I’m sure I saw Bashasaurus at some point growing up, if only in a minicomic or in cross sell art, but it never really stuck with me. In retrospect, though, it’s a pretty great concept. A dinosaur vehicle whose primary weapon is a giant boulder attached to a stick? Yes, please.
Design & Development
The early working name for Bashasaurus was Ball Buster, a name which famously caused Filmation President Lou Scheimer to reject outright the idea of ever including it in the animated He-Man series. As evident in the concept below, the early incarnation of the vehicle (illustration by Ed Watts, Sept 19, 1983) would have had the ball mechanism come down from the center of the vehicle. This early concept is intended for the Evil Warriors, and bears little resemblance to the final toy:
According to the patent (Filed January 4, 1985), Bashasaurus was invented by Granville Crow, Larry Renger and Roger Sweet. The drawings from the patent application (below) show the finalized dinosaur design and modified bashing mechanism. According to The Power and the Honor Foundation, the mechanism was moved to the side to prevent pinch injury during play.
Several years back a Mattel employee sold off a number of molds and prototypes, among them one for the Bashasaurus (thanks to Manic Man in the comments for the reminder):
The production toy was produced in a bright red color with orange and blue highlights. The faceplate features a triceratops-like design, and the theme continues in the back with a spiked tail that looks a bit like a stegosaurus. The bashing boulder is activated via an orange push button, the the ball itself telescopes further out by means of centrifugal force.
The cross sell art for the vehicle is closely based on the production toy:
The vehicle includes a tab on the side, which can be used to hold He-Man’s sword and shield, as explained in the instructions that came with the vehicle:
The main packaging artwork, as well as the cross sell artwork was done by William George:
Interestingly, the Venezuelan version of the toy features product photography on the front rather than William George’s box art. The photo that appears in Mattel’s 1985 dealer catalog is used here (images come from MOTU Argentina Blog) :
Former Mattel designer Ted Mayer shared some Battle Ram concept art with me that he recently rediscovered in his portfolio. I previously had lower resolution copies of this art (one from my 2015 interview with Ted, and another from an issue of Tomart’s Action Figure Digest), showcased in my article about the Battle Ram. I’ve updated that article with these better images, but I thought I’d announce the new images here and share a few insights from Ted.
The first piece of concept art below, was, according to Ted, the original concept. On the second revised version below, Ted says, he was “asked to clean it up and change it for molding, cost, and safety considerations.” Both of them date to late April, 1981.
Ted was nice enough to answer a few follow-up questions I had about the art:
Q: On the earlier version, there is an extra piece on the top/back
section of the vehicle. Would that have been the firing mechanism?
A: Yes, I figured it would be a pull back and release, to shoot the missile.
Q: Very interesting that originally the front half of the vehicle had
wheels as well. Would there have been an extra small wheel underneath
toward the front, for balance?
A: Yes, we wanted it to be a totally independent vehicle. That’s why
the original battle Ram had six wheels. cost cutting won out!!
Q: The horned helmet version of He-Man has always been shown barefooted, at least in the prototype models that I’ve seen. In your drawings he does have boots. Just curious, was he originally supposed to have removable cloth boots or something along those lines?
A: As I remember, I drew the figure from an original sculpt, so it must have had boots on!
Many thanks to Ted for sharing his amazing artwork, and for answering my questions!
The longer I write this blog, the more I realize there is almost no
limit to the amount of material that can be written about the vintage
Masters of the Universe toyline. I will run out of steam before I ever
run out of subjects to write about.
In this post, I’ll examine the Battle Ram‘s appearances in minicomics and Golden Book stories (I’ll skip the Golden coloring books, simply because I don’t have good images for all of them).
Interestingly, in the earliest minicomic stories, it was the Battle Ram, not Battle Cat, that was He-Man’s primary mode of transportation. By 1983 that changed, and He-Man and Battle Cat became inseparable, while the Battle Ram became more frequently associated with Teela or Man-At-Arms.
When I went through the Dark Horse He-Man Minicomic Collection, I was actually a little surprised at how infrequently the Battle Ram shows up. It actually appears much more often in the Golden collection of stories.
For reference, the vehicle in question is called the Battle Ram, but
the detachable front half is referred to as the Jet Sled – although that
term isn’t often used within the stories below.
Update #1: I should note that the Battle Ram was designed by Ted Mayer. Alfredo Alcala’s depictions of it (including the image at the beginning of this article) are based on the early prototype sculpted by Jim Openshaw, which in turn was based on Ted Mayer’s concept drawings. More on that at Ted Mayer’s website and in my original Battle Ram toy feature.
Update #2: I wasn’t originally going to include the Giant Picture Books because they’re not really stories per se. But the artwork is so nice, I broke down and decided to include them. Thanks to Jukka for sharing the lovely images, which come from James Eatock (internal) and Polygonus (covers).
1982 Minicomic: He-Man and the Power Sword
The Battle Ram is pretty ubiquitous in the first ever minicomic (written by Don Glut, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala). Notice that in early media like this, the front half of the Battle Ram does not soar through the air – rather it hovers low over the ground. That was Mark Taylor‘s idea for how the vehicle was supposed to work.
1982 Minicomic: The Vengeance of Skeletor
The Battle Ram is a near-constant presence in what would turn out to
be one of the most violent of the MOTU minicomics. Written by Don Glut,
illustrated by Alfredo Alcala.
1982 Minicomic: Battle in the Clouds
Battle in the Clouds is the first story where the front half of the Battle Ram (Sky Sled) is not limited to hovering close to the ground. In this story it can soar high into the sky, which serves as an excuse to write it into a story about a furious air battle featuring the Wind Raider. Written by Don Glut, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala.
1983 Minicomic: The Tale of Teela
This is the first minicomic that features both halves of the Battle
Ram together. which seems to be Teela’s vehicle of choice. Sadly, it’s
also the last appearance of the Battle Ram in the vintage minicomics.
Written by Gary Cohn, penciled by Mark Texeira, inked by Tod Smith,
colored by Anthony Tollin.
1983 Golden Book: Thief of Castle Grayskull
In this story, Teela is again the driver for Battle Ram, which seems
to be mostly used as transportation, as far as this story is concerned.
Written by Roger McKenzie, illustrated by Fred Carillo, cover by Gino
1983 Golden Book: The Sword of Skeletor
Teela is again the driver for the Battle Ram in The Sword of
Skeletor. In this story, the Battle Ram can apparently travel across
water as well as land. Written by Roger McKenzie, illustrated by Fred
Carillo, cover by Gino D’Achille.
1983 Golden Book: The Sunbird Legacy
The Sunbird Legacy is probably the greatest of the Golden stories,
with an epic, comic book feel. In this story Man-At-Arms is the driver
for the Battle Ram, and he uses it to great effect against Beast Man.
Written by Roger McKenzie, illustrated by Adrian Gonzales and Fred
Carillo, cover by Earl Norem.
1984 Golden Book: Mask of Evil
This story features a brief shot of an out-of-scale Battle Ram from
the rear. It’s not clear who’s driving it, though. Written by John
Hughes, illustrated by Al McWilliams, cover by Earl Norem.
1984 Golden Book: Giant Picture Book – Heroic Warriors
This isn’t a story so much as a collection of lovely artwork by Fred Carillo. The Giant Picture Book series does include some biographical information on selected characters, however.
1984 Golden Book: Giant Picture Book – Evil Warriors
This evil version of the heroic Giant Picture Book gives us a tantalizing look at the Battle Ram – just before Jitsu goes and destroys it. You’re not winning any points with me, Jitsu! Artwork by Fred Carillo.
1985 Golden Book: The Rock Warriors
This story features a single shot of the Jet Slet, again piloted by
Teela, but colored in red and orange. Written by Michael Kirschenbaum,
illustrated by Fred Carillo, cover by Earl Norem.
1986 Golden Book: A Hero In Need
Two gray Jet Sleds are on almost every page of this story, piloted by Teela and Prince Adam. Written by Elizabeth Ryan, illustrated by Fred Carillo, cover by Earl Norem.
I remember getting the Road Ripper as a present when it came out in 1984. I want to say I got it at the same time as the Dragon Walker. It didn’t blow me away like the Dragon Walker did, but it was a memorable vehicle and I sent it speeding across the kitchen floor on many Saturday mornings.
The Road Ripper seems to have been the brainchild of Mattel designer Roger Sweet. I believe that an early working name for the vehicle was the Tri-Trak. As described in the December 1982 MOTU Bible, the Tri-Trak was “a three-wheeled motorcycle which He Man uses whenever he needs a fast ground transport. Tri-Trak travels most of the places the Attack Trak goes only much faster. The motorcycle bears two very deadly photon machine guns.”
An early version of the vehicle had a much smaller figurehead on the front of the vehicle, a couple of small fins on the back, and control handles for He-Man to hold on to. This early concept was colored red rather than green, and had a comparatively narrow front end.
A subsequent revision to the design was much closer to the final toy, with its enlarged figurehead and green color scheme. It was more highly detailed than the final toy, with additional orange and yellow triangular patterns and green mechanical details, but otherwise it’s very familiar to anyone who owned the production vehicle.
A somewhat similar concept was illustrated by Ted Mayer on September 29, 1983. It has the twin guns mentioned in the description of the Tri-Trak, although it seems to have four wheels, not three. It would have used a launcher base as a means of propulsion, with a similar ripcord feature. However, given that the Road Ripper was trademarked on August 22, 1983, this may have been a related idea and not a version of the Road Ripper itself.
According to the Power and the Honor Foundation catalog, Roger Sweet got the idea for the Road Ripper from the Evel Knievel Super Stunt Cycle.
The final toy has a rubber seat belt (similar to the ones used in the Attak Trak and Dragon Walker), rather than the clip featured in the concept artwork. The sculpt work is well-executed, and it’s augmented by a number of brightly colored stickers. It came with a long red ripcord, that, when pulled through the back of the vehicle, set a heavy rubber wheel hidden underneath the vehicle in motion, propelling the whole thing forward.
The cross sell art closely mirrors the toy, but it lacks some detail in on the back area of the vehicle:
The Road Ripper was sold individually and in a gift set with Battle Armor He-Man. The artwork on the front of both boxes was done by William George. They both have a sense of speed to them, and feature the artist’s usual desolate landscapes and fearsome little creatures:
William George also illustrated the Road Ripper in this 1984 MOTU poster:
Argentinian manufacturer Top Toys produced a version of the Road Ripper in blue, although they retained the artwork on the packaging that depicted it in green:
Errol McCarthy illustrated the Road Ripper for a T-Shirt design:
The vehicle makes a two appearances in the Filmation He-Man cartoon, in “The Time Wheel” (thanks to Dušan Mitrović for pointing that out) and “The Energy Beast.” It doesn’t last long in the the latter story, as Orko starts up the vehicle and quickly crashes it, destroying it. Man-At-Arms remarks that he had spent six months working on it.
It also makes a single appearance in the mini comics. It shows up in a single panel in Temple of Darkness, illustrated by Larry Houston.
An off-model red version of Road Ripper shows up in Issue 71 of the UK MOTU magazine, which in turn originates from Ehapa MOTU issue 7 (thanks to Dušan Mitrović for pointing that out):
It also appears in the first issue of the US MOTU magazine, in the short comic story, Maddening of the Monstones. He-Man uses it as his primary means of transportation:
The Road Ripper never had the kind of permanence and ubiquitousness that other vehicles like the Wind Raider and Battle Ram had, but it was a fun little racer and I think it fit in well with the other Masters of the Universe vehicles. Surprisingly, Tonka even made a Road Ripper-themed crossover tricycle. I suppose that makes sense given the fact that the Road Ripper also has three wheels, but it’s an interesting choice given the general lack of exposure of the vehicle otherwise.
The general formula for MOTU vehicles really seems to be angular, Star Wars vehicle-like bodies, combined big engines and animalistic figureheads at the front, which is as good a description as any for the Road Ripper. In fact, it reminds me in many ways of the Battle Ram, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Battle Ram were a major source of inspiration.
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