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.

Eldor in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has shared the following images and video of Eldor in action:

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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.

He-Ro in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has kindly contributed the following images and video of He-Ro in action:

He-Ro atop Turbodactyl, who has captured King Hiss

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Evil Beasts, Powers of Grayskull

Tyrantisaurus Rex – Most Terrifying Dinosaur in the land of Preternia (1987)

Although I missed most of the 1987 wave of Masters of the Universe figures, I did happen to catch Tyrantisaurus Rex. A remember being at a friend’s house, and he showed me his new purple cyborg dinosaur that could shoot a green drone from its belly. At the time I had moved on to G.I. Joe, but I thought it was a pretty cool looking toy. I actually happened upon the figure again, years later at a university reptile show intended for kids. There was a table full of dinosaur toys, and there in the heap was Tyrantisaurus.

Design & Development

The earliest design artwork for a MOTU T-Rex comes from Alan Tyler. His take on the concept is quite different from what followed. The design below doesn’t have any external cybernetic parts. Aside from the pop out opening in the back, it looks like a fairly realistic tyrannosaurus. The “drone” is actually an organic creature instead of a mechanical one.

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

At some point the concept was turned over to David Wolfram. This was actually David’s first project for Masters of the Universe. As he explained in my interview with him:

I was in my last term at Art Center College of Design, and had a fairly light schedule, so I checked into freelance opportunities offered through the job placement department at AC (I can’t remember exactly what they were called), and saw an opportunity to work on a project for Mattel.

I went to Mattel, and met with Martin Arriola to discuss the project, which happened to be a dinosaur project for MOTU. Coincidentally, at my drawing board I had a small black and white TV, and as I was working on my school projects, I would always watch the afternoon MOTU cartoons, so I knew the property, plus I had a lifelong interest in dinosaurs, so I jumped at the opportunity. I worked on this project on a freelance basis until graduation, then I started working in-house at Mattel as a temp, which is the back door way that many people end up working there.

Here is my concept drawing for Tyrantisaurus Rex. It originally started out as a heroic vehicle, but marketing begrudgingly made the decision that it would be better suited for Skeletor.

David Wolfram
Image courtesy of David Wolfram

The above illustration by David Wolfram, dated November 21, 1985, is very close to the look of the actual production toy. The only obvious difference is the color of the gun, which is gray in the concept art.

Production Toy

We can see the translation of the concept design into mass-produced toy below, first in the cross sell artwork (a nearly photo-realistic drawing of the figure) and in the mass produced toy below.

Tyrantisaurus Rex cross sell artwork. Image source: The Art of He-Man
1987 Mattel retail catalog. Image source: Orange Slime
Source: He-Man.it Forum

A hatch on the back of the figure opens up to allow an action figure to sit. A hatch on the stomach stores the “Dyna-Drone” (a wind-up spinning toy), which can be launched from the figure’s belly. There is a removable blue gun that attaches to the dinosaur’s right shoulder, and the mouth is articulated.

Packaging

The box art on the front of the packaging was illustrated by Warren Hile, who also worked on the Bionatops and Turbodactyl packaging:

I don’t know who did the artwork on the back of the packaging, but I’ve transcribed the backstory:

Travel back in time through a secret time portal-and discover the ORIGIN of THE POWERS OF GRAYSKULL! Learn how He-Man became so strong! And explore the magical world of Preternia – home of HE-RO, the Most Powerful WIZARD in the Universe!

Monstrous dinosaurs and fierce giants – both good and evil – struggle violently for control of this strange & hostile land! The dinosaurs in the time of HE-RO – Tyrantisaurus Rex, Bionatops and Turbodactyl – each posess a fantastic mechanical power. Can HE-RO master all the good magic of the Ancient Wizards and protect future Eternia from forever falling into the claws of evil?

Look for He-Ro and the Powers of Grayskull coming your way in 1987!

He-Ro was never released of course, although a replica of the unproduced figure will be available in 2019 from Super7. The giants mentioned in the text were Tytus and Megator, which ended up being offered for sale in Europe in 1988, but not in the US. Tyrantisaurus is depicted on the back and front of the box as being ridden by King Hiss, which was also the case in the minicomics, as we will see later.

There is also this profile of Tyrantisaurus Rex on the back:

Tyrantisaurus Rex:
Profile: Most Terrifying Dinosaur in the land of Preternia
Special weapon: Hidden Dyna-Drone bursts out of Belly! Bowls Over Enemies!
Origin: Related to the Ferocious Tyrannosaurus Rex from Pre-Historic Earth!

The 1987 Style Guide had a similar description of the character

Comics & Stories

The Powers of Grayskull: The Legend Begins was to be the first of a “3 part saga.” Unfortunately with the cancellation of the line, the next two parts were never published. In the story, Skeletor followed He-Man and Sorceress back in time to ancient Preternia, where he allies with King Hiss and causes trouble. A battle ensues, with a disguised He-Man riding Bionatops and King Hiss on Tyrantisaurus.

Source: Dark Horse

In Journey To Preternia, in the 1987 Spring issue of MOTU Magazine, Skeletor and He-Man accidentally travel through a time portal, and end up allying with their respective dinosaurs and hashing things out in a predictable way. In this story, there are multiple Tyrantisauruses.

The Summer 1987 MOTU Magazine also had a story featuring multiple Tyrantisauruses:

Tyrantisaurus is colored green and presented as belonging to the Evil Horde in the He-Man newspaper comic series (thanks to Dušan M. and Øyvind Meisfjord for the heads up!). Once again we see multiples of the fearsome cyborg T-Rex:

The creature is also green in issue 3 of the 1987 UK MOTU comic series, again with a green color scheme. In the story, Tung Lashor refers to it as a “Warsaur”, which might be an early working name for the creature (thanks to Petteri H. for the tip).

Artwork

Tyrantisaurus was featured on two covers of the US Masters of the Universe Magazine, which were illustrated by Earl Norem:

Source: He-Man.org
Source: He-Man.org

William George also illustrated the dinosaur in his Preternia poster:

Source: Jukka Issakainen

Errol McCarthy illustrated the figure for a T-shirt design (again in green, like the newspaper comic):

Source: He-Man.org

Tyrantisaurus is one of the cooler looking beasts of tail end of the line. Because he was produced in limited quantities, he’s quite pricey these days, but a must-have for any aspiring Preternia collector.

Image source: Grayskull Museum

Tyrantisaurus in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has kindly shared the following image and videos of the Tyrantisaurus Rex in action:

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