For some unfathomable reason, Hordak was the only member of the original 1985 Evil Horde that we didn’t have in the house growing up. My brother had Grizzlor, and I had Leech, Mantenna and Modulok. But what’s a faction without its leader?
Design & Development
Hordak is the leader of the Evil Horde, which debuted in 1985. According to Roger Sweet, the Hordak character name and the concept of the Evil Horde were created by Dave Capper, Director of Marketing for Boy’s Toys at Mattel. Mattel and Filmation apparently worked in tandem to develop Hordak, going through many iterations of the character before arriving at two final designs. One design would be appear on toy shelves and the other in the She-Ra cartoon (source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog).
Dušan M. put together a nice graphic showing the sequential evolution of Hordak’s design. You can check it out at the Ancient Library of Grayskull Facebook group. I’ll go through each design, following Dušan’s ordering. The Filmation images come from Dark Horse’s Art of He-Man, Dark Horse’s He-Man and She-Ra, Dušan M., and eBay.
In this early concept (below), Hordak, while menacing, has the look of a post-apocalyptic thug, like a He-Man character crossed with something from Mad Max.
In the concept drawing below (by Gerald Forton and Herb Hazelton), Hordak looks much less human, and more menacing, in an alien punk-rocker kind of way. The overlapping plates on his armor give him a bit of an H. R. Giger quality. An early Shadow Weaver concept is included.
This concept below looks quite close to the first one, although it lacks the Horde emblem on the chest.
In this concept image shared by Dušan, Hordak’s costume is starting to come together, although his face still looks relatively human.
The concept below is closer still to the final Hordak design, although he still sports a punk rock row of spikes on his head.
From here we get a couple of divergent looks for Hordak, one from Filmation and one from Mattel. Both of them dropped the one-armed look (although in the Filmation cartoon Hordak could transform his arm into a cannon, and Mattel eventually came out with a Hordak variant with arm attachments).
Both of them had a similar looking, mask-like face, with a bone cowl around the back of his head. Filmation’s Hordak had a blue body suit and symmetrical arm bands. The animated Hordak has a somewhat sharp, mechanical-looking head:
Meanwhile, at Mattel, Ted Mayer took an early Filmation model sheet and tweaked it slightly, adding a red cape (thanks to Dušan M for this information). Ted can’t recall much about Hordak, but he remembered that unlike the other Horde characters, he wasn’t Hordak’s creator, but something Marketing asked him to execute. Hordak was colored gray, black and red – good vampire colors. He was given a bat-shaped shield and a strange organic-looking weapon. He has Horde bat insignias all over his costume, including on the armband on his left arm (the Filmation version had two armbands with no insignia). His head has warty-looking bumps on it and looks organic rather than mechanical.
The Evil Horde insignia is actually Hordak’s face, with batwings on either side:
According to Roger Sweet, Hordak’s face was based on a witch doctor’s mask. The “Tiki mask influence” is possible, but given the evolving design with Hordak; it is not the main one. Interestingly, Ted Mayer did another concept that’s even closer to that idea, although this one is unlikely to have anything to do with Hordak:
The toy was based on Ted Mayer’s final design for the character, although the strange weapon was changed out for a crossbow:
An early version of the figure feature red “ribs” on the sides of the armor, and a painted red bat on the back, underneath the cape. The extra paint applications are omitted from subsequent releases, however.
In the illustration on the back of the packaging, Hordak and his minions make ready to storm Castle Grayskull. Interestingly, Hordak holds Skeletor‘s staff here:
Errol McCarthy also depicted the character in a number of different contexts (images below are from He-Man.org), including the 1987 Style Guide, which described him this way:
Hordak acquired his power while passing through the plane from Etheria to Eternia. He as since discovered how to retain and refine it.
Hordak was sold in a number of gift sets, including a couple of different sets with Grizzlor, and a Canadian set with Roboto and Sy-Klone. Hordak was also sold in 1986 together with Mantisaur, his insectoid steed.
As a toy, Hordak was marketed under the Masters of the Universe brand, despite being the primary villain in Filmation’s She-Ra series. Although Hordak was a constant presence is the She-Ra cartoon, Mattel treated him very differently in their own stories. He only shows up in She-Ra’s first minicomic (The Story of She-Ra). In the Princess of Power minicomic canon, Catra is actually She-Ra’s primary nemesis.
Hordak, meanwhile, is a frequently-appearing villain in He-Man’s minicomics starting in 1985, appearing in the following comics:
- Grizzlor – The Legend Comes Alive
- Leech – The Master of Power Suction
- Mantenna and the Menace of the Evil Horde
- Hordak – The Ruthless Leader’s Revenge
- The Treachery of Modulok
- The Power of the Evil Horde
- Escape From the Slime Pit
- The Menace of Multi-Bot
- The Warrior Machine
- The Hordes of Hordak
- Between a Rock and a Hard Place
- Enter… Buzz-Saw Hordak
In Leech’s surreal comic, Hordak and Leech both had the power to grow and shrink at will – which doesn’t seem to follow in any other stories.
In the minicomics cannon, Hordak is generally less well-equipped on Eternia than he is on Etheria, the setting for the She-Ra cartoon series. In Etheria, Hordak’s Fright Zone is a massive industrial nightmare structure, and he has access to legions of troops and vehicles:
In the He-Man cartoon series, the heroes are in power, and the villains are constantly trying to take it from them. The She-Ra cartoon series has it flipped – the Horde has already defeated Etheria, and She-Ra and her allies strive to overthrow Hordak (voiced by George Dicenzo). The Horde is something like the Empire in the Star Wars series.
When Hordak was introduced, he was written in as the former master of Skeletor; Skeletor is said to have betrayed Hordak and set up shop on Eternia. Hordak has the ability not only to transform his arm into a canon, but his entire body into various mechanical devices. He reports to his mysterious brother Horde Prime, who is the supreme commander of the Horde Empire across all its worlds.
Box Art & Poster Appearances
Hordak makes appearances in the following box art:
- The Fright Zone
- Hordak Grizzlor
- Hordak and Mantisaur
- Slime Pit
- Beam-Blaster & Artilleray
Hordak also appears in several posters by William George, Earl Norem, Esteban Maroto and others. He is variously portrayed in both his Filmation and toy looks:
Hordak of course appears in a wide variety of published media. Because he’s a primary villain, it’s not practical to try to track his every appearance, but I’ll cover some representative samples here:
Golden, 1985: The Horde
“Day of the Comet” newspaper story
UK MOTU Magazine, Issue 71
As a villain, Hordak is certainly creepy enough, although he doesn’t have the archetypal quality of Skeletor. Skeletor is a symbol for death, and you instantly recognize what he’s about at first sight. Hordak has more of a horror movie creature quality. To me, Hordak is outshone by his even more freakish henchmen, while Skeletor is the most interesting villain in his faction. Still, I would have loved to have had this figure as a kid to lead my shambling band of bizarro Hordesmen.
Hordak in Action
Øyvind Meisfjord has kindly shared the following image as well as a short video of Hordak in action:
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15 thoughts on “Hordak: Ruthless Leader of the Evil Horde (1985)”
Yet another spectacular and well done feature! Bravo!
Thanks so much, Peter!
dip me in vinager and add chips! All those hours of Horde fun and as a kid I never noticed that the Horde symbol was Hordaks face!
amazing blog Mr BR, again well done.
Thanks very much, Sir Shenanigans.
Hordak must be pretty vain – he slapped his face on everything, including the Fright Zone. 🙂
Personally.. i wouldn’t have said ‘H. R. Giger quality’ to any of that since a major feature of his work is erotica, something that ruined the ‘Aliens’ film series after the first one was removing th whole idea that it would either kill you or have sex with you, which was Giger’s point..
Anyway, i liked Hordak’s Bat based design, even the face screamed Bat with it’s seamly nosferatu based Bat features… apart from the mohawk. Didn’t like how the Cartoons seamed to make him much weaker.. no longer the ultimate horror and leader of the Evil Horde, he was a servant of Horde Prime.. an equal of skeletor more then former master
I do like Hordak’s design, he’s a good horror movie type character. I think the toy color scheme suits the theme much better – he didn’t need the costume that Filmation gave him – it makes him too similar to Skeletor and works against the bat theme, IMO
epic hordak poster: German Ehapa Verlag, 1988, issue 12
Thank you! I will remember this when I cover Hurricane Hordak 🙂
other original oil-paintings with Hordak in good qualitiy:
These are amazing and great quality. Thank you for sharing!
What a great article about the history an evolution of this character!
Thanks very much!
I see Skeletor and Hordak in X-Men terms. Skeletor is the Magneto, the baddie with closer ties to the hero(es), and maybe is in some way (vaguely) sympathetic. Hordak is Apocalypse, much older and intent on ruling everything. Hordak even alters his own body and his minions (Dragstor) the way Apocalypse dig (Archangel).
Always liked the Hordak design. As you correctly said, he is like an horror movie monster and I always found him creepy in a “Michael Myers” way: his face looks like a cold, eerie mask incapable of emotions. Personally I never liked much the idea of Hordak and Skeletor as master and pupil: the idea is technically interesting but the two characters are too much different from each other, they have nothing in common.
It looks to me like the inspiration for Hordak design came from Jerry’s Only (from the Misfits) costume.