Evil Vehicles

Fright Fighter: Evil Dragonfly Attack Vehicle (1986)

Fright Fighter is one of the coolest vehicles created for the Evil Warriors in the vintage Masters of the Universe line. I don’t specifically recall seeing it as a kid, and it’s hard to find intact today due to the various detachable parts that came with it.

Design & Development

Fright Fighter started out as a concept drawing by Ed Watts, called Dragon Fly, dating to September 24, 1984. Compared to the final vehicle, the design on this initial concept is more elaborate, with a number of small radar dishes and exposed engine parts. It features two jet engines in the back and four wings that are somewhat squared off at the edges, with ridges throughout. One wonders if this might have been inspired by the ornithopters in Frank Herbert’s Dune.

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation
A photo of Ed Watts’ original artwork, noticeably darker than the original art. This was in the collection of John Hollis.

Incidentally, Ed Watts did another concept vehicle called Fright Fighter, although visually it has nothing to do with the Fright Fighter vehicle released in 1986. Apparently the boys’ marketing department thought that the Fright Fighter name would be more appropriate for an evil vehicle. This one dates to September 13, 1984.

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

Update: You can see the Fright Fighter perched on the central tower in Ted Mayer’s February 5, 1985 concept art for the Eternia playset (thanks to Øyvind for the reminder!). Interestingly it’s sitting on tank treads – those treads actually ended up going to Blasterhawk, which is shown on the tower to the left:

It also appears as a foam cutout in an early Eternia prototype, below:

You can see an intermediate stage in the vehicle’s design in this draft version of what appears to be packaging art, below. You can see it has fewer radar dishes and not as much exposed motor parts than the Ed Watts concept. Scale-wise it’s smaller, too. The wings have been changed in design, but they are still more squared off compared to the final toy. The jet engines have been moved to the “feet” of the vehicle, and the back of the fuselage has a more insect-like appearance:

From the John Hollis collection.

The final design of the toy is evident in the artwork from the back of the packaging, shown below. The biggest change is to the wings, which look much more dragonfly-like in shape, with mechanical embellishments. The overall color scheme is purple and blue, as opposed to the green and yellow of the original design.

Toy & Packaging

The Fright Fighter is an impressive looking toy. It featured two separate triggers on the handle. The larger hand trigger made the dragonfly wings move up and down (alternating from front to back), while the smaller finger trigger made the pincers in front close, allowing the vehicle to grab and carry a figure in front. The cockpit was large enough for one figure. The earliest newspaper ad I’ve found for it dates to September 28, 1986, meaning that it was probably available in stores around or slightly before that date.

All of the images below of the toy and its packaging come from old eBay auctions, as I don’t own this vehicle.

The vehicle shipped with most of the parts not assembled, and some of them were still attached to sprues, as shown below:

The packaging includes artwork by William George. In the artwork we see Fright Fighter piloted by Skeletor in his Battle Armor, while Battle Armor He-Man, Roboto and Man-At-Arms are depicted in the cratered desert surface below. The box includes something that looks similar to “cross sell” art on the back, although it’s really being used to advertise the actual toy in the packaging. There are also images of the vehicle in action on the sides of the box.

Comic Appearances

Fright Fighter appears in Energy Zoids, where Skeletor and his minions use the vehicle to capture Rotar:

Image via the Dark Horse minicomics collection

Fright Fighter is interestingly a vehicle of the Evil Horde in Roboto’s Sacrifice, a story that appears in issue 34 of the UK Comics. In the story, Hordak is the creator of the vehicle, and Dragstor uses it on its maiden flight to pursue Roboto and Man-At-Arms. Images below come from He-Man.org.

Fright Fighter appears in From Here to Eternia, in issue 6 of the Star Comics, where it is correctly noted as Skeletor’s vehicle. In the story, Skeletor flies to Eternia (the playset version), lands, transforms himself into Orko to trick the heroic warriors, and turns his Fright Fighter invisible. Images below come from http://www.motucfigures.com/.

Fright Fighter appears in several stories from the German Ehapa Verlag series, including issues 3, 9 and 12 from the 1988 series (images via He-Man.org):

The vehicle also appears in the issue 2 of the Italian Magic Boy series from 1988:

In the the Fall 1986 issues of the US Masters of the Universe Magazine, we get a brief appearance of Fright Fighter in The Struggle For Eternia.

In the same issue it appears in artwork by Earl Norem featured on the cover and in a bonus poster:

Other Artwork

Errol McCarthy depicted Fright Fighter in a couple of illustrations, as shown in the artwork below (scanned by the Power and the Honor Foundation):

The above illustration was used in Mattel’s style guide, which included some background information for Fright Fighter as well as Blasterhawk:

NAME: Fright Fighter
GROUP AFFILIATION: Evil Warriors
ROLE: Evil winged vehicle of Skeletor.
POWER: Stalks enemies of Skeletor from the air; can swoop down and grab warriors in its might pincers: radar scanner tracks down foes from miles away.
CHARACTER PROFILE: Like a dragonfly, this vehicle has the power to hover silently and cut through the air with incredible speed. Its hovering ability and quiet sound make it perfect for spying or sneak attack missions.
YEAR OF TOY INTRO: 1986

It also makes an appearance in William George’s Eternia poster, as well as his box art for the Eternia playset:

Advertisements

Fright Fighter appeared in a number of US and foreign advertisements:

Image Source: Battle Armor Dad

Fright Fighter In Action

Check out Fright Fighter in action with the image and videos below shared by Øyvind Meisfjord:

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4 thoughts on “Fright Fighter: Evil Dragonfly Attack Vehicle (1986)

  1. Great article! Thank you! I had the Fright Fighter as a youngster, and it was huge and amazing, and I loved it.

    Always wondered why it was depicted as green in the “Energy Zoids” mini-comic, and now that I’ve seen that Ed Watts concept art, I know why!

  2. My brother picked this up at a school fair/gala in pretty good condition around 1989. I remember it clearly as it came with a Sectaurs figure which aesthetically seemed to fit in terms of pairing haha. It was a massive toy with the wingspan and my brother had to carry it around all day at the fair to his disgruntlement as my mother refused to cart it for him.

    Though MOTU had dwindled in my view and was way off trend by that point (I was about 10 and heavily invested into GI Joe) , my little brother was about 7 and still into the line so it got bit of play value before being relegated to the forgotten toy box and eventually donated to our younger cousins. I think I saw it at their place last around my final days in high school in the mid/late 90’s looking worse for fear (cousins were pretty savage on toys) but considering my brother paid $1.50 for it at a jumble sale, it did well to survive that long!

    Visually, I always felt it would have aligned nicely with The Horde, but this may have been due to getting it confused with The Fright Zone in terms of naming and creating a head-canon association!

  3. that Skeletor airplane concept image that originally had the name Fright Fighter looks suspiciously like the Miles Mayhem’s Switchblade jet from mattel’s M.A.S.K. line

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