Evil Warriors

Blade: Evil Master of Swords (1987)

Blade was the only human character of the three movie-inspired toys released in the final US wave of the Masters of the Universe toyline. I don’t recall ever seeing the toy on shelves, but I do remember the character as portrayed by Anthony De Longis when the film came on TV a year or two later.

Design & Development

Blade was designed for the 1987 Masters of the Universe Movie by William Stout’s design team. An early version by Edward Eyth, a member of Stout’s team, appears below, as shown in the Power of Grayskull documentary:

Illustration by Edward Eyth. Jukka Issakainen hunted this information down for me from MOTU Movie experts Mark Knobloch and Martin Reffur. Thanks to all of them!

William Stout’s interpretation appears in the illustration below:

Blade also appears in this character sheet lineup as shown in the Power of Grayskull documentary:

Image courtesy of Dušan Mitrović

A prototype of Stout’s interpretation appears in early catalogs, easily identifiable by the metal piece covering the character’s mouth, the sword design, and the revised symbol on the chest:

Image source: Nathalie NHT
Prototype Blade figure archived from the now defunct Grayskull Museum site

However, the actual production toy, as well as the costume worn by Anthony De Longis in the Masters of the Universe Movie, draws more from the Edward Eyth design. Note the changes in chest symbol, mouth, bracer/hand coloring, and eyepatch. The figure doesn’t use Anthony De Longis’ face, but instead has a much rougher, older looking visage. That seems to come from the Stout illustration.

Left: final toy. Right: prototype. Image archived from Grayskull Museum
Image source: www.eightieskids.com

The cross sell art followed the design of the toy. The William Stout-style swords were retained, however.

Toy & Packaging

Blade came packaged with two swords and a removable loincloth piece that could sheath one sword in the back. His legs attach to the pelvis piece by way of ball joints rather than the rubber connectors used on most figures. He featured spring action at the waist and at both arm joints, allowing him to have some pretty decent sword-fighting moves.

The three 1987 movie figures together.

Blade was packed on a card featuring an action illustration on the front that I presume was done by Bruce Timm. The art on the back was done by Errol McCarthy.

Original line art by Errol McCarthy

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.

Blade’s depiction in the comic is based on the William Stout design, with the covering over his mouth. However, the artist puts the eyepatch/lens over his right eye rather than his left.

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:

Blade makes a couple of appearances in the US Masters of the Universe Magazine. In the 1987 Summer issue, he shows off his skills at precision knife-throwing:

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

In issue 10 of the 1987 Star Comics MOTU series, Blade and Saurod ambush Prince Adam, Man-At-Arms, Teela and Orko in the opening pages of the story:

Blade 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:

Blade also appears in the He-Man newspaper comic strips, although his color scheme is off model: 

Image via the Dark Horse Newspaper Comic Strips book. Thanks to Dušan Mitrović for sharing.

Advertising

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

1987 Mattel Catalog
Italian ad
Swedish ad
The Gazette, August 8, 1987

Artwork

Blade appears with Saurod in this 1987 William George Preternia poster:

Image source: Jukka Issakainen

He also appears in this movie poster by Earl Norem:

Image source: Sallah/Eamon O’Donoghue

Blade in Action:

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

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Evil Warriors, Snake Men

Blast-Attak: Evil Blast-Apart Robotic Warrior (1987)

Like most of the 1987 line, Blast-Attak completely escaped my notice as a kid. He’s definitely one of the more unusual Masters of the Universe characters. He has a strong steampunk vibe and a color palette not often seen in the MOTU line.

Design & Development

The earliest known concept of for a MOTU blast-apart figure appears below, in a piece by Mark Jones, illustrated February 26, 1985, shown in The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog. This version of the character has a human face, and wears a costume festooned with spikes. You can see his trigger cord coming off of his back in the drawing below:

Later in the year a more familiar iteration appeared, this time illustrated by Richard Lepik on November 26, 1985. This is quite close to the actual toy, although it is more detailed (especially around the shoulders). This image again comes from The Power and the Honor Foundation, and was included in The Art of He-Man, published by Dark Horse. The character’s working name at this point was “Crack-Pot.”

You can see the finalized iteration of the design in the cross sell artwork below:

Blast-Attak in the 1987 Mattel Catalog.

Blast-Attak could be “detonated” via a remote cable. The cable would connect to his back. A trigger/wire running through the cord would released release the spring-loaded latches holding the figure’s torso together. The patent was filed September 16, 1986, and you can see the illustrations for it below:

Toy & Packaging

Blast-Attak came with a large red poleax that continues with the steam punk theme on the figure itself. His trigger cable was actually reused from the Bravestarr Fort Kerium playset, which used the cable to “blow up” a safe.

His packaging, typical of 1986 and 1987 figures, included an illustration of the character on the front as well as the back:

Image via He-Man.org/Jukka Issakainen

Style Guide

According to the 1987 Style Guide, Blast-Attak was affiliated with the Evil Warriors. He is described like this:

Power: Ability to blast apart to attack and knock down enemies who approach him from both sides at once.

Character Profile: Blast-Attak is a robotic muscleman with an extremely short fuse. He loves to surprise enemies with his sudden split-apart power.

Comics & Stories

Blast-Attak came packed with Revenge of the Snake Men. Contrary to what the style guide says, here Blast-Attak is a creation of King Hiss and is aligned with the Snake Men (images below are from Dark Horse and from He-Man.org).

In the Fall 1987 issues of the US MOTU Magazine, Blast-Attak appears in the story Rescue King Randor. In the story Blast-Attak is working with both the Snake Men and the Evil Warriors, and all of the are directed by Skeletor:

The same alliances seem to be in place in The Dark Power of Skeletor, which appears in the Fall 1988 issues of MOTU Magazine:

In the seventh issue of the 1987 Star Comics MOTU series, Blast-Attak is aligned with the Evil Warriors. His power is used primarily to avoid downward sword strikes.

Blast-Attak puts himself back together incorrectly

He appears again with Ninjor and Scare Glow in the MOTU Newspaper story, Ninjor Stalks by Night:

Artwork

Blast Attak appears in posters by both Earl Norem and William George, shown respectively:

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Because he was at the tail end of the line, he’s not depicted in all that many stories or art pieces, but I’ve included a representative sample, including the advertising line art below:

For more history behind the character, see Jukka Issakainen’s excellent video:

Blast-Attak in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has graciously contributed the following image and video showing Blast-Attak in action:

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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:

Update 10/29/2022: Axel recently posted an early version of the art that included a concept version of Stratos:

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 originally 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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