Evil Mutants

Battle Blade Skeletor (1992)

Battle Blade Skeletor is the last Skeletor variant produced in the New Adventures of He-Man toyline. This is probably an odd place to start my foray into this series of toys, but I’ve been slightly obsessed with this figure since I first encountered it in a vintage toy shop a couple of years back. Part of it is I think there is something in the face that reminds me of Laser-Light Skeletor – another figure I’m obsessed with.

Because the figure came out at the tail end of the New Adventures line (actually simply called He-Man, but most fans call it New Adventures of He-Man after the associated cartoon), there isn’t any real media or stories to go along with him, at least that I’ve been able to find.

Like Laser-Light Skeletor and the other New Adventures versions of Skeletor, Battle Blade Skeletor was designed by David Wolfram. He bears all the hallmarks of Wolfram’s style, including the narrow lower face, tech-infused body and suit, and generally creepy, asperous design language.

All of the Wolfram-designed Skeletor variants depict him has having a skull face, but not a full skull head. In other words, his head (face excluded) has the same blue skin as the rest of his body. I had always assumed that his entire head was a skull, and that’s how he is is depicted in Danger At Castle Grayskull, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala:

This early sketch of the figure by David Wolfram (digitally colored long after it was drawn) shows a nearly finalized design. The bottom jaw on the skull costume is located a bit higher, but otherwise this is very close to how the action figure looked in production. Notice the scraggly hair on the drawing. That shows up on hand-painted prototypes, but on the production figure it was straight.

Image courtesy of David Wolfram

Regarding the figure’s hair, David (in the comments) had this to say:

The hair on BB was supposed to be a lot gnarlier, but we had to work with someone from the Barbie group, who couldn’t give me what I was looking for- they only did pretty.

Battle Blade Skeletor has some general elements in common with his predecessor, Disks of Doom Skeletor – also designed by Wolfram. Both have star shaped boots, recalling the feet of characters like Buzz-Off and Whiplash. Both have tall boots and a skull themed costume, but Disks of Doom Skeletor’s costume looks more “heavy industrial” (particularly around the torso):

Curiously, a similar 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, so I would guess Mattel’s design came first.

Artwork by Boris Vallejo

We might also see some early iteration of the concept in the artwork below by Errol McCarthy. Errol says he just did illustrations for New Adventures of He-Man, and was never a designer of the characters. In the art below, we see the skull motif again in Skeletor’s costume. In this instance Skeletor has a fully-robotic body. Interestingly he also has hair – a trait he shares with Battle Blade Skeletor.

We get a look at a hand-painted final prototype version of the figure in the 1991 German He-Man magazine below. This version has crisper paint as well head articulation – the final figure has a static head. We also see an early version of Thunder Punch He-Man (the 1992 version). Both figures are quite a bit bulkier-looking than the 1989 versions of He-Man and Skeletor. I think Mattel was trying to capture a little of the chunkiness and heavily-muscled appearance of the original 1982 He-Man and Skeletor figures here.

1991 French catalog, with image flipped the right way around. Image source: Grayskull Museum.
Battle Blade Skeletor playing card. Image source: http://cuevadelterror.blogspot.com

Skeletor is described in the German magazine, roughly translated, like this:

The new ruler is now even more dangerous and ambitious. With his strong articulated right arm he smashes his new throwing machine in the direction of his opponents. His new haircut of real hair, his new shield and his new skull and crossbones make him undoubtedly the most beautiful among the Nordor.

An exploded view of Battle Blade Skeletor’s test shot is shown below, over a copy of the “He-Ro Son of He-Man” bible:

This is the only version of Skeletor to feature rooted hair. It’s a strange look. My particular copy doesn’t have the rooted hair (no doubt someone pulled it out), and I think it looks better without:

Figure missing rooted hair
Unaltered version with rooted hair. Image source: He-Man.org

Battle Blade Skeletor has a spring-loaded, ball-jointed right arm that allows him to toss his “quadro-blade” weapon. He also comes with a shield that continues with the creepy skull motif. The white paint on his torso glows in the dark. Unlike the 1989 Skeletor, this version is almost in scale with the original 1982 MOTU line. He stands at about the same height, although of course that’s while standing up straight – something most of the original figures couldn’t do.

William George painted the artwork on the front of the figure’s packaging, but I don’t know who was responsible for the illustrations on the back.

Instructions
Cross sell art
Bio

The back of the package (above) gives us a little bit of a bio:

The Evil MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE! Skeletor has been transformed by lumina radiation absorbed in an atom-smashing explosion. His eyes blaze with evil and his Battle Armor glows with power.

Mission: 1) To slice He-Man down to size and lead him to a shameful end at the Galactic Guardian Games on the planet Primus. 2) To seize all of the power in the universe.

Battle Equipment: Quadro-blade, deflector shield & luminactive Battle Armor.

I guess it’s good to have life goals! The Galactic Guardian Games refers to a storyline in the animated series, produced by Jetlag. Skeletor appears (more or less) in his Battle Blade outfit toward the end of the series (thanks to DarkAlex1978 for pointing that out). Essentially this is his look after he lost his “Disks of Doom” helmet during a battle with He-Man in “The Tornadoes of Zil” (thanks to Dave for the tip):

Battle Blade Skeletor production sketch from the animated series.

It’s strange to me that Mattel was still making Skeletor figures in the era of grunge music. Come to think of it, this is certainly a grungy-looking figure, so he somewhat captures the spirit of the era.

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23 thoughts on “Battle Blade Skeletor (1992)

  1. From what I understand, this last wave of NA figures was a final attempt by Mattel to boost interest in the flagging toy line by reimagining the characters with designs closer to the old MOTU figures, hence the bulkier bodies and the re-use of the ‘Thunder Punch He-Man’ name. I think it was a last-ditch attempt to rekindle the interest of old collectors of the MOTU line while also trying to move the NA line with the times. Of course it didn’t quite work and the line was discontinued. I don’t possess any of these figures myself (they were released so late that even I had grown out of collecting MOTU toys by this date, although I never truly lost interest) but I definitely like the designs of them.

    1. Yes, that’s my understanding as well. Maybe that’s a part of why I like this figure more than the 89 version. I remember seeing New Adventures in stores and leaving very disappointed. Didn’t look anything like Masters to me.

      But, it’s grown on me since 🙂

  2. I never got into New Adventures. As a rabid MOTU fan, I was elated to see new figures at the store– it was a pretty devastating thing for an 8 year-old to slowly realize that their favorite toys were no longer being produced as they just began disappearing from stores– even though they looked quite different. I got a two-pack with He-Man and Slush Head for Christmas that year, and was pretty disappointed once I opened the figures. I resolved to at least get Skeletor before calling it quits on the line, but he proved impossible to find at any of the stores around here. All I saw was that same two-pack, along with a heavy dose of single-carded He-Man. I never saw the cartoon, and had no idea there even was one. If it aired in my area, it was on a channel we didn’t get.

    All that said, this figure has a crazy enough design that I think I would’ve wanted it if I’d ever actually seen it. (Though the idea of a Skeletor with hair might have been rather off-putting!) The Four Horsemen have done amazing work with the NA designs in the MOTUC line, and I’d really like to see them take a crack at this one!

    On a side note, were there more figures available in that final assortment than are shown on that card, or did Mattel actually produce a final wave made up of nothing but variants? I don’t know why that should surprise me at this point…

    1. Well, the cartoon actually was very lame: the art and the animations were good, but the story and the fact that was supposed to be an He-Man cartoon the real problems. The enemies were a bunch of bumbling idiots, pratically a whole crew of comic reliefs and about Skeletor…. Well, Skeletor was more a sort of manipulative con-artist than a credible menacing villain. His looks slightly improved when he turned into his “Disk of Doom” version but later he become this Battle Blade with bare bald head and those ridicolous hairs. The only interesting things are that this Skeletor at some point gained a pet and a love interest of sort (a quite pretty girl, actually).
      In the end, if you never watched the cartoon you missed nothing.

      1. Yeah, from the bits I’ve seen of the cartoon, it’s doubtful that it would have made any difference. I picked up one of the box sets for a few dollars close to a decade ago, but I still haven’t managed to watch much of it. Even the Filmation cartoon starts to grate on my nerves after awhile, and NA wears out its welcome a good bit quicker. As a kid, I never had the chance to get into it, and it’s proven nearly impossible as an adult! I’m still wondering who thought making Skeletor look like an evil beaver was a good design choice.

  3. I bought the normal version of He-Man and Skeletor from this line but they disappointed me a lot. The cartoon sucks as well.
    The only good thing I found about the figures is that the mechanic details are very good sculpted (in particular on Skeletor).

      1. Optikk is maybe the only one I like. I like its design a lot and I always thought at it as a robot (mostly because in an audiocassette I had, it was described as fully mechanical)
        (I didn’t know about the existence of Lizorr but now that I see him, he does not looks so bad. He would fit better in Star Wars Imho XD)

  4. Well, there’s nothing before that says Skeletor doesn’t have hair, but now that I now he does, it makes me……uncomfortable.
    This figure I defiantly a gem in a lackluster line, I love the idea that Skeletor is a massive narcissist and wears his own face as a suit!

  5. In the studio today, I took a break and stumbled on your blog. Nice to see that people are still interested in this stuff! Yes, I did design Battle Blade. In fact I may have a copy of the original sketch. I don’t want to get too involved with this post, but 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. The hair on BB was supposed to be a lot gnarlier, but we had to work with someone from the Barbie group, who couldn’t give me what I was looking for- they only did pretty. If you have any other burning questions, fire away!

    1. Hi Dave, thanks so much for commenting! It’s an honor!

      Thank you for clarifying some points. I’d love to hear more about the mutant space pirates, and I’d also love to see your original sketch for the character if you can find it. In fact, I’ve interviewed several other designers/artists from Mattel (Ted Mayer, Mark Taylor, Martin Arriola, Rudy Obrero) and it would be an honor to feature you on the blog as well. Also curious what you had in mind for BB’s hair!

      I’d be especially interested in background information on everything you worked on both for the 1989 He-Man line and your work on the original Masters line. I’ve actually gotten really into “New Adventures” recently, and my favorite designs tend to be the things I’ve found out you designed (all the Skeletor variants, Doomcopter, Optikk, etc).

      Would you mind if I emailed you a list of some questions? I’d love to publish an interview about your work on the line if possible.

      Thanks!

      – Adam

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