Comics

“Within these Walls… Armageddon!” French edition

I recently picked up the French Superman Géant #23 issue (Jan/Feb/March 1984), mostly for the back cover, which features one of my favorite pieces of early MOTU photography. The photo includes first release/test market blue beard Stratos, orange cheeks Skeletor, striped tail Battle Cat, red dots helmet Man-At-Arms, and a third generation Teela prototype with She-Ra-like leg articulation:

But, aside from that, the issue also features the French edition of the 1983 DC Comics story, Within these Walls… Armageddon! (Apocalypse à la Forteresse). The story was the third in a three-part story that also included To Tempt The Gods and The Key To Castle Grayskull.

So what’s different compared to the US version? Aside from being translated into French, this edition is only half colored. But the pages that are colored look much cleaner than the US edition, so I thought there might be some interest in a scan of the entire story. Enjoy!

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Seasonal

The Top 10 Creepiest Masters of the Universe Figures

Typically in this blog I do more research-driven articles about Masters of the Universe. But for Halloween this year, I thought I’d have fun with a good old fashioned top ten list. So let’s get into the top ten creepiest Masters of the Universe figures (as chosen by yours truly):

#10: King Hiss (1986)

King Hiss is perhaps creepier in theory than he is in actuality. Underneath his heroic appearance is a nest of nasty snakes waiting to burst through his human costume. The snakes themselves, however, are a little underwhelming, because of the need to fit within the exterior human shell. A+ for the creepy idea, but a C for execution.

#9: Mosquitor (1987)

Mosquitor is one of the wildest characters in Masters of the Universe, which is really saying something. With an oversized mechanical mosquito head and space-age techno-boots, Mosquitor is more bizarre than creepy, until you get to his chest. He has a transparent bat-shaped chest that oozes blood at the push of a button, which is the best Halloween party trick ever.

From Enter… Buzz Saw Hordak! Illustrated by Bruce Timm.

#8: Hordak (1985)

Although Hordak doesn’t have any creepy gimmicks, he looks like a vampire from an alien planet. With blood red teeth and a costume festooned with Horde bats, he’s not someone you would want to meet in a dark alley behind an Etherian pub.

Hordak concept art, by Ted Mayer. Source: Dark Horse/Power and Honor Foundation

#7: Skeletor (1982)

Few of Skeletor’s minions could ever be as creepy as the Lord of Destruction himself. Skeletor is a warlock with a skull for a head, which is not only macabre, but pretty metal as well. Despite his exposed skull and corpse-blue body, Skeletor is tireless in his pursuit of Castle Grayskull. His eyes burn red with hatred for He-Man!

#6: Laser-Light Skeletor (1988)

Laser-Light Skeletor replica, by Barbarossa Custom Creations

The original Skeletor concept was creepy enough. But this 1988 variant was even creepier, running the character through an HR Geiger machine that infused the figure’s flesh with all kinds of wires and embedded machinery. On top of that he has glowing red LEDs for eyes. The end result delivers all the creep-factor of the original with an added dose of body horror.

#5: Mantenna (1985)

Mantenna is no doubt the most bizarre creature in the Masters of the Universe menagerie. Featuring bloodshot eyes on stocks, elephantine ears, a mouth like the Sarlacc pitt, and four insect-like legs, Mantenna is a Kafkaesque nightmare.

Mantenna concept art, by Ted Mayer. Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation/The Art of He-Man.

#4: Leech (1985)

Leech is an evil blood-sucking green swamp monster with suction cups for hands and feet and a suction cup mouth. What’s not to love? Leech is one of my all-time favorite figures. He reminds me a bit of the salt vampire from the original Star Trek series – the creature also had a sucker face and suckers on its hands. That episode gave me a serious case of the creeps as a kid.

#3: Modulok (1985)

In some ways, Modulok is just a little bit cute looking, until you understand that all of his body parts are interchangable. Modulok can just casually remove his head and replace it with an arm. In his minicomic story, Modulok is mailed to the Heroic Warriors in an unsettling box full of body parts, like the end scene in Seven.

#2: Snake Face (1987)

Snake Face stands out among Masters of the Universe characters as easily the most gruesome-looking. Based on the Medusa monster from Greek mythology, Snake Face is not content to have snakes coming from the top of his head. They also pop out of his eyes, mouth and torso in horrifying fashion.

#1: Scare Glow (1987)

Scare Glow looks like a Halloween decoration come to life. His literal power, besides being invisible during the day and glowing at night, is to scare his enemies so much they became unable to resist him. With his cracked skull and glow-in-the-dark bones, Scare Glow is the embodiment of “spooky” in the Masters of the Universe vintage toyline.

From The Search for Keldor, illustrated by Bruce Timm.

And that’s it! I hope you’ve enjoyed my picks for creepiest Masters of the Universe figures. I’m sure every fan of these figures would have a slightly different list. I’d love to hear your picks in the the comments. Happy Halloween from Battle Ram: A He-Man Blog!

Evil Warriors

Terror Claws Skeletor – Evil leader with the claw-swinging action! (1986)

I don’t seem to recall much about Terror Claws Skeletor from childhood, but he’s certainly one of the most flamboyant of the Skeletor variants released over the years. He’s often referred to by fans as “sports bra Skeletor”, but his armor, in fairness, is more like the 80s muscle shirt modeled by “Macho Man” Randy Savage, below:

Design & Development

Terror Claws Skeletor was, I believe, designed by Alan Tyler. In the Power and Honor Foundation catalog (below), we can see an early concept design showing how the figure’s action feature would work:

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

The design on the above armor is reminiscent of the bat design on Battle Armor Skeletor. The armor design would be altered on the final figure, however. We can see it represented (in unpainted form) in David Wolfram‘s Tyrantisaurus concept art, below:

Image courtesy of David Wolfram

It’s possible the armor was inspired by an early Man-E-Faces concept by Mark Taylor:

Image courtesy of Rebecca Salari Taylor

The cross sell artwork for the figure represents the finalized design:

This interesting test test shot (photos by Mike Holbrook) shows the figure with light flesh tone skin and an orange and white costume:

Terror Claws Skeletor was trademarked on June 14, 1985, and the copyright for the figure was registered May 19, 1986.

Production Toy

Terror Claws Skeletor was the first Skeletor variant to have almost entirely newly sculpted parts. He has newly designed legs with much larger toes (Laser-Light Skeletor would use the same basic foot shape in its design) and ball-jointed legs. His armor (painted a light metallic purple is a part of his chest sculpt. His arms are based on previous Skeletor arms, but the hands and forearms were modified him to allow him to wear his Terror Claws.

Images via eBay
1986 Mattel catalog. Source: Natalie NHT
Source: Natalie NHT
Source: Natalie NHT
Image source: He-Man.it
“Magic Boy” 1989 Italian magazine

Packaging

Terror Claws Skeletor was released on an oversized card with an illustration on the front by William George. It was advertised as the “5th Anniversary Collector’s Edition”, which is interesting because Masters of the Universe to my knowledge was launched in 1982, four years earlier. However, some fans have theorized that MOTU actually was launched in late 1981, base on their memories. That’s also backed up by an old audio interview of Mark Taylor. I haven’t found any documentary evidence to really support that MOTU came out in 1981, but this is nevertheless something interesting that at least points in that direction.

The back of the card featured an illustration by Errol McCarthy, and illustrated the figure’s arm-swinging action feature:

Image source: KMKA
Original line art by Errol McCarthy. Image via He-Man.org

The figure was also released in a gift set with Flying Fists He-Man, featuring artwork on the front against by William George:

Image source: Jon English

Comics

In the figure’s accompanying minicomic, The Terror Claws Strike!, Spikor is commissioned by Skeletor to create a new weapon. The claws themselves look more or less like the toy (albeit with longer, segmented fingers, similar to those in the concept art), but the “beastly pincher” looks plain and mechanical, not like the skull weapon that came with the toy. Skeletor’s costume is also based on his animated look, rather than the actual Terror Claws figure.

The Terror Claws also appear in Escape From The Slime Pit. In the story, a slime-covered and brainwashed He-Man shows up to destroy Skeletor:

Image source: Dark Horse

A rather comic depiction of the Terror Claws appears in the May 1, 1986 issue of Star Comics Masters of the Universe series. In the story, the “claws” look like floppy blue gloves:

Update: Øyvind Meisfjord mentions that a better illustration of the Terror Claws appears in a later issue of the Star Comics. He shares these images from his Norwegian copy:

Other Artwork

Terror Claws Skeletor struggles with Flying Fists He-Man for the Cosmic Key in this (as far as I know) unproduced illustration by William George

Image source: Roger Mahafy

They also appear front and center in William George’s Eternia poster:

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

They also appear on the box art for the Eternia playset, also illustrated by William George:

The figure also appears illustrated in this sticker from Spain:

Terror Claws Skeletor in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has kindly contributed the following images and video of Terror Claws Skeletor in action:

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Heroic Warriors, Production Variants

Man-At-Arms – France Variant

There are a lot of different ways to collect Masters of the Universe figures. You can collect by wave (first, second, third, etc), by line (original, New Adventures, 200x, Classics, etc.) or by character. You can also collect by country of manufacture, which starts to get into some pretty esoteric territory. Some collectors have very impressive shelves filled with dozens of the same figure, each from a different country of origin, and each with slight differences in appearance.

One of the most interesting of such variants is the made in France Man-At-Arms, shown below:

Made in France
Notice the extra cuff on the armor at the wrist.

The most interesting thing about the France variant is the little cuff at the end of the figure’s armor at the wrist. That detail was included in the Man-At-Arms prototype (below), but it was cut from the production figure. Somehow it made it into the France version.

Prototype Man-At-Arms. Image source: James Eatock

There are other differences compared to the made in Taiwan versions (which were the types most commonly sold in the US). The plastic on the France version is cast in much more vivid colors. The feel of the plastic itself is quite different compared to the Taiwan release, and is somewhat waxy to the touch. The paint on the France belt also tends to be uneven,and the boots and loincloth are a much darker color as well.

Left: first release Taiwan version. Right: Made in France version.
Left: first release Taiwan version. Right: Made in France version.

There is another French variant from later on in the run. It’s a version with enlarged boots (like Thunder Punch He-Man‘s). However, the boots are separately molded pieces, and are cast in a very rubbery material:

Image via He-Man.org
Image via He-Man.org
Image via He-Man.org
Image via He-Man.org

The “rubber boots” France figures also include Battle Armor He-Man, Tri-Klops, Jitsu, Fisto, and possibly others. Also notably (thanks to Dani Ramón Abril for the information), some Spanish releases of Man-At-Arms use the early French mold, down to the “France” stamp on the back.

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