Here is the 1984 Mattel Toys Dealer Catalog. Intended for retailers, Mattel’s dealer catalogs showcased all the latest and greatest releases, along with existing products within its various current (at the time) toy lines. New products are highlighted here with a “New For 84” graphic. New releases included:
Battle Armor He-Man
Battle Armor Skeletor
Interestingly, Mekanek is not marked as “New For 84”, but he also doesn’t appear in the 1983 catalog. He seems to have been an in-between figure. I tend to think of him as a third wave figure for various reasons, but more about him another time.
Close up shots of the “new for ’84” items. As you can probably tell, Orko is an early prototype, not the final figure. Many of the others seem to be late stage prototypes that are painted by hand. Clawful has Skeletor feet with brown boots (he also showed up like that in the cross sell art). Whiplash has meaner-looking eyes and a purple spear. The gold detail on Jitsu’s boots are is a bit brighter than final. Buzz Off has metallic blue eyes instead of metallic green (again, this showed up in the cross sell art). Battle Armor He-Man’s “H” symbol is colored a dark red. All in all not dramatic differences, but worth noting.
This Masters of the Universe store display is an interesting piece. On the side with Castle Grayskull, it features a number of hand-painted prototypes or early casts, including Teela, Wind Raider, Battle Cat and Zodac. It also features a hand painted version of Castle Grayskull that was used in a lot of promotional materials. It’s the same sculpt as the final version, but the paint detail is a lot finer than what you found on any of the production castles.
I clearly remember playing with Teela as a child. I don’t know if that means I owned her, or if she belonged to a sibling, but her gold and white costume and mysterious rust-red snake armor were etched into my brain from an early age.
Teela appears early in an animated Masters of the Universe commercial, by Filmation Studios. The full video has been uploaded by James Eatock on Instagram and Facebook.
Design & Development
Teela, released in the later half of 1982, was the first female figure in the Masters of the Universe line, and probably the best. Another Mark Taylor design, Teela was conceived as a powerful heroic warrior armed with a shield and spear:
Teela originally had brown boots with white tops, a golden spear and shield, and blonde hair, as depicted in the first MOTU mini comic, He-Man and the Power Sword.
We can see these colors recreated in this recolored version of the B-sheet released in the Mark Taylor Portfolio, from Super7 and The Power and the Honor Foundation:
It’s probably fairly well known among fans now that two separate Mark Taylor characters, Teela and Sorceress (aka Goddess), were eventually combined into a single character (Teela). Mattel’s marketing group didn’t think there was enough demand for two female action figures in one year, although it would be later shown that almost 40% of the kids who collected MOTU figures were girls. Zodac ended up being created to take the eighth spot in the 1982 lineup.
Sorceress, or Goddess as she is usually called now, was intended to be a changeling and double agent. Her snake head dress had fangs and she had a cold, calculating expression in the concept art. She had brown boots, brown armor and a brown staff, a light green body suit, and a dark green outfit. Her outfit was very similar to Teela’s, but lacked the leaf-like overlay hanging down her front.
Although she wasn’t produced as a figure in the vintage line, she did make an appearance in the first MOTU mini comic. By that time she had been re-imagined as a noble and mysterious defender of Castle Grayskull.
It’s worth noting that although Mark Taylor envisioned her as a human woman wearing a green body suit, the comic book (art by Alfredo Alcala) portrayed her with a green face as well. When Teela and Sorceress/Goddess were combined into the same character, Teela inherited the Sorceress’ snake armor and staff, but kept her own Caucasian complexion.
It’s also worth noting that Mark Taylor’s original design for the the basic Teela buck lacked the golden collar overlay that was molded into the final figure. That piece was intended to be an additional accessory. Sorceress/Goddess would have had a unique head, and the snake armor would have gone over the basic body design below:
The first known prototype of Teela exists only in fragmentary form. Sculpted by Tony Guerrero, this Teela was quite racy, in the style of Frank Frazetta’s female characters. The straps on her bikini have circular ornaments on them, recalling Mark’s Taylor’s B-sheet.
It’s possible that this version of Teela was the basis for Teela as she appeared in DC Comics’ 1982 story, To Tempt The Gods:
The cross sell art depicts Teela with reddish-brown boots and armor (these could appear more red or more brown, depending on the printing) and Goddess’ snake staff in gold:
However, Mattel’s prototype for this version of Teela had a more vibrant color scheme. In the model below, Teela is carrying the gold spear and shield from the original concept Teela drawing. In marketing materials she is depicted playing the same role that the Goddess/Sorceress did in the first mini comic.
Another view of the prototype from the 1982 Mattel dealer catalog:
At some point along the way, it was decided Teela would come with the snake staff rather than the spear, and it along with the shield would be colored the same red as her armor. This third iteration prototype gives her Barbie-like leg articulation. She also retains the white tops to her boots and the green detail on her snake armor. The shield looks rougher than the final version.
I believe the image below is the same prototype as the above, only without the snake armor. Frustratingly, it’s very low resolution and hard to make out the details:
Several test runs were done of Teela’s head, one with her hair in a bun (chosen for the final toy), and one with long, flowing hair:
Yet another variation appears in the 1982 JCPenny Christmas Catalog (below). Here again Teela looks like the final toy, except the tops of her boots and her forearm bracers are painted white. She apparently does not have the green snake eyes.
In the 1983 Mattel Dealer Catalog, Teela appears in her final form, except she retains the green eyes on her snake headdress. This detail appears in earlier prototypes as well. I’m unaware of any production models with this detail, but this does look like a factory example rather than one painted by hand. Perhaps this is like the Battle Cat with the striped tail – an early test model that never went into full production.
Update: collector John Oswald has acquired one of these factory sample Teela figures with the green snake eyes. He was kind enough to share these photos of her, as well as additional photos from the 1983 Mattel catalog showing this particular variant:
The final toy features the ball-in-socket leg articulation used in the male figures. She loses the white detail on her boots and the green detail on her snake armor. The sculpt is noticeably softer than the earliest prototypes.
Notice that the right boot has a larger heel than the left boot. This allows her to stand on the ball of her right foot (as the first prototype depicts) with some measure of stability.
There was a lot of inconsistency in the application of paint on the figure’s face. The look could vary wildly depending on the country of manufacture:
Certain reissue versions were released with brownish boots and hair, and brighter red accessories:
Teela was sold in a number of configurations. She was available as a single carded figure, on “8 back” and reissue cards:
The tag line on Teela’s cardback art seems to present her as a kind of sorceress, which is indicative of her roots in the Goddess/Sorceress character:
She was also sold in a gift set package with Zoar. This one is rare and hard to find now:
Another rare item is the Heroric Warriors gift set, featuring He-Man, Teela, and Ram Man:
Teela was also sold in a JC Penny gift set, with minimal cross sell line art on a brown box:
Appearances in Artwork
Artistic depictions of Teela in card art, box art and other media were all over the map.
Teela’s first appears as a warrior woman with no real back story in the Alcala mini comics. The first attempt at giving her a backstory occurred in Mark Texeira’s Tale of Teela mini comic, where Skeletor makes a clone of the Goddess (here depicted with without the green skin) in order to take her as his bride. By depicting Teela as a clone of the Goddess, the attempt seem to be to brand Teela as a kind of two-in-one toy. Take off the armor, and she’s Teela, fearsome warrior. Put it on and she can be Goddess, mystical guardian of Grayskull.
In Filmation, Teela is the natural daughter of the Sorceress. The identity of her mother has been hidden from her, but it is made clear in the series that Teela will someday replace her mother as the guardian of Grayskull.
Design-wise, Teela’s look is a bit different compared to the toy. She has a simplified costume with an enlarged collar. Most of the decorative details were removed from her costume for ease of animation, and her costume top was made entirely gold. She retains her white-topped boots that appeared in early concepts and prototypes:
In Filmation’s animated toy commercial, produced in 1982 (shown at the beginning of this article), Teela’s design is closely modeled on Mark Taylor’s concept art:
Some of my favorite depictions of Teela come from Errol McCarthy’s licensing kit and style guide artwork. I love how dynamic she is here:
My all time favorite look for Teela comes from a puffy sticker that came with Kellogg’s cereal. I distinctly remember getting Teela and Battle Armor He-Man. The Teela sticker comes from the cross sell art, but gives the character red armor and boots instead of brown, and retains the gold staff. I don’t know why, but I’ve always thought it was the perfect look for her.
And of course there were many other depictions of the Warrior Goddess:
Early concept art for the 1987 movie envisioned Teela in a two-piece bikini with her snake armor over top:
The costume actually used for the movie was a radical departure from any prior version of Teela, with only a few visual references to the original toy design.
The Wind Raider, released with the initial wave of MOTU figures in 1982, was a perplexing vehicle. It looked a lot like a boat that had been given short wings. It even had an anchor, which my friends and I used as a rescue line (but which was intended, according to Rudy Obrero, as a kind of “hook and destroy” weapon). Indeed, it was originally designed to double as a watercraft, but it was never portrayed that way in any published media, so as kids we had to come up with our own theories about why it seemed to have a nautical theme.
Design & Development
Back in the day, my first MOTU vehicle was the Battle Ram. I was aware of the Wind Raider because I had seen it for sale at the local toy store, and it was featured in the cross sell art on the back of my Battle Ram box:
The cross sell art, interestingly, is based on one of the prototype Wind Raiders. The prototype, designed by the great Ted Mayer (who also designed the Battle Ram, Attak Trak, Eternia, Slime Pit, Talon Fighter, and others), had smaller engines and steep, sloped structures leading up to the area where the wings connected to the body. But the dragon face figurehead (used as a crank to reel in the anchor) was actually quite different in the earliest known prototype. It resembles a miniature viking ship:
A closer to complete prototype (sculpted by Jim Openshaw, labels by Rebecca Salari Taylor) looks identical to the cross sell art:
And finally, here is the tooling pattern, which looks exactly like the final toy, at least in shape:
And the final prototype, with its slightly modified wings, large engines, and sleek profile figurehead:
There is also this early concept drawing, which comes via the Grayskull Museum website. It lacks any hood decoration, and looks quite sleek. I wouldn’t be surprised if the concept was inspired by the Lockheed P-38 Lightning:
As I mentioned earlier, the Wind Raider was actually intended to work as both a boat and an aircraft. Although the vehicle was designed by Ted Mayer, Mark Taylor did some drawings that described some of the vehicle’s features. For instance, when on the water, the wings would rotate up and act as “photo sails”. The anchor is described as a “power ram/grapnel.” The dragon design bears strong resemblance to a Viking ship’s figurehead.
I remember seeing the Wind Raider for sale at the local toy store (The White Elephant in Spokane Valley) shortly after I got my Battle Ram. I distinctly remember it in two different flavors – in an individual package, and as a gift set with a He-Man action figure. Neither set showed the actual Wind Raider, but rather some artwork by the amazing Rudy Obrero. His art always seemed to eclipse the actual product being sold, which meant of course that it was doing its job:
The Wind Raider giftset illustration was patterned more or less after Mark Taylor’s packaging layout. It was Mark Taylor who hired Rudy Obrero to do the final artwork:
As was the case with the Battle Cat box art, the color for the Wind Raider gift set art appears to have been shifted and brightened on the mass-produced box. Either that, or the original oil paintings have become darker with age.
Interestingly, the first release of the He-Man/Wind Raider gift set described He-Man as the “strongest man in the universe“. The reissue called him the “most powerful man in the universe” (hat tip: Tokyonever, curator at the Grayskull Museum website).
Incidentally, if you want that original gift set now, you’re going to have to either hock your wedding ring or sell a kidney. Personally I’ve been wanting to collect all of the Rudy Obrero boxes, and thankfully Tokyonever has contracted with a manufacturer and created replicas of the Wind Raider gift set box at a price that won’t result in medical problems down the road. Don’t get any ideas about selling it as a vintage piece for a massive profit though. Tokyonever used the darker colors of the original oil painting, so there is no confusing the vintage item with the reproduction.
Here are some photos of my vintage Wind Raider box and my reproduction He-Man and Wind Raider box:
Now, if you look closely at the upward facing section of the gift set box, you’ll see three warriors:
The warrior in the middle is often referred to as “The Warrior in Red” among fans and he’s considered something of a mystery. Personally, I think it’s just Zodac, slightly off model. Sure, he’s got red boots instead of gray (notice Beast Man also has red boots), and he’s showing a bit too much belly, but I really think that’s Zodac. Although originally conceived by designer Mark Taylor as a heroic warrior, Zodac was marketed as an evil warrior. So it makes sense that he would be portrayed here among the bad guys. It looks like he got beaned by that anchor, too. Ouch.
Update: apparently I was totally wrong! Tokyonever recently got in contact with Rudy Obrero, who had this to say:
“That guy is just made up to fill the crowd. I only had He-Man, Skeletor, Man-At-Arms, Teela and Beast Man to work with at the time. Hope this helps. Rudy”
After having seen the sleeker version on the box art, the first time I saw the toy in person, I was just a little disappointed. I actually quite like it today, but as a kid I thought the wings were too stubby. I think had the intent of the design (a hybrid water/aircraft) been explained to me, the size of the wings wouldn’t have bothered me. The overall vehicle was still very striking, though, and the anchor feature was a lot of fun. It was intended to be sold at a lower price point than the Battle Ram, and so was about 25% smaller in size.
Even back then, the wings were fragile and would break off unless you were a very careful, conscientious child. I did not have my own Wind Raider, but a friend who did broke his within the first few weeks.
A safer option might have been the inflatable version. The wings would definitely not have snapped off, although I suppose there is the danger of it popping:
Wind Raider in Action
Øyvind Meisfjord has shared the following photos and video of the Wind Raider in action:
Artist Errol McCarthy produced some artwork depicting He-Man flying a slightly undersized Wind Raider. To my knowledge this artwork was never put to use:
The Wind Raider also frequently appeared in Golden Books, DC Comics and coloring books:
In the Filmation He-Man series, Wind Raider was almost ubiquitous. The animators enlarged it so it could fit multiple characters, and it was a handy way to transport the protagonists to whatever disturbance they were investigating:
It was also great if you needed to push the moon out of the way:
One of my favorite depictions of the Wind Raider is in the Alcala-drawn mini comic, Battle in the Clouds. The Wind Raider seems to belong to Man-At-Arms and the Battle Ram seems to belong to He-Man. When the Battle Ram is stolen by Mer-Man, Man-at-Arms takes He-Man for a ride up a mountain, and makes a point to show off the Wind Raider’s superior thrust capabilities. Even on post-apocalyptic Eternia, masculinity has everything to do with the amount of horsepower in your ride.