Galactic Guardians

Tuskador: Mighty and Mysterious Intergalactic Trader (1991)

Tuskador is one of the few heroic New Adventures of He-Man figures that is every bit as outlandish in his design as his Evil Mutant counterparts. Sporting gigantic tusks and a gold and blue elephant costume, Tuskador thinks subtlety is for other Galactic Guardians.

Design & Development

Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of specific information about the design and development of Tuskador, but I do have a few images. Most of the Galactic Guardian characters were designed by Martin Arriola, and that may be the case here.

There is some artwork by Errol McCarthy that shows a concept that might be related. On Errol’s file for the image below, he calls the character “Battle Beard”. I’m not sure if that was the actual name for the concept, but it does show an elephant-like trunk coming out from the character’s chin like a sort of beard. He has the same blue and gold color scheme as Tuskador, and he has an elephant-like appearance, so it could be related.

There is also a prototype image of Tuskador (known as Insyzor overseas), where he sports a gold costume with green skin. It’s possible at this stage he was intended as an Evil Mutant, which might explain his more outlandish design.

Image source: Grayskull Museum

Here is a test shot version of the figure, originally shared by King Megator, and posted at www.grayskullmuseum.com. Test shots are produced in random colors to test out the mold. This one sports two golden guns.

A finalized, hand-painted prototype appears in various catalog images. The clearest image I’ve found is on this Spanish playing card, via La Cueva del Terror:

Image source: La Cueva del Terror

The production figure sports a gold and blue costume, with ivory-like tusks and mega blaster. He features a leaver on his back that can swivel the tusks in and out to capture opponents. Tuskador is slightly bulkier than many other New Adventures figures. Unlike his MOTU counterpart Snout Spout, Tuskador’s trunk is somewhat diminutive. All the focus is on the tusks.

Packaging

Tuskador was released on the standard New Adventures card. On the back there is a bio that gives some background on the character:

Mighty and Mysterious Inter-galactic Trader from the star system Polarides. He’s ready to fight fist and tusk for He-Man to keep the starways clear of evil mutants. There is no escape for an evil mutant caught in his swiveling tusks.


Mission: To search the star system for the supplies that He-Man and the Galactic Guardians urgently need to battle Skeletor and his evil mutants.


Battle Equipment: swiveling tusks and mega blaster

Tuskador’s cross sell artwork is very faithful to the design of the final figure:

His European card has a couple of different bubble designs, which can be seen here.

Animation

Tuskador featured much shorter tusks in the New Adventures of He-Man cartoon. He uses them for flipping over opponents rather than for capturing them, as seen in this video uploaded by James Eatock:

Tuskador is primarily a hand-to-hand fighter, but also assists the Galactic Guardians as a pilot. Tuskador appears in a number of episodes, outlined in this guide:

Other Media

Unfortunately later figures like Tuskador don’t tend to appear in New Adventures minicomics or magazines. Tuskador does appear in a few catalogs and photo magazines, however:

1990 Mattel catalog. Image source: Battle Armor Dad
1991 Mattel catalog
1990 French catalog. Image via Grayskull museum
1991 German He-Man News magazine. Image via He-Man.org
1991 German He-Man News magazine. Image via He-Man.org

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Galactic Guardians

Battle Punch He-Man (1990)

Battle Punch He-Man was the first He-Man variant in the “New Adventures” reboot of the He-Man series. The name “Battle Punch” implies some kind of action feature, although the figure had none. He did have some unusual articulation that was marketed as a kind of action feature, but I’ll get into that just a bit later.

Design & Development

Battle Punch He-Man seems to have been designed by Mark Taylor, who also designed the original He-Man released in 1982. Shortly after the successful launch of the original Masters of the Universe toyline, Mark left Mattel (eventually working on the wildly successful Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toyline), but he returned as a vice president at about the time that New Adventures line was going full steam.

Image courtesy of Rebecca Salari Taylor

Mark Taylor’s design (above) has some of the broad elements that made it to the final toy, including the specific look of the boots and the sash around his torso. However, Mark’s design seems to depict a rather disheveled He-Man, with torn clothing and gauze wrap around his fists. He looks like a street fighter rather than a space fighter.

In some ways, Battle Punch He-Man is actually closer to the look of He-Man as he appeared in the Jetlag New Adventures of He-Man animated series than was the 1989 release of He-Man. That might have been coordinated, as the New Adventures series was released the the year before Battle Punch He-Man. The animated version essentially looks like Battle Punch He-Man with the sword (and occasionally, shield) of the 1989 release, but in gold.

Update: Dušan M. pointed out that this promotional art for The New Adventures of He-Man is even closer to Mark Taylor’s sketch. He also pointed out that the series debuted in 1989, not 1990:

Update #2: Robert Barbieri recently uncovered some early Jetlag animation concept artwork that was based on Mark Taylor’s concept. Note that this version has the traditional power sword:

Image Source: Robert Barbieri
Image Source: Robert Barbieri

We can see the further development of the figure design in the artwork below (artist unknown), first shown in Mattel’s 2009 SDCC Art Book. The concept art below is pretty close to the look of the final figure, with the exception of the shield. The shield has a stylized bird design on it, while the production shield would have the “New Adventures” He-Man triangular logo on it as as well as some sculpted battle damage.

Images courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

He-Man was given a new power sword as well, with an asymmetrical hilt design.

Battle Punch He-Man vs Disks of Doom Skeletor
Battle Punch He-Man with the unreleased Clawber bird.
Spanish playing card. Source: cuevadelterror.blogspot.com
Spanish playing card. Source: cuevadelterror.blogspot.com

The cross sell artwork for the figure shows the finalized design that would be used for the mass-produced toy:

We can see the final hand-painted prototype for the figure in Mattel’s 1990 dealer catalogue:

Image courtesy of Battle Armor Dad
Image courtesy of Battle Armor Dad
Image courtesy of Battle Armor Dad

Production Figure

Battle Punch He-Man is slightly bigger and bulkier compared to the 1989 version. He has some of the same standard articulation that most figures in the series had, including ball joints at the knees and hips. His main feature, however, was a diagonal articulation joint across his chest, which allowed you to manually wind him up for a punch (there was no spring-back action, so the entire action was manual), while making the figure look completely bizarre in the process. Used subtly, however, the articulation can slightly alter his pose and posture in useful ways.

Something has gone horribly wrong

The figure also featured a more pragmatic bit of articulation – a hinge joint at the wrist, allowing him to realistically hold his sword aloft for the first time.

Unlike the 1989 He-Man release, this version has a sculpted pony tail, which conforms to the Mark Taylor concept art as well as the animated depiction.

Packaging

The packaging for Battle Punch Figure features artwork on the front by (I believe) William George. I’m not sure who did the art and instructions on the back.

The back of the card includes a bit of a bio for Battle Punch He-Man:

The most powerful man in the universe! Only He-Man, with his ultra-energized sword and shield, can defeat Skeletor’s new weapons – the Disks of Doom. A stranger stranded in a strange place and time, He-Man has a lot to learn about the future world of Primus. And, the gentle people of this peace-loving planet have a lot to learn about the evil of Skeletor from He-Man.

Mission – To unite the Tri-Solar System against Skeletor and lead a star-legion of Galactic Guardians into combat to defend the last great civilization of mankind.

Battle Equipment: Powersword & Energy Shield

His backstory is all relatively straightforward. There is no explanation for why his power sword and shield looks so different compared to the previous release. Also on the back are the the instructions for his “action feature”:

I can’t imagine any kid had hours of fun playing with that particular feature, but I do think in terms of his overall costume design he is the best looking of the three “New Adventures” He-Man figures.

Other Appearances

Petteri Höglund helpfully pointed out that Battle Punch He-Man appears in the box art for several New Adventures oversized items, as well as on the cover of this promotional VHS tape:

Image courtesy of Petteri Höglund

Unfortunately I haven’t identified a lot of media associated with this variant. If I come across any comics or additional catalogs featuring the figure, I will certainly update this piece to include them.

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Galactic Guardians

He-Man – Most Powerful Man in the Universe! (1989)

The 1989 He-Man reboot is often considered by most fans to be a failure. It’s true that the line was less commercially successful than the original line (a high bar to clear). On the other hand, the rebooted “He-Man in space” line lasted for four years – twice as long as the more popular 200x reboot. So, perhaps it’s not fair to call it a failure.

I was never a fan of the “New Adventures” reboot, until one day I was. I think it was a sudden and intense interest in Laser Light Skeletor that drew me in that direction. Still, while I love most of the evil characters in the 1989 line, most of the heroes are a bit under-cooked for my tastes. My theory is that they kept the heroes more generic-looking so that they could be reused for other toylines (and indeed, several of them were reused in Mattel’s Demolition Man toyline).

I remember running into this toyline on the shelves and thinking “that’s not He-Man” and walking away. I’m sure that’s not the reaction Mattel was going for. At the time I was reluctantly collecting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – reluctantly, because I considered myself too old for toys. Little did I know.

The 1989 edition of He-Man was designed by Martin Arriola. Two versions of the concept art were shared in Dark Horse’s Art of He-Man book, depicting the figure with and without his snap-on armor and gold helmet.

Unlike the “New Adventures” Skeletor, this He-Man would have almost no visual references to any previous version of the character. He’s got gold boots, blue pants, a totally redesigned sword and shield, redesigned harness, and a retro-futuristic armor and helmet. Without any context, I don’t think anyone would immediately connect this design to He-Man, which is I think one of the areas where the reboot went astray. That’s not to say that it’s a bad design – it’s a pretty neat space adventurer design. But is it He-Man?

The idea for the shield and probably the sword seems to have been to use clear plastic (giving it something of a connection to the previous year’s Laser Power He-Man). However, in prototypes that showed up in catalog artwork, we see a solid gold sword and a dark, transparent shield.

The gold sword and dark shield would make their way into the packaging artwork and other media:

He-Man card front artwork by William George
He-Man cardback artwork. Image source: The Art of He-Man
He-Man cross sell artwork. As indicated by the artwork, twisting his waist would make He-Man either slash his sword or raise his shield.

The final toy seems to use LISA (light collecting) plastic in the sword and shield, which were also used in Lego sets around that time. The figure also has a combined H/M symbol added to his belt, a feature not present in the concept art or prototype. The face does resemble the original 1982 He-Man’s face, but it’s subtle enough that it would be easy to miss that this was a He-Man figure, with no other visual references to previous versions. The figure could be displayed with or without the snap-on armor and helmet.

The design is somewhat reminiscent of Bow from the She-Ra line:

He-Man’s boots are a metallic gold plastic with a bit of swirliness. That type of plastic would pop up in toys all over the line, in various shades of silver, gold, bronze, and copper. This is especially apparent in figures like Optikk:

He-Man was sold in a number of configurations: a single card, or in giftset with either Skeletor, Flogg or Slushhead.The design of the single card’s bubble is a bit little different on the Euro card, which has a smaller section for He-Man’s accessories.

US Card
Euro card

He-Man appeared in toy form and in CGI form in a promo for the new line in 1989:

As mentioned previously, Mattel had planned to ask Filmation (the studio that had produced the first He-Man cartoon) to make a cartoon series for the He-Man reboot. Its title would have been He-Man and the Masters of Space (information via Dušan M./James Eatock). Filmation went out of business in 1989, but they did create some artwork and a basic storyline for the pitch. He-Man’s look here more or less follows the design of the toy, although he has a solid gold sword like the prototype, as well as some additional red detail. Update: per Dušan M., Gerald Forton at Filmation actually came up with the initial design that Mattel used in the development of the “New Adventures” He-Man toy.


Image via the Ancient Library of Grayskull Facebook group/Dušan M.

Filmation tended to prefer symmetrical character designs, allowing them to flip cells over reuse them in the reverse pose. To that end, this look was also created.


Image via the Ancient Library of Grayskull Facebook group/Dušan M.

Interestingly, Errol McCarthy also illustrated a version of the character with somewhat similar armor:

Image source: He-Man.org

For more information on some of the details of Filmation’s vision for the reboot, see this post at the Ancient Library of Grayskull Facebook group. Or, check out cereal:geek issue 14.

Update: Robert Barbieri recently uncovered some early Jetlag animation concept artwork that was based on a Mark Taylor design for a more tattered, battle hardened looking He-Man.

Concept art by Mark Taylor
Jetlag artwork. Image Source: Robert Barbieri
Image Source: Robert Barbieri. Note in this version He-Man has a traditional Power Sword design

Jetlag’s take on the character also seems influenced by the Mark Taylor design, as well as the Martin Arriola design. The series starts off on Eternia, before He-Man and Skeletor are whisked off into the future, but both of them already sport their New Adventures costumes.

Startlingly, after getting a warning from the Sorceress, a redesigned Prince Adam transforms into He-Man right in front of his parents, who hadn’t been aware of his secret identity previously. From there he rescues Hydron and Flipshot from Skeletor’s clutches, and returns with them to the future to save Primus from the mutants.

The Jetlag version of the character I think looks a bit better than the action figure, at least color-wise. In my opinion the brown works much better with blue than gold does. Even his sword is silver rather than gold. But I’ve always had a weird bias against blue and gold together.

He is not the all-powerful collossus as depicted in the Filmation series. He has to struggle to defeat even ordinary villains. Strength-wise, he’s very similar to He-Man as depicted in the 1987 Masters of the Universe movie.

He-Man very rarely has his shield in the Jetlag series, but when he does, it resembles the dark prototype version.

Mattel put out four minicomics for the series, illustrated by three different authors. In this canon, a familiar-looking Prince Adam (holding a power sword that looks like Mattel’s 1989 light-up power sword) actually permanently transforms into his new He-Man self in front of Skeletor. Skeletor had tricked Hydron and Flipshot into transferring the power of Castle Grayskull into their ship. Skeletor planned to hyjack it and take the power for himself, but Prince Adam stops him, and permanently transforms into his futuristic-looking self on the ship.

Light up Power Sword and Skeletor staff, from 1990 German He-Man magazine. Image from He-Man.org

On the cover of The New Adventure, He-Man wears his helmet and armor, but otherwise he goes without these accessories for the rest of the short series (images are from Dark Horse’s He-Man minicomic collection).

The UK He-Man Adventure Magazine covered the New Adventures series, sometimes depicting the character with breastplate and helmet, sometimes with just his helmet, and sometimes without either accessory. The design is, again, based on the prototype figure (images via He-Man.org):

So, finishing my thought from earlier in the article – what to make of this radical He-Man redesign? I have to say I like the design overall, but I think it was a mistake. Without the label on the package, no kid would have looked at this figure and guessed that it was supposed to be He-Man. There should have been some kind of call-back to the original character, beyond just giving him blonde hair and a sort-of similar face. He should have retained some of his original colors – gray, red and orange.

1989 He-Man vs 1982 He-Man

He could have retained the helmet and chest armor (ideally in silver or gray), but underneath there could have been the usual X-shaped harness with either an H or a cross symbol, with some futuristic embellishments. We needed something to tell us that this was not just future space man, but future space He-Man.

Image source: Tallstar/He-Man.org

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