destiny and teela is order. his faith in their collective power assures him that the fate of mankind is not a wild, scary random thing, but measured and in strong hands.
HMT: explain he-man's relationship with heuay.
****POP: i'm not sure exactly what you mean.
****POP: out with it!
HMT: you know what i'm going to ask.
****POP: i think i do.
HMT: they have a sexual relationship, right?
HMT: the tournament in which your he-man won his powers was a contest to see who gets to bang heuay.
****POP: part of his worship of heuay is being intimate with her. Making love to her. the religious significance of his being 'heuay's man' or he-man is his intimacy with destiny and truth. she is also a goddess of truth. the vulnarians believe that a man who knows truth intimately is a righteous man. the sex between them is spiritual and very beautiful.
HMT: the hindu influence you've told me about. it's very personal to you.
****POP: i'm indian-english.
****POP: and american.
HMT: is it the sex that gives him his power? his strength?
HMT: is it the innocence?
****POP: the innocence is part of it, a freedom from mortal fear as much as from shame. his was a culture that lived in harmony with the most dangerous conditions known to man - in perfect harmony.
HMT: your he-man is so unashamed he'll whip his thing out, if you ask him! isn't that a little TOO innocent?
****POP: his thing?
HMT: d**k. he-wee. babymaker. dingdong. i think it was brilliant, BTW! damn brilliant!
****POP: he-wee - haha! it is a way of illustrating how removed his sensibilities are from those of Eternians living in cities. i also wanted something about him that made conan seem tame by comparison.
HMT: that's what i thought was so brilliant about it. so how BIG is he?
****POP: big as a crochet mallet.
HMT: is that all?
****POP: a boy's forearm.
HMT: killing me!
****POP: that's what his last sexual conquest said afterwards. "You are killing me, he-man! more please."
HMT: alright, alright! where does he-man's strength really come from?
****POP: actually, it is [the goddess] teela who binds the collective strength of his tribe to him. he is already the strongest and fastest of the vulnarians, when he wins the tournament. mighty teela gives him this added power, when he has proven himself worthy and when heuay has deemed him righteous.
HMT: but in HE-MAN of the VINES, he doesn't receive this power until after his entire tribe has been slaughtered. does that mean their massacre was fated to be? that they must die, before he can use their strength to protect mankind.
****POP: yes and no. when teela gives him this power in 'vines', it is meant to show where he gets his strength from - that's all. i think i made that much clearer in the original version of this story, where Morgonymyr [the dragon that kills He-Man's tribesmen in Cooper's "He-Man of the Vines"] was called 'Morningstar'. to answer your question as best i can, the scene in 'vines' is NOT the first time he receives his strength, but is meant to show how this amazing, magical strength is something he calls upon only in battle - in an act of justice.
HMT: he isn't just strong all the time?
****POP: that would make all of the sex he has with mortal women pretty uncomfortable for them, don't you think. he wouldn't be a very popular bloke at all. the strength comes to him, when he needs it.
HMT: does he have to pray for it, like in VINES?
****POP: not always aloud, but he willfully summons this strength.
HMT: BY THE POWERS OF GRAYSKULL!!!
****POP: the he-man i'm writing has said that only once. it is the incantation with which Teela first binds the collective strength of his tribesmen to his body. again, i think my revision of 'vines' muddled that a bit. to sum it up nicely, he-man is guided by heuay and strengthened by mighty teela.
HMT: do you want to talk about what happened to the original version? how you lost your first MOTU stories online?
****POP: hmm (thinking) ..no.
HMT: fine. you once told me that your he-man's battles are offerings to teela -- that he worships teela through his battles. i get it, but explain it anyway for our readers.
****POP: he-man's battles must be just battles, always - never waged for his own pride. it's an arthurian concept actually. he dedicates these battles to teela, as she is the goddess of justice.
HMT: you've done some really interesting things with Skeletor -- interesting enough to discuss here for those unfamiliar with your work.
****POP: he's fear and more specifically the fear of destruction. the dread of it that makes us prisoners of our fear and enslaves us to people, who use fear to control others. he's a physical manifestation of that fear, an incarnation of spiritual destruction.
HMT: you must write a self-help book.
****POP: haha. you suggested that a week ago as i recall.
HMT: yes i did. fear equals death in your work?
****POP: you could say that. fear kills a part of our spirits that is very difficult to resurrect. when you think about Eternia really, really hard, as you and i tend to do, this is the only significance a being like Skeletor could have to real people. you would never fear some evil mojo man, like keldor, as much as you would fear evil incarnate, the Devil.
HMT: very much in the stephen king tradition.
****POP: you remembered. like the Dark man in 'The Stand', he is powerful, because mortals have made him so. if you've read the Stand, you understand exactly how my Skeletor comes to power and stays there.
****POP: he rules through the priest-kings, who are these evil warlords that keep the dark hemisphere populations terrorized and without hope. that is the real darkness, i think.
HMT: that is also the idea at work in twin peaks, another guilty pleasure we share. this idea of an unseen evil lurking on the edge of civilization, waiting to conquer us.
****POP: the evil in the woods, yes. the BLACK LODGE! boo! very twin peaksie. very hawthorne also.
HMT: will dale cooper ever meet he-man in one of your stories.
****POP: i rather think he already has. in his dreams of course. dale cooper used his dreams to fight evil in the mortal world, remember.
HMT: and there were always dwarves, giants and white horses and other imagery from european mythology in them, just as there is in MOTU.
****POP: i miss our old pal, don't you? he was a damn fine man. mr. lynch must find some way to resurrect him.
HMT: back to Skeletor. what's your problem with keldor story?
****POP: don't make me the bad guy! you hate that bad uncle business as much as i do. uncle skeletor touched me in a bad place! search your feelings, luke - i am your uncle!
HMT: LOL. you nailed me. i hate it too.
****POP: you hate it because its the stupidest thing you ever heard. it's so derivative of 'star wars', so brazen, that it defies the laws of artistic integrity!
HMT: i felt betrayed by it. sold out. what about grayskull?
****POP: what about grayskull? my castle grayskull?
HMT: What's the big secret? what's inside?
****POP: bagels. gourmet coffee! a haberdashery. what did you expect?
****POP: i think the hiltons own grayskull now.
HMT: PORN! where's the damn porn?
HMT: the grayskull HILTON! i love it!
****POP: it's all revealed in [my fic adaptation of] 'ordeal of man-e-faces'. not all of grayskull's secrets, but perhaps the biggest secret.
HMT: i LOVED that story. Loved it! it may be your best fic to date. now, what's going on with your name?
****POP: t f cooper?
****POP: just a nod to david lynch. i was t f 'brooks' before in case you've forgotten.
HMT: the OTHER name! don't be daft.
HMT: what's behind ****POP? is it anti-She-Ra? $#*+
****POP: daft? i'm the 2nd [generation] limey here, you bloody impostor!
****POP: do you like it?
****POP: no. i'm not anti-shera and have never been. [****POP is] one of my chatroom handles - one of the naughtier chatrooms, if you must know.
HMT: you are a very unusual man, mr. cooper. give us one thing about your Mineternia that would shock and awe us, please.
****POP: teela's a barfly - a real rummy who pops off her top in a pub and dances on the tables.
HMT: come on. one thing.
****POP: lemon juice is wonderful on pizza stains. and orko is gay - just look at that dress! that hat!
HMT: coop! one thing! before i collapse from exhaustion.
****POP: to answer one of your questions as honestly, but indirectly as i can, there is no castle grayskull.
****POP: it's nothing but a pile of rubble in reality, kept alive and powerful by the hopes of all Eternians that something stands between them and oblivion. that's why skeletor wants so desperately to conquer it! if he succeeds, all hope is lost, and the souls of an entire world are his to feed on. it is also why he-man draws upon its power. through grayskull, he taps into the power of mythical belief and legend.
HMT: deep $#*+, man. thanks.
If you haven't read T. F. Cooper's TALES of MINETERNIA, you should . In a fandom that has seen little change or originality in nearly seven years, a more unique and awe-inspiring vision of He-Man's world will be hard to find. He is also the ONLY Masters fan fiction author to attempt adapting the minicomics to novellas.
Explore T. F. Cooper's Tales of Mineternia.
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