Tri-Klops, released in the second year of the Masters of the Universe toyline (1983), was the only evil warrior released that year that I owned as a kid. Sure, I coveted my friend’s Trap Jaw figure, but I soon grew to love Tri-Klops, and he got plenty of use in the sandbox.
Tri-Klops never got a commercial dedicated to him, but he did play a major role in this 1985 commercial for Moss Man:
Unlike many of the figures I’ve covered so far, the designer behind Tri-Klops is not known. Update: It looks like Roger Sweet came up with the concept for Tri-Klops, according to Ted Mayer (see comments at the end of this post). Ted, by the way, was a visual designer on the MOTU line for many years. You can read about Ted’s contributions to Masters of the Universe here. Thanks for the insight, Ted!
Tri-Klops uses the basic He-Man body (taking the detail up a notch by painting the wrist bracers orange) with a new head, armor, weapon, and Warrior’s Ring accessory (a glow-in-the-dark ring with an image of Castle Grayskull on it that could open up to reveal a secret compartment).
Roger Sweet, in his Mastering the Universe book, described Tri-Klops as a heroic warrior:
It’s not clear from the language if Roger was misremembering or if that was the original intent of the character. If it’s the latter, that seems plausible enough, given Tri-Klops’ basically human appearance. Interestingly, Tri-Klops was released with three different face sculpts, each with an increasingly severe scowl.
One thing that seems to hold true about MOTU character design is that when the appearance of a character in early comics differs from the final toy, it’s usually because the reference the artist used was an early prototype or B-sheet drawing. So I think it’s a fair bet that the design of Tri-Klops as he appeared in the mini comic, “The Terror of Tri-Klops!” represents a very early concept design for the figure.
A few things stand out about this early design. He has unique dark red leather boots with white trim. His belt is green as is his armor, with a red undershirt, red and white stripes down the front, and a white sash with green and orange ovals running down it. He sports green bracers, and his head gear is entirely green.
The first prototype that we know of is a substantial departure from that version:
The design has been streamlined, and the colors simplified to green, orange and black. The boots are plain black and furry. His belt is orange. The stripes and sash are gone, leaving a clean green look with a single orange line running down the front of his chest. There are some circular details running along the lower edges of his armor that look like a mirror image of the details on his belt. The eye that is shown facing forward is green. His sword is basic gray with a black handle
This prototype probably looks very familiar to many who grew up with Masters of the Universe. That is because Tri-Klops’ cross sell artwork was based on that prototype:
This very close to final prototype appears in the 1983 Mattel Dealer Catalog:
The sculpt is identical to the finished toy, but hand painted. Note the unpainted bracers and the inverted coloring on his third “angry” eye.
The finished toy is similar to the early prototype, with a few changes:
The dots around the bottom of his armor were removed. The dots running down the front of his armor were removed and replaced with straight vertical lines. The green eye shown facing forward on the prototype was painted red. The crossguard of the sword was given a half moon shape, and the entire sword was cast in green, with a black handle. The top of the head was machined a bit differently to allow for easy of movement on the rotating eye feature.
Let’s look a bit closer at Tri-Klops’ action feature. He has three eyes on his helmet that can be rotated around to show a different single eye at any given moment. There is a placid looking blue eye, an angry looking red eye, and a really angry looking red eye with red sclera (ie the “whites” of the eye).
Tri-Klops’ cardback described his action feature like this:
So there is a “daytime” eye, a “nighttime” eye, and an eye that can see around corners. The artwork on the back of the card shows Tri-Klops looking through a rock to see He-Man riding on Battle Cat up a mountain path. He’s using the blue eye, although that may not mean anything.
The Masters of the Universe Bible, written by Michael Halperin in December of 1982, describes Tri-Klops’ abilities like this:
… brute with three eyes called TRI-KLOPS, a man with three eyes who could see, not only during the day, but in the dark and around corners with his Gammavision.
Further, in the Filmation cartoon, Tri-Klops had what was called “Distavision”, which is basically a telescopic eye.
I doubt anyone at Mattel cared that much about which eye was which. The idea was to give kids a springboard for playing with the figure and making good use of the rotating eye action feature. Personally I would say that the blue eye is the daytime/distavision eye, the intermediate red eye is the nighttime/night vision eye, and the final red eye is the Gammavision eye.
But honestly, as a kid, to me they were the friendly eye, the angry eye, and the really angry eye. He was a like Man-E-Faces in that way. The rotating feature made him have different personality traits.
One thing I discovered as a kid that made me like the figure even more, is that if you peak underneath Tri-Klops’ visor, you’ll see that he has no eyes at all. It was creepy in the coolest possible way.
In his mini comic, Tri-Klops was a mercenary who was press-ganged into Skeletor’s service. He is a very skilled swordsman who single-handedly defeats Battle Cat, Ram Man, Teela, and nearly He-Man himself. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that his panoramic vision makes it nearly impossible to take him by surprise.
Tri-Klops appears in the background for this “Power of He-Man” video game ad. He is colored very strangely, however – in yellow and purple:
In the Filmation series, Tri-Klops is more of a generic henchman. He was, in one episode, given the ability to fire lasers from one of his eyes, which makes him less of an interesting character, in my opinion. At that point he just becomes a walking gun. In the mini comic he can project blinding light through one of his eyes, but that ability does not replace the need for swordsmanship.
In the Filmation series, he has the same color boots and loin cloth as He-Man (perhaps as a way to reuse animation). His overall look was simplified, but his eyes were changed into three distinct geometric shapes: a square, a circle and a triangle. This gave his visor a more mechanical look than the original toy.
Just a note on one of the Filmation model sheets for Tri-Klops. The version shown above features a more toy-accurate eye, compared to the final animated version:
If the animated Tri-Klops had been colored like his toy counterpart, he would have looked like this:
In the Filmation Series Guide illustration, however, Tri-Klops looks very close to the prototype toy, with the exception of his blue shorts:
Tri-Klops was never heavily promoted, but he did make plenty of appearances in advertising, posters, coloring books, and other media:
Special thanks to Jukka Issakainen for providing many of the images used in this post, including the opening graphic, and for cluing me into the “mean face” version of Tri-Klops.
One of the great evil underlings of 1980s children’s entertainment, Beast Man was among the first four Masters of the Universe figures released in 1982.
As we know from the earliest mini comics, 1982 figures were actually split up into two separate sub-waves:
When the Masters of the Universe line was under development in 1980 and 1981, some effort was made to reuse sculpts from previous Mattel toy lines, such as Big Jim and Tarzan. Mattel artist Mark Taylor first conceived of Beast Man as a savage bear creature, possibly intending it to reuse the Grizzly Adams “Ben” bear mold.
This creature, known to fans now as Red Beast, was brightly colored and fierce looking. Although he bears little to resemblance to Beast Man as we know him, the spiked armor around his neck, the wrist gauntlets and the metal claws would all find their way onto the final design.
The idea of producing a bear creature was dropped because Mattel executives didn’t want to make something too close to Chewbacca (although it’s hard to see much resemblance between the two, beyond the shaggy fur).
Another existing sculpt that Mattel tried to reuse was a gorilla figure that had appeared in both the Big Jim and Tarzan toy lines in the 1970s. The gorilla’s arms could be controlled with a dial on the figure’s back:
Both Mark Taylor and Roger Sweet tried to turn the gorilla into a new figure for the MOTU toy line. Roger Sweet’s creation, Gygor, was unrelated to the development of Beast Man, and was probably done after Mark Taylor left Mattel in 1982. Roger Sweet, in his Mastering the Universe book, wrote:
I changed the ape’s body color from black to bright yellow and gave him a dark olive-green face and chest.His face in contorted with white teeth snarling in an open mouth of blood red. I gave him a black body harness. From his shoulders I hung a dark maroon cape. When I showed “Gygor” to marketing Mark Ellis said that is [expletive] great!!! Ted Mayer in my design group created a striking full-color illustration of the beast, with He-Man mounted on his back. Gygor was decked out with a panoply of harnesses and weapons.
Mark Taylor used the basic Big Jim Gorilla body design to further refine his own Beast Man concept. In this version the spiked armor around the neck from Red Beast is retained in modified form, but the spiked weapons on the hands were removed. The wrist gauntlets actually recall earlier Mark Taylor concept drawings for He-Man. Finally, a belt was added to the character, which featured a compass-like design that would find its way onto the final Beast Man figure.
Here’s another version of the character with gold armor, boney spikes, claw weapons on the wrist gauntlets, and a slightly different face:
This general design was used to create what I believe is the first Beast Man prototype. If it’s not the first, then it’s very early, indeed. This Beast Man (below) follows the general shape of the red gorilla design above, but is colored with the familiar orange fur and red armor. This is not, however, a repainted big Jim Gorilla, as it’s in scale with the other early prototype figures (the Big Jim gorilla is much larger).
Another design that seems to have some features in common with Beast Man is the character who has come to be known as Demo-Man:
Another Mark Taylor design, Demo Man is often thought of as an early version of Skeletor, although Taylor himself says he was a separate character. But if you take a close look at his features, he has elements in common with both Beast Man and Skeletor. In the drawing above, we can see that Demo Man has a hunched, beastly posture, spiked gauntlets, a spiked arm pad, a whip-like flail weapon, a beard, and even a pendant around his neck that vaguely recalls the one on Beast Man’s armor. This isn’t Beast Man, but he might be his long lost undead cousin.
In any case, at some point it was decided that the Big Jim gorilla style body would not be used, even in smaller scale, and so Beast Man was given a unique, updated sculpt. This 1981 Mark Taylor B-sheet shows a synthesis of his earlier designs into an all-new beastly character with simian features. In this B-sheet he is called Beast Man, but he had previously been given the working name of Tree Man:
In this version we see a call out for the familiar color scheme of orange fur with red armor and blue loincloth. But it appears from the first mini comic (“He-Man and the Power Sword”) that Beast Man’s color scheme was originally dominated by red, like the predecessor bear and gorilla designs. Perhaps they were still playing with color options at this point.
Here is how he would have looked if he had been colored like the toy:
The first mini comics featured cross sell artwork closely patterned after the prototype figures and B-sheet designs. The cross sell artwork that made it onto the back of the packaging was usually (but not always) closer to final.
There are a couple of different “final” prototypes for Beast Man. The first is the version that made it into Mattel’s 1982 dealer catalog and onto the side of the packaging for Castle Grayskull. That version (below) has very nicely applied paint on the compass-like design on his chest armor, with each part individually painted blue:
There’s another prototype that seems to have a paint pattern designed for mass production, with a messy blob of blue on the center of the chest armor, which would become a spray of blue on the final figure:
That version seems to have been the model for Beast Man’s finalized cross sell artwork, shown below:
Note the compass element on Beast Man’s armor, the spikes around his neck, and the spiked weapon on his hand – all elements from previous Mark Taylor designs.
The name “Beast Man” may have been consciously or unconsciously borrowed from the Beastman figure from Mattel’s Flash Gordon line.
Beast Man came with three separate armor pieces and a whip weapon recycled from Big Jim’s The Whip action figure:
As a side note, the accessories count seems pretty methodically planned for the first wave of figures. Figures in the first half of the first wave (He-Man, Man-At-Arms, Skeletor and Beast Man) were packaged with four accessories each, in various combinations of removable armor, weapons, and/or shields. The second half of the first wave was somewhat cost reduced, with two to three accessories included per figure.
In any case, Beast Man’s armor is the characteristic soft plastic used throughout 1982 and 1983. His whip (designed for a 12-inch figure, it’s technically too big for him, and he has to hold it by the hand guard) has a plastic handle and a cloth string. He is one of only three 1982 figures to be given a paint application on his armor (the others are He-Man and Zodac). The compass-like shape on Beast Man’s chest armor is painted blue. There is an unpainted, smaller version of the compass on the back of his chest armor.
I always found Beast Man’s face intriguing. He has a white face with blue markings under his eyes and over his upper lip. I’m unsure if this is supposed to be his actual face coloring or war paint (there has been some debate among fans about this over the years). As a kid I assumed it was makeup of some kind, maybe because I had been exposed to enough 80’s music videos to make that connection. Perhaps the intent was to give him an appearance similar the golden snub-nosed monkey:
Beast Man featured shorter legs and longer arms than He-Man or Skeletor, befitting his ape-like appearance. His legs, arms and chest were later reused to make Stratos and Moss Man (the latter also reused Beast Man’s head).
Beast Man was originally released on the “8-back” card, featuring cross sell art on the back of the card of all of the first wave characters:
Reissues were produced on the “12-back” card, featuring a striking battle scene between He-Man and Beast Man. This is one of my all time favorite pieces of MOTU art:
The artist responsible for that piece, Errol McCarthy, did most if not all of the card back art for the carded figures. He also did licensing kit artwork for Mattel that was used in various products produced by third parties over the years:
Aside from the single carded figure, you could also pick up Beast Man in the 1983 “Evil Warriors” gift set, featuring Skeletor, Beast Man and Faker:
Beast Man is probably the most essential evil warrior next to his master, Skeletor. So, it’s no surprise that he was heavily featured on the box art, appearing on five of the six boxes released in 1982.
He also showed up periodically on other box art over the years:
Beast Man was also a permanent fixture on the Filmation cartoon. Early in his development for the show, Beast Man featured very heavy fur on his lower legs that resembled bell bottoms. This design is actually kind of a halfway point between Beast Man’s first and second prototypes, at least in terms of his costume.
In the Filmation-produced MOTU toy commercial, Beast Man looked very close to his action figure counterpart.
That same toyetic quality is equally evident in the model sheets for the Filmation commercial (thanks: Dušan Mitrović):
The final Filmation design was simplified. The number of spikes on his armor was reduced. He was given red boots and he lost most of his furry detail:
Filmation portrayed Beast Man as having the power to control some types of animals. This comes from the Masters of the Universe Bible, written by Michael Halperin in December of 1982. The back story where Beast Man was originally an earthling and part of Marlena’s crew of space explorers was never used.
Biff Beastman’s cruel nature spilled on the outside and he became a true BEAST MAN with a lion’s mane, fangs and the power to communicate and command bloodthirsty creatures such as dragons, gorgons, ogres and snakes.
In the DC Comics-produced “To Tempt The Gods”, readers were treated to a whole race of beast men. In most mini comic and Golden Books depictions, however, Beast Man was kind of a standard issue henchman character, something of an Igor to Skeletor’s Doctor Frankenstein, portrayed with varying degrees of intelligence.
Released with the first wave of characters in the original Masters of the Universe toy line, Skeletor would eventually become one of the most iconic and memorable villains of the 1980s.
I remember getting Skeletor along with He-Man, Beast Man and Man-At-Arms in 1982. I hadn’t even heard of these figures before getting them as Christmas presents. I don’t remember what toys I owned before that day, but the experience of opening and playing with these toys for the first time is permanently etched in my brain. Skeletor especially made a big impression on 5-year-old me. I’d never seen anything like him.
Design & Development
Like all the other first-wave MOTU figures, Skeletor was designed by Mattel artist Mark Taylor. Taylor’s 1979 drawing (before the MOTU line was first conceived) featured his He-Man-like character “Torak” and included a villain in the background who bears a striking resemblance to Skeletor:
Mark Taylor did another sketch, predating his work at Mattel, that informed his later Skeletor design. In the drawing below, we see a mummy-like character, complete with torn bandages. He has a decaying body and face, but he also has elements of the final Skeletor costume that are recognizable – most notably in the cross bones on his chest. From the crown and collar, he looks like some kind of undead king.
The sketch was recently found by Rebecca Salari Taylor (Mark Taylor’s wife). Of the sketch, she said:
It was done before Mark went to Mattel. I found it in a sketchbook. He has a few versions of skeletons as warriors and royalty. It is based off of a story he wrote once when he was a kid in college… about a skeleton king called “The King of Styx” … circa 1971. I found a new stash of sketchbooks when they repaired our garage.
The above drawing was first teased in this poster image sold at Grayskull Con in 2013, produced by the Power and Honor Foundation:
The concept character who has come to be known as Demo-Man (1980) is often considered to be an early version of Skeletor, although according to designer Mark Taylor he is a separate character (possibly designed as a villain for the abandoned Conan line, per Emiliano Santalucia). While this Taylor design does feature a skeletal face, it otherwise bears little resemblance to Skeletor. In fact, Demo-Man seems more similar to Beast Man in many ways. It’s unclear what might have become of this character had he been further developed. His sword design seems influenced by the sword in the “undead king” sketch Mark did before coming to Mattel.
Update: I should also mention that Skeletor’s design was influenced by Dia De Los Muertos artwork, and also by the corpse of Elmer McCurdy, which Mark encountered as a child in a scare ride at Pike Amusement Park. See: Mark and Rebecca Taylor Interview.
The B-sheet for “D Man” gives us the first look at a close to final and “official” Skeletor design. He retains the decaying face and general body shape and pose from the mummy sketch. His costume is much more recognizable as Skeletor, however, and he has his characteristic blue skin. He has the five-toed bare feet and yellow bat detail around his shin guards and chest armor that would later appear in the first minicomics. The head of the staff was meant to be attached via string and would have doubled as a flail.
The D Man B-sheet was translated into a clay model by legendary Mattel sculptor Tony Guerrero. The paint details on the face were altered to the familiar yellow/green scheme, and the handle of the staff was left unfinished.
Update: As late as July 9, 1981, Mattel was still going to use the “rotting face” version of Skeletor’s head. You can see that in the toy head design sheet below.
This design was highly detailed and would have required a lot of unique parts. Presumably to save money, Skeletor’s design was simplified and made more generic and reusable.
The cross sell art (above) seems to be the next step in Skeletor’s evolution, before the final toy. Skeletor was given legs that could be reused for Mer-Man, with three-toed feet and a more generic shin guard. Instead of the decrepit forearms, he was given unpainted gloved forearms that could be reused for Mer-Man (ironically Mer-Man would eventually lose the painted gloves, making this design change unnecessary). Other differences from the B-sheet include a wider “skirt” and a simplified bird motif on the belt.
This final prototype (above two images) shows some further changes to the design. The boots were given a scaly, organic appearance, and the “gloved” forearms were made to look more ambiguous, as if they could either be gloves or bony protrusions. Again, this seems designed to make these molded parts fit with either Skeletor or Mer-Man. Interestingly, the armor seems to sit higher on the body than the final toy.
The first release of Skeletor featured the iconic “8-back” packaging. Reissues featured a scene on the card back of Skeletor looking rather sneaky, with Castle Grayskull in the background (art by Errol McCarthy].
Image courtesy of Axel Giménez.
The very first run of Skeletor figures had an error in the face paint. As Mattel marketing director Mark Ellis explained:
As with all large scale endeavors, screw-ups happen. After production was authorized, the factories started to turn out the characters in amazing quantities. I walked by Tall Paul’s office one day and he had a set of MOTU figures on his desk. I picked up Skeletor and noticed on his right cheek there was an orange mark. I asked Paul and he deduced that before the paint master was shipped to the factory, apparently it was moved or some stray color was accidentally added to make that orange mark. So Paul went down and got it fixed, but not before thousands and thousands were produced with that “error.”
This was actually the version I had as a kid. I certainly didn’t see it as an error. When I re-bought Skeletor as an adult, none of the Skeletors looked quite right to me until I found the one with orange cheeks. I remember staring for hours at that face as a kid, memorizing every detail.
Early versions of Skeletor had half-painted boots, which were probably meant to represent shin guards. He also had purple shorts and a black belt. Later versions had fully-painted boots and black shorts (and of course the corrected face paint). The full boot version has traditionally been associated with the black shorts/corrected face, but there are in between versions as well:
All of the above have a hit of light blue in the eye sockets as well, which would eventually be cut. Below we see corrected face paint with full boots and black shorts, and no light blue in the eyes:
There are of course all kinds of international production variants as well, with subtle and not-so subtle differences from the initial Taiwan versions.
Skeletor was sold in a number of configurations, apart from the single-carded figure. I’ll t get into Skeletor variants in future posts (ie, Battle Armor Skeletor, Dragon Blaster Skeletor, etc), but the standard release Skeletor was available in the following gift sets:
A photo and a short video of Skeletor in action, contributed by Øyvind Meisfjord:
The box art for the sets featuring Skeletor with Panthor or Screech are particularly good. They capture the same Frazetta feel as Rudy Obrero’s artwork, but with a slightly different flavor. I include the single packaged Panthor art piece as well, because I like the artist’s depiction of Skeletor so much:
The Skeletor/Screech artwork was painted by Rudy Obrero, while the others were likely done by William Garland.
Skeletor was featured along with He-Man in this very early live-action commercial:
One of the most memorable depictions of Skeletor in any media was created by Alfredo Alcala, who did the artwork for nine MOTU mini comics, the Power of Point Dread comic book/record set, and the 1982 DC series (he is credited with the inks rather than the artwork for the DC series, but his stylistic influence is evident).
Notice the body and clothing in the above illustration almost exactly match Mark Taylor’s b-sheet (this example is from the first mini comic, He-Man and the Power Sword). The face looks like a creepier, more ghoulish version of the vintage toy, however.
This artwork from The Power of Point Dread (above) is based on the cross sell art, but again the design of the skull face is unique to Alcala.
Taylor wasn’t responsible for writing the back story for any of the characters, but he did have one in mind when he created Skeletor:
[Skeletor] is a corrupted super human. His father threw him into the “Pit of Souls” as a youth to eliminate him as a claimant to the throne (Grayskull). Years after, the tribe was completely eliminated by a malevolent witch poisoner (Skeletor’s mother) who then helped him escape from the “Well” but when she saw what it had done to him she went insane and drank her own poison.
His stay in the demonic “Well of Souls” morphed his body and soul forever, before he looked very much like He Man. …. [His] hood is to help hide his glowing eyes and camouflage his distinct silhouette. It is made of the eyelid of a dragon that tried to kill him just after he emerged from the “Well”. [His armor] is made from the hide of an armadillo type monster that dared to defy him, it is tougher than steel.
[Skeletor] is the ultimate bipolar, from quiet malevolent to towering rage. … Not counting the time warp in the “Well of Souls” he is about 317 years old but he doesn’t celebrate birthdays… he never sleeps.
Taylor had no involvement in the production of mini comics, other than seeing them and approving them. The first official origin story (written by Don Glut) gave a simple but effective origin for Skeletor. He was an evil demon from another dimension, bent on stealing the power from within Castle Grayskull, and bringing more of his kind into Eternia. He was apparently brought into Eternia when the “Great Wars” ripped a hole between dimensions.
Much later in the line, it was hinted that Skeletor was once Keldor, brother to King Randor, but the story was never fleshed out until the 2002 cartoon series.
Perhaps the most widely-recognizable look for Skeletor came from the Filmation cartoon series. Voiced to perfection by Alan Oppenheimer, Skeletor featured a stripped down, more humanoid design, and more angry-looking eyes than the original toy:
There is a brief reference to Skeletor’s origins in the cartoon. In “The Greatest Adventures of All” VHS release, the Sorceress mentions that Skeletor is a demon from another dimension, which accords with the Don Glut story. (Thanks to both Jukka Issakainen and Dušan Mitrović for the information.) This idea is even more fleshed out in the December 1982 MOTU Bible, written by Michael Halperin:
A new vitality soared through their veins as they woke their new bodies to the horrid laughter of Infinita’s remaining ruler — the evil, megalomaniacal, power-mad monster, SKELETOR.
Beneath his hood eyes peered at them from the dark sockets of his skull face and his voice rang hollowly from the recesses of his bony jaws. In his hand he grasped the black, ram-headed HAVOC STAFF. He knew they were the minions he needed to break the Space Portal seal so he could invade and conquer Eternia. On the other hand Evil-Lyn, Beast-Man and Tri-Klops recognized Skeletor as their device for wreaking vengeance throughout the universe.
Skeletor led them to his lair beneath the twin peaks of SNAKE MOUNTAIN. Around one of the crags twisted a terrible carved snake. A portal along the snake’s back until it reached the fanged mouth. Entrance here entrapped the incautious stranger for once a person stepped into the snake’s jaws they snapped shut thrusting the trespasser into almost inescapable dungeon.
A footbridge connected one mountain with the other where a blood red waterfall cascaded over crags, past blasted trees and murky swamps. Skeletor’s chamber hid behind BLOOD FALLS and only he knew its entrance, its traps and snares. The lair itself was a dark cavern dripping with venom. In one corner, its eyes blazing red, its tail twitching, sat Skeletor’s pet and charger, the giant cat PANTHOR. Its purple fur glistened as its muscles rippled when it stretched out iron claws from the mighty paws.
Skeletor waved his staff and a charge of energy sprang forth rolling back a huge boulder from one wall uncovering a screen. A wave of his hand and a picture swam into view — a picture of Eternia then that of King Randor and Marlena. At the sight of the former captain, the trio snarled and clenched their fists – and it wasn’t lost on Skeletor.
“I see you feel as I do. You’d like to invade Eternia and conquer it. My reasons are simple enough. Infinita can no longer sustain life. We need Eternia’s air and food and I intend to take it by force. If you are with me we can accomplish our aim. But before we do we must break through the Space Portal sealed centuries ago against my ancestors. Once that’s done we’ll wipe out that simpering Eternian goodness and our dark powers will reign over all Eternia — over all the universe.”
In the animated commercial for the MOTU toy line produced by Filmation in 1982, Skeletor looked even more menacing than his later appearances in the show, with a more detailed design:
I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface on Skeletor. I could cover all his appearances in the box art, or the different comic book depictions and characterizations, or all the advertising and merchandising related to the character, but this really would turn this blog post into a novella. And maybe that’s what you’d need to really do justice to the evil lord of destruction!
I’ll return to the topic another time when I discuss Skeletor variant figures. Perhaps I’ll also do a separate post just on Skeletor-related box art, with some more detailed pictures of packaging.
Special thanks to Jukka Issakainen and Dušan Mitrović for some corrections and guidance on this topic.
When I was a kid, I was first introduced to Faker when visiting with a friend. I don’t remember him being a highly demanded figure among my peers. I liked him but I don’t remember begging my mom for a Faker figure. But among the adult collector community, Faker (along with Zodac) seems to have garnered something of a cult following. I can’t quite put my finger on why that might be, but at the gut level I’m right there with the rest of the fans.
By the time Faker was released in 1983, Mattel would have known they had a hit on their hands with Masters of the Universe. The brand had already made many millions of dollars in 1982, the year of its introduction. So was Faker released because he was cheap to make and the profit margins would be higher than other figures? Or was it because he required no new tooling and would allow Mattel to have another figure out in the market without much lead time? I tend to think it was the latter. New tooling would take time to put together, and Mattel showed they were willing to invest in new sculpts in the 1983 lineup. Meanwhile I would think they would wish to capitalize on the unexpected success of the MOTU line as quickly as possible.
In terms of design, Faker is, very simply, a He-Man figure with Skeletor’s sword and armor, recast in eye-catching candy colors.
In terms of parts reuse, no other figure was as direct a reuse of previous parts as Faker. Even Stinkor and Moss Man (reused from Mer-Man and Beast Man, respectively) got some scent added to their plastic or a coating of green fuzz, in the case of Moss Man. Faker is just Faker. There is something appealing about that design though. Maybe it’s the color scheme. Orange and blue are complimentary colors, after all.
The Faker prototype below is just a repainted He-Man figure. You can see a bit of the original color coming through on one of the legs. The prototype has the same orange color on the hair as on the armor and sword, compared to the final toy that had dark red hair. You can see this is made from an earlier He-Man figure, because it has the irregular looking belly button common on early He-Man figures. Some production Faker figures lack the belly button, just as He-Man did starting in 1983, but others retain it. The prototype below has red eyes, while the production figure had black eyes.
It’s possible that the idea of Faker being a robot was not the original concept for the character. In this 1982 color-changing advertisement, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala, Faker is described as having powerful muscles, and there no mention of robotic parts.
Faker came with the sticker on the chest, mostly hidden under the armor. It looks like it’s meant to represent his robotic control panel. To me it actually looks more like a reel-to-reel tape system. I like to think that Faker would be rocking out to The Fixx as he launched his assault on Castle Grayskull.
When Faker was released in 1983, he came on the same 8-back card as the original 8 figures. He must have been released in relatively low quantities, as a carded example is tough to come by now.
A rare variant of Faker (made in Taiwan) came with Skeletor’s arms. This particular version is from 1983, but includes the updated cardback with artwork by Errol McCarthy. Unless the figure is carded, it’s really impossible to tell if the figure’s arms were swapped with Skeletors, making it a variant that really only has value if it is carded.
Faker was depicted with Skeletor’s arms in a couple of posters illustrated by William George, and in the reissue card artwork illustrated by Bruce Timm (hat tip to Antoine D.):
There is a lot that can be said about production variants of Faker. The version produced in France had bright purple trunks:
Interestingly, a few early versions of Faker (made in Taiwan) seem to have come with an orange copy of Skeletor’s belt and possibly his havoc staff too:
For more discussion on that topic, see this thread.
Probably the most sought after production variant of Faker is the Leo Toys India version. It came with all of Skeletor’s armor and accessories in either orange or red, and a rather striking bit of paint around the eyes that resembled the Lone Ranger’s mask:
The version with pink armor seems to have been patterned after the cross sell art colors:
Faker was also unusual in that he got a re-release in 1987 after having been discontinued for years. The line was struggling at the time, and most new figures were heavily reusing old parts. It must have seemed a good time to bring Faker out of retirement.
Notably, this late version of Faker came with a hard rubber head rather than the soft polyvinyl of the original release. In my opinion the hard heads don’t look as nice. The sculpt seems a bit off and doesn’t have the nice matte finish quality of the hollow polyvinyl heads. As Rahul notes in the comments, these ones had heads cast in orange with painted on faces, instead of the blue cast heads of the original release. Some versions have the larger Thunder Punch He-Man feet as well:
Faker didn’t appear in a lot of media. He didn’t show up in a mini comic until his 1987 release with the Search for Keldor mini comic, where he was swiftly dispatched with a spear to the heart from King Randor:
Faker starred in his own commercial. Apparently this was produced in 1982. Could the figure have been released in 1982? Possibly, but if so, very late in the year.
Faker doesn’t appear anywhere in the 1982 dealer Catalog. He shows up for the first time in the 1983 edition:
Faker made a brief appearance in the 1984 Masters of the Universe Annual:
He also appeared a few times in illustrations by R.L. Allen and Fred Carillo:
Faker made a single appearance in the Filmation cartoon. While his design was a bit boring (it’s just He-Man with glowing eyes), it made a lot more sense, plot-wise. If Faker is supposed to be an evil He-Man impersonator, he would only be effective in that role with the same coloring and clothing as the real McCoy. But then, if you wanted something like that as a kid, you would just buy two He-Man figures. I don’t know of many moms who would have gone for that.
At the end of the episode, He-Man defeats Faker and sends him falling down the bottomless pit near Castle Grayskull. Skeletor makes it known that he plans to restore Faker somehow. I like to think that either the trip down the hole or the restoration would somehow have left him permanently blue.
He’s given possibly his best origin story in the 1984 UK Masters of the Universe Annual:
Finally, making up the whole of Skeletor’s evil gang is Faker, a being created by Skeletor himself with the aim of looking exactly like He-Man, to create maximum trouble and confusion. Unfortunately for Skeletor something went wrong in the spell, and Faker is a miscoloured and negative version of He-Man, easily detectable as the evil being he is. Through magic, Skeletor can make him into an exact likeness, but the spell lasts only a very short time, and the evil creature is soon revealed.