Snake Men

Snake Face – Most Gruesome of the Snake Men Warriors (1987)

Snake Face, true to his tagline, is indeed the most gruesome-looking of the Snake Men faction, and one of the creepiest figures in the vintage Masters of the Universe lineup.

Design & Development

An early concept for Snake Face appears in the Power and Honor Foundation Catalog (below). The artist isn’t mentioned (from the style I think it could perhaps be by Alan Tyler), but it seems to be a first crack at a concept involving a character with snakes popping out of his face and chest. This concept would have reused the arms and legs from Skeletor. Other than the action feature, it bears little resemblance to the final Snake Face concept.

The character was revisited (with the working name Medusa Man), and David Wolfram took the reigns at designing a character around the action feature. His design, shown below, is very close to the final look of the figure, other than some of the colors used on his costume.

Image courtesy of David Wolfram

In David’s design, the figure was to have no shared parts, other than the staff (borrowed from King Hiss) and his pelvis piece. Even the latter was given a unique sculpt on the final figure.

The cross sell art for Snake Face appears to be based on the final toy design:

We can see a hand-painted final prototype for the figure in Mattel’s 1987 dealer catalog:

Image source: Orange Slime

Production Toy

The final toy is a gruesome-looking creature with a purple, black and green costume. He features a fair amount of green overspray on his arms and head, which is something not normally seen on figures in the MOTU line. His action feature is similar to Mantennna‘s eyes – a lever on the back can be raised, causing the snakes to pop out of his face, shoulders and chest.

Snake Face is covered in warty and scaly gray skin, and his arms are wrapped in snakes. His legs are rather short, probably to compensate for his tall torso and to keep his overall height similar to other figures in the line.

Packaging

Snake Face’s card features the Snake Men special logo on the front as well as character artwork by Bruce Timm (thanks to Jukka Issakainen for the tip). Errol McCarthy provides the illustrations for the action scene and instructions on the back.

Image source: Final Frontier Toys

Style Guide

Snake Face was given the following characterization in the 1987 Style Guide:

Group Affiliation: Snake Men, Evil Warriors
Role: Evil beast with a head full of shocking snakes
Power: When his snakes strike out, enemies are turned to stone.
Character Profile: Another of the Snake Men trapped under Snake Mountain an eon ago, Snake Face was called forth by King Hiss to do battle with He-Man. Snake Face was a right-hand man to King Hiss in the days of Grayskull. Snake Face can turn any enemy to stone by lashing his snakes out at him. He-Ro and He-Man are the only warriors powerful enough to reverse the horrible spell, and then only when aided by the Magic Staff or Power Sword.
Weapons: Serpent Staff and Medusa Shield.

Image via He-Man.org

As Snake Face came quite late in the line, his bio includes a mention of He-Ro and the cancelled Powers of Grayskull storyline.

Minicomics

Snake Face was packed with Revenge of the Snake Men, written by Phil White and illustrated by Chris Carlson. In the story, Snake Face and Sssqueeze (called by his concept name “Tanglor”) are brought form the nameless dimension by King Hiss to kidnap Queen Marlena. Snake Face uses his powers to turn anyone who gets in his way to stone:

Snake Face also appears in Energy Zoids, where he turns his power against Rotar:

Other Comic Appearances

Snake Face makes a number of appearances in other comics, including the following:

Issue 35, 1987, UK MOTU Magazine:

Image via He-Man.org

Issue 41, 1987, UK MOTU Magazine:

Image via He-Man.org

Issue 8, 1987, Star Comics Masters of the Universe:

Fall 1987, US MOTU Magazine:

Image via He-Man.org

Poster Art

Snake Face appears in a couple of posters by Earl Norem, done for the US MOTU Magazine:

He also appears in William George’s Preternia poster:

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Snake Face is featured in posters by Esteban Maroto and others as well:

Masters of the Universe had its fare share of nightmarish and gruesome action figures, but Snake Face has to be one of the creepiest.

Swedish ad featuring Snake Face, courtesy of Petteri Höglund

Snake Face in Action

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

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Snake Men

King Hiss – Dreadful disguised leader of the SNAKE MEN (1986)

Co-written with Jukka Issakainen

On a family trip in 1986 I was faced with something of a dilemma. On the way to California in the car, we had stopped off at store that had a nice selection of He-Man toys, and I was told that I could pick two. I was determined that both figures be Snake Men, but which ones to get?

I  was looking at getting Kobra Khan, or perhaps the newly released King Hiss or Rattlor. I don’t remember seeing Tung Lashor at the time. After studying all three toys and their packaging intently, I concluded that King Hiss was a cool idea, but his hidden snake body wasn’t all that great looking, so I went with the other two figures instead.

The Snake Men, with Kobra Khan retconned into the faction

Design & Development

When Mattel and Filmation were working on the She-Ra Princess of Power animated series, they designed lot of characters in concert. The Evil Horde cartoon designs were meant for She-Ra’s show because the He-Man series had ended on its second season. Characters like Rattlor and Tung Lashor were created very early on. Mattel would later come up with a third evil faction, thanks to Tim Kilpin; the Snake Men, into which King Hiss was created. Rattlor and Tung Lashor served him, with Kobra Khan was retconned into the group as well.

Some additional background from James Eatock:

As for the snake Men, Rattlor and Tung Lashor were designed ahead of King Hiss (and included as Horde Villains based on their earliest designs). By the time King Hiss was completed and the Snake Men as a faction had been created, She-Ra was already in full swing.

James Eatock

Various minicomics acknowledged Rattlor and Tung Lashor working for Evil Horde and used them from there on out as King Hiss’ servants. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that King Hiss was being planned for Filmation’s He-Man or She-Ra cartoons. During the She-Ra series, Rattlor and Tung Lashor sometimes were aligned with Skeletor, and sometimes with Hordak.

In terms of play concept, King Hiss came out of a series of designs by Ted Mayer for a figure concept that would have a removable outer disguise. One of the most well-known of the unproduced concepts is a character with a removable plant-like outer shell, as shown in the image below:

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

One of Ted’s concept designs included a green-costumed monster with tangle of coiled snakes hidden beneath his costume:

Image source: http://ted-mayer.com
Another take on the hidden snake creature concept. This one has a more alien-looking disguise. Image source: Tomart’s Action Figure Digest

Ted’s concept art was quite creepy, both on the inside and on the outside. The toy design, on the other hand, was greatly toned down in comparison. The outside of the figure was given a heroic appearance. The idea was that King Hiss could trick the heroes into believing he was on their side, only to betray them and reveal the mass of snakes underneath. The mass of snakes was unfortunately limited by the constraints of having to fit inside a plastic shell depicting the human costume, so the snake part of the figure was a bit underwhelming.

King Hiss cross sell art. Image courtesy of Axel Giménez

Action Figure

The shell of the costume consisted of four parts. The front and back of the chest and head, and the two arms. The torso piece completely concealed what was underneath, but the arms were open at the back. Consequently, the backs of King Hiss’ snake arms were painted green to match the external disguise.

King Hiss was given a serpent shield and snake staff. The staff would be reused for Rattlor, Tung Lashor and Snake Face, and consequently is one of the most reused weapon designs in the MOTU line. Everything else on King Hiss was a unique piece.

On September 27, 1985, Mattel filed a patent claim on King Hiss. The inventors listed are Roger Sweet and Ted Mayer.

Packaging

King Hiss’ artwork on the back was done by an unknown artist. Uniquely, it functions like a three-panel comic, telling the story of King Hiss’ gimmick.

In Belgium, there was a special release of King Hiss that included a fold-out reversible mask in the packaging:

Characterization

The 1987 Style Guide describes King Hiss in terms of his gimmick:

Power: Disguises himself as a Heroic warrior, then peels back skin to reveal a snake creature – designed to take victims by surprise.

Style Guide
From the style guide. Artwork by Errol McCarthy

There is also a fact file on all the Snake Men in the 1989 UK MOTU Annual:

Image source: He-Man.org

Comics and Stories

In King of the Snake Men, Skeletor unleashes King Hiss from an energy pool he finds in the depths of Snake Mountain. King Hiss had apparently been trapped for thousands of years. In the story (illustrated by Bruce Timm), he teams up with Skeletor to lure He-Man into a trap:


Later in the story, King Hiss tells He-Man how thousands of years ago, he was rule of an empire of Snake Men that held dominance over several other planets. He came to Eternia and took up residence in Snake Mountain. Ultimately he was banished to another dimension by the Council of Elders, until Skeletor freed him.

In the Kid Stuff story, Battle Under Snake Mountain, King Hiss rules Snake Mountain, as if Skeletor never existed:

The Summer 1986 issue of Masters of the Universe Magazine features the story, The Armies of King Hiss. Skeletor teams up with Hiss and his Snake Men against He-Man:

King Hiss shows up in several issues of the UK Masters of the Universe Magazine as well:

King Hiss appears in the November 1986 Star Comics story, Snakes Alive! In the story, we learn that Rio Blast is terrified of Snakes, which King Hiss uses to his advantage:

“He-Ro, Land of Legend” and He-Man Newspaper Strips

The Filmation “He-Ro Land of Legend” development from 1986 has a snake man character which possibly is the one Gérald Forton designed, and later used in the newspaper comic strip story arc, “Vengeance of the Viper King”:

From the Dark Horse He-Man Newspaper Comic Strips Collection

In “Vengeance of the Viper King,” King Hiss has the unique look only when in his true form. In his disguised form, he looks on model with the action figure:

Powers of Grayskull

King Hiss was to be (apparently) a principal villain in the abandoned Powers of Grayskull line. Tyrantisaurus Rex was envisioned as his primary mount:

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation/The Art of He-Man
From The Powers of Grayskull minicomic

Artwork

King Hiss appears in poster art by both William George and Earl Norem:

Artwork by William George. Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen.
Artwork by Earl Norem

Errol McCarthy also created several illustrations of the character:

King Hiss also makes an appearance in the box art for Tyrantisaurs Rex and Turbodactyl, both illustrated on the front by Warren Hile:

King Hiss had his limitations as an action figure, but he was actually an interesting concept and pretty fun to play with.

King Hiss in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has generously shared the following image and video of King Hiss in action:

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Snake Men

Tung Lashor – Evil tongue-shooting SNAKE MEN creature (1986)

I don’t remember seeing Tung Lashor in stores as a kid, so my first memory is really from reading about him in the minicomic that came packed with Rattlor. One of the first things of course that strikes you about Tung Lashor is that, despite being a member of the Snake Men, he looks much more like a frog than a snake.

Design & Development

As for the snake Men, Rattlor and Tung Lashor were designed ahead of King Hiss (and included as Horde Villains based on their earliest designs). By the time King Hiss was completed and the Snake Men as a faction had been created, She-Ra was already in full swing.

James Eatock

The earliest known design for Tung Lashor doesn’t look like a frog creature, but it doesn’t look particularly snake-like either. This concept by Ted Mayer seems to be a demon or an imp in an acrobat costume:

Image source: The Art of He-Man/The Power and the Honor Foundation. Dated July 12, 1984.

There may or may not be some relationship with the Ted Mayer Jester design below. The costume and pose are quite similar, but otherwise the relationship between the two is unclear:

Image source: Tomart’s Action Figure Digest, courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Ted Mayer’s early design was used to create the design for the animated version of Tung Lashor, and there may have been an intermediate Mattel design along the way that was used for the Filmation model sheet below. Compared to Ted’s original design, this character lost his pointed ears and has arms and legs reminiscent of Skeletor (or at least his action figure). The color scheme roughly follows Ted’s drawing.

Image source: He-Man and She-Ra – A Complete Guide to the Animated Adventures

The final version of the design is so different from the early concept that it’s hard to find much of a connection between the two, other than the long tongue. The production figure looks quite a lot like a poison dart frog, but with sharp fangs. He has a mottled two-toned purple color scheme, with an orange front torso, and the Snake Men logo in green on his chest. He has frog like-fingers, covered in black rubber gloves. His feet look like smoother, simplified versions of the type of the feet used for Buzz-Off and Whiplash.

Tung Lashor cross sell artwork

Production Figure

Tung Lashor came with two accessories – a purple repaint of King Hiss’ staff, and a dragonfly crossbow weapon. He reuses He-Man’s trunks, but all of his other parts are newly-sculpted. His thin plastic tongue (which was painted in a rather venomous looking, two-tone green and yellow color) could be made to flick in and out by turning a dial on the figure’s back.

The first release of the figure has a dark purple design painted on its back, while subsequent releases omit the paint on the back. This was a fairly common practice in the MOTU line. Some examples: The first release Skeletor had purple trunks with a painted black belt, while later versions had a plain black belt. The first release Mer-Man had orange trunks and a green belt, while later versions had an unpainted belt.

Tung Lashor in the 1986 JCPenney Catalog. Image courtesy of RM Hart.
Tung Lashor in the 1986 JCPenney Catalog. Image courtesy of RM Hart.
Tung Lashor in the 1986 Mattel Dealer Catalog. Image source: Orange Slime.
Tung Lashor advertising line art for retailers.

Packaging

Tung Lashor was not included in any gift sets or multi-packs. The artwork on the back of his card was, in my opinion, likely illustrated by Dave Stevens, who also worked on the packaging for Moss Man and Stinkor.

Tung Lashor in Action

A photo and a short video of Tung Lashor in action, contributed by Øyvind Meisfjord:

Artwork

Tung Lashor appears in the Eternia poster and packaging art, both painted by William George:

A poster by Earl Norem included with issue 7 of Masters of the Universe Magazine features all of the snake men (including Kobra Khan, who had been retconned into that faction starting in 1986) that existed up to that point:

Tung Lashor was illustrated in several dynamic poses by frequent Mattel contributing artist Errol McCarthy. McCarthy’s art makes the character look a bit more snake-like, and may represent an earlier stage in Tung Lashor’s design evolution.

Characterization

The above illustration is from the 1987 Mattel Style Guide (which depicts the character with three-toed feet, similar to Ted Mayer’s concept), which provides Tung Lashor’s bio and characteristics:

Role: Evil Snake Men creature with the “venomous” tongue

Power: Quick-licking tongue shoots out to reach enemies in battle, inflicting a dose of vile venom.

Character Profile: This unusually mean creature possesses a truly terrible tongue. Tung Lashor is loyal to King Hiss, although he does answer to Skeletor at Times. He is an extremely brutal creature, more openly vicious than Rattlor. He cowers before King Hiss, however, like all the others. He likes to lash his tongue at just about anything, even his comrades to shake them up once in a while.

Note: Like Rattlor, Tung Lashor is a member of The Evil Horde in the Filmation shows. However, he has now become a member of the Snake Men.

There was also a fact file on Tung Lashor in the 1989 UK MOTU Annual:

Comics & Stories

In the Snake Attack minicomic, Tung Lashor takes the active speaking role in his partnership with Rattlor, although his impulsiveness gets him into trouble. Tung Lashor’s tongue in this instance isn’t exactly poisonous – it rather has the ability to paralyze his victims and cover them with some kind of hard coating.

When Rattlor and Tung Lashor are introduced in King of the Snake Men, it’s mentioned that they had been serving Hordak before King Hiss summoned them. This is a reference to their appearances on the She-Ra cartoon series (they came out too late to appear in the original He-Man series, which ended in 1985). King Hiss does not appear in the series, so the snake men are made to serve Hordak.

Tung Lashor appears in issue 7 of the US Masters of the Universe Magazine in “The Armies of King Hiss”:

Both Rattlor and Tung Lashor are wildly off model in the 1987 UK MOTU Magazine story, “Attack of the Snakemen.” Tung Lashor especially looks unrecognizable and bizarre (I first learned about this issue from James Eatock’s excellent He-Man and She-Ra Blog).

In the 1986 Kid Stuff story book/record, Battle Under Snake Mountain, Tung Lashor makes another appearance, again with the three-toed feet design.

Animation

Tung Lashor is inconsistently called Tung and Tung Lash in the Filmation She-Ra series, probably a reflection of early working names for the figure. He has a high voice and a rather adolescent-like personality, and is usually subordinate to Rattlor.

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Snake Men

Rattlor – Evil SNAKE MEN creature with the quick-strike head (1986)

Rattlor Graphic

My memory of getting Rattlor is quite vivid. It was our last summer in our Eastern Washington house, before our big move across the mountains to a rainier, more temperate part of the Pacific Northwest, and we were taking a road trip vacation to California before the move. I remember gravely weighing my options at a store along the way. I could get two toys, and I was determined that they be Snake Men.

I  was looking at getting Kobra Khan, or perhaps the newly released King Hiss or Rattlor. I don’t remember seeing Tung Lashor at the time. After studying all three toys and their packaging intently, I concluded that King Hiss was a cool idea, but his hidden snake body wasn’t all that great looking, so I went with the other two figures instead.

Rattlor (2)
Rattlor ad sheet artwork. Notice in the first illustration he is holding Skeletor’s staff and has a belt similar to Trap Jaw’s; in the second he has what appears to be an off-model King Hiss shield (thanks to Manic Man for that observation)

Design & Development

Rattlor started life as a Roger Sweet concept, although in this very early concept drawing he’s barely recognizable. As is evident in the artwork, he was to have a yellow and green color scheme and would have reused Buzz-Off’s legs and Skeletor’s arms, just like Whiplash. If you look carefully you can see the rattle at the end of his tail, without which we would have no visual cues to assume this character was based on a rattle snake. There are no obvious signs that his head was to have the pop-out action feature. This design came about sometime around 1983, at the same time Whiplash and other third wave characters were being developed, per Aidan in the comment section.

Rattlor concept Roger Sweet
Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog

Ted Mayer’s Basher concept illustrates the general idea for Rattlor’s action feature. In this illustration the character’s head is being used as a blunt weapon, but of course for Rattlor the idea was that he could quickly strike his head forward and deliver a bite.

Image source: Power and Honor Foundation

As for the snake Men, Rattlor and Tung Lashor were designed ahead of King Hiss (and included as Horde Villains based on their earliest designs). By the time King Hiss was completed and the Snake Men as a faction had been created, She-Ra was already in full swing.

James Eatock

Depictions of Rattlor in the minicomics give us a glimpse of an intermediate design. He is usually depicted with the dragon-like spines from the prototype, but with the updated scaly limbs and two-toed feet that were used in the final toy. This represents a mid-point in Rattlor’s design evolution. Most of these appearances feature the character with his final rust, cream and blue color scheme, but in his first appearance he is yellowish orange.

Production Toy

The actual toy has an elongated neck and a tail with a sculpted rattle at the end of it, but otherwise it has little in common with Sweet’s initial design, and the final toy was redesigned by John Hollis, who also worked on Extendar and Turbodactyl. The toy’s head certainly looks much more rattle snake-like than the concept artwork. Rattlor lost the spines along his back, and the final figure featured all new limbs. He came with a staff borrowed from King Hiss, but molded in brick red plastic.

In order to accommodate Rattlor’s long neck when it was recessed, his torso had to be quite large compared to most He-Man figures. His legs are relatively short, however – they’re about the size of Beast Man’s legs, but look even more undersized because of his large torso. His arms look like they were based on the He-Man’s arms (with a similar open left hand) with added scales and gloves, and slightly different musculature. Curiously, the staff is omitted in the cross sell artwork below:

Rattlor’s quick-strike action feature was activated by pushing a button on the back of his belt, revealing a long yellow (or sometimes red) neck. There were also some loose bits of plastic in the figure, so that when you shake him you hear a rattling sound.

Packaging

The artwork on the back of Rattlor’s packaging was done by an unknown artist (Jukka Issakainen pointed out that it’s not Dave Stevens, as I originally thought – it’s signed either MT or TM). The name Rattlor was trademarked by Mattel on June 17, 1985, a year before the toy’s release.

Scan by Starcrusader

Minicomics

As mentioned earlier, Rattlor’s design in most of his minicomics appearances represents an intermediate stage in his development, particularly in his first appearance in King of the Snake Men. His appearances in the last couple of minicomics of the toyline are much closer to his toy look. Throughout, he is described as a fairly typical muscle-headed henchman who rarely says much. In Snake Attack! Tung Lashor seems to be the brains, while Rattlor is the brawn. Rattlor also appears in The Ultimate Battle Ground, Revenge of the Snake Men, Energy Zoids, and The Powers of Grayskull.

When Rattlor and Tung Lashor are introduced in King of the Snake Men, it’s mentioned that they had been serving Hordak before King Hiss summoned them. This is a reference to their appearances on the She-Ra cartoon series (they came out too late to appear in the original He-Man series, which ended in 1985).

Animation

In the She-Ra series, Rattlor is usually mute, although that’s not the case in the Christmas Special, where Rattlor gets a brief line. (There are other She-Ra episodes where he is given lines as well – see the comment from SpineBear at the end of this article.) Design-wise, Filmation’s Rattlor lacks the colored strips on his arms and legs, and he’s given purple trunks and a blue belt:

Before Filmation settled on the toy-like design for Rattlor, they were using a model sheet based on Roger Sweet’s original design:

Image source: James Eatock, by way of Jukka Issakainen

Stories, Comics & Magazines

In the 1986 Kid Stuff story book/record, Battle Under Snake Mountain, Rattlor seems to be more intelligent and talks more frequently than in other media, although he seems constantly terrified of King Hiss:

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

Both Rattlor and Tung Lashor are wildly off model in the 1987 UK MOTU Magazine story, “Attack of the Snakemen.” Tung Lashor especially looks unrecognizable and bizarre (I first learned about this issue from James Eatock’s excellent He-Man and She-Ra Blog).

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Image Source: He-Man.org

In the MOTU newspaper story, Vengeance of the Viper King, Rattlor is also wildly off model, albeit based on line art from the Filmation She-Ra series. He appears here with green skin and no tail:

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Image Source: Dark Horse Newspaper Comic Strips
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Image Source: Dark Horse Newspaper Comic Strips

Rattlor appears in issue 7 of the US Masters of the Universe Magazine in The Armies of King Hiss:

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Artwork Appearances

The same issue features one of Earl Norem’s most iconic MOTU paintings, featuring all of the snake men (including Kobra Khan, who had been retconned into that faction starting in 1986) that existed up to that point:

William George illustrated the character in both his Eternia playset boxart and in his Eternia poster:

Artist Errol McCarthy drew Rattlor in a number of contexts, including in an illustration for the 1987 Style Guide:

Characterization

The Style Guide characterizes Rattlor this way:

Power: Can sneak up on enemies and strike with lightning speed and precision.

Character Profile: Rattlor never says much: he’d rather just hiss. He sticks close by Tung Lashor, keeping a low profile so his attacks are that much more surprising. Just before he is about to strike, Rattlor will sound his ominous battle rattle, giving his quarry the merest fraction of a second to realize his horrible fate.

Note: Filmation has positioned Rattlor as a member of The Evil Horde. For story purposes, he and Tung Lashor joined The Evil Horde when King Hiss was banished eons ago. Now that King Hiss has returned, however, Rattlor and Tung Lashor have rejoined him.

There was also a fact file on Rattlor in the 1989 UK MOTU Annual, which also says that Rattlor preferrs hissing to speaking:

Note the unusual colors scheme on Rattlor – he has blue legs and a yellow tail!

Rattlor is my favorite of the snake men. I love his Southwestern-looking color scheme, his detailed scaly skin, and of course his action features. I would have preferred a unique weapon for him, but otherwise he’s one of my favorite figures to come out in the last years of the line.

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