Evil Mutants

Disks of Doom Skeletor (1990)

Disks of Doom Skeletor is the first Skeletor variant in the “New Adventures” of He-Man toyline, after the original 1989 release. It’s got quite a striking design, with a costume that looks like something like a cross between H.R. Giger and the heavy industrial art deco aesthetic of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.

Design & Development

Disks of Doom Skeletor was designed by David Wolfram, who worked on figures like Laser Light Skeletor and Snake Face in the original MOTU line. The concept originated with an abandoned space pirate idea. In my interview with David, he explained:

The skull armor was something that came out of brainstorms of new MOTU segments. One one my proposals was mutant space pirates, with many of them wearing variants of skull armor. Once we started working on the new line, I adopted that for the Skeletors that I designed.

David Wolfram

The above design has the general Disks of Doom theme down, with the skull face on the chest armor and the bulky helmet. The legs of this costume design would eventually go to Optikk. David developed the following more finalized design for Skeletor in the drawing below, which appears to be a black and white photocopy of a color original:

The figure was to have a cocking spring waist feature, allowing it to fling disks from a hand-held launcher. It would also have LISA (light transmitting plastic) eyes, so that light from behind the figure would pipe through the back of the head and make the eyes appear to glow red. A similar feature was used on the Inhumanoids line.

[Disks of Doom Skeletor] was one of my favorite figures in that line. Mattel was very gun-shy (no pun intended) about using projectiles. By using the discs, we got around all the safety concerns. I also liked that a child could cock the figure, and then launch the disc using the trigger. It also gave me the opportunity to use the styling that I had been playing around with, and as a twofer I also got the LISA glowing eyes.

David Wolfram

In the image below, included in the 2009 Mattel art book, we see an illustration of Disks of Doom Skeletor battling against his 1990 counterpart, Battle Punch He-Man (whose shield in this illustration is quite different from the actual toy design). Unfortunately no information is provided about the provenance of this illustration. The design for Skeletor’s costume matches pretty well with the final figure, but all the metallic elements are gold, or perhaps somewhere between gold and copper:

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

The cross sell artwork (below) as well as the illustrations on the packaging show Disks of Doom Skeletor again with a differently colored costume compared to what was used on the final toy – he has copper helmet and chest armor, rather than silver.

We can see the hand-painted final prototype in Mattel’s 1990 dealer catalog, with revised metallic colors:

This late prototype lacks the extra latch on the helmet that the final toy had. Image source: Battle Armor Dad.

Production Figure

The production figure came with a copper colored “Psychotronic Disk Launcher”, two “Disks of Doom”, and a wrist clip. He has the familiar pale blue skin, which is bristling with technological implants. His boots and gloves are a dark bronze, with copper skulls at the knees. The boots are tall and architectural, almost like he’s walking around wearing 1930s-era skyscrapers. The iron skull design on his chest looks very heavy industrial. Unlike the 1989 Skeletor, Disks of Doom variant returns to the classic Skeletor face coloring of yellow and green.

The mask closes and highlights Skeletor’s glowing eyes. Unfortunately the hinges on the mask are just a thin plastic crease, meaning the plastic will often become stressed with repeated closing and opening over the years, causing it to tear.

Helmet closed.

Packaging

The front of the packaging for the figure features artwork by William George (or at least I think it’s his work):

The back of the card features some information on the background and abilities of Disks of Doom Skeletor:

The ultimate evil lord of destruction! While hiding on the dark moon of Denebria, Skeletor discovers the secret entrance to the long forgotton space base, Skuldor. There in the heart of the ancient underground caverns he finds The Disks of Doom, psychotronic weapons so powerful that they could turn He-Man into a mindless slave!

Mission: To destroy He-Man’s will with the mind-bending power of the Disks of Doom. With He-Man in his power, there will be no stopping his Mutant star-legions from conquering the peaceful people of Primus and spreading his evil empire throughout the galaxy.

Battle Equipment: Psychotronic Disk Launcher, 2 Disks of Doom

In the packaging description, somehow Skeletor can use the Disks of Doom to make He-Man a mindless slave. That doesn’t really make much sense – I would have thought Skeletor’s glowing eyes (which strangely aren’t mentioned on the package) would have more to do with that ability. “Skuldor” may be an early working name for the Nordor moon base.

Phantasy Star III

Curiously, an almost identical design is present in the principle villain (illustrated version) in Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom (thanks to Stradlemonkey for pointing this out). The game was released in 1990, the same year as Disks of Doom Skeletor. Disks of Doom Skeletor’s trademark was filed on November 16, 1989, and I’m certain the artwork is based on Mattel’s design rather than vice versa. Perhaps it was originally commissioned for He-Man, but never used. The artist might have reworked the face and repurposed it for the Sega Genesis game instead.

Animation

Skeletor acquires his Disks of Doom costume quite early on in the animated series. In episode 6, “Sword & Staff”, Skeletor discovers a crystal that temporarily magnifies Quakke’s power. Skeletor later uses the crystal, which originated on Primus and was responsible for the creation of Nordor, to become more powerful himself. His costume is altered in the process.

Advertising

Disks of Doom Skeletor shows up of course in Mattel’s catalogs. I haven’t found an example of the figure in a retailer’s catalog so far. If I come across anything, I’ll be sure to update the article.

From Mattel’s 1990 Dealer Catalog. Image source: Battle Armor Dad

From Mattel’s 1990 Dealer Catalog. Image source: Battle Armor Dad
From Mattel France’s 1990 Dealer Catalog. Image source: Grayskull Museum

Other Appearances

Petteri Höglund helpfully pointed out that Disks of Doom Skeletor appears in the box art for several New Adventures oversized items, as well as on the cover of this promotional VHS tape:

I’ve mentioned before, I think that all of the Skeletor designs from the New Adventures line stand out as unique little pieces of pop culture modern art. Even if you don’t collect the 1989 He-Man line, the Skeletor figures are certainly worth owning.

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Heroic Warriors

Rokkon – Young heroic battling boulder (1986)

The last Masters of the Universe figures I would ever get as a kid were Rokkon, Stonedar and Modulok, for my birthday in 1986. All three were a surprise, and they were all a bit out in left field compared to the figures I had until that point, which mostly reused the same few basic muscular body types that originated with He-Man, Skeletor and Beast Man.

Image source: Orange Slime

Of the two rock/comet warriors, Stonedar was my favorite, mostly because I liked the cratered surface of his outer shell, as opposed to the quartz-like surface of Rokkon’s shell.

It seems that 1986 was the year of the transforming rock toys. That same year, Hasbro released their Inhumanoids toyline, with the heroic character Granok, who could transform from a pile of rocks into a tall rock creature. Tonka also released their Rock Lords toyline, a spinoff from the GoBots series:

These transforming rock toys seem to get regularly panned in articles about 80s toys today (particularly the Rock Lords), but I’ve always liked them. Granok was the only character I owned from the Inhumanoids line, and he was one of my favorite toys growing up. He didn’t make a very convincing pile of rocks, but he was a pretty great-looking rock warrior. Stonedar was kind of the opposite – he made for a very convincing comet or rock, but as a warrior he looked a bit awkward.

Design & Development

Rokkon emerged from a series of designs for transforming rock characters by Ted Mayer. None of the extant concepts below is identical to either Stonedar or Rokkon, but the basic idea is evident:

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog
Image source: Tomart’s Action Figure Digest

Both Ted Mayer and Roger Sweet are listed as inventors on the patent application, which was filed January 14, 1986.

Rokkon was sculpted by Eddy Mosqueda, a designer at Mattel. At the Lords of Power Facebook page, Eddy chimed in with the following information and picture:

I sculpted the “Rock-On” figure when I was working at Mattel. I still own a Tooling Copy of it.

Here is a photo of a Rokkon “Test-Shot” in beige that I still own. I’m still going to have to get the Tooling Copy and photograph it when I get it from a box, in a larger box, in a closet, in my basement!

Eddy Mosqueda
Image source: Eddy Mosqueda, shared at the Lords of Power Facebook page

Action Figure

The figure itself has an eye-catching blue, orange, silver and purple color scheme. The cross sell art and early catalog photos of the toy (below) show with without pupils and with a light purple gun:

Image source: Grayskull Museum
Image source: Grayskull Museum

The figure has a crystalline outer surface, suggestive of some exotic mineral or outer space rock. Rokkon’s transformation into a rock was achieved simply by posing him in the fetal position. For me the play pattern with Rokkon was to leave him as a boulder until an unsuspecting evil warrior walked by. Then Rokkon would leap into action, getting the best of the bad guy using the element of surprise.

Packaging

Rokkon was initially packaged on a card that proclaimed him a “Young heroic battling boulder.” The front of the card said, “Invincible boulder transforms into master of defense!” However, on subsequent versions, Rokkon was called a “Young heroic comet warrior” and “Invincible meteor transforms into mighty warrior.”

The change may have been made to capitalize on Halley’s Comet, which passed close to the earth in 1986 (thanks to Matthew Martin for pointing out that connection to me). The first version (below, left) features artwork by Errol McCarthy (I believe) on the front, while the second version features artwork by William George on the front.

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Comics & Characterization:

In the minicomic that accompanied the figure, Rock People to the Rescue, Stonedar and Rokkon would hurl themselves downhill in rock form at their enemies. In this issue they put the hurt on Kobra Khan and Webstor, which is in contrast to later stories that would paint the rock warriors as pacifists.

In Escape From The Slime Pit, the rock people are pacifists who hesitate even to defend themselves from the Evil Horde. In the end they defeat the Horde by dazzling them with their shiny armor – a feature that is also mentioned on the back of the packaging. It’s not the most compelling idea for an attack strategy. It perhaps doesn’t help that the armor on the toy isn’t particularly shiny, making the “feature” feel like something of a stretch.

The 1987 Style Guide described Rokkon this way:

Power: Transforms from mighty meteorite into warrior. As a meteor, he can roll into battle to surprise attackers. His rocky body can deflect laser blasts.

Character Profile: Member of the Comet Warriors, a race from another planet.

Artwork by Errol McCarthy

There was also a fact file published on both comet warriors in the 1989 UK MOTU Annual:

Image source: He-Man.org

Animation

Rokkon did not appear in the original Filmation He-Man series, but he did make a couple of appearances in She-Ra. As in the Slime Pit comic and style guide, the rock people are characterized as pacifists. They come to Etheria because the star of their home solar system is on the verge of exploding. The comet warriors immediately get into trouble with the Evil Horde.

In the model sheet below, we see that Rokkon’s early working name in the series was Flint. The name may have been changed because of the G.I. Joe character with the same name:

Other Artwork

Earl Norem illustrated both Stonedar and Rokkon for a poster for the winter 1986 Masters of the Universe Magazine, and, as Matthew Martin pointed out in my previous article about Stonedar, the scene is reminiscent of the illustration that Errol McCarthy did for the style guide (or perhaps, considering the dates, it’s actually vice versa).

Rokkon also appears in William George’s Eternia poster:

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen
Image source: Steve Macrocranios

Rokkon in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has kindly contributed the following image and video of Rokkon in action:

Special thanks to Larry Hubbard for providing the Rokkon figure photographed for this article.

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Heroic Warriors

Laser Power He-Man – Heroic Master of Light Energy (1988)

Laser Power He-Man was released Italy and Spain a year after the end of the Masters of the Universe toyline in the US. He was a figure most North American fans were not aware of until they discovered it online years later. That was certainly true for me. Because the figure was produced in limited numbers overseas, it’s one of the most expensive vintage He-Man toys to acquire today. (Update: I’m also informed that there was some distribution of Laser Power He-Man in Switzerland. Thanks to Olmo for the information.)

Design & Development

In my interview with David Wolfram, he gave some great information behind the development of the Laser Power He-Man, and his evil counterpart, Laser-Light Skeletor:

Laser light Skeletor and the corresponding He-Man were both done for the international markets. The domestic MOTU line was essentially dead after the 1986 (or maybe 1987, it is hard to remember precisely). Pre-Toy Fair, which was a Mattel-only event held in August in Scottsdale for many years. I remember the marketing person saying that no domestic buyers even wanted to go in the gallery.

However, the international markets were a couple of years behind in their product cycle, so they wanted a few pieces of new news. It just so happens that one of the new MOTU segments we had been looking at was a “Power Crystal” segment with crystals “powering” vehicles, interacting with playsets, etc. The He-man and Skeletor were borrowed from that segment.

While MOTU was tanking domestically, it was still going strong internationally, which was a year behind in the product cycle. This was done to have something new for that market. LISA (the light transmitting plastic) was a fairly new “shiny toy” for the designers at the time, so that was the hook for that segment. I think Martin did the final He-Man design. I frankly don’t remember for what purpose I did that awful He-Man illustration for, but I’m sure that it was after the fact (and most likely rushed), and I’m sorry that it has survived.

David Wolfram

A few things to unpack there. David mentions some artwork that he did for Laser Power He-Man. Martin Arriola was the actual designer of the figure, but David did a study of the character, seen below. The concept has white boots and a kind of white collar at this stage of his design. He has the familiar combined “HM” emblem on his belt, used on figures like Battle Armor and Thunder Punch He-Man:

Artwork by David Wolfram. Image source: The Art of He-Man/The Power and the Honor Foundation

David also mentions a power crystal segment, where crystals would be used to power playsets and interact with toys. We certainly see evidence of that in concept art by James McElroy for various crystal powered vehicles and playsets, and in an early Laser Power He-Man prototype:

Crystal powered capture accessory, by James McElroy. Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation/Dark Horse
Crystal powered Battle Base, by James McElroy. Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation. Laser Power He-Man is shown with the playset.

There was some discussion of making the He-Man “crystal segment” into an interactive TV series, as noted in the concept art below. Mattel abandoned that idea for He-Man and instead implemented it with Captain Power:

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation. Note that we see roughed out Laser Power He-Man and Laser Light Skeletor figures with the “Harm Arm”
Captain Power ad. Image source: He-Man.org

The earliest known prototype for Laser Power He-Man keeps the general shape of the concept “collar” piece, but it’s turned into a backpack. His color scheme has a lot more blue in it, which will persist to the production toy.

Behind his head you can see the green crystal that his segment would have been based on. This prototype is a kind of kit bash, with arms from the original He-Man figure, hands borrowed from Rio Blast, and what looks like the original He-Man’s legs, hacked up and straightened out. The face looks pretty close to the original He-Man, but with updated hair.

Crystal-powered Laser Power He-Man prototype. Image source: Grayskull Museum
Crystal-powered Laser Power He-Man prototype. Image source: Grayskull Museum
Image source: Antieternia Facebook page
Image source: Grayskull Museum
Image source: La Cueva del Terror

In the next stage in Laser Power He-Man’s development,we see him with his final, newly sculpted body, which included silver gloves and a smaller belt. The green crystal was removed from his backpack, and some subtle changes were made to his harness. His face has also been modified. Instead of bearing his teeth, he’s been given a more placid expression.

Image source: Grayskull Museum
Image source: MOTU Vintage Toys Facebook page
Image source: Grayskull Museum

Action Figure

The final Laser Power He-Man figure design has a somewhat simplified harness/backpack design, and a much modified light up power sword design, but otherwise is fairly similar to the previous prototype:

Laser Power He-Man cross sell art, with unpainted gloves.

As with Laser Light Skeletor, the figure’s light up feature is activated by raising his right arm. A wire is snaked from the sword, under the armor on the right arm (which seems to exist only to hide the wire) and into the backpack. The light in the sword is powered by an AA battery that fits in the backpack.

The Italy release (shown below) has the newly sculpted head, which some have speculated is supposed to resemble Dolph Lundgren, who played He-Man in the 1987 Masters of the Universe Movie. Alternatively, it could resemble some actor who might have starred in the (never produced) interactive He-Man TV show. That’s purely speculative – they might not have had any actors in mind for the series.

Looking at this and the early prototype closely, however, I think the most likely interpretation is that it’s just supposed to look like the original He-Man’s face sculpt, but with a more neutral expression and updated hair.

Like Laser-Light Skeletor, all of Laser Power He-Man’s tooled parts are unique to the figure:

Image source: He-Man.org
Custom figure by Barbarossa Custom Creations

Laser Power He-Man was also produced in Spain. The Spanish versions are marked Italy, but they can be easily distinguished by the fact that they use the original 1982 He-Man head sculpt (images and videos courtesy of “NoPatricioNo”):

The figure has ball-jointed legs, as opposed to the rubber connectors used in most MOTU figures.
With Top Toys He-Man for comparison.

Packaging

Laser Power He-Man was sold on an oversized card. There’s some nice artwork on both front and back, although I’m not sure who illustrated it:

Image source: He-Man.org
Image source: He-Man.org

The card art on the front and back differs just a bit from the actual figure. It shows He-Man with bare hands, a black hilt on his laser sword, and a kind of brass knuckles like strap around his right hand. No doubt this represents a late stage concept or prototype design.

Update: I got a bit more information about dates and card types for the Laser figures from Dani Ramón Abril, of Yo Tengo el Poder :

I wanted to comment The Lasers were sold in 1988 in Europe with Eurocard (England, Germany, Italy and France) and in 1989 in Iberocard (Spain and Portugal).

Spanish Advertising

The catalog that came packed with the Spanish figures cross sell art of both figures:

Image source: He-Man.org

The cross sell art also appears on these Spanish stickers:

The Yo Tengo el Poder site has unearthed a couple of other interesting Spanish ads featuring both laser figures:

Image source: Dani Ramón Abril
Image source: Yo Tengo el Poder

There is also a great 1989 mini magazine published in Spain that features the Laser figures, which comes by way of La Cueva del Terror.

Into the Future

Because Laser Power He-Man was only released in Europe and at the very tail end of the line, he doesn’t appear in stories or comics. I think he has a pleasing futuristic design. Not as exciting as Laser-Light Skeletor perhaps, but overall a nice take on a space age He-Man.

In many ways, Laser Power He-Man represents an intermediate step in the evolution of the the New Adventures He-Man figure from the rebooted 1989 line. The “New Adventures” He-Man figure was also designed by Martin Arriola. His colors and costume are quite different from Laser Power He-Man, but he does feature a translucent “laser” sword, which persisted in Martin’s futuristic He-Man designs:

Right to left: New Adventures Thunder Punch He-Man, Battle Punch He-Man (designed by Mark Taylor), 1989 He-Man, and Laser Power He-Man (replica)

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Heroic Warriors

Thunder Punch He-Man – Heroic leader with loud power punch (1985)

Thunder Punch He-Man was the “deluxe” version of He-Man that everyone in my grade school peer group coveted. The counterpart to Dragon Blaster Skeletor, Thunder Punch He-Man had a new an exciting action feature – you could load a ring of caps (of the kind typically used in toy revolvers of the era) into his backpack, twist his waist back, and he would spring forward with a power punch and a loud bang. It was quite the upgrade over the power punch feature typical of the line.

There were actually two commercials for Thunder Punch He-Man. The first was quite in line with the style of most MOTU commercials from 1982-1985, Gregorian chant and all. The second features an unfortunate attempt at making He-Man cooler by adding a rap:

Here’s a very nice Australian take on the commercial:

Design & Development

I’m not sure ultimately who created the visual look for Thunder Punch He-Man. The idea for giving He-Man the action feature may have begun with Roger Sweet, who created this illustration using the standard Mark Taylor He-Man visual design:

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

There is a second piece of concept art related to Thunder Punch He-Man, below. The artist is unknown unfortunately (I checked with both Ted Mayer and Mark Taylor, and neither know who might have drawn it). The Thunder Punch costume is certainly recognizable. The shield is round, unlike the production shield, but it does look like caps are integrated into it somehow. Interestingly, He-Man is given an articulated jaw here:

Image source: Tomart’s Action Figure Digest

On January 3, 1985, Mattel filed a Patent Claim for Thunder Punch He-Man’s action feature. The inventors are listed as Larry H. Renger and Mike T. McKittrick. The gist of the design is that when the torso was twisted back, a spring loaded hammer inside the chest would cock. Upon releasing the torso, it would twist back to center and the hammer would be released, striking against the cap loaded in the backpack and making a loud bang sound to coincide with He-Man’s punch.

A close to final design for the figure can be seen in the cross sell art for the figure, as shown below. Really the only difference here from the production figure is that this one is shown with a gray sword and silver shield, while the actual figure was produced with a gold sword. Some versions had a vac metal silver shield, and others had a vac metal gold shield:

Cross sell art closeup, from The Art of He-Man

Action Figure

From Mattel’s 1985 dealer catalog
Silver shield version

Sculpt wise, the figure featured all new parts apart from the head and sword. The legs were based on the original, but he was given bigger feet to make him more stable. The sculpt unfortunately on the arms and torso is a bit soft and unfinished looking compared to the original. Befitting his action feature, his right fist is closed, ready at any time for a thunder punch. He also has painted bracers, something previous versions didn’t get.

His boots have white fur tops, which was actually how He-Man had been previously illustrated by Rudy Obrero and R.L. Allen. Earl Norem would occasionally depict him like that as well:

He has a new harness design, sculpted onto the chest rather than as a separate piece. He keeps the “H” logo that first appeared on Battle Armor He-Man, and which also appeared on the side of the Dragon Walker and on Flying Fists He-Man. The symbol looks like a blend between an H and an M.

His power sword can fit in his shield, but the shield can also be used to carry a ring of caps.

Packaging

Thunder Punch He-Man came on an oversized card, with art on the front by William George, and art on the back by Errol McCarthy:

Line art by William George. Image source: He-Man.org
Artwork by William George, image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen
Line art by Errol McCarthy. Image source: He-Man.org

Errol McCarthy also made several other illustrations featuring Thunder Punch He-Man:

The figure came with two rings of caps, but you could also purchase more He-Man branded caps on a separate card (made by Larami). The figure would work with any brand, as long as it was the same size and formation (images via He-Man.org):

Thunder Punch He-Man was also released in two gift sets – one with Orko and one with Roboto

http://www.grayskullmuseum.com/GiftSets/GiftSetsIndex.htm

Style Guide

The 1987 Style Guide makes mention of He-Man’s thunder punch power, as well as his Battle Armor and his Power Sword:

Weapons: His Sword of Power is fused with the combined wisdom and strength of all ancient Eternian Elders. The Battle Armor designed for him by Man-At-Arms allows him to withstand the mightiest blows of battle and the special gift from the Sorceress allows He-Man to deliver a punch so powerful, it creates a thunderous boom that strikes fear in the hearts of all who are evil and helps He-Man blast through barriers of all kinds.

1987 Style Guide

Comics and Stories

The figure came packed with the minicomic, The Treachery of Modulok, which also came with Modulok, of course. In the story, when Prince Adam transforms to He-Man, he finds himself wearing his new Thunder Punch costume. The Sorceress explains that it’s a gift from Castle Grayskull. Later in the story, he uses his new power to punch through Hordak’s force field and stop Skeletor in his Land Shark from reaching Castle Grayskull:

Thunder Punch He-Man appears in the 1986 winter issue of Masters of the Universe Magazine, using his punching power to make a shortcut through Hordak’s maze:

Artwork

Thunder Punch He-Man appeared on a couple of posters by William George, in Joe Chiodo’s box art for Mantisaur, and in the box art for Monstroid (artist unknown):

Artwork by William George. Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen.
Artwork by William George. Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen.
Artwork by Joe Chiodo
Artist unknown

Thunder Punch He-Man to me isn’t the most visually exciting of the He-Man variants, but his action feature was one of the most fun to play with in the vintage MOTU line.

Thunder Punch He-Man in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has graciously contributed the following image and video showing Thunder Punch He-Man in action:

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