Galactic Guardians

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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Evil Mutants

Optikk – Evil Mutant Spy (1990)

Of all the New Adventures of He-Man figures, Optikk is perhaps the most well-known and well-liked among He-Man fans. What’s not to like about an armored walking eyeball?

Design & Development

Optikk was designed by David Wolfram, who worked on most of the evil characters in the New Adventures line. In my interview with David, he had this to say about Optikk:

It was always one of my favorites. He was originally something that I did for a MOTU theme testing board, and he made it into the first wave of evil New Adventures figures.

As designers, we had been asking for quite a while for some nice molded metallics, and we finally got them. I know I used a lot of that dark bronze and copper over the next few years. We actually had a fairly limited palette to work from based on the Munsell color system, and unfortunately many of the colors were too ‘pretty’ for my design ethic, so I ended up using the same colors over and over again. To get any new colors into the system took forever, and took an act of congress. Later, as we started working on more licensed properties where we had to used specific colors from a style guide, that system was abandoned.

David Wolfram
Image courtesy of David Wolfram. Dated May 18, 1987
“Eyeyik” concept. Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog. Dated August 21, 1987.
Image source: Dark Horse/Power and Honor Foundation. Note that this is a modified version of the earliest concept art, with added color and technological detail.

The earliest incarnation of Optikk, shown first in the concept art above, shows a totally organic monster creature, which makes sense as he was originally slated for the Masters of the Universe line. As the design evolved (and was slated for the New Adventures line), more and more mechanical and technological elements were added.

In the early sketch of Optikk, the thought was that his eye would be removable and go into the forks of the staff. We were looking at making the eye like the compasses that went on car dashboards at that time, but I imagine that approach ended up being too expensive, so we went with the simpler execution. The eye tampo design was the same one that I had designed and used on “Boglins”, another Mattel creature line from that time.

David Wolfram
Boglins Dwork puppet

Regarding Optikk’s costume design, David ended up repurposing the legs and right arm from his space pirate character design into Optikk (other elements ended up in Disks of Doom Skeletor):

Image courtesy of David Wolfram

The final painted prototype is shown below, with a somewhat different eye design than used on the final figure, and with a red and yellow design. This would be the model for the artwork used on the figure’s packaging.

Image source: Grayskull Museum

Production Figure & Packaging

Optikk had a couple of action features: a quick-draw right arm that would spring into action after being held down, and a dial on his back that would allow his eye to be turned left and right:

He was produced using a dark metallic bronze plastic with swirl patterns throughout. He also came with a silver metallic “photon neutralizer” weapon. The figure was trademarked on April 24, 1989, and copyrighted on July 31, 1989.

The card for the figure includes artwork on the front by William George, and the back of the package provided some background on the character and his abilities:

Evil Mutant Spy from the foggy polar region of evil planet Denebria. The Debenrian fog is so dense here that he has a spyball eyeball that sees through almost anything. His rotating spyball and his Photon Neutralizer weapon make him one of the meanest mutants in the Tri-Solar System.

Mission: To assist Skeletor and the rest of the Evil Mutants by keeping his eye on He-Man and the Galactic Guardians from planet Primus.

Battle Equipment: Photon Neutralizer weapon

The figure appears in various Mattel catalogs, advertisements and magazines:

Comics & Artwork

Optikk appears in the 1990 UK He-Man Annual, in a story called “Into The Deepest Dungeon”. Strangely, he calls his weapon the “Fazer Flash Gun” rather than the Photon Neutralizer.

Images via He-Man.org

In the same Annual, Optikk is described as “half creature, half machine”:

In the minicomic Skeletor’s Journey, Optikk and Slush Head get into some childish squabbles with each other:

In Revenge of Skeletor and Battle For The Crystal, Optikk is more of a background character:

Optikk also makes an appearance in a comic included with an Italian notebook, with a novel color scheme:

Image source: He-Man.org

Incidentally, the art from the notebook cover reuses a pose from Masks of Power, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala:

Optikk also appears in the UK and German He-Man adventure magazines:

Animation

In the animated New Adventures of He-Man series, Optikk, is usually more of a background character, playing the role of spy, navigator and pilot:

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Heroic Warriors, Super7 5.5" Figures

He-Man: Most powerful man in the universe! (2018)

Announced in 2017, Super7’s vintage style, 5.5″ Filmation inspired He-Man figure was released in 2018 along with similar versions of Skeletor, She-Ra and Hordak. The design ethos seems to be based on the following premise: what if, in the 1980s, Mattel released a series of He-Man variant figures that were “as seen on TV”? That’s pretty much exactly what we get with this series, including the occasional design shortcuts that Mattel might plausibly have implemented in the 80s.

Design & Development

Within the packaging for He-Man we get a brief write-up of the history of how He-Man’s design was translated from toy to cartoon:

In the above sheet (put together by The Power and The Honor Foundation), we see the vintage He-Man figure, along with the animated commercial version, and a finalized version of He-Man’s animated design.

In He-Man’s first animated appearance (a commercial animated by Filmation Studios to help advertise the toyline), He-Man more or less follows the design of the action figure, including the rectangular details on his harness and the round designs on his belt and bracers. He also carries his axe and sword, which were originally intended to be his primary accessories. The commercial can be viewed in its entirety here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BpmvudrnPlj/

As shown in the card that came with the Super7 He-Man figure, He-Man’s more detailed action figure design was simplified for ease of animation once the animated series was greenlit for development. His primary weapon became his power sword in the series.

The prototype He-Man figure was revealed in February of 2017 at New York Toy Fair. It’s pretty close to the mass produced figure, although his colors are a bit different, and the hair separation is better on the prototype. He also has a nice matte finish throughout.

Image source: He-Man.org

An early factory sample with some quality control issues was also shown a bit later along in the process. The red paint is flaking off of the harness, which seems to have been made from some sparkling metallic plastic material. This issue would be corrected on the final figure.

Image source: He-Man.org

Production Figure

Design-wise, the sculpt of the chest and pelvis seem to be taken directly from the vintage 1982 figure. The arms are based on the vintage figure as well, but the bracers have been made symmetrical and their design simplified. The feet have been changed, removing all the wrap detail from the original boot design.

He-Man has the same spring-loaded power punch feature of the 1982 original. The figure comes with a cartoon style power sword, as well as a shield (used rarely by Prince Adam in the cartoon) and a half sword that fits with the corresponding Skeletor half sword. Incidentally, He-Man was depicted with the shield in Filmation’s promotional materials, and the half sword almost made it into the show:

Image source: La Cueva del Terror
Image source: James Eatock

The figure’s harness unfortunately doesn’t fit very well around the back, and sits a bit low. It can be made to sit more or less correctly, but requires some finessing. Also, the figure is extremely glossy. I was able to coat the figure with Vallejo Matt Varnish to somewhat reduce the glossiness:

Packaging

The design of the packaging was directed by The Power and the Honor Foundation. The main carded version (which was actually released second) is based on the original 1980s design, with an “AS SEEN ON TV” burst which, although not featured on vintage MOTU packaging, was pretty commercially ubiquitous at one point. The shape of the bubble on the front has been altered compared to the vintage packaging.

Image source: Brooklyn Comic Shop

The main artwork on the back was done by Errol McCarthy, who worked on cardback art for most of the vintage MOTU figures. The Filmation-style cross sell artwork and the insert were illustrated by Emiliano Santalucia:

The first version to be released was actually a two pack, in the style of some of the vintage figure gift sets. This set was released in limited numbers.

Another limited release of the figure came in the form of a “Los Amos” package, based on the design of vintage “Los Amos” (Mexico) figures:

Yet another version will also be released in the style of the Japanese Takara packaging:

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