Evil Warriors

Saurod – Evil ‘Spark-Shooting’ Reptile (1987)

I didn’t see the 1987 Masters of the Universe Movie (or really know anything about it, other than one was made) until probably the early 90s, when I saw it on TV. Even though I considered myself too old for toys at the time, I still felt a little affronted that the designs of the main characters had been changed so much. Despite myself, I stayed for it and watched the whole movie. It was actually a pretty fun little film. As an adult I can really appreciate the beauty of the new designs, even if I might question the wisdom of straying so far from the source material.

Of the newly introduced characters, Saurod was undoubtedly the coolest. What’s not to like about an armored lizard man that can shoot sparks from his mouth?

Design & Development

Saurod was designed for the movie by William Stout. Stout actually went through a number of lizard/dinosaur designs, and several were closer to beasts than to anything humanoid. All of his designs below are, in my opinion, gorgeous:

Image source: MOTU Art Facebook Page
Image source: MOTU Art Facebook Page

Stout’s lizard concept evolved into a more upright, human-like creature, initially with minimal armor and a muscular build:

Image source: The Power of Grayskull documentary, via Dušan M.
Image source: The Power of Grayskull documentary, via Dušan M.

The character continued to evolve to include a helmet and mask design, body armor, and slimmer build:

Image source: The Power of Grayskull documentary, via Dušan M.
Image source: The Power of Grayskull documentary, via Dušan M.

Claudio Mazzoli took Stout’s design (above) and turned it into a full-color painting:

Image Source: The Art of He-Man

The costume continued to evolve until the nearly final movie look, pictured below:

Image source: MOTU Art Facebook Page

The costume for the character (played by Pons Maar) was exquisitely detailed and quite convincing, even given the low budget for the film:

Image source: He-Man.org
Image source: He-Man.org
Saurod had retractable claws in the movie.

Sadly, in the Movie, Saurod didn’t get a lot screen time. Skeletor destroyed him as an example after his henchmen failed to recover the Cosmic Key:

Image source: He-Man.org

Mattel translated the movie design into an action feature, which was released in 1987. The prototype, shown below, is very similar to the final figure, except for the gun which is smaller and silver rather than black. They eyes are also round with white pupils:

Image via Grayskull Museum

The cross sell artwork was apparently based off of the prototype, as it features the same silver gun:

Toy & Packaging

The final toy was produced in a metallic bronze plastic, similar-looking to that used on various figures in the New Adventures of He-Man toyline (especially Hoove). The figure is sculpted with all new parts, just like the other two movie figures. Because he’s so radically different-looking from most other MOTU figures, he can look out of place on the shelf, but he does seem to fit well with late designs like Blast Attak and Laser Light Skeletor.

Saurod can have varying degrees of a dark overspray on the armor. Sometimes it’s barely present, and other times it’s applied very liberally:

The details on the sculpture seem quite soft, especially compared to the movie costume. It does have quite a fun action feature – pushing the lever on the figures back causes sparks to shoot out of the mouth. The movie character, however, didn’t have this ability (he did have retractable claws). On the back of the packaging, the sparks are called out as a “laser”, although in the commercial he is said to shoot lightning from his mouth.

I presume the artwork on the front of the card was done by Bruce Timm, who did several similar pieces. The art on the back was done by Errol McCarthy.

Errol McCarthy original line art. Image source: He-Man.org

Saurod, along with Megator, was the last figure of the original MOTU line that Mattel filed a trademark on – April 27, 1987.

Comics and Stories

Saurod, Gwildor and Blade were all packaged with the same minicomic: The Cosmic Key. The story doesn’t have anything to do with the movie, however. A cosmic force called the Evil Cloud gives Skeletor evil powers, including the ability to summon Saurod and Blade, and He-Man must call on Gwildor to stop the power of entity.

Saurod has a much heavier build in the comic than his actual toy had. That makes me think that perhaps at an earlier stage of design, Mattel had planned to with reuse one of the existing heavily muscled body types for the figure.

Update: Javier Peña in the comments noted that some of the panels in the above comic were retraced from “The Terror Claws Strike” (also “The Ultimate Battleground”), illustrated by Bruce Timm. Now Jukka Issakainen has shared this collage he created of the copied panels:

Some versions of the minicomic actually had the Powers of Grayskull artwork on the back, which would have been the artwork on the front of the cards for He-Ro and Eldor, had they been produced:

Saurod makes a couple of appearances in the US Masters of the Universe Magazine. In the 1987 Summer issue, Saurod shoots actual lasers from his mouth, but is thwarted by Snout Spout:

In the 1988 Winter issue, Saurod and Blade team up with Hordak against He-Man and She-Ra:

In issue 10 of the 1977 Star Comics MOTU series, Saurod shoots out sparks, just like his action feature. They seem to have some kind of venomous quality, as they knock out Man-At-Arms and there appears to be no “antidote”

Saurod also appears in the November 1987 Star Comics story, The Motion Picture, based on the plot from the film. The artwork replicates the movie designs (or prototype designs) only for the newly introduced characters. Established characters like He-Man, Skeletor and Evil-Lyn are drawn with their classic toy looks:

Saurod also appears in the He-Man newspaper comic strips. Thanks to Dušan M. for pointing that out. Dušan notes: “He’s bit more human-like and carries a flame thrower. Like with some other new characters, the colourist doesn’t seem to have had a proper colouring reference so his colours constantly change.”

Image source: Dark Horse’ He-Man Newspaper Comics collection.

Advertising

Saurod showed up in a few ads and catalogs, although of course coming at the end of the line he doesn’t appear in all that many:

Image source: Orange Slime

Artwork

Saurod makes an appearance in William George’s Preternia poster:

Saurod Resurrected

One curiosity: The Saurod costume was actually reused for another film: Star Hunter (1996), a low budget take on the Predator franchise. I learned about this via the Spanish language Blog de Salguero.

Star Hunter, 1996. The external armor is the same, but the pieces underneath have been changed.

Saurod In Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has contributed the following image and videos of Saurod in action:

This is the Italian release of Saurod, which has copper colored armor on its limbs.

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12 thoughts on “Saurod – Evil ‘Spark-Shooting’ Reptile (1987)

  1. When I saw the MOTU as a child, Saurod was the only one of the new villains I thought was cool. (So naturally, he’s the one that got killed early on!) Blade came off like a poor man’s Tri-Klops, and Karg looked like Trap Jaw’s chain-smoking aunt who’d had a few too many botched facelifts. (My views on them have softened over the years quite a bit, and their MOTUC figures rank among my favorites!) Saurod, though, immediately struck me as a worthy addition to Skeletor’s army of evil bastards. I wanted a figure of him, but coming at the tail end of the line as he did, I never actually saw him in a store. I saw one commercial for the movie figures the let me know they existed, and that was it.

    When I saw the figure as an adult, I found him rather disappointing. The proportions make him look somewhat malnourished compared to other MOTU figures, and the sculpt is very soft, as you point out. I know my childhood self would’ve loved him anyway, though! The action feature is aces. Kinda tough to imagine a toy that shoots bursts of sparks being made today!

    That minicomic is one of the few I dislike. Between the far-more-thin-than-usual plot, the miniscule page count, and the art, it really seems like a slapdash effort that was done at the last minute. The art is somewhat baffling, as it alternates between panels that look awesome– like two shots of Skeletor on the left-hand side of the first page scan posted above– to panels with terrible art. It’s almost like the artist just drew half the comic with his off hand. It really lends credence to the idea that it was a rush job.

    Interesting note about Saurod’s “resurrection” in Star Hunter. I looked up some information about the movie,and it looks like something the Rifftrax or MST3K guys should tackle!

    1. ” When I saw the MOTU as a child, Saurod was the only one of the new villains I thought was cool. (So naturally, he’s the one that got killed early on!) ”
      Yeah, I me too.
      My reaction at the mercenary introduction was like “Beastman? That is not Beastman!!! And who the hell are these two? (blade and karg) And this other one…. wait, he is cool (saurod)”
      And obviously one of the few movie’s saving graces ended up killed off just because. I’m pretty sure that was one of the first time in my life I said “fuck you”.

      I never had the figure as kid but being a customizer I thought “well I could buy him now, painting the armor etc.” Then I saw in some images how soft the details are and I give up the whole idea. No paintjob could even improve that, sadly: it will always looks soft regardless.
      Poor Saurod: a very cool looking character but so ill-fortuned XD

  2. In my country this batch never even came out, so the last stuff I got was Rio Blast and the Snake Men.
    BTW, have you spotted the retraced panels from The Terror Claws Strike in this minicomic?
    Skeletor face, He-Man pose… I can’t see who drew it, but it is evident that some panels are terrble and some others are pretty good retraces from Bruce Timm’s original.

  3. The Film is sadly overlooked a lot because people moan that it wasn’t based on the filmation cartoons.. but then, they weren’t based on the toys/mini-comics (which changed over years to be a bit more like the cartoon). Designs aren’t as far removed as I think you looked at before.

    anyway, while Saurod’s figure does look a bit out of place with the other MOTU figures, the idea of going with more slim and lizard like than the steroid taker that most seam to have. The only problem with the Action feature is.. well, 2 problems.. 1) they had to say Laser? the best thing they could do to justify sparks was ‘it’s really a laser’? that doesn’t really work.. the idea that it’s sparks of a special acid like chemical works much better and 2) due to the required sizing, the sparks come from his chin guard more then his mouth.. that isn’t too bad on the toy but then all the art showing it clearly coming from his chin guard and not his mouth? like it’s just part of the helmet.. kinda doesn’t work as well as it could..

    1. I do like the description from the commercial where they say he shoots lightning from his mouth. Or it could just work like a stun gun. Saurod jumps on a heroic warrior and knocks them out with a quick jolt of electricity.

  4. First off, I’m one of the ones who actually LOVED the movie. I saw it in the cinema (movie theatre) when it was first released, which was a real rarity for me as a child. Although it strayed from it’s source material, both in terms of what budget allowed and from a more general creative standpoint, I actually neverminded this – and as ManicMan has well pointed out already, I think a lot of people overlooked that the franchise wasn’t actually based on the Filmation cartoon, instead it had already been a toyline – a toyline which also originally didn’t have Prince Adam (so in that respect is in keeping with this film). Anyway, I think the Movie needs it’s own dedicated blog entry, so I’ll save more thoughts on it for another time. (BTW I’ve never before realised that the costume was reused in a 1996 movie, that’s fascinating. )

    Anyway, Saurod… pretty cool character, though for once Adam, I’m gonna disagree with you – “Of the newly introduced characters, Saurod was undoubtedly the coolest”? I’d have to say Blade was the coolest. I liked him that was more of a human-looking character, something that was lacking from character (particularly Evil ones) introduced later in the line. But Saurod was indeed pretty cool. In a weird way, I’ve always seen Blade as a big screen equivalent of Tri-Klops (human-like, fights with a sword, one forward-facing eye); and Saurod the equivalent of Mer Man (for some kinda reptilian/amphibious connection that makes sense in my head). And maybe Karg (who famously never got a figure back then), with his weird hand extension thing, maybe a parallel for Trap Jaw. But anywayyyy…

    It actually never struck me back then, but I never considered how the Saurod figure shot sparks from his mouth but the movie character didn’t. I think possibly this was due to seeing the movie in the cinema, and then having to wait some years for it to arrive on TV (things took much longer back then!) and in my head maybe I assumed there was a shot of him in the movie with this power that I had forgotten. But I did love his spring-nailed hands; I wonder why Mattel chose to add the spark feature and not spring-loaded claws (which also woulda been cool).
    The ‘spark shooting’ thing is pretty cool; as a boy I had a toy gun which did the same thing. I believe they don’t make such toys any more over health and safety concerns.

    I hated ‘The Cosmic Key’ mini-comic that came with the movie figures (I got mine with Gwildor, who out of the three movie figures released was the one I opted for as a boy… go figure that one!). Whilst I already knew that the MOTU canon varied considerably in different sources , I just couldn’t conceive WHY the plot varied so very differently from the movie (in terms of introducing Gwildor and the Cosmic Key), it seemed crazy. If they wanted to showcase the three characters, they coulda set it in a stand-alone story, or even a prequel to the movie (that woulda made sense, in advertising terms)… but it goes so much against the movie premise, which the figures were closely tied to, that it baffles logic.
    BTW, Adam you mention that the Movie comic adaptation sticks to the designs of previously established characters – although this point isn’t really connected to Saurod, don’t forget that Beast Man in that comic resembles his movie version. 🙂

    Anyway, the toy itself… like so many of the later waves, it doesn’t feel very MOTU-like in terms of a figure, although does look pretty good as a stand-alone toy. It’s maybe a little clunky-looking, but in fairness many of the later figures where when looked back on hindsight. Not a particular favourite in terms of MOTU overall (we all know my love lies with the pre-Filmation days), but an interesting little ‘tail-note’ figure to the line.

    1. Yes, I see what you mean about Tri-Klops. But then I always preferred the monstrous characters like Mer-Man, Whiplash, Clawful, Beast Man, etc. Maybe that’s why I like Saurod better than Blade. I do like the armor design and color as well. It’s not classic MOTU but there’s a beauty to it. Reminds me a bit of some of the things David Wolfram did in the New Adventures line.

      I also remember having spark-making toys as a kid. I think I had some kind of sparking top toy. Too bad those went the way of the dodo.

  5. Ah, that’s a point I forgot to make: regarding spark features..
    One of the kinda main reasons spark features seemed to disappear from toys overnight was due to some very stupid America kids and mother. I’ll explain.
    The Spark system was and is the same as most cheap cigarette lighters. A rough edge striking a piece of flint to make a spark. Simple, works well.
    Now, late 80s, early 90s.. i’m gonna say early 90s cause I can’t quite remember the date right now, Mattel used the feature on a Barbie toy. She had rollerblades which sparked when used, much like someone grinding on them. Then one day, Stupid American kid Boy and Stupid American kid Girl were playing. Girl was for some reason in her underwear I think.. it gets tricky with the American word for trousers… anyway, for some reason, they were playing around and the boy had sprayed hair spray on the girl’s knickers or whatever.. then he rolled the Barbie over her backside. so we have Hairspray+Lighter. There was a bit of a fire. No-one killed but doesn’t need that.

    Mother sued. it was shown that Rollerblades “shouldn’t” be able to spark so it wasn’t designed to be real life like but designed with a pointless feature which turned out to be dangerous.. and they stopped making toys with sparks in the US. There was some European releases (mostly old reissues) in the mid 90s but that kinda seemed to end spark toys for main brand toys.

    Oh, and Parents being forced to teach the kids some common sense and how to spray your sisters arse with hairspray etc.. never happened.. not Parents place to raise kids well in anyway.. If a toy can be made to harm, then its the toy makers fault totally.

  6. Based on the dialogue and behavior, as well as the sudden change several pages in, a lot of us strongly suspect that Blade and Saurod were pasted over Webstor and Kobra Khan, respectively, in Star issue #10 at the last minute.

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