Heroic Warriors

Snout Spout: Heroic water-blasting firefighter (1986)

I don’t have any particular memory of Snout Spout, although I’m sure I must have seen him in the toy aisle at some point. Aside from the Snake Men, the 1986 line didn’t grab me too much as a child. The heroes in particular seemed a bit weak compared to previous years, despite having a lot of money spent on new tooling.

From the 1986 Mattel dealer catalog, featuring a resin prototype of Snout Spout. Image is from Orange Slime.

Design & Development

According to The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog, Snout Spout (first called Hose Nose) was conceived of by Roger Sweet, with Ted Mayer following up with the visual design:

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog

The design was further refined by Mattel designer Mike Barbato, whose design closely resembles the final figure, with the exception of the tusks, which were cut:

Image source: The Power of Grayskull documentary

As was the usual process, a prototype silicon mold was made at Mattel, and a resin prototype of the figure was created. The prototype show below is very close to the final figure, although the tip of the trunk is a bit different from the actual toy:

Image source: The Power of Grayskull documentary

The cross sell art for the figure is again based on the prototype, which you can see mainly again from the shape of the trunk:

The test shot (below) of the figure from the factor shows the same feature:

Image source: Cafewhaa

The test shot below is unpainted and not sonic welded together. It does however have the finalized version of the trunk:

Removed chest showing water squirting mechanism.

Toy & Packaging

The final figure is certainly bright and colorful Compared to other water-spraying figures like Kobra Khan and Dragon Blaster Skeletor, his water squirting feature gave more of a stream of water rather than a spray or a mist:

Special thanks to Larry Hubbard for the figure donation!

The artist who did the scene on the back of the packaging is, unfortunately unknown:

Image source: KMKA

Style Guide & Annual

The 1987 Style Guide characterized Snout Spout as a tragic figure – an Etherian peasant transformed by the Evil Horde:

Role: Heroic water-blasting firefighter
Power: Has the ability to douse the raging forces of evil firepower
Character Profile: Snout Spout was an Etherian peasant who was turned into a bizarre creature by Hordak. After crossing the plane into Eternia with the Evil Horde, Snout Spout escaped and joined He-Man. Snout Spout is very self-conscious about his appearance, he feels that everyone is always laughing at him. However, his power to drench evil attacks makes him a true hero in Eternia.

Original artwork by Errol McCarthy. Image via He-Man.org

The 1989 UK MOTU Annual expanded on the outline from the Style Guide, giving him super strength, going into more detail about his lack of self-confidence, and adding some information about his friendship with Orko:

Minicomic

Snout Spout’s story is fleshed out in the minicomic, Eye of the Storm, written by Eric Frydler. Frydler also came up with both his official name Snout Spout and his early working name Hose Nose, as detailed in this interview.

Snout Spout is feeling rather useless because he isn’t athletic like He-Man’s other allies. But when Skeletor causes a fiery storm to engulf Eternia, the elephant-headed warrior comes into his own. In the artwork, his appearance is based on the earlier Ted Mayer concept art (images are from the Dark Horse minicomic collection).

Images: Dark Horse

Animation

Snout Spout appeared in the She-Ra cartoon under both his working name Hose Nose and under his official name. As with many Filmation designs, his looks is somewhat simplified. Also the colors of his belt, gloves and boots are altered:

Image via the Dark Horse He-Man & She-Ra guide.

UK & US MOTU Magazines

Snout Spout makes an appearance in issue 41 one in the 1987 series of the UK MOTU Magazine. A fairy named Mystika transforms Snout Spout into his original form. Bizarrely, he looks just like He-Man. Eventually he is returned to his elephantine appearance, a result of sacrificing himself to save He-Man and Rio Blast:

He also appears as a minor character in stories in the Fall 1986 and 1988 US MOTU Magazine:

Other Artwork

Snout Spout appears in William George’s 1986 Eternia poster (images courtesy of Jukka Issakainen):

He also appears in several pieces by William George, including in his Christmas wrapping paper illustration:

Snout Spout In Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has kindly contributed the following image and video of Snout Spout in action:

Special thanks to Jukka Issakainen and Øyvind Meisfjord for their assistance with this post.

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Heroic Warriors

Gwildor: Heroic Creator of the Cosmic Key (1987)

I didn’t see the 1987 Masters of the Universe Movie (or really know anything about it, other than one was made) until probably the early 90s, when I saw it on TV. Even though I considered myself too old for toys at the time, I still felt a little affronted that the designs of the main characters had been changed so much, particularly Skeletor. Despite myself, I stayed for it and watched the whole movie. It was actually a pretty fun little film. As an adult I can appreciate the beauty of the movie designs.

Design & Development

Gwildor was designed for the movie by Claudio Mazzoli. He seems to function as an Orko-type character, but with penchant for inventions rather than wizardry. We can see a glimpse of early concept art in The Power of Grayskull documentary, where we see an older looking character with white hair:

Image via Dušan M.

A more developed design appears in the background of the image below, which also shows a maquette created in pre-production. You can read more about it at the excellent MOTU Movie site. The images come from Theresa Cardinali, a crew member on the film:

With colors added to costume.

The final design for Gwildor as a movie character of course appears in the actual costume used by actor Billy Barty. The costume was somewhat changed compared to previous designs:

Claudio Mazzoli in eternian soldier costume, with partially costumed Billy Barty. Image source: John T. Atkin
Finalized costume. Image source: Fiction Machine

On Mattel’s side, Alan Tyler used Mazzoli’s concept (specifically the maquette version) to create the designs for the action figure:

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation. Date: June 20, 1986

Gwildor’s action figure was given a blue rather than a brown jacket, which recalls the color scheme of the concept illustration from the Power of Grayskull documentary. The glasses were removed from the final figure, as represented in the cross sell artwork below:

Production Figure

Gwildor was minimally articulated – he has no waist joint, although his feet do swivel, along with his arms and head. His Cosmic Key accessory swivels at the top. He features a great deal of sculpted detail compared to most other Masters of the Universe figures, particularly around his costume.

Gwildor was trademarked on October 7, 1986. He appeared in a number of catalog and advertisement pictures in 1987:

Gwildor alongside unproduced Cosmic Key roleplay toy, from 1987 Mattel catalog. Image source: Nathalie NHT
Image via Aaron Voorhees
Swedish ad. Title translates to “The Magical Key” – thanks to Petteri Höglund for the information. Image via He-Man.org

Packaging

Gwildor came on the typical 1987 MOTU card, featuring artwork on the front by Bruce Timm. Errol McCarthy did the scene on the reverse. The example below features a sticker on the blister referencing the 1987 Masters of the Universe movie, although it’s not present on every release.

Artwork by Bruce Timm
Artwork by Errol McCarthy Image via He-Man.org

Minicomic Appearance

Saurod, Gwildor and Blade were all packaged with the same minicomic: The Cosmic Key. The story doesn’t have anything to do with the movie, however. A cosmic force called the Evil Cloud gives Skeletor evil powers, including the ability to summon Saurod and Blade, and He-Man must call on Gwildor to stop the power of the entity.

Image via Dark Horse

Some versions of the minicomic actually had the Powers of Grayskull artwork on the back, which would have been the artwork on the front of the cards for He-Ro and Eldor, had they been produced:

Other comics

Gwildor appears in the Summer 1987 issue of the US Masters of the Universe Magazine, where he sends a group of Tyrantisaurs Rex creatures back in time:

Image source: He-Man.org

The same issue includes and some production shots of Gwildor in the movie:

Image source: He-Man.org

Gwildor also appears in the Winter 1988 issues of MOTU Magazine, where he plays a decidedly Orko-like role in the royal palace:

Image source: He-Man.org

Gwildor appears in several issues of the UK Masters of the Universe Adventure magazine:

Gwildor also appears in the November 1987 Star Comics story, The Motion Picture, based on the plot from the film. The artwork replicates the movie designs (or prototype designs) for the newly introduced characters and for Beast Man. Established characters like He-Man, Skeletor and Evil-Lyn are drawn with their classic toy looks:

Thanks to Dušan M. for the gentle reminder: Gwildor appeared frequently in the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe newspaper comic strip series and served as the royal scientist. As in his minicomic appearance, he is depicted with pink skin, although it’s much more extreme here. It’s mentioned that he comes from the Thenurian race, which is also established in the 1987 MOTU movie. Images below come from Danielle Gelehrter:

Other Artwork

Earl Norem included Gwildor in a couple pieces for Masters of the Universe Magazine:

Image source: He-Man.org
Image source: He-Man.org

Gwildor also appears in William George’s 1987 Preternia poster:

Image source: Jukka Issakainen

Gwildor in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has kindly contributed the following images and video of Gwildor in action:

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Heroic Warriors, Production Variants

Man-At-Arms: France Variant

There are a lot of different ways to collect Masters of the Universe figures. You can collect by wave (first, second, third, etc), by line (original, New Adventures, 200x, Classics, etc.) or by character. You can also collect by country of manufacture, which starts to get into some pretty esoteric territory. Some collectors have very impressive shelves filled with dozens of the same figure, each from a different country of origin, and each with slight differences in appearance.

One of the most interesting of such variants is the made in France Man-At-Arms, shown below:

Made in France
Notice the extra cuff on the armor at the wrist.

The most interesting thing about the France variant is the little cuff at the end of the figure’s armor at the wrist. That detail was included in the Man-At-Arms prototype (below), but it was cut from the production figure. Somehow it made it into the France version.

Prototype Man-At-Arms. Image source: James Eatock

There are other differences compared to the made in Taiwan versions (which were the types most commonly sold in the US). The plastic on the France version is cast in much more vivid colors. The feel of the plastic itself is quite different compared to the Taiwan release, and is somewhat waxy to the touch. The paint on the France belt also tends to be uneven,and the boots and loincloth are a much darker color as well.

Left: first release Taiwan version. Right: Made in France version.
Left: first release Taiwan version. Right: Made in France version.

There is another French variant from later on in the run. It’s a version with enlarged boots (like Thunder Punch He-Man‘s). However, the boots are separately molded pieces, and are cast in a very rubbery material:

Image via He-Man.org
Image via He-Man.org
Image via He-Man.org
Image via He-Man.org

The “rubber boots” France figures also include Battle Armor He-Man, Tri-Klops, Jitsu, Fisto, and possibly others. Also notably (thanks to Dani Ramón Abril for the information), some Spanish releases of Man-At-Arms use the early French mold, down to the “France” stamp on the back.

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Heroic Warriors

MOTU Origins He-Man/Prince Adam Set (2019 SDCC Exclusive)

The 2019 San Diego Comic Con Mattel exclusive He-Man and Prince Adam two-pack took most Masters fans by complete surprise. After years of larger scale MOTU Classics figures with modernized proportions and articulation, Mattel was finally doing another line of vintage-inspired 5.5″ He-Man figures. Unlike the 2000 Commemorative Line, however, it was clear that Origins was to be updated with modern articulation, while keeping the overall vintage look.

Because the initial offering, in the form of a He-Man/Prince Adam two-pack, was done in the style of vintage minicomics, many fans (including myself) assumed that the new MOTU Origins line would plumb the “origins” of the MOTU franchise, which generally lie in the early concept figure designs that often showed up in minicomics (minicomics had to be illustrated ahead of production schedule, with artwork often based on prototype designs).

As it turns out, Origins will mainly be based on the vintage MOTU figures as they appeared in the toy aisles. The minicomic styling of this set will be the exception rather than the rule. I certainly hope that Mattel will find creative ways to get more minicomic style figures out to hardcore fans (perhaps in the form of a mini subscription, like the MOTU Classics model), even while the more well-known vintage toy designs appear on toy shelves in the fall of 2020. I would love to see minicomic/concept versions of Skeletor, Sorceress/Goddess, Mer-Man, Beast Man, Teela, Man-At-Arms and Stratos.

The SDCC exclusive set comes with the most richly-detailed and indulgent packing I’ve seen from Mattel. The set is collector friendly – the figures inside can be removed and replaced without damaging the packing in the least. I have to applaud this move from Mattel. Interestingly, the packaging includes credits for all the people who worked on the finished product:

Toy designer: Brandon Sopinsky • Packaging Designer: Roy Juarez • Packaging Engineer: Adam O’Connor • Copywriter: Robert Rudman • Comic Book Writer: Tim Seeley • Line Art: Axel Gimenez • Colorist: Val Staples • Background Painter: Nate Baertsch • Comic Book Letterer: Ed Dukeshire • Illustration Support: Joseph Zacate • Sculpt: Adam deFelice & Sean Olmos

The outer box for the set features He-Man’s harness (in the Alcala/minicomic/concept style, featuring red squares along both the front and back of the harness) over a Grayskull-green stone texture:

The inner box features a transparent cover that adds character and other art over the backgrounds featured on the box itself. All of the artwork is stunning. Below I will show the design of each side of the box, with and without the transparent cover:

The artwork is largely inspired by the first MOTU minicomic, He-Man and the Power Sword, illustrated by the legendary Alfredo Alcala. There is also inspiration drawn from Alcala’s He-Man and the Insect People, and Battle Cat box art by Rudy Obrero. Those influences are more apparent in the included minicomic, written by Tim Seeley and featuring a retcon of the traditional “savage” origin story written by Don Glut that makes room for multiple He-Men as well as Adam as he appeared in early DC Comics (penciled by Curt Swan and George Tuska) and third wave Alcala comics.

Axel Giménez, who did much of the line art, often directly credits the Alcala influence in the artwork, although for the box cover that was removed from the final colored version:

The comic in the set is situated between two windows, featuring Prince Adam and He-Man:

Early photos released by Mattel show some slight differences compared to the final set. Originally the Adam of the set was to include his own boot knife, as well as a gold-painted handle on the Power sword. He-Man’s boot knife originally went all the way through the cuff of his boot, making the tip of the blade visible (as shown below):

The final figures of course have those peculiarities removed. Let’s take a closer look at He-Man. He comes with a vintage toy style head as well as a new minicomic style head. He also comes with three pairs of removable hands, an axe and a shield. In the photo below I show him with the vintage toy style head, compared with an original, first-release Taiwan He-Man from 1982:

MOTU Origins He-Man (left) vs vintage first release He-Man from 1982 (right)

Aside from the added articulation, He-Man of course features the two-tone boots, boot knife, symmetrical bracers, rounded shield, modified axe and modified harness that are all hallmarks of the character as he appeared in the minicomic, He-Man and the Power Sword:

The minicomic design is based on a prototype of the figure, designed by Mark Taylor and sculpted by Tony Guerrero:

Source: Andy Youssi
Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

The alternative head is meant to represent the look that Alfredo Alcala gave him in the minicomics, with a shaggier hairstyle:

MOTU Origins He-Man compared to a vintage, first-release Taiwan Skeletor from 1982.
MOTU Origins He-Man riding a vintage, first-release striped tail Battle Cat
MOTU Origins He-Man on a vintage Battle Ram
Prototype He-Man and Battle Ram. Image source: Andy Youssi

He-Man’s sculpt is closely based on the vintage 1982 figure, albeit with a lot more articulation. The arms and chest in particular are very faithful to the original, although the legs are a bit softer in sculpt. Where the vintage version was rather miserly regarding paint applications, the Origins figure features painted bracers (symmetrical this time, based on the “punching rocks” scene shown earlier) and three colors on his boots. His boots are also slightly larger, which makes him a bit more steady on his feet.

He-Man’s added articulation allows for a great degree of posability. The additional removable hands are a nice touch as well.

He-Man’s head, arms, hands, torso and boots are all removable – a feature that will allow for some fun mix and match swapping down the line.

Prince Adam is a much bigger departure from the vintage 1984 figure. Like He-Man, he comes with two different heads and three sets of hands. He also comes with a power sword in the style of the version that appeared in the early Alfredo Alcala minicomics as well as the early DC Comics:

Vintage figure (left) vs 2019 release

Prince Adam first appeared in the 1982 DC story, From Eternia With Death! This version of Adam, however, is most closely based on the character as he appeared in To Tempt The Gods (pencils by George Tuska, inks by Alfredo Alcala) as well as He-Man and the Insect People (illustrated by Alfredo Alcala).

To Tempt The Gods
He-Man and the Insect People

Prince Adam’s cloth vest and elastic belt recall the 1984 figure, although of course the colors of his costume are quite different.

The plastic used on this set is the usual high quality material we’ve come to expect from Mattel. It’s actually fairly similar in feel to the material used in the vintage figure (aside from the heads, which in this release are hard plastic rather than soft, hollow polyvinyl. All of the joints work well, with no looseness or issues. The joints around the elbows and hips are, however, a bit inelegant. I have heard that issue will be addressed in future MOTU origins figures.

As the early minicomic source material is the MOTU canon I find most exciting, I was thrilled by this release. I just hope we’ll be able to complete a full cast of characters of early minicomic style variants in the MOTU Origins line.

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