Rio Blast is surely one of the most incongruent-looking figures in the Masters of the Universe toyline. From 1982 to 1985, the MOTU line had a certain consistency – barbarian fantasy meets science fiction. Generally the characters looked either like Frazetta-esque warriors and wizards/witches, retro-futuristic techno-men, or animal-human hybrid monsters.
So why all of a sudden a cowboy character? The same year that Rio Blast came out, Mattel put out the Bravestarr toyline, which was essentially a western set in space (Filmation came up with the concept and put out an accompanying cartoon in 1987). Perhaps that had some influence.
Design & Development
Rio Blast didn’t actually start out as a cowboy character. The concept, originally called Fire Power Man and designed by Ed Watts, was a villainous figure with a dark black and gold costume. The flip out gun feature was carried over to Rio Blast, but the look ended up being completely redesigned.
As noted in the above section from the Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog, this design would be used by Filmation to create the Colonel Blast Character. He was redesigned by the animation studio to better fit in with the Evil Horde:
We can see the retooled cowboy design for Rio Blast in the cross sell artwork below:
Despite looking somewhat out of place in the MOTU line, Rio Blast is an impressive-looking figure. He’s well-sculpted and bristling with painted and sculpted detail, with no reused parts from other figures. Clearly Mattel went all out of this one:
As shown above, Rio Blast’s guns can be manually popped out of his thighs, wrists and chest. His four piece “blasterpak” can swing over his eyes, giving him even more guns and a targeting sight.
The artwork on the front of Rio Blast’s card was done, I believe, by Bruce Timm, and the scene on the back was illustrated by Errol McCarthy:
Characterization & Backstory
Rio Blast was given a relatively elaborate backstory in the 1987 Style Guide:
Power: Has the ability to transform from normal warrior into an awesome arsenal of fire power. He’s the fastest draw in the universe.
Character profile: As the sole survivor of a group of heroic explorers in a starband near Eternia, Rio ended up as the “law” in that lost frontier. Flung by a metero to the surface of Eternia, Rio has naturally allied himself with He-Man in the battle against evil. Though Rio claims he “don’t like to shoot off my own guns,” he is a superb shot and like to remind the other Heroic Warriors of that as often as possible. His style occasionally gets in the way, but He-Man realizes he is an important ally. Unfortunately Rio Blast is nagged by the fact that he has left behind an untamed starband, and he often champs at the bit to get back. He-Man has promised Rio Blast to help get him home as soon as the warriors of Skeletor have been defeated once and for all.
There was also a fact file published in the 1989 UK MOTU Annual:
Comics & Artwork
Rio Blast came packed with a minicomic prominently featuring Rio Blast. The story doesn’t really reference the style guide backstory, other than saying that Rio used to be a lawman. In the story, Rio talks with an “old west” Texas accent and uses his guns to foil an attempt by Skeletor’s henchmen to drive some Eternian cattle away.
Rio Blast is prominent in the 1987 Winter issue of Masters of the Universe Magazine, where he faces off against Ninjor:
He also appears in several pieces of art done for the magazine by Earl Norem:
Rio Blast also shows up in issue 4 and 5 of the 1987 UK MOTU Magazine
Update: Matthew M. has pointed out in the comments that Rio Blast appears in the November 1986 Star Comics story, Snakes Alive! In the story, we learn that Rio is terrified of Snakes, which King Hiss uses to his advantage:
Rio Blast makes an appearance in both William George’s Eternia box art and Eternia poster:
I was never all that interested in Rio Blast until I got one in hand. He’s now become my favorite Heroic Warrior of the 1986 lineup, despite feeling somewhat out of sync with the rest of the line.
Rio Blast in Action
Øyvind Meisfjord has kindly contributed the following image and video of Rio Blast in action: