This time around I’m going to take a closer look at Castle Grayskull as it appears in the minicomics. I won’t post a picture of every single appearance of the castle, just a representative sample from every issue it appears in. My focus will be on the exterior, especially the front.
There seem to be two primary influences on the way the castle was depicted in the minicomics – Mark Taylor’s original prototype of the Castle, and the version Mark Texeira drew in the second series of minicomics in 1983.
Alfredo Alcala, who illustrated minicomics from 1982-1984, always patterned his drawings of the castle after the original prototype. Even when his character depictions evolved past early prototypes and started resembling their mass-produced counterparts, his Castle Grayskull never changed:
Mark Texeira did the pencils for the DC-produced second wave of minicomics. His version of the Castle has squared-off walls, a tall jaw bridge, and a skull that seems rather small in comparison to the rest of the castle. Ted Mayer described an abandoned attempt at sculpting Castle Grayskull by Mattel engineers that actually reminds me of the way Texeira’s castle looks. According to Ted:
Mark did the original sketch. That was then be sent to the sculpting department. When we saw their rendition, it was awful. It was a square castle, just like you would find in the English countryside! We made a fuss and it was sent back for revision. The second go round was almost as bad. As I remember, it was square with turrets on the corners, very symmetrical.
Somehow Mark persuaded the powers in charge to let him sculpt it. The sculpting department was pissed! Mark set up a board in his office and with a bunch of Chevaler sculpting clay, set about modeling it. I took turns helping him, even my nine-year-old son had a go. When that was finished it went back to sculpting for molding and engineering.
It makes me wonder if Mattel might have sent one of these discarded attempts to DC to use as a model. I don’t know for sure, but it’s an interesting thought. Note however that some versions of Texeira’s illustration seem just a bit closer to the actual playset than others.
From 1984 onward, the Texeira look seems to pop up quite frequently. Larry Houston seems to use that as a basis for his illustrations:
It continues to pop up in the 1985 wave of comics as well. One notable exception is Bruce Tim’s illustration in The Power of the Evil Horde. His seems like a mix of many different influences, from Filmation to Texeira to the actual playset.
Castle Grayskull sees its final minicomic incarnations with the 1986 series of minicomics. Here the depiction of the castle begins to mutate. While the Texeira influence still pops up here and there, we also begin to see an interesting interpretation from Jim Mitchell, starting with Escape From the Slime Pit. His castle has an almost mummified-looking face, without any of the sharp teeth of previous incarnations. In a way it comes around full circle to the Alcala depiction.
Bruce Tim gives us our final look at the castle in The Ultimate Battlegound, which follows the same look as his illustration for The Evil Horde.
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6 thoughts on “Castle Grayskull in Minicomics”
More awesomeness, as always, man! CHEERS!
Thanks so much Peter!
Of course, something always funny with ‘square like you would find in the English country side’.. I live.. well, half and half in the English country side and.. none of the castles are what people seam to expect.. Ah, American views of the English.. soo funny at times ^_^
still, square box like would be plain and dull.. I never really thought much of the Flimation version of the castle.. as it just made it look pretty silly.. and the idea of it being part of a large creature ¬_¬ even worse..
“as it just made it look pretty silly.”
“and the idea of it being part of a large creature”
So using skeleton of a giant freaking beast as a frame for the castle is what makes it silly?! Dude, if that’s silly, then what is a half naked blonde barbarian?!
half naked barbarian is about right. depending on the climate. I prefer the original science fantasy world of the earlier stuff where the castle descending in many various time zone levels and was this major stronghold which either good or evil could hold, more then just a stone building build into the skull of some old creature.
and they made it more square, made the teeth pretty weird, made the skull look like it was added more then part of it, had them stupid arms etc. I just was never a big fan of what the filmation he-man was compared to the toys and mini-comics. though as things went on, they merged the cartoon into things more and I feel lost some of the fusion.
Thank you for all the content! Awesome as always 😉