Laser Power He-Man was released Italy and Spain a year after the end of the Masters of the Universe toyline in the US. He was a figure most North American fans were not aware of until they discovered it online years later. That was certainly true for me. Because the figure was produced in limited numbers overseas, it’s one of the most expensive vintage He-Man toys to acquire today. (Update: I’m also informed that there was some distribution of Laser Power He-Man in Switzerland. Thanks to Olmo for the information.)
Design & Development
In my interview with David Wolfram, he gave some great information behind the development of the Laser Power He-Man, and his evil counterpart, Laser-Light Skeletor:
Laser light Skeletor and the corresponding He-Man were both done for the international markets. The domestic MOTU line was essentially dead after the 1986 (or maybe 1987, it is hard to remember precisely). Pre-Toy Fair, which was a Mattel-only event held in August in Scottsdale for many years. I remember the marketing person saying that no domestic buyers even wanted to go in the gallery.
However, the international markets were a couple of years behind in their product cycle, so they wanted a few pieces of new news. It just so happens that one of the new MOTU segments we had been looking at was a “Power Crystal” segment with crystals “powering” vehicles, interacting with playsets, etc. The He-man and Skeletor were borrowed from that segment.
While MOTU was tanking domestically, it was still going strong internationally, which was a year behind in the product cycle. This was done to have something new for that market. LISA (the light transmitting plastic) was a fairly new “shiny toy” for the designers at the time, so that was the hook for that segment. I think Martin did the final He-Man design. I frankly don’t remember for what purpose I did that awful He-Man illustration for, but I’m sure that it was after the fact (and most likely rushed), and I’m sorry that it has survived.David Wolfram
A few things to unpack there. David mentions some artwork that he did for Laser Power He-Man. Martin Arriola was the actual designer of the figure, but David did a study of the character, seen below. The concept has white boots and a kind of white collar at this stage of his design. He has the familiar combined “HM” emblem on his belt, used on figures like Battle Armor and Thunder Punch He-Man:
David also mentions a power crystal segment, where crystals would be used to power playsets and interact with toys. We certainly see evidence of that in concept art by James McElroy for various crystal powered vehicles and playsets, and in an early Laser Power He-Man prototype:
There was some discussion of making the He-Man “crystal segment” into an interactive TV series, as noted in the concept art below. Mattel abandoned that idea for He-Man and instead implemented it with Captain Power:
The earliest known prototype for Laser Power He-Man keeps the general shape of the concept “collar” piece, but it’s turned into a backpack. His color scheme has a lot more blue in it, which will persist to the production toy.
Behind his head you can see the green crystal that his segment would have been based on. This prototype is a kind of kit bash, with arms from the original He-Man figure, hands borrowed from Rio Blast, and what looks like the original He-Man’s legs, hacked up and straightened out. The face looks pretty close to the original He-Man, but with updated hair.
In the next stage in Laser Power He-Man’s development,we see him with his final, newly sculpted body, which included silver gloves and a smaller belt. The green crystal was removed from his backpack, and some subtle changes were made to his harness. His face has also been modified. Instead of bearing his teeth, he’s been given a more placid expression.
The final Laser Power He-Man figure design has a somewhat simplified harness/backpack design, and a much modified light up power sword design, but otherwise is fairly similar to the previous prototype:
As with Laser Light Skeletor, the figure’s light up feature is activated by raising his right arm. A wire is snaked from the sword, under the armor on the right arm (which seems to exist only to hide the wire) and into the backpack. The light in the sword is powered by an AA battery that fits in the backpack.
The Italy release (shown below) has the newly sculpted head, which some have speculated is supposed to resemble Dolph Lundgren, who played He-Man in the 1987 Masters of the Universe Movie. Alternatively, it could resemble some actor who might have starred in the (never produced) interactive He-Man TV show. That’s purely speculative – they might not have had any actors in mind for the series.
Looking at this and the early prototype closely, however, I think the most likely interpretation is that it’s just supposed to look like the original He-Man’s face sculpt, but with a more neutral expression and updated hair.
Like Laser-Light Skeletor, all of Laser Power He-Man’s tooled parts are unique to the figure:
Laser Power He-Man was also produced in Spain. The Spanish versions are marked Italy, but they can be easily distinguished by the fact that they use the original 1982 He-Man head sculpt (images and videos courtesy of “NoPatricioNo”):
Laser Power He-Man was sold on an oversized card. There’s some nice artwork on both front and back, although I’m not sure who illustrated it:
The card art on the front and back differs just a bit from the actual figure. It shows He-Man with bare hands, a black hilt on his laser sword, and a kind of brass knuckles like strap around his right hand. No doubt this represents a late stage concept or prototype design.
Update: I got a bit more information about dates and card types for the Laser figures from Dani Ramón Abril, of Yo Tengo el Poder :
I wanted to comment The Lasers were sold in 1988 in Europe with Eurocard (England, Germany, Italy and France) and in 1989 in Iberocard (Spain and Portugal).
The catalog that came packed with the Spanish figures cross sell art of both figures:
The cross sell art also appears on these Spanish stickers:
The Yo Tengo el Poder site has unearthed a couple of other interesting Spanish ads featuring both laser figures:
There is also a great 1989 mini magazine published in Spain that features the Laser figures, which comes by way of La Cueva del Terror.
Masters of the Universe Club comic
The French Club Maitres de l’Univers magazine published a comic featuring early concept versions of Laser Power He-Man and Laser-Light Skeletor, alongside characters whose figures were released in 1987 (images are from Nathalie NHT):
Into the Future
Because Laser Power He-Man was only released in Europe and at the very tail end of the line, he doesn’t appear in many stories or comics. I think he has a pleasing futuristic design. Not as exciting as Laser-Light Skeletor perhaps, but overall a nice take on a space age He-Man.
In many ways, Laser Power He-Man represents an intermediate step in the evolution of the the New Adventures He-Man figure from the rebooted 1989 line. The “New Adventures” He-Man figure was also designed by Martin Arriola. His colors and costume are quite different from Laser Power He-Man, but he does feature a translucent “laser” sword, which persisted in Martin’s futuristic He-Man designs:
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7 thoughts on “Laser Power He-Man: Heroic Master of Light Energy (1988)”
Ahhh, ‘Laser Light He-Man’. Like US fans (I’m in the UK), I only ever learned of LL He-Man and the corresponding Skeletor in the late 1990s, when I first got on-line. When I collected a complete set (near enough two sets) of the original line over the couple of years after that, the Laser Lights figures and the giants were the only ones I was missing for that complete set, as they were so expensive (and rare) to find on eBay.
It’s not a figure I love (I basically associate it with that “MOTU is over” feel of the late 1980s), and yet I don’t dislike it either, and find it quite fascinating and unique in it’s own way. As mentioned in the blog and a previous article too, it’s a definite mid-way step between MOTU and NA He-Man in terms of design, and the whole “space” sci-fi elements, which of course were present to varying degrees throughout MOTU’s life but were far more prominently in NA.
It’s also fascinating how it ties in with the ultimately aborted (and adapted to Captain Power) Power Crystals concept. A neat concept in a way, although the critical side of me does feel it still has much of that ‘gimmicky over character’ feel that marred much of the later end of the MOTU line IMO.
I had long assumed that the newly sculpted He-Man head was intended to resemble Dolph Lundgren in the 1987 movie, but reading the views in this blog, I’m not unsure; and think it might just have been a general “refresh” of the He-Man head, which had been reused on figures a number of times by this point. It very likely did have some influences of Dolph Lundgren’s face, but to bear in mind that they might not have secured the rights to use his image anyway.
I’m also interested that the Laser Lights figures were only developed for select international markets, where the franchise was effectively a year or so behind and still fairly popular. Bearing in mind that the LL figures have complete new tooling, as well as the light-up features themselves, yet Mattel fully knowing the line was winding down, I’m surprised that they instead didn’t just realise the proposed 8th Series “kitbash” figures, which would have been made up entirely from recycled previous parts, which surely would have been much easier and cheaper to produce. Even internationally the line was clearly coming towards the end, sadly, so I’m surprised they went to so much trouble with the LLs. But I’m glad they did.
I do like the color scheme on LP He-Man a lot. Even though they’re not traditional He-Man colors (like red, orange, and gray), they flow well. For some reason I find the gold, blue and yellow of the 1989 He-Man a bit jarring to the eyes, for whatever reason. I think blue and silver would have worked better.
I also like that Laser Power He-Man retains something that looks a bit like his original harness – it’s enough to tie him back to the original design and make him recognizable. He’s definitely a bit clunky looking, but in a charming retro-futuristic way.
I’ve love to see a few other figures in the style of the Laser Figures – like a Man-At-Arms and a Mer-Man in this style, maybe a few new characters.
It is a funny thing that a 30 year old piece of plastic can gain value like these variants. So many of those were probably burned in landfills years go. I wonder why they didn’t make it to Scandinavia. Motu was still huge up as late as 1988. I have seen ads from 1989 with huge discounts on Motu, but until that it was still big. The market might have been too small though.
Enjoying slowly reading through this blog and this is another figure that I had a personal experience with but didn’t know what it was!. Relatives of mine went on a European trip in late 1990/early 1991 and my cousin who was about 5 at the time came back with a bunch of random toys, include a Laser Power He-Man which I did not recognise. As original line was dead by that point, I presumed it was some sort of Dolph-inspired movie-figure that had clearly not been released here in New Zealand.
I do recall it was probably the Italian version as the head not the same as the original and they had spent a few weeks in Italy – I presume it must have been old stock on a shelf somewhere for a year or so given the timeline of release and the time it was acquired being a couple of years apart (this seems to be a common thing I’ve randomly experienced when I travelled to other countries as a kid and found random toys long off the US market – around the same time I obtained a 1985 MASK Thunder Hawk from a department store in the Cook Islands, which was MIB and one of several MASK toys that my brother and I saw a good few years after the toy line died) . Ironic considering the value of the toy now.
By that time I was out of MOTU and moving more into console gaming at the age of 12, but I remember thinking I would have dug having LP He Man a few years earlier. The light up feature worked intermittently on this figured, which I thought might have been a result of my cousin’s rough play (he was a known trasher of toys) but was still pretty cool when it did. I remember that it felt like a higher quality than my original MOTU figures. The other irony about this toy is that it survived much of the 90’s as I recall seeing it my cousin’s home in a box of old toys as late as 1996. It wasn’t until the early 00’s that I learned the origin and rarity of this figure.
To me, this was as close as you were ever going to get to a ‘vintage’ ’87 movie inspired figure. I suspect it might have done well on the toy aisles if the line wasn’t close to dead when it was released. It is actually entirely possible that this toy resides in a box of stuff in one of the spare rooms at my aunt and uncles place which they’ve been in since 1990…. might be worth a look next time I go by!
Any idea about the apparent color variations in the wire from his back leading to the sword? I believe I’ve seen these in white, blue, and possibly black?