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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
The figure was also released in a gift set with Flying Fists He-Man, featuring artwork on the front against by William George:
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:
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:
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
They also appear front and center in William George’s Eternia poster:
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:
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:
Stout’s lizard concept evolved into a more upright, human-like creature, initially with minimal armor and a muscular build:
The character continued to evolve to include a helmet and mask design, body armor, and slimmer build:
Claudio Mazzoli took Stout’s design (above) and turned it into a full-color painting:
The costume continued to evolve until the nearly final movie look, pictured below:
The costume for the character (played by Pons Maar) was exquisitely detailed and quite convincing, even given the low budget for the film:
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:
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:
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.
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.”
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:
Saurod makes an appearance in William George’s Preternia poster, as well as in a movie poster by Earl Norem:
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.
Saurod In Action
Øyvind Meisfjord has contributed the following image and videos of Saurod in action:
Ninjor is perhaps the most G.I. Joe-like figure in the Masters of the Universe series. He certainly feels like He-Man’s answer to Snake Eyes or Storm Shadow. He doesn’t exactly fit with the general science/sword and sorcery motif of MOTU, but then of course by the last couple of years of the line it had become a something of a kitchen sink of ideas.
Design & Development
Ninjor was designed by David Wolfram. In my interview with him, David had this to say regarding Ninjor:
Early on in my Mattel career , I was given the task to do four figures using minimal new tooling. They were Scareglow Skeletor, King Randor, Ninjor, and Clamp Champ. The four characters had already been conceived of and the concepts sold in, so all I had to do was to make it happen.
Part of that was going through the tooling banks to find parts to add to the appearance of the figures. I did get new tooling for Clamp Champ’s weapon, and for four heads. Hal Faulkner, one of our good outside sculpting vendors, sculpted the heads.
Ninjor was a dead ringer for Lee Van Cleef, who had done some karate or kung fu based show around that time, so we had to change that.
Ninjor came with three weapons – a sword (borrowed from Jitsu), a bow and arrow (borrowed from the Eternia playset) and nunchucks. He also came with a cloth costume that obscured most of his face. He borrows the spring arm action feature from Fisto and Jitsu, which allows him to attack with his sword or nunchucks with his right hand. Jitsu was of course also a martial arts themed figure, although he looked more heavily armored rather than stealthy.
The one piece of his design that separates Ninjor from a typical terrestrial ninja is his three-toed feet, borrowed from Dragon Blaster Skeletor.
The illustration on the front of Ninjor’s card was done by Bruce Timm, while the scene on the back of the card was done by Errol McCarthy:
At one point Mattel was planning to reuse the Ninjor concept to create a white-costumed ninja warrior, making the Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow comparison all the more apt. However, these plans never came to fruition.
As in the card art and in the commercial at the beginning of this article, Ninjor was often portrayed as the nemesis of Clamp Champ. That is also evident in the comic that came packed with Ninjor, The Search For Keldor. In the story, Skeletor summons the “most evil beings from time and space” from another dimension to do his bidding:
In the comic, you can see Ninjor with the arms and legs of He-Man (all in black) rather than Skeletor. That may represent an earlier concept design for him.
Characterization and Other Stories
The 1987 Style Guide (above, illustrated by Errol McCarthy) characterized Ninjor this way:
Power: Mastery of many martial arts weapons.
Character profile: This awful assassin has come from another world to serve Skeletor. His mission is to eliminate Heroic Warriors one by one, until He-Man no longer has any help in defending Eternia. Ninjor always moves with great speed, skill and silence.
In Masters of the Universe Adventure Magazine issue 9, Skeletor summons Scare Glow and Ninjor. As described in the style guide, Ninjor excels at stealthy attacks. In this issue he is depicted with a purple, green and white costume:
In Star Comics Masters of the Universe issue 7, Skeletor again summons Ninjor, along with Blast Attak. The two don’t immediately hit it off:
In the 1987 winter issue of the US MOTU Magazine, Ninjor makes another prominent appearance, where he manages to elude both Clamp Champ and Rio Blast:
Artwork & Advertisements
Coming so late in the Masters of the Universe line, Ninjor didn’t show up in a lot of artwork, but he was a background character in posters illustrated by William George, Earl Norem and Esteban Maroto:
Errol McCarthy went on to illustrate the character again, this time battling He-Man with his live-action movie costume:
Ninjor also showed up in a few catalogs and advertisements:
Ninjor isn’t the most distinctive-looking figure in the world, but he does look rather smart and has some fun features and accessories.
Ninjor in Action
Øyvind Meisfjord has generously shared the following image and video of Ninjor in action: