Category Archives: Artwork

Castle Grayskull in Minicomics

This time around I’m going to take a closer look at Castle Grayskull as it appears in the minicomics. I won’t post a picture of every single appearance of the castle, just a representative sample from every issue it appears in. My focus will be on the exterior, especially the front.

There seem to be two primary influences on the way the castle was depicted in the minicomics – Mark Taylor’s original prototype of the Castle, and the version Mark Texeira drew in the second series of minicomics in 1983.

Alfredo Alcala, who illustrated minicomics from 1982-1984, always patterned his drawings of the castle after the original prototype. Even when his character depictions evolved past early prototypes and started resembling their mass-produced counterparts, his Castle Grayskull never changed:

Mark Texeira did the pencils for the DC-produced second wave of minicomics. His version of the Castle has squared-off walls, a tall jaw bridge, and a skull that seems rather small in comparison to the rest of the castle. Ted Mayer described an abandoned attempt at sculpting Castle Grayskull by Mattel engineers that actually reminds me of the way Texeira’s castle looks. According to Ted:

Mark did the original sketch. That was then be sent to the sculpting department. When we saw their rendition, it was awful. It was a square castle, just like you would find in the English countryside! We made a fuss and it was sent back for revision. The second go round was almost as bad. As I remember, it was square with turrets on the corners, very symmetrical.

Somehow Mark persuaded the powers in charge to let him sculpt it. The sculpting department was pissed! Mark set up a board in his office and with a bunch of Chevaler sculpting clay, set about modeling it. I took turns helping him, even my nine-year-old son had a go. When that was finished it went back to sculpting for molding and engineering.

It makes me wonder if Mattel might have sent one of these discarded attempts to DC to use as a model. I don’t know for sure, but it’s an interesting thought. Note however that some versions of Texeira’s illustration seem just a bit closer to the actual playset than others.

From 1984 onward, the Texeira look seems to pop up quite frequently. Larry Houston seems to use that as a basis for his illustrations:

It continues to pop up in the 1985 wave of comics as well. One notable exception is Bruce Tim’s illustration in The Power of the Evil Horde. His seems like a mix of many different influences, from Filmation to Texeira to the actual playset.

Castle Grayskull sees its final minicomic incarnations with the 1986 series of minicomics. Here the depiction of the castle begins to mutate. While the Texeira influence still pops up here and there, we also begin to see an interesting interpretation from Jim Mitchell, starting with Escape From the Slime Pit. His castle has an almost mummified-looking face, without any of the sharp teeth of previous incarnations. In a way it comes around full circle to the Alcala depiction.

Bruce Tim gives us our final look at the castle in The Ultimate Battlegound, which follows the same look as his illustration for The Evil Horde.

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Battle Cat Box Art Scan

Rudy Obrero’s Battle Cat packaging illustration was the first piece of box art done for Masters of the Universe, which I think affords it a special place among the myriad of other pieces of ingenious artwork created for this toyline. I would put it in my top three personal favorites (the other two being Castle Grayskull and Battle Ram, with the He-Man and Battle Cat giftset artwork coming in a close fourth). When it comes to MOTU box art, there is a great deal of amazing work to choose from. Rudy’s work is my favorite, but of course I also love the art of the late, great William George.

Rudy Obrero was hired by Mark Taylor to paint Frank Frazetta-like artwork for the fledgling Masters of the Universe toyline, and that feeling is perhaps most evident in the original Battle Cat illustration.

I shared the original scan several months back in another post, but I’ve since done some digital manipulation to remove the most obvious wear marks and the horizontal packaging fold that goes across Battle Cat’s legs. Enjoy!

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Creatures of William George

One of the defining characteristics of the packaging artwork of William George is the inclusion of small dinosaur or dragon-like creatures in the background and foreground of the illustration. They add a dimension to the illustration that goes beyond simply demonstrating the product – there is also some world-building going on. The Eternia of William George is a hostile, dangerous and often desolate place, where threats come in all sizes.

I’ll only be focusing on creatures that William George invented for his paintings, not creatures that were part of the products for sale.

Battle Armor He-Man and Road Ripper (1984)

A pint-sized dinosaur and sea serpent.

Dragon Walker (1984)

A miniature pterodactyl

Road Ripper (1984)

Two lizards.

Roton (1984)

Image cleaned up by Retroist
A lizard.
A tree-climbing demon.
A flying bird, with encampment in background.

Bashasaurus (1985)

A diminutive dragon.

Land Shark (1985)

A wicked-looking little dragon.

Land Shark & Battle Armor Skeletor

Part vulture, part pterodactyl.

Laser Bolt (1986)

A tiny, beaked dinosaur.

Scubattack Power Gear (1987)

Image courtesy of Axel Giménez
A vicious-looking eel.

Megator (1988)

An ordinary horse, frightened by the stampeding Megator.

Update: Axel Giménez pointed out to me that there is another William George creature, outside of the box art. In his Bashasaurus poster, he includes one of his familiar little creatures on the rocks near Dragon Blaster Skeletor. It looks a bit like the creature in the Land Shark box art:

Image source: Jukka Issakainen
A diminutive dragon.

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Battle Ram Box Art Scan

It’s no surprise to anyone who follows this blog that I have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with the Battle Ram – the 1982 Masters of the Universe vehicle designed by Ted Mayer.

I’m just as obsessed with the early MOTU box art by Rudy Obrero, and for a long time I’ve been wanting to get a nice scan of his original artwork for the Battle Ram. There hasn’t been a really good, single composite scan of the full Battle Ram packaging that I know of, at least that anyone has shared publicly. In scanning the example from my collection, I understand why – it’s challenging to get all of the surfaces to lie completely flat, resulting in some areas that are less crisp than others. Adding to the difficulty is that every example has breaks in the artwork where the box bends upward about two-thirds of the way up. I did my best to digitally fix those breaks, but it was challenging to do in the areas that intersect with painted physical objects.

The result isn’t perfect, but it’s still nice to have the complete, high-resolution picture as painted by Rudy Obrero. If you open the image in a new window you’ll find that you can zoom in quite close on the artwork. Allow some time for the image to load:

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