Category Archives: Lords of Power

Lords of Power – the original pitch

Image source: The Power of Grayskull documentary

Earlier this year, Scott Neitlich, former brand manager of the Masters of the Universe Classics line, read aloud the original pitch for the “Lords of Power” toyline (which would of course eventually be renamed to Masters of the Universe). The relevant videos are below:

I thought it would be useful to post a transcription of that original pitch here. Since most of it is presented verbally, my formatting won’t match that of the original document. But I find it’s useful to have text to refer back to when thinking about the development of the line. I’ll provide some illustrations to break up the text:

Lords of Power Pitch

Before we show our new male action figure product for 1982 I would like to briefly set the stage by describing how and why we created this new line.

There is a basic market demand for M.A.F. products. It was there before Star Wars and it’s still there. The 1980 current market size of over 200 million in sales at A price is largely dominated by Star Wars, with 2/3 of the share. With other licensed product and non-licensed comprising the remainder on an approximate equal basis, though the licensed area can generate large sales volume, entry into this area is a risky proposition, dependent on a) the success of the movie and b) the timing of its release, coupled with product availability.

As a result, Mattel established two business objectives and strategies for 1982. We will continue to seek out new licenses 1) but be highly selective and 2) new licenses should reflect the latest and future movie trends. The most important objective is to create a new non-licensed product line which will 1) satisfy the current needs and desire of boys and target age range (four to eleven), re-establish a solid basic multi-year business which is not dependent on the success of a movie, and offer the consumer an attractive alternative. We’ve seen the need for something new with the early movement of Clash of the Titans even before the movie was released and before any advertising.

How can we achieve this second goal? In the past Mattel has conducted two major research studies each creating results and direction which produced successful product lines. With this in mind we established our development state and strategies for a new product line which are:

• To conduct a major research program on a national basis
• To determine theme direction and key product features
• Create a product line based on the research results
• Confirm the viability of our new line with a follow-up research program

In the initial research program we interviewed mothers as well as children and discussed play patterns, who their heroes are and how the moms feel in general about the male action figure category. As part of our qualitative analysis, we discussed theme direction. We began with 30 themes and reduced it to 10 themes systematically.

Of the top 10 the three most popular were:

a) fantasy
b) space
c) military

Fantasy was by far the most popular and we discovered that kids liked the idea of a play situation which was a) timeless in nature with b) power and dominance as desirable characteristics.

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation. Update: per Rebecca Salari Taylor these were not the figures used in the initial pitch for the three themes – she says the figures used initially were much rougher. These figures were a later revision.

The next steps in this first research program was to switch to an in-depth quantitative analysis of those popular themes. Here are the prime factors required to create a successful male action figure line:

• Figures need size and power.
• Exciting action features are a bonus.
• Snap-on removable accessories are a desirable bonus.
• Vehicles need good detail and action features are prime motivators for additional figure sales.

Based on our initial research results we developed a product line and put it into a nationwide research test against the entire Star Wars and one other male action figure line. If the initial test results continue to come along the same trend we will have a tremendously successful product line. Figures perform four times better than the requirements established by our research department. Our accessories and playsets perform five times better than what would be required to consider the line viable.

Image source: Andy Youssi

From the research results it’s obvious we’ve developed the most powerful male action figure line of all time: He-Man and the Lords of Power. Our collection contains eight action figures, which beginning with He-Man are all figures that are five and a half inches tall, much taller than most competitors; are incredibly strong and powerful in appearance; have snap-on armor and clothing; are highly detailed are articulated for poseability; including a spring-loaded battle action waist which gives them the needed action play feature.

These are our additional figures:

• Man-At-Arms – He-Man’s best ally and friend
• Skeletor – the ultimate enemy
• Beast-Man – number one stooge for Skeletor
Mer-Man – uses his aquatic powers to help He-Man
• Stratos – who has the power of flight
• Sorceress (Cobra) – has the powers of mysticism but is also very beautiful
• Tee-La – beautiful warrior goddess

Image source: The Power of Grayskull documentary

All figures will be sold in a display package to highlight their unique visual appearance and quality. Our first accessory item is the Battle Cat which will be sold separately as well as with He-Man in a deluxe gift set. The Battle Ram is an unusual combination of ancient and future technologies. It has a battering ram which is launched and the front disconnects to pick up a jet powered sky cycle.

Our smaller vehicle is called the Turbo Chariot and can be used for transportation or in battle. The Chariot will also be offered with He-Man as a gift set. All of the figures are designed to fit every accessory item.

Concept by Ted Mayer

I would like to introduce our major playset which we believe will be the focal point of our line. As a result of our research project we have included the key features that we know are necessary in a successful playset. A good playset should have a multi-level play situation and include several action features for extended play and value. Being portable is also a real plus feature.

Image source: James Eatock/Andy Youssi. Designs by Mark Taylor.

And this is Castle Grayskull. [It is] 14 inches tall and 26 inches long and has accessories like flag pole and ladder as well as a jaw bridge which can be opened from the outside with the magic sword or from within by the secret lever. The elevator helps He-Man or his enemies up to the second floor and He-Man can turn the giant throne to activate a trap door to dispose of evildoers. Then you can put your action figures and accessories inside, fold up and head for your next adventure.

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

Now I’d like to show you our research test tape. Please remember that this is not a commercial and was produced under strict guidelines to avoid unfairly influencing the children being tested. The tapes made of the competitive product follow the same format and style.

Now I’d like to discuss how we’re going to market this new line. We are fully aware of the need for hard-working commercials to launch He-Man and we already have heavily involved in the creative development of two 30-second kid commercials and a 60-second commercial which tells more of a story while showcasing the line and product. We generally talk about ABC levels of advertising. I think this is the order of a triple campaign with the overall objective of making the Lords of Power the most powerful theme in the universe.

To aid our advertising campaign here are a few of the promotional programs we are developing beginning with rebates offered through cross-couponing concentrating on the figures and the castle as our primary sales targets interest has been expressed by fast food franchises, a major tie-in promotion. And we are currently negotiating a time with a breakfast cereal company using their package back and other offers. We plan to offer mail-in specials like accessory packs, collector comics, and possibly even an exclusive ninth action figure.

Scott puts forward the hypothesis that the exclusive ninth figure could have been “Savage He-Man.” That’s certainly possible. Or, it might have been intended to be Faker, since the earliest Fakers came on the original “8-back” cards.

We will also be providing some unique pop display materials which are now being created. There will be a mini comic or storybook included with each figure to relate an adventure, provide cross-sell and will include rebate coupons. The first comic is near completion now.

Now I think it is a good time to give you a very brief synopsis of He-Man’s very first adventure. Man-At-Arms informs He-Man that the evil Skeletor has entered Castle Grayskull. If Skeletor can control the secret powers of Grayskull he would rule the universe. He-Man and Man-At-Arms ride to the castle to drive their villains back to their dark world. They enter Castle Grayskull after man at arm silences the laser cannon being used by Beast Man against our hero. The battle which follows rages on throughout the castle, but the strength of He-Man and the help of his allies Man-At-Arms, Tee-La the warrior goddess who has been held captive by Skeletor, and the spirit of Grayskull itself are all too powerful.

The evil-doers are driven from Grayskull after pleading for mercy. Our hero He-Man granted them mercy this time but now they know they should not be trusted and that they may someday return to try to recapture Grayskull to discover its materials secrets of power. He-Man with the aid of his specialized vehicles, his loyal and strong allies and the spirit and wisdom of Castle Grayskull will be on a constant guard against the evil treachery of Skeletor and his villainous followers.

Everything we have points towards success, a great product line of powerful characters with action features which have the extended play value of extended snap-on accessories, exciting action vehicles that enhance the play value of the figures and a giant playset which is portable, has exciting play features and adds a new dimension to the male action figure business, and an entire line which was developed and proven through two separate nationwide marketing research programs. A broadline and extensive advertising and promotion campaign which shows our commitment at this point.

I’d like to say we hope you will all join in the excitement being generated around He-Man and become enthusiastic participants in making He-Man a successful and profitable new brand for 1982!

Image source: James Sawyer

To read more about the Lords of Power, check out my original article.

Return to Table of Contents.

Power-Con 2020 “Lords of Power” Five-Pack

The Masters of the Universe Origins exclusive Power-Con “Lord of Power” five pack was announced in 2019 as an exclusive for the 2020 Power-Con. Little did we know that COVID-19 would cancel just about every large gathering for 2020. Power-Con was, for the first, time held virtually this year. The 5-pack (as well as an exclusive MOTU Origins She-Ra with rooted hair) could be ordered by anyone either through the Power-Con website or through Big Bad Toy Store.

So what’s this Lords of Power business? Back in 2017, a rather incredible set of pictures surfaced, showing early Masters of the Universe prototypes, which were called “Lords of Power” at the time. Shared by Andy Youssi (son of freelance display artist John Youssi) these images come from a collection of slides set in a View-Master-like apparatus. The prototypes were in several cases quite different from the final toys, and were designed by Mark Taylor and sculpted by Tony Guerrero. You can read all about it in the article I wrote about it at the time.

The packaging for the set was gorgeously illustrated by Axel Giménez with colors by Nate Baertsch. It ships in a brown external box, with a scene on the front inspired by promotional artwork by Errol McCarthy. The illustrations on the back are a nod to cross sell artwork by Alfredo Alcala that appeared on the backs of the first four minicomics. Jukka Issakainen notes that the poses of the five characters are also loosely based on Mark Taylor’s original B-sheet concept art.

The internal packaging is based on vintage action figure carrying cases. The front of the packaging is a color version of the front of the brown mailer box:

The back of the packaging shows the other three figures included in the set:

Inside the case, the figures are set in clear plastic inserts, in battle poses. I couldn’t quite capture them adequately on camera due to the reflection from the plastic, so here is a promotional image from Mattel:

Freed from their plastic prisons

The artwork inside is a homage to various panels from the original Alfredo Alcala/Don Glut minicomics. Beast Man’s pose in packaging is even based on that material:

The vehicle in Man-At-Arms’ section is based on on old Mark Taylor prototype vehicle, designed before he brought in Ted Mayer to design vehicles like Battle Ram and Wind Raider:

Image shared by Axel Giménez
Early Alfredo Alcala comic panel, featuring the prototype vehicle.
Mark Taylor concept vehicle. Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

The bottom of the case features credits for the various toy and packaging designers who worked on this project:

And now, on to the figures!

He-Man

With He-Man, we’re essentially getting a repaint of the 2019 SDCC exclusive release, but without the boot knife and with fewer extras. For all of these figures there are a few liberties taken compared to the source material. The concept He-Man referenced was a bit paler than the mass produced He-Man, but he wasn’t quite this pale. He had a rather different axe (which was ported over from an earlier He-Man prototype that featured a horned helmet) and a closed left hand and no bracer on the left wrist. Otherwise the colors of his costume here are spot on. The head on this He-Man is probably the most authentic-looking He-Man head in the MOTU origins series so far.

The source material
Mark Taylor B-Sheet. Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation
Left to right: 2019 SDCC release, 2020 Power-Con release, 2020 retail release
Vintage (left) verses Power-Con release

Skeletor

Skeletor features a few new parts compared to the 2019 MOTU Origins release – he has an all-new head based on the “rotting face” original Skeletor prototype. He also has shin guards that appeared both in the prototype and in Alfredo Alcala-illustrated minicomics. The bat on his armor is painted yellow/green, which follows from both prototype and concept art. Unlike the prototype, this Skeletor features finned forearms (an oversight I assume – smooth forearms were already tooled for some of the Masters of the WWE figures and could have easily been used) and bare three-toed feet (the concept had bare five-toed feet). He has paler skin compared to the retail release MOTU Origins Skeletor, which in my opinion is an improvement.

Lords of Power prototypes
Mark Taylor B-sheet
The early Skeletor prototype, down to the rotting face, is preserved in the 1980 MOTU Pop-Up Game
Retail (left) vs. Power-Con release
Vintage (left) vs. Power-Con release

Man-At-Arms

Man-At-Arms is a fairly close representation of the prototype source material overall. He has newly sculpted chest armor with “fur” around the sides and a closed back, just like the prototype. The helmet is a pretty good representation of the prototype, minus a few stray paint details. His face is based on the vintage toy, where the prototype’s face was actually quite different. He reuses the left hand from Man-E-Faces to represent the extended orange armor on the prototype’s left hand. He also includes the large mace that was original sculpted for the Masters of the Universe Classics Man-At-Arms. He includes a boot knife, which wasn’t in the prototype but was included in Mark Taylor’s original concept art.

High res face comparison. Image shared by Dušan Mitrović
Mark Taylor B-Sheet
Retail release (left) vs. Power-Con release
Power-Con release vs. vintage figure (right)

Beast Man

Beast Man is quite different from any version of the toy that’s been released, past or present. The Lords of Power slide set was the first time we had seen a physical representation of the design. It’s based on very early Mark Taylor concept art for the character, which seems to have been made with reuse of the Big Jim Gorilla in mind (ultimately it wasn’t used for the prototype).

The overall colors and costume design for the Power-Con release are quite close to the prototype. The main liberty taken is with the feet, which are the quite flat, detail-free feet used in the retail version of MOTU Origins Beast Man. The prototype, by comparison, had sculpted toes. Additionally, the proportions of the prototype head were somewhat different, but the head on the Power-Con release gets the idea across.

Original prototypes
Mark Taylor concept art
Mark Taylor concept art – a different color take (image shared by Rebecca Salari Taylor)
The early Beast Man prototype is preserved in this 1982 MOTU Pop-Up Game
Retail release (left) vs Power-Con version
Vintage release (left) vs. Power-Con version

Mer-Man

Of all the figures in this set, I was the most excited for Mer-Man. We knew of this version from childhood because it appeared prominently in the original Alfredo Alcala minicomics. This concept design has long been one of my favorites, along with the cross-sell art version of Mer-Man, which was a modified version of that original concept. The Power-Con release, sculpt-wise, is quite close to the prototype. There are only a few minor differences.

The first difference is in the hands, which have five fingers rather than four, and reuse He-Man’s hands rather than Skeletor’s (I assume because He-Man’s left hand has flat, splayed fingers, so at least the pose of the original prototype can be replicated).

The armor is also a bit different – the detail over the shoulders seems like a nod to the vintage figure design rather than the concept design. The trunks are the smooth style reused from the Masters of the WWE line. The original had scales all around – this version for some reason has what looks like bubbles printed front and back. Printed scales would have been more appropriate. The original prototype also seems to have had darker coloring throughout the armor.

The difference that stands out the most is the coloring – it’s a dark blue-green, which may be a nod to Mark Taylor’s original B-sheet art. The original prototype had a much lighter blue-green color. Still, he’s a quite striking and beautiful figure (I nitpick my favorite figures the most):

Original prototypes
Mark Taylor B-sheet
Vintage Mer-Man (left) vs Power-Con release

This set certainly wasn’t cheap – as you may know, exclusives are produced in far lower numbers than retail figures, which drastically drives up the cost per figure. Still, if you’re a big fan of early prototypes and minicomics, these are a must have. This was the kind of figure I had in mind when the line was announced (like many others, I had the idea that “MOTU Origins” was a reference to early concept/minicomic designs, especially since the first two figures released in the SDCC two-pack were in that style). A suggestion for a future set: Oo-Larr, Sorceress (aka “Green Goddess”), blonde Teela, red Beast Man, and tan Stratos! A full “Alcala” style Skeletor would also be great!

I hope you enjoyed the review – here are some additional shots to close things out:

If you enjoy this content, feel free to throw in a dollar or two to support the blog. To do so, click the “Donate” link below:

Return to Table of Contents.