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:
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:
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:
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15 thoughts on “Castle Grayskull prototype – a closer look”
What a great post! During my childhood I deeply loved the Alcala mini-comics and always found those discrepancies between the toys and his illustrations fascinating. It was, I think, my very first realization of the concept of artistic license. Thanks to your blog, I now know that it was prototype-inspired art, but I still find it fascinating. By the way, too bad we never got that amazing play mat!
Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed the post! I always wondered about that too, as a kid.
I’m not sure if they still offer this, but for a while the Power and Honor Foundation was selling prints of the original castle moat play mat: http://powerandhonor.org/the-castle-moat-31-years-later/
I wish I could get one, anyone have a digital file or able to high quality scan theirs?
Great post and great playset! I wish it came to us that way, as I’m a fun of the more barbaric Eternia, which was depicted in the early minicomics! I think another external difference is the more protruding mouth.
I would die for an exact replica of this prototype! 🙂
The prototype is fascinating. There are few elements that I don’t like (like the torture rack and that sort of matryoshka hanging near the combat trainer… what is supposed to be? It puzzled me) but the rest is pretty cool, the more fantasy looking throne in particular. I also like a lot the laser cannon: it looks so exquisitely b-movie XD
The elevator is cool, but maybe the tuny circular shape was not the best to work with the wide shoulders of the MOTU figures.
By the way Adam I want to thank you for all these articles and photos. Since I recently started the massive (and insane, because I never tried to do something big like that and I have to learn by myself a number of new skills) project of designing and semi-scratch bulding a Castle Grayskull for my vintage figures. Your articles are massively helpful to me, both as reference and source of ideas as well, so thank you a lot 😉
Thanks Alex! I appreciate it 🙂
I believe the hanging thing you refer to is a punching bag.
I’m obsessed with the prototype castle myself – mostly to do with the shape of the Castle itself, and a couple of elements like the throne and laser cannon.
You should share a pic of your custom Castle Grayskull when it’s finished!
I gladly will, but it will be in the far future because I want to proceed nice and slow in designing the thing, researching for the right materials, test them etc.
The base will be the 200X castle (the cheapest castle version I’m being able to found) and I will build from scratch both the side walls (in inches, each wall will be around 21,6 long), adding the ground pavement and many other things and some features. The 200X is an excellent base for a custom because it can be disassembled and in a very easy way (and the electronics are awesome), however its skull lacks the eerie and misterious look that CG should have.
Wish me good luck XD
Sounds like a fun challenge. Good luck!
Now that I think about it, I wonder what happened to the prototype, where it may be now. Is it stored somewhere into Mattel’s storage? Is exposed in the their office building or in the home of some ex high rank Mattel employee? Or maybe it does not exist anymore?
My guess is that they threw it out when they moved to a different HQ (happened to a lot of things). It’s possible someone has it though. You never know.
Very sad but I want to believe in an utopic happy ending: someone gave back the prototype to Mark Taylor and now he owns it in secret 😀 😀
I would have really enjoyed a playmat myself, one can always hope.
Would be a great Project if someone could made a Build with a 3D-Printer!
I’ve got a project in mind about this, but I’m having trouble contacting the fans and sites I used to know. I will not venture into Facebook or places like that, yet some fan sites don’t even have a contact form or e-mail. Perhaps you can e-mail me with some suggestions?