Evil Horde

Mantisaur: Evil Insectoid Steed (1986)

I don’t have a specific memory of Mantisaur, but he was immediately familiar to me when I first encountered him as a grown up, so I must have bumped into the toy at some point. He’s a rather unique and sharp-looking creature, and a probably under-utilized mount for Hordak. Sadly he never caught on in the popular imagination like Battle Cat or Panthor or Swiftwind.

Image via Nathalie NHT
Image via Nathalie NHT

Mantisaur had the working name of Mantor in this July 13, 1984 illustration by Ed Watts, which was created just a few months after Hordak’s toy look was finalized by Ted Mayer. He is an apparently organic giant purple praying mantis outfitted with green armor.

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

Another artist at Mattel did a treatment on a number of different variants of the concept. All of them are based around an actual organic praying mantis, outfitted with weapons, a saddle, and in some cases armor. Many versions of this concept have upturned attachments at the end of the creature’s arms, which seem to have been added with the toy’s feature in mind.

Image source: Tomart’s Action Figure Digest

We can see the final version of the figure in the cross sell artwork. The final version looks almost entirely robotic, with hints of an organic creature underneath visible only in the head and perhaps along the underside of the body.

Toy Archive uploaded some interesting images of a hard copy pre-production prototype Mantisaur:

Figure & Packaging

Mantisaur was released as a single packaged figure, and as a gift set together with Hordak. The front artwork for both was done by Joe Chiodo. The artist for the action illustration on the back is unknown.

Hordak & Mantisaur gift set. Image source: “Buzz Saw Hordak”
Johnson City Press, May 11, 1986

Mantisaur was quite large, and stood on two legs with two “trapper arms.” His “action feature” was essentially that his arms could be used to manually pick up a figure in front of it. He features the same gray, black and red color scheme as his master Hordak.

Filmation Cartoon

Mantisaur appears in the She-Ra episode, A Talent For Trouble. His figure model is green, with an overall design based on the original Ed Watts concept art:

Comic Appearances

Mantisaur appears in the Between a Rock and Hard Place minicomic. He obeys verbal commands from Hordak, and in one page, it’s shown that he has the power to summon and control insect swarms, which he uses to attack the heroic warriors:

Mantisaur also appears in The Garden of Evil, a story in the third issue of the Star Comics series.

Hordak’s mount features heavily in the UK Comics Story The Power of the Mantisaur. Hordak (or actually a robot clone of Hordak) battle’s He-Man and Man-At-Arms while riding on Mantisaur (who is also, in this canon, 100% robotic) as part of a larger scheme to test He-Man’s limitations. You can read the full story in issue 32 here, courtesy of Danielle Gelehrter.

Mantisaur appeared in issue 3 of the 1987 run of German Ehapa comics:


A nice poster by Esteban Maroto featuring Mantisaur appeared in the German Ehapa MOTU Magazine, 1989, Issue 1/2, although the steed doesn’t appear in the actual stories of that issue:

A poster featuring Mantisaur appeared in the third issue of the 1987 German series:

Mantisaur appears along with Hurricane Hordak in William George’s 1986 Eternia poster:

Mantisaur in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has kindly shared this video of Mantisaur in action!

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

  • Philip O.
  • MOTU Origins Cork
  • Bryce W.
  • Ben M.
  • Matthias K.
  • Max I.

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Heroic Warriors

Flying Fists He-Man: Heroic Leader with the Arm-Swinging Action! (1986)

I think I only encountered Flying Fists He-Man once as a kid. I don’t remember being all that impressed – I thought the transition between his neck and his head looked very strange, and the head itself looked off to me. Certainly the action feature was far less interesting to me than his immediate predecessor’s, Thunder Punch He-Man.

Image source: Nathalie NHT. From the 1986 Mattel dealer catalog.

Design & Development

In terms of visual design, we get our basic look for Flying Fists He-Man from Ted Mayer. The illustration dates to December 8, 1983, and may be the genesis for both the Battle Armor and Flying Fists He-Man variants, in terms of their appearance.

The action feature itself seems to originate with Roger Sweet, who illustrates it in a concept using the standard He-Man look, and a swinging ball weapon (the page below comes from the Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog):

In the cross sell art below, we can see the finalized look for the figure, including gold and silver metallic armor, mace and shield. The mace and shield elements would spin as the figure was made to swing its arms back and forth, something that happened automatically was the waist was twisted.

One interesting note on his design – the lower edge of his chest armor features a mirror image of the standard male belt design. This was also something that showed up in an early incarnation of Tri-Klops, as captured in the cross sell artwork:

Figure & Packaging

The first First Flying Fists He-Man newspaper ad appears on February 12, 1986, and he was probably available in stores shortly before then. The packaging of the figure announces him as the “5th Anniversary” He-Man figure, which isn’t quite true. He-Man was originally released in 1982. Maybe their reasoning was that it was the “fifth year” of the line.

Flying Fists He-Man was released on an extra-large, deluxe card. As with the previous year’s Thunder Punch He-Man, the instructional panels are right below the artwork, and then the 12 characters in cross sell art are squeezed in at the bottom. The artwork at the front of the card is by William George, and the scene on the back is by Errol McCarthy:

Subsequent releases of the figure featured a color change to the font on “Flying Fists” on the front:

The figure featured modified arms that were similar to the original He-Man, but subtly different. He also featured greatly enlarged feet for greater stability. He had a lot of vac metal on his costume and accessories, which in toy language is the universal signifier of a “deluxe” figure. He also featured a removable clip on his back that functioned both as a way to store his weapon, and as a handle to help kids get a better grip when using his twisting waist/arm swinging feature. He also had a hard, solid head, which in my opinion reduces the quality of his face compared to the original hollow polyvinyl head. The images below come from eBay, as I don’t have one of these on hand to photograph.

One notable international variant is the Leo India version, as shown by spiritofsnakemountain on Instagram:

Flying Fists He-Man was also released in a gift set with Terror Claws Skeletor:


Below are a selection of Flying Fist He-Man ad appearances:

French catalog featuring Flying Fists He-Man

Flying Fists He-Man was featured the trade ad below, which was originally unearthed at the excellent MOTUC Figures site.

He also appears in the Mattel rebate ad below, which was originally posted on the Battle Grip site:


Flying Fists He-Man is featured in a few posters by the following artists:

Earl Norem, Motu Magazine
Earl Norem, Motu Magazine
William George Eternia Poster

There was also an unreleased piece by William George that features Flying Fists He-Man and Terror Claws Skeletor fighting over the cosmic key, which was shared some years ago by Roger Mahafy:


The primary minicomic for this variant is The Flying Fists of Power. Interestingly it features Roger Sweet’s rather minimalist concept for the figure, which just looked like a standard He-Man with a spinning mace weapon (updated to three ball ends) and an updated shield. In the story the Sorceress awards He-Man with an additional gift of “energy and spirit.” When He-Man summons the Flying Fists, he will get have additional punching abilities and his spinning mace and shield will appear in his hands. (All minicomic images come from the Dark Horse minicomic book.) (Update: Matthew Martin and Øyvind Meisford note that Flying Fists He-Man also appears in King of the Snake Men and Enter: Buzz-Saw Hordak.)

In The Terror Claws Strike he get a rather amusing visual depiction of He-Man’s flying fists power. In this comic the ability isn’t necessarily tied to the weapons. It’s really unclear how this is a new ability for He-Man, because he did similar things in the Filmation cartoon all the time. It doesn’t make a lot of sense narratively, although it does get the action feature across.

Flying Fists He-Man, still in his concept look, also appears in the unpublished Return From Terror Island Comic:

Flying Fists He-Man in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has shared the following image, and video of Flying Fists He-Man in action. Enjoy!

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

  • Philip O.
  • MOTU Origins Cork
  • Bryce W.
  • Ben M.
  • Matthias K.
  • Max I.

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!

Licensing Kits

1982 Licensing Kit: “Fast Male Action For Licensees”

Fun fact: the blond boy in the flannel shirt is MC Bat Commander from the Aquabats! He is playing with a prototype Battle Ram (which would have been sculpted from wood) and a prototype Man-At-Arms.

The 1982 licensing kit was, to my understand put together prior to the release of the line in stores and first given out at New York Toy Fair on February 17, 1982. The kit includes artwork by Errol McCarthy, and product photographs featuring prototype toys in various stages of development. Its purpose was to serve as a guide to manufacturers of licensed MOTU-themed merchandise on the world of He-Man and on the correct use of Mattel’s trademarks. This document was scanned by Michael Jay, and a copy of Michael’s scan was sent over to me by Ben Massa (check out his fascinating Facebook page, Orko’s Keep) Thanks to both Michael and Ben for their willingness to share!

Front cover. I’ve always thought it was interesting that Skeletor is shown here with light purple skin, rather than blue skin.
The inside cover features a collage of different MOTU prototypes, with child actors playing with them. The scene at the top left recreates a panel from the first minicomic, “He-Man and the Power Sword.” The Castle Grayskull is a very finely painted version that shows up in many commercials and catalogs. The vehicles are wooden prototypes, and the Teela prototype is an early unarticulated model that would see many revisions prior to release.
This page emphasizes a few themes, like how He-Man toys were market tested and were very popular with boys. They mentioned the aggressive marketing campaign Mattel was going to use to promote the line, which included TV and comic book promotions. All of this is to say that MOTU was a valuable brand and that licensees should jump on board the He-Man train.
The bulk of content in the licensing kit is there to provide reusable images and product names in the correct font that could go on licensed products and packaging, and to provide a very basic outline of the world of Eternia. The focus early on was very much on the idea that both halves of the Power Sword were needed to access Castle Grayskull, and that would form the basis for many early stories. Whoever gained access to Grayskull would be “King.”
We get very basic, generic depictions of our main hero and villain on this page. There is no indication that He-Man has super-human strength. He’s really just a very strong man at this point.
This is one of the more interesting pages of the kit for several reasons. Here we get a depiction of Stratos as evil, which is hinted at in the first minicomic. Zodac is portrayed as bounty hunter character, which is unique to this document. In actual media aimed at consumers, he is never called a bounty hunter. Teela is treated as a prize for either He-Man or Skeletor, a common cliche in older adventure tales. There actually was a 1982 coloring book with a plot based in exactly that idea. Mer-Man is called a battle-hardened warrior, but is not specified as good or evil, which is pretty common in some of the earlier Mattel material about him.
Here we have Man-At-Arms and Beast Man pitted against each other as opposites and potentially rivals, which exactly fits how Mark Taylor has described the two characters in the past.
This page emphasizes physical combat – the heroes and villains seem equally matched, and it’s anyone’s guess who will ultimately prevail.
The emphasis of this line is not so much on telling explicit stories, but in setting up a world and characters that lend themselves to the child creating his or her own stories.
This pages emphasizes the logo and brings in the full Battle Ram. The Wind Raider is the only 1982 product not illustrated in these pages.
This page sets up guidelines for correct usage of Mattel’s trademarks and logos.
Back page, of the licensing kit, which is a continuation of the scene on the front cover, with drama filling every inch of the page.

I do have scans of some of the later licensing kits and style guides, which I will post later. They aren’t as nice as this scan, so thanks again to Michael and Ben for sharing!

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

  • Philip O.
  • MOTU Origins Cork
  • Bryce W.
  • Ben M.
  • Matthias K.
  • Max I.