All posts by Adam

T. Mark Taylor – In Memoriam

Mark in his office at Mattel

On December 23, 2021, T. Mark Taylor passed away at the age of 80. For any of you who have followed this blog, you’ll know that Mark is my personal hero. I had the privilege of interviewing Mark and his wife Rebecca in 2016, and that interview was republished in The Toys of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Mark was incredibly talented in both skill and artistic vision, and fiercely passionate about his work and about maintaining his integrity as an artist and creator. Mark was generous with his time – he always had time and seemingly infinite patience for fans.

Mark was born on June 5, 1941. As a child he had a passion for fantasy and science fiction in both comics and novels. He was influenced by Tarzan and Prince Valiant, as well as the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard. He read and drew compulsively.

As a teen he took commissions to paint pinstriping on cars. After high school he attended the Art Center College of Design at Cal State, and became a combat illustrator for the US Navy. In the mid-1970s Mark and his wife Rebecca Salari Taylor were hired as contractors for Mattel, doing packaging artwork for Barbie. Later Mark was hired on as a permanent employee. He was still primarily a packaging designer when he was tasked with running and designing the new Masters of the Universe line, which had been sparked by some personal art he had hanging up in his office – “Torak: Hero of Pre-history.”

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

Mark was in charge of Masters of the Universe for its first year, and it was an unexpected, runaway success. Mark designed all of the figures in the first year of the line – He-Man, Skeletor, Man-At-Arms, Beast Man, Teela, Stratos and Zodac. He created the color scheme and accessories for Battle Cat, and designed and sculpted Castle Grayskull. He also designed Ram Man and Man-E-Faces as well as a number of unused characters before leaving Mattel. Mark’s friend and fellow Mattel designer Ted Mayer designed the vehicles early in the line, and Rebecca did decals for the vehicles as well as for Castle Grayskull. Mark also did the packaging design for the larger boxes for the line, although he relied on Rudy Obrero to provide the beautiful painted artwork.

Mark and Rebecca
Ted and Mark

Mark pulled in all of the talented create people around him to help create the MOTU line, often pulling all-nighters at Mattel to get it ready for market. In fact, one Mattel employee, Colin Bailey (who would do design work on He-Man after Mark left), did some sketches of Mark, depicting him exhausted after working on his “dark project.”

Mark would later work on brands as diverse as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hot Wheels, He-Man (1989 relaunch), Street Sharks, Starship Troopers, Micro Machines, Men in Black, King Kong and more. After retiring from the toy business, both Mark and Rebecca taught as senior lecturers with Otis College of Art and Design, in the Toy Design department.

Mark was a visionary who touched all of our lives, directly or indirectly. The world is poorer for his absence. Thank you to Mark for making all of our childhoods more magical and for sparking our imaginations. I know of a number of people who are now great professional artists and designers in their own right, inspired by Mark’s indelible work.

Thank you Mark for creating the world of He-Man which has been so meaningful to me and to so many in the community. Mark’s influence will live on far beyond his lifetime.. My deepest sympathies to his wife, Rebecca Salari Taylor and to his dear friend Ted Mayer and to all others who knew and loved Mark. Rest in peace.

The Original Masters of the Universe Lineup – figures and playset designed by Mark Taylor

Related:

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Sears Catalogs: 1982-1987

Many thanks to R.M. Hart for scanning and sharing the following MOTU and She-Ra pages from several Sears catalogs with me so I could share them on the blog!

1982

Notable: striped tail Battle Cat and red dot Man-At-Arms (first release figures)

1983

Notable: first edition “Man-E-Weapons” Man-E-Faces

1984

Notable: Webstor with blue gun

1985

Note the first release “black belt” Leech

1986

1987

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Hurricane Hordak: Ruthless leader with the wicked whirling weapons! (1986)

Hurricane Hordak, released in 1986, is the first of two Hordak variants, and the only version of Hordak (in the vintage line) with any significant changes to his costume.

Design & Development

Hurricane Hordak in some ways is more similar to his animated counterpart than the original Hordak release, in that his arm ends in a “cannon” (or something that looks like one) and “transforms” into different weapons.

Recently Kris Oneida shared some reference Polaroids shown to him by MOTU minicomic colorist Charles “Skip” Simpson. Among them was a blue-skinned Hordak prototype with gold armor. Was this meant to be a Filmation-inspired variant of Hordak? Or perhaps an alternative color shot intended to be the original Hordak release? Without a date it’s unclear, but the gold armor certainly recalls Hurricane Hordak.

Hurricane Hordak’s action feature was actually originally intended for a different figure, as illustrated in this July 8, 1984 “Rotary Man” concept by Ted Mayer:

On October 11, 1985, Hurricane Hordak’s patent claim was filed by Mattel (it was not granted until 1987). The following drawings were included:

I haven’t seen any concept art specifically for Hurricane Hordak, but you can see the final look for the character in this cross sell artwork:

Production Toy

The final production toy can be seen in these US and France catalog images, along with other 1986 variants, Flying Fists He-Man and Terror Claws Skeletor (image from Nathalie NHT):

Hurricane Hordak included three arm attachments (similar to Trap Jaw and Roboto before him), all of which could be rotated at the end of his right arm by thumbing the red wheel on his back. In the instructions in the packaging, the attachments are called the Thunderball Mace, Battle Shield, and Bat-Wing Propeller:

Hurricane Hordak came on a large, deluxe card, with dynamic artwork by William George on the front.

The back of the card features artwork by an unknown artist depicting Hordak breaking into Snake Mountain with his “Battle Shield”:

Media

The 1987 MOTU Style Guide features Hordak in his Filmation look (illustrated by Errol McCarthy, but when discussing his weapons, it references the attachments included with Hurricane Hordak:

Weapons: Now he has fashioned gruesome weapons such as helicopter-like bats-wings propellor, 4-pronged “kinetic shield” and 3-headed “thunderballs” mace that all attach to his whirling arm.

Hurricane Hordak appears in The Hordes of Hordak, along with the minicomic introduction of the Horde Troopers. He has the whirling attachments, but is shown the in the colors of the original 1985 action figure:

Hurricane Hordak was featured in a number of UK and German MOTU Magazine issues, including in these full color posters by artist Esteban Maroto from the Ehapa Verlag issues:

He’s also featured in the 1986 Eternia poster by William George:

Hurricane Hordak in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has graciously contributed the following image and video showing Hurricane Hordak in action:

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Montgomery Ward Catalogs: 1982-1985

Many thanks to R.M. Hart for scanning and sharing the following MOTU and She-Ra pages from several Montgomery Ward catalogs with me so I could share them on the blog!

1982

Notable elements: Striped-tail Battle Cat, and a non-factory painted Castle Grayskull

1983

1984

Rare first-release Webstor with blue gun

1985

Notable elements: first release “black belt” Leech and Mantenna with extra orange elements on chest.

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