Super7 5.5" Figures

Skeletor – Evil lord of destruction! (2018)

Announced in 2017, Super7’s vintage style, 5.5″ Filmation inspired Skeletor figure was released in 2018 along with similar versions of He-Man, She-Ra and Hordak. The design ethos seems to be based on the following premise: what if, in the 1980s, Mattel released a series of He-Man variant figures that were “as seen on TV”? That’s pretty much exactly what we get with this series, including the occasional design shortcuts that Mattel might plausibly have implemented in the 80s.

Design & Development

Within the packaging for Skeletor we get a brief write-up of the history of how Skeletor’s design was translated from toy to cartoon:

In the above sheet (put together by The Power and The Honor Foundation), we see the vintage Skeletor figure, along with a work in progress and a finalized version of Skeletor’s animated design. His animated appearance in an early Castle Grayskull commercial is also referenced, although an image isn’t included, likely because most images of Skeletor in the commercial are close-ups.

In Skeletor’s first animated appearance (a commercial animated by Filmation Studios to help advertise the toyline), Skeletor more or less follows the design of the action figure, including the highly detailed costume, monster feet, and red eyes. The only liberty taken is with his face, which doesn’t feature the green paint applications of the action feature. The commercial can be viewed in its entirety here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BpmvudrnPlj/

Image source/owner: Rob Hexevo

As shown in the card that came with the Super7 Skeletor figure, Skeletor’s more detailed action figure design was simplified for ease of animation once the animated series was greenlit for development. The evolving and finalized designs can also be seen in the images below. He also has a more realistic hood design compared to the vintage action figure, and an angrier-looking face.

Image source:
He-Man and She-Ra: A Complete Guide to the Classic Animated Adventures (James Eatock)

In some ways these changes brought him a bit closer to Mark Taylor‘s original design, which also featured a larger hood and relatively human-looking feet

In fact, material from the Series Guide shows an intermediate Skeletor design that is partway between Mark Taylor’s original concept and the Filmation version:

Image source: He-Man.org

The prototype Skeletor figure was revealed in February of 2017 at New York Toy Fair. It’s pretty close to the mass produced figure, although his colors are a bit different, with paler blue skin, a more vivid yellow skull, and black fingernails:

Image source: He-Man.org

Production Figure

Design-wise, the sculpt of the chest and pelvis seem to be taken directly from the vintage 1982 figure. The arms are based on the vintage figure as well, but the “fin” structures on the forearms have been removed. The feet have been changed, removing the three-toed feet and substituting the streamlined boots from the cartoon.

The production figure, as is always the case, isn’t quite as sharp as the prototype. It’s pretty closely based on the Filmation source material, but of course with the bulky proportions of the vintage toy.

The figure comes with a pretty Filmation-accurate Havoc Staff, with the exception of the color, which came out more pink than light purple. Skeletor also includes a purple version of the He-Man’s cartoon style Power Sword (not a weapon Skeletor used in the cartoon, but a nod to the vintage figure), as well as a half Power Sword that fits together with the 2018 Super7 He-Man figure. The Swords are pretty closely based on the animated design, but also feature a hand guard, which Mattel tended to use on almost all of its swords in the vintage line.

Out of the packaging the armor tends to ride a little low, and it’s fairly stiff plastic, making it difficult to adjust. However, 10 seconds with a hair dryer makes it temporarily rubbery and pliable, which allowed me to adjust the armor to sit correctly, as shown in my example above.

Compared to the vintage figure, the 2018 version is certainly less detailed, but the face actually looks a bit more evil. The new version has a hard head as opposed to the soft, hollow polyvinyl of the original. The Filmation-inspired Skeletor’s blue skin is also quite vivid compared to the pale blue of the original.

Packaging

The design of the packaging was directed by The Power and the Honor Foundation. The main carded version (which was actually released second) is based on the original 1980s design, with an “AS SEEN ON TV” burst which, although not featured on vintage MOTU packaging, was pretty commercially ubiquitous at one point. The shape of the bubble on the front has been altered compared to the vintage packaging.

The main artwork on the back was done by Errol McCarthy, who worked on cardback art for most of the vintage MOTU figures. The cross sell artwork and the insert were illustrated by Emiliano Santalucia:

The first version to be released was actually a two pack, in the style of some of the vintage figure gift sets. This set was released in limited numbers.

Another limited release of the figure came in the form of a “Los Amos” package, based on the design of vintage “Los Amos” (Mexico) figures:

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Catalogs

1984 Mattel/Congost Catalog: 35 years of MOTU in Spain

In collaboration with Club Masters del Universo and Yo Tengo El Poder, and in celebration of the 35th anniversary of Masters of the Universe in Spain, I’d like to present the first Mattel/Congost dealer catalog, dating from 1984. Images come courtesy of Dani Ramón Abril. All of the photos in the catalog were taken in Spain, with the exception of the Attak Trak photo, which was originally taken for the 1983 US Mattel catalog. The catalog largely focuses on first wave figures and vehicles. Although those toys were first released in the US in 1982, this was their debut in Spain, so Mattel/Congost started with that wave. The only exception is Attak Trak, which in the US was a “wave 2” vehicle

The photos themselves include lots of great rocky dioramas, with a bit of fog to give the scenes some extra mystery and drama, making the figures seem larger than life in their Spanish market debut.

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Galactic Guardians

Battle Punch He-Man (1990)

Battle Punch He-Man was the first He-Man variant in the “New Adventures” reboot of the He-Man series. The name “Battle Punch” implies some kind of action feature, although the figure had none. He did have some unusual articulation that was marketed as a kind of action feature, but I’ll get into that just a bit later.

Design & Development

Battle Punch He-Man seems to have been designed by Mark Taylor, who also designed the original He-Man released in 1982. Shortly after the successful launch of the original Masters of the Universe toyline, Mark left Mattel (eventually working on the wildly successful Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toyline), but he returned as a vice president at about the time that New Adventures line was going full steam.

Image courtesy of Rebecca Salari Taylor

Mark Taylor’s design (above) has some of the broad elements that made it to the final toy, including the specific look of the boots and the sash around his torso. However, Mark’s design seems to depict a rather disheveled He-Man, with torn clothing and gauze wrap around his fists. He looks like a street fighter rather than a space fighter.

In some ways, Battle Punch He-Man is actually closer to the look of He-Man as he appeared in the Jetlag New Adventures of He-Man animated series than was the 1989 release of He-Man. That might have been coordinated, as the New Adventures series was released the the year before Battle Punch He-Man. The animated version essentially looks like Battle Punch He-Man with the sword (and occasionally, shield) of the 1989 release, but in gold.

Update: Dušan M. pointed out that this promotional art for The New Adventures of He-Man is even closer to Mark Taylor’s sketch. He also pointed out that the series debuted in 1989, not 1990:

We can see the further development of the figure design in the artwork below (artist unknown), first shown in Mattel’s 2009 SDCC Art Book. The concept art below is pretty close to the look of the final figure, with the exception of the shield. The shield has a stylized bird design on it, while the production shield would have the “New Adventures” He-Man triangular logo on it as as well as some sculpted battle damage.

Images courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

He-Man was given a new power sword as well, with an asymmetrical hilt design.

Battle Punch He-Man vs Disks of Doom Skeletor
Battle Punch He-Man with the unreleased Clawber bird.
Spanish playing card. Source: cuevadelterror.blogspot.com
Spanish playing card. Source: cuevadelterror.blogspot.com

The cross sell artwork for the figure shows the finalized design that would be used for the mass-produced toy:

We can see the final hand-painted prototype for the figure in Mattel’s 1990 dealer catalogue:

Image courtesy of Battle Armor Dad
Image courtesy of Battle Armor Dad
Image courtesy of Battle Armor Dad

Production Figure

Battle Punch He-Man is slightly bigger and bulkier compared to the 1989 version. He has some of the same standard articulation that most figures in the series had, including ball joints at the knees and hips. His main feature, however, was a diagonal articulation joint across his chest, which allowed you to manually wind him up for a punch (there was no spring-back action, so the entire action was manual), while making the figure look completely bizarre in the process. Used subtly, however, the articulation can slightly alter his pose and posture in useful ways.

Something has gone horribly wrong

The figure also featured a more pragmatic bit of articulation – a hinge joint at the wrist, allowing him to realistically hold his sword aloft for the first time.

Unlike the 1989 He-Man release, this version has a sculpted pony tail, which conforms to the Mark Taylor concept art as well as the animated depiction.

Packaging

The packaging for Battle Punch Figure features artwork on the front by (I believe) William George. I’m not sure who did the art and instructions on the back.

The back of the card includes a bit of a bio for Battle Punch He-Man:

The most powerful man in the universe! Only He-Man, with his ultra-energized sword and shield, can defeat Skeletor’s new weapons – the Disks of Doom. A stranger stranded in a strange place and time, He-Man has a lot to learn about the future world of Primus. And, the gentle people of this peace-loving planet have a lot to learn about the evil of Skeletor from He-Man.

Mission – To unite the Tri-Solar System against Skeletor and lead a star-legion of Galactic Guardians into combat to defend the last great civilization of mankind.

Battle Equipment: Powersword & Energy Shield

His backstory is all relatively straightforward. There is no explanation for why his power sword and shield looks so different compared to the previous release. Also on the back are the the instructions for his “action feature”:

I can’t imagine any kid had hours of fun playing with that particular feature, but I do think in terms of his overall costume design he is the best looking of the three “New Adventures” He-Man figures.

Other Appearances

Petteri Höglund helpfully pointed out that Battle Punch He-Man appears in the box art for several New Adventures oversized items, as well as on the cover of this promotional VHS tape:

Image courtesy of Petteri Höglund

Unfortunately I haven’t identified a lot of media associated with this variant. If I come across any comics or additional catalogs featuring the figure, I will certainly update this piece to include them.

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