Evil Horde

Horde Trooper: Evil Horde “collapsing” robot (1986)

Co-written with Jukka Issakainen

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.

Size comparison image between Hordak’s Horde Trooper VS Skeletor’s Hover Robot.
Images thanks to Dušan M. Assembled by Jukka I.

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.

Horde Trooper visor is not same as the Hover Robots Skeletor has.

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.

Concept art from the He-Man and She-Ra Animated Guide.
Images from He-Man.org

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.

Image courtesy of The Power of Grayskull – The Definitive He-Man Documentary.

After that, the Troopers would get a sleeker, more futuristic design:

Image courtesy of Emiliano Santalucia

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.

Image source: KMKA

Mattel trademarked “Horde Trooper” on November 12, 1985.

Animation

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.

Early book depicts Horde Troopers as humans in armor.

The STAR/Marvel comics showed Horde Troopers as slightly bigger robots, with abilities like shooting a blast from their hand.

Marvel STAR comic issue 3 had Horde Troopers illustrated as large robots.

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 Trooper described with emotions such as being angry and impatient.
London Edition issue 52 showcases earlier Trooper models for Hordak, with editor Brian Clarke noting it in the panel for readers.

Horde Troopers show up in William George’s 1986 Eternia poster:

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

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!

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Evil Horde

Dragstor: Transforming evil warrior vehicle (1986)

I don’t recall ever encountering Dragstor growing up, but the concept is familiar – a figure that “transforms” simply by flipping himself over. In 1986 Transformers ruled the toy world, but Dragstor’s “transformation” barely qualifies.

Design & Development

Dragstor was designed by Ed Watts, who also designed Dragon Walker. In the concept art below (dated December 1, 1984, from The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog), we see the character with a section reptilian “face” when flipped over, and a number of reptilian fits on his arms and legs. There is no indication that he was an Evil Horde character at this point.

The character idea was actually invented by Derek Gable (Director of Preliminary Design) after he left Mattel, and sold back to Mattel via his startup, West Coast Innovations.

The design went through some changes and refinements. Eventually the reptile theme was dropped everywhere except for his face, which had large reptilian eyes. The fins where dropped and he was given orange boots and gloves. The exhaust pipes were toned down as well, presumably to make it easier to manufacture.

Cross sell art, image courtesy of Axel Giménez
1986 dealer catalog. Image source: Nathalie NHT

Figure & Packaging

The final figure had only the single wheel on the torso, not the wheels on the elbows and knees of the original design, although he did have smooth pads on the elbows that could drag across the floor with little friction. He came with a ripcord and a re-release of Mantenna’s crossbow.

Image source: WheelJack’s Lab (eBay auction)

The cardback scene on the packaging was illustrated by Errol McCarthy, while William George did the cross sell artwork. On the front, Dragstor is called a “transforming evil warrior vehicle,” which is a little confusing since generally the term “Evil Warrior” is used to refer to Skeletor’s faction, as opposed to the Evil Horde.

Image Source: KMKA
Image source: He-Man.org

Characterization & Comic Appearances

In Mattel’s 1987 Style Guide, Dragstor is listed as an Evile Horde affiliated warrior with the following powers:

Power: In a burst of speed, Dragstor chases after enemies of the Evil Horde.

Character Profile: The victim of a terrible experiement in the lab of Hordak, the Evile Horde crony is how half-man, half-machine. Dragstor is a vicious mechanical speed domen. He is able to move faster than any other warrior, and he even outpaces some of their vehicles! Dragstor loves to chase down helpless victims and drag them back to Hordak.

Dragstor is also given a bio in the 1989 UK MOTU Annual, which expands on the above story. In this version, Dragstor was an Eternian sprinter named Theydon, who was captured by the Horde along with Doodon (Extendar).

Image source: He-Man.org

Dragstor was showcased in The Warrior Machine

Image source: Dark Horse

Interestingly, on the first page of the story, Dragstor features the reptile helmet design from the Ed Watts concept (which is also noted in The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog), although his design follows the production feature everywhere else:

For an in-depth look at this story, check out Jukka Issakainen’s excellent video on the topic:

Dragstor also appears alongside Mosquitor in Enter … Buzz-Saw Hordak! In the story, Hordak is creating yet another minion in his laboratory. When Dragstor expresses skepticism about Mosquitor’s toughness, Mosquitor teaches Dragstor a hard lesson:

In issue 31 of the UK MOTU Magazine (1987), we get more on the backstory of Theydon and Doodon (Dragstor and Extendar). The friends are captured by the Evil Horde and transformed. However of the two, only Extendar is able to retain his own will, and he manages to escape from the Horde (images via He-Man.org).

Unlike the other 1986 Evil Horde figures Horde Trooper and Multi-Bot, Dragstor never appeared in the Filmation She-Ra cartoon, and generally speaking was a fairly sparsely used character in comics and books. He did make an appearance in William George’s 1986 Eternia poster, however:

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen
Italian ad

Dragstor in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has shared the following of video of Dragstor in action:

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Evil Horde

Multi-Bot: Evil robot of a thousand bodies (1986)

Multi-Bot was a figure I don’t recall ever seeing as a kid. The concept is familiar enough – take the transforming body idea from Modulok and turn it into a robot. It certainly makes more logical sense for a robot to be able to swap around its body parts, as opposed to an organic creature like Modulok. Then again part of the fun of Modulok was the gruesome fun of imagining a monster that could do such a thing.

Design & Development

Modulok and Multi-Bot apparently originated with the same concept idea by Roger Sweet, called Modular Man (source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog). Ted Mayer did the visual design work for both figures in June and July, 1984. We can see two of Ted’s designs for Multi-Bot below. They’re similar, although the right head and left yellow arm designs differ.

Modular Man, by Ted Mayer. This one has an organic green face on the right head. Image source: Power and Honor Foundation/Dark Horse
Modular Man, by Ted Mayer. This version has a robotic right head and a hammer shaped left yellow arm. Image source: Power and Honor Foundation/Dark Horse

Both of these designs, although different from the final look of the figure, were ported into the minicomic and the She-Ra cartoon, respectively. As was often the case, animators and comic book artists needed more lead time in order to meet deadlines, resulting in a mismatch between what was on the shelves and what was on TV screens.

Concept character vs animated look. Image source: Dušan M.

Production Toy

The cross sell art for the character reflects the finalized design of the toy, albeit with some slight differences in the exact color shades used:

The toy design is closer to the Ted Mayer concept design that was used for the minicomics, particularly in regard to the green and black head. The color choices are generally retained, although switched around a bit. The torso design has been reworked quite a bit, and the figure was given a second torso, giving him greater flexibility to work as two fully independent figures.

Generally speaking, Multi-Bot about the same height as Modulok, but he’s significantly bulkier. And of course depending on how they are configured either figure can be made to be either short or tall. The 1985 wave of Evil Horde figures was generally filled with monsters, while the 1986 wave was mostly comprised for robotic characters, including Horde Trooper and Dragstor.

Left to right: Multi-Bot, Modulok, Hordak
1987 German MOTU Magazine. Source: www.he-man.org
1986 Mattel catalog. Source: Battle Armor Dad

Multi-Bot and Modulok are compatible with each other, and can be mixed and matched to create “Mega-Monster” (also known as “Megabeast”).

Image courtesy of Øyvind Meisfjord

Packaging

Multi-Bot came in a box very similar to the one used for Modulok, down to the size, shape, and art style. The back features a number of ways to “build” the character, as well as an action scene depicting Multi-Bot transforming while battling Evil Warriors and Snake Men.

There are two versions of the packaging – the blue background, as shown earlier, and a silver background version, shown below (thanks to Thorsten G. for pointing this out):

Minicomics

In The Menace of Multi-Bot, we find out that Modulok invented Multi-Bot. He gives Multi-Bot enormous strength, and the ability to reassemble himself when damaged. Multi-Bot is sent to Eternia to challenge He-Man (with a secret plan to attack Hordak after He-Man was defeated, allowing Modulok to take charge).

Mult-Bot is at first a formidable foe, but he is defeated (and turned on Hordak) in the end with the use of some magnets:

Star Comics

In issue 5 of the Star Comics Masters of the Universe series, a (more or less) toy-accurate Multi-Bot is used as a kind of antenna to summon Monstroid:

Later in the story, Multi-Bot tussles with Extendar, but in the end Orko forces him to save Extendar from drowning. Notice that Multi-Bot is given a goatee, which seems to stem from a misinterpretation of the source material.

Animation

In the She-Ra animated series, Multi-Bot was again the invention of Modulok. Multi-Bot is not frequently used, but he seems to have the ability to transform his body into anything at all:

Other Artwork

Multi-Bot makes a minor appearance in this Eternia poster by William George, as “Megabeast” (combined with Modulok):

Multi-Bot in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has graciously shared the following images and video of Multi-Bot in action!

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Evil Horde

Mantenna: Evil spy with the pop-out eyes (1985)

I got Mantenna at the same time I got Leech, for Christmas in 1985. While I gravitated toward Leech at first, I kept coming back to Mantenna. His telescoping eyeball action feature wasn’t all that much fun, but his bizarre appearance kept drawing me back in. What was this guy? He looked like a cross between an ant, an Elephant, and a space alien.

Image courtesy of Axel Giménez
Image source: Battlegrip

Designed by Ted Mayer, Mantenna is certainly the weirdest looking figure in the Masters of the Universe toyline. According to the Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog, Mantenna’s early working names were Sensor (also a working name for Zodac) and Raydor. All of his names are puns on devices used to sense things from a distance – hence his large, pop-out eyes and oversized ears.

This early version of the character (below) has the early detachable horde insignia. He also has white teeth, red hands, and lacks the horde emblem shinguards he would get later in his design evolution.

Image Source: Tomart’s Action Figure Digest issue 202
Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation/The Art of He-Man. His eyes appear to have some kind of hypnotic power.

This revised drawing by Ted Mayer gives the character red teeth, and the standard Horde insignia on his check, shin guards, and left arm. He was given a yellow belt and black trunks. He also had a strange staff weapon with some kind of creature wrapped around it. Hordak had a similar weapon in early concept art as well.

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog

The prototype Mantenna is featured in the 1985 Mattel dealer catalog. The shape is finalized, but there are some color differences between this and the final toy. He has orange sides, rather than black. His chest insignia is outlined in black, as are his red teeth. His eyes seem to also have orange and red veins.

Mantenna’s cross sell artwork represents another intermediate step in his design – his sides are mostly black, there is still a strip of red or orange under his armpits. His teeth are also still outlined in black.

The final Mantenna has fully black sides and simplified teeth. At this point it’s really not obvious that they’re actually teeth. It really looks much grosser than that. It’s not obvious at first, but the toy does retain the original concept of having four legs – but the legs were fused together in pairs.

There is another Mantenna variant that has a color scheme on his chest closer to the cross sell art (with orange around the head of the bat design). It had a black lever in back, but the bats on his shin guards were not painted red:

Mantenna’s pop-up eye mechanism was also patented, although it seems like a simple enough design. The patent was filed December 17, 1984, and it was trademarked on September 10, 1984.

Mantenna was sold on his own single card, of course. He was also sold in a JCPenny giftset with Leech.

Mantenna’s minicomic isn’t a fan favorite. I remember not being able to get through it as a kid – the artwork seemed too jumbled and hastily done. It should also be noted that although Mantenna’s name is in the title, he barely makes an appearance in it.

In The Power of the Evil Horde, illustrated by Bruce Timm, Mantenna has the ability to fire stun rays out of his eyes:

In the Mattel Style Guide (illustrated by Errol McCarthy), Mantenna is characterized this way:

Power: frightening ability to see and hear over great distances with his highly sensitive ears and periscope scanners.

Character Profile: Mantenna can do more than just see with those wild eyes. He can fire a variety of horrible beams from them as well, including paralysis beams, stun beams, etc. Mantenna is also an agile scout and often goes out well ahead of his companions to make sure their way is clear for marauding, pillaging and the like. Since he is no slouch in the combat area, either, Mantenna rarely needs assistance on his scouting missions.

The 1985 Golden story, The Horde, seems to draw directly from Ted Mayer’s concept art in its depiction of both Mantenna and Leech:

Mantenna’s grotesque appearance was toned down for the She-Ra cartoon series. He lost most of the fins on his limbs, and his mouth lost its sphincter-like look. He was also given simple yellow eyes rather than the bloodshot eyes of his action figure. Changes were made to his hands, feet, and costume as well. He was generally depicted a bumbling henchman, often dropped through a trap door by Hordak.

Dusan M. pointed out that this is an intermediate design – final design sheets had a visible tongue.

The Filmation Mantenna did have the ability to shoot various beams from his eyes, which he occasionally used to devastating effect:

Mantenna maintains his Filmation look in this Evil Horde poster by Earl Norem. It appeared in the Summer 1985 issue of Masters of the Universe Magazine (US version).

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