History

Masters of the Universe Advertising Timeline

In an ongoing quest to understand the chronology of events related to Masters of the Universe, I’ve constructed a timeline of first appearance newspaper ads for all He-Man toys. I think probably newspaper ads get us closest to real commercial release dates for MOTU figures than any other data point.

First, some notes on the process and limitations of this timeline. I used the Newspapers.com database as my source of information. So it is limited to a) what newspapers they have archived, b) the extent to which the text has been made accurately searchable and c) my ability to suss out variant spellings, such as “Castle Grey Skull” and “2 Bad.” Sometimes figures are advertised by photo but not called out by name, which is an additional challenge. So this timeline may change as newspapers are added to their corpus or as I’m able to find additional, earlier ads. Another limitation is that Newspapers.com only archives English-language newspapers. Eventually I’d love to get some European newspaper ad dates for the 1988 wave.

I will mention that Newspapers.com does cost money, so if you are able to kick over a donation, that will help me to be able to do research like this.

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A couple of other things – I don’t think the data for 1987 is particularly good. The frequency of MOTU newspaper ads is quite sparse. Advertisers were already winding down their ad spend as the line was dying. So, the 1987 dates may be less accurate in representing something that is close to a probable release date. The advertising early in 1982 is also a bit sparse, as it was a brand new line and I think it took a few months for retailers to realize they had a major hit on their hands. So again, some of the very first figures might have come out weeks before the earliest advertisements I was able to find. I also excluded mention of figure names in a 1982 cash rebate offer – the mention of figures eligible for the offer does not necessarily indicate that all of those figures were available at the time the offer was advertized.

Another challenge of the early ads was that there was a tendency to use stock art without naming characters. Did that represent the availability of all those figures, or were advertisers just using the art they had on hand? For that reason I’ve included a couple of different dates for late first wave figures – first time the artwork was advertised and the first time the name of the toy was advertised. Also, in 1986 there is a case where figures (the first three Snake Men) were advertised ahead of release date, which was noted by the advertiser. I made note of both the “pre-release” and actual sale dates.

For illustrative purposes I will include some sample advertisements, but there are simply too many to include them all. I’ll also eventually add these dates to my earlier Timeline article for more comprehensive view of dates and events related to MOTU.

1982

05/13/1982: First Skeletor newspaper ad
05/13/1982: First Man-At-Arms newspaper ad
05/13/1982: First He-Man newspaper ad
05/13/1982: First Beast Man newspaper ad
06/03/1982: First Battle Ram newspaper ad
06/03/1982: First Battle Cat newspaper ad
06/03/1982: First Castle Grayskull newspaper ad (“Castle Grey Skull”)
06/03/1982: First Stratos newspaper ad (pictured, not named)
06/03/1982: First Zodac newspaper ad (pictured, not named)
06/09/1982: First Teela newspaper ad
06/18/1982: First Stratos newspaper ad (mentioned by name)
07/22/1982: First Wind Raider newspaper ad
08/08/1982: First Mer-Man newspaper ad (mentioned by name)
08/08/1982: First Zodac newspaper ad (mentioned by name)

Newsday, June 3, 1982

1983

Commentary: Mekaneck shows up at the end of the year in 1983, although Mattel designates him among the 1984 figures in their official catalog.

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02/20/1983: First Man-E-Faces newspaper ad
04/14/1983: First “Buy 3 Get 1 Free” offer ad (Wun-Dar aka Savage He-Man aka Wonder Bread He-Man)
04/17/1983: First Faker newspaper ad
05/11/1983: First Ram Man newspaper ad
06/30/1983: First Evil-Lyn newspaper ad
06/30/1983: First Tri-Klops newspaper ad
07/15/1983: First Attak Trak newspaper ad
08/04/1983: First Talon Fighter newspaper ad
08/28/1983: First Trap Jaw newspaper ad
09/21/1983: First Screeech newspaper ad (spelled “Screech”)
09/22/1983: First Panthor newspaper ad
09/23/1983: First Zoar newspaper ad
12/14/1983: First Mekaneck newspaper ad

The Commercial Appeal, Aug 12, 1983

1984

01/25/1984: First Road Ripper newspaper ad
03/11/1984: First Battle Armor He-Man newspaper ad
03/11/1984: First Battle Armor Skeletor newspaper ad
03/11/1984: First Roton newspaper ad
03/22/1984: First Prince Adam newspaper ad
03/22/1984: First Orko appearance in stores (costumed actor- unclear if that means toy was available)
04/28/1984: First Buzz-Off newspaper ad
04/28/1984: First Whiplash newspaper ad
05/11/1984: First Dragon Walker newspaper ad
06/03/1984: First Snake Mountain newspaper ad
06/03/1984: First Stridor newspaper ad
08/03/1984: First Fisto newspaper ad
09/09/1984: First Webstor newspaper ad
10/12/1984: Clawful and Buzz-Off mentioned as popular toys in newspaper story
10/24/1984: First Kobra Khan newspaper ad
10/25/1984: First Clawful newspaper ad
10/25/1984: First Orko newspaper ad (actual toy)
11/18/1984: First Jitsu newspaper ad

The Spokesman Review March 22, 1984

1985

01/13/1985: First Land Shark newspaper ad
01/24/1985: First Moss Man newspaper ad
01/24/1985: First Stinkor newspaper ad
02/28/1985: First Roboto newspaper ad
02/28/1985: First Two Bad newspaper ad
03/31/1985: First Bashasaurus newspaper ad
03/31/1985: First Battle Bones newspaper ad
05/30/1985: First Spikor newspaper ad
06/01/1985: First Spydor newspaper ad
06/14/1985: First Night Stalker newspaper ad
08/08/1985: First Dragon Blaster Skeletor newspaper ad (implied)
08/08/1985: First Hordak Newspaper ad (costumed actor appearance)
08/08/1985: First Thunder Punch He-Man newspaper ad
08/20/1985: First Grizzlor newspaper ad
08/20/1985: First Hordak newspaper ad (actual toy)
08/20/1985: First Leech newspaper ad
08/20/1985: First Mantenna newspaper ad
08/25/1985: First Dragon Blaster Skeletor newspaper ad (explicitly shown)
08/30/1985: First Sy-Klone newspaper ad
09/14/1985: First Fright Zone newspaper ad
09/28/1985: First Modulok newspaper ad

Calgary Herald, Sept 28, 1985

1986

A bit of commentary here – there are some surprises in this section. A number of figures Mattel designated as 1987 wave figures in Mattel’s dealer catalog appear at the end of the year in 1986, including King Randor, Clamp Champ, Snake Face, Scare Glow, Ninjor, Mosquitor and Beam Blaster & Artilleray.

01/11/1986: First Laser Bolt Newspaper ad
01/11/1986: First Slime Pit Newspaper ad
02/02/1986: First Rokkon newspaper ad
02/02/1986: First Stonedar newspaper ad
02/12/1986: First Flying Fists He-Man newspaper ad
02/12/1986: First Terror Claws Skeletor newspaper ad
02/21/1986: First King Hiss newspaper ad (figure coming in April)
02/21/1986: First Rattlor newspaper ad (figure coming in April)
02/21/1986: First Tung Lashor newspaper ad (figure coming in April)
04/23/1986: First Dragstor newspaper ad
05/01/1986: First King Hiss newspaper ad (figure listed as available)
05/10/1986: First Rattlor newspaper ad (figure listed as available)
05/10/1986: First Tung Lashor newspaper ad (figure listed as available)
05/11/1986: First Mantisaur newspaper ad
06/03/1986: First Blasterhawk newspaper ad
07/18/1986: First Jet Sled newspaper ad
07/18/1986: First Megalaser newspaper ad
07/18/1986: First Stilt Stalkers newspaper ad
08/24/1986: First Snout Spout newspaper ad
09/10/1986: First Hurricane Hordak newspaper ad
09/28/1986: First Fright Fighter newspaper ad
10/11/1986: First Meteorbs newspaper ad
10/11/1986: First Multi-Bot newspaper ad
10/23/1986: First Monstroid newspaper ad
11/05/1986: First Extendar newspaper ad
11/05/1986: First Rio Blast newspaper ad
11/08/1986: First Horde Trooper newspaper ad
11/23/1986: First Eternia Playset newspaper ad
11/27/1986: First Beam Blaster & Artilleray newspaper ad
11/27/1986: First Mosquitor newspaper ad
11/27/1986: First Ninjor newspaper ad
11/27/1986: First Scare Glow newspaper ad
11/27/1986: First Snake Face newspaper ad
12/09/1986: First Clamp Champ newspaper ad
12/09/1986: First King Randor newspaper ad

Clarion Ledger, July 18, 1986

1987

03/14/1987: First Tyrantisaurus Rex newspaper ad
03/21/1987: First Blast Attak newspaper ad
03/21/1987: First Sorceress newspaper ad
03/21/1987: First Sssqueeze newspaper ad
04/04/1987: First Bionatops newspaper ad
04/04/1987: First Turbodactyl newspaper ad
08/08/1987: First Blade newspaper ad
08/08/1987: First Gwildor newspaper ad
08/08/1987: First Saurod newspaper ad
11/11/1987: First Buzz-Saw Hordak newspaper ad
11/11/1987: First Rotar newspaper ad
11/11/1987: First Twistoid newspaper ad
Not found: Tower Tools, Cliff Climber, Scubattack

The Gazette, August 8, 1987

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing this advertising timeline. Again, I don’t think the dates are 100% the same as when the toys actually showed up in shelves, but most dates should be fairly close. I think this timeline also should functional as a reasonably accurate order of release list. If you happen to find a dated advertisement for a figure that is earlier than what I have found, please let me know in the comments!

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9 thoughts on “Masters of the Universe Advertising Timeline

  1. This interesting compilation of dates suggests (and reinforces) some interesting things:

    * I’m surprised how very early in the second wave ads Faker appears, as for some years I’ve understood/speculated that he was quite a late add-on to the second wave (I’ve also come to fairly agree with the the theory that Faker may originally have been designated as the exclusive mail-in character which became Wun Dar, as they were both cheap to produce as they had no new parts; with Faker instead being added to the second wave).

    * Ditto, it’s surprising how early Evil Lyn appears in adds. I always presumed they were late-ish additions, partly backed up by the fact neither appeared in any second wave mini-comics.

    * Conversely, I’m surprised how LATE Trap Jaw first appears in comparison. I wonder maybe if there was a hold up in production (maybe a production hitch with the articulated jaw or suchlike?) that resulted in him being ‘held back’ slightly. I do recall here in the U.K. when trying to get hold of Trap Jaw, he was elusive for a LONG time. Then when I won him in some fan club competition (or was it from collection box tokens?) there was again several months wait, indicating there was problems getting hold of stock of the character. Then again, the UK was a bit behind the US so it may be totally unrelated.

    * For many years in the earlier days of the internet, Mekaneck could often be found listed amongst second wave figures, even though he technically wasn’t (third wave clam-style armour, no second wave mini-comic appearances or namechecks in the mini-comic copyrights, etc). I wonder if early advertisements such as this contributed to that confusion?

    * Interesting to see the early mention name of “Dem Bones” for Battle Bones. It’s bringing distant memories of hearing that working title for the creature both back in the day, and possibly on this blog (I’ll have to check). Presumably the name was changed for copyright reasons relating to the old ‘Dem Bones’ song.

    * Also, unrelated to actual release dates, but interesting to see black face Grizzlor in one of the promo artworks (though isn’t THAT scarce as this and similar shots also turned up elsewhere).

    …Working on various vintage TV-related projects over the years (and my YouTube channel on such FINALLY coming in a few weeks time if all goes as planned), I know how tough searching newspapers.com and a British equivalent site can be, allowing for wrong spellings, bad print, erroneous/misunderstood information being repeated in multiple sources (common!), and all sorts. I always find the hunt rewarding when I finally piece enough bits of information together for what I’m researching, though. 🙂

    1. …Oh and just to add, I have saved somewhere a British newspaper snippet of costumed He-Man and Skeletor actors in a “come and see them” promotion illustrated in ‘The Spokesman Review March 22, 1984’ above, where the actor inside the He-Man costume became so hot and faint in the toyshop with all the children around, that he had to be taken away to sit down quietly, which for some reasons amuses me (it turns out he was fine afterwards).
      I can just imagine the costumed Skeletor standing cackling “I win this time, He-Man”, as the faint He-Man actor was taken quietly away to recoup.

    2. Yes, Dem Bones was the early working name for Battle Bones, interesting to see it in an ad. Your comments remind me, I need to update this list to include the earliest buy 3 get 1 free offer advertisment, which is essentially and ad for Wun Dar!

      Thanks for your comments as always:)

    3. Yeah, I definitely remember it took a long time for Trap Jaw to come out, and I remember it being warm and I wasn’t in school when I finally bagged him, so late August sounds about right.

      (I was living in NE Ohio at the time, which for decades was THE best place to live if you were collecting toys. Somewhere in the decade between my visits in 2006 and 2016, that became no longer the case.)

  2. Cool article! Thank you! I went to one of those “Meet He-Man, Skeletor, and Orko” functions at our local Miller Sales / Best in Massillon, Ohio. While I waited in line, Mum went and snagged a Prince Adam and an Orko for me. A very good day.

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