I don’t have a specific memory of Mantisaur, but he was immediately familiar to me when I first encountered him as a grown up, so I must have bumped into the toy at some point. He’s a rather unique and sharp-looking creature, and a probably under-utilized mount for Hordak. Sadly he never caught on in the popular imagination like Battle Cat or Panthor or Swiftwind.
Mantisaur had the working name of Mantor in this July 13, 1984 illustration by Ed Watts, which was created just a few months after Hordak’s toy look was finalized by Ted Mayer. He is an apparently organic giant purple praying mantis outfitted with green armor.
Another artist at Mattel did a treatment on a number of different variants of the concept. All of them are based around an actual organic praying mantis, outfitted with weapons, a saddle, and in some cases armor. Many versions of this concept have upturned attachments at the end of the creature’s arms, which seem to have been added with the toy’s feature in mind.
We can see the final version of the figure in the cross sell artwork. The final version looks almost entirely robotic, with hints of an organic creature underneath visible only in the head and perhaps along the underside of the body.
Toy Archive uploaded some interesting images of a hard copy pre-production prototype Mantisaur:
Figure & Packaging
Mantisaur was released as a single packaged figure, and as a gift set together with Hordak. The front artwork for both was done by Joe Chiodo. The artist for the action illustration on the back is unknown.
Mantisaur was quite large, and stood on two legs with two “trapper arms.” His “action feature” was essentially that his arms could be used to manually pick up a figure in front of it. He features the same gray, black and red color scheme as his master Hordak.
Mantisaur appears in the She-Ra episode, A Talent For Trouble. His figure model is green, with an overall design based on the original Ed Watts concept art:
Mantisaur appears in the Between a Rock and Hard Place minicomic. He obeys verbal commands from Hordak, and in one page, it’s shown that he has the power to summon and control insect swarms, which he uses to attack the heroic warriors:
Mantisaur also appears in The Garden of Evil, a story in the third issue of the Star Comics series.
Hordak’s mount features heavily in the UK Comics Story The Power of the Mantisaur. Hordak (or actually a robot clone of Hordak) battle’s He-Man and Man-At-Arms while riding on Mantisaur (who is also, in this canon, 100% robotic) as part of a larger scheme to test He-Man’s limitations. You can read the full story in issue 32 here, courtesy of Danielle Gelehrter.
Mantisaur appeared in issue 3 of the 1987 run of German Ehapa comics:
A nice poster by Esteban Maroto featuring Mantisaur appeared in the German Ehapa MOTU Magazine, 1989, Issue 1/2, although the steed doesn’t appear in the actual stories of that issue:
A poster featuring Mantisaur appeared in the third issue of the 1987 German series:
Mantisaur appears along with Hurricane Hordak in William George’s 1986 Eternia poster:
Mantisaur in Action
Øyvind Meisfjord has kindly shared this video of Mantisaur in action!
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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:
Hurricane Hordak, released in 1986, is the first of two Hordak variants, and the only version of Hordak (in the vintage line) with any significant changes to his costume.
Design & Development
Hurricane Hordak in some ways is more similar to his animated counterpart than the original Hordak release, in that his arm ends in a “cannon” (or something that looks like one) and “transforms” into different weapons.
Recently Kris Oneida shared some reference Polaroids shown to him by MOTU minicomic colorist Charles “Skip” Simpson. Among them was a blue-skinned Hordak prototype with gold armor. Was this meant to be a Filmation-inspired variant of Hordak? Or perhaps an alternative color shot intended to be the original Hordak release? Without a date it’s unclear, but the gold armor certainly recalls Hurricane Hordak.
Hurricane Hordak’s action feature was actually originally intended for a different figure, as illustrated in this July 8, 1984 “Rotary Man” concept by Ted Mayer:
On October 11, 1985, Hurricane Hordak’s patent claim was filed by Mattel (it was not granted until 1987). The following drawings were included:
I haven’t seen any concept art specifically for Hurricane Hordak, but you can see the final look for the character in this cross sell artwork:
The final production toy can be seen in these US and France catalog images, along with other 1986 variants, Flying Fists He-Man and Terror Claws Skeletor (image from Nathalie NHT):
Hurricane Hordak included three arm attachments (similar to Trap Jaw and Roboto before him), all of which could be rotated at the end of his right arm by thumbing the red wheel on his back. In the instructions in the packaging, the attachments are called the Thunderball Mace, Battle Shield, and Bat-Wing Propeller:
Hurricane Hordak came on a large, deluxe card, with dynamic artwork by William George on the front.
The back of the card features artwork by an unknown artist depicting Hordak breaking into Snake Mountain with his “Battle Shield”:
The 1987 MOTU Style Guide features Hordak in his Filmation look (illustrated by Errol McCarthy, but when discussing his weapons, it references the attachments included with Hurricane Hordak:
Weapons: Now he has fashioned gruesome weapons such as helicopter-like bats-wings propellor, 4-pronged “kinetic shield” and 3-headed “thunderballs” mace that all attach to his whirling arm.
Hurricane Hordak appears in The Hordes of Hordak, along with the minicomic introduction of the Horde Troopers. He has the whirling attachments, but is shown the in the colors of the original 1985 action figure:
Hurricane Hordak was featured in a number of UK and German MOTU Magazine issues, including in these full color posters by artist Esteban Maroto from the Ehapa Verlag issues:
He’s also featured in the 1986 Eternia poster by William George:
Hurricane Hordak in Action
Øyvind Meisfjord has graciously contributed the following image and video showing Hurricane Hordak in action:
Horde Troopers are what every kid-friendly adventure francize needs – an army of mindless evil minions that the hero can crush without any moral quandaries. For the He-Man cartoon series, it was was Skeletor’s Hover Robots, and in She-Ra it was the Horde Troopers.
In the She-Ra series, the Hover Robot by Skeletor would make an appearance as Hordak’s “Capture Robot”. Though it never was made clear if Skeletor took the designs and made his own Robot Knights.
While the design and mean look appear similar between a Hover Robot and Horde Trooper, its not quite the same. When looking at images of Horde Trooper turning its head.
Design & Development
As Mattel and Filmation worked very closely on the She-Ra series and its characters and concepts, the Horde Trooper concept is a no-brainer. An army for the main villain in the series, as well as a collect-your-own-army idea from toy marketing POV.
In the script and concept, as well as the storyboard for Into Etheria, we get a look at an early design, which gives the characters a heavily-armored and barbaric look. It’s clear that these troopers (or Hordesmen) are organic beings. One is human with a scar on his face, another is reptilian, and the third is a hawk hordesman.
This idea of different looking races in armor is also evident in the He-Man episode Origin of the Sorceress, where in a flashback told by the Sorceress we meet an early Horde scouting party.
Some Princess of Power -books would also utilize the notion of Horde Troopers as humans in armor. More on Comics and Story books -section below.
At Filmation Studios, one key person who helped design for example the Horde symbol and Evil Horde characters was Charles Zembillas. And in one of his early sketches, the Horde Troopers looked more like creatures in armor.
After that, the Troopers would get a sleeker, more futuristic design:
Eventually the look was changed to the familiar design below, designed by Curtis Cim:
On Mattel’s side, there are a few images of Horde Trooper prototype toys. One features repainted arms from Sy-Klone and legs from Mantenna. Presumably this is because these parts were not completed yet, and the existing parts from other figures fit the bill well enough to show the concept (the Sy-Klone arms have the same shoulder articulation):
On the Toy Archive website, we can also see the “hardcopy” version of the figure, which was larger than the actual final toy:
Horde Trooper’s patent was filed September 25, 1985. Where one of the design images seems to be straight out of Filmation model-kit. A visual layout of how the action feature worked is included in the filing:
Figure & Packaging
Horde Troopers were released on a single card, with yellow blast graphic telling kids to “collect an army of Horde Trooper robots!” The figure’s action feature, true to the “collapsing robot” description, was a button on the figure’s chest that, when pushed, would cause various pieces of the torso to fall apart, as if He-Man had smashed the evil android to bits with one mighty punch.
Mattel trademarked “Horde Trooper” on November 12, 1985.
Horde Troopers were fairly ubiquitous on the She-Ra cartoon. As mentioned previously, early in production the Horde Troopers were going to be living creatures, with various species inside the armor. Although that concept was eventually dropped, even in “Into Etheria” one of the Troopers is named Marg.
In “She-Ra Unchained” there is a plot-point where He-Man captures one Trooper in order to disguise himself in the uniform and infiltrate the Fright Zone (the storyboard image shows a human tied up while He-Man puts on the armor).
Horde Troopers have been shown to sneeze, be terrified, and shoot beams from their eyes (in “The Laughing Dragon”). By Season 2 the characters kept reminding viewers that the Troopers were robots, particularly in fight scenes with Rebels.
In the episode She-Ra Unchained we learn about the history of Hordak and his Troopers attacking Eternia. Hordak is seen in similar gear as the soldiers, whom have a different appearance to them. To indicate the passage of time possibly, these might be proto-Troopers with helmets that have large openings for eyes and depict hollow insides.
Filmation came up with a number of specialty Horde Troopers for use in different situations, although these variants were never released in the vintage toyline, including Naval Troopers and Flame Troopers.
Though the Horde Troopers themselves got treated more and more as robots for the good guys to trash. In the Horde Empire, they also had humans in different rankings, wearing armor similar to the Horde Trooper design.
Comics, Story Books & Artwork
Horde Trooper figures came packed with The Hordes of Hordak. In the story, Hordak manufactures his troopers with a machine that pulls raw materials right out of the ground and converts them into robot warriors. Hordak knows, however, that his troopers are vulnerable to a punch in the chest. For that reason he kidnaps Sy-Klone, who is uniquely capable of delivering rapid-fire punches (images below are from Dark Horse’s MOTU minicomic collection and from He-Man.org). Unlike the more common yellow-colored eyes, here Horde Troopers have red eyes.
The Golden Book She-Ra Princess of Power showed humans in Horde Trooper armor, and the helmet even has some spikes on top of it, reminiscent of Hordak’s head.
The STAR/Marvel comics showed Horde Troopers as slightly bigger robots, with abilities like shooting a blast from their hand.
Edit: Øyvind Meisfjord points out that in the Star Comics, the Horde Troopers were merely empty shells animated by Hordak’s magic:
In the 1986 Kid Stuff story, Prisoner in the Slime Pit, the troopers have a very off-model appearance, and look like organic beings. Some of the text descriptions do not match the visuals. The Kids Stuff books included many other obscure elements from MOTU mythos, like He-Man sleeping inside Grayskull. In the case of this unique Trooper – When asked from artist about the designs, he sadly could not remember if they were his own designs.
In the Golden story The Sword of She-Ra, the Troopers (and the rest of the characters) are closely based on the Filmation cartoon, although they are a bit more colorful here:
The Horde Trooper in the Spring 1988 issue of the US Masters of the Universe Magazine likewise is based on the Filmation cartoon. This is a pretty typical ending for the villains across He-Man and She-Ra stories: they are angry, disoriented and covered in mud!
In the Fall 1988 issue, She-Ra encounters a pint-sized human Horde Trooper who had gotten lost in the woods, was found by Horde Troopers, and taken by Hordak. In the story, She-Ra sets him right and returns him to his family:
Some other appearances of Horde Troopers:
Horde Troopers show up in William George’s 1986 Eternia poster:
Horde Troopers in Action
Øyvind Meisfjord has kindly shared the following images and video of Horde Troopers in action!
Adam: Thanks for reading. Until next time!
Jukka: This took a lot of time to research and wanted to express my gratitude for all the help I’ve gotten from other fans, and for Adam on having me contribute here!