Heroic Warriors

Mekaneck: Heroic human periscope! (1984)

Mekaneck is one of those figures that I never owned as a kid and had limited exposure to in general. I remember seeing him only once in the wild – when visiting some distant relatives for the first time. I remember their son showing me his He-Man collection, which included Mekaneck and Buzz-Off (the first time I had seen either figure in person).

My exposure to him as a character otherwise was mostly punctuated by his appearance in the Filmation cartoon episode, “Disappearing Dragons”, and his inclusion in the He-Man and the Insect People mini comic that came with my Prince Adam figure. More on those later.

In online interactions I see a lot of people claiming that Mekaneck is a second wave figure, released in 1983 along with Tri-Klops, Man-E-Faces, etc. I don’t think that’s true, for several reasons:

  • Mekaneck is stamped 1983 on his back. The year on the back of MOTU figures is almost always the year before the figure was released, when it was in development. 1982 figures are stamped 1981, 1983 figures are stamped 1982, and 1984 figures are stamped 1983:
  • Mekaneck features snap-together clamshell armor. No other 1983 figure has that kind of armor, but many of the 1984 figures have it
  • Mekaneck does not show up in the 1983 Mattel Dealer Catalog. He does show up in the 1984 Mattel Dealer Catalog.
  • Mattel filed a trademark on Mekaneck’s name on August 22, 1983. They filed trademarks on the same day for other 1984 figures and toys like Clawful, Buzz-Off, Fisto, Jitsu, and Roton.
  • Mekaneck’s cross sell art does not appear on the back of 1983 packaging
  • Mekaneck does not appear in the mini comics until 1984 (not conclusive evidence, as the same is true of Evil-Lyn).

There are a couple of evidences that indicate that Mekaneck may have come very early in 1984 – one is that he appears in the 1983 Mattel Licensing Kit, along with Orko, Sorceress and Dragon Walker. This seems to indicate that Mattel was ready to promote him as a figure before many others in the 1984 line. Additionally, while Mekaneck first appears in the 1984 Mattel Dealer Catalog, he is not marked as “New for ’84” as all the other figures were (thanks to Matthew Martin for first pointing that out to me).

Update: Contrary to my earlier arguments, Mekaneck was actually released as early as Christmas 1983, from the Mattel Fall Promotion mini catalog below.

In searching through newspaper archives, the earliest Mekaneck ad I was able to find dates to December 14, 1983 (in the image below). It turns out that Mekaneck isn’t the only figure released just before the year/wave it officially belongs to – 1987 figures like King Randor, Ninjor and Clamp Champ were available as early as December 1986.

I still think it’s sensible to group figures according to yearly waves as defined by Mattel’s official dealer catalogs. So I would consider Mekaneck to be a part of the third wave, even if he came out a little earlier than the other figures.

Mekaneck’s early working name was Spy Man. The late 1982 Michael Halperin Bible describes him this way:

“SPY MAN – an able fighter, he has the ability to literally periscope his neck above obstacles in order to survey the landscape. This trait comes in handy when he’s with He-Man and they have to know the enemy’s location.”

In this concept illustration by Roger Sweet, Mekaneck has a red shirt, yellow boots and armor, a relatively simple armor design (like the final design, it covers the figure’s mouth when his neck is not extended), and a helmet design that looks a bit like it was cobbled together from a traffic cone and some ski goggles:

Image from The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog. Concept art by Roger Sweet.

Mekaneck’s periscoping neck worked by twisting his waist. The mechanism was designed by Tony Rhodes for Mattel, and a patent was filed for it on December 29, 1983:

A hand-painted prototype appears in this Rotoplast catalog (image via Jukka Issakainen):

The cross sell art used for Mekaneck shows a more or less finalized version of the figure, with the exception of his extended neck, which is red:

Image courtesy of Axel Giménez

He features a quite angular, almost Devo-esque helmet and goggles and  fairly bulky and angular armor that obscures the character’s mouth when his head is in its lowest position. As in Roger Sweet’s concept art, Mekaneck reuses He-Man body, but has a unique head, armor and weapon.

The final club design is quite ornate and, again, angular. It’s a strange weapon choice for such a futuristic-looking character, although one could imagine that some of the geometric shapes on the sides of the club are actually buttons that activate hidden functions.

You can see the hand-painted final prototype in this image from the German Mattel 1984 catalog (image courtesy of Olmo):

He has a superhero-esque color scheme, which represented something of a departure for the MOTU toy line, stylistically. As mentioned earlier in the cross sell art, Mekaneck’s mechanical neck is red, but it was colored silver in the final toy.

The exposed area on Mekaneck’s face, in my opinion, very much resembles He-Man’s face. I suspect that whoever sculpted the head used a He-Man head as a base, and added the mechanical elements over top.

The illustration on the back of the card, as with many others, was done by Errol McCarthy:

Errol produced several illustrations featuring or including Mekaneck:

Mekaneck was also available in several gift sets, including a three-pack with Moss Man and Buzz-Off, a two-pack with Roboto, and another two-pack with Ram Man:

On the instructions on the back of the three-pack, Mekaneck is depicted with quite a different color scheme (Beedo Sookcool in the comments pointed out that the color scheme corresponds pretty closely to Roger Sweet’s original concept artwork):

In the Filmation episode, “Search for a Son,” Mekaneck’s neck is badly injured in a storm, and Man-At-Arms finds him and gives him a bionic neck. I suppose that’s as good an origin story as any for a character with such an unusual super power, although if I were Mekaneck I’d be questioning whether Man-At-Arms had ever heard of a simple neck brace.

In various stories over the years, Mekaneck was frequently paired up with Buzz-Off. That’s true of the Filmation “Disappearing Dragons” episode (one of my all time favorites), and it’s also true of Mekaneck’s appearances in the mini comic He-Man and the Insect People.

In He-Man and the Insect People, Mekaneck uses his neck to propel his head into enemies rather than as a means to spy on them:

Mekaneck uses his head as intended in The Obelisk:

Mekaneck also appears alongside Man-E-Faces and Ram Man in the 1985 mini comic, Skeletor’s Dragon.

In at least one German comic book and catalog, Mekaneck is described as an astronaut, which seems to track with his general appearance:

Mekaneck makes an appearance in the Golden Books story, Maze of Doom. Strangely, he seems to have his helmet on backwards in this panel:

In box art, Mekaneck appears most notably in the illustration for Night Stalker (1985):

He also appears as one of many characters in posters by William George:

He appears in the following line art used for black and white newspaper and flier advertisements:

30 thoughts on “Mekaneck: Heroic human periscope! (1984)

  1. “Take a taste of the sword of power” He-ma shouts.. as he throws this enemy into beastman.. with no sword In sight… erm.. This is the little known character called ‘Sword of Power”..

    always liked Mekaneck for some reason, I think the neck extends well enough for use (some don’t.. I’ve seen toys with extending bits which give soo little, it’s pointless), and I like the Helmet ^_^.. though the comment about it being Devo like.. might be a reason.. I like Devo.. after all, are we not men?

  2. My 4th MOTU figure. I had 3 figures from 1982 and ignored 1983 (kids are fickle). I don’t know what made Mekaneck appeal to me. The colors? The reflecting lenses? I don’t recall seeing the other 1984 offerings when I saw him. But that doesn’t mean anything, trying to remember something from that far back.

  3. I can back up A-Man’s testimony in that I too saw Mekaneck in early 1984, well before the other ‘new for ’84’ figures. That was in the UK, but here, releases – apart from the Rockmen – were generally the same as the US. Oh, and I remember clearly this early Mekaneck was packaged with “Siege of Avion” mini-comic.

    1. Thanks guys. It does seem like Mekanek came out before other third wave figures, from several sources I’ve heard. He may be something of an “in-between” figure like Faker.

    1. You should definitely try to publish a book with this info. Dark Horse has already published those other guides and collections of MOTU apocrypha. Yours would be a great fit and a perfect bookend for the series they have released.

  4. Mekaneck’s add odd character in the mind-of-me, in that I generally loved the more humanoid early characters, and the figure’s design looked decent enough, but he was one that I never went for when saving up for a figure. Maybe it was the fact that the figure had to stand sideways for his extending neck action figure to work!
    Either way, there can’t have been a child in the land who didn’t use Mekaneck’s feature as a sideways battering ram! Then again, as several sources suggested (including that panel in ‘He-Man and the Insect People’) that the character did indeed use it for this purpose on occasion.

    Few sources (other than those German stories) ever gave any reasons for his suggested astronaut-like appearance, though as we’ve come to know, especially regarding the early waves, a character’s story and ‘reason for being’ often wasn’t decided until Mattel whacked it on quite late in the development process.

    Mekaneck’s release date has long been debated among the more picky collectors (myself included). I remember on the earliest on-line MOTU fan sites he was always listed as a second wave figure, which I always debated due to similar reasons given above in the blog. I seem to recall asking both on an ancient MOTU newsgroup, and an early version of He-Man.org, if anyone had a definite list and even some of the most hard core collectors insisting Mekaneck was second wave.
    Another suggestion of release year is that his trademarked name doesn’t even appear at the bottom of the back covers on any second wave mini-comics, though I take the clam-shell design of his armor, which didn’t appear until third wave figures, to be the biggest clue. The breaks between first and second and second and third waves never was that defined, it wasn’t really until the third wave (beyond the Mekaneck issue) and on into the fourth wave that things became a little more ‘set’.

    Regarding using the torso stamp as a clue of production, some caution must be used with this – I’ve had a Jitsu with a 1981 torso stamp.

    Regarding the figure’s weapon, I always took the club (or whatever it is) to resemble a giant telescope (giving it dual usage) and seem to recall several sources suggesting it was such, although I can’t recall where (as Mekaneck was more of a “middle of the road” character to me and beyond the first classic two waves, my recollections are slightly more hazy).

    There are a couple of colour variations to be found on the figures. A fairly well known one is his armour varying from red to pinky/orange; when I colected my complete set of the line circa early 2000s I did have one of these. I also had a version where the dark green belt was might lighter (in can have a natural variance on just how dark it is anyway). Sadly I sold this set on when times got hard, so I can’t varify country of origin.

    In the 200x line, I found the update of Mekaneck to suffer from what blighted much of the line for me – warped scale with very over-small head (the 200x version added a look-through visor, but the head was so small it was rather pointless) and so ridiculously molded that it was hard to stand up. I also wasn’t keen on in the 200x cartoon, whereas many things were ‘serious-ed up’ for this version, Mekneck’s neck was seen to stretch on for miles and miles, like a never-ending snake. Over-the-top-ness was something I never liked in the 200x cartoon series (then again, the Filmation cartoon series was sometimes spoiled by ridiculous, never-before-mentioned He-Man super abilities, so nothing’s perfect!)
    In the Filmation origin episode “Search for a Son” (one of the oldest MOTU episoes I have a copy of by the way, as, paired with “The Toymaker”, it was a very common budget video release here in the U.K.), whilst I kinda liked the story of Man-At-Arms’ (possibly illegal and immoral) of giving him a bionic neck after being injured in a storm, it always amused me that he was called “Mekaneck” even prior to having his bionic neck!

    1. …Adding to my previous thoughts on Mekaneck’s club actually doubling as a telescope, I’d forgotten that the hollow top (where a lens would be) does indeed point to this being the idea.

  5. Just chiming in to add a note on Mekaneck’s release. My birthday is on February 8th, and in 1984 I received a Mekaneck figure from a friend at my birthday party. However, my parents had already purchased one for me, so the birthday Mekaneck remained unopened on the card in my closet for decades. So, unless my parents picked the first one up for me in January 1984, he’s a late 1983 release.

  6. Great post, as usual. I’ve always liked Mekaneck. His design and color scheme reminds me so much of the Fisher Price Adventure People. Maybe he entered Eternia from their world.

    I’ve always wonder though: What’s Up With That Mace?

    Why sculpt and cast such a distinctive weapon for a character who is kind of a “one trick pony” with the neck extension gimmick?

    It seems strange that there is no “breadcrumb” anywhere that explains or even semi-addresses that beautiful and unique mace.

      1. Has anyone ever considered or confirmed that the club was intended to be a telescope? It always seemed that way to me, although there was no way for him to hold it properly.

  7. I forget where I read it recently, but it stated Mattel was working on some Jack Kirby concepts at the time, and the visual designs from that project may have influenced the design of this character.

    Great site! You should get in touch with Dark Horse. If they can do an episode guide of MOTU, they should do a figure-by-figure guide! That’s where it all began.

    1. If some people remember, some of the He-Man characters would come out a little early. Now I use to call the toy stores back in the day to find out what new figures were coming out. Like some of the posts have stated, some would come out after Christmas and or the first or the second week in January. I guess to give there sales a boost. In 1984, it was Mekaneck and I believe Roton that came out first. In 1985, it was Moss, Stinkor, and Land Shark that came out first ( it may have hit some stores as early as Christmas and or early New Years). In 1986, it was Rokkon, Stonedar, Laser Bolt, and the Slime Pit that came out first ( again in some markets, they may have came around Christmas and or early New Years). This was happening in Baltimore many years ago. I hope that helps.

  8. I just realised . . . the funky colours on Mekaneck’s 3-Pack cardback instruction illustrations are directly based on Roger Sweet’s “Spy Man” colour scheme, the one wearing ski goggles further up the page.

  9. The Heroic Warriors gift set with Roboto & Mekaneck — original price $10.99.
    Marked down to $2.99 — what a steal of a deal!!
    Wonder what that set sells for now on eBay…

  10. I remember specifically when I saw Mekaneck & Evil-Lyn together in the store for the 1st time as a child, as I didn’t know who they were having almost every figure from the previous 2 series. They were the only 2 new figures along with series 2 & 1 on the pegs. I never saw the series 3 figures until much much later.

  11. I remember specifically seeing Mekaneck & Evil-Lyn as a kid at retail on the peg after the 1983 lineup (Tri-Klops/Trap-Jaw) was released and before the 1984 lineup was out (Webstor/Buzz-Off), those 2 were kind of like Faker, in-between the main series of that year.

  12. I got Mekaneck for Christmas 1983. I was 5, and have a pic my mom took of the set up my dad displayed for me to see when i got up in the morning. Castle Grayskull along with my first 8 figures which were He-Man, Skeletor, Man-at-arms, Beast Man, Zodac, Man-e-faces, Ram Man and Mekaneck. I am in Canada.

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