Issue #71 of ToyFare revealed many fascinating aspects about the reboot 2002 incarnation of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe in an article by Keith Allison. From Zodac’s skin color change to Skeletor’s belt design, Teela’s cobra armor, and more!
The page spread illustration is by Ed Benes with colors by Hi-Fi Color. Curiously the artist chose to illustrate Beast Man seemingly without his fur pelt and blue necklace. The creature that Beast Man rides also seems to be a new creature invented by Benes. Stratos exhibits some color choices making it appear as if he has red gloves and a back canister.
Mr. Benes would years later illustrate some covers for DC Comics on “Masters of the Universe” and “DC Universe VS Masters of the Universe” in 2013.
While the article was published in a July 2003 issue, it’s hard to determine when the artwork may have been commissioned. He-Man is sporting for example his signature templar cross on the armor, which was present in the early figure releases by Mattel in 2002 before they updated for the H-symbol (that fans dubbed at the time as the “asterisk” symbol). He-Man’s hair is also modeled after his 80s classic style.
One thing to note is that the figure marked as “Old He-Man” in the article looks to be the 2000 Commemorative version of He-Man (the face sculpt had a squished appearance). ToyFare would reuse the same photo, only mirror-flipped in issue number 134 too.
The articles and interviews in ToyFare magazine were always insightful on the world of Eternia and its characters, as well as its creators.
One of the more… controversial articles came in July 2009 edition with ToyFare issue #143. The Masters of the Universe Classics line had just started in 2008, and the newly invented story for ‘Classics bios’ was at the time the only existing story media for the characters written on the toy card backs. In the article, the people who worked on the 2002-2004 MOTU Comics teased some of their story ideas and plans that never came to be. Fans obviously were eager to learn more about these ideas, but at the time the then-current brand manager at Mattel didn’t want any confusion between the storylines, so it was asked that the comic bible mentioned in the interview not be posted online. In contrast, by the 30th anniversary Mattel’s creative media department was able to create new stories through DC Comics between 2012-2016 that were not associated or hindered anymore by the Classics narrative, oftentimes creating better origins and adventures with the characters.
Below is a close-up scan of the He-Ro design illustrated by Emiliano Santalucia. The armor design uses an insignia associated with both He-Man, She-Ra, and the “Guardians of Grayskull” symbol (based on the vintage Warrior’s Ring). There are also influences from the then-current Snake Armor that He-Man was wearing in the cartoon and comic. He-Ro did sneak an appearance in the comic on three separate occasions.
Below is the Shadow Weaver art by Emiliano Santalucia. In the comic by MVCreations (vol 2 issue 6), she appeared as a silhouetted character in a single panel.
In ToyFare #54 the Four Horsemen (Eric ‘Cornboy’ Mayse, Chris Dahlberg, Jim Preziosi and Eric Treadaway) are interviewed on their approach to the world of Eternia and its characters.
They discuss about their meet up with Mattel, and how they worked for two years on the toyline prior to Mattel’s official announcement, their new Powersword design, and He-Man’s changing hair style thanks to focus groups.
There is even a mention, that how Skeletor’s Havoc Staff was going to have the ram skull-head as a pop-up function. That harkens back to early concept art by Mark Taylor, interestingly.
One curious thing to note is their initial idea to make Teela younger companion to He-Man. Their example is Batgirl to Batman from the 1992/1997 Animated adventures. But that Mattel wanted to keep Teela as love-interest, so she was made the same age as Prince Adam (this sadly was not fully played up in the cartoon by Mike Young Productions).
Huge thanks to Matthew Duch from Legends of Grayskull podcast for scanning these pages.
In an ongoing quest to understand the chronology of events related to Masters of the Universe, I’ve constructed a timeline of first appearance newspaper ads for all He-Man toys. I think probably newspaper ads get us closer to real commercial release dates for MOTU figures than any other data point.
First, some notes on the process and limitations of this timeline. I used the Newspapers.com database as my source of information. So it is limited to a) what newspapers they have archived, b) the extent to which the text has been made accurately searchable and c) my ability to suss out variant spellings, such as “Castle Grey Skull” and “2 Bad.” Sometimes figures are advertised by photo but not called out by name, which is an additional challenge. So this timeline may change as newspapers are added to their corpus or as I’m able to find additional, earlier ads. Another limitation is that Newspapers.com only archives English-language newspapers. Eventually I’d love to get some European newspaper ad dates for the 1988 wave.
A couple of other things – I don’t think the data for 1987 is particularly good. The frequency of MOTU newspaper ads is quite sparse. Advertisers were already winding down their ad spend as the line was dying. So, the 1987 dates may be less accurate in representing something that is close to a probable release date. The advertising early in 1982 is also a bit sparse, as it was a brand new line and I think it took a few months for retailers to realize they had a major hit on their hands. So again, some of the very first figures might have come out weeks before the earliest advertisements I was able to find. I also excluded mention of figure names in a 1982 cash rebate offer – the mention of figures eligible for the offer does not necessarily indicate that all of those figures were available at the time the offer was advertized.
Another challenge of the early ads was that there was a tendency to use stock art without naming characters. Did that represent the availability of all those figures, or were advertisers just using the art they had on hand? For that reason I’ve included a couple of different dates for late first wave figures – first time the artwork was advertised and the first time the name of the toy was advertised. Also, in 1986 there is a case where figures (the first three Snake Men) were advertised ahead of release date, which was noted by the advertiser. I made note of both the “pre-release” and actual sale dates.
For illustrative purposes I will include some sample advertisements, but there are simply too many to include them all. I’ve also added these dates to my earlier Timeline article for more comprehensive view of dates and events related to MOTU.
Update 7/10/2023: I have updated this timeline to include gift sets and the Weapons Pak.
05/13/1982: First Skeletor newspaper ad 05/13/1982: First Man-At-Arms newspaper ad 05/13/1982: First He-Man newspaper ad 05/13/1982: First Beast Man newspaper ad 06/03/1982: First Battle Ram newspaper ad 06/03/1982: First Battle Cat newspaper ad 06/03/1982: First Castle Grayskull newspaper ad (“Castle Grey Skull”) 06/03/1982: First Stratos newspaper ad (pictured, not named) 06/03/1982: First Zodac newspaper ad (pictured, not named) 06/09/1982: First Teela newspaper ad 06/18/1982: First Stratos newspaper ad (mentioned by name) 07/02/1982: First He-Man/Battle Cat gift set newspaper ad 07/22/1982: First Wind Raider newspaper ad 08/08/1982: First Mer-Man newspaper ad (mentioned by name) 08/08/1982: First Zodac newspaper ad (mentioned by name) 08/08/1982: First He-Man/Wind Raider gift set newspaper ad
Commentary: Mekaneck shows up at the end of the year in 1983, although Mattel designates him among the 1984 figures in their official catalog. I have not been able to locate a “Battle For Eternia” (Skeletor, Panthor & Man-E-Faces gift set) newspaper ad.
02/20/1983: First Man-E-Faces newspaper ad 04/14/1983: First “Buy 3 Get 1 Free” offer ad (Wun-Dar aka Savage He-Man aka “Wonder Bread” He-Man) 04/17/1983: First Faker newspaper ad 05/11/1983: First Ram Man newspaper ad 06/30/1983: First Evil-Lyn newspaper ad 06/30/1983: First Tri-Klops newspaper ad 07/15/1983: First Attak Trak newspaper ad 08/04/1983: First Talon Fighter newspaper ad 08/14/1983: First Heroic Warriors I (He-Man, Teela, Ram Man) set newspaper ad 08/14/1983: First Evil Warriors I (Skeletor, Beast Man, Faker) set newspaper ad 08/28/1983: First Trap Jaw newspaper ad 09/02/1983: First Skeletor/Panthor gift set newspaper ad 09/21/1983: First Screeech newspaper ad (spelled “Screech”) 09/22/1983: First Panthor newspaper ad 09/23/1983: First Zoar newspaper ad 10/21/1983: First Skeletor/Screeech gift set newspaper ad 11/02/1983: First Teela/Zoar gift set newspaper ad 12/14/1983: First Mekaneck newspaper ad
Commentary: I was unable to find the Battle For Eternia II (Battle Armor Skeletor, Panthor, Man-E-Faces) gift set.
01/25/1984: First Road Ripper newspaper ad 03/11/1984: First Battle Armor He-Man newspaper ad 03/11/1984: First Battle Armor Skeletor newspaper ad 03/11/1984: First Roton newspaper ad 03/22/1984: First Prince Adam newspaper ad 03/22/1984: First Orko appearance in stores (costumed actor- unclear if that means toy was available) 04/28/1984: First Buzz-Off newspaper ad 04/28/1984: First Whiplash newspaper ad 05/11/1984: First Dragon Walker newspaper ad 06/03/1984: First Snake Mountain newspaper ad 06/03/1984: First Stridor newspaper ad 08/03/1984: First Fisto newspaper ad 09/04/1984: First Fisto/Stridor gift set newspaper ad 09/09/1984: First Webstor newspaper ad 09/23/1984: First Heroic Warriors II (Battle Armor He-Man, Man-E-Faces, Man-At-Arms) gift set newspaper ad 09/23/1984: First Evil Warriors II (Battle Armor Skeletor, Webstor, Mer-Man) gift set newspaper ad 09/27/1984: First Weapons Pak newspaper ad 10/03/1984: First Battle Armor Skeletor/Screeech gift set newspaper ad 10/12/1984: Clawful and Buzz-Off mentioned as popular toys in newspaper story 10/24/1984: First Kobra Khan newspaper ad 10/25/1984: First Clawful newspaper ad 10/25/1984: First Orko newspaper ad (actual toy) 10/27/1984: First Battle Armor He-Man/Battle Cat gift set newspaper ad 10/27/1984: First Battle Armor Skeletor/Panthor gift set newspaper ad 11/05/1984: First Battle Armor He-Man/Road Ripper gift set newspaper ad 11/18/1984: First Jitsu newspaper ad
Commentary: I was unable to located the Hordak/Grizzlor gift set.
01/13/1985: First Land Shark newspaper ad 01/24/1985: First Moss Man newspaper ad 01/24/1985: First Stinkor newspaper ad 02/28/1985: First Roboto newspaper ad 02/28/1985: First Two Bad newspaper ad 03/31/1985: First Bashasaurus newspaper ad 03/31/1985: First Battle Bones newspaper ad 05/30/1985: First Spikor newspaper ad 06/01/1985: First Spydor newspaper ad 06/14/1985: First Night Stalker newspaper ad 08/01/1985: First Battle Armor Skeletor/Land Shark gift set newspaper ad 08/08/1985: First Dragon Blaster Skeletor newspaper ad (implied) 08/08/1985: First Hordak Newspaper ad (costumed actor appearance) 08/08/1985: First Thunder Punch He-Man newspaper ad 08/18/1985: First Heroic Warriors III (Moss Man, Buzz-Off, Mekaneck) gift set newspaper ad 08/18/1985: First Evil Warriors III (Stinkor, Webstor, Whiplash) gift set newspaper ad 08/20/1985: First Grizzlor newspaper ad 08/20/1985: First Hordak newspaper ad (actual toy) 08/20/1985: First Leech newspaper ad 08/20/1985: First Mantenna newspaper ad 08/25/1985: First Dragon Blaster Skeletor newspaper ad (explicitly shown) 08/30/1985: First Sy-Klone newspaper ad 09/14/1985: First Fright Zone newspaper ad 09/18/1985: First Jitsu/Night Stalker gift set newspaper ad 09/28/1985: First Modulok newspaper ad
A bit of commentary here – there are some surprises in this section. A number of figures Mattel designated as 1987 wave figures in Mattel’s dealer catalog appear at the end of the year in 1986, including King Randor, Clamp Champ, Snake Face, Scare Glow, Ninjor, Mosquitor and Beam Blaster & Artilleray. Also note that we get ads for the snake men on February 21, 1986, but with a note that they wouldn’t be available in stories until April of that year. The first ads I found for them after that were in early May. I was unable to located ads for the Flying Fists He-Man/Terror Claws Skeletor gift set, or the He-Man/Jet Sled gift set.
01/11/1986: First Laser Bolt Newspaper ad 01/11/1986: First Slime Pit Newspaper ad 02/02/1986: First Rokkon newspaper ad 02/02/1986: First Stonedar newspaper ad 02/12/1986: First Flying Fists He-Man newspaper ad 02/12/1986: First Terror Claws Skeletor newspaper ad 02/21/1986: First King Hiss newspaper ad (figure coming in April) 02/21/1986: First Rattlor newspaper ad (figure coming in April) 02/21/1986: First Tung Lashor newspaper ad (figure coming in April) 04/23/1986: First Dragstor newspaper ad 05/01/1986: First King Hiss newspaper ad (figure listed as available) 05/10/1986: First Rattlor newspaper ad (figure listed as available) 05/10/1986: First Tung Lashor newspaper ad (figure listed as available) 05/11/1986: First Mantisaur newspaper ad 06/03/1986: First Blasterhawk newspaper ad 07/18/1986: First Jet Sled newspaper ad 07/18/1986: First Megalaser newspaper ad 07/18/1986: First Stilt Stalkers newspaper ad 08/24/1986: First Snout Spout newspaper ad 09/10/1986: First Hurricane Hordak newspaper ad 09/28/1986: First Fright Fighter newspaper ad 10/11/1986: First Meteorbs newspaper ad 10/11/1986: First Multi-Bot newspaper ad 10/23/1986: First Monstroid newspaper ad 11/01/1986: First Mantisaur/Hordak gift set newspaper ad 11/05/1986: First Extendar newspaper ad 11/05/1986: First Rio Blast newspaper ad 11/08/1986: First Horde Trooper newspaper ad 11/23/1986: First Eternia Playset newspaper ad 11/27/1986: First Beam Blaster & Artilleray newspaper ad 11/27/1986: First Mosquitor newspaper ad 11/27/1986: First Ninjor newspaper ad 11/27/1986: First Scare Glow newspaper ad 11/27/1986: First Snake Face newspaper ad 12/09/1986: First Clamp Champ newspaper ad 12/09/1986: First King Randor newspaper ad
03/14/1987: First Tyrantisaurus Rex newspaper ad 03/21/1987: First Blast Attak newspaper ad 03/21/1987: First Sorceress newspaper ad 03/21/1987: First Sssqueeze newspaper ad 04/04/1987: First Bionatops newspaper ad 04/04/1987: First Turbodactyl newspaper ad 05/21/1987: Mention of Buzz-Saw Hordak toy in newspaper article 08/08/1987: First Blade newspaper ad 08/08/1987: First Gwildor newspaper ad 08/08/1987: First Saurod newspaper ad 11/11/1987: First Buzz-Saw Hordak newspaper ad 11/11/1987: First Rotar newspaper ad 11/11/1987: First Twistoid newspaper ad (only in Canadian newspapers!) Not found: Tower Tools, Cliff Climber, Scubattack
I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing this advertising timeline. Again, I don’t think the dates are 100% the same as when the toys actually showed up in shelves, but most dates should be fairly close. I think this timeline also should functional as a reasonably accurate order of release list. If you happen to find a dated advertisement for a figure that is earlier than what I have found, please let me know in the comments!