Evil Warriors

Evil-Lyn: Evil warrior goddess (1983)

My first introduction to Evil-Lyn was through the 1983 Filmation cartoon. When I finally saw the toy (which belonged to another kid), I was a little taken aback at how bright yellow her skin was in comparison to the character on the show. I remember thinking about it for a minute and deciding that they probably made her colors brighter to appeal to kids. I think 6-year-old me was probably right on that count.

Evil-Lyn probably has roots in Mark Taylor’s Sorceress concept, although the connections are somewhat tenuous. Mark Taylor intended the Sorceress (also known as the Goddess, and eventually fused with the Teela concept) to be a double agent and a changeling, playing both sides. The Sorceress wore a head piece under her snake armor that formed a V-shape on her forehead, a design repeated with Evil-Lyn.

And of course from the neck down, Evil-Lyn is a repaint of Mark Taylor’s Teela:

Having said that, Evil-Lyn was designed by Mattel artist Colin Bailey, who also designed Trap Jaw and Buzz-Off.

Notice the reference to “Tee-La”. Her name is hyphenated, just as it was in the earliest mini comics.

There are a few things to unpack here. Notice the very short wand in the above concept illustration. The version that came with the toy was more of a short staff than a wand. The size was no doubt increased in order to reduce the likelihood of it becoming a choking hazard.

The artist mentions that Evil Lyn’s face should resemble Sophia Loren, or at least mimic her expression. Some of that did end up in the final toy’s face:

The original working name for Evil-Lyn was “Sultra”. It might be worth noting that the Sultra drawing is dated October 5, 1982. Mattel never filed a trademark claim on Sultra, but they did file one for the name Evil-Lyn on Jan 21, 1983.

The toy was packaged on the standard card, with a very nice illustration by Errol McCarthy on the back. Evil-Lyn’s wand was molded in glow-in-the-dark plastic. Strangely, there is no mention of this feature on the packaging, which seems like a missed opportunity.

Glow-in-the-dark staff

Note that in the above Errol McCarthy illustration, Evil-Lyn carries the short wand from the original concept art. In the black and white versions of the same illustration (below), you can see that Errol tried out a couple of looks for He-Man: one with a shorter neck, and one with a longer neck. The shorter neck version appears in the final colored illustration.

Errol also illustrated the character for one of Mattel’s licensing kits:

The cross sell art is pretty faithful to the final toy:

Evil-Lyn cross sell art. Cleaned up by Leon Mallett.

In early stories, Evil-Lyn is sometimes described almost as an old crone – certainly that’s the case in the 1983 Kid Stuff Masters of the Universe audio book.

In both the Kid Stuff audio book and the Golden Books story, The Sunbird Legacy, Evil-Lyn has the power to transform into Screeech, the barbarian bird:

Evil-Lyn transforms into Screech, who in this image resembles a buzzard rather than an eagle or falcon. This ability gives the character some nice symmetry with Filmation’s version of the Sorceress.

Although Evil Lyn appears in the 1983 Mattel Dealer Catalog, she doesn’t show up in mini comics until the 1984 lineup.

This version is likely a prototype – the details on her face seem more refined than the mass-produced toy

As I mentioned earlier, my first introduction to Evil-Lyn was through the Filmation cartoon. In the series, Evil-Lyn always reminded me a lot of Ursa from the 1980 film, Superman II (we watched this many times on the old video disc player).

Remember this format?

In the Filmation Series guide, Evil-Lyn is very reminiscent of Colin Bailey’s concept artwork, including the short wand. I would guess that the colors in this depiction are what Colin originally had in mind, but the colors were altered at some point during the development of the toy.

The final design that Filmation went with was somewhat simplified. Evil-Lyn lost the skull on her helmet, and the decoration on her costume was simplified. Her wand looked like a cross between the concept and toy versions. She also gained a cape, which seems to suit her:

As James Eatock noted in his “50 Things About…Evil-Lyn” video, Evil-Lyn did sport a skull motif on her helmet in some early  animation cells in the series, but it was painted over in black and wasn’t visible.

Image via He-Man Official YouTube Channel

In the 1982 Masters of the Universe Bible, written by Michael Halperin, Evil-Lyn’s real name was Evelyn Powers. She was a scientist from earth and part of Marlena’s crew that crash-landed on Eternia and Infinita. Evelyn was transformed in to Evil-Lyn via the evil magic coursing through Infinita, domain of Skeletor.

Evil-Lyn was a central character in the 1987 live-action Masters of the Universe movie. Early concept art for Evil-Lyn’s (played by Meg Foster) costume was very close to the toy design, but the final costume was much more ornate:

Evil-Lyn was depicted in posters, coloring books and box art by artists such as R.L. Allen, William George, Esteban Maroto, and many others. She remains a quintessential 80s villain and a fan favorite to this day.

Evil Warriors

Skeletor’s Energy Blade

Skeletor’s most iconic weapon has always been his havoc staff, with its distinctive and menacing ram’s skull. The two are so interconnected as to be practically inseparable. Skeletor also carried his purple half of the power sword, and it made plenty of appearances in mini comics and story books.

There is however, another weapon that Skeletor carried in the 1982 mini comics (artwork by Alfredo Alcala, story by Don Glut). This was Skeletor’s energy blade (sometimes called lightning blade or lightning weapon). It was a fairly ordinary-looking short sword with a curved hilt that was capable of releasing searing blasts of energy, or even calling up magical images.

I always assumed that this particular sword’s design was an invention of artist Alfredo Alcala. But I recently noticed what appears to be the same sword showing up in early box art by Rudy Obrero. That lead me to believe that the energy blade may have originally come from Mattel*. I’d like to think there is a B-sheet lying around in a box somewhere with a drawing of this sword in it. Without definitive proof, of course, we can’t know for sure.

Here are some representative appearances of the energy blade in the 1982 mini comics. There is some variation with how it was drawn, even within the same comic:

Here are the appearances of the sword in Rudy Obrero’s packaging illustrations for the Battle Ram, He-Man/Wind Raider, Wind Raider, He-Man/Battle Cat, and Castle Grayskull boxes. Note that at times Beast Man carries the same sword:

Incidentally, a sword of the same design appears in Man-At-Arms’ hand in the 1983 comic book, The Power of Point Dread:

Artwork by Alfredo Alcala

He-Man holds a similar sword on the cover of the same booklet (hat tip to Jukka Issakainen):

Artwork by Alfredo Alcala

Somewhat similar swords appear in this 1982 advertisement for Faker:

Image source: Robert Schultz. Artwork by Alfredo Alcala

In one depiction of Mark Taylor’s Vikor character (who pre-dated He-Man), Vikor carries a sword similar to the energy blade:

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation/The Art of He-Man

*Update:

Øyvind Johannes Meisfjord pointed a fatal flaw in my reasoning. It seems that Alfredo Alcala drew a very similar looking sword that predated the He-Man property by several years:

1976 illustration of Conan by Alfredo Alcala

Furthermore, swords similar to those in the Rudy Obrero illustrations show up in artwork by Frank Frazetta and John Buscema throughout the 1960s and 1970s:

Given this evidence, it seems unlikely now that the common source for this design was Mattel (it’s possible, but I don’t think a strong case can be made for it). I have to conclude that Alfredo Alcala was drawing upon the fantasy concepts he’d been illustrating for years, and Rudy Obrero was drawing upon general sword and sorcery themes of the ’60s and ’70s. Given Mark Taylor’s Frazetta influences, he probably drew from the same general creative well for his Vikor sword.

Thanks to Øyvind for challenging my theory. I think it’s been successfully refuted!

Evil Warriors

Clawful: Warrior with the grip of evil! (1984)

Clawful, released in 1984, was part of a series of new animal-themed figures released in the third wave of the Masters of the Universe toyline.

Clawful was an instant hit with me as a kid. I distinctly remember the existential agony of having to choose between him and Whiplash at the store. Ultimately I went with Clawful. That giant bright red snapping claw was just impossible for me to resist.

Clawful and his compatriots represented something of a return to form for Masters of the Universe. Several first wave figures were half human, half animal hybrids (Beast Man, Mer-Man, Stratos). The second wave was made up of entirely human-like figures, but the third wave gave us beastly characters like Clawful, Whiplash, Buzz-Off, Webstor and Kobra Khan.

Designed by Colin Bailey, Clawful was originally intended to reuse Skeletor’s legs. In this early prototype, he sports brown Skeletor boots, a brown version of the Castle Grayskull mace, and a head that blended into the armor with a very thick neck:

Clawful prototype

By the time he was shown in the 1984 Mattel Dealer catalog, he was sporting the standard male chest (flesh tone) with clip on armor. His neck was much slimmer as a result, and his head was smaller. He still had the Grayskull mace, but now it was in green with an extra piece to allow him to hold the mace upright (it was never very effective in that regard). He still had the Skeletor legs with brown boots. This version also appeared in the commercial:

Eventually Clawful was given the new legs that were shared by both Buzz-Off and Whiplash. They featured jagged spikes down the sides, and unique feet with one large toe/claw on each side of the foot. These were larger feet than any used in previous figures, and provided the figure with greater stability.

In the cross sell art, Clawful sported these feet, but the boots were still painted brown:

Clawful cross sell artwork. Image courtesy of Axel Giménez.

It’s evident that the change in the design of his legs happened sometime after production had already begun. Early versions of Clawful featured the Skeletor legs, but with blue boots:

The version with Buzz-Off/Whiplash legs seems to be more common, and must have been produced after the initial run:

Illustration by Errol McCarthy
Errol McCarthy’s original line art

Clawful was included in a giftset with Jitsu, but otherwise was only sold as an individual figure.

Image via Grayskull Museum

Clawful appears prominently in one of my favorite pieces of MOTU artwork – a poster by Earl Norem that appeared in the inaugural issue of the US release Masters of the Universe Magazine:

Norem’s artwork was so animated and vibrant. It really blew me away as a kid, and continues to do so now.

Clawful appeared was a main character in the Clash of Arms mini comic, which was also one of my favorites as a kid. Fisto is captured and has to face Clawful, Whiplash and Jitsu in arena combat. It was a great way to introduce new characters to kids, and was one of the more action-heavy mini comics. Clawful’s appearance is based on the early prototype here:

Clawful also appeared in several Golden Books, including Maze of Doom, Dangerous Games and Power From the Sky:

Clawful shows up in the background of the packaging illustration for Bashasaurus, along with Trap Jaw:

Artwork by William George

The Filmation version of Clawful was radically different from the vintage toy. Often when Filmation designs differed from toy designs, it was because Filmation artists were basing their work on early Mattel concept drawings. I would guess that is the case here, but I don’t know for sure:

Unlike many of Skeletor’s other henchmen in the cartoon, Clawful seemed to posses a measure of intelligence and cunning.

Evil Warriors

Trap Jaw: Evil & armed for combat (1983)

Trap Jaw was kind of the holy grail of MOTU figures among my friends growing up, and it’s easy to see why. With his three weapons attachments (storable on his WWF-style belt), articulated jaw, loop for repelling and vivid and liberally applied colors, Trap Jaw was truly a deluxe figure.

Sadly, I never owned old Metal Mouth as a kid, but I have a very clear memory of playing with my friend’s figure. The first thing I did was make Trap Jaw get to work on chewing up every weapon in sight.

Om nom nom…

In a May 21, 1982 concept drawing by Mattel designer Colin Bailey, we see the first iteration of Trap Jaw’s design. Called “X-Man” at the time (it’s easy to figure out why that name was dropped), the design featured the articulated jaw, a pulley on the top of the helmet, a fully articulated robot arm with four attachments (claw, iron fist, grapnel and hand) and accessory belt, and a rifle that  could be held in the robotic hand. X-Man had a hairy chest and a human-looking left arm. He also would have used the same legs as He-Man.

The articulated jaw concept was apparently recycled from an unproduced 1982 Big Jim concept, Iron Jaw. It also recalled the villain “Jaws” from the James Bond film Moonraker, crossed with a pirate.

Image Source: PlanetEternia

This early concept appeared in full color in the mini comic, The Menace of Trap Jaw, which came packaged with the figure. From the comic, it’s evident that Trap Jaw was originally intended to have pale green skin and maroon trunks, boots and helmet. His arm is a bit squared off compared to Colin Bailey’s concept drawing, and his belt features a ram’s skull rather than a human skull and cross bones, but otherwise the design is identical.

Artwork by Mark Texeira

As we see in the prototype shown below, Trap Jaw’s colors were significantly altered later in his design process. While he retained his green face, the rest of his skin was changed to a rich blue color, and his attachments and accessories were changed to either black, maroon or green. In this prototype he has been given He-Man’s left arm, painted blue. He also sports Man-E-Faces’ legs. The boots are painted black, with green accents (the feet are somewhat smaller than the final design, however).  His belt features rivets around the edges, but it’s unclear from the image if there is a design in the center.

Image source: He-man.org

The cross sell artwork seems to be based on this prototype design. In the cross sell art there is no design the center of Trap Jaw’s belt, so I would guess this was absent from the prototype:

Strangely, on the backs of some mini comics, Trap Jaw was shown without his jaw and without the black chest overlay. He also has the skull and crossbones design missing from the earlier cross sell art:

Interestingly, Trap Jaw showed up in precisely this condition in the 1983 Consumers Catalog (below). I wonder if that error lead to the error in the above version of the cross sell artwork.

Image source: Dinosaur Dracula

The final figure is slightly different from the prototype. Trap Jaw’s belt features a skull and cross bones in the center area, but lacks the rivets of the prototype. Also, rather than reusing He-Man’s left arm, the final figure utilizes a modified version of Man-E-Faces’ left arm, with some changes made to the design of the shoulder, forearm, and back of the hand.

In the afore-mentioned mini comic, Trap Jaw is portrayed as a ruthless criminal. Accidentally brought to Eternia by Skeletor, Trap Jaw manages to harness the power of Grayskull, and can only be taken down by the combined forces of Skeletor and He-Man.

In the Filmation cartoon, Trap Jaw is a bumbling and almost lovable henchman of Skeletor. Dubbed “the wizard of weapons”, he is also the mechanic and engineer of Snake Mountain.

In the series guide, Trap Jaw is colored more or less like his toy counterpart. He has the organic left arm of the prototype version, and he seems to have some embellishments to his armor and claw attachment:

Source: He-Man.org

However, in the actual cartoon the chosen design was a simplified version of the prototype version of Trap Jaw. One obvious difference from the prototype version is that his boots and mechanical arm are colored the same maroon color as his helmet and jaw. I would guess the change was made to make the lines of his weapons and boots more visible, without the need for shading.

Model sheet courtesy of Jukka Issakainen
Image by Jukka Issakainen

In the MOTU Bible (penned by Michael Halperin), Trap Jaw’s back story is similar to his mini comic origins:

TRAP JAW – part human, part robot, he’s a fearsome criminal stranded on Infinita and fallen under the command of Skeletor. Trap Jaw has a removable artificial arm which can be replaced by a laser blaster, hook sword or other devices of evil. Sometimes he isn’t fast enough to make the change and then He Man or his friends get the better of the vicious criminal. His jaw is a hideous steel trap which can chew through almost anything and he’s totally evil and villainous.

In the Golden Books-published Caverns of Fear, Trap Jaw has gray skin and a unique boots. He isn’t given much characterization here, and only pops into the story to briefly hold Teela hostage:

Trap Jaw doesn’t make many appearances in box art, but he does appear in the background of this Bashasaurus illustration, along with Clawful:

Artwork by William George

Trap Jaw remains one of the most beloved characters of the MOTU mythos. Part pirate, part Bond villain and part barbarian cyborg, Trap Jaw is truly greater than the sum of his bionic parts.

Artwork by Errol McCarthy. Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen.