Mastering the Universe: He-Man and the Rise and Fall of a Billion-dollar Idea is a fascinating read. It is also a very easy read.
The book is written by Roger Sweet, the man who originally came up with the idea for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, one of the best selling and most popular toy lines of all time. This work chronicles, from his (and only his) perspective his 19 year career with Mattel, specifically his involvement with the He-Man franchise.
A chapter long history of action figures is given, tracing the roots of He-Man. This is detailed but brief. This portion has some interesting information that I was not aware of how action figures (and their predecessors) came to be.
Time is spent discussing G.I. Joe and his impact on the toy industry, as well as Mattel completely dropping the ball and turning down the chance for product the Star Wars figures when the movie came out. They needed something to compete with Star Wars and G.I. Joe and, according to the author, he created He-Man. The creative process that goes on when creating toys is truly fascinating. The process is long, tedious, but at the same time exciting.
The author addresses the fact that a few people have claimed to have come up with the concept of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, but he maintains that it was his creation. He does give credit to various artists and model makers when necessary, but make no bones about it, this was his baby. It would be interesting to read somebody else's interpretation of the creation of the toy line.
The book moves from the behind the scenes on the creative side to a behind the scenes of corporate back stabbing and politics. I work for a large company myself, and anybody who does or has will see many familiar things in this part of the book. Mr. Sweet describes the changes at Mattel that took place while he was there and how that affected him as well as his creation. He also points out what he believes are faults with the way the line was marketed, the cartoon, and the 1990 and 2002 relaunch, which he was not a part of.
If you are looking for a book that gives detail on each figure and how it came to be, then this isn't really what you are looking for. If you want a look at the inner workings of a major corporation and the life cycle of a major product that saw significant success as well as colossal failure, then this is a fascinating read.
A couple gripes: a few pictures would have been nice, given the subject matter. Towards the end of the book, Mr. Sweet shows how bitter he is over how his tenure at Mattel ended. While interesting, it does get a little tiresome. Also, as a He-Man collector, I know the line pretty well. A little more research would have been nice, as on more than one occasion, he has his facts wrong regarding heroes and villains. Petty, but irritating.