The Origin of He-Man’s Boot Dagger

Guest post by Jukka Issakainen

Recently the news broke that Mattel were making an exclusive He-Man & Prince Adam 2-pack for San Diego Comic-Con 2019.

“Pixel Dan” later managed to confirm that it will be a new toyline from Mattel for adult collectors, called Masters of the Universe Origins — with the Four Horsemen on duty to handle sculpting. They did not sculpt He-Man and Prince Adam, but will be taking care of the following figures. A retail release is expected during Fall 2020. At San Diego Comic-Con 2019, Mattel showcased other figures for the line, including Skeletor, Beast Man, Teela, Evil-Lyn and Man-At-Arms which are based on their original vintage action figures but with more articulation and some enhancements like a new face-sculpt for Evil-Lyn or the addition of a mustache for Man-At-Arms.

Early versions of the figures with a few differences from the final toys, such as the gold handle on the sword and the knife going all the way through the top of He-Man’s boot

The idea with these new action figure designs and theme seems to hearken back to… well to the origins of the characters. With the exclusive packaged figures; this version of blue-vest savage Prince Adam design debuted in DC Comics special preview “Fate is the Killer” for Masters of the Universe (published August 5th, 1982) and the same design appeared in mini-series issue #1 “To Tempt the Gods” (released September 9th, 1982). His first appearance had a different look (from DC Comics presents #47 “From Eternia — With Death”.)

From Eternia – With Death, 1982. First appearance of Prince Adam. Written by Paul Kupperberg, pencils by Curt Swan
Fate is the Killer, 1982. Second appearance of Prince Adam. Written by Paul Kupperberg, art by Curt Swan/Dave Hunt
To Tempt the Gods, 1982. Third appearance of Prince Adam. Recolored by Jukka Issakainen. Written by Paul Kupperberg, pencils by George Tuska
Masks of Power, 1984. Written by Michael Halperin, artwork by Alfredo Alcala

The DC Mini-series design of blue-vest Prince Adam later appeared in Mattel’s minicomic wave 3 (1984). Accordingly the packaging art by Axel Giménez, Val Staples and Nate Baertsch for the 2019 exclusive was requested by Mattel to pay homage to style of the early minicomic art, and they did a great job emulating the spirit of Alfredo Alcala.

Another noteworthy thing with these figures is the addition of a boot-knife for He-Man.

The boot-knife has always been a fascinating accessory. As a weapon it’s easy to carry and can be very effective. Many illustrations with Tarzan have him using a knife, and as Conan the barbarian once said “Cimmerians generally prefer… the dagger.”

It’s no surprise Masters of the Universe has many influences from fantasy and barbarian settings, mixed with sci-fi elements.

In the early concept art by Mark Taylor, He-Man can be seen with the boot-knife.

Second color version of Mark Taylor’s He-Man concept, August 3, 1981. Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

Accordingly, Taylor recalled the boot knife’s inspiration:

“[Mark said] It’s a dagger. It came from our scuba diving days.”

Rebecca Salari Taylor

And that is an interesting tidbit about the boot-knife dagger. Big thanks to Rebecca and Mark for sharing this with me!

He-Man of course isn’t the only character in Mark Taylor’s B-sheet artworks to have a dagger in their boot. Man-At-Arms sports one too. Though the showcased MOTU Origins figure doesn’t seem to have one in his boot.

From the Mark Taylor Portfolio, published by Super7/The Power and the Honor Foundation

The dagger perhaps makes its most famous appearance in the very first minicomic “He-Man and the Powersword” (1982), written by Don Glut and illustrated by Alfredo Alcala. For fans this was the first place they remember seeing it and in a way feels ubiquitous to the early stories much like Teela’s Horse, where you could imagine it showing up in activity/coloring books and other early material. Curiously though the dagger does not appear in any other minicomic (that is to say, the small comics that came packed with the figures) after the first one.

In the minicomic pages He-Man, a warrior from a jungle tribe comes across the Sorceress who bestows him “the treasures I have guarded all these years” and we see an axe, a shield, the power harness and other items and vehicles which He-Man receives. The Sorceress described the items being invented before the Great Wars. Possibly the dagger came from that era. He is seen with the dagger in his boot in subsequent pages but sadly it is never mentioned in the text and we don’t see him use it.

The next time we would see the dagger, came in DC Comics Presents issue #47 “From Eternia — With Death!”  where He-Man meets Superman for the first time (released April 8th, 1982). The story is also the first time we see Prince Adam and after he goes into the Cave of Power and is transformed, the dagger appears in his boot. Sadly in this action adventure He-Man doesn’t use the dagger either, and out of 6 panels where it shows up, one time it switches to He-Man’s left boot, instead of the right one.

After that, DC Comics published a special preview “Fate is the Killer” for Masters of the Universe (published August 5th, 1982) inside over a dozen DC-titles. Here the dagger is present on the cover-art, but it’s nowhere to be found in the pages.

Following the schedule of DC Comics, the dagger had been phased out completely by the time DC Mini-series #1 was released (September 9th, 1982).

There is also an early copy ad where He-Man is illustrated with the dagger. The same image was re-used for Castle Grayskull instruction-sheet, but for that the dagger was removed.

Now it has been mentioned that the new Masters of the Universe Origins action figures will also come with minicomics. Hopefully in the case of He-Man, we get to see him feature his dagger in action.

Another instance where a knife from a boot was seen in action came with the 1987 Masters of the Universe motion picture.

1987 Masters of the Universe movie poster by Drew Struzan. Image source: The Art of He-Man

Early on He-Man spots a captured Gwildor by Skeletor’s Troops and intervenes the group. During the fight He-Man reaches to his right boot for a knife and throws it at one Trooper.

This was shown in the concept art for He-Man by Jean “Moebius” Giraud and William Stout.

The boot knife is a cool addition in the movie and hearkens back to the early minicomic roots of He-Man.

Hope you enjoyed this look on He-Man’s boot dagger and its origins. My thanks to Adam for having me come up and write this guest post! Thanks also to James Eatock and Øyvind Johannes Meisfjord for help with some images. If you discover the boot dagger in other media, drop us a note!

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Tuskador: Mighty and Mysterious Intergalactic Trader (1991)

Tuskador is one of the few heroic New Adventures of He-Man figures that is every bit as outlandish in his design as his Evil Mutant counterparts. Sporting gigantic tusks and a gold and blue elephant costume, Tuskador thinks subtlety is for other Galactic Guardians.

Design & Development

Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of specific information about the design and development of Tuskador, but I do have a few images. Most of the Galactic Guardian characters were designed by Martin Arriola, and that may be the case here.

There is some artwork by Errol McCarthy that shows a concept that might be related. On Errol’s file for the image below, he calls the character “Battle Beard”. I’m not sure if that was the actual name for the concept, but it does show an elephant-like trunk coming out from the character’s chin like a sort of beard. He has the same blue and gold color scheme as Tuskador, and he has an elephant-like appearance, so it could be related.

There is also a prototype image of Tuskador (known as Insyzor overseas), where he sports a gold costume with green skin. It’s possible at this stage he was intended as an Evil Mutant, which might explain his more outlandish design.

Image source: Grayskull Museum

Here is a test shot version of the figure, originally shared by King Megator, and posted at www.grayskullmuseum.com. Test shots are produced in random colors to test out the mold. This one sports two golden guns.

A finalized, hand-painted prototype appears in various catalog images. The clearest image I’ve found is on this Spanish playing card, via La Cueva del Terror:

Image source: La Cueva del Terror

The production figure sports a gold and blue costume, with ivory-like tusks and mega blaster. He features a leaver on his back that can swivel the tusks in and out to capture opponents. Tuskador is slightly bulkier than many other New Adventures figures. Unlike his MOTU counterpart Snout Spout, Tuskador’s trunk is somewhat diminutive. All the focus is on the tusks.

Packaging

Tuskador was released on the standard New Adventures card. On the back there is a bio that gives some background on the character:

Mighty and Mysterious Inter-galactic Trader from the star system Polarides. He’s ready to fight fist and tusk for He-Man to keep the starways clear of evil mutants. There is no escape for an evil mutant caught in his swiveling tusks.


Mission: To search the star system for the supplies that He-Man and the Galactic Guardians urgently need to battle Skeletor and his evil mutants.


Battle Equipment: swiveling tusks and mega blaster

Tuskador’s cross sell artwork is very faithful to the design of the final figure:

His European card has a couple of different bubble designs, which can be seen here.

Animation

Tuskador featured much shorter tusks in the New Adventures of He-Man cartoon. He uses them for flipping over opponents rather than for capturing them, as seen in this video uploaded by James Eatock:

Tuskador is primarily a hand-to-hand fighter, but also assists the Galactic Guardians as a pilot. Tuskador appears in a number of episodes, outlined in this guide:

Other Media

Unfortunately later figures like Tuskador don’t tend to appear in New Adventures minicomics or magazines. Tuskador does appear in a few catalogs and photo magazines, however:

1990 Mattel catalog. Image source: Battle Armor Dad
1991 Mattel catalog
1990 French catalog. Image via Grayskull museum
1991 German He-Man News magazine. Image via He-Man.org
1991 German He-Man News magazine. Image via He-Man.org

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