Evil Warriors, Heroic Warriors, Lords of Power

Power-Con 2020 “Lords of Power” Five-Pack

The Masters of the Universe Origins exclusive Power-Con “Lord of Power” five pack was announced in 2019 as an exclusive for the 2020 Power-Con. Little did we know that COVID-19 would cancel just about every large gathering for 2020. Power-Con was, for the first, time held virtually this year. The 5-pack (as well as an exclusive MOTU Origins She-Ra with rooted hair) could be ordered by anyone either through the Power-Con website or through Big Bad Toy Store.

So what’s this Lords of Power business? Back in 2017, a rather incredible set of pictures surfaced, showing early Masters of the Universe prototypes, which were called “Lords of Power” at the time. Shared by Andy Youssi (son of freelance display artist John Youssi) these images come from a collection of slides set in a View-Master-like apparatus. The prototypes were in several cases quite different from the final toys, and were designed by Mark Taylor and sculpted by Tony Guerrero. You can read all about it in the article I wrote about it at the time.

The packaging for the set was gorgeously illustrated by Axel Giménez with colors by Nate Baertsch. It ships in a brown external box, with a scene on the front inspired by promotional artwork by Errol McCarthy. The illustrations on the back are a nod to cross sell artwork by Alfredo Alcala that appeared on the backs of the first four minicomics. Jukka Issakainen notes that the poses of the five characters are also loosely based on Mark Taylor’s original B-sheet concept art.

The internal packaging is based on vintage action figure carrying cases. The front of the packaging is a color version of the front of the brown mailer box:

The back of the packaging shows the other three figures included in the set:

Inside the case, the figures are set in clear plastic inserts, in battle poses. I couldn’t quite capture them adequately on camera due to the reflection from the plastic, so here is a promotional image from Mattel:

Freed from their plastic prisons

The artwork inside is a homage to various panels from the original Alfredo Alcala/Don Glut minicomics. Beast Man’s pose in packaging is even based on that material:

The vehicle in Man-At-Arms’ section is based on on old Mark Taylor prototype vehicle, designed before he brought in Ted Mayer to design vehicles like Battle Ram and Wind Raider:

Image shared by Axel Giménez
Early Alfredo Alcala comic panel, featuring the prototype vehicle.
Mark Taylor concept vehicle. Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

The bottom of the case features credits for the various toy and packaging designers who worked on this project:

And now, on to the figures!

He-Man

With He-Man, we’re essentially getting a repaint of the 2019 SDCC exclusive release, but without the boot knife and with fewer extras. For all of these figures there are a few liberties taken compared to the source material. The concept He-Man referenced was a bit paler than the mass produced He-Man, but he wasn’t quite this pale. He had a rather different axe (which was ported over from an earlier He-Man prototype that featured a horned helmet) and a closed left hand and no bracer on the left wrist. Otherwise the colors of his costume here are spot on. The head on this He-Man is probably the most authentic-looking He-Man head in the MOTU origins series so far.

The source material
Mark Taylor B-Sheet. Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation
Left to right: 2019 SDCC release, 2020 Power-Con release, 2020 retail release
Vintage (left) verses Power-Con release

Skeletor

Skeletor features a few new parts compared to the 2019 MOTU Origins release – he has an all-new head based on the “rotting face” original Skeletor prototype. He also has shin guards that appeared both in the prototype and in Alfredo Alcala-illustrated minicomics. The bat on his armor is painted yellow/green, which follows from both prototype and concept art. Unlike the prototype, this Skeletor features finned forearms (an oversight I assume – smooth forearms were already tooled for some of the Masters of the WWE figures and could have easily been used) and bare three-toed feet (the concept had bare five-toed feet). He has paler skin compared to the retail release MOTU Origins Skeletor, which in my opinion is an improvement.

Lords of Power prototypes
Mark Taylor B-sheet
The early Skeletor prototype, down to the rotting face, is preserved in the 1980 MOTU Pop-Up Game
Retail (left) vs. Power-Con release
Vintage (left) vs. Power-Con release

Man-At-Arms

Man-At-Arms is a fairly close representation of the prototype source material overall. He has newly sculpted chest armor with “fur” around the sides and a closed back, just like the prototype. The helmet is a pretty good representation of the prototype, minus a few stray paint details. His face is based on the vintage toy, where the prototype’s face was actually quite different. He reuses the left hand from Man-E-Faces to represent the extended orange armor on the prototype’s left hand. He also includes the large mace that was original sculpted for the Masters of the Universe Classics Man-At-Arms. He includes a boot knife, which wasn’t in the prototype but was included in Mark Taylor’s original concept art.

High res face comparison. Image shared by Dušan Mitrović
Mark Taylor B-Sheet
Retail release (left) vs. Power-Con release
Power-Con release vs. vintage figure (right)

Beast Man

Beast Man is quite different from any version of the toy that’s been released, past or present. The Lords of Power slide set was the first time we had seen a physical representation of the design. It’s based on very early Mark Taylor concept art for the character, which seems to have been made with reuse of the Big Jim Gorilla in mind (ultimately it wasn’t used for the prototype).

The overall colors and costume design for the Power-Con release are quite close to the prototype. The main liberty taken is with the feet, which are the quite flat, detail-free feet used in the retail version of MOTU Origins Beast Man. The prototype, by comparison, had sculpted toes. Additionally, the proportions of the prototype head were somewhat different, but the head on the Power-Con release gets the idea across.

Original prototypes
Mark Taylor concept art
Mark Taylor concept art – a different color take (image shared by Rebecca Salari Taylor)
The early Beast Man prototype is preserved in this 1982 MOTU Pop-Up Game
Retail release (left) vs Power-Con version
Vintage release (left) vs. Power-Con version

Mer-Man

Of all the figures in this set, I was the most excited for Mer-Man. We knew of this version from childhood because it appeared prominently in the original Alfredo Alcala minicomics. This concept design has long been one of my favorites, along with the cross-sell art version of Mer-Man, which was a modified version of that original concept. The Power-Con release, sculpt-wise, is quite close to the prototype. There are only a few minor differences.

The first difference is in the hands, which have five fingers rather than four, and reuse He-Man’s hands rather than Skeletor’s (I assume because He-Man’s left hand has flat, splayed fingers, so at least the pose of the original prototype can be replicated).

The armor is also a bit different – the detail over the shoulders seems like a nod to the vintage figure design rather than the concept design. The trunks are the smooth style reused from the Masters of the WWE line. The original had scales all around – this version for some reason has what looks like bubbles printed front and back. Printed scales would have been more appropriate. The original prototype also seems to have had darker coloring throughout the armor.

The difference that stands out the most is the coloring – it’s a dark blue-green, which may be a nod to Mark Taylor’s original B-sheet art. The original prototype had a much lighter blue-green color. Still, he’s a quite striking and beautiful figure (I nitpick my favorite figures the most):

Original prototypes
Mark Taylor B-sheet
Vintage Mer-Man (left) vs Power-Con release

This set certainly wasn’t cheap – as you may know, exclusives are produced in far lower numbers than retail figures, which drastically drives up the cost per figure. Still, if you’re a big fan of early prototypes and minicomics, these are a must have. This was the kind of figure I had in mind when the line was announced (like many others, I had the idea that “MOTU Origins” was a reference to early concept/minicomic designs, especially since the first two figures released in the SDCC two-pack were in that style). A suggestion for a future set: Oo-Larr, Sorceress (aka “Green Goddess”), blonde Teela, red Beast Man, and tan Stratos! A full “Alcala” style Skeletor would also be great!

I hope you enjoyed the review – here are some additional shots to close things out:

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Evil Warriors

MOTU Origins Skeletor (2020)

The MOTU Origins line was originally slated to appear on Wal-Mart toy shelves in the fall of 2020. However some figures have already started appearing on Wal-Mart’s website, although finding them in stock seems almost impossible as collectors and resellers are picking them off as soon as they appear in stock.

Skeletor is the first figure in the MOTU Origins line that isn’t either He-Man or a He-Man repaint (minicomic variants of He-Man and Prince Adam were released at last year’s San Diego Comic Con), and he doesn’t disappoint.

Mattel released preview images of the figure several months back. That version had a few differences from the production figure. Those differences included: purple trunks (like the early 1982 release of Skeletor), airbrushed green face paint, and odd purple “socks” that extended up beyond his boots.

MOTU Origins Skeletor pre-final design

The mass produced figure fixed the odd “socks” and gave him black trunks (like the vintage Skeletor figures released later in 1982 and beyond). They also gave him paint masked green highlights on his face, rather than the soft airbrush look. Another new addition to the production figure is a series of black lines around his mouth representing the gaps between his teeth, which were also a feature of the vintage figure:

MOTU origins Skeletor

As you can see, this Origins representation of Skeletor is a pretty faithful recreation of the vintage Skeletor figure, albeit with an open mouth and of course a great deal of new articulation. He also has a great deal more red in his eyes:

Skeletor reuses quite a few parts from Origins He-Man, including the thighs, trunks, chest, and upper arms. He also features a new half-sword, which is the one departure from the vintage Skeletor – it’s based on the minicomic version of the sword, rather than the vintage toy. It fits together neatly with the half sword that comes with the retail release of MOTU Origins He-Man (look for a future review of this figure), although I had to dip the swords in hot water first to straighten them out:

He-Man’s half of the sword

The packaging is based on the classic red and blue “bursting rocks” card from the original 1980s line. The artwork on the back is by Axel Giménez and Francisco Etchart.

The figure is packed with a six-page minicomic entitled Beast Barage. The story is about a plot to kidnap Prince Adam, which is foiled by the heroic warriors. Apparently one new comic will be packed in with each wave of figures.

Interestingly, my Skeletor figure came with the above minicomic, but my 2020 He-Man figure (to appear in a future review) came with a revised version with different cover art and a corrected typo in the story:

As a vintage collector, the new MOTU Origins line is right up my alley. Skeletor especially is a joy to look at and to pose with his vibrant colors and vintage look. Given the interchangeability of the parts in these figures, I hope that future releases will include all kinds of variant heads and boots and other parts for us obsessive collectors to use to create our favorite incarnations of these characters.

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Evil Warriors

Terror Claws Skeletor: Evil leader with the claw-swinging action! (1986)

I don’t seem to recall much about Terror Claws Skeletor from childhood, but he’s certainly one of the most flamboyant of the Skeletor variants released over the years. He’s often referred to by fans as “sports bra Skeletor”, but his armor, in fairness, is more like the 80s muscle shirt modeled by “Macho Man” Randy Savage, below:

Design & Development

Terror Claws Skeletor was, I believe, designed by Alan Tyler. In the Power and Honor Foundation catalog (below), we can see an early concept design showing how the figure’s action feature would work:

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

The design on the above armor is reminiscent of the bat design on Battle Armor Skeletor. The armor design would be altered on the final figure, however. We can see it represented (in unpainted form) in David Wolfram‘s Tyrantisaurus concept art, below:

Image courtesy of David Wolfram

It’s possible the armor was inspired by an early Man-E-Faces concept by Mark Taylor:

Image courtesy of Rebecca Salari Taylor

The cross sell artwork for the figure represents the finalized design:

This interesting test test shot (photos by Mike Holbrook) shows the figure with light flesh tone skin and an orange and white costume:

Terror Claws Skeletor was trademarked on June 14, 1985, and the copyright for the figure was registered May 19, 1986.

Production Toy

Terror Claws Skeletor was the first Skeletor variant to have almost entirely newly sculpted parts. He has newly designed legs with much larger toes (Laser-Light Skeletor would use the same basic foot shape in its design) and ball-jointed legs. His armor (painted a light metallic purple is a part of his chest sculpt. His arms are based on previous Skeletor arms, but the hands and forearms were modified him to allow him to wear his Terror Claws.

Images via eBay
1986 Mattel catalog. Source: Natalie NHT
Source: Natalie NHT
Source: Natalie NHT
Image source: He-Man.it
“Magic Boy” 1989 Italian magazine

Packaging

Terror Claws Skeletor was released on an oversized card with an illustration on the front by William George. It was advertised as the “5th Anniversary Collector’s Edition”, which is interesting because Masters of the Universe to my knowledge was launched in 1982, four years earlier. However, some fans have theorized that MOTU actually was launched in late 1981, base on their memories. That’s also backed up by an old audio interview of Mark Taylor. I haven’t found any documentary evidence to really support that MOTU came out in 1981, but this is nevertheless something interesting that at least points in that direction.

The back of the card featured an illustration by Errol McCarthy, and illustrated the figure’s arm-swinging action feature:

Image source: KMKA
Original line art by Errol McCarthy. Image via He-Man.org

The figure was also released in a gift set with Flying Fists He-Man, featuring artwork on the front against by William George:

Image source: Jon English

Comics

In the figure’s accompanying minicomic, The Terror Claws Strike!, Spikor is commissioned by Skeletor to create a new weapon. The claws themselves look more or less like the toy (albeit with longer, segmented fingers, similar to those in the concept art), but the “beastly pincher” looks plain and mechanical, not like the skull weapon that came with the toy. Skeletor’s costume is also based on his animated look, rather than the actual Terror Claws figure.

The Terror Claws also appear in Escape From The Slime Pit. In the story, a slime-covered and brainwashed He-Man shows up to destroy Skeletor:

Image source: Dark Horse

A rather comic depiction of the Terror Claws appears in the May 1, 1986 issue of Star Comics Masters of the Universe series. In the story, the “claws” look like floppy blue gloves:

Update: Øyvind Meisfjord mentions that a better illustration of the Terror Claws appears in a later issue of the Star Comics. He shares these images from his Norwegian copy:

Other Artwork

Terror Claws Skeletor struggles with Flying Fists He-Man for the Cosmic Key in this (as far as I know) unproduced illustration by William George

Image source: Roger Mahafy

They also appear front and center in William George’s Eternia poster:

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

They also appear on the box art for the Eternia playset, also illustrated by William George:

The figure also appears illustrated in this sticker from Spain:

Terror Claws Skeletor in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has kindly contributed the following images and video of Terror Claws Skeletor in action:

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Evil Warriors

Saurod: Evil ‘Spark-Shooting’ Reptile (1987)

I didn’t see the 1987 Masters of the Universe Movie (or really know anything about it, other than one was made) until probably the early 90s, when I saw it on TV. Even though I considered myself too old for toys at the time, I still felt a little affronted that the designs of the main characters had been changed so much. Despite myself, I stayed for it and watched the whole movie. It was actually a pretty fun little film. As an adult I can really appreciate the beauty of the new designs, even if I might question the wisdom of straying so far from the source material.

Of the newly introduced characters, Saurod was undoubtedly the coolest. What’s not to like about an armored lizard man that can shoot sparks from his mouth?

Design & Development

Saurod was designed for the movie by William Stout. Stout actually went through a number of lizard/dinosaur designs, and several were closer to beasts than to anything humanoid. All of his designs below are, in my opinion, gorgeous:

Image source: MOTU Art Facebook Page
Image source: MOTU Art Facebook Page

Stout’s lizard concept evolved into a more upright, human-like creature, initially with minimal armor and a muscular build:

Image source: The Power of Grayskull documentary, via Dušan M.
Image source: The Power of Grayskull documentary, via Dušan M.

The character continued to evolve to include a helmet and mask design, body armor, and slimmer build:

Image source: The Power of Grayskull documentary, via Dušan M.
Image source: The Power of Grayskull documentary, via Dušan M.

Claudio Mazzoli took Stout’s design (above) and turned it into a full-color painting:

Image Source: The Art of He-Man

The costume continued to evolve until the nearly final movie look, pictured below:

Image source: MOTU Art Facebook Page

The costume for the character (played by Pons Maar) was exquisitely detailed and quite convincing, even given the low budget for the film:

Image source: He-Man.org
Image source: He-Man.org
Saurod had retractable claws in the movie.

Sadly, in the Movie, Saurod didn’t get a lot screen time. Skeletor destroyed him as an example after his henchmen failed to recover the Cosmic Key:

Image source: He-Man.org

Mattel translated the movie design into an action feature, which was released in 1987. The prototype, shown below, is very similar to the final figure, except for the gun which is smaller and silver rather than black. They eyes are also round with white pupils:

Image via Grayskull Museum

The cross sell artwork was apparently based off of the prototype, as it features the same silver gun:

Toy & Packaging

The final toy was produced in a metallic bronze plastic, similar-looking to that used on various figures in the New Adventures of He-Man toyline (especially Hoove). The figure is sculpted with all new parts, just like the other two movie figures. Because he’s so radically different-looking from most other MOTU figures, he can look out of place on the shelf, but he does seem to fit well with late designs like Blast Attak and Laser Light Skeletor.

Saurod can have varying degrees of a dark overspray on the armor. Sometimes it’s barely present, and other times it’s applied very liberally:

The details on the sculpture seem quite soft, especially compared to the movie costume. It does have quite a fun action feature – pushing the lever on the figures back causes sparks to shoot out of the mouth. The movie character, however, didn’t have this ability (he did have retractable claws). On the back of the packaging, the sparks are called out as a “laser”, although in the commercial he is said to shoot lightning from his mouth.

I presume the artwork on the front of the card was done by Bruce Timm, who did several similar pieces. The art on the back was done by Errol McCarthy.

Errol McCarthy original line art. Image source: He-Man.org

Saurod, along with Megator, was the last figure of the original MOTU line that Mattel filed a trademark on – April 27, 1987.

Comics and Stories

Saurod, Gwildor and Blade were all packaged with the same minicomic: The Cosmic Key. The story doesn’t have anything to do with the movie, however. A cosmic force called the Evil Cloud gives Skeletor evil powers, including the ability to summon Saurod and Blade, and He-Man must call on Gwildor to stop the power of the entity.

Saurod has a much heavier build in the comic than his actual toy had. That makes me think that perhaps at an earlier stage of design, Mattel had planned to with reuse one of the existing heavily muscled body types for the figure.

Update: Javier Peña in the comments noted that some of the panels in the above comic were retraced from “The Terror Claws Strike” (also “The Ultimate Battleground”), illustrated by Bruce Timm. Now Jukka Issakainen has shared this collage he created of the copied panels:

Some versions of the minicomic actually had the Powers of Grayskull artwork on the back, which would have been the artwork on the front of the cards for He-Ro and Eldor, had they been produced:

Saurod makes a couple of appearances in the US Masters of the Universe Magazine. In the 1987 Summer issue, Saurod shoots actual lasers from his mouth, but is thwarted by Snout Spout:

In the 1988 Winter issue, Saurod and Blade team up with Hordak against He-Man and She-Ra:

In issue 10 of the 1977 Star Comics MOTU series, Saurod shoots out sparks, just like his action feature. They seem to have some kind of venomous quality, as they knock out Man-At-Arms and there appears to be no “antidote”

Saurod also appears in the November 1987 Star Comics story, The Motion Picture, based on the plot from the film. The artwork replicates the movie designs (or prototype designs) only for the newly introduced characters. Established characters like He-Man, Skeletor and Evil-Lyn are drawn with their classic toy looks:

Saurod also appears in the He-Man newspaper comic strips. Thanks to Dušan M. for pointing that out. Dušan notes: “He’s bit more human-like and carries a flame thrower. Like with some other new characters, the colourist doesn’t seem to have had a proper colouring reference so his colours constantly change.”

Image source: Dark Horse’ He-Man Newspaper Comics collection.

Advertising

Saurod showed up in a few ads and catalogs, although of course coming at the end of the line he doesn’t appear in all that many:

Image source: Orange Slime

Artwork

Saurod makes an appearance in William George’s Preternia poster, as well as in a movie poster by Earl Norem:

Artwork by William George
Artwork by Earl Norem

Saurod Resurrected

One curiosity: The Saurod costume was actually reused for another film: Star Hunter (1996), a low budget take on the Predator franchise. I learned about this via the Spanish language Blog de Salguero.

Star Hunter, 1996. The external armor is the same, but the pieces underneath have been changed.

Saurod In Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has contributed the following image and videos of Saurod in action:

This is the Italian release of Saurod, which has copper colored armor on its limbs.

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