PLR EXCLUSIVE: Wayne Barlowe Interviewed About His Art, Toys & Creating The Power Lords

Legendary Sci-Fi Artist Wayne Douglas Barlowe

Legendary Sci-Fi Artist Wayne Douglas Barlowe

All images are courtesy of Wayne Barlowe’s official site.
You can find more incredible Barlowe art at

PowerLordsReturns Asks: You’ve had an amazing career that has taken you from the forests of Pandora (doing concept art for Avatar) to the depths of Hell (your books exploring the nature of Hades). You’ve also designed characters for the Harry Potter and Hellboy Movies, as well as many others. Where does the creation of Power Lords fit in your long and storied career?

Wayne Barlowe: Thanks for the very kind words. My career has had an arc that I could have never predicted way back when I was starting out. Of course, one should never expect that the career you set out to follow as a young person will unfold exactly as you expect. I’d bet it rarely ever does. I set out to try to conquer the paperback world. It didn’t happen, though I did a lot of very popular covers and also learned a lot along the way. So, after many years in the bullpen of illustration I decided to expand my horizons and do my own books. The funny thing about that is that I created Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials very early in my career and now, looking back, I really ponder why I just didn’t follow that path from the start. The book was successful for its time; there was every indicator that I should have done another straightaway. That didn’t happen but its odd descendants were the Power Lords. When toy-packagers Ned Strongin and Len Mayem contacted me, they were looking for a line that replicated what was in the book. Due to rights issues, I could not agree to that but I could provide them with designs that were similar.


PLR: What was it like working on the concept art for Power Lords? Were you involved in other aspects of creating the toy line like designing the action features or creating the back stories for the characters?

WB: Obviously, it was new and fun for me. I really do like branching out and trying new forms of design and this was a blast. I love toys – still collect a lot of them – but this was extra rich in that I was designing aliens. I love aliens and the kick here was that I’d actually get to hold the designs and put them on my shelf. Ned and Len were really agreeable fellows and they enjoyed seeing the reams of paper come off my desk. I did dozens of potential designs – each with an eye towards some kind of mechanical action that would translate into a fun toy. We discussed many of the possible actions and, yes, they did have some guidelines – target concepts that they wanted to see integrated into the line. I had very little to do with the back-stories. If memory serves me, those were created by people at Revell. Same with the Adam Power’s volcano base, Volcan Rock. That must have been done at Revell or elsewhere.

PLR: One of the things that makes Power Lords such a unique toy line, is the fact that all of the characters are so incredibly alien. Even Adam and Shaya who have humanoid forms transform into something wholly other. Some toy fans report that their parents wouldn’t buy them some of the toys because the parents felt they were too bizarre and would give their children nightmares. How were you able to get such a weird, wild line marketed and distributed to major retailers worldwide?

WB: Ha – well, as I said, I love toys and wanted to make these guys exceptional. And we all wanted these toys to have cutting edge features that our competitors did not have in their lines. A tough request as Masters of the Universe were going strong and were really well made and creative. And, why not have weird stuff in alien figures? They’re ALIENS! Too bad if parents couldn’t get it. That certainly wasn’t anything I was concerned about. Not my department! That was for Ned and Len and maybe Richard Zien who doing the marketing for Revell to worry about. Adam and Shaya, who were both characters that Ned and Len wanted in the line, were pretty bizarre. Incidentally, I think the only character I named was Sydot – a nod to my parents, Sy and Dot.


PLR: Even though many alterations were made between your original designs and the final Power Lords product, the characters all still seem so unmistakably “Barlowe.” When you were getting these made, did you have to deal with kid-testing and committee approval to get these made or did they just take your vision and run with it?

WB: My “vision” remained pretty much intact throughout the process. It may be a strength that only one person designed the line. There is an innate homogeneity that naturally occurs when a single designer is responsible for building characters or a world, be in in toys or in film. One needs look only towards H.R. Giger (ALIEN) or Syd Mead (BLADE RUNNER) to understand that. I do know that kid-testing occurred but I had nothing to do with that. Same with committee approval. Ned and Len were in on those facets of creation.

PLR: We know that it was 30 years ago when these toys were released, and even longer than that since you designed them, but what do you remember about what inspired you when creating the original Power Lords character designs?

WB: I was and am a huge SF reader. Less now than back then but I still love the genre. I was inspired only by the notion of doing designs that I would like to see realized. And, as I mentioned earlier, a “same but different” aspect that arose from the initial request from Ned and Len to acquire the aliens from BGtE. It also bears mentioning that I wanted to see a real degree of variation in the line. I wanted to have an exoskeletal figure, a reptilian one, a really bizarre one, etc. for the sake of keeping kids’ imaginations on the move.

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(from left to right) Power Lords Creator Wayne Douglas Barlowe, Cake Boss Sculptor Ralph Attanasia, with the Four Horsemen Cornboy Mayse, Eric Treadaway and Jim Preziosi.
Power Lords Creator Wayne Douglas Barlowe and Cake Boss Sculptor Ralph Attanasia,
with H. Eric Cornboy Mayse, Eric Treadaway and Jim Preziosi at Toypocalypse 3

Well, Toy Fair 2013 is over and done with, and we are finally starting to crawl out to see light of day here again at Four Horsemen Studios. It was a great show for us this year, and for the action figure world in general. There were a lot of cool reveals this year, with an accompanying buzz that we haven’t seen for quite a while. We had a lot of fun, and it was great to see friends and colleagues again that we haven’t seen since this time last year.

We realize that in the midst of the whirlwind of Toy Fair events that there are a lot of questions about various aspects of what we revealed this weekend. So without further adieu, here is the official Four Horsemen Studios Post Toy Fair / Toypocalypse 3 Wrap-up:

Toy Fair and our annual gallery show at TT Underground Gallery – Toypocalypse brought us the opportunity to finally reveal the prototypes for our newest property: Power Lords. At our Toypocalypse 3: ExtraTOYrrestrial show we celebrated the launch by showcasing a number of vintage Power Lords collectibles and fan submitted artwork. Original Power Lords character designer Wayne Barlowe was on hand to share his experiences with the property, and also to show off his collection of original drawings and concepts from the original line. A segment was filmed for the incredibly popular reality TV show “Cake Boss” where the bakery presented to the Four Horsemen an amazing Power Lords themed cake. It was a sight to behold, and flat out delicious. Thanks to everyone involved for making this such an amazing event.

– The Power Lords action figure line will be at an approximate 3.75” scale – the figures that were shown at Toypocalypse 3 were 2-ups.
– We are going to begin the tooling process on the first Power Lords figures with variants in the next couple of weeks. We are hoping to release a preview wave of these figures at San Diego Comic Con 2013.
– We will be doing a number of exclusive and variant figures over the course of the year with the fully painted and carded set to be released early-mid winter.
– The plan as of right now is to include Glyos compatible joints, but the extent of this won’t be determined until we go over these with the factory. Fingers crossed…
– We are still planning on moving forward with the Power Lords Fan Club, but we are still working out the details to ensure that the club is really special. Details on that will be revealed between now and Comic Con.

– We are currently putting finishing touches on upcoming Outer Space Men figures Colossus Rex, Terra Firma, Gamma-X, and Jack Asteroid. These will be on our regular schedule with the Alpha Phase debuting and on sale at San Diego Comic Con 2013 (don’t worry – for those not able to attend Comic Con they’ll be up for sale at Store Horsemen in limited amounts as well). The Beta Phase, Galactic Holiday, and Infinity editions will be released at the same basic time intervals as previous waves.
– We will be getting into revisions on the three new female OSM characters that were revealed at Toypocalypse 3 very soon, and release date is yet to be determined based on the work remaining on the figures. We will keep you updated as these progress.
– The 2nd wave of Cosmic Creators: Mel Birnkrant editions will be exclusive to The Outer Space Men website ( They are up for pre-order now.

– We are planning on starting a Kickstarter program for the Raven and his variants in the spring of this year. Fans have waited a long time for this figure to come to fruition, and the time is finally almost here! We will continue to update about this as we get closer to the start date.
– The Vampire Queen’s fate will be determined in large part by the results of the Raven Kickstarter. We originally planned to sneak these ladies in before the Ravens because we thought she would be quick and significantly cheaper. That proved not to be true, and we also got a good feel for how passionate the fans were about the Raven. So if all goes well, we may have a Kickstarter going for the Vampire Queen by this time next year.

– First, we wanted to thank everybody for all of the kind words on all of the MotU Classics reveals. We were excited to show this batch of items off to the world, and the warm response was greatly appreciated.
– We will be recording an episode of’s Roast Gooble Dinner this weekend where we will be discussing the show in detail. Horseman Eric Treadaway will be joining the regular RGD crew again so please keep an eye out for the episode, and hopefully all of your questions will be revealed.

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