Clawful, released in 1984, was part of a series of new animal-themed figures released in the third wave of the Masters of the Universe toyline.
Clawful was an instant hit with me as a kid. I distinctly remember the existential agony of having to choose between him and Whiplash at the store. Ultimately I went with Clawful. That giant bright red snapping claw was just impossible for me to resist.
Clawful and his compatriots represented something of a return to form for Masters of the Universe. Several first wave figures were half human, half animal hybrids (Beast Man, Mer-Man, Stratos). The second wave was made up of entirely human-like figures, but the third wave gave us beastly characters like Clawful, Whiplash, Buzz-Off, Webstor and Kobra Khan.
Designed by Colin Bailey, Clawful was originally intended to reuse Skeletor’s legs. In this early prototype, he sports brown Skeletor boots, a brown version of the Castle Grayskull mace, and a head that blended into the armor with a very thick neck:
By the time he was shown in the 1984 Mattel Dealer catalog, he was sporting the standard male chest (flesh tone) with clip on armor. His neck was much slimmer as a result, and his head was smaller. He still had the Grayskull mace, but now it was in green with an extra piece to allow him to hold the mace upright (it was never very effective in that regard). He still had the Skeletor legs with brown boots. This version also appeared in the commercial:
Eventually Clawful was given the new legs that were shared by both Buzz-Off and Whiplash. They featured jagged spikes down the sides, and unique feet with one large toe/claw on each side of the foot. These were larger feet than any used in previous figures, and provided the figure with greater stability.
In the cross sell art, Clawful sported these feet, but the boots were still painted brown:
It’s evident that the change in the design of his legs happened sometime after production had already begun. Early versions of Clawful featured the Skeletor legs, but with blue boots:
The version with Buzz-Off/Whiplash legs seems to be more common, and must have been produced after the initial run:
Clawful was included in a giftset with Jitsu, but otherwise was only sold as an individual figure.
Clawful appears prominently in one of my favorite pieces of MOTU artwork – a poster by Earl Norem that appeared in the inaugural issue of the US release Masters of the Universe Magazine:
Norem’s artwork was so animated and vibrant. It really blew me away as a kid, and continues to do so now.
Clawful appeared was a main character in the Clash of Arms mini comic, which was also one of my favorites as a kid. Fisto is captured and has to face Clawful, Whiplash and Jitsu in arena combat. It was a great way to introduce new characters to kids, and was one of the more action-heavy mini comics. Clawful’s appearance is based on the early prototype here:
Clawful also appeared in several Golden Books, including Maze of Doom, Dangerous Games and Power From the Sky:
Clawful shows up in the background of the packaging illustration for Bashasaurus, along with Trap Jaw:
The Filmation version of Clawful was radically different from the vintage toy. Often when Filmation designs differed from toy designs, it was because Filmation artists were basing their work on early Mattel concept drawings. I would guess that is the case here, but I don’t know for sure:
Unlike many of Skeletor’s other henchmen in the cartoon, Clawful seemed to posses a measure of intelligence and cunning.
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8 thoughts on “Clawful: Warrior with the grip of evil! (1984)”
Poor Clawful. A bad pun name and a gimpy claw, he was not given a good start in life. I recall him being dropped in many a tub of water to simulate him being boiled, buttered and served for He-mans dinner. Also i found it very odd that for a Lobster man he was armed with a club! I guess when Skeletor was handing out the weapons poor clawful was always last in line.
Whilst the third wave of figures does for me symbolise the start of the gimmick-drive and move away from the early barbarian concept of the line, I did have Clawful as a child and, whilst not an all-time favourite, I did like the figure quite a lot.
I recall buying my Clawful one half-term morning on a trip to town with my Dad. I’d saved up my pocket money but didn’t really have an idea which figure I wanted. Ordinarily such trips would be made with my mum or grandmother, was quite rare of going into a toyshop with my father; and I remember feeling under pressure to ‘hurry up and choose’! 🙂
Either way I recall the rest of the day back home merrily ‘clamping’ everything in sight, including no doubt the cat’s tail. (Thankfully the claw wasn’t really that tight so couldn’t hurt anyone/thing).
My Clawful was the ‘Skeletor-style legs’ version; I actually didn’t realise there had been a second version until years later when I first got online and looked up MOTU. The only thing I never much liked about the toy was stupid mace, as the ridiculous added handle never sat on the character’s arm properly and always fell off. It always seemed very cheap and hurried that they’d reuse a Grayskull weapon in such an unsuitable fashion (ditto with Buzz Off’s ax), I can’t see that the figure had masses of expensive new tooling so would have seen something unique and better suited (such as the shield added to the revamped character decades later). Come to think of it, new weapons seemed to extremely limited in the third wave.
Also, ‘Clash of Arms’ is one of my favourite mini-comics, in fact quite possibly my single favourite beyond the ones that came with the classic first two waves.
With regard to the considerably different Filmation version, I’ve always assumed this stemmed from a prototype version – likely a very early prototype version, as most new third wave characters didn’t appear until the second season, whereas Clawful appears later season one; although even then I suspect that Filmation took some liberties with the design. Some fans over the years have commented that Filmation Clawful suggests a dragon hybrid.
Also of vague note is that the cross-sell art features the character with much paler, Caucasian looking skin instead of his final tan shade; possibly the character went through several stages of skin colours (red, pale) before tan was settled on.
I know I’ve posted my thoughts and comments on Clawful above a couple of years ago, but I gotta say, whilst my main MOTU love my entire life has been those classic first two waves (although I like all areas of MOTU), recently I’ve found myself ‘rediscovering’ Clawful and the other characters in the the excellent third wave – they’re now even ‘honorary’ members in my own personal ‘savage barbarian’ mythos that I always go with.
Although I was never keen on TOO many “here’s the latest creature/monster hybrid character as I felt they became a little generic, the likes of Clawful are awesome. I can remember the day I was due to go into two with (unusually) my Dad, knowing I had enough pocket money to buy a new figure, and settling on Clawful maybe even before we went, as he looked so vibrant in that red, and so darned cool. I think maybe he was a character I never entered into the upper echelons of my collection as his Filmation look was just so vastly different – almost dragon like – and I never found a niche for the character, but of late I’ve realised how cool he is. In fact how cool most of the third wave is – I think I’ve always associated it with Orko (and indeed Prince Adam) whom whilst I like in terms of pop culture, always kind of summed up that shift away from the early barbarian mythos into the more “young child friendly” version that, arguably, later contributed to the downfall of the original franchise (debatable view maybe). In fact, not wanting to be down on Filmation (which will always have a special place in my heart), but those third wave characters when removed from their Filmation counterparts, do stand up as very solid characters.
By the way, I’ve mentioned before, but my childhood Clawful is the blue boots Skeletor legs version. Here in the UK, whilst figures often arrived reasonably quickly, they’d often been out Stateside for a while, so I’m not sure how early or not the change to the Buzz Off-style legs occurred, or if they simply ran alongside each other as a production variant (kinda like Stratos’ colour scheme, which seems to have remained in two versions throughout).