If you’ve followed Four Horsemen Toy Design Studios over the past several years you’ve seen Nathan Baertsch’s amazing art on packaging and posters for the Horsemen’s inhouse lines like Mythic Legions, Seventh Kingdom and Gothitropolis as well as his work on the vintage properties they’ve licensed like The Outer Space Men and Power Lords. Mr. Baertsch also worked closely with Eric Treadaway to help design the New Castle Grayskull for the Masters of the Universe Classics line and he designed the eagerly anticipated MOTUC “Light Hope” character — turning what was formerly a simple ray of light into a character that will see action figure form for the first time. So without further ado, here are Powerlordsreturn.com’s exclusive video and written interviews with this incredibly talented artist.
PLR.com: Who are you and what do you do for a living?
Hi, I’m Nate Baertsch, and I draw and color pretty things. If it don’t pretty, I do again.
That’s it in a turtle shell. Really, by day, I work as an Art Manager/Illustrator/Animator for Imagine Learning, where we produce educational software that teaches children English. (I just do the art there, so please forgive all my spelling and grammatical errors!)
By night, I do freelance illustration and toy design. As well as be a Dad to three awesome kids and a spouse to an amazing, beautiful, talented and very patient wife.
PLR.com: How did you meet the Four Horsemen?
Like most fanboys out there, I met them back in 2004 at San Diego Comic Con. I probably hung around their booth a bit too much like a creepazoid, I remember at the time drooling over the new 2-Ups and statues that were shown at the Mattel and NECA booths. The favorite reveals for me at the time were the 200X Sorceress, Clawful, Hordak and She-Ra 2-Ups. NECA had a Sorceress full statue and a Triklops full statue on display that were absolutely GORGEOUS. But… I’m pretty sure they don’t remember meeting me at that time.
PLR.com: What led you to working with them?
I think they first took notice of some of my artwork when I was working with Val Staples and MVCreations on some variant covers for the MotU 200X comic book. I did a more painted looking style at the time that hopefully gave a nod to the old box art paintings that were used on the original MotU toy line.
They knew me already as a major FourHorsemen fan as I was at one time a fairly active member in their forums. (username: Baena) When the Fantastic Exclusive figure Ramathorr was in production, the Horsemen approached me to see if I wanted to do some packaging artwork for Ramathorr. I think my mother could’ve been on her death bed and I would’ve still taken the job! (Thankfully she wasn’t!) Of course I wanted to be a part of this! The Horsemen had expressed a desire to include even more fan input on their FanEx figures, and this was just one of the ways in which this fan was able to help.
That let the camel into the tent, and led to continued work on the Seventh Kingdom property, as well as the Gothitropolis line with Scarabus and Timekeeper and now Raven artwork.
I’ve also been asked on occasion to produce some behind the scenes type art work, like design sketches and b-sheet art for lines like DCUC, MotU Classics and more.
I feel very lucky to have been let in to the stable so to speak, as you all already know, they’re a class act, amazing human beings, and insanely talented at what they do! It’s only ever been a pleasure to work with them.
PLR.com: We have seen your hand throughout the process with the Power Lords, was that a choice you made? Were you drawn to the Power Lords?
When the Horsemen picked up the Power Lords license, I was very excited for Eric Treadaway especially, knowing him, and knowing what a huge Power Lords fan he is. I’ve always had an appreciation for this line, but I can’t say I was a longtime fan. As an adult toy collector, and one that appreciates good art, I really have grown to love and respect the vision that Wayne Barlowe has for this line.
When I was approached by Eric to do style guide art as well as packaging art and the Fan Club poster for the Power Lords, of course I was onboard. Crazy alien designs, bright colors and a new mythology? What’s not to love?!
Seeing Eric and the Horsemen bring these new figures to life has been amazing. The figures want to just live in your hands, meaning they’re very hard figures to put down. There’s so much detail poured into them! You can really feel the love Eric has for this property in each figure.
So was I drawn to Power Lords? Absolutely, thankfully so.
PLR.com Were you aware of the Power Lords before the 4H started working on them?
Again, yes, I was aware of them long before. I had a few friends that had a few figures back in the day. I could see that there was great potential with the line, and that it brought something very unique to collectors. And of course I knew of the comic ad that was done with Adam Power changing into Lord Power, who didn’t see that?
PLR.com: Do you have a favorite character from both the old and new incarnations?
This is always a hard question to answer… I would say that in the original line, I really liked Arkus. Again, he’s so visually different from anything out there in any other toy line. A very close second would probably be Raygoth. I always loved guys with claws for hands as a kid. (Clawful was also a favorite of mine in another toy line.) Plus I love his color scheme, and I know I would’ve loved his holographic chest sticker as a kid, as I had a fascination with holograms and lasers.
For the new line? If I vote just on what’s been done already? I love that blue Grapptikk figure! His fish face and brute size really speaks to me. I love that he’s the deluxe character that includes so many other great Gripp-ish heads and forearms to really mix up his look.
Shaya! I’m most intrigued to see what the Horsemen do with her. If I’m honest, I do enjoy drawing the female form more than the male form, so to do the Queen of Power, should be a nice treat. She fascinates me, she’s incredibly beautiful in her humanoid form, and so crazy and unique and even a bit grotesque in her alien form, contrast like that is hard to not look away from and be fascinated by.
I had fun doing just an exploratory piece for her for the third year of Toypocalypse at Toy Tokyo in New York. Which was also later used by our friends at Toy Fusion as a giveaway print at their booth at New York Comic Con.
It also makes me happy knowing that this piece hangs in Eric Treadaway’s office.
To add to that though, there are many characters I’m excited to see, Drench, Bakatak, and Tork show great potential in this new glyos friendly format!
PLR.com: You’ve done art for several characters now, is there one you are most proud of?
The one piece of art I’ve been able to do for this line, and am most proud of to date would be the Fan Club Poster. I love how many characters I was able to cram into it, even if trying to compose the thing was a bit of a challenge. I’ll let the fans say whether or not I was able to pull it off.
I honestly can’t say which character I love the most from that piece. Lord Power really commands the entire poster as he should, he’s got a lot of fast, deliberate strokes in him as I tried to convey a sense of raw power within him. I also love the work I could do on Sydot. Sydot is one of those characters that I feel Eric really brought up in value by being true to the old toy, but also looking at, and bringing to life, Barlowe’s original vision for him. Thank goodness he gave the Horsemen all those early drawings! Capturing his likeness and new/old design was a lot of fun.
I try to as much as I can. If I don’t know a background I like to create one as I sketch them out and imagine where they come from, and why they look the way they do. Early on in style guide art creation, I even like to think of things we don’t see. We’ve never seen Gripptogg with his mouth open, so I actually sat down and tried to envision what his teeth should look like, in the event we ever want to see him with his mouth open, seeing that he’s a main character and all. Of course this was a collaboration between myself and Eric. Ultimately though, I’d love to know what Wayne Barlowe would’ve done! We should probably ask him!
PLR.com: If you could create your own character in the spirit of Barlowe’s Guides with the hopes of it becoming a new character and made into a toy, would you and what do you think it would be like? Could you do a quick sketch for use?
Runs off to sketch up something… and comes up with:
THE EVIL CUTTILLA!!
NATE BAERTSCH’S CUTTILLA CHARACTER NOTES:
Here’s the character I’d create for Power Lords…
We need at least one more female, this one is the evil Cuttilla! (pronounced cut-ill-a) (Like a cuttlefish)
Had she been a figure in the 80’s with the original line, she would’ve been made of that rubbery sticky stuff that sticks to walls. That would’ve been her gimmick, the child would slap her against the wall, and let her wriggle and twist down the wall and land on top of her prey! And then stick to them to trap them!
I could see kids having fun stretching her tentacles around and around the other figures to trap them for her lord Arkus.
Could she be made in this line? Would anyone want her? (Of course not until after all the other standard figures were made.)
Power Lords Return.com would like to thank Source Horsemen Forum Board Member Mindless Focus for submitting the questions for Mr. Baertsch to answer. To see more of Nate’s amazing work follow this link to visit him on the NateBaertschDeviantArt.com Page.
Below are some rough head sketches Nate Baertsch has done of old and new Power Lords characters.