Heroic Warriors

Rotar: Heroic Master of Hyper-Spin (1987)

Like many figures from the 1987 wave of figures, I never once encountered Rotar either in a toy store or at a friend’s house. He was a gimmick-heavy figure that was produced in low numbers at the tail end of the line, and so is one of the more expensive figures to find used today.

Design & Development

Unfortunately I don’t have much information about the design history of Rotar. I can share some dates from public filings involving Rotar, as well as the date of the earliest ad I’ve been able to find for the figure:

• 06/23/1986: Rotar/Twistoid patent filed
• 09/30/1986: Rotar first use in commerce filing
• 10/06/1986: Rotar trademarked
• 11/11/1987: First Rotar newspaper ad

The only seeming evolution in design I can detect in the extant artwork is a variant in the chest details in the Bruce Timm illustration that appeared on the front of the packaging. The “V” shaped area around the chin guard is silver rather than flesh-colored, and the rectangular silver area on his belly has a simpler design that what was featured in the actual toy. Also he is missing the crest on his helmet that appeared on the toy. I believe this is probably indicative of an earlier concept design. Some of these features also appear in his minicomic, which I will cover later.

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Figure & Packaging

Rotar came with a few different accessories. He had a combined axe/ball-and-chain weapon to help him knock down enemies. He had a pedestal that he could stand on while spinning, and he had sword/gear gadget called a “Roto-Pod.” After revving up Rotar’s spinning action (done manually by dragging the top point across the floor), Rotar could be placed on any of the gears on the Roto-Pod, which would cause all of them to spin. Any of the gears could be separated from the sword-shaped base and revved up and launched manually via Rotar’s spinning mechanism.

Image Source: Transformerland
Image Source: Transformerland. Note this example has lost the tip of his spinner.
Image Source: Transformerland
Image Source: Transformerland

The patent filing for Rotar went into some detail about how the mechanism worked, and included a few images. The mechanism was invented by Michael Crosby.

Rotar was packed on an oversized, deluxe card. The front features an illustration by Bruce Timm, while the back is illustrated by Errol McCarthy.

Image source: KMKA

Rotar and Twistoid were both packed with this instruction booklet (images via He-Man.org):

There seems to have been a different set of instructions, with different illustrations and layout, in the Spanish release. (Image source: Mundo Masters).

Image source: Mundo Masters. Cleaned up by Jukka Issakainen

Backstory & Comics

Rotar appeared in the 1987 style guide, where he was given a backstory. My version was almost unreadable, but thankfully Jukka Issakainen was able to provide me with a legible version:

ROLE: Heroic Energy Droid.

POWER: Ability to store up immense amounts of energy, then burst out in a super spinning action, plowing over warriors and taking on evil Energy Droids.

CHARACTER PROFILE: Rotar was created by Man-At-Arms as a high-energy advance scout to be used when the Heroic Warriors needed to clear a path in dangerous terrain. Rotar, who is half-human, also proved to a be a very talented warrior. (When Skeletor saw the droid’s prowess, he stole the plans from Man-At-Arms and built his own Energy Droid – See Evil Warriors section.)

Original Errol McCarthy illustration. Source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

Rotar came packaged with a minicomic entitled “Energy Zoids!” As in the style guide entry, he was”created” by Man-At-Arms. But the comic adds the detail that he was a wounded solder who was healed inside Man-At-Arms’ gyro machine. Rotar has the simpler chest design seen in the Bruce Timm art, but his other details follow the design of the final toy.

He also appears in issue 8 (1988) of the Italian Magic Boy magazine, in a story called “RadioSabbotagio.” It’s a bit of a bizarre opening. Rotar, Roboto and Extendar are in an earth-like park in an earth-like city. They are trying to impress three earth-like women. Just as they are starting to win the women over, they suddenly start attacking them. It turns out that Skeletor used some kind of radio transmitter to gain control of them, causing them to attack their would-be dates, and then He-Man.

Artwork & Advertisements

Rotar appears in William George’s 1987 Preternia poster:

He appeared in a handful of ads, the majority of which seem to have been published in Europe:

From a 1989 Marvel Star Comics story released in Spain
Image source: Grayskull Museum
Calgary Herald, Nov 12, 1987
Image source: Grayskull Museum

Rotar in Actions

Thanks to Øyvind Meisfjord for providing the image and video below showcasing Rotar and Twistoid in action!

History, MOTU History, ToyFare

ToyFare #54: BAD TO THE BONE (Feb 2002)

The 2002 revival of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe had much excitement surrounding it. One key aspect were the Four Horsemen (who would go on to sculpt and design the Classics line as well).

In ToyFare #54 the Four Horsemen (Eric ‘Cornboy’ Mayse, Chris Dahlberg, Jim Preziosi and Eric Treadaway) are interviewed on their approach to the world of Eternia and its characters.

They discuss about their meet up with Mattel, and how they worked for two years on the toyline prior to Mattel’s official announcement, their new Powersword design, and He-Man’s changing hair style thanks to focus groups.

There is even a mention, that how Skeletor’s Havoc Staff was going to have the ram skull-head as a pop-up function. That harkens back to early concept art by Mark Taylor, interestingly.

One curious thing to note is their initial idea to make Teela younger companion to He-Man. Their example is Batgirl to Batman from the 1992/1997 Animated adventures. But that Mattel wanted to keep Teela as love-interest, so she was made the same age as Prince Adam (this sadly was not fully played up in the cartoon by Mike Young Productions).

Huge thanks to Matthew Duch from Legends of Grayskull podcast for scanning these pages.


Gyrattacker: Attack Module Launcher (1987)

Image source: Pixel Dan

Gyrattacker was never actually released as a toy. Like He-Ro, Eldor and Gigantisaur, it was showcased in Mattel’s 1987 catalog, but was not released in stores. Unfortunately sales of Masters of the Universe cratered in 1987, and the line quickly ground to a halt. Like the Battle Ram, it was a two-part vehicle, and each part could function as independent vehicles, or they could work together.

Design & Development

An early concept for the Gyrattacker appears in The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog. The illustration and visual design are by Ted Mayer, and I believe the initial idea behind the concept comes from Roger Sweet. The illustration is dated June 15, 1985. The styling for the vehicle was obviously much different from the final design in this iteration, with a more creature-like look to it. It was supposed to spin up and release a stylized top.

Mattel filed for a patent for the vehicle on July 13, 1986, shortly before the vehicle was to be released. In the patent illustrations, we can see the finalized look for the toy. The updated design was supposed to release a small vehicle, or either of the two 1987 spinning top figures, Rotar and Twistoid. The mechanism for the action feature was invented by Janos Beny and Toshio Yamasaki. Janos also co-invented the power module used in the Tower Tools accessory.

You can see the full patent document here. The included illustrations are below:

Essentially action feature part of the vehicle was an “ejectable flywheel seat” and “opening gates.” The description and illustrations show that there was supposed to be a launching lever, but in the photos of the finished prototype I’ve been unable to locate any such lever. Perhaps they didn’t get that far. It’s also unclear to me where the lever would be located that would get the flywheel to spin, but I’m not too mechanically minded. Perhaps some of you can decipher the patent terminology better than I can!

A while back some crude wooden mockups for the vehicle appeared in an eBay auction. They look very preliminary, with no space for any of the gears and levers that would have gone into the vehicle. The main vehicle is represented, but not the Attack Module

Image source: Yo Tengo El Poder (Facebook)

Catalog & Box Art

As mentioned earlier, a prototype of the toy appeared in the 1987 Mattel Catalog. It shows the removable Attack Module (with removable guns) sitting within the larger vehicle, and just after launching. Also mentioned is the vehicle’s compatibility with Rotar and Twistoid, who were released in 1987.

Image source: Nathalie NHT
Image source: Nathalie NHT

William George did an illustration for the packaging, which was of course never used. However, Mattel still owns the painting, which Pixel Dan photographed when he visited Mattel HQ for the 40th anniversary of Masters of the Universe. I’ve modified the perspective of the photo so it looks as if it were taken from straight on:

Image source: Pixel Dan

I have a low resolution scan of the packaging proof, which shows what the entire box would have looked like from all sides. Unfortunately the text is mostly illegible:

Image source: Grayskull Museum

Update: I found a post by Frabrizio C. which shows some parts of the proof with additional clarity. From the second image, it’s clear that the rectangular piece on the left side of the vehicle functioned as a lever to open the gates at the front of the vehicle. Pushing the vehicle forward would spin the flywheel. So the play pattern was to push it forward to rev it up, and then open the gates to release the Attack Module, or Rotar or Twistoid (whatever had been placed there). You can also see the seatbelt that was included that would keep a figure in the attack module from flying out of it.

Image source: Frabrizio C.
Image source: Frabrizio C.
Image source: Frabrizio C.
Image source: Frabrizio C.
Image source: Frabrizio C.
Image source: Frabrizio C.

Minicomic Appearance

Gyrattacker appears in a few panels of the 1987 minicomic, Energy Zoids. The comic came with Rotar and Twistoid and tells their story. Gyrattacker (spelled with one T in the story) crashes into Snake Mountain (which oddly looks to have some kind of open air arena within it) and rescue Rotar, who had been kidnapped by Skeletor’s forces. Man-At-Arms launches He-Man out in the Attack-Module and it spins into the Snake Men warriors.

Comic images courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

That’s really it for Gyrattacker. It’s a shame it was never released! It’s an interesting looking vehicle. Like other vehicles created toward the end of the original line, it looks a bit more streamlined and modernized than the wonderfully brutish-looking vehicles that characterized the heyday of MOTU toy design from from 1982-1985.

Evil Warriors

Megator: Evil Giant Destroyer (1988)

Megator was originally intended for the 1987 line of figures, within the “Powers of Grayskull” subline. However, due to the collapse in US sales for Masters of the Universe that year, it was scrapped for US release and only sold in limited quantities in Europe the following year.

Design & Development

Interestingly, despite his appearance at the very end of the original line, Megator’s origins begin with Mark Taylor, the designer behind the line’s most iconic toys, including He-Man, Skeletor, Teela, Beast Man and Castle Grayskull. Mark was only involved in the line from its inception as a pitch in 1980 to sometime in 1982, the first year it came out. But his influence was really apparent all the way to the end of the original series and beyond.

The earliest seed for the character appears in the Mark Taylor concept art below, sourced from the Power and Honor Foundation Catalog. It wasn’t connected to He-Man, but there was an idea for a toyline centered around giants. You can see some classic Mark Taylorisms in the artwork, including the ragged loincloth, spikes, cloth wrap, and manacles with chains. There is some resemblance to the Megator character that came later, although I don’t know that they were directly related.

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

Sometime prior to the launch of He-Man, Mark Taylor created an undead barbarian character (below) with green skin and a skull face. It didn’t appear in the initial MOTU launch, but it was later dubbed “Demo Man” when it was resurrected for the Masters of the Universe Classics line in 2011.

Former Masters of the Universe Classics brand manager Scott Neitlich found the artwork for this character in Mattel’s archives. Based on the skull face, Scott inferred that it must have been an early Skeletor concept piece, and it was marketed that way when it was made into an action figure for that line in 2011. However, when I interviewed Mark five years after Demo Man was released as a figure, he confirmed that “Demo Man” was not an early Skeletor concept.

MOTU Classics Skeletor with MOTU Classics Demo Man prototype. Image source: The Art of He-Man

Scott wasn’t the first person who looked through the archives and discovered this character – it apparently happened later in the 1980s, after Mark had left Mattel. Designer Mark Jones traced and then modified Mark’s original concept to create new ogre-like giant character. To his credit, Jones gives Taylor credit for the original artwork in the bottom right corner of the drawing.

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

A piece of concept art by Alan Tyler (below) gives the character a more unique costume (although he’s wearing very little clothing here). The spiked ball weapon is now attached to a chain rather than a rope, and it is connected to his wrist. The scimitar was cut from the character. I should note that the Jones illustration above was done after the Tyler drawing below. But Tyler’s drawing does seem to share some DNA with “Demo Man.”

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

In a concept illustration for the Powers of Grayskull line, a couple of stampeding giants appear, who look like the Alan Tyler art above, only with bluish skin:

Image: Dark Horse/The Power and the Honor Foundation

Another rendering of the Megator concept appears below (artist not specified). His costume is very close to final. Some notable differences include his snake headband and the snake emblem on his chest, which perhaps suggest he was going to be aligned with the Snake Men. His skin is of course not the final green color. He still has the chain attached to his wrist, as was present in the earlier Alan Tyler concept:

Image: Dark Horse/The Power and the Honor Foundation

I should note a couple of other concepts that are somewhat related to Megator, either in terms of appearance or action feature. The first is a kind of ogre character designed by Ted Mayer on June 12, 1984. I won’t suggest this is definitely an early Megator, only that they at least share some attributes in common, especially the version with bare feet that dates to June 19, 1984.

The other concept is Ted Mayer’s Big Foot concept, which, like Megator, would have had a spring-loaded leg. Often in Masters of the Universe, the idea for an action feature would give birth to many different character concepts.

Image source: Dark Horse/The Power and the Honor Foundation

Figure & Packaging

The final Megator figure was molded in a dark green with brown armor, and came with his ball and chain weapon, which was hand-held rather than tied to his wrist. He (along with Tytus) featured rooted hair, a first for the MOTU line. He featured a skull design on his chest armor, rather than the snake motif on the concept art. He had a fairly detailed sculpt, except for his shins and ankles, which look father unfinished. Due to his kicking action feature, he features a kind of a Speedo-style loincloth. He was about 17 inches tall, towering over the 5-inch figures in the toyline.

Image via He-Man.org
Image via ameblo.jp

Back in 2016 there was an eBay auction for a Megator test shot figure. Those don’t come up very often, so I archived the images:

He appears in the 1987 Mattel US catalog, although he wouldn’t be released in the US and saw his European release the following year, in 1988. Gigantisaur, pictured below, wouldn’t appear at all, and the prototype was sadly discarded. More about Gigantisaur in my interview with David Wolfram.

The packaging for Megator featured artwork on the front of the box by William George:

The back of the box features an illustration by an unknown artist, and a brief description of the character and his abilities. He’s called “the biggest bully in the universe” and his kick feature and ball and chain weapon are emphasized. In the illustrations on both front and back, he’s fighting against He-Ro, who was supposed to be the lead hero in the Powers of Grayskull line, but who wasn’t released until decades later.

In fact, He-Ro’s cardback was going to feature an illustration by Errol McCarthy of He-Ro fighting against Megator. That figure card was reproduced when a replica of the original He-Ro was released by Super7 in 2019.

Other Appearances

Because Megator was the coda of the original vintage line, he didn’t make many appearances outside of the toy itself, to my knowledge. He was illustrated in another piece by Errol McCarthy, possibly intended for the style guide, but never used:

He appeared in some Italian advertisements along with Tytus:

Image source: He-Man.org

Megator appears in only one known story, called La Creatura Infernale (written and illustrated by Giuliano Piccininno), which appeared in Italian in Magic Boy Magazine in 1988. In the story, Skeletor and Evil-Lyn create Megator using a combination of magic and science and unleash him upon He-Man and his friends (images via He-Man.org). Edit: Thanks to Carlo S. for the information about the author of this story and for providing a page that was missing!

Want to support the blog? Consider becoming a Patreon supporter. You’ll also gain access to exclusive content and early access to posts on the blog. Alternatively, you can do your toy shopping through my Entertainment Earth affiliate link, below. Thank you!