Lists

The top 20 posts of 2017

The end of the year seems to be a traditional time for top 10 and top 25 lists. It seems like an American ritual to tabulate lists of the most popular things we did, said, ate or watched over the course of one trip around the sun.

I’ll post them in ascending order of popularity. Try, if you can, to imagine this list read by David Letterman:

#20: Jitsu – Evil master of martial arts (1984)

#19: Leech – Evil master of power suction (1985)

#18: Box Art From A-Z, Part Seven: 1988

#17: Sorceress – Heroic Guardian of Castle Grayskull (1987)

#16: Battle Armor Skeletor – Evil Lord of Destruction (1984)

#15: Battle Armor He-Man – Most powerful man in the universe (1984)

#14: Box Art From A-Z, Part Four: 1985

#13: Hordak – Ruthless Leader of the Evil Horde (1985)

#12: Buzz-Off – Heroic spy in the sky (1984)

#11: Webstor – Evil master of escape (1984)

#10: Box Art From A-Z, Part Five: 1986

#9: Scare Glow – Evil Ghost of Skeletor (1987)

#8: Prince Adam – Heroic “Secret Identity” of He-Man (1984)

#7: Snake Mountain – Evil stronghold of Skeletor (1984)

#6: Fisto – Heroic hand-to-hand fighter (1984)

#5: Box Art From A-Z, Part Three: 1984

#4: Lords of Power Collection – at the dawn of He-Man

#3: Box Art From A-Z, Part Two: 1983

#2: Box Art From A-Z, Part One: 1982

#1: Savage He-Man – Most mysterious man in the universe! (1983?)

This year I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work a little with some people from the Netflix original series, The Toys That Made Us. Mostly that amounted to me providing them with some background information on the history of He-Man, as well as suggesting a number of people that they ought to seek out and interview. It’s a great show – check it out if you can!

Thanks everyone for reading and commenting. I appreciate all the kind support and encouragement from all the readers, and for all those who have contributed to my blog with information, images, and corrections. Here’s hoping for a great 2018. Good journey!

Return to Table of Contents.

Evil Mutants

Battle Blade Skeletor (1992)

Battle Blade Skeletor is the last Skeletor variant produced in the New Adventures of He-Man toyline. This is probably an odd place to start my foray into this series of toys, but I’ve been slightly obsessed with this figure since I first encountered it in a vintage toy shop a couple of years back. Part of it is I think there is something in the face that reminds me of Laser-Light Skeletor – another figure I’m obsessed with.

Because the figure came out at the tail end of the New Adventures line (actually simply called He-Man, but most fans call it New Adventures of He-Man after the associated cartoon), there isn’t any real media or stories to go along with him, at least that I’ve been able to find.

Like Laser-Light Skeletor and the other New Adventures versions of Skeletor, Battle Blade Skeletor was designed by David Wolfram. He bears all the hallmarks of Wolfram’s style, including the narrow lower face, tech-infused body and suit, and generally creepy, asperous design language.

All of the Wolfram-designed Skeletor variants depict him has having a skull face, but not a full skull head. In other words, his head (face excluded) has the same blue skin as the rest of his body. I had always assumed that his entire head was a skull, and that’s how he is is depicted in Danger At Castle Grayskull, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala:

This early sketch of the figure by David Wolfram (digitally colored long after it was drawn) shows a nearly finalized design. The bottom jaw on the skull costume is located a bit higher, but otherwise this is very close to how the action figure looked in production. Notice the scraggly hair on the drawing. That shows up on hand-painted prototypes, but on the production figure it was straight.

Image courtesy of David Wolfram

Regarding the figure’s hair, David (in the comments) had this to say:

The hair on BB was supposed to be a lot gnarlier, but we had to work with someone from the Barbie group, who couldn’t give me what I was looking for- they only did pretty.

Battle Blade Skeletor has some general elements in common with his predecessor, Disks of Doom Skeletor – also designed by Wolfram. Both have star shaped boots, recalling the feet of characters like Buzz-Off and Whiplash. Both have tall boots and a skull themed costume, but Disks of Doom Skeletor’s costume looks more “heavy industrial” (particularly around the torso):

Curiously, a similar design is present in the principle villain (illustrated version) in Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom (thanks to Stradlemonkey for pointing this out). The game was released in 1990, the same year as Disks of Doom Skeletor. Disks of Doom Skeletor’s trademark was filed on November 16, 1989, so I would guess Mattel’s design came first.

Artwork by Boris Vallejo

We might also see some early iteration of the concept in the artwork below by Errol McCarthy. Errol says he just did illustrations for New Adventures of He-Man, and was never a designer of the characters. In the art below, we see the skull motif again in Skeletor’s costume. In this instance Skeletor has a fully-robotic body. Interestingly he also has hair – a trait he shares with Battle Blade Skeletor.

We get a look at a hand-painted final prototype version of the figure in the 1991 German He-Man magazine below. This version has crisper paint as well head articulation – the final figure has a static head. We also see an early version of Thunder Punch He-Man (the 1992 version). Both figures are quite a bit bulkier-looking than the 1989 versions of He-Man and Skeletor. I think Mattel was trying to capture a little of the chunkiness and heavily-muscled appearance of the original 1982 He-Man and Skeletor figures here.

1991 French catalog, with image flipped the right way around. Image source: Grayskull Museum.
Battle Blade Skeletor playing card. Image source: http://cuevadelterror.blogspot.com

Skeletor is described in the German magazine, roughly translated, like this:

The new ruler is now even more dangerous and ambitious. With his strong articulated right arm he smashes his new throwing machine in the direction of his opponents. His new haircut of real hair, his new shield and his new skull and crossbones make him undoubtedly the most beautiful among the Nordor.

An exploded view of Battle Blade Skeletor’s test shot is shown below, over a copy of the “He-Ro Son of He-Man” bible:

This is the only version of Skeletor to feature rooted hair. It’s a strange look. My particular copy doesn’t have the rooted hair (no doubt someone pulled it out), and I think it looks better without:

Figure missing rooted hair
Unaltered version with rooted hair. Image source: He-Man.org

Battle Blade Skeletor has a spring-loaded, ball-jointed right arm that allows him to toss his “quadro-blade” weapon. He also comes with a shield that continues with the creepy skull motif. The white paint on his torso glows in the dark. Unlike the 1989 Skeletor, this version is almost in scale with the original 1982 MOTU line. He stands at about the same height, although of course that’s while standing up straight – something most of the original figures couldn’t do.

William George painted the artwork on the front of the figure’s packaging, but I don’t know who was responsible for the illustrations on the back.

Instructions
Cross sell art
Bio

The back of the package (above) gives us a little bit of a bio:

The Evil MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE! Skeletor has been transformed by lumina radiation absorbed in an atom-smashing explosion. His eyes blaze with evil and his Battle Armor glows with power.

Mission: 1) To slice He-Man down to size and lead him to a shameful end at the Galactic Guardian Games on the planet Primus. 2) To seize all of the power in the universe.

Battle Equipment: Quadro-blade, deflector shield & luminactive Battle Armor.

I guess it’s good to have life goals! The Galactic Guardian Games refers to a storyline in the animated series, produced by Jetlag. Skeletor appears (more or less) in his Battle Blade outfit toward the end of the series (thanks to DarkAlex1978 for pointing that out). Essentially this is his look after he lost his “Disks of Doom” helmet during a battle with He-Man in “The Tornadoes of Zil” (thanks to Dave for the tip):

Battle Blade Skeletor production sketch from the animated series.

It’s strange to me that Mattel was still making Skeletor figures in the era of grunge music. Come to think of it, this is certainly a grungy-looking figure, so he somewhat captures the spirit of the era.

Return to Table of Contents.

History

Copyrights in MOTU (Part Three: 1983)

In previous posts I’ve covered trademarks and patents in Masters of the universe, and organized the material into a cohesive Masters of the Universe Timeline. In this post I’m going to be covering Mattel’s He-Man-related copyrights, sourced from the US Copyright Office, for 1981. Eventually I’ll fold these dates into the MOTU Timeline article as well.

Some of the copyright entries have some interesting details and comments, so I’ll include most of the original text (errors and all), eliminating some redundancies and the registration numbers.  Each entry has multiple dates, but I’ll sort according to “Date of Publication”. I’ll do a separate post for each publication year.

Sometimes, however, date of publication actually refers to a piece of material that a new claim was based on. So a new set of stickers could be made in 1984, but based on material published in 1982. Typically you’ll see that where the registration date is much later than the publication date. Some discernment is needed to interpret this information.

Please note that I have not been able to locate images for all the materials described, and some of the images I have located could be misplaced. Any assistance from perceptive readers is always appreciated.

February

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1983-04-04
Title: Attak trak [sic] battle machine : [no.] 82-5470.
Notes: Cataloged from appl. only.
Date of Creation: 1982
Date of Publication: 1983-02-03
Date in Notice: notice: 1982

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1983-06-21
Title: Evil-Lyn : [no.] 81-4712.
Notes: Cataloged from appl. only.
Date of Creation: 1981
Date of Publication: 1983-02-03
Date in Notice: notice: 1981, 1982
Previous Registration:
Body & limbs prev. reg. as Teela, 26Oct82, VA 111-540.
Basis of Claim: New Matter: new head sculpted.
Copyright Note: C.O. correspondence.
Other Title: Teela

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1983-04-04
Title: Faker figure toy : [no.] 81-4482.
Description: Figurine.
Date of Creation: 1981
Date of Publication: 1983-02-03
Date in Notice: notice: 1981
Previous Registration: He-Man prev. reg. 1982, VA 111-545.
Basis of Claim: New Matter: additions & changes.
Other Title: He-Man

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1983-02-25
Title: Man-E-Faces.
Description: Sculpture.
Series: Master of the Universe ; 82-5879
Date of Creation: 1982
Date of Publication: 1983-02-03
Date in Notice: notice: 1982
Other Title: Master of the Universe ; 82-5879

Type of Work: Kit
Registration Date: 1983-04-21
Title: Masters of the universe.
Imprint: Hawthorne, CA. : Mattel, c1983.
Description: 1 booklet, 1 sound disc.
Notes: Disc in back cover pocket.
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-02-03
Authorship on Application: text, artwork, record: Mattel, Inc., employer for hire.

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1983-04-01
Title: Masters of the Universe : extra thick Frame-Tray puzzle : [no.] 4558A.
Date of Creation: 1982
Date of Publication: 1983-02-14
Date in Notice: notice: 1982

Type of Work: Serial
Title: Mattel toys . : [catalog].
Serial Publication Year: 1983
Imprint: Hawthorne, CA : Mattel Toys.
Description: print material.
Frequency: Annually.
Description based on: 1982 issue.
Authorship on Application:
Mattel, Inc., employer for hire.
Issues Registered: 1983. Issue title: Mattel delivers. Created 1983; Pub.
1983-02-03; Reg. 1983-02-25;
Other Title: Mattel delivers

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1984-04-20
Title: Point Dread & Talon Fighter 82-4306.
Notes: Cataloged from appl. only.
Date of Creation: 1982
Date of Publication: 1983-02-03
Date in Notice: notice: 1982

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1983-02-25
Title: Ram-Man.
Description: Sculpture.
Series: Masters of the Universe ; 82-5896
Date of Creation: 1982
Date of Publication: 1983-02-03
Date in Notice: notice: 1982
Other Title: Masters of the Universe ; 82-5896
Names: Mattel, Inc.

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1983-12-28
Title: Trap Jaw : [no. 81-4302]
Description: Sculpture.
Date of Creation: 1981
Date of Publication: 1983-02-03
Date in Notice: notice: 1981
Previous Registration: Torso of He-Man prev. reg., VA 111-545; legs of Man-E-Faces
prev. reg., VA 120-881.
Basis of Claim: New Matter: “head and arms.”
Other Title: He-Man Man-E-Faces

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1984-01-13
Title: Tri-Klops : [no.] 82-4301.
Notes: Cataloged from appl. only. Based on He-Man product.
Date of Creation: 1982
Date of Publication: 1983-02-03
Date in Notice: notice: 1982
Previous Registration: Prev. reg. 1982, VA 111-545.
Basis of Claim: New Matter: “new head added, also removable torso
decorations.”
Other Title: He-Man

March

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1984-12-11
Application Title: He-Man heat design 83; Heat design number 3354.
Title: He-Man.
Description: Iron-on transfer.
Series: Masters of the Universe ; 3354
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-03-25
Authorship on Application: artwork on heat transfer material: Factors Et Cetera, Inc.,
employer for hire.
Previous Registration: Prev. reg. as figure toy 1982, VA 111-545.
Basis of Claim: New Matter: “new version in two dimensional form.”
Other Title: Masters of the Universe ; 3354
He-Man heat design 83
Heat design number 3354.
Names: Mattel, Inc.
Factors Et Cetera, Inc.

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1984-12-11
Application Title: He-Man heat design 83; Heat design number 3353.
Title: He-Man.
Description: Iron-on transfer.
Series: Masters of the Universe ; 3353
Copyright Claimant:
Mattel, Inc.
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-03-10
Authorship on Application: artwork on heat transfer material: Factors Et Cetera, Inc., employer for hire.
Previous Registration:
Prev. reg. as figure toy 1982, VA 111-545.
Basis of Claim: New Matter: “new version in two dimensional form.”
Other Title: Masters of the Universe ; 3353
He-Man heat design 83
Heat design number 3353.
Names: Mattel, Inc.
Factors Et Cetera, Inc.

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1984-12-11
Application Title: Skeletor heat design 83; Heat design number 3355.
Title: Skeletor.
Description: Iron-on transfer.
Series: Masters of the Universe ; 3355
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-03-25
Authorship on Application: artwork on heat transfer material: Factors Et Cetera, Inc.,
employer for hire.
Previous Registration: Prev. reg. as figure toy 14Nov82, VA 111-542.
Basis of Claim: New Matter: “new version in two dimensional form.”
Other Title: Masters of the Universe ; 3355
Skeletor heat design 83
Heat design number 3355.
Names: Mattel, Inc.
Factors Et Cetera, Inc.

April

Type of Work: Text
Registration Date: 1983-10-14
Title: Masters of the Universe : an activity book : [no.] 1150-21.
Imprint: Racine, Wis. : Western Pub. Co., c1983.
Description: 1 v.
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-04-20
Authorship on Application: ill. & text: Mattel, Inc., employer for hire.

May

Type of Work: Kit
Registration Date: 1983-09-06
Title: Masters of the Universe fine tip marker color by number: ages 6-12 : [no.] 7209C.
Description: Kit.
Notes: Includes col. prints, markers & color guide.
Copyright Claimant:
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-05-18
Names: Mattel, Inc.

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1983-08-15
Title: Masters of the Universe Paint with Water : [no.] 1765.
Description: Col. prints ; 1 v.
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-05-18
Names: Mattel, Inc.

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1984-02-07
Title: War and Conquer : two games in one.
Description: 40 cards in box.
Series: Masters of the Universe giant card games ; 4930
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-05-31
Variant title: War
Other Title: Conquer; Masters of the Universe giant card games ; 4930

June

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1983-09-06
Title: Eternian battlefield : ages 5 to 10.
Description: Col. print ; puzzle in box.
Series: Masters of the Universe jigsaw puzzle ; 4647D
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-06-01
Other Title: Masters of the Universe jigsaw puzzle ; 4647D

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1983-09-06
Title: Masters of the Universe : jigsaw puzzle (mark of the sword): no. 4647A.
Notes: Cataloged from appl. only.
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-06-01
Names: Mattel, Inc.

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1983-09-06
Title: Surprise attack : over 100 fully interlocking pieces : ages 5 to 10.
Description: Col. print ; jigsaw puzzle in box.
Series: Masters of the Universe jigsaw puzzle ; 4647B
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-06-01
Other Title: Masters of the Universe jigsaw puzzle ; 4647B

July

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1983-10-14
Title: Masters of the Universe crayons : [no.] 4203.
Description: On folding carton.
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-07-29

August

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1983-12-20
Title: Masters of the Universe paint book : [no.] 1618-1.
Notes: Cataloged from appl. only.
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-08-24
Names: Mattel, Inc.

September

Type of Work: Text
Registration Date: 1983-12-20
Title: Caverns of fear / by Mary Carey ; illustrated by Al McWilliams.
Imprint: New York : Golden Press, c1983.
Description: 1 v.
Series: Masters of the Universe
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-09-15
Authorship on Application: art & text: Mattel, Inc., employer for hire.
Names: Carey, Mary; McWilliams, Al; Mattel, Inc.

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1985-03-27
Title: Masters of the Universe.
Description: Card.
Series: Magic Slate paper saver ; 4484B
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-09-22
Other Title: Magic Slate paper saver ; 4484B
Names: Mattel, Inc.

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1985-03-27
Title: Masters of the Universe.
Description: Card.
Series: Magic Slate paper saver ; 4484A
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-09-22
Other Title: Magic Slate paper saver ; 4484A
Names: Mattel, Inc.

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1984-02-07
Title: Masters of the universe : a color and activity book : no. 2806.
Notes: Cataloged from appl. only.
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-09-16
Names: Mattel, Inc.

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1984-02-07
Title: Masters of the universe : a color and activity book : no. 2807.
Notes: Cataloged from appl. only.
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-09-16
Names: Mattel, Inc.

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1984-01-18
Title: Masters of the Universe jigsaw puzzle : no. 4789.
Notes: Cataloged from appl. only.
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-09-19

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1984-01-18
Title: Masters of the Universe jigsaw puzzle : no. 4789.
Notes: Cataloged from appl. only.
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-09-19

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1983-12-20
Title: Masters of the Universe, Paint with Water : [no.] 1767.
Description: Col. prints ; 1 v.
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-09-13

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1984-02-07
Title: Masters of the Universe sticker fun : no. 2190-47.
Notes: Cataloged from appl. only.
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-09-21

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1984-02-16
Title: Road Ripper : [no.] 83-4903.
Notes: Cataloged from appl. only.
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-09-21
Names: Mattel, Inc.

Type of Work: Text
Registration Date: 1983-12-20
Title: The Sword of Skeletor / by Roger McKenzie ; illustrated by Fred Carrillo.
Imprint: New York : Golden Press, c1983.
Description: 1 v.
Series: Masters of the Universe
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-09-15
Authorship on Application: art & text: Mattel, Inc., employer for hire.
Names: McKenzie, Roger; Carrillo, Fred; Mattel, Inc.

Type of Work: Text
Registration Date: 1983-12-20
Title: The Thief of Castle Grayskull / by Roger McKenzie ; illustrated by Fred Carrillo.
Imprint: New York : Golden Press, c1983.
Description: 1 v.
Series: Masters of the Universe
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-09-15
Authorship on Application: art & text: Mattel, Inc., employer for hire.
Names: McKenzie, Roger; Carrillo, Fred; Mattel, Inc.

Type of Work: Text
Registration Date: 1983-12-20
Title: The Trap / by W. B. DuBay ; illustrated by Dan Spiegle.
Imprint: New York: Golden Press, c1983.
Description: 1 v.
Series: Masters of the Universe
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-09-15
Authorship on Application: art & text: Mattel, Inc., employer for hire.
Names: DuBay, W. B.; Spiegle, Dan; Mattel, Inc.

October

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1984-01-18
Title: The Sunbird legacy / written by Roger McKenzie ; illustrated by Adrian Gonzales and Fred Carrillo ; cover by Earl Norem.
Imprint: Racine, Wis. : Western Pub. Co., c1983.
Description: 1 v.
Series: Masters of the Universe
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-10-03
Authorship on Application: pictorial ill. & text: Mattel, Inc., employer for hire.
Names: McKenzie, Roger; Gonzales, Adrian; Carrillo, Fred; Norem, Earl; Mattel, Inc.

November

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1984-02-07
Title: Masters of the Universe sticker-stamp book : [no.] 2140.
Notes: Cataloged from appl. only.
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-11-23

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1984-02-07
Title: Masters of the Universe sticker fun : no. 2190-42.
Notes: Cataloged from appl. only.
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-11-16

December

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1985-02-19
Title: [He-Man]
Description: Ornament + card.
Series: Masters of the Universe collectible button ons
Notes: Title from appl.
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-12-19
Authorship on Application: pictorial & text: Playskool, Inc.
Names: Mattel, Inc.; Playskool, Inc.

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1985-02-19
Title: [Skeletor]
Description: Ornament + card.
Series: Masters of the Universe collectible button ons
Notes: Title from appl.
Date of Creation: 1983
Date of Publication: 1983-12-19
Authorship on Application: pictorial & text: Playskool, Inc.
Names: Mattel, Inc.; Playskool, Inc.

No Specific Month of Publication

Type of Work: Music
Registration Date: 1983-07-05
Title: Mattel He-man–“1983 line” : 30 sec. TV / by Mattel, Inc.
Description: 1 p.
Copyright Claimant: Ogilvy & Mather & Mattel, Inc.
Date of Creation: 1983
Authorship on Application: music: Mattel, Inc., employer for hire.
Copyright Note: C.O. correspondence.
Other Title: 1983 line
Names: Ogilvy & Mather; Mattel, Inc.

Type of Work: Music
Registration Date: 1983-08-05
Title: Mattel he-man : Man-e-faces : [no.] 3F2007 / by Mattel, Inc.
Description: 1 p.
Notes: Music.
Copyright Claimant: Ogilvy & Mather & Mattel, Inc.
Date of Creation: 1983
Authorship on Application: Mattel, Inc., employer for hire.
Other Title: Man-e-faces
Names: Ogilvy & Mather; Mattel, Inc.

Type of Work: Music
Registration Date: 1983-08-05
Title: Mattel he-man : Masters.
Description: 1 p.
Notes: Music.
No. 3F2023.
Copyright Claimant: Ogilvy & Mather & Mattel, Inc.
Date of Creation: 1983
Authorship on Application: Mattel, Inc., employer for hire.
Other Title: Masters
Names: Ogilvy & Mather; Mattel, Inc.

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1983-08-05
Title: Mattel, “Masters of universe” : [no.] 3F2132.
Notes: Cataloged from appl. only.
Copyright Claimant: Ogilvy & Mather and Mattel, Inc.
Date of Creation: 1983
Authorship on Application: Mattel, Inc., employer for hire.
Other Title: Masters of universe
Names: Ogilvy & Mather; Mattel, Inc.

Return to Table of Contents.

Evil Warriors

Laser-Light Skeletor – Evil Master of Light Energy (1988)

Laser-Light Skeletor, released in Italy and Spain a year after the end of the Masters of the Universe toyline in the US, was a figure most North American fans were not aware of until they discovered it online years later. That was certainly true for me. Because the figure was produced in limited numbers overseas, it’s one of the most expensive vintage He-Man toys to acquire today. (Update: I’m also informed that there was some distribution of Laser Light Skeletor in Switzerland. Thanks to Olmo for the information.)

I’m not someone who owns a lot of high-dollar items, but if I was going to own one, this would be it. I can’t fully explain why that is – my tastes tend to gravitate toward the aesthetics of the earlier MOTU figures. But there is something about Laser-Light Skeletor in all his creepy, funky techno-glory that really draws me in.

The earliest known concept art for the figure comes from Dave Wolfram, who also did a lot of work on the New Adventures of He-Man toyline. (That line is actually just called “He-Man”, but it’s common to refer to it as “New Adventures”, after the accompanying 1990 animated series)

In this artwork, dated June 22, 1987, Wolfram incorporates all kinds of wires and mechanisms into “Bio-Mechazoid Skeletor.” The design is quite similar to the final Laser-Light Skeletor, except he lacks his cape, glowing right hand, and glowing staff. He carries a strange claw weapon that might have been intended to work like a pair of pliers.

Image Source: Power and Honor Foundation

Wolfram created another piece of concept art that reflects a closer-to-final design, including the staff, right hand, cape and battery pack:

Image courtesy of David Wolfram

Wolfram’s style is pretty distinctive, reflecting a kind of brutal futurist design that would come to dominate the New Adventures of He-Man toyline’s look, especially in the villain faction. Laser-Light Skeletor technically belongs in the original Masters of the Universe toyline, but he is clearly a giant step in the direction of the New Adventures.

An early, rough prototype of the figure appears in a 1988 French Catalog. It looks like a quickly thrown together proof of concept type figure, built from a standard Skeletor toy, but with gloves, trunks and boots painted brown/copper. He also has some crude armor laid over his chest, as well as a cloth cape and hood ever his sculpted hood. The light feature has been incorporated into his eyes (quite effectively) and hand. His staff is built from the original release staff, but with a snake-like head and in translucent red.

Image source: Grayskull Museum
Image source: La Cueva del Terror

A close to final version of the figure appears in the Italian advertisement below. This prototype has a yellow belt buckle, a “Y” shape in red on his forehead, and a translucent red casting of the original Skeletor havoc staff, with the disk designs removed. This prototype uses all newly sculpted pieces, other than the staff.

The cross sell artwork for the figure seems to be based on a further refined design for the figure, which is almost like the final toy, but still features a not-quite final staff and finer paint work on the right boot:

The final figure lost the “Y” on the forehead and the colored belt buckle, and has further modifications to the staff design. The figure has quite an extreme “squat” pose, reminiscent of some of the knock-off He-Man figures produced earlier in the 1980s. He has a creepy, stylized, almost alien-looking skull face (loose figure images below via eBay):

Laser Power Skeletor rides Tyrantisaurus. Image source: La Cueva del Terror
The laser figures on Beam Blaster and Artilleray. Image source: La Cueva del Terror

Designer Dave Wolfram provided me with some background information about the look and origin of the figure:

While MOTU was tanking domestically, it was still going strong Internationally, which was a year behind in the product cycle. This was done to have something new for that market. LISA (the light transmitting plastic) was a fairly new ‘shiny toy’ for the designers at the time, so that was the hook for that segment. I think Martin did the final He-Man design… I did the design for Skeletor. My working name was Bio-Mechazoid Skeletor, and it was inspired by influences like Giger, and the Gibson novel, Neuromancer. Sadly, like many of our products of the time, engineering dictated what we had to design around, and in this case it was a huge battery box. Try as we might to design around it, it made the torso oversized, so to compensate, we had to give the legs a little more bend, leading to our new working name: “Take a Dump Skeletor”.

Unlike every previous version of Skeletor before him, Laser-Light Skeletor had a removable hood. This variant had some extensive wiring around the back of his head – a feature he shares with the New Adventures Skeletor:

Image source: Jimmy_Ikon/He-Man.org

Skeletor’s LED eyes and right hand could be activated by raising the figure’s right arm. The light from his hand was meant to also illuminate his translucent staff, although the effect diminished quickly the further it got away from the the light source

The figure was produced in Spain and Italy. Spanish versions typically came with a minicomic-sized catalog, and the Italian versions came without the catalog. I’ve heard of the figure coming packaged with a copy of the Powers of Grayskull minicomic, but I haven’t seen an example.

Spanish release with catalog.
Italian card front. Image source: He-Man.org
Italian cardback. Image source: He-Man.org
Laser-Light Skeletor artwork from the front of the card (by Bruce Timm). Like the cross sell artwork, this features a havoc staff that is close to the original 1982 design, minus the ball end and the disks near the top. Image source: Jukka Issakainen (scanned and cleaned up)

Some figures came with belts painted gold on the front, and red on the back:

Image source: Wespenmann/He-Man.org

The catalog that came packed with the figure featured both of the light-up variants.

Image source: He-Man.org
Image source: He-Man.org

A nice poster featuring a photo the figure was included in the Yugoslav edition of the Masters of the Universe Star Comics:

Because Laser-Light Skeletor came at the very tail end of the line, he was never featured in any vintage minicomics or other stories, sadly. I suppose we can imagine that his tale might have been very similar to Skeletor as depicted in the New Adventures series of minicomics:

The French Club Maitres de l’Univers magazine published a comic featuring early concept versions of Laser Power He-Man and Laser-Light Skeletor, alongside characters whose figures were released in 1987 (images are from Nathalie NHT):

Update: Aidan in the comments below provides some fascinating background information (by way of Emiliano Santalucia) about the true intent behind the creation of Laser Light Skeletor and Laser Power He-Man. I’m quoting his comments verbatim here:

A little-known fact about Laser Light Skeletor and Laser Power He-Man is that they were designed to be the lead figures for a brand new interactive toy line that would be accompanied by a live action TV series. The intention was that the figures and weapons would be able to interact with the episodes of the TV show. It’s unclear as yet how far into production the live action series got, but props and sets were designed for it and from the limited information available it appears it was going to be space-based and very sci-fi, with He-Man and Skeletor battling for possession of some sort of glowing crystals that were the source of the laser power of their weapons. Vehicles and playsets were designed for the toy line, but for reasons unknown, the plans for this line were scrapped around 1988. As the Laser figures had been made, they were given a limited release in Europe as part of the regular MOTU line, similar to what had been done with the giants and dinosaurs from the unreleased Powers of Grayskull line. Later, Mattel used the space-based idea for the ‘He-Man’ line better known as the New Adventures, while the idea for an interactive toy line accompanied by a live action show was used for Mattel’s line Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future.

I hope more information about the interactive toy line and the live action series comes to light as it’s one of the most intriguing chapters in MOTU’s history particularly as so little is known about it. There’s even been rumors that the pilot episode was actually made but never screened, though these rumors are unsubstantiated.

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