Evil Warriors

Laser-Light Skeletor – Evil Master of Light Energy (1988)

Laser-Light Skeletor, released in Italy and Spain a year after the end of the Masters of the Universe toyline in the US, was a figure most North American fans were not aware of until they discovered it online years later. That was certainly true for me. Because the figure was produced in limited numbers overseas, it’s one of the most expensive vintage He-Man toys to acquire today. (Update: I’m also informed that there was some distribution of Laser Light Skeletor in Switzerland. Thanks to Olmo for the information.)

I’m not someone who owns a lot of high-dollar items, but if I was going to own one, this would be it. I can’t fully explain why that is – my tastes tend to gravitate toward the aesthetics of the earlier MOTU figures. But there is something about Laser-Light Skeletor in all his creepy, funky techno-glory that really draws me in.

The earliest known concept art for the figure comes from Dave Wolfram, who also did a lot of work on the New Adventures of He-Man toyline. (That line is actually just called “He-Man”, but it’s common to refer to it as “New Adventures”, after the accompanying 1990 animated series)

In this artwork, dated June 22, 1987, Wolfram incorporates all kinds of wires and mechanisms into “Bio-Mechazoid Skeletor.” The design is quite similar to the final Laser-Light Skeletor, except he lacks his cape, glowing right hand, and glowing staff. He carries a strange claw weapon that might have been intended to work like a pair of pliers.

Image Source: Power and Honor Foundation

Wolfram created another piece of concept art that reflects a closer-to-final design, including the staff, right hand, cape and battery pack:

Image courtesy of David Wolfram

Wolfram’s style is pretty distinctive, reflecting a kind of brutal futurist design that would come to dominate the New Adventures of He-Man toyline’s look, especially in the villain faction. Laser-Light Skeletor technically belongs in the original Masters of the Universe toyline, but he is clearly a giant step in the direction of the New Adventures.

An early, rough prototype of the figure appears in a 1988 French Catalog. It looks like a quickly thrown together proof of concept type figure, built from a standard Skeletor toy, but with gloves, trunks and boots painted brown/copper. He also has some crude armor laid over his chest, as well as a cloth cape and hood ever his sculpted hood. The light feature has been incorporated into his eyes (quite effectively) and hand. His staff is built from the original release staff, but with a snake-like head and in translucent red.

Image source: Grayskull Museum
Image source: La Cueva del Terror

A close to final version of the figure appears in the Italian advertisement below. This prototype has a yellow belt buckle, a “Y” shape in red on his forehead, and a translucent red casting of the original Skeletor havoc staff, with the disk designs removed. This prototype uses all newly sculpted pieces, other than the staff.

The cross sell artwork for the figure seems to be based on a further refined design for the figure, which is almost like the final toy, but still features a not-quite final staff and finer paint work on the right boot:

The final figure lost the “Y” on the forehead and the colored belt buckle, and has further modifications to the staff design. The figure has quite an extreme “squat” pose, reminiscent of some of the knock-off He-Man figures produced earlier in the 1980s. He has a creepy, stylized, almost alien-looking skull face (loose figure images below via eBay):

Laser Power Skeletor rides Tyrantisaurus. Image source: La Cueva del Terror
The laser figures on Beam Blaster and Artilleray. Image source: La Cueva del Terror

Designer Dave Wolfram provided me with some background information about the look and origin of the figure:

While MOTU was tanking domestically, it was still going strong Internationally, which was a year behind in the product cycle. This was done to have something new for that market. LISA (the light transmitting plastic) was a fairly new ‘shiny toy’ for the designers at the time, so that was the hook for that segment. I think Martin did the final He-Man design… I did the design for Skeletor. My working name was Bio-Mechazoid Skeletor, and it was inspired by influences like Giger, and the Gibson novel, Neuromancer. Sadly, like many of our products of the time, engineering dictated what we had to design around, and in this case it was a huge battery box. Try as we might to design around it, it made the torso oversized, so to compensate, we had to give the legs a little more bend, leading to our new working name: “Take a Dump Skeletor”.

Unlike every previous version of Skeletor before him, Laser-Light Skeletor had a removable hood. This variant had some extensive wiring around the back of his head – a feature he shares with the New Adventures Skeletor:

Image source: Jimmy_Ikon/He-Man.org

Skeletor’s LED eyes and right hand could be activated by raising the figure’s right arm. The light from his hand was meant to also illuminate his translucent staff, although the effect diminished quickly the further it got away from the the light source

The figure was produced in Spain and Italy. Spanish versions typically came with a minicomic-sized catalog, and the Italian versions came without the catalog. I’ve heard of the figure coming packaged with a copy of the Powers of Grayskull minicomic, but I haven’t seen an example.

Spanish release with catalog.
Italian card front. Image source: He-Man.org
Italian cardback. Image source: He-Man.org
Laser-Light Skeletor artwork from the front of the card (by Bruce Timm). Like the cross sell artwork, this features a havoc staff that is close to the original 1982 design, minus the ball end and the disks near the top. Image source: Jukka Issakainen (scanned and cleaned up)

Some figures came with belts painted gold on the front, and red on the back:

Image source: Wespenmann/He-Man.org

The catalog that came packed with the figure featured both of the light-up variants.

Image source: He-Man.org
Image source: He-Man.org

A nice poster featuring a photo the figure was included in the Yugoslav edition of the Masters of the Universe Star Comics:

Because Laser-Light Skeletor came at the very tail end of the line, he was never featured in any vintage minicomics or other stories, sadly. I suppose we can imagine that his tale might have been very similar to Skeletor as depicted in the New Adventures series of minicomics:

The French Club Maitres de l’Univers magazine published a comic featuring early concept versions of Laser Power He-Man and Laser-Light Skeletor, alongside characters whose figures were released in 1987 (images are from Nathalie NHT):

Update: Aidan in the comments below provides some fascinating background information (by way of Emiliano Santalucia) about the true intent behind the creation of Laser Light Skeletor and Laser Power He-Man. I’m quoting his comments verbatim here:

A little-known fact about Laser Light Skeletor and Laser Power He-Man is that they were designed to be the lead figures for a brand new interactive toy line that would be accompanied by a live action TV series. The intention was that the figures and weapons would be able to interact with the episodes of the TV show. It’s unclear as yet how far into production the live action series got, but props and sets were designed for it and from the limited information available it appears it was going to be space-based and very sci-fi, with He-Man and Skeletor battling for possession of some sort of glowing crystals that were the source of the laser power of their weapons. Vehicles and playsets were designed for the toy line, but for reasons unknown, the plans for this line were scrapped around 1988. As the Laser figures had been made, they were given a limited release in Europe as part of the regular MOTU line, similar to what had been done with the giants and dinosaurs from the unreleased Powers of Grayskull line. Later, Mattel used the space-based idea for the ‘He-Man’ line better known as the New Adventures, while the idea for an interactive toy line accompanied by a live action show was used for Mattel’s line Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future.

I hope more information about the interactive toy line and the live action series comes to light as it’s one of the most intriguing chapters in MOTU’s history particularly as so little is known about it. There’s even been rumors that the pilot episode was actually made but never screened, though these rumors are unsubstantiated.

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0 thoughts on “Laser-Light Skeletor – Evil Master of Light Energy (1988)

  1. A little-known fact about Laser Light Skeletor and Laser Power He-Man is that they were designed to be the lead figures for a brand new interactive toy line that would be accompanied by a live action TV series. The intention was that the figures and weapons would be able to interact with the episodes of the TV show. It’s unclear as yet how far into production the live action series got, but props and sets were designed for it and from the limited information available it appears it was going to be space-based and very sci-fi, with He-Man and Skeletor battling for possession of some sort of glowing crystals that were the source of the laser power of their weapons. Vehicles and playsets were designed for the toy line, but for reasons unknown, the plans for this line were scrapped around 1988. As the Laser figures had been made, they were given a limited release in Europe as part of the regular MOTU line, similar to what had been done with the giants and dinosaurs from the unreleased Powers of Grayskull line. Later, Mattel used the space-based idea for the ‘He-Man’ line better known as the New Adventures, while the idea for an interactive toy line accompanied by a live action show was used for Mattel’s line Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future.

    I hope more information about the interactive toy line and the live action series comes to light as it’s one of the most intriguing chapters in MOTU’s history particularly as so little is known about it. There’s even been rumors that the pilot episode was actually made but never screened, though these rumors are unsubstantiated.

    1. This is fascinating Aidan, thanks for sharing! I had heard of the live action/interactive MOTU series, but had not heard that it was connected with the Laser figures. If you don’t mind I’d like to quote your comments here in the body of the article!

      Thanks again!

        1. mmm.. I think the rumour has some possibly but remember, Captain Power first aired September 1987, work starting would have been… early 87 at the latest.. So if plans were scrapped in 1988, that was AFTER Captain power had been on the air.. in fact, it would more lined up with the show ending.. about mid 1988 the last episode aired.. The show was more cancelled then just ended because the scripts were commissioned and made for Series 2 but not produced.. So it seams more likely Mattel felt the idea was going to go well, but due to Captain Power not doing well, the idea was scrapped.. It was known that the toys were a bit of a flop, believed to be partly related to pricing.

          1. The ’88 date was just approx, it may well have been earlier that Mattel made/cancelled the plans for the interactive line and incorporated them into Captain Power. Either way I do hope more information comes to light, in the form of sketches for the planned toy line or interviews with Mattel execs who worked on it, as it would definitely have been an adventurous direction to take the MOTU franchise in,

          2. had to reply here (reply missing for your post Aidan)..Captain Power started in 85 with the idea of CGI robot badguys, and futuristic settings and stuff.., the interactive angle was about late 1986, for filming to start in spring of 87.

            So while all this is possible… we have to say, in 1986, Autumn or winter at the latest, they decided to add the interactive side to Captain Power… So… erm.. We get a bit more.. erm, confusing here.. Gary Goddard was involved with Captain Power since 86 at least.. if not 85.. So at the same time the were doing Captain power, and starting work on the Live action film of Masters of the Universe, they were working on a Live action series… and getting ready for the Power of Grayskull revamp… I really like this idea but it’s getting a bit complex without direct input from people like Goddard and… well.. it’s possible but that prototype figure used in the 88 cat, would have been made in 86… it’s probably nothing, I can clearly be wrong but… somethings doesn’t sit right with me.. and rumours have a bad way of going when they sound like a mixture of wish fulfilment with realism..

          3. You’re right, it does all sound very convoluted. And let’s not forget that Gary Goddard was also involved with the Power Tour around the same time, which he scripted. And I hadn’t realized that Captain Power actually began as early as 1985, I just remember the ads for the toys in the UK MOTU Comics around ’88. It sounds as though the interactive MOTU line was one of many ideas that were being tossed around at that same time, together with the POG line, and let’s not forget there were the plans for ‘He-Ro, Son of He-Man’ shortly before the NA line debuted. And also those sketches for the ‘H.E.M.A.N.’ military line that was thankfully never green-lit. I would wage a bet there were loads more that we’ve never heard anything about. I wonder what Gary Goddard knows about the plans for the live action series and if he would have been involved had it gone ahead; it sounds reasonably likely given the other projects at the time. It’s very unclear just how far plans for the live action series got but the fact that the Laser figures were made at all, with expensive new molds and fancy features etc., does suggest it was a serious plan at some point. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that someone official, be it Goddard or someone from Mattel, comes forward with the info we need!

  2. I remember seeing both light up figures for sale in a Spanish market whilst on our first family abroad back in 89. Saddly I passed them over in favour of something call a Gameboy. Dam your eyes Super Mario!

    Great article BR! once again you’ve shined light on another forgotten corner of the MOTU. Cant wait to see what you discover next.

    1. Thanks Sir S! I’m really grateful to Aidan for adding some additional context behind this figure.

      If I ever find myself in Spain or Italy I imagine I’d be spending a lot of time looking through flea markets in the hopes of finding one 🙂

  3. Great article. I must have comes across the figure on a Holiday in Italy back in 88 or 89. However I remember it being very expensive (to me that is). Love the figure. Aquired one in good condition with working lights but missing battery Lid, Cape and staff. See here: https://youtu.be/IKz7xZIVEG4

  4. Another great article. I was a hardcore collector right through the vintage line’s run, but as with many of us, I didn’t even know of the existence of the Laser Lights until many years later with the advent of the internet. When I collected a complete line of the vintage figures about a decade ago now, the Laser Lights were the only figures other than the equally-as-rare-giants that I didn’t get hold of.

    As we’re seeing more about the pair over the years, it’s amazing to see how both of them, especially Skeletor, are basically a mid-point between MOTU and NA, to the extent that Skeletor is very much NA Skeletor done in vintage figure style (if that makes sense) as they have so many details and designs in common.

    Back in those early days of the internet, I did read rumours on fan newsboards about the aborted live-action MOTU series. Although it didn’t give any details about the Laser Lights tie-in (that I recall), but I think the description was that it was to be part animated, with live-action inserts. Something in my head said that Filmation had been potentially, which is possible considering, I understand it, they proposed their version of a NA cartoon before the rights went elsewhere – although though this may have just been fan speculation or indeed my own “join-the-dots” speculation.

    (As a sidenote, Battleram, interested to read that you too generally favour the earlier figures from the line; whilst I appreciated all areas of MOTU, it is those early figures, though often more limited in terms of new sculpts, that is my main love).

    1. I first heard the rumors about the live action series back in the mid-00s when rumors were flying that an aborted pilot episode had actually been made starring someone called Paul Ellers, but had been unscreened due to being labelled ‘too homoerotic’. I laughed this off as a silly rumor, but in more recent years Emiliano revealed some of the sketches for the live action series as part of the Power and Honor Foundation’s discoveries.

      About Filmation proposing their own version of the NA – that is true, there had been a brief proposal for the ‘He-Ro, Son of He-Man’ series, which from the pitch was basically identical to the NA only with He-Man and Skeletor’s sons in the lead roles instead, but this pitch was rejected because it was felt that He-Man and Skeletor themselves should remain the focus… and then Filmation began developing plans for the ‘He-Man and the Masters of Space’ series, which would probably have gone ahead in some form had Filmation not gone out of business overnight in 1989, meaning Mattel approached Jetlag instead to do the cartoon for the new toys.

  5. Oh, by the way.. not important but the Italian advert:
    “Stop where you are He-Man! You are about to be Hypnotized by my Diabolical eyes of fire!”
    “Don’t make me laugh The glow of my luminous sword is strong enough to reduce your eyes into coal”
    -Raise the arms of the two warriors and you will see the splendour of He-man’s sword and the sinister light in the fist and eyes of Skeletor!

    that’s a rough translation.. a native can do better since I’m pretty bad.. despite them making the staff to kinda glow, they didn’t seam to play up that fact at all.. it’s mostly the fist and eyes. As you can see, even the art and pack text doesn’t show the ability for the staff…

  6. Being Italian I remember these two “laser light” figures very well and I still have a magazine with the same commercial showed here.
    They were not very popular in the 80s because of the sci-fi design and the cumbersome battery packs made them somewhat hard to interact with vehicles and playsets. Skeletor however was better than He-Man both in feature and sculpt (because the sculpt of Laser He-Man sucks a lot and his sword looked like a toy)

    1. Interesting, thanks DarkAlex1978! I wonder how these would have been received had they been released here in the US. LL Skeletor is a lot more visually interesting than LP He-Man, for sure.

      1. He-Man and the MOTU were very popular in Italy: there were magazines, various merchandise and the cartoon was reaired a lot of times but still these two figures were not well received. I think that it foreshadowed the flop of the New Adventures (yeah, the NA flopped here too because of that XD): too much drastic change in design and quality.
        It’s a shame: Skeletor with light red eyes is the coolest gimmick possible,

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