Ninjor is perhaps the most G.I. Joe-like figure in the Masters of the Universe series. He certainly feels like He-Man’s answer to Snake Eyes or Storm Shadow. He doesn’t exactly fit with the general science/sword and sorcery motif of MOTU, but then of course by the last couple of years of the line it had become a something of a kitchen sink of ideas.
Design & Development
Ninjor was designed by David Wolfram. In my interview with him, David had this to say regarding Ninjor:
Early on in my Mattel career , I was given the task to do four figures using minimal new tooling. They were Scareglow Skeletor, King Randor, Ninjor, and Clamp Champ. The four characters had already been conceived of and the concepts sold in, so all I had to do was to make it happen.
Part of that was going through the tooling banks to find parts to add to the appearance of the figures. I did get new tooling for Clamp Champ’s weapon, and for four heads. Hal Faulkner, one of our good outside sculpting vendors, sculpted the heads.
Ninjor was a dead ringer for Lee Van Cleef, who had done some karate or kung fu based show around that time, so we had to change that.
Ninjor came with three weapons – a sword (borrowed from Jitsu), a bow and arrow (borrowed from the Eternia playset) and nunchucks. He also came with a cloth costume that obscured most of his face. He borrows the spring arm action feature from Fisto and Jitsu, which allows him to attack with his sword or nunchucks with his right hand. Jitsu was of course also a martial arts themed figure, although he looked more heavily armored rather than stealthy.
The one piece of his design that separates Ninjor from a typical terrestrial ninja is his three-toed feet, borrowed from Dragon Blaster Skeletor.
The illustration on the front of Ninjor’s card was done by Bruce Timm, while the scene on the back of the card was done by Errol McCarthy:
At one point Mattel was planning to reuse the Ninjor concept to create a white-costumed ninja warrior, making the Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow comparison all the more apt. However, these plans never came to fruition.
As in the card art and in the commercial at the beginning of this article, Ninjor was often portrayed as the nemesis of Clamp Champ. That is also evident in the comic that came packed with Ninjor, The Search For Keldor. In the story, Skeletor summons the “most evil beings from time and space” from another dimension to do his bidding:
In the comic, you can see Ninjor with the arms and legs of He-Man (all in black) rather than Skeletor. That may represent an earlier concept design for him.
Characterization and Other Stories
The 1987 Style Guide (above, illustrated by Errol McCarthy) characterized Ninjor this way:
Power: Mastery of many martial arts weapons.
Character profile: This awful assassin has come from another world to serve Skeletor. His mission is to eliminate Heroic Warriors one by one, until He-Man no longer has any help in defending Eternia. Ninjor always moves with great speed, skill and silence.
In Masters of the Universe Adventure Magazine issue 9, Skeletor summons Scare Glow and Ninjor. As described in the style guide, Ninjor excels at stealthy attacks. In this issue he is depicted with a purple, green and white costume:
In Star Comics Masters of the Universe issue 7, Skeletor again summons Ninjor, along with Blast Attak. The two don’t immediately hit it off:
In the 1987 winter issue of the US MOTU Magazine, Ninjor makes another prominent appearance, where he manages to elude both Clamp Champ and Rio Blast:
Artwork & Advertisements
Coming so late in the Masters of the Universe line, Ninjor didn’t show up in a lot of artwork, but he was a background character in posters illustrated by William George, Earl Norem and Esteban Maroto:
Errol McCarthy went on to illustrate the character again, this time battling He-Man with his live-action movie costume:
Ninjor also showed up in a few catalogs and advertisements:
Ninjor isn’t the most distinctive-looking figure in the world, but he does look rather smart and has some fun features and accessories.
Ninjor in Action
Øyvind Meisfjord has generously shared the following image and video of Ninjor in action: