Heroic Warriors

Thunder Punch He-Man – Heroic leader with loud power punch (1985)

Thunder Punch He-Man was the “deluxe” version of He-Man that everyone in my grade school peer group coveted. The counterpart to Dragon Blaster Skeletor, Thunder Punch He-Man had a new an exciting action feature – you could load a ring of caps (of the kind typically used in toy revolvers of the era) into his backpack, twist his waist back, and he would spring forward with a power punch and a loud bang. It was quite the upgrade over the power punch feature typical of the line.

There were actually two commercials for Thunder Punch He-Man. The first was quite in line with the style of most MOTU commercials from 1982-1985, Gregorian chant and all. The second features an unfortunate attempt at making He-Man cooler by adding a rap:

Here’s a very nice Australian take on the commercial:

Design & Development

I’m not sure ultimately who created the visual look for Thunder Punch He-Man. The idea for giving He-Man the action feature may have begun with Roger Sweet, who created this illustration using the standard Mark Taylor He-Man visual design:

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

There is a second piece of concept art related to Thunder Punch He-Man, below. The artist is unknown unfortunately (I checked with both Ted Mayer and Mark Taylor, and neither know who might have drawn it). The Thunder Punch costume is certainly recognizable. The shield is round, unlike the production shield, but it does look like caps are integrated into it somehow. Interestingly, He-Man is given an articulated jaw here:

Image source: Tomart’s Action Figure Digest

On January 3, 1985, Mattel filed a Patent Claim for Thunder Punch He-Man’s action feature. The inventors are listed as Larry H. Renger and Mike T. McKittrick. The gist of the design is that when the torso was twisted back, a spring loaded hammer inside the chest would cock. Upon releasing the torso, it would twist back to center and the hammer would be released, striking against the cap loaded in the backpack and making a loud bang sound to coincide with He-Man’s punch.

A close to final design for the figure can be seen in the cross sell art for the figure, as shown below. Really the only difference here from the production figure is that this one is shown with a gray sword and silver shield, while the actual figure was produced with a gold sword. Some versions had a vac metal silver shield, and others had a vac metal gold shield:

Cross sell art closeup, from The Art of He-Man

Action Figure

From Mattel’s 1985 dealer catalog
Silver shield version

Sculpt wise, the figure featured all new parts apart from the head and sword. The legs were based on the original, but he was given bigger feet to make him more stable. The sculpt unfortunately on the arms and torso is a bit soft and unfinished looking compared to the original. Befitting his action feature, his right fist is closed, ready at any time for a thunder punch. He also has painted bracers, something previous versions didn’t get.

His boots have white fur tops, which was actually how He-Man had been previously illustrated by Rudy Obrero and R.L. Allen. Earl Norem would occasionally depict him like that as well:

He has a new harness design, sculpted onto the chest rather than as a separate piece. He keeps the “H” logo that first appeared on Battle Armor He-Man, and which also appeared on the side of the Dragon Walker and on Flying Fists He-Man. The symbol looks like a blend between an H and an M.

His power sword can fit in his shield, but the shield can also be used to carry a ring of caps.

Packaging

Thunder Punch He-Man came on an oversized card, with art on the front by William George, and art on the back by Errol McCarthy:

Line art by William George. Image source: He-Man.org
Artwork by William George, image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen
Line art by Errol McCarthy. Image source: He-Man.org

Errol McCarthy also made several other illustrations featuring Thunder Punch He-Man:

The figure came with two rings of caps, but you could also purchase more He-Man branded caps on a separate card (made by Larami). The figure would work with any brand, as long as it was the same size and formation (images via He-Man.org):

Thunder Punch He-Man was also released in two gift sets – one with Orko and one with Roboto

http://www.grayskullmuseum.com/GiftSets/GiftSetsIndex.htm

Style Guide

The 1987 Style Guide makes mention of He-Man’s thunder punch power, as well as his Battle Armor and his Power Sword:

Weapons: His Sword of Power is fused with the combined wisdom and strength of all ancient Eternian Elders. The Battle Armor designed for him by Man-At-Arms allows him to withstand the mightiest blows of battle and the special gift from the Sorceress allows He-Man to deliver a punch so powerful, it creates a thunderous boom that strikes fear in the hearts of all who are evil and helps He-Man blast through barriers of all kinds.

1987 Style Guide

Comics and Stories

The figure came packed with the minicomic, The Treachery of Modulok, which also came with Modulok, of course. In the story, when Prince Adam transforms to He-Man, he finds himself wearing his new Thunder Punch costume. The Sorceress explains that it’s a gift from Castle Grayskull. Later in the story, he uses his new power to punch through Hordak’s force field and stop Skeletor in his Land Shark from reaching Castle Grayskull:

Thunder Punch He-Man appears in the 1986 winter issue of Masters of the Universe Magazine, using his punching power to make a shortcut through Hordak’s maze:

Artwork

Thunder Punch He-Man appeared on a couple of posters by William George, in Joe Chiodo’s box art for Mantisaur, and in the box art for Monstroid (artist unknown):

Artwork by William George. Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen.
Artwork by William George. Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen.
Artwork by Joe Chiodo
Artist unknown

Thunder Punch He-Man to me isn’t the most visually exciting of the He-Man variants, but his action feature was one of the most fun to play with in the vintage MOTU line.

Thunder Punch He-Man in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has graciously contributed the following image and video showing Thunder Punch He-Man in action:

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8 thoughts on “Thunder Punch He-Man – Heroic leader with loud power punch (1985)

  1. I was quite taken with TP He-Man back in the day. The chrome shield, the gold sword, extra paint details like the white boot tops and red bracers, and the oversized card made him feel like a truly deluxe figure in my eyes. This was the “fully powered up” version of He-Man to me; where I had mostly ignored the Prince Adam transformation stuff in favor of a mythos heavily influenced by the early minicomics, TP He-Man was so cool that I finally allowed for the power sword to be force of transformation, imbuing He-Man with the Thunder Punch power when he was in a truly dire spot. So naturally, I immediately had He-Man getting into any sort or horrible situation I could contrive so I’d have an excuse to use TP He-Man, heh. I also loved how the Bashasaurus had the little rack on the side to stow his sword and shield.

  2. Main problems with TP He-man is, well, I don’t think that much of the .. I would say more sci-if style front chest armour.. kinda looks like it’ll give him less protection too, but it was inline with the newer/different ‘H’ logo used on some items, but came with sword and shield.. that was a bit… stupid.. okay, the original had sword, axe and shield, but this He-man had the closed fist, which worked well, but then they gave one hand.. So you either have him carrying the sword or the shield..it might have worked a bit better if the shield could be arm mounted or even back mounted.. I mean, I guess there is no real problem with it, but it just kinda fails for me..

    a couple of notes.. weren’t the golden cast swords from the board game? kinda removes them being a special colour (not that it makes too much sense to make a sword out of a soft metal like gold ^_^) and also.. erm.. why did they feel the need to make it look like his backpack was giving off harmful gas all the time? an explosion like bang or snap might have been better…

    1. The Battle For Eternia board game did have gold swords, but they were actually full swords. TP He-Man had the usual half sword, just in gold.

  3. I never really had much interest in Thunder Punch He-Man. In fairness, I never had much interest in any of the He-Man or Skeletor variants back in the day, for the reason that it would take me a while to save my pocket money up for a figure, or being allowed to choose a new figure when out in town was a rare treat, so I’d rather use that option to by a new character over a variant of one I really had. I think my lack of particular interest was even stronger with TP He-Man as in I didn’t like the idea of having to buy more of something (in this case, caps) to use with a figure. The strange way my young mind worked.

    TP isn’t a bad figure I suppose, but does looka bit too clunky, and indeed does have some softer sculpting over the iconic original (or indeed Battle Armor He-Man, which reused most of the parts). I’m also not overly keen on the design of TP’s chest armour. It looks clunky and uninspired both at once; and the design of the backpack in particular (again, very clunky and uninspired) just really didn’t work for me. I do like the vac detailing, but this was done far better IMO on Flying Fist He-Man (the only variant of the original line that I did have, almost by default when it was heavily reduced in a sale one day and my grandmother asked if I wanted it).

    I may be wrong but I do recall slight variation(s) on the power sword, in terms of colouring and/or if it had a ‘flat’ colour or a shinier finish. As Manic Man rightly says, I don’t understand why they didn’t give him a shiny silver shield, over the odd mustard-coloured one he actually got. I wonder if at one point in concept this different coloured sword was actually planned to be tied in to He-Man’s new ability to become TP He-Man, or was just a “meh, why not” decision in the design department.

    So not a figure I hate, and one that does have some retrospective merit in hindsight (one of the relatively few variants of the original line, as opposed to the “what easy repaint can we knock out this week” of the 200x line), but still not one that particularly stands out to me personally.

  4. The main flaw about this figure: your own parents XD
    It was an extremely noisy toy and I bet that very soon most if not all the owners of this He-Man has been proibited to use the caps by their parents. And to be honest I can’t truly blame parents for that.

  5. Man, the memories that these articles conjure.

    I had this guy as a kid and didn’t like him. I remember his waist being pretty loose; don’t know if I broke his action or if that’s just the way he was. I played with my toys pretty hard, lots of figures had cosmetic damage and broken armor. Thunder Punch remained in fairly good cosmetic condition, but I continued to use my original He-Man with the hair nearly completely rubbed off and a rubber band in place of his lost armor.

    I remember calling him ketchup and mustard He-Man as well. Not my favorite color combo, but then again I was a big Hulk Hogan fan as a kid, so I should have been into it!

    And the caps stunk, so being a very intellectual child, his action feature became the power to deliver a thunderous fart.

  6. Thank you for this, this was my very first He-Man.
    That “Pow!” in the front of the cardboard was the very first word I wrote, I asked my older brother what it meant and continued writing it whenever I drawed He-Man punching someone.
    Sadly I was so young and not carefull enough that all those shinning parts went skin color in a short time.
    Watching the packaged image, mine had the legs all bent and it was really hard for me to make him stand because of that, I thought it was something wrong with my version but watching it again I think it may be a thing of its posture that couldn’t be put right in the cardboard.

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