Heroic Warriors, Super7 5.5" Figures

He-Man: Most powerful man in the universe! (2018)

Announced in 2017, Super7’s vintage style, 5.5″ Filmation inspired He-Man figure was released in 2018 along with similar versions of Skeletor, She-Ra and Hordak. The design ethos seems to be based on the following premise: what if, in the 1980s, Mattel released a series of He-Man variant figures that were “as seen on TV”? That’s pretty much exactly what we get with this series, including the occasional design shortcuts that Mattel might plausibly have implemented in the 80s.

Design & Development

Within the packaging for He-Man we get a brief write-up of the history of how He-Man’s design was translated from toy to cartoon:

In the above sheet (put together by The Power and The Honor Foundation), we see the vintage He-Man figure, along with the animated commercial version, and a finalized version of He-Man’s animated design.

In He-Man’s first animated appearance (a commercial animated by Filmation Studios to help advertise the toyline), He-Man more or less follows the design of the action figure, including the rectangular details on his harness and the round designs on his belt and bracers. He also carries his axe and sword, which were originally intended to be his primary accessories. The commercial can be viewed in its entirety here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BpmvudrnPlj/

As shown in the card that came with the Super7 He-Man figure, He-Man’s more detailed action figure design was simplified for ease of animation once the animated series was greenlit for development. His primary weapon became his power sword in the series.

The prototype He-Man figure was revealed in February of 2017 at New York Toy Fair. It’s pretty close to the mass produced figure, although his colors are a bit different, and the hair separation is better on the prototype. He also has a nice matte finish throughout.

Image source: He-Man.org

An early factory sample with some quality control issues was also shown a bit later along in the process. The red paint is flaking off of the harness, which seems to have been made from some sparkling metallic plastic material. This issue would be corrected on the final figure.

Image source: He-Man.org

Production Figure

Design-wise, the sculpt of the chest and pelvis seem to be taken directly from the vintage 1982 figure. The arms are based on the vintage figure as well, but the bracers have been made symmetrical and their design simplified. The feet have been changed, removing all the wrap detail from the original boot design.

He-Man has the same spring-loaded power punch feature of the 1982 original. The figure comes with a cartoon style power sword, as well as a shield (used rarely by Prince Adam in the cartoon) and a half sword that fits with the corresponding Skeletor half sword. Incidentally, He-Man was depicted with the shield in Filmation’s promotional materials, and the half sword almost made it into the show:

Image source: La Cueva del Terror
Image source: James Eatock

The figure’s harness unfortunately doesn’t fit very well around the back, and sits a bit low. It can be made to sit more or less correctly, but requires some finessing. Also, the figure is extremely glossy. I was able to coat the figure with Vallejo Matt Varnish to somewhat reduce the glossiness:

Packaging

The design of the packaging was directed by The Power and the Honor Foundation. The main carded version (which was actually released second) is based on the original 1980s design, with an “AS SEEN ON TV” burst which, although not featured on vintage MOTU packaging, was pretty commercially ubiquitous at one point. The shape of the bubble on the front has been altered compared to the vintage packaging.

Image source: Brooklyn Comic Shop

The main artwork on the back was done by Errol McCarthy, who worked on cardback art for most of the vintage MOTU figures. The Filmation-style cross sell artwork and the insert were illustrated by Emiliano Santalucia:

The first version to be released was actually a two pack, in the style of some of the vintage figure gift sets. This set was released in limited numbers.

Another limited release of the figure came in the form of a “Los Amos” package, based on the design of vintage “Los Amos” (Mexico) figures:

Yet another version will also be released in the style of the Japanese Takara packaging:

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Heroic Warriors, Powers of Grayskull

Eldor – Heroic Guardian of the Book of Living Spells (1987/2019)

Elder was a heroic mentor character from the partially-realized Powers of Grayskull spinoff line. I say partially realized because three dinosaurs (Tyrantisaurus, Bionatops, Turbodactyl) were released under the Powers of Grayskull label, although no standard-sized figures were.

The giants Tytus and Megator would have had that label as well had they been released in the US as planned, however their limited European release in 1988 omitted the POG logo. Eldor appeared in Mattel’s 1987 dealer catalog, but was not released until 2019, under the Super7 label.

Design & Development

Eldor originates with a series of concept drawing in October of 1985, at around the same time He-Ro was being developed. The 2019 release actually includes a booklet outlining the character’s history, and includes a number of concept art pieces. It’s quite a nicely put together history of the figure, co-written by Emiliano Santalucia and James Eatock, and compiled by The Power and the Honor Foundation:

I would encourage everyone to pick up the 2019 Super7 Eldor figure if you’re able to – the figure itself is very well done, and it’s worth it even just for the booklet. In the meantime, I’ll report on some points of the history they outline in their research.

Eldor began as a series of drawings by Alan Tyler, under the working names Mentor and Doran. Tyler experimented with two different ideas – either a bearded human-like figure or an alien figure with a crystal-like face. Some of his bearded human face designs were shared between both He-Ro and Eldor, but ultimately Eldor ended up with the beard. Tyler’s earliest Eldor design actually shares the same body as his first He-Ro design, so there was a lot of mixing and matching of different ideas in his design process. The images below come from the booklet:

Tyler’s designs also featured a number of stylized Castle Grayskull graphics that were to be included either on the figure’s chest or belt:

In the illustration below (from the booklet), we see a breakdown of all the different parts for the figure. In this iteration, we see that the figure would have been able to move his head up and down – a feature not preserved in the final prototype. He also would have had a rotating scroll accessory:

Compared the design above, the prototype below (from Mattel’s 1987 dealer catalog) omits the extra head articulation, closes up his hoodie a bit, and tones down the boot top size. His Book of Living Spells accessory has been changed to a simpler tri-fold design.

We also know based on surviving test shots that Eldor was to have a cap on his head, worn under the hood:

Original Eldor test shot. Photo: John English

Backstory

If we’re sticking to published vintage material, we don’t have much to go on as far as Eldor’s backstory goes. Most of what we know is based on surviving packaging material:

Most of Eldor’s characterization focuses on the Book of Living Spells, which was to be his accessory. According to the packaging:

Profile: Heroic Guardian of the Book of Living Spells – responsible for transforming Gray into He-Ro, the Most Powerful Wizard in the Universe!

Weapon: The knowledge of the Ancients

Origin: Unknown

The Book of Living Spells: The Book of Living Spells contains the ultimate secrets of Preternia – the Secrets of Transformation. Thus, whenever Eldor opens it, he can uncover all the secrets of past, present and future Eternia – AND CHANGE IT! For nothing on Preternia stays the same… as you will soon see!

There are a couple of Mattel documents that seem to point toward some preliminary ideas that lead to the creation of the Powers of Grayskull concept. The concept included a range/paladin character with a bond with nature as well as a sage character – these seem to be early incarnations of He-Ro and Eldor. A giant is even included, which seems to point to Tytus.

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen
Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Artwork

Eldor appears in very little surviving artwork, outside of his packaging. We have this piece below, by artist Errol McCarthy, and the line art for the cardback scene on the packaging by the same artist.

Images via He-Man.org

Artwork was also produced internally at Mattel illustrating the world of Preternia. Within the scene there is a bearded old wizard with a cloak working some magic against a giant snake. This might be a representation of Eldor, although I’m not certain on that point:

Image source: Dark Horse/The Power and the Honor Foundation

A poster by Emiliano Santalucia called “Age Of Preternia” will shortly be released by Mad Duck Posters, which depicts He-Ro, Eldor, Sharella (the tribal chieftess mentioned in He-Ro’s backstory) and Keldor (Skeletor before he was transformed into his current form):

Super7 Figure

Super7 announced in 2017 that they would be releasing 5.5″ scale figures based on the original 1987 He-Ro and Eldor prototypes. The figures were recreations of the originals, sculpted by the Four Horsemen. At least one complete and one partial original test shot of Eldor still exist, but unfortunately Super7 was unable to gain access to it, so the figure had to be sculpted from scratch.

Super7 prototypes
Vintage Eldor test shot

The figure was released in a reproduction package and card that closely followed the look of what would have been released in 1987:

The packaging is closely based on the original surviving packaging proofs, albeit with some changes to the text to denote manufacturer and the fact that the modern version comes with stickers, not holograms (holograms proved too expensive for this release).

Speaking of stickers, here are the ones that come with Eldor. I’m not sure if these are vintage or newly created based on the original cardback instructions (update: Alberto in the comments and Jukka Issakainen note that the stickers have Emiliano Santalucia’s signature on them, meaning they were newly illustrated for this project).

The Super7 Eldor figure features wrist articulation and a soft plastic (non-removable) hoodie. The head doesn’t seem to be able to turn. He has the familiar spring waist action feature. The gray areas of his costume have an opalescent quality, similar to the original prototype:

The Book of Living spells opens from opposite ends, allowing you to store and display each of the four stickers included with the figure:

On the Lords of Power Facebook page, a photo comparison was posted of a painted casting of the original Eldor test shot verses the Super7 release. The original version was apparently quite short. The modern release has a much taller torso and larger head. The modern figure isn’t actually any shorter than a typical vintage He-Man figure (taking the hood into account), so the vintage one was going to be fairly diminutive.

Of the two newly-released Super7 Powers of Grayskull figures, Eldor is probably my favorite. He’s a bit understated and mysterious, which is of course fitting given his role in the story.

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Heroic Warriors, Powers of Grayskull

He-Ro – The Most Powerful Wizard in the Universe (1987/2019)

He-Ro was the protagonist from the partially-realized Powers of Grayskull spinoff line. I say partially realized because three dinosaurs (Tyrantisaurus, Bionatops, Turbodactyl) were released under the Powers of Grayskull label, although no standard-sized figures were. The giants Tytus and Megator would have had that label as well had they been released in the US as planned, however their limited European release in 1988 omitted the POG logo. He-Ro appeared in Mattel’s 1987 dealer catalog, but was not released until 2019, under the Super7 label.

Design & Development

He-Ro originates with some concept art by Alan Tyler, created in October of 1985. The 2019 release actually includes a booklet outlining the character’s history, and includes a number of concept art pieces. It’s quite a nicely put together history of the figure, co-written by Emiliano Santalucia and James Eatock, and compiled by The Power and the Honor Foundation:

I would encourage everyone to pick up the 2019 Super7 He-Ro figure if you’re able to – the figure itself is very well done, and it’s worth it even just for the booklet. In the meantime, I’ll report on some points of the history they outline in their research.

He-Ro began as a series of drawings by Alan Tyler, under the name Lord Grayskull. The earliest version has kind of a rugged, heavily-armored look, but Tyler experimented will many different ideas, including giving the character a gnarly, dwarfish appearance. The images below come from the booklet:

Eventually the look evolved into something a bit more toned down, while remaining quite ornate. He-Ro was given golden armor and boots, and a red cape. The “G” symbol stayed on his costume for some time, eventually being replaced with a stylized H for He-Ro. However, the G symbol, especially the design in the third image below, does show up on the costume of the giant Tytus:

The Preternian giant Tytus, with Lord Grayskull’s symbol on his chest.

The final design is a cross between the red caped concept and the version with the silver gauntlets, below.

Grayskull was actually trademarked on June 23, 1986. This is most likely relating to the figure and not to Castle Grayskull, as the later was trademarked years earlier. “Powers of Grayskull” was trademarked on September 22 of the same year.

A prototype for the figure was shown in Mattel’s 1987 dealer catalog, indicating that Mattel was indeed planning to release the figure. However, tanking sales caused the plug to be pulled on He-Ro.

Backstory

Mattel put together a Powers of Grayskull licensing kit, which included an illustration of the character by Errol McCarthy and a lengthy backstory for He-Ro:

From the style guide:

He-Ro

Name: Gray

Identity: Secret Ancestor of He-Man and She-Ra

Real Name: He-Ro, Alter Ego of Gray

Role: First recipient of The Powers of Grayskull and original leader of heroic forces in prehistoric Eternia against the evil Dino Reptilian Kingdom.

Power: As well as possessing the fabulous strength of He-Man, He-Ro has another power uniquely his own. It is the power of natural magic; an ability to magically influence elements of nature. He-Ro draws his power from the Book of Transformation.

Character Profile: Reared under the tutelage of his mentor, ELDOR, and the tribal chieftess, Sharella, Gray was one day mysteriously drawn to a nearby cave. There, in darkness and in light, he was invested with the newly evolved powers that would change his his life and alter the course of history in Eternia. The exact details of what transpired in that cave have remained secret, but Eldor has made cryptic allusions…references to the boy’s mysterious past, to an amazing legacy… and an awesome task which Gray accomplished that day in the cave. By placing one hand on his heart, flexing the other arm into a muscle and incanting, “Magic and strength…tempered by heart!” Gray causes an amazing transformation to occur, becoming the He-Ro of Grayskull and announcing, “I stand for Peace!”

Weapons: He-Ro channels his energy through a marvelous staff which can direct a magic ray to specific parts of the environment, causing the likes of inanimate rocks, rivers, and trees to respond to his commands.

Note: With powers of this scope, it might seem ludicrous to suggest anyway in which He-Ro could be less powerful than He-Man. But He-Man does have one power He-Ro lacks: the power of wisdom and maturity. He-Ro is younger and still learning to use his powers.

So essentially He-Ro is similar to He-Man in strength, with added earth magic powers, but he doesn’t have the wisdom and maturity of He-Man. His alter ego, Gray, is depicted in the card art for Eldor:

There are a couple of surviving Mattel documents that seem to point toward some preliminary ideas that lead to the creation of the Powers of Grayskull concept. The concept included a range/paladin character with a bond with nature as well as a sage character – these seem to be early incarnations of He-Ro and Eldor. A giant is even included, which seems to point to Tytus.

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen
Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Minicomics

He-Ro only appears once in any of the original MOTU minicomics, and it’s in a single scene, in shadow. The Powers of Grayskull: The Legend Begins! was meant to introduce the Powers of Grayskull storyline. In the story, He-Man and the Sorceress go back to Preternian times, and are unknowingly followed by Skeletor. Skeletor teams up with King Hiss, at which point He-Man (in disguise) is obliged to interfere. However, in the middle of the battle, He-Ro steps in and returns everyone to their proper time.

He-Ro’s magical staff is based on earlier concept art.

Other Artwork

He-Ro appears in a number of pieces of artwork by Errol McCarthy, including the cardback art he did for He-Ro and Eldor, as well as artwork for licensed products:

He-Ro also appears on the packaging artwork for Turbodactyl, Megator and Tytus:

Artwork was also produced internally at Mattel illustrating the world of Preternia. This scene mirrors some of the plot of The Powers of Grayskull minicomic:

Image source: Dark Horse/The Power and the Honor Foundation

A poster by Emiliano Santalucia called “Age Of Preternia” will shortly be released by Mad Duck Posters, which depicts He-Ro, Eldor, Sharella (the tribal chieftess mentioned in He-Ro’s backstory) and Keldor (Skeletor before he was transformed into his current form):

Mad Duck also put out a poster by Rob Ayotte called “Ancients”, which features He-Ro, Tytus, Megator, King and Queen Grayskull (from the 200x continuity), Rattlor, Snake Face, and other Preternia characters.

Super7 Figure

Super7 announced in 2017 that they would be releasing 5.5″ scale figures based on the original 1987 He-Ro and Eldor prototypes. The figures were recreations of the originals, sculpted by the Four Horsemen, Prototypes were revealed prior to their release. Initially He-Ro was to have painted metallic gold armor and boots, although the final version was released with gold vac metal boots and chest armor, following the look of the original Mattel design.

The figure was released in a reproduction package and card that closely followed the look of what would have been released in 1987:

As noted in the illustrations above, He-Ro was to have a magical staff that would pop open upon pressing down on the green gem. That feature was replicated in the Super7 release. This was worked out by the Power and Honor Foundation team by reverse-engineering the design based on the surviving card art.

However, the 1987 figure was also going to have a button on its back that would have caused its right arm to swing forward. That was omitted from the 2019 release, I assume due to cost or lack of sufficient design information. It does, however, have the typical spring waist feature.

The original figure also would have come with (presumably) part 2 of the Powers of Grayskull minicomic series. Since that has not been located, the previously mentioned booklet explaining the figure’s origins was included instead.

The Super7 figure, overall, looks very close to the vintage prototype. The facial expression is a bit more intense, and the detail on the hair is a bit more sharp. There are a few other differences, like a narrower face and neck, slightly longer legs, slightly differently shaped shoulders, and a smaller pelvis piece. But most of these these are almost imperceptible, and probably unavoidable without access to the original sculpture.

Super7 He-Ro and Eldor
Vintage prototype
Comparison photo put together by Tokyonever. Vintage on left, 2019 release on right.

Regarding the design of the figure, He-Ro is a certainly an eye-catching figure with his shiny gold costume and red cape. If I had been polled by Mattel at the time of the character’s development, I probably would have pushed them to make the ancestor of He-Man look a bit more rough and barbaric-looking (and indeed that was done with the 200x King Grayskull character). But then again by the late 80s the classic sword and sorcery craze had largely faded away, and I’m sure vac metal was a big selling point on toy shelves.

Regardless of all that, I’m delighted that Super7 put this long-awaited figure in the hands of fans. I very much hope that either Super7 or Mattel gives us more concept and prototype figures in the 5.5″ scale in the future. This is a fantastic way for collectors of the original vintage line to expand their collection.

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Heroic Warriors

Roboto – Heroic mechanical warrior (1985)

My first exposure to Roboto came on the playground in third grade. I had gone to the same elementary school during kindergarten and first grade. But in second grade, we moved away for a year to a smaller town, which turned out to be something of a He-Man vacuum. All of the kids there seemed to be into either Voltron or Thundercats. But when I returned to my old school in the third grade, I found He-Man was still going strong there.

One fall day on the playground, one of my friends brought out his Roboto and Two Bad figures. I never had either of these figures myself, but I was pretty impressed with both of them. Roboto had all kinds of bells and whistles – a transparent chest that showed moving gears as you twisted his waist, with an automatically-moving jaw. And you could change out three attachments on his right arm, like Trap Jaw.

The next year I had lost most of my interest in MOTU, but I begged my mom for a G.I. Joe B.A.T.S. Figure. It seemed to have been Hasbro’s answer to Roboto, albeit with a hologram sticker that only simulated a transparent chest.

Design & Development

Roboto’s genesis seems to lie in a concept illustrated by Ted Mayer, called Transparent Man. In the sketch you can see that this concept was meant to be an almost completely transparent figure, covered with mechanical bits.

From Tomart’s Action Figure Digest. Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen.
From the Power and the Honor Foundation catalog. Per the book, the image was dated July 7, 1984.

We can get a bead on what a more fully developed Roboto looked like from his minicomic depiction. First minicomic appearances are often based on unfinished concept artwork or prototypes for toys:

At this point in his development, Roboto has a red and orange color scheme, rather than the red, purple and blue colors of the final toy. In the comic we see that there is a very literal “heart” in Roboto’s chest, but no indication of the rotating gears of the toy:

Production Figure

The final Roboto toy is very similar to the minicomics design, albeit with a change in color scheme and simplified design on the chest. I would suspect the external sculpted chest detail in the illustration would have made it harder to see through the chest into the figure’s working gears, which may be why it was not used on the final figure. By turning the figure’s waist, the mouth would open and close as the gears spun around. The figure’s heart was partially obscured behind the central red gear:

Roboto cross sell artwork

Roboto included three removable arm attachments. Aside from the laser canon (shown above), he also had a robotic claw and an axe:

From behind you can also make out his central “heart” inside his chest:

As seen in most of the above figure shots, over time the legs of vintage Roboto figures have started to leech a purple residue. This can be cleaned off with a magic sponge, but it will eventually return.

Speaking of his legs, they are reused from Man-E-Faces. His arms are based off of Trap Jaw’s, but with some additional sculpted mechanical detail added.

Packaging

Roboto was released on the standard blister card, with artwork on the reverse by Errol McCarthy. The artwork feature’s Roboto’s prototype orange and red color scheme:

Scan by Starcrusader

Roboto was also released in a few giftsets as well – one with Hordak and Sy-Klone, one with Thunder Punch He-Man, and another with Mekaneck. Photos are available at Grayskull Museum.

Minicomics

The Battle of Roboto establishes Roboto’s origin as the creation of Man-At-Arms. The story works to explain Roboto’s features, as well as the idea behind the heart in his chest:

Image source: Dark Horse
Image source: Dark Horse

In the story, Skeletor is able to take control of Roboto by removing his heart. Roboto becomes a very dangerous weapon due to his great strength:

Image source: Dark Horse
Image source: Dark Horse

In the end the heroes are able to restore Roboto to normal by returning his heart to his chest. However, Roboto worries that he is too dangerous a weapon should he ever be compromised again. In response, the Sorceress casts a spell of protection on him to prevent Skeletor from taking control of him again.

Image source: Dark Horse
Image source: Dark Horse

Animation

Roboto’s origin story in the Filmation He-Man cartoon is quite different. Roboto crash landed onto Eternia. As revealed in the episode, “Happy Birthday Roboto”, originally he had come from the planet Robotica, which was filled with mechanical beings like himself. As with the minicomic characterization, Roboto was immensely powerful in the Filmation cartoon.

Design-wise, the animated Roboto generally followed the design of the action figure, albeit simplified for animation. The most obvious difference is the mouth plate area, which has less of a steep slope to it compared to the figure.

Roboto model sheet. Vectorized and colored by Jukka Issakainen
Roboto model sheet with alternative concept colors. Vectorized and colored by Jukka Issakainen.
Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen
Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen
Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Other Media

Roboto appeared in quite a number of different stories and activities in comics and magazines over the years. He was the subject of a word search in the Spring 1985 issue of Masters of the Universe Magazine:

Image source: He-Man.org

That same issue also includes a brilliant poster by Earl Norem, depicting Roboto battling against flying Roton vehicles:

In issue 34 of the 1987 run of the UK MOTU Magazine, Roboto and Man-At-Arms are attacked on their Jet Sleds by Dragstor, who is piloting the Fright Fighter. The two heroes’ remaining Jet Sled is damaged, but they are able to repair it using some parts from Roboto:

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

In issue 12 of the 1989 run of the UK MOTU Magazine, we see He-Man and Roboto in Viper Tower (which for some reason is identified as the headquarters of the Heroic Warriors). From there they enter a dimensional portal to travel to a distant planet, where they battle alien robots:

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

In the He-Man newspaper comic story, “Day of the Comet”, we see a Filmation-like Roboto assembled with the heroic warriors:

Image source: Dark Horse

In the Golden Book story He-Man Smells Trouble, Roboto accidentally causes some damage to a stage when he mistake’s Orko’s magic for a real threat. Orko in turn hurts Roboto’s feelings, and he wanders away. Roboto ends up briefly teaming up with Stinkor, who also had his feelings hurt by the evil warriors. Together they encounter some other robots who actually resemble some of Ted Mayer’s concept art for the figure:

Roboto appears in a couple of MOTU posters by William George:

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen
Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Roboto appears as an extra in the box art for both Monstroid (artist unknown) and Fright Fighter (art by William George):

Roboto (in his concept colors) was featured in a series of Fuzzy Iron-Ons included in boxes of Rice Krispies

Image source: He-Man.org

Roboto in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has graciously shared the following image and video of Roboto in action!

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