The articles and interviews in ToyFare magazine were always insightful on the world of Eternia and its characters, as well as its creators.
One of the more… controversial articles came in July 2009 edition with ToyFare issue #143. The Masters of the Universe Classics line had just started in 2008, and the newly invented story for ‘Classics bios’ was at the time the only existing story media for the characters written on the toy card backs. In the article, the people who worked on the 2002-2004 MOTU Comics teased some of their story ideas and plans that never came to be. Fans obviously were eager to learn more about these ideas, but at the time the then-current brand manager at Mattel didn’t want any confusion between the storylines, so it was asked that the comic bible mentioned in the interview not be posted online. In contrast, by the 30th anniversary Mattel’s creative media department was able to create new stories through DC Comics between 2012-2016 that were not associated or hindered anymore by the Classics narrative, oftentimes creating better origins and adventures with the characters.
Below is a close-up scan of the He-Ro design illustrated by Emiliano Santalucia. The armor design uses an insignia associated with both He-Man, She-Ra, and the “Guardians of Grayskull” symbol (based on the vintage Warrior’s Ring). There are also influences from the then-current Snake Armor that He-Man was wearing in the cartoon and comic. He-Ro did sneak an appearance in the comic on three separate occasions.
Below is the Shadow Weaver art by Emiliano Santalucia. In the comic by MVCreations (vol 2 issue 6), she appeared as a silhouetted character in a single panel.
In ToyFare #54 the Four Horsemen (Eric ‘Cornboy’ Mayse, Chris Dahlberg, Jim Preziosi and Eric Treadaway) are interviewed on their approach to the world of Eternia and its characters.
They discuss about their meet up with Mattel, and how they worked for two years on the toyline prior to Mattel’s official announcement, their new Powersword design, and He-Man’s changing hair style thanks to focus groups.
There is even a mention, that how Skeletor’s Havoc Staff was going to have the ram skull-head as a pop-up function. That harkens back to early concept art by Mark Taylor, interestingly.
One curious thing to note is their initial idea to make Teela younger companion to He-Man. Their example is Batgirl to Batman from the 1992/1997 Animated adventures. But that Mattel wanted to keep Teela as love-interest, so she was made the same age as Prince Adam (this sadly was not fully played up in the cartoon by Mike Young Productions).
Huge thanks to Matthew Duch from Legends of Grayskull podcast for scanning these pages.
Buzz-Saw Hordak was released in the last wave of the 1987 line-up for Masters of the Universe. He is the second variant in the vintage toyline after Hurricane Hordak (1986), but unlike that version, his appearance is very similar to the original Hordak (1985) at a first glance.
The cardback art was done by Errol McCarthy. So all three artists had a hand in depicting Buzz-Saw Hordak.
We see Hordak getting ambushed by King Hiss, Tung Lashor and Rattlor. But as the accompanying text reveals, his “buzz-saw blasts them away!”
The cardback art has the main action piece covering most of the top, with a one rectangular frame on top-left corner showing the preceeding event. The same method was also used with the same 1987 wave figures such as Blast-Attack and Snake Face‘s cards.
Looking at Hordak’s close-up image in the Buzz-Saw card, while not a traced re-use, the head appears to be very close to the art of Hordak in Sorceress’ card art.
Catalogs & Advertisement
Curiously in the catalog image (US top, Italian below) that depicts the action feature, Hordak’s chest armor piece is not lowered but removed completely.
Buzz-Saw Hordak also was advertised in a Finnish toy booklet.
In the Spanish Masters of the Universe Club magazine from 1989 Buzz-Saw Hordak was advertised with many of the very last released action figures.
Buzz-Saw Hordak managed to appear in the Burger King box art along with Snake-Face, He-Man, Orko, Teela, and Skeletor.
Buzz-Saw Hordak appears in the 1987 Preternia poster art by William George.
Buzz-Saw Hordak was called “Hordak Torpedor” in a Spanish minicomic sized booklet. The art by Bruce Timm was mirror-flipped.
Comics and Magazines
In the final 1987 wave of minicomics, there was a lot more continuity at play that dealt with the new playset Eternia (referred to as the Three Towers of Eternia / Ultimate Battleground in stories). Writer Steven Grant talks about it in an interview for the 2015 He-Man and MOTU Minicomics Collection book: “There wasn’t any long-range plan to the stories, but the project manager liked the idea of weaving in threads where possible…”
The Mattel minicomic “Enter… Buzz-Saw Hordak”, written by Steven Grant and art by Bruce Timm introduces to the readers Mosquitor as the newest addition to the Evil Horde and when Hordak discovers that the Central Tower of Eternia Towers has risen, he reveals that he helped build it long ago, before his banishment to Etheria.
Hordak knows only the true King of Eternia can enter the Central Tower, and uses King Randor to sneak inside, but it turns out the Powers inside the Tower alter Hordak.
In the Marvel comics under STAR imprint issue #8“The Getaway” (street date release: March 24th, 1987), written by Mike Carlin and art by Ron Wilson we get a different depiction for Hordak’s new Buzz Saw feature. (The Hurricane powers had been previously on display in issue #3.)
Similar (on surface level) to the minicomic, the STAR comic shares the introduction of Mosquitor at the same time as the Buzz-Saw variant powers for Hordak.
In the comic Hordak has already at the start of the story raided Palace Eternia, and while Orko goes to check out the situation at the Palace, He-Man (in his Cliff Climber attire) follows and confronts Hordak. Hordak taunts He-Man for having “borrowed” something from the Palace and then displays his ability to shoot a Buzz Saw from his chest.
He-Man is at first taken back when Hordak shows he can actually shoot multiple buzz saws from his chest. He-Man deduces that “only one man could have created a weapon so fantastic – Man-At-Arms“
No explanation is given as to what the actual invention by Man-At-Arms was – the buzz saws themselves, or if they were simply a part of some larger new creation. Hordak never reveals how he was able to incorporate the buzz saws into his own armor either.
With the use of his Sword of Power, He-Man manages to destroy the buzz saw function in Hordak’s armor.
In the Masters of the Universe Magazine Winter issue 1988 we also get an appearance from Buzz-Saw Hordak in the story “Time Trap”, written and illustrated by Paul Kirchner.
Here Hordak is accompanied curiously by Saurod and Blade (but alliances were loose in some of the stories presented in MOTU Magazine), and displays the power of his Buzz-Saw by cutting up some trees, but in the end, his weapon is no match for a cube the heroes set up for the villains.
Personally, I have many fond memories of this version of Hordak. I received it on a holiday trip to Rhodes, Greece with my father and since I didn’t have the original version, the Buzz-Saw Hordak became my de facto Hordak. He still ruled the Evil Horde with an iron grip.
The minicomic story is also one of my absolute favorites from the entire run. It introduces a new character (I also had a Mosquitor toy which was a lot of fun), deepens the mythology of the Three Towers of Eternia, gives a mysterious origin to the variant powers (yet still meaningful), and leaves the story open to many possibilities. I really wish there had been a follow-up minicomic where Hordak would learn more about his Buzz-Saw powers and the Preternia technology of the Eternia Towers…
Buzz-Saw Hordak in Action
Øyvind Meisfjord has graciously contributed the following image and video showing Buzz-Saw Hordak in action:
While we are still waiting for season 2 of the Masters of the Universe Revelation (the upcoming 5 episodes under new title Masters of the Universe Revolution to arrive in early 2024), here is an interview with the person behind the secrets of the Netflix He-Man and Revelation logos!
Hello and thank you so much for taking the time for an interview! Tell us about yourself.
My name is Bill Concannon, I am a graphic designer, owner and creative director for Concannon Art, a new graphic arts company in LA. I have been designing in the toy and game space for the past twenty two years and have had the pleasure of designing for many iconic brands. In particular Im proud to have completed the re-designs for Hot Wheels, circa 2010, Transformers, circa 2014 and the latest Masters of the Universe including ‘He-Man’ and ‘Revelation’, circa 2019. These iconic logos represent brands with great stories to tell. Recently their stories were illuminated in features like ‘The Toys that Built America’ (History Channel, HULU) and ‘The Toys That Made Us’ (Netflix).
Did you grow up with Masters of the Universe?
I was twenty when they came out but would have loved to have had them in my days of GI Joe.
Do you have a favorite character?
I dig Man-E-Faces and Battle Cat of course!
Your company Concannon Art has many functions. Can you describe your work to someone unfamiliar with it?
Brand development is what we do as a graphic arts company. Identities, packaging, merchandising, licensing guides are the bread and butter of our work. I do the majority of the graphic design along with a team of other designers and illustrators. The packaging work that I have done for ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Transformers’ properties helped to establish a reputation within the industry. I’m very proud of the recent logo work I completed for the Masters of the Universe franchise.
Can you describe your work process in general? What is a typical day look like?
Running your own shop requires a process that balances time for the business and design work. I plan each day the night before. Some days are pure design work while others are maintaining client communication and project management. There is a lot of time dedicated to delegating and collaborating with other designers and illustrators. I enjoy it all tremendously but I really love the early days of design work where the initial ideas are being formed.
How did you get the job on creating the current Netflix MOTU logo-family?
I had done a lot of packaging work for Mattel which had included logo design work. I had worked on their Battle Force 5 property and in 2010 the significant refresh of the Hot Wheels brand logo.
How many designs did you go through and what was the process like?
The project began in March 2019 and included the Masters of the Universe, MOTU Revelation and HE-MAN MOTU logos. The project wrapped up a year later with the majority of the design work completed in December 2019 with about twenty iterations explored.
What designs are your inspirations? Or possible people in the field?
I am inspired by classic designers like Saul Bass. I recently watched a documentary that discussed the movie poster designs and 007 logo done by Joe Caroff. These classic poster designers are an endless source of inspiration. Seeing great design creates a kind of work energy that makes you raise the bar on your next project. The best project is always the one you’re currently working on because it’s unfinished and has limitless potential.
Were you given any specific guidelines? Or restrictions?
There were many considerations. The equity of the property was very important to Mattel while the studios wanted to ensure it could carry a cinematic feel. Cohesion between the three logos (MOTU, MOTU Revelation and HE-MAN MOTU ) was another key consideration. Netflix has very strict design and production specifications that entertainment logos need to adhere to. Many of these are in place to ensure quality assurance for the many production uses of the logos.
Of all your unused designs, which is your favorite and why?
The approved logo is shown straight on with an extruded base. The letterforms are perpendicular to the baseline. There was a version where the same logo is rendered in perspective to match the original 80’s logo. That version was deliberated over quite a bit.
When designing for something like MOTU that has so much nostalgia tied to it, how difficult is it to keep that nostalgic design while also pushing for something new?
Interestingly it was this aspect which drove the alternate logo in perspective. It was very important to design something that respected the past but could carry the logo into the future. Having the logo built in a straight on perspective allows for more variation in how it’s rendered going forward. Sometimes you can be too “on the nose” with a design and it won’t have enough of a fresh look. So although the logo in perspective was closer to the original the approved logo presents something new.
In the Poster reveal for REVELATION we got to see the new logo for the first time proper. In the MASTERS portion the ”A” and ”R” stand out in a curious fashion in particular. What was the thought process behind that?
The iconic nature of Castle Grayskull was a strong influence on me. I used paintings of the castle to create mock movie posters to test new logo designs. I like to see how a potential logo will look in use, in a layout. During one of those studies I saw a visual connection with the descenders of the “A” and “R”. I pulled them down into the layout as representations of the towers of the castle. Flipping the “A” also created better symmetry and matched the towers better. The flipped letter also created a unique and more own-able shape for the “A” which is always a plus for a new logo.
How do you feel about the original 80s logo design by Bob Nall?
It’s a classic for the time it was designed. A time before the advent of the Mac and Adobe. And I love that it was airbrushed by John Hamagami.
Is there anything you would have wanted to add or tweak of the final logo?
I would have wanted to explore more render and FX variations for theatrical branding. Similar to how the Star Wars logo is rendered differently for each cinematic episode – the new MOTU logo has a solid base that can be rendered to meet the needs of its many publications, products and entertainment.
How does it feel to see your logo design on toy packaging and on the TV screen?
It’s always a thrill to see your work published and you want to feel good that the mark is serving the story well. For MOTU I think it’s a mark that will strongly represent the franchise.
Do you have any advice for people looking to get into graphic/logo design?
It’s definitely a work of passion and love of typography. If you have the passion, always be sketching and archiving the work that inspires you. Remember that every logo is a visual expression of a story and you should make sure that all of your layout, type, graphic and color decisions serve that story.
Thank you very much for answering these questions!
[special thanks to Adam McCombs and Colt Crane for helping with the interview questions]