The prototype Castle Grayskull was not something that most fans had ever seen until relatively recently. Certainly as kids we were oblivious to its existence. It did, however, make its way into story books, mini comics, games, and cross sell artwork. Many of us wondered why the castle in the early mini comics looked so different from the one in our collections.
In my recent interview with Mark and Rebecca Taylor, Mark said:
“I [sculpted the castle] because Tony [Guerrero] was busy with the figures and the other sculptors kept making it too architectural. I wanted it to the castle to be organic, coming to life to tell its story. I made a wood armature and sculpted it in green clay. Ted [Mayer] helped with the plaster mold and vacuum forming, Rebecca did the labels… The imaginative user applied labels themselves to offset the lack of interior walls.”
The exterior of the prototype Castle Grayskull was similar in many respects to the final toy, but there were many notable differences as well.
There are several details on the prototype exterior that are missing or altered in the final toy that I’d like to draw your attention to:
Many of these design elements found their way into the Castle as depicted in Golden Books, mini comics, DC Comics, and other sources, as well both versions of the cross sell artwork.
Below: He-Man and the Power Sword, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala. In all of Alcala’s early artwork, Castle exteriors are almost 100% faithful to the prototype design. In a couple of panels, however, the ledge is omitted:
Below: King of Castle Grayskull, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala. Notice that Skeletor opens the jaw bridge through a lock located to the right of the entrance. I’m not sure if this was a feature Mattel intended to add – I don’t see any indication of it in the prototype. In the final toy, the lock was located on the jaw bridge itself.
Below: The Sword of Skeletor, illustrated by Fred Carillo:
To Tempt The Gods, pencils by George Tuska, inks by Alfredo Alcala:
The Trap, illustrated by Dan Spiegle:
Masters of the Universe Pop-Up game:
From the 1984 UK Annual:
From the 1985 UK MOTU Annual – image via He-Man.org
The interior of the prototype Castle was also different in many ways from the final toy:
There are various details on the prototype interior missing or altered in the final toy:
Update: Interestingly the same prototype combat trainer was still a part of the updated Castle Grayskull set that was used in commercials:
Fun fact, the blonde kid in the foreground above is MC Bat Commander from the Aquabats!
Elements from the interior of the prototype also found their way into mini comics and story books:
Below: He-Man and the Power Sword, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala
Below: King of Castle Grayskull, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala. There are many interior shots featuring the prototype throne, trap door, ladder, computer systems and laser turret:
Below: The Sword of Skeletor, illustrated by Fred Carillo, features several scenes depicting the prototype throne:
Below: The Trap, illustrated by Dan Spiegle, also features the prototype throne:
This is of course not exhaustive. I’m sure aspects of the prototype castle made it into other vintage Masters of the Universe media or collectibles.
While Mattel made several changes to the castle before its release in 1982, at least one bootleg manufacturer seemed to take inspiration directly from depictions of the prototype Castle Grayskull: