Heroic Vehicles

Wind Raider: Assault Lander (1982)

The Wind Raider, released with the initial wave of MOTU figures in 1982, was a perplexing vehicle. It looked a lot like a boat that had been given short wings. It even had an anchor, which my friends and I used as a rescue line (but which was intended, according to Rudy Obrero, as a kind of “hook and destroy” weapon). Indeed, it was originally designed to double as a watercraft, but it was never portrayed that way in any published media, so as kids we had to come up with our own theories about why it seemed to have a nautical theme.

Design & Development

Back in the day, my first MOTU vehicle was the Battle Ram. I was aware of the Wind Raider because I had seen it for sale at the local toy store, and it was featured in the cross sell art on the back of my Battle Ram box:

The cross sell art, interestingly, is based on one of the prototype Wind Raiders. The prototype, designed by the great Ted Mayer (who also designed the Battle Ram, Attak Trak, Eternia, Slime Pit, Talon Fighter, and others), had smaller engines and steep, sloped structures leading up to the area where the wings connected to the body. But the dragon face figurehead (used as a crank to reel in the anchor) was actually quite different in the earliest known prototype. It resembles a miniature viking ship:

Source: Ted Mayer

A closer to complete prototype (sculpted by Jim Openshaw, labels by Rebecca Salari Taylor) looks identical to the cross sell art:

Image source: Grayskull Museum
Artwork from the Castle Grayskull instruction booklet, featuring a tracing of the prototype Wind Raider and Mer-Man

And finally, here is the tooling pattern, which looks exactly like the final toy, at least in shape:

Source: Ted Mayer
Source: He-Man.org/Ted Mayer

And the final prototype, with its slightly modified wings, large engines, and sleek profile figurehead:

Source: ted-mayer.com

There is also this early concept drawing, which comes via the Grayskull Museum website. It lacks any hood decoration, and looks quite sleek. I wouldn’t be surprised if the concept was inspired by the Lockheed P-38 Lightning:

Image source: Grayskull Museum

As I mentioned earlier, the Wind Raider was actually intended to work as both a boat and an aircraft. Although the final vehicle design is by Ted Mayer, Mark Taylor did some initial work on the design and created drawings that described some of the vehicle’s features. For instance, when on the water, the wings would rotate up and act as “photo sails”. The anchor is described as a “power ram/grapnel.” The dragon design bears strong resemblance to a Viking ship’s figurehead.

Image courtesy of Ted Mayer. Artwork by Mark Taylor.
Wings as “photo sails” in ship mode
Grapnel action feature
Flight mode
Colorized version. I chose colors for He-Man based on one of the early Mark Taylor B-sheet designs.

Packaging Art

I remember seeing the Wind Raider for sale at the local toy store (The White Elephant in Spokane Valley) shortly after I got my Battle Ram. I distinctly remember it in two different flavors – in an individual package, and as a gift set with a He-Man action figure. Neither set showed the actual Wind Raider, but rather some artwork by the amazing Rudy Obrero. His art always seemed to eclipse the actual product being sold, which meant of course that it was doing its job:

Original Wind Raider artwork by Rudy Obrero. He-Man is attacking Castle Grayskull because the artist assumed it was an evil fortress. Image source: Grayskull Museum
He-Man and Wind Raider giftset artwork

The Wind Raider giftset illustration was patterned more or less after Mark Taylor’s packaging layout. It was Mark Taylor who hired Rudy Obrero to do the final artwork:

Mark Taylor’s layout for the Wind Raider packaging design, courtesy of Ted Mayer

As was the case with the Battle Cat box art, the color for the Wind Raider gift set art appears to have been shifted and brightened on the mass-produced box. Either that, or the original oil paintings have become darker with age.

Interestingly, the first release of the He-Man/Wind Raider gift set described He-Man as the “strongest man in the universe“. The reissue called him the “most powerful man in the universe” (hat tip: Tokyonever, curator at the Grayskull Museum website).

Incidentally, if you want that original gift set now, you’re going to have to either hock your wedding ring or sell a kidney. Personally I’ve been wanting to collect all of the Rudy Obrero boxes, and thankfully Tokyonever has contracted with a manufacturer and created replicas of the Wind Raider gift set box at a price that won’t result in medical problems down the road.  Don’t get any ideas about selling it as a vintage piece for a massive profit though. Tokyonever used the darker colors of the original oil painting, so there is no confusing the vintage item with the reproduction.

Here are some photos of my vintage Wind Raider box and my reproduction He-Man and Wind Raider box:

Now, if you look closely at the upward facing section of the gift set box, you’ll see three warriors:

Warrior in red

Image source: Tokyonever

The warrior in the middle is often referred to as “The Warrior in Red” among fans and he’s considered something of a mystery. Personally, I think it’s just Zodac, slightly off model. Sure, he’s got red boots instead of gray (notice Beast Man also has red boots), and he’s showing a bit too much belly, but I really think that’s Zodac. Although originally conceived by designer Mark Taylor as a heroic warrior, Zodac was marketed as an evil warrior. So it makes sense that he would be portrayed here among the bad guys. It looks like he got beaned by that anchor, too. Ouch.

Update: apparently I was totally wrong! Tokyonever recently got in contact with Rudy Obrero, who had this to say:

“That guy is just made up to fill the crowd. I only had He-Man, Skeletor, Man-At-Arms, Teela and Beast Man to work with at the time. Hope this helps. Rudy”

Finished Toy

After having seen the sleeker version on the box art, the first time I saw the toy in person, I was just a little disappointed. I actually quite like it today, but as a kid I thought the wings were too stubby. I think had the intent of the design (a hybrid water/aircraft) been explained to me, the size of the wings wouldn’t have bothered me. The overall vehicle was still very striking, though, and the anchor feature was a lot of fun. It was intended to be sold at a lower price point than the Battle Ram, and so was about 25% smaller in size.

Even back then, the wings were fragile and would break off unless you were a very careful, conscientious child. I did not have my own Wind Raider, but a friend who did broke his within the first few weeks.

A safer option might have been the inflatable version. The wings would definitely not have snapped off, although I suppose there is the danger of it popping:

Wind Raider in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has shared the following photos and video of the Wind Raider in action:

Miscellaneous Artwork

Artist Errol McCarthy produced some artwork depicting He-Man flying a slightly undersized Wind Raider. To my knowledge this artwork was never put to use:

Image source: He-Man.org

The Wind Raider also frequently appeared in Golden Books, DC Comics and coloring books:


In the Filmation He-Man series, Wind Raider was almost ubiquitous. The animators enlarged it so it could fit multiple characters, and it was a handy way to transport the protagonists to whatever disturbance they were investigating:

It was also great if you needed to push the moon out of the way:


One of my favorite depictions of the Wind Raider is in the Alcala-drawn mini comic, Battle in the Clouds. The Wind Raider seems to belong to Man-At-Arms and the Battle Ram seems to belong to He-Man. When the Battle Ram is stolen by Mer-Man, Man-at-Arms takes He-Man for a ride up a mountain, and makes a point to show off the Wind Raider’s superior thrust capabilities. Even on post-apocalyptic Eternia, masculinity has everything to do with the amount of horsepower in your ride.

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Heroic Vehicles

Battle Ram: Mobile Launcher (1982)

I was obsessed with the Battle Ram the moment I saw it on the shelf as a kid. Maybe that’s obvious from the name I chose for this blog. Unlike most of the other MOTU items I got as a kid, there was no window box or bubble in the packaging. The Rudy Obrero art sold the toy all by itself, and it was more than up to the task.

Box Art

To this day it remains my favorite piece of art ever produced for the Masters of the Universe line. Let’s take a closer look at the full painted scene:

Every piece Rudy Obrero did for Masters of the Universe was moody and full of movement and mystery (with the possible exception of the Attak Trak box art). This illustration, like the Wind Raider pieces he did the same year, features two separate action scenes. The bottom scene, which would have been facing front at about eye level for kids wandering the toy isles of Toys ‘R’ Us (or in my case, the White Elephant), depicts He-Man guiding the Battle Ram over difficult terrain as evil warriors rain down fire from above.

He-Man is shown here with white colored fur at the tops of his boots. Every time Obrero depicted He-Man, he had these boots (sometimes the fur is white, other times it’s more of an ocher color). They’re actually based on the prototype version of He-Man that Obrero used as a reference. The mass-produced toy had fully red boots.

Prototype He-Man with two-toned boots

The top portion of the art was subdivided into two sections on the actual box. The top-most section was again facing front and featured He-Man shooting through the air on the front portion of the Battle Ram (aka the Sky Sled). Evil versions of the Sky Sled (which also appear in the Castle Grayskull box art) send out twin laser blasts while a fierce battle rages below.

The middle section faces up rather than forward due to the shape of the box. Several back halves of Battle Rams are launching missiles. Skeletor, Beast Man, Stratos, Man-at-Arms and Teela (sporting her concept spear that never appeared in the vintage toy line) are seen, along side a warrior with a horned helmet and Castle Grayskull in the background. It looks like all-out war.

As a kid, I was instantly hooked. I had never seen anything like it. As I said, Obrero’s artwork (done in oil) really sold this vehicle. It didn’t hurt that the artist tended to add extra details, like a protruding jet engine on the back of the Sky Sled and under-guns that the actual toy only hinted at (but were actually present in the prototype version).

A modified version of the artwork appeared in the Japanese Takara toy catalog. It looks like a cross between the Battle Ram box art and the Power of Point Dread comic book cover:

Yet another modification to the artwork was done on the Brazilian Estrela version of the Battle Ram. They even modified the cross sell art on the back of the package. It’s unclear to me why this was done. My speculation is that they had the rights to produce and sell the toys, but opted not to purchase rights to the packaging artwork.

Update: Mano from Mundo Masters shares this example of the Congost/Mattel Spain box, which uses the original Rudy Obrero artwork:

A Swedish language advertisement took elements of the Rudy Obrero Battle Ram artwork and modified it to advertise a number of MOTU vehicles:

Image source: “pH6”

Design & Development

The toy was designed by Ted Mayer, who also designed the iconic Wind Raider, Attak Trak, Eternia, Slime Pit, and quite a few figures that came out between 1985 and 1987. Let’s take a look at some of the artwork and prototypes leading up to the creation of the Battle Ram.

Before Ted was brought in, Mark Taylor (who designed all of the early figures as well as Castle Grayskull) tried his hand at designing the vehicles as well. An early vehicle concept was a three wheeled battle chariot. It bears little resemblance to the Battle Ram, except for the design of its back wheels:

Image Source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog. Added 08/28/18

Mark also created another vehicle design called the Battle Catapult. Again, not much resemblance to the Battle Ram, other than the wheels, color scheme, as well as the bird sticker on the side, which designer Ted Mayer would incorporate into some of his early Battle Ram concept art. In early minicomic line art by Alfredo Alcala, this vehicle was depicted, but it was later replaced by the Battle Ram in the final colorized artwork.

Image Source: Power of Grayskull documentary. Added 08/28/18

The image below is an early Battle Ram concept by Ted Mayer. Notice that the vehicle has six wheels (four within tank treads) and no figurehead on the front. It does include the bird decal from the Battle Catapult concept:

Image courtesy of Ted Mayer
Image courtesy of Ted Mayer. Updated October 21, 2018

The first two of the above concept drawings are recognizable as ancestors in the Battle Ram family tree. There are several differences from the final toy, of course. In both images, the Battle Ram had six wheels, four of them set with tank treads. The first image features a Recaro-type seat and lacks the gargoyle figurehead in the front. The second version has the familiar gargoyle figure head. However it’s clear from the background image that the idea was for the front wheels to detach along with the front section. At this point the Battle Ram had no flight capabilities. According to Ted Mayer, there would have been an additional wheel under the nose of the vehicle to allow it to roll freely, separate from the back half.

The drawing below is actually a separate vehicle concept, called Battle Chariot, and actually appeared in the first MOTU mini comic, He-Man and the Power Sword, along side the front half of the Battle Ram:

Battle Chariot concept, by Ted Mayer; image courtesy of Ted Mayer

Ted says he was influenced by hot rod and WWII aircraft design, and you can certainly see those elements in in the form of exhaust pipes and nose art.

Close to final Battle Ram concept by Ted Mayer. Updated 10/21/2018

The above concept drawing shows the Battle Ram (featuring He-Man in a helmet, which he had in most early concepts) looking much closer to the final vehicle. At this point it has only four wheels, and the detachable front section has been re-envisioned as a flying vehicle.

The prototype (sculpted by Jim Openshaw) is a bit more detailed in places than the toy was. The guns on the front section are certainly more detailed and distinct. The stickers are also different (there is a skull on the back of the vehicle rather than the masked face image), and the rocket is missing its gargoyle face. The expanded horizontal “handle” area in the very back of the vehicle is also missing from this prototype:

Image courtesy of Ted Mayer
Control Drawing – “Catapult Vehicle” by Ted Mayer. Image courtesy of Ted Mayer

Production Vehicle

Let’s take a closer look at the final toy:

As suggested by the packaging artwork and concept drawings, the front half of the production toy detaches from the main vehicle, and is something of a flying WaveRunner. I’m not sure if a toy vehicle had come out before with that concept, but as a five year old I’d never seen anything like it, and it added a tremendous amount of play value. The back half features a spring loaded rocket launcher with a red firing mechanism. The rockets themselves (called battering rams on the packaging) came with sculpted gargoyle faces. The wide profile of the rockets was designed to help prevent accidental choking.

In the original concept, the front half wasn’t actually supposed to be able to fly very high through the air. It was supposed to hover close to the ground, which is apparent in both the minicomic, He-man and the Power Sword and in the description in the 1984 UK Annual:

Description from the 1984 UK Annual, which drew from very early source material.
Image from He-Man and the Power Sword, showing the front half of the Battle Ram scooting along the ground.

A griffin face adorned the front of the vehicle. The back also featured an image of a masked face. The labels were created by Rebecca Salari Taylor, who also did the labels for Castle Grayskull and Wind Raider:

Rear sticker. Image source: “e-man

The Battle Ram is the first and best example of what made Masters of the Universe vehicles so great. They were a marriage of Gothic aesthetics with futuristic tech, relics in the MOTU universe of a bygone age of mass-produced technological wonders.

Battle Ram in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord contributed the image below as well as some videos of the Battle Ram in action:


The Battle Ram was heavily promoted in catalogs and marketing materials:


It also made several appearances in the first few mini comics (along with that unproduced Ted Mayer concept discussed earlier):

Other Appearances

The Battle Ram of course was also depicted in a number of other contexts, from story books to posters and coloring books:


Filmation primarily depicted the Sky Sled portion of the Battle Ram, although occasionally the complete vehicle would make an appearance. A green version with a snake head called the Doom Buggy was also created. As with most Filmation depictions, the design was simplified to facilitate animation:

In the Filmation-produced MOTU commercial (as well as the series guide), however, just about everything had the level of detail of the actual toys. The image immediately below looks rotoscoped:

Animated Commercial
Series Guide

There were many great vehicles produced for the Masters of the Universe toyline, but in my opinion, none greater than the amazing Battle Ram.

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