The 2018 Florida Supercon brought a cornucopia of superhero and comic fans together inside the Broward Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale.
Costume connoisseurs spent months preparing, spending hundreds of dollars to impress at the event's cosplay costume competition - some even burnt boots and clothing or left costumes outside during tropical storms to rot and weathered the fabric for authenticity. Others simply enjoy being reunited with characters that have become like long-distance friends and stopped by celebrity booths to chat. They wanted to meet the faces behind the voices of beloved childhood movie and TV characters.
At one of those booths was Alan Oppenheimer, the voice of iconic supervillain Skeletor from 'He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.'
He also happens to be my grandfather, or Pops, as I call him.
I sat down with 'Skeletor' for a conversation about how he travels from con to con nationwide. Even though he is known for a long career, doing movies, TV shows and other voices like Falkor from the Neverending Story, we mainly discussed the inspiration and creation of Skeletor. He describes how interacting with fans continues to move him 30 years after He-Man ended.
WLRN: You’ve created many characters, but I wanted to focus on Skeletor. Through the process of creating him, why did you decide to use that specific nasally, high-pitched voice? What was your thought process in creating the voice for this character?
When I went for the audition, Lou Scheimer, the producer and writer, showed me a picture of Skeletor. I saw that, and I saw the bony face. So I immediately went into nasal. Because up in here, you get the voice bouncing off the bones, you know?
So the first episode or two, he was a villain. But I always like to inject comedy into the most serious things. So I put in the laugh, I don’t know where it came from, but it was like, "You boob! Hehehehehehe:" And that became iconic, you see.
And did you ever improvise any of the insults when Skeletor was yelling at his incompetent henchmen?
Lou Scheimer had a lot of insults written - and then one day he said to me, 'why don't you just make up your own and see what you've got?' So I did about 20, off-the-cuff improvised. I don't think he could use any of them, they were a little dirty and profane. But some of them, the royal boob is famous. And then ninny, nincompoop. I can't even remember all of them. I'd have to watch the show to see which ones I used.
But I also do voicemails for people, as Skeletor.
Skeletor has lived on in people’s memories, judging by the fans who come to see you. He’s not short-lived. Can you talk about that, and did you expect that 30, 40 years ago?
We did the show in the mid-1980s, and 124 episodes over 2 years. So you do the show, you get paid, you go home, that’s the end of it then. You do something else, like the Smurfs, Scooby Doo - I did a lot of shows.
And then 30 years later, all of a sudden they’re re-running them, they’re re-issuing toys. And now these conventions, and so I go to them.
And people come up to me all the time and say, 'you voiced my childhood.' Or they also say, 'I went through some difficult times then, and the show really saved me.' And I know what they’re talking about, and some of them came from very dysfunctional families and they found their solace and friendship in Skeletor, in Merman, in the Neverending Story, which I did too, I did Falkor and the Rock Biter and all that. So this is all a huge, wonderful surprise for me. To be reborn after 30 years.
Can you talk more about some of those meaningful interactions with fans? Have any of those happened at this con?
I remember the first con I went to, two separate boys, they were men now - they had said that they had gone through very difficult times when they were 6 or 7 years old, and they were actually contemplating suicide at that age.
There was a message that Skeletor had, or that Man in Arms had (I did that voice too) at the end of the show, which gave them the courage to go forward.
I also remember when I was in Miami, 3 young men from Argentina came up and they said they remembered the episode where Man in Arms said, 'if you go with your parents and you get lost, don’t try to find them. They’ll find you.' And sure enough, they were hiking in the Amazon, they got separated, he stayed there and 2 hours later they found him.
And today at the convention, a woman came up to me. She was just so grateful and all in tears how Skeletor and the series had really given her courage. I won’t go through what she has suffered all her life. But it meant a lot to me that she got a lot out of it.
How long have you been doing these cons?
I’ve been doing these cons about 3 years. I started late, other people have been doing them much longer.
The cons are marvelous - I love meeting and working with the people. I never thought I could do that, thought I always had to have a script, no no.
I found out if you listen to people, you can reply in kind, and I’m having the best time doing it.