Evil Vehicles

Fright Fighter: Evil Dragonfly Attack Vehicle (1986)

Fright Fighter is one of the coolest vehicles created for the Evil Warriors in the vintage Masters of the Universe line. I don’t specifically recall seeing it as a kid, and it’s hard to find intact today due to the various detachable parts that came with it.

Design & Development

Fright Fighter started out as a concept drawing by Ed Watts, called Dragon Fly, dating to September 24, 1984. Compared to the final vehicle, the design on this initial concept is more elaborate, with a number of small radar dishes and exposed engine parts. It features two jet engines in the back and four wings that are somewhat squared off at the edges, with ridges throughout. One wonders if this might have been inspired by the ornithopters in Frank Herbert’s Dune.

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation
A photo of Ed Watts’ original artwork, noticeably darker than the original art. This was in the collection of John Hollis.

Incidentally, Ed Watts did another concept vehicle called Fright Fighter, although visually it has nothing to do with the Fright Fighter vehicle released in 1986. Apparently the boys’ marketing department thought that the Fright Fighter name would be more appropriate for an evil vehicle. This one dates to September 13, 1984.

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

Update: You can see the Fright Fighter perched on the central tower in Ted Mayer’s February 5, 1985 concept art for the Eternia playset (thanks to Øyvind for the reminder!). Interestingly it’s sitting on tank treads – those treads actually ended up going to Blasterhawk, which is shown on the tower to the left:

It also appears as a foam cutout in an early Eternia prototype, below:

You can see an intermediate stage in the vehicle’s design in this draft version of what appears to be packaging art, below. You can see it has fewer radar dishes and not as much exposed motor parts than the Ed Watts concept. Scale-wise it’s smaller, too. The wings have been changed in design, but they are still more squared off compared to the final toy. The jet engines have been moved to the “feet” of the vehicle, and the back of the fuselage has a more insect-like appearance:

From the John Hollis collection.

The final design of the toy is evident in the artwork from the back of the packaging, shown below. The biggest change is to the wings, which look much more dragonfly-like in shape, with mechanical embellishments. The overall color scheme is purple and blue, as opposed to the green and yellow of the original design.

Toy & Packaging

The Fright Fighter is an impressive looking toy. It featured two separate triggers on the handle. The larger hand trigger made the dragonfly wings move up and down (alternating from front to back), while the smaller finger trigger made the pincers in front close, allowing the vehicle to grab and carry a figure in front. The cockpit was large enough for one figure. The earliest newspaper ad I’ve found for it dates to September 28, 1986, meaning that it was probably available in stores around or slightly before that date.

All of the images below of the toy and its packaging come from old eBay auctions, as I don’t own this vehicle.

The vehicle shipped with most of the parts not assembled, and some of them were still attached to sprues, as shown below:

The packaging includes artwork by William George. In the artwork we see Fright Fighter piloted by Skeletor in his Battle Armor, while Battle Armor He-Man, Roboto and Man-At-Arms are depicted in the cratered desert surface below. The box includes something that looks similar to “cross sell” art on the back, although it’s really being used to advertise the actual toy in the packaging. There are also images of the vehicle in action on the sides of the box.

Comic Appearances

Fright Fighter appears in Energy Zoids, where Skeletor and his minions use the vehicle to capture Rotar:

Image via the Dark Horse minicomics collection

Fright Fighter is interestingly a vehicle of the Evil Horde in Roboto’s Sacrifice, a story that appears in issue 34 of the UK Comics. In the story, Hordak is the creator of the vehicle, and Dragstor uses it on its maiden flight to pursue Roboto and Man-At-Arms. Images below come from He-Man.org.

Fright Fighter appears in From Here to Eternia, in issue 6 of the Star Comics, where it is correctly noted as Skeletor’s vehicle. In the story, Skeletor flies to Eternia (the playset version), lands, transforms himself into Orko to trick the heroic warriors, and turns his Fright Fighter invisible. Images below come from http://www.motucfigures.com/.

Fright Fighter appears in several stories from the German Ehapa Verlag series, including issues 3, 9 and 12 from the 1988 series (images via He-Man.org):

The vehicle also appears in the issue 2 of the Italian Magic Boy series from 1988:

In the the Fall 1986 issues of the US Masters of the Universe Magazine, we get a brief appearance of Fright Fighter in The Struggle For Eternia.

In the same issue it appears in artwork by Earl Norem featured on the cover and in a bonus poster:

Other Artwork

Errol McCarthy depicted Fright Fighter in a couple of illustrations, as shown in the artwork below (scanned by the Power and the Honor Foundation):

The above illustration was used in Mattel’s style guide, which included some background information for Fright Fighter as well as Blasterhawk:

NAME: Fright Fighter
ROLE: Evil winged vehicle of Skeletor.
POWER: Stalks enemies of Skeletor from the air; can swoop down and grab warriors in its might pincers: radar scanner tracks down foes from miles away.
CHARACTER PROFILE: Like a dragonfly, this vehicle has the power to hover silently and cut through the air with incredible speed. Its hovering ability and quiet sound make it perfect for spying or sneak attack missions.

It also makes an appearance in William George’s Eternia poster, as well as his box art for the Eternia playset:


Fright Fighter appeared in a number of US and foreign advertisements:

Image Source: Battle Armor Dad

Fright Fighter In Action

Check out Fright Fighter in action with the image and videos below shared by Øyvind Meisfjord:

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Evil Vehicles

Land Shark: Evil Monster/Vehicle (1985)

Land Shark is one of those Masters of the Universe vehicles that had to exist. There was no way they weren’t going to get around to making a chomping shark car vehicle, given enough time.

According to The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog, the idea for making this kind of vehicle came from Roger Sweet, and Ed Watts (who also worked on the Dragon Walker) created the design details in the concept drawing below:

Image Source: The Power and Honor Foundation Catalog

The concept design, compared to the final toy, has much sharper lines (ideal for mowing down foes, but probably too sharp for a kid’s toy) and larger eyes, but the broad ideas that went into the final vehicle are all there. Notice that Trap Jaw is depicted driving the vehicle. In a way, the Land Shark is kind of a vehicular version of Trap Jaw, sharing not only his chomping mechanical jaw but also his color scheme. In Watts’ artwork, they even have similar weapons (although non of Trap Jaw’s attachments actually looked like that). The concept version is maroon and green, while final toy was maroon and blue (all three are predominant colors on Trap Jaw).

The cross sell artwork for the Land Shark (which incidentally seems to have been rarely used) is based closely on the final design used on the toy:

The trademark for Land Shark was filed September 10, 1984, and the patent was filed on November 13, 1984 .

Land Shark was sold individually and in a set with Battle Armor Skeletor. The box art on both sets was illustrated by William George:

Land Shark appears with some frequency in the series of minicomics released in 1985. The depiction in comics more or less matches the look of the final toy, although the guns are simpler and seem to connect to the vehicle with a different kind of hinged joint (this is true in all of the minicomic appearances, with the exception of Leech). This may represent an earlier prototype design. Excerpted images below are from the Dark Horse He-man Minicomic collection.

Curiously, Hordak drives the Land Shark in Hordak – The Ruthless Leader’s Revenge:

Errol McCarthy produced a couple of illustrations for the Land Shark. One of them was used in the 1987 Style Guide, which described the vehicle this way:

Role: Evil man-eating assault vehicle
Power: Power to seek, seize and consume the enemies of Skeletor

“Evil man-eating assault vehicle” seems like a good tag line for the toy. I’m surprised it wasn’t used on the actual packaging.

Land Shark makes a couple of appearances in the Golden books stories: A Hero In Need  and The River Of Ruin (images via He-Man.org):

William George included the Land Shark in his 1985 and 1986 posters:

Earl Norem pitted the Land Shark vs the Laser Bolt in a poster included in the Spring 1986 issues of Masters of the Universe Magazine:

Norem also included the vehicle in his “Lake of Mystery” poster, although interestingly he turns it into a water vehicle in the surreal scene below:

The same issue of MOTU Magazine features a story called “The Comet Warriors Have Landed!” The vehicle also makes an appearance there:

The vehicle only made two appearances in the Filmation He-Man cartoon, in the episodes “The Gambler” and “The Cold Zone”. Predictably the vehicle is simplified for animation purposes. The guns were also dropped from the sides. Update: Dušan M pointed out that the animators also added a retractable roof so they wouldn’t always have to animate a driver. Aidan Cross points out that the Land Shark appears to be sentient, since in “The Cold Zone” it snaps aggressively when the Attak Trak says it would rather not be left alone with the Land Shark.

The Land Shark is a gimicky vehicle to be sure, equal parts menacing and comical. But, it’s undeniably one of the coolest vehicles released for the evil warriors, who never quite seemed to have enough of them. The lion’s share of always seemed to go to the good guys.

Image Source: Battlegrip
Image source: Battlegrip
Evil Vehicles

Roton: Evil assault vehicle! (1984)


Roton was a toy that, as a kid, I admired from afar, but was never able to own (at least until many years later). I remember very clearly going over to my friend Tyson’s house in first grade and being bowled over by his collection, which dwarfed mine. Among other things I got to see in person for the first time toys like Zodac, Stratos, and the amazing Roton.


Design & Development

December 1, 1982 marks the earliest known mention of Roton, where it appears in the Masters of the Universe Bible. It was originally conceived as a vehicle for the heroic warriors:

ROTON – when this vehicle’s in the fight, He-Man’s enemies scatter, literally. He-Man rides atop the round vehicle which has a swiftly moving buzzsaw sipping around its center. Instead of blades, the buzzsaw’s blunted, club-like appendages sweep away anything or anyone in the way.

In a way, conceptually the Roton seems to have been merged with another early idea, called the Tornado Traveler (also from the MOTU Bible):

“TORNADO TRAVELER* – a wild, whipping flying craft which only Skeletor can control through the skies of both Infinita and Eternia. Whenever it appears it’s preceded by a violent windstorm.”

While the Roton seems to have been originally intended as a ground assault vehicle, its spinning blades make it look like it could plausibly fly, and so it was often depicted that way.

A couple of early concept drawings related to the Roton appear in The Power and the Honor Foundation‘s Catalog Volume One. Both are illustrated by Ed Watts.

The first is a Roger Sweet concept call the Gyro. This does not seem to be directly related to the Roton, as the drawing is dated September 17, 1983, and the Roton had its name set already in December of 1982 and the trademark filed on August 22, 1983. Still, the rotating blade concept is very similar.

Gyro, by Ed Watts. Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog, Volume One

This undated drawing by Ed Watts shows a Roton that bears close resemblance to the final toy, with some key differences. The color scheme is red and white. The design around the sides is in keeping with the look of the final toy, except the decals are simple triangular shapes. The face on the front is quite different, as is the design of the seat back. All in all this version looks much less monstrous. I would guess that at this point it was still intended to be a heroic vehicle.

Artwork by Ed Watts. Image via The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog Volume One

However, up until this point in the line (1984), there hadn’t been a single vehicle produced that was specifically intended for the Evil Warriors. Perhaps with that in consideration, the design was changed to make it look more sinister:

Roton cross sell art. Image courtesy of Axel Giménez

The above cross sell art, which matches exactly the look of the final toy, shows what changes were made to make the Roton fit with Skeletor’s crew. The vehicle was now black, with red blades. The face on the front became much more monstrous, and organic-looking spiny plates were added to the back side of the vehicle. The shape of the twin guns on the front was also overhauled.

Packaging & Toy

William George did the packaging artwork for the Roton. In his illustration, the vehicle is cruising along the ground, as a lizard and a tiny demon-like creature look on. George often included little creatures like this in his artwork.

Image scanned by me, repaired by Retroist

The toy itself is relatively compact and simple. No batteries were required. You simply rolled it along the ground, and an internal set of gears would cause the buzz saw to rotate with a satisfying (or annoying, if you’re a parent) clicking sound. Of all the evil vehicles, this one seems to lend itself most to fleet-building. Like the Battle Ram, it works as a ground or air assault vehicle.

Model Kit & Artwork

Monogram produced a model kit version of the toy, as they did for the Attak Trak and Talon Fighter. In the case of those two vehicles, Monogram based the models on early prototypes or concept drawings of the toys. I wonder if that isn’t also the case with the Monogram Roton. It looks closer to the final toy than the to the Ed Watts concept art, but there are a few differences as well, the canopy being the most obvious one. Larry Elmore did the packaging artwork:

Curiously, the Roton doesn’t show up once in the mini comics, while the Land Shark (released a year later) shows up in multiple comics across multiple years.

Errol McCarthy illustrated this scene of Skeletor “mowing the grass” in the Roton. I believe this was intended for use on a T-shirt:

The Roton makes some prominent appearances in Golden Books stories, including Dangerous Games, The Rock Warriors, Secret of the Dragon’s Egg, and The Magic Mirror:

The vehicle also plays a supporting role in the Lady Bird story, He-Man and the Asteroid of Doom (images via He-Man.org):

The 1985 German Masters of the Universe Magazine is mostly filled with toy photography, but it does include a short comic story, and the Roton is a formidable presence:

The Roton appears in the background of a few different posters by Earl Norem and William George:




The Roton made several appearances in the Filmation He-Man cartoon, although it was never a regularly used vehicle. The Filmation design is simplified for ease of animation, and its buzz saw has longer (but fewer) blades, but otherwise it’s fairly true to the toy design:


Advertising Images

Of all the evil vehicles produced for the line, the Roton is my favorite. You just have to take one look at it and you immediately get what it’s about and you feel sorry for any heroic warriors who have to go up against it.

From the 1985 German MOTU Magazine. Image via He-Man.org
From the 1984 Mattel Dealer Catalog. Image via Orange Slime.
From the 1985 Mattel Dealer Catalog. Image via Orange Slime.

Roton in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has kind contributed the following image and video of the Roton in action: