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Mastering the Universe: He-Man and the Rise and Fall of a Billion-Dollar Idea Paperback – July 11, 2005

3.1 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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From the Publisher

MASTERING THE UNIVERSE is a must-read for members of the "I-love-the-80's" generation as well as for toy collectors, pop culture enthusiasts, and anyone interested in the drama of business history—as bloody a battleground as anything He-Man ever faced.

About the Author

Roger Sweet has a Master of Science degree in Product Design from the Institute of Design in Chicago. He worked twenty years doing general consumer product and graphic design and twenty-five more years doing toy product and graphic design. Companies for whom he has designed products include Boeing, Procter & Gamble, Rubbermaid, Hamilton Beach Scovill, Hoover and Mattel. He is currently researching and developing new product concepts. Roger resides in the Pacific Northwest.

David Wecker is a columnist for both the Cincinnati Post and the Kentucky Post. He is also co-host of Brain Brew, a weekly on-hour radio program distributed by PRI, Public Radio International and co-author of Jump Start Your Brain. He lives with his wife and children in a 200 year-old log cabin in Kentucky.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Clerisy Press, Emmis Books; First Edition edition (July 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578602238
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578602230
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,871,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By S. M. Robare on October 17, 2006
Format: Paperback
Sometime last year when I was shopping around for He-Man busts on Amazon.com I stumbled upon a book that looked pretty interesting, Mastering the Universe: He-Man and the Rise and Fall of a Billion Dollar Idea by Roger Sweet and David Wecker. The blurb on the back of the book said that the book deals with the conception of the character and figure, including the office politics that influenced the development of the Masters of the Universe toy line, as well as the downfall of the line. Cool. I'd never really had the curtain pulled back on a toy line before. I put it on my wish list and promptly forgot it was there until my parents picked it up for me on my birthday.

I just finished it and I'm not sure what I think. Mainly Roger Sweet, a designer who put in 19 years at Mattel through the 70's and 80's mostly, and who claims to have created He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, wrote it. I say "claims" because the entire book reads like a deposition in a court case where the creative rights to He-Man are in dispute. And they aren't, which made reading this book very painful and the facts presented suspect when I don't even doubt that he created the toy line. See the book is written in a very deceptive manner where the idea that there is a dispute as to whether or not Sweet is He-Man's creator is taken for granted. It's not on either cover, and in the forward there is a brief bit that might foreshadow the dispute, but it's certainly not clear.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Just be fair warned - this book is not what it is sold as. It's a psudo-memoir of the rough career of a guy who worked for Mattel. He worked on He-Man, and puts forth that he "created" him, but there is so little to actually do with the He-Man franchise. The title is EXTREMELY misleading - it should be called "The Partial Rise and Sort-of Fall of a Seemingly Bitter Work-For-Hire Designer".

Much of the book is simply recollections of office politics from a couple of decades ago, and reads like the rantings of someone who is so focused on their past they are unable to look at it objectively. Imagine if you wrote a book about some trauma you experienced in Junior High - twenty-five years later, recounting the story gives you perspective on the situation because you realize how small it is in the scheme of life, and how silly some things are years later when you grow into a mature person. This author seems unable to do this, and has no perspective other than wanting desperately to convince us that someone backstabbed him in minor office politics a few decades ago. He takes it very seriously, like he's talking about world events as opposed to the sculpting of a toy, and he repeats it over, and over, and over.

The book has no concept of why He-Man is still popular nor does it offer any insight into the creation of the toys or anything else of interest besides how this guy was "wronged". There are literally only a few sentences in the entire book that have to do with the cartoon series, only enough for the author to dismiss it. For example, he calls Prince Adam a "sissy", and doesn't understand that the cartoon *IS* He-Man to most people, not the toys.
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Format: Paperback
Interesting read, but ...

Roger Sweet not only has a chip on his shoulder about some of the inner workings of Mattel, he also apparently has some pretty hazy recollections of the MOTU product. Tri-Klops and Jitsu as good guys? Buzz-Off as a bad guy? Kobra Khan's detachable head filling with water? (It was KK's torso that held the water; his head was a spray pump.) Webstor's string running through his body and out his head? (It ran not through his body, but through his backpack accessory.) Courteney Cox as Teela in the movie?

Because of routine mistakes like that, I naturally wonder what else about this book is based on foggy memories or half-researched information just so Sweet can skewer the people he wants to skewer.

Here's some irony: At the start of Chapter 6, Sweet discusses some of the first in-fighting over which Mattel department created He-Man, and he mentions a memo issued by one of his supervisors defending Sweet and his department as the true creators. The problem is, the memo contained some minor inaccuracies, so other execs dismissed it as uninformed bitching, even though there was truth in the larger message.

By not getting the tiniest details of the MOTU product correct here, Sweet essentially does the same thing to himself. His credibility becomes a big question mark.
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Format: Paperback
Roger Sweet is open with his readers about why he wrote "Mastering the Universe." After leaving Mattel, he found himself on the outs in the toy industry, with many others claiming that He-Man was their idea and Roger had tried to take credit.

And for the few retired toy industry players from the eighties to whom the debate about who created who matters, this book is sure to make great water cooler discussion.

The rest of us bought this book for the same reason we watch "I Love the 80s." We want a brief nostalgia kick.

I was hoping for an explanation of the toy market and the culture of the 80s that allowed for He-Man to become such a monumental success and collosal failure all in the span of three years. To this end, the book doesn't deliver. The best explanation given for He-Man's demise is something about Mattel angering retailers with a glut of Skeletors or something.

It was still a fun read, mostly because of the brief interludes where Sweet described the design of each Masters action figure. Reading about the design of Kobra Kahn and Webstor reminded me why I quit playing with He-Man as a kid. The fun of characters like Skeletor and Merman was replaced with gimmicky high-concept toys that probably did well in focus groups and design meetings, but were no fun when you were trying to create a world of characters to play with.
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