Evil Vehicles

Fright Fighter: Evil Dragonfly Attack Vehicle (1986)

Fright Fighter is one of the coolest vehicles created for the Evil Warriors in the vintage Masters of the Universe line. I don’t specifically recall seeing it as a kid, and it’s hard to find intact today due to the various detachable parts that came with it.

Design & Development

Fright Fighter started out as a concept drawing by Ed Watts, called Dragon Fly, dating to September 24, 1984. Compared to the final vehicle, the design on this initial concept is more elaborate, with a number of small radar dishes and exposed engine parts. It features two jet engines in the back and four wings that are somewhat squared off at the edges, with ridges throughout. One wonders if this might have been inspired by the ornithopters in Frank Herbert’s Dune.

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation
A photo of Ed Watts’ original artwork, noticeably darker than the original art. This was in the collection of John Hollis.

Incidentally, Ed Watts did another concept vehicle called Fright Fighter, although visually it has nothing to do with the Fright Fighter vehicle released in 1986. Apparently the boys’ marketing department thought that the Fright Fighter name would be more appropriate for an evil vehicle. This one dates to September 13, 1984.

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

Update: You can see the Fright Fighter perched on the central tower in Ted Mayer’s February 5, 1985 concept art for the Eternia playset (thanks to Øyvind for the reminder!). Interestingly it’s sitting on tank treads – those treads actually ended up going to Blasterhawk, which is shown on the tower to the left:

It also appears as a foam cutout in an early Eternia prototype, below:

You can see an intermediate stage in the vehicle’s design in this draft version of what appears to be packaging art, below. You can see it has fewer radar dishes and not as much exposed motor parts than the Ed Watts concept. Scale-wise it’s smaller, too. The wings have been changed in design, but they are still more squared off compared to the final toy. The jet engines have been moved to the “feet” of the vehicle, and the back of the fuselage has a more insect-like appearance:

From the John Hollis collection.

The final design of the toy is evident in the artwork from the back of the packaging, shown below. The biggest change is to the wings, which look much more dragonfly-like in shape, with mechanical embellishments. The overall color scheme is purple and blue, as opposed to the green and yellow of the original design.

Toy & Packaging

The Fright Fighter is an impressive looking toy. It featured two separate triggers on the handle. The larger hand trigger made the dragonfly wings move up and down (alternating from front to back), while the smaller finger trigger made the pincers in front close, allowing the vehicle to grab and carry a figure in front. The cockpit was large enough for one figure. The earliest newspaper ad I’ve found for it dates to September 28, 1986, meaning that it was probably available in stores around or slightly before that date.

All of the images below of the toy and its packaging come from old eBay auctions, as I don’t own this vehicle.

The vehicle shipped with most of the parts not assembled, and some of them were still attached to sprues, as shown below:

The packaging includes artwork by William George. In the artwork we see Fright Fighter piloted by Skeletor in his Battle Armor, while Battle Armor He-Man, Roboto and Man-At-Arms are depicted in the cratered desert surface below. The box includes something that looks similar to “cross sell” art on the back, although it’s really being used to advertise the actual toy in the packaging. There are also images of the vehicle in action on the sides of the box.

Comic Appearances

Fright Fighter appears in Energy Zoids, where Skeletor and his minions use the vehicle to capture Rotar:

Image via the Dark Horse minicomics collection

Fright Fighter is interestingly a vehicle of the Evil Horde in Roboto’s Sacrifice, a story that appears in issue 34 of the UK Comics. In the story, Hordak is the creator of the vehicle, and Dragstor uses it on its maiden flight to pursue Roboto and Man-At-Arms. Images below come from He-Man.org.

Fright Fighter appears in From Here to Eternia, in issue 6 of the Star Comics, where it is correctly noted as Skeletor’s vehicle. In the story, Skeletor flies to Eternia (the playset version), lands, transforms himself into Orko to trick the heroic warriors, and turns his Fright Fighter invisible. Images below come from http://www.motucfigures.com/.

Fright Fighter appears in several stories from the German Ehapa Verlag series, including issues 3, 9 and 12 from the 1988 series (images via He-Man.org):

The vehicle also appears in the issue 2 of the Italian Magic Boy series from 1988:

In the the Fall 1986 issues of the US Masters of the Universe Magazine, we get a brief appearance of Fright Fighter in The Struggle For Eternia.

In the same issue it appears in artwork by Earl Norem featured on the cover and in a bonus poster:

Other Artwork

Errol McCarthy depicted Fright Fighter in a couple of illustrations, as shown in the artwork below (scanned by the Power and the Honor Foundation):

The above illustration was used in Mattel’s style guide, which included some background information for Fright Fighter as well as Blasterhawk:

NAME: Fright Fighter
ROLE: Evil winged vehicle of Skeletor.
POWER: Stalks enemies of Skeletor from the air; can swoop down and grab warriors in its might pincers: radar scanner tracks down foes from miles away.
CHARACTER PROFILE: Like a dragonfly, this vehicle has the power to hover silently and cut through the air with incredible speed. Its hovering ability and quiet sound make it perfect for spying or sneak attack missions.

It also makes an appearance in William George’s Eternia poster, as well as his box art for the Eternia playset:


Fright Fighter appeared in a number of US and foreign advertisements:

Image Source: Battle Armor Dad

Fright Fighter In Action

Check out Fright Fighter in action with the image and videos below shared by Øyvind Meisfjord:

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Heroic Beasts, Powers of Grayskull

Gigantisaur: Heroic Dinosaur & Battle Station (1987)

Image source: Nathalie NHT

Gigantisaur, had it been produced, would have been by far the largest non-playset toy in Masters of the Universe, dwarfing even Tytus and Megator. Although it appeared in Mattel’s 1987 dealer catalog, it was never released in stores. There are a small number of unreleased MOTU prototypes that Mattel actually showed in catalogs – Eldor, He-Ro, Gyrattacker, Evil Robot and Gigantisaur. I’ve written about three of those so far, and I decided it was Gigantisaur’s time in the spotlight.

David Wolfram, the final designer for the toy, actually went over some of the history of Gigantisaur during a panel at Power-Con 2012:

Toward the end of the segment he talked about one of the toy’s action features and the fate of the prototype:

“It had a piano string, and when you pressed the button it would shoot up and stand up. It was very cool but by the time we made it to Toy Fair, people weren’t even going to the He-Man gallery anymore, it came so late. Unfortunately I threw away the prototype at some point… it was too big to keep around the office. It ended up being a much better toy and it did make the catalog in ’87.”

In my interview with Wolfram, he was kind enough to go over the design history of the toy with me in detail, and shared images of his concept art to boot!

Battle Ram: I’ve heard that [Gigantisaur] has something of a storied history. Were you the main designer on that? That one showed up in the 1987 Mattel Catalog, but of course was never released. Could you share some of the background on that?

David Wolfram: Yes, I was the designer on the many iterations. When it was first shown to me, there was a beautiful, but totally unrealistic painting by Ed Watts, and a white prototype model that was submitted by a well known outside toy invention company.

Turbosaurus, by Ed Watts. This would eventually evolve into Gigantisaur. Image source: The Art of He-Man/The Power and the Honor Foundation. July 13, 1984

DW: My first boards (especially the side view) show the reality of what I had to work with. One of the big visual issues is that the feet had to be huge to extend past the center of gravity. Ed’s (a great guy by the way, who went way too soon, and not in a way I would want to go) drawing hinted at this voluminous interior, when in fact, because of the cockpit, could only hold one figure.

Turbosaurus revision by David Wolfram. Image courtesy of DW. November 27, 1985

DW: There was also a figure that was supposed to hide in the tail section, but in the model it looked like the dinosaur was taking a dump! There were lots of meetings when marketing and management were forced to confront the reality of this turkey-like bastardization rather than the seductive drawing. I was given the go ahead to take some of the elements of the old model, and another provision was that it had to swallow a figure.

I did a lot of work with foam and clay to work out a better proportioned creature, and the engineer that I worked with, Ben Guerrero (Tony the sculptor’s brother) came up with the idea of marrying the tail with the part of the body with the rear legs to create a tripod which eliminated the need for gigantic feet to let it stand up. It not only stood up, it shot up, because Ben used a very strong spring. Of course, after all that it went to pre-Toy Fair, where the line was for all intents and purposes dead domestically.

Turbosaurus revision by David Wolfram. December 16, 1985.
Turbosaurus revision by David Wolfram. December 18, 1985.
Gigantisaur final concept art, November 5, 1986. “I actually got a spray can to create the misty mountains in the background. I used markers and wash for the highlights.”

Unfortunately we don’t have any packaging art for Gigantisaur, but there was a fair amount of information about the toy included in that 1987 catalog picture.

Image source: Nathalie NHT

The first thing that stands out, other than his enormous size, is that unlike the other three dinosaurs that were released in the line (Tyrantisaurus, Bionatops and Turbodactyl) Gigantisaur apparently has no exposed circuitry or mechanical parts on his exterior, despite the fact that he has a gun that pops out of his chest:

Pop-out chest gun, with Thunder Punch He-Man

One of his major features was his ability to swallow a figure. Given the width of the typical muscular MOTU action figure, this feature meant that Gigantisaur had to have a very thick neck:

Chomping on Tung Lashor

Once figures were swallowed, they could be retrieved via a door on the side of the figure’s belly:

Heroic Warriors chilling out in the “belly door

Aside from the articulated jaw, it would have had articulated legs as well:

As mentioned by Wolfram, a lever on the figure when activated would cause the figure to rear up on its hind legs:

As mentioned previously, no packaging artwork for Gigantisaur has ever surfaced, but Joe Manzo created a nice kind of mashup mockup of what the packaging might have looked like, roughly, had it been made.

Gigantisaur appears in Playthings Magazine’s coverage of 1987 Toy Fair. The image below was shared in the Vintage Toys MOTU Facebook group. A small image of Gigantisaur is shown.

The relevant text in the article reads:

The Masters of the Universe collection now includes Preternia, a new dimension to the fantasy world of He-Man that sends him back into time to a prehistoric Eternia, where dinosaurs roam the land and many new magical forces abound. There is He-Ro, the most powerful wizard in the universe, who leads the Powers of Grayskull warriors against the evil dinoreptilian kingdom. Eldor, his mentor and teacher, and Turbodactyl and Bionatops, his mighty dinosaur allies battle against the evil kingdom and the dreaded Tyrantisaurus Rex, which is able to release a wind-up creature from its chest called a “mecha-drone.” Tytus, Gigantisaur and Megator, each standing 16″ tall, are also inhabitants of the new fantasy land of Preternia.

Returning to the Futuristic world of Eternia, the Masters of the Universe collection introduces many new heroic warriors, including King Randor, Sorceress and Klamp Champ. who battle against new enemies like Snake Face, Sssqueeze, Nin-Jor, Scare Glow and Faker, the evil robotic imposter of He-Man. A host of new vehicles, accessories and playsets will also be available.

Gigantisaur doesn’t appear directly in any of the original 1980s MOTU media, other than a design by Errol McCarthy for a T-shirt featuring He-Ro and He-Man. The version of the dinosaur here is the earlier “Turbosaurus,” featuring sharp teeth and a smaller mouth and neck.

There is a similar-looking sauropod dinosaur in The Powers of Grayskull minicomic, but my guess is that it was just created by the artist to fill out the scene, along with the various other bio-mechanical creatures on the splash page:

Thank you to the following individuals who are current Patreon supporters!

  • Allison T.
  • Ben M.
  • Eric H.
  • Jon E.
  • Max I.
  • MotuOriginsCork
  • Orion W.
  • Øyvind M.
  • Philip O.
  • Robert B.
  • That Clyde Guy

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!