Evil Warriors

Trap Jaw: Evil & armed for combat (1983)

Trap Jaw was kind of the holy grail of MOTU figures among my friends growing up, and it’s easy to see why. With his three weapons attachments (storable on his WWF-style belt), articulated jaw, loop for repelling and vivid and liberally applied colors, Trap Jaw was truly a deluxe figure.

Sadly, I never owned old Metal Mouth as a kid, but I have a very clear memory of playing with my friend’s figure. The first thing I did was make Trap Jaw get to work on chewing up every weapon in sight.

Om nom nom…

In a May 21, 1982 concept drawing by Mattel designer Colin Bailey, we see the first iteration of Trap Jaw’s design. Called “X-Man” at the time (it’s easy to figure out why that name was dropped), the design featured the articulated jaw, a pulley on the top of the helmet, a fully articulated robot arm with four attachments (claw, iron fist, grapnel and hand) and accessory belt, and a rifle that  could be held in the robotic hand. X-Man had a hairy chest and a human-looking left arm. He also would have used the same legs as He-Man.

The articulated jaw concept was apparently recycled from an unproduced 1982 Big Jim concept, Iron Jaw. It also recalled the villain “Jaws” from the James Bond film Moonraker, crossed with a pirate.

Image Source: PlanetEternia

This early concept appeared in full color in the mini comic, The Menace of Trap Jaw, which came packaged with the figure. From the comic, it’s evident that Trap Jaw was originally intended to have pale green skin and maroon trunks, boots and helmet. His arm is a bit squared off compared to Colin Bailey’s concept drawing, and his belt features a ram’s skull rather than a human skull and cross bones, but otherwise the design is identical.

Artwork by Mark Texeira

As we see in the prototype shown below, Trap Jaw’s colors were significantly altered later in his design process. While he retained his green face, the rest of his skin was changed to a rich blue color, and his attachments and accessories were changed to either black, maroon or green. In this prototype he has been given He-Man’s left arm, painted blue. He also sports Man-E-Faces’ legs. The boots are painted black, with green accents (the feet are somewhat smaller than the final design, however).  His belt features rivets around the edges, but it’s unclear from the image if there is a design in the center.

Image source: He-man.org

The cross sell artwork seems to be based on this prototype design. In the cross sell art there is no design the center of Trap Jaw’s belt, so I would guess this was absent from the prototype:

Strangely, on the backs of some mini comics, Trap Jaw was shown without his jaw and without the black chest overlay. He also has the skull and crossbones design missing from the earlier cross sell art:

Interestingly, Trap Jaw showed up in precisely this condition in the 1983 Consumers Catalog (below). I wonder if that error lead to the error in the above version of the cross sell artwork.

Image source: Dinosaur Dracula

The final figure is slightly different from the prototype. Trap Jaw’s belt features a skull and cross bones in the center area, but lacks the rivets of the prototype. Also, rather than reusing He-Man’s left arm, the final figure utilizes a modified version of Man-E-Faces’ left arm, with some changes made to the design of the shoulder, forearm, and back of the hand.

In the afore-mentioned mini comic, Trap Jaw is portrayed as a ruthless criminal. Accidentally brought to Eternia by Skeletor, Trap Jaw manages to harness the power of Grayskull, and can only be taken down by the combined forces of Skeletor and He-Man.

In the Filmation cartoon, Trap Jaw is a bumbling and almost lovable henchman of Skeletor. Dubbed “the wizard of weapons”, he is also the mechanic and engineer of Snake Mountain.

In the series guide, Trap Jaw is colored more or less like his toy counterpart. He has the organic left arm of the prototype version, and he seems to have some embellishments to his armor and claw attachment:

Source: He-Man.org

However, in the actual cartoon the chosen design was a simplified version of the prototype version of Trap Jaw. One obvious difference from the prototype version is that his boots and mechanical arm are colored the same maroon color as his helmet and jaw. I would guess the change was made to make the lines of his weapons and boots more visible, without the need for shading.

Model sheet courtesy of Jukka Issakainen
Image by Jukka Issakainen

In the MOTU Bible (penned by Michael Halperin), Trap Jaw’s back story is similar to his mini comic origins:

TRAP JAW – part human, part robot, he’s a fearsome criminal stranded on Infinita and fallen under the command of Skeletor. Trap Jaw has a removable artificial arm which can be replaced by a laser blaster, hook sword or other devices of evil. Sometimes he isn’t fast enough to make the change and then He Man or his friends get the better of the vicious criminal. His jaw is a hideous steel trap which can chew through almost anything and he’s totally evil and villainous.

In the Golden Books-published Caverns of Fear, Trap Jaw has gray skin and a unique boots. He isn’t given much characterization here, and only pops into the story to briefly hold Teela hostage:

Trap Jaw doesn’t make many appearances in box art, but he does appear in the background of this Bashasaurus illustration, along with Clawful:

Artwork by William George

Trap Jaw remains one of the most beloved characters of the MOTU mythos. Part pirate, part Bond villain and part barbarian cyborg, Trap Jaw is truly greater than the sum of his bionic parts.

Artwork by Errol McCarthy. Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen.

19 thoughts on “Trap Jaw: Evil & armed for combat (1983)

  1. Now I think the idea for hocking on his spare weapons to his belt was great. Too many toys (including the MOTU line) have spare bits which you have no place to store them. Sometimes they release things like the Weapons Rack (or to a lessor degree, Battle-bones) but you still have lose stuff that is the first to go missing, or lost at the bottom of a toy Chest. Having them clip onto the belt keeps them together.

    looks like at first, they seam to want to go with the pulley wheel on the head before just having a hole, which is probably for the same kinda thing? the same way as sticking a bit of rope through the wheel, which would have probably been very weak, having just a hole for the rope does the job but a bit stronger.. however, I don’t think it was EVER used for such reason, nor had anything released that worked with it.

    The Arm could probably have been given an elbow or something like that early plan said BUT, no other toy at the time did have articulated arms.. so unless they went for a punching feature or something, it seams odd to include that. probably why it was scratched out early.

    of course, I would have said the change of the X-man name might have not had as much to do with the Marvel comic (which for some time didn’t really used ‘Man’), but the Adult computer game ‘X-Man’ which had.. a bit of fuss.. and was just a bad game with bad programmers anyway.. BUT that was in 1983, and it’s probably more likely to have changed because of the Marvel comic.

    Also, I’m interesting in the reason for them using them legs.. kinda an odd choice as even with the helmet, he comes off a bit on the short side due to there use..

    Oh and I would guess the seller art with bits missing were due to the prototype given for reference being damaged. After a batch was done, the mistake probably noticed and fixed (notice how it seams to be the same art, just edited) to correct these problems.. the Belt was probably a second mistake made ^_^

    1. @Manic Man – Trap Jaw uses the hole in his head for a traversing rope in the minicomic. Kids would replicate this by sliding their Trap Jaw from above by hanging him from a piece of string.

      1. Ah.. the amount of the mini-comics I don’t have comes into play.. Also, Trap Jaw isn’t one of the figures I owned ^_^. Surprised it didn’t break all the time though..

    2. I would guess they wanted to reuse the Man-E-Faces legs because they look a bit more technological than the He-Man legs. But they are definitely on the short side, similar to Beast Man legs really.

      Regarding the messed up cross sell art, the errors appears on the back of third wave mini comics though, while Trap Jaw’s cross sell art is correct on the back of second wave packaging. I wonder if the artwork wasn’t assembled in pieces, so they could reuse parts that were common to multiple figures (chests, legs, etc). Maybe they lost the Jaw and chest overlay pieces. Just a theory, I don’t know for sure.

      1. i remember viewing a chapter of mazzinger z (aka shogun warriors) with a robot named spartan k-5 , in mexico was on air at the same time than m.o.t.u. appears , and a mer-man like robot appears in the next chapter!!!

  2. It always bugged the hell out of me that they left off the “bicep” section of Trap Jaw’s mechanical arm in the animated show, so that his attachments plugged directly into the shoulder portion. It always looked so odd.

  3. Trap Jaw, what a cool figure. What I never understand is the hook: when you have a claw attachment what’s the point to have an hook? Always seemed a bit of a throwback XD
    About his skin it never bugged me: I always assumed that his skin was green and that he wore a blue suit as part of his armor.
    As a little kid, Trap Jaw gave me the feel to be a very bad guy because I reasoned that someway he lost an arm and the jaw and yet he continues in doing mean things: only a very evil person could have such dedication. I were a bit displeased that his depiction in the cartoon was the usual bumbling idiot, but still I enjoyed when he was showed chewing things and using his arm attachments.
    I never liked his 200X depiction: even more bumbling idiot and the transforming arm simply lacked the charm of the attachments manually changed.

    Trap Jaw is also the figure that sparked my hobby of restoring/customize (may I dare to say also “improving”? XD) my vintage MOTU. Checking out my collection stored in my basement, I discovered that suddendly a number of figures started to suffer from the infamous “sticky and greasy” secretion.

    Little digression: for who may does not know about it, is a chemical byproduct caused by age in some kind of plastic and is not a nice an maybe is even toxic, I don’t know. It may afffect vintage MOTU figures made in Mexico and Malaysia due the plastic used and it happens with the legs and any other part made with the same “rubbery” plastic (in the case of Multi-Bot, the whole figure…sigh). All of my affected figures are in fact made in Malasya.

    Trap Jaw suffered a lot from it because all his four limbs were affected, so I used him as guinea pig to find a “cure” for that chemical disaster. I succeeded but I also realized that was pointless to keep my beloved figures intact when they virtually could degrade on their own some day regardless, so I decided to customize them starting with Trap Jaw (and if you think that his facesculpt has a mean look, with his eyeballs painted he is even meaner)

  4. Second only to Faker (and excluding He-Man and Skeletor themselves), Trap Jaw is my second favourite character in the entire MOTU universe. He’s just so awesome, so creative… and in a line that was only in it’s second wave, long before the very gimmicky entries of later waves… he just seemed so different, truly from another dimension! Evil today I often find myself sketching him here there and everywhere.

    I acquired my original childhood Trap Jaw by a mail away offer, where you had to cut out and send off a certain number of ‘proof of purchases’ from back of figure boxes. I can remember finally saving enough proofs… choosing Trap Jaw from the several options on the form… mailing it all away…. excitedly waiting… receiving a letter saying there was a delay due to popularity… until one day he finally arrived in the post. Actually, the day he arrived we were all at school/work, just to make that painful wait even longer, so I had to traipse with my mother that dark and rainy evening to the sorting office in town to FINALLY get my Trap Jaw. But he was worth it – an awesome figure!

    I loved TJ from the off and he was an instant favourite, but I don’t think it was until a year or two later when looking back at the early line (which had by then got into the more gimmicky “anything goes” stages) that I realised just *how much* he stood out over the majority of the other figures. Such a great concept, and well executed… and so many accessories (three weapons, plus belt, and moving jaw… wow). The right arm looked mildly clunky, I longed for it to be articulated in the middle, but for an already ‘deluxe’ figure I didn’t mind.

    Interestingly, my childhood TJ’s jaw didn’t snap shut. I’ve lost in the mists of time if it ever did or not – if it arrived okay and I unknowingly broke it during play early on, or if it was produced dud. But it never affected my play enjoyment any.

    My TJ came with a different mini-comic to “The Menace of Trap Jaw!” mini-comic, so I didn’t actually see that comic until some years later (although green TJ could be glimpsed in “The Magic Steeler!”) but I loved the story of a crazed killer escaping from a parallel dimension… where Castle Grayskull also exists (that was a far-out concept — why was that never developed further?). And his early design with pale green (some say yellow) skin was amazing. As much as I loved my childhood Trap Jaw, when I saw this early version, I wanted mine in those colours!

    Talking of colours, when collecting the line on the second hand market, I did find a number of colour variations to Trap Jaw. The blue of the body could vary to bold to quite dark; the belt could range from a bold green to a lighter green (as with the example shown in this article), and his helmet could range from rich-red to maroon. Oh how I *wish* I had photographed each variation in turn before I sadly had to sell the set on to keep afloat.

    Looking back, it is maybe strange that the ‘free ring’ came with Trap Jaw, a figure already so adorned with extras. I can see why it came with Tri-Klops, who was more ‘standard’ and came with one weapon; Man-E-Faces came with the infamous additional weapons, but it’s odd they selected Trappy to also have the free ring, not one of the other less-adorned figures of the wave.

    Some of the early literature, such as the Filmation Guide pictured, and the 1984 UK annual, mentioned Trap Jaw having escaped from Prison Star, a giant intergalactic spaceship where Eternia (or the Universe’s?) worst criminals were imprisoned. This seems to have been a concept Mattel dallied with for a while before letting it fade away; I wonder if a playset was ever considered?

    I often noticed the “missing jaw and shoulder section” illustration of Trap Jaw on the backs of some mini-comics and boxes. I personally always wondered if these illustations were compiled using different “layers” and they got mixed up in order before the final image. However, after seeing that promotional shot where the figure is indeed missing it’s jaw and shoulder piece, it seems feasible this illustrative mistake originated from here.
    It is slightly ironic that this ‘wrong’ version of the illustration turns up on the back of Trap Jaw’s own box, where his complete jaw and arm section can visibly seen elsewhere on the card. I wonder why Mattel let this slip through and were so slack correcting it? I was appearing on mini-comic backs well into the third wave, so somebody really slipped up there.
    >>>(As a side-note, @Battleram, not on Trap Jaw but on Tri-Klops in the same photo as the incomplete Trap Jaw figure, as well as Tri-Klops holding He-Man’s sword, it looked to me initially as if it was a prototype stage of that figure you hadn’t already covered. The orange stripe on his armor wasn’t painted, and the armor had more of a ‘lip’ than the final version. ….Then as I looked again whilst writing this, I realised they had put the armor on backwards!!!) 😀

    The Filmation version of TJ was typically dumbed down, but not in such a disappointing way as some other characters. Don’t get me wrong, I woulda loved to have seen the psycho from another dimension from the mini-comics, but at least Filmation Trap Jaw had personality, and yes… even did seem oddly loveable at times, almost like a boisterous child trying to show off more than genuinely evil. I never liked his maroon arm and legs so much, but guessed it was for easy of animation. I never liked how his ar was way too short though, over-simplified for ease of animation.

    The 200x update of Trap Jaw, whilst quite different from the original, was one of my favourites from the 200x line. It was different in style to the original yet kept all of the key points, and looked huge and menacing. Possibly the best figure from the 200x line, or am I just biased.
    However, I never at all liked the whole ‘Kronos’ origin (which some fans seem to love) who was burnt with acid and eventually became Trap Jaw. It took away so much of what the original character was to me, even before recalling the wonderful ‘parallel dimension’ concept. I’ve always chosen to overlook this element of Trap Jaw. 🙂

  5. stupid question really, But picking up some cheap stuff at a bootsale recently I got hold of Trap Jaw who (of course) is missing all the accessories. So i’m going to do something about that, and i’m debating about if I keep the classic paintjob, restore it or upgrade it (adding more colours and details to highlight the molding) but First step was repairing.. the Waist spring seams totally busted. not a hard fix but.. yeah.. I’m not too sure about cracking the body on this one.. normally, it’s not that hard to remove some MOTU heads but I haven’t done one with a solid plastic head like trapjaw before.. i’m starting to get some separation on the body.. the figures normally had 4 plastic pegs which held the two halfs of the body together and they didn’t glue them, but I’m not totally sure..

    While it’s not really the main field for this site, I was debating if you would be interesting in some collection of ‘repair advice’ etc apart from a tiny bit at CollectMasters.org, there doesn’t appear to be a huge amount on restoring/upgrading old MOTU figures… Would it be something you would be interested in? I’m sure I can pick up some cheap figures for work to show off, and I know some places with some interesting ideas which I can show and give bits on.. or maybe someone else with a bit more experience (I tinker). kinda a complete dissection of the toys too ^_^

  6. Hi Manic Man, I actually think that would be very interesting. I could definitely have a section for figure repair how-tos, since the main focus is vintage MOTU figures. I’d be interested to see what you could put together! 🙂

  7. I’ll have to try to pick up a bunch more at bootsales ^_^ (while the figures are mostly pretty cheap, it’s not that way on ebay UK ¬_¬). I got some rought outlines so far, and i’ll need to get some toys for photos.

  8. Sounds good! If you want to connect once you have something ready, I can be reached at battleramblog (at) gmail.com


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