Category Archives: Artwork

Box Art From A-Z, Part One: 1982

One of the best things about getting new He-Man toys as a kid was the box art. The toys were of course amazing and fun, but personally I spent almost as much time staring at the boxes as playing with the toys. I remember being pretty heartbroken when my mother made me throw away my Castle Grayskull and Battle Ram boxes. She saw them as clutter, but for me they were almost stories in and of themselves. You could see whole adventures unfolding in a single painted scene.

Unfortunately, good photographs or scans of the original art are not available for every piece. If you happen to have a nicer images than I do (higher resolution, better composition, etc), please do feel free to share, and I’ll make an update! For pictures of the packaging itself, a neutral (white or black) background is preferred. High resolution scans of the artwork, where it appears without logos, would be ideal. Bottom line – if you have better images than I do, please share them!

One final note: I’m defining box art as the front-facing painted artwork that appeared on boxed Masters of the Universe toys. The illustrations on blister card packaging, then, are outside the scope of this series.

Part One: 1982

Name: Battle Cat
Year: 1982
Artist: Rudy Obrero
Description: He-Man sits astride an unhelmeted Battle Cat, with his axe and shield at the ready. Castle Grayskull looms in the background, partially shrouded in mist.

Name: Battle Ram
Year: 1982
Artist: Rudy Obrero
Description: Due to the folded shape of the box, this piece of artwork is in two sections. In the top two thirds of the artwork, He-Man flies the front half of the Battle Ram (Sky Sled) against enemies on similar flying vehicles, while a battle rages below. Several back halves of Battle Rams are launching missiles. Skeletor, Beast Man, Stratos, Man-at-Arms and Teela are seen, along side a warrior with a horned helmet, and Castle Grayskull in the background. The bottom section of the artwork features He-Man navigating rocky terrain in the complete Battle Ram, as several evil Sky Sleds attack him from the air.

battle-ram-high-resolution
Image source: MOTU Art

Name: Castle Grayskull
Year: 1982
Artist: Rudy Obrero
Description: Skeletor stands ready just inside Castle Grayskull, while He-Man, Teela, Man-At-Arms, Beast Man, Stratos and Zodac prepare to attack. Several Jet Sled-like vehicles fly overhead.

castle-grayskull-from-img


Name: He-Man and Battle Cat
Year: 1982
Artist: Rudy Obrero
Description: In a misty, rocky wasteland, He-Man rides Battle Cat into battle, accompanied by Man-At-Arms. Skeletor and Beast Man ride their own Battle Cats into Battle, accompanied by Mer-Man.

hemanbattlecat2highres-color-mix


Name: He-Man and Wind Raider
Year: 1982
Artist: Rudy Obrero
Description: In a misty, rocky wasteland, He-Man pilots the Wind Raider against Skeletor, Beast Man, a mysterious warrior in red, and shrouded hordes of barbarian warriors. In the background, laser fire erupts from Castle Grayskull.


Name: Wind Raider
Year: 1982
Artist: Rudy Obrero
Description: Due to the folded shape of the box, this piece of artwork is in two sections. In the top half or so, He-Man uses the Wind Raider’s anchor to destroy a section of Castle Grayskull, while unknown enemies piloting their own Wind Raiders attack him. In the lower section of the artwork, the Wind Raider has landed, and He-Man and Teela battle against Skeletor, Beast Man, Stratos and hordes of unknown enemies.

windraider-high-resolution
Image source: Grayskull Museum

Articles in this series:

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Invented characters in Rudy Obero’s packaging artwork

Freelance illustrator Rudy Obrero left an indelible mark on the Masters of the Universe landscape. He was originally selected by Mattel designer Mark Taylor for his ability to produce artwork in the style of Frank Frazetta, a major early influence on the He-Man toyline. Rudy’s moody atmospheres have made him a fan favorite in a toyline that was blessed with many talented artists and designers.

Today I’d like to take a look at something we often don’t notice in this artwork – the background characters and vehicles that never existed as actual toys.

The artwork referenced in this post includes:

Battle Cat

The original Battle Cat artwork (the first piece painted by Rudy for the He-Man toyline) is pretty sparse. You have He-Man on Battle Cat, some rocks and Castle Grayskull in the background, and not much else.

However, if you look more closely at the Castle, you’ll notice a barbarian warrior manning the laser canon on the castle turret:

battle-cat-largest-original-copy
Notice that the laser canon on the castle is the prototype design rather than the final version.

In the background, to the left of Battle Cat’s helmet, you can also see a couple of shadowy figures:

In the original charcoal drawing (a piece owned Eamon O’Donoghue, who graciously shared a picture of it), you can also see there were going to be a few more background characters in the illustration, but they were dropped in the final oil painting. Like many of Rudy’s background characters, they look like barbarian warriors straight from a Frank Frazetta painting.

Image source: Vaults of Grayskull
There are two warriors on the turret in this version.

Castle Grayskull

Rudy’s Castle Grayskull artwork has nearly a complete line-up of all the 1982 action figures, with the exception of Mer-Man. But there are also two shadowy figures in the background, behind Beast Man.

Rudy also includes a small fleet of flying Sky Sled-like vehicles. They are v-shaped and each appears to have a single pilot.

Battle Ram

Rudy’s Battle Ram illustration features a barbarian warrior with a Viking helmet, and the suggestion of at least a couple of figures on the turrets of Castle Grayskull.

It also features six of the V-shaped Sky Sled-like vehicles that appeared in the Castle Grayskull painting, each with its own pilot. Some of them are shown in side profile here. The basic design seems to be the front half of the Battle Ram without the griffin figure head, and extended, swept-back wings.

Wind Raider

Rudy Obrero’s Wind Raider illustration features about a dozen warriors at ground level, most in silhouette. One of them, however, is a blue-skinned warrior with red armor and helmet. Update: this may in fact be Stratos. Thanks to Øyvind M. for pointing this out!

The artwork also features three Wind Raiders, each with an unknown pilot, mounting an attack on He-Man, who mounted his own attack against Castle Grayskull.

He-Man and Wind Raider

The illustration for the He-Man/Wind Raider gift set shows the clearest example of an invented character. I used to think this was an off-model version of Zodac, but Rudy has said he hadn’t seen Zodac when he did the painting (indicating this was done before Castle Grayskull). Dubbed the “Warrior in Red” by fans, he is just that. His costume looks a bit like He-Man’s, but recolored. He seems to have some kind of red and gray helmet on, but it’s hard to make out any details.

Behind Skeletor, Beast Man, and the Warrior in Red is a small army of shadowy figures. Presumably they’re aligned with Skeletor.

Special thanks to Shawn, who gave me the idea for this post.

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