This blog has been greatly enriched by contributions from people all over the community, including artists, designers, archivists, collectors and general MOTU experts. There isn’t one person who knows everything to know about Masters of the Universe, but as a community there is a great deal of knowledge, and it grows over time. I’d like to acknowledge contributions from the following individuals and groups. Some of these are direct contributions, which means they directly shared information, images, suggestions, and stories with me. There are others that I haven’t been in contact with directly, but have been sources of knowledge that I have relied upon consistently. I’m sure I’m forgetting someone, but I’ll continue to add to the list.
Special thanks to Jukka Issakainen, who has contributed in some way to almost every post in this blog. He has tirelessly assisted me with feedback, information and images since the beginning. I am deeply grateful to all of the following individuals and organizations, and many, many others:
Emiliano Santalucia & The Power and the Honor Foundation
Webstor, not to be confused with 1980s TV character Webster, was a figure I never had as a kid, but always coveted. His looks weren’t as striking to me as characters like Clawful or Whiplash, but his action feature was endlessly fascinating.
Webstor, or Black Widow as he was originally known, first appears in writing in the December 1982 Masters of the Universe Bible by Michael Halperin:
BLACK WIDOW* – as his name suggests, this creepy individual has no scruples whatever. His chief asset is the ability to spin a strong web line in order to climb, snare and imprison those against whom he seeks revenge.
Update: Rebecca Salari Taylor recently shared some early concept art by Mark Taylor. The figure was designed around the time Mark was working on concepts for both He-Man and Conan. If you look closely at the head/face, all the design details for Webstor are there, minus his additional eyes. The coloring is, of course, quite different, and this character doesn’t have a spider theme. The artwork appears to be undated, but this would have been done early in 1981.
It seems apparent now that Roger Sweet used the face/head from Mark’s drawing, and repurposed it for Webstor. Combining the head from Mark’s green henchman and the body from Mark’s Skeletor design, Roger added new armor and modified the color scheme to help set the character apart. According to The Power and Honor Foundation Catalog, Roger intended for the figure’s differential pulley system to run through the body of the figure itself. To save costs (and perhaps because a grappling hook from a figure’s head doesn’t make a great deal of sense), engineers moved the mechanism to the back of Webstor’s armor.
Other than the engineering change, the above concept is remarkably close to the look of the final figure. One difference that stands out is the flares over the shoulders on his armor, which did not make it into the final toy. Webstor’s hook is also quite different from the concept – Mattel ended up reusing the grappling hook from the Big Jim Pirate Boat instead:
Webstor doesn’t look particularly spider-like to me, other than the fact that he has four eyes and a black widow marking on his armor. Aside from those details, he could pass for some kind of blue orc.
Aside from the reused grappling hook, Webstor was also given another recycled accessory – the rifle from the Castle Grayskull weapons rack. In most cases this was molded in orange plastic, but some rare examples came with a blue rifle. Both versions appear in early catalog photos as well.
Webstor’s cross sell art depicts him with the orange gun:
We can see a hand-painted version of the figure on the cardboard cutout below, which came from a promotional display:
Webstor’s action feature allowed him to “climb” his own string when you pulled it from the bottom. Due to the complexity of the internal pulley system, it is pretty common to find examples where the string has gotten tangled internally. That was the case with my figure, but I was able to get mine working again using He-Bro’s method.
Aside from his single carded release, Webstor was released in the following gift sets:
Battle Armor Skeletor/Webstor/Mer-Man
Battle Armor Skeletor/Webstor/Stinkor
Webstor/Battle Armor Skeletor
The scene on the back of Webstor’s card was illustrated by Errol McCarthy, who for some reason omitted the black widow symbol on Webstor’s chest. Errol would go on to portray the character in several other illustrations for use by licensees, as well as in the 1987 Style Guide.
The style guide described Webstor like this:
This beast is inordinately strong, and is closely allied with Skeletor. He is probably one of the cleverest Evil Warriors outside of Skeletor, and that is how he gained the evil leader’s trust. His hook and winch allow him to climb and crawl in spaces where other warriors couldn’t go.
Webstor first appears in the excellent Clash of Arms mini comic, alongside a cavalcade of villains like Clawful, Whiplash, and Jitsu. However, Webstor is taken out of the fight early with a vicious kick from Stridor.
Webstor also appears in Eye of the Storm, which came packed with Snout Spout. In the story he aids Skeletor in a plot to cause chaotic storms all across Eternia.
Webstor teams up with frequent collaborator Kobra Khan in the mini comic, Rock People to the Rescue (hat tip to Øyvind Johannes Meisfjord):
Webstor also appears in the Golden Books stories, Power From the Sky and The Rock Warriors. In the latter he helps create a diversion for Skeletor, and in the former he helps his evil compatriots climb a cliff face as they journey to launch an assault on the palace of Eternia:
Webstor was portrayed as one of Skeletor’s more intelligent minions in the Filmation cartoon. His design was generally consistent with the overall look of the toy, albeit with a few simplified details. The two most notable appearances, for me at least, were in “The Cat and the Spider” and “Disappearing Dragons”.
In “The Cat and the Spider” Webstor comes up against Kittrina, a member of the cat folk. This is Webstor’s debut episode and he’s on screen for a good chunk of the running time. He also flies a strange-looking version of the Wind Raider that has spider legs attached to the sides:
In “Disappearing Dragons,” Webstor teams up with Kobra Khan as they aid Skeletor in kidnapping Eternia’s dragons. They battle against another pair of characters that frequently work together – Buzz-Off and Mekaneck.
Webstor also made several appearances in poster artwork by William George and Earl Norem:
Of all of the He-Man toys I got when I was young, Orko was perhaps the most disappointing to me at the time. I had no interest in him at all. Like many fans, I was introduced to He-Man through the first wave of toys and mini comics. While I loved the Filmation He-Man cartoon (which debuted in September of 1983) as a kid, I never gelled with Orko. To me he represented a softening of the brand to something silly instead of awesome. He-Man to me was about axe-wielding barbarian dudes fighting skeletons and monsters. Orko didn’t fit with that image for me.
That’s not exactly how I feel about the matter as an adult. While my preferred vision will always be the world of the early mini comics and story books, I have a great deal of affection for the little Trollan wizard.
In any case, I received both Orko and Prince Adam as birthday presents in 1984. I wouldn’t have chosen either of them had I been consulted. I had similar problems with Prince Adam and was always wanting the cartoon to get to the “good part” where the weak Prince Adam would be replaced by the hero, He-Man. But, on some level I was still happy to get anything He-Man related, and Orko came with a fun action feature and some interesting goodies (more on those later).
Orko makes his first appearance in the December 1, 1982 MOTU Bible, written by Michael Halperin. His original name was Gorpo, and he was described this way:
GORPO* – a tiny, mystical alien who dropped in quite unexpectedly from another dimension and made himself at home in the royal palace. Gorpo doesn’t usually walk, instead he floats a couple of feet off the ground. His amusing tricks and quick wit entertained the king and queen who decreed the alien to be the official Magical Jester-in-Residence. Unfortunately, Gorpo’s magic doesn’t always work as well as it should. Gorpo has a hard enough time just pulling a rabbit from a helmet or making an egg materialize. The rabbit inevitably gets loose and sends Cringer up a tree. And the egg may materialize in Man-At-Arms’ pocket — broken. Because he’s always popping up at odd place, Gorpo discovers Adam’s other persona and is sworn to loyal secrecy by the Sorceress.
Fans of the Filmation He-Man cartoon will recognize this description of Orko instantly, because that is exactly how he is portrayed in the series.
Gorpo shows up again in the 1984 UK Masters of the Universe Annual. Despite it’s relatively late date, the Annual obviously draws from some very early source materials, as it features pictures of early prototype figures and refers to Orko as Gorpo. In the annual we get a look at the character of Gorpo, who looks very much like the Orko fans are familiar with, except his colors are completely different. Here he is shown with a blue costume and Caucasian skin:
Gorpo’s name was changed to Orko by Filmation. Giving him an O on his chest instead of a G would allow animators to flip animation cells and get double the use out of them, saving time and money.
In the Filmation MOTU Series Guide, we see an intermediate step in the evolution of the character’s design. In the image below, we see Orko with the familiar magenta robe and orange hat. Notice that his skin has a grayish hue and his scarf is magenta rather than purple. He also lacks any design on the front of his robe.
At some point in the design process at Filmation Studios, his colors were altered yet again. He was given a purple scarf, blue skin, and a black O on the front of his robe. This was his final design:
Based on the success of the Filmation cartoon series, Mattel started working on an action figure version of Orko in 1983. The earliest prototype looks rather crude, but it gets the general idea across. It seems to be made from clay and felt, with a conical body. Notice he has pink hands, orange ears, and a pink scarf.
A second, more polished prototype appears in the 1984 Mattel Toys Dealer Catalog. This one looks quite similar to the final toy, except his hat is a bit cruder, his right hand is angled differently, and the “O” on his robe is more oblong. His ears and hands are still orange and pink, respectively, but his scarf is now purple.
The cross sell artwork for Orko seems to be a hybrid of the above prototype and the final toy:
A different version of the cross sell art was used in the Brazilian Estrela packaging:
Orko was given a rather fun action feature. The included ripcord could be used to spin a small metal rod on the bottom of the figure, causing him to “run” around in circles.
Orko also came with a magic trick consisting of plastic coins with pictures of evil and heroic warriors. You were supposed to be able to cover the coins with a plastic implement and “replace” the evil coins with heroic ones. I could never get it to work, which I suppose is fitting given that Orko’s magic never seemed to work quite right for him.
Unlike every other figure the vintage MOTU series, Orko was stamped with a Filmation copyright rather than a Mattel copyright. I assume that means Filmation retained rights to the character they created, and Mattel had to pay licensing fees.
Orko’s hat was removable, but given that his face was supposed to be in the shadows of his hat, he never quite looked right without it.
Errol McCarthy created the scene on the back of Orko’s card, and illustrated quite a few other pieces staring or featuring the character:
Orko was a nearly ubiquitous presence in the Filmation He-Man cartoon. Voiced by the late, great Lou Scheimer, Orko played a couple of roles in the series. He was the traditional “fool” character, often getting the heroes into scrapes by acting impetuously. He also played the role of the child in the series, with Man-At-Arms as his surrogate parent. (I first heard this analysis articulated by Emiliano Santalucia on the Roast Gooble Dinner podcast.)
Throughout the series, Man-At-Arms often tells Orko to do things like clean his room and do his chores, and it is Man-At-Arms who metes out punishments when Orko misbehaves. I think Orko was created as a character that children could relate to, but personally I related most to He-Man.
In the third or fourth act of many stories in the series, however, Orko also played a pivotal role in turning the tide against the villains. In Orko’s Return, the little wizard is kidnapped by Beast Man and Trap Jaw, who have secured a magic amulet. With it, they are able to create for themselves a magical fortress, and force Orko to obey their words exactly. Orko takes advantage of their inexact language to thwart many of their plans by giving them what they asked for but did not want.
The mini comics and Golden Books stories portray Orko in pretty much the same way.
The last Masters of the Universe figures I would ever get as a kid were Rokkon, Stonedar and Modulok, for my birthday in 1986. By this point I was really getting into G.I. Joe. Colorful characters like the B.A.T. (which was kind of a Roboto clone), Viper, and Serpentor (he fit right in with the MOTU Snake Men) had finally pulled me over to the Joe side. Despite that, I was always happy to get a few more He-Man characters to add to my collection. Modulok had come out in 1985, of course, but the figure was new to me.
Modulok was given the most metal toy commercial possible. Compared to most 1980s toy ads, this was like Slayer meets Black Sabbath:
Over the years, Mattel designers toyed with several centaur-type designs, with four to six legs, and in at least one case, four arms.
Modulok could be configured like the either of the above designs, but he was much more insect-like than previous concepts, as shown below:
Often in the development of Masters of the Universe toy designs, prototypes and concepts ended up appearing in mini comics and cartoons, due to the long lead time required to produce them. While comic artists were busy putting together mini comics, Mattel’s toy design team would continue to develop the figures. Often the finished product was noticeably different from early concepts, and that is certainly the case with Modulok. In the comic book that shipped with the figure, The Treachery of Modulok!, Modulok is based on that original concept look:
The concept/mini comic Modulok featured a set of crab-like pincers, a set of He-Man-like legs, a set of Skeletor-like legs, and a set of insect-like legs. It may be that the designer (which I believe was Ted Mayer) intended for Modulok to reuse these parts to cut down on costs.
Another Ted Mayer design, Brainiac, demonstrates a similar design philosophy:
The final toy came with no shared parts at all (unusual for MOTU at the time, but characteristic of Evil Horde figures), and his build was much slimmer than any figure that had come before, with the exception of Teela and Evil-Lyn.
Rather than crab-like pincers, Modulok was given three and two-fingered claws, in addition to his set of human-looking arms. Rather than Skeletor or He-Man legs, he was given one set of human-like legs with green knee pads, one set of legs with a kind of grasshopper-like design, and another set of legs that recalled the design used on Clawful and Buzz-Off. His overall look is something like a Martian crossed with an ant.
Modulok included several segmented thorax pieces, giving him an ant-like look when they were connected. He included the two heads from the concept drawing, along with five two-pronged connectors that could be used to give the figure various head, arm and leg combinations. He came with two tails, one of which could support legs or arms. He also came with a double-sided laser rifle that could be split into two pistols.
Modulok has one of the more clever names in the MOTU toyline. It’s a marriage between the words “modular” and “lock”. His construction is modular, his pieces lock together, and the hybrid word certainly sounds like a credible name for a villain.
The artwork on the box Modulok came in was very true to the overall design of the toy. However, where the action figure featured dark blue paint on some of his arms and legs, those parts were colored light purple in the box art.
The front and back of the packaging featured illustrations of Modulok in dozens of different configuration. The idea, I’m sure, was to help kids engage with the toy more by giving them many different ideas for play. I think I eventually tried out all of them.
The scene on the back of the packaging shows Modulok transforming into various configurations mid-combat as he confounds Skeletor’s Evil Warriors:
The instruction manual that came with Modulok provided even more ideas for putting him together in bizarre new ways, including some ideas that would require purchasing multiple copies of the toy. It was a bold attempt by Mattel’s marketing department to move more units, I’m sure, but I don’t know that many parents would have been convinced to buy the same toy two or three times over.
Argentinian manufacturer Top Toys produced a version of Modulok that was packaged on the standard sized blister card. Since there was no such card set up for Modulok, Top Toys reused the cardback from Kobra Khan. The figure itself came with green limbs and is highly sought after today.
The Treachery of Modulok! mini comic was included with the toy (although not in the Top Toys example above), and as mentioned previously, depicted Modulok with his concept design rather than his final form. In the story, Modulok is a defector from Skeletor’s crew. He approaches Hordak with a plan to infiltrate Castle Grayskull. In a rather gruesome and devious plot, he mails his body parts to the heroic warriors, who are baffled by them. After the heroes leave his parts unattended, Modulok assembles himself and wreaks havoc on the unsuspecting heroes.
Modulok is the only member of the Evil Horde without the Horde bat insignia (with the exception of Multi-Bot, who was something of a robotic sequel to Modulok). It may be that his inclusion in the Horde faction was something of an afterthought. And indeed, that may also be the reason he is depicted as non-original member of the group in the mini comic and other media.
Modulok’s back story is spelled out succinctly in Mattel’s official style guide (with artwork by Errol McCarthy). These origins don’t appear to have anything to do with the story in the mini comic.
Formerly Galen Nycoff, evil scientist. He constructed a device while in prison to help him become the most deadly villain on Eternia, and emerged… Modulok! He has since allied himself with Hordak and the Evil Horde.
The Filmation series origin for Modulok follows the same basic formula, expanding upon it and giving pre-transformation Galen a pretty standard evil scientist look.
Filmation’s take on the character design was created by Fred Carillo and Lou Ott. (Fred also did artwork for quite a few Masters of the Universe Golden Books story books and coloring books.) Here Modulok has been given purple shorts, a green belt, black markings on his legs, and some modifications to the design of his chest and hands.He is always depicted with three legs.
Modulok makes several appearances in the UK Masters of the Universe comic book series, albeit with an altered backstory (images via He-Man.org):
Modulok also makes several appearances in posters by William George, Earl Norem, and others. Notice in the last example below (from William George’s Eternia poster) that Modulok has been combined with Multi-Bot to form “Megabeast”.