Evil Warriors

Stinkor: Evil master of odors (1985)

My memories of playing with Stinkor as a kid are permanently etched in my brain, and for good reason. Smell, more than any other of the five senses, is associated with memory. For most people, a familiar smell is like a very brief trip in a time machine back to the past.

Stinkor quickly dominated my toy area. As soon as I opened the box where I stored my collection of He-Man and G.I. Joe figures, I was immediately hit in the face with the evil odor of Stinkor, a sharp and pungent reminder of his existence, even when he wasn’t immediately in sight.

Stinkor, an evil humanoid skunk warrior, was released in 1985, alongside such figures as Moss Man, Two-Bad, Roboto, and Sy-Klone. Stinkor, like Faker and Moss Man, was a new character made up entirely of preexisting parts. In Stinkor’s case, he was a repaint of Mer-Man with armor from Mekaneck and the shield from Castle Grayskull. However, it’s apparent from the cross sell art that Stinkor was originally intended to reuse Beast Man’s body:

Stinkor cross sell artwork. Unlike the actual Beast Man body mold, this one has a closed left hand. Image courtesy of Axel Giménez.

A hand-painted prototype is visible in this 1985 Mattel Spring Program catalog. In the description it says “Stinkor is the master of stink and destroy! Heroic Warriors can smell his unique scent from 50 feet… it’s like invisible armor! Stinkor has a twist action waist with snap-on accessories and his own self-protecting gas mask.”

We also see the Stinkor prototype in the 1985 Mattel dealer catalog. He appears to be holding Webstor’s gun and Two Bad’s shield:

If I had to guess why Mattel opted to use the Mer-Man/Skeletor body instead of Beast Man’s body, it would be because they were already using it for Moss Man, and didn’t want both cheap repaints released that year to share the same body. Also, the Mer-Man body makes for more obvious and distinct gloves and boots. Fun fact: only Stinkor and Ninjor had painted gloves on this particular mold, which seems odd given the fact that the arms were reused many times and seem to imply the presence of gloves.

Brothers from another mother

It was suggested in Tomart’s Action Figure Digest issue 202 that Stinkor started out conceptually as some kind of stink bug character:

From Tomart’s Action Figure Digest, issue 202

Stinkor’s distinctive smell is said to have come from mixing patchouli oil in with the plastic. I have a vintage example of Stinkor that still smells, and I have a bottle of patchouli oil, and to me they’re somewhat similar but definitely distinct from each other. To me Stinkor’s smell is sharper and less organic smelling than the patchouli oil. Perhaps the smell changed when the patchouli mixed in with the plastic, or perhaps Mattel used another fragrance entirely.

Top artwork and instructions artwork by Dave Stevens, cross sell art by William George

While this is one of the unusual cases where Errol McCarthy did not do the cardback illustration (this one was done by Dave Stevens), Errol did create illustrate the character for the 1987 Style Guide, which had this to say about Stinkor:

Role: Evil Master of odorous warfare

Power: Ability to stink and destroy with his “odor of evil.”

Character Profile: This warrior literally reeks of evil. His powerful stench overcomes all who smell it. Most of the Evil Warriors have built up a tolerance for their foul-smelling friend. However, Stinkor can’t stand the fresh smell of his arch-enemy, Moss Man. The Stechn of Stinkor is so powerful that even he can’t stand it sometimes., so he is outfitted with a special gas mask armor.

In some versions of the French release of Stinkor, he came with a blue and orange version of He-Man’s shield rather than a blue Castle Grayskull shield.

Stinkor was also released in several gift sets; a three-pack with Whiplash and Webstor, a three-pack with Battle Armor Skeletor and Webstor, and a J.C. Penny two-pack with Spikor (images via Grayskullmuseum.com).

Stinkor was also released in the form of a stamp and a zipper clip, for the fashionable third grader:

Stinkor (as well as Moss Man) came packaged with the mini comic The Stench of Evil!  In the story, Stinkor (illustrated with the cross sell artwork design), threatens Eternia’s wildlife with his rancid smell. Only Moss Man is able to overpower Stinkor with his pine fresh scent:

Stinkor also makes an appearance in Hordak – The Ruthless Leader’s Revenge! Stinkor is kidnapped by Grizzlor, and Leech and Mantenna react less than positively to the sudden appearance of the smelly fiend:

Stinkor was also the focus of a Golden Books story called He-Man Smells Trouble. In the story, Stinkor is exiled from Snake Mountain because no one can tolerate his foul smell. He teams up with Roboto, who left the palace over a misunderstanding, but things go awry when Stinkor tries to betray Roboto to get back into Skeletor’s good graces.

Stinkor was never a central character in the Masters of the Universe mythos, but he seems to be well-remembered. Stinkor has been featured in several articles in recent years, and from the comments even casual fans seem to remember the skunk-themed toy well.

A terrorized-looking Stinkor made an appearance in the packaging illustration for the 1986 Eternia playset:

Stinkor is the only character released between 1982 and 1985  that never made an appearance in Filmation’s He-Man or She-Ra cartoons. In an article on the subject, James Eatock explains:

As Robert Lamb now explains Filmation were not all that happy with the character. “I remember Stinkor. I was part of the writing staff when Arthur Nadel and crew took a field trip to Hawthorne, California to Mattel headquarters. The She-Ra toy line was introduced to us by women designers who displayed how capes could be used as skirts on the dolls. It was kind of a “Barbie Goes Barbarian” thing. Then it was the guys’ turn and we got our first look at the Horde. The male designers introduced each character with great excitement, relishing every nasty attribute they could name. The only hitch came when Stinkor was introduced. Arthur immediately vetoed a character that was basically a walking fart joke. Only two skunk characters have worked in cartoons to my knowledge; Pepe Le Pew and Flower from Bambi.

If Stinkor had appeared in the cartoon, he probably would have looked something like this:

Artwork by slyvenom

If Stinkor had been released as planned using the Beast Man body, he would have looked something like this:

Photo and custom Stinkor by Øyvind Meisfjord
Photo and custom Stinkor by Øyvind Meisfjord

Stinkor also makes an appearance in this poster illustrated by Esteban Maroto:

Update: I found an interesting article about “yucky toys” and their appeal to boys. Stinkor is the main toy talked about in the story, which appeared in the St. Joseph News Press Gazette, June 1, 1986:

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.