Like many figures from the 1987 wave of figures, I never once encountered Rotar either in a toy store or at a friend’s house. He was a gimmick-heavy figure that was produced in low numbers at the tail end of the line, and so is one of the more expensive figures to find used today.
Design & Development
Unfortunately I don’t have much information about the design history of Rotar. I can share some dates from public filings involving Rotar, as well as the date of the earliest ad I’ve been able to find for the figure:
• 06/23/1986: Rotar/Twistoid patent filed
• 09/30/1986: Rotar first use in commerce filing
• 10/06/1986: Rotar trademarked
• 11/11/1987: First Rotar newspaper ad
The only seeming evolution in design I can detect in the extant artwork is a variant in the chest details in the Bruce Timm illustration that appeared on the front of the packaging. The “V” shaped area around the chin guard is silver rather than flesh-colored, and the rectangular silver area on his belly has a simpler design that what was featured in the actual toy. Also he is missing the crest on his helmet that appeared on the toy. I believe this is probably indicative of an earlier concept design. Some of these features also appear in his minicomic, which I will cover later.
Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen
Figure & Packaging
Rotar came with a few different accessories. He had a combined axe/ball-and-chain weapon to help him knock down enemies. He had a pedestal that he could stand on while spinning, and he had sword/gear gadget called a “Roto-Pod.” After revving up Rotar’s spinning action (done manually by dragging the top point across the floor), Rotar could be placed on any of the gears on the Roto-Pod, which would cause all of them to spin. Any of the gears could be separated from the sword-shaped base and revved up and launched manually via Rotar’s spinning mechanism.
The patent filing for Rotar went into some detail about how the mechanism worked, and included a few images. The mechanism was invented by Michael Crosby.
Rotar was packed on an oversized, deluxe card. The front features an illustration by Bruce Timm, while the back is illustrated by Errol McCarthy.
Rotar and Twistoid were both packed with this instruction booklet (images via He-Man.org):
There seems to have been a different set of instructions, with different illustrations and layout, in the Spanish release. (Image source: Mundo Masters).
Backstory & Comics
Rotar appeared in the 1987 style guide, where he was given a backstory. My version was almost unreadable, but thankfully Jukka Issakainen was able to provide me with a legible version:
ROLE: Heroic Energy Droid.
POWER: Ability to store up immense amounts of energy, then burst out in a super spinning action, plowing over warriors and taking on evil Energy Droids.
CHARACTER PROFILE: Rotar was created by Man-At-Arms as a high-energy advance scout to be used when the Heroic Warriors needed to clear a path in dangerous terrain. Rotar, who is half-human, also proved to a be a very talented warrior. (When Skeletor saw the droid’s prowess, he stole the plans from Man-At-Arms and built his own Energy Droid – See Evil Warriors section.)
Rotar came packaged with a minicomic entitled “Energy Zoids!” As in the style guide entry, he was”created” by Man-At-Arms. But the comic adds the detail that he was a wounded solder who was healed inside Man-At-Arms’ gyro machine. Rotar has the simpler chest design seen in the Bruce Timm art, but his other details follow the design of the final toy.
He also appears in issue 8 (1988) of the Italian Magic Boy magazine, in a story called “RadioSabbotagio.” It’s a bit of a bizarre opening. Rotar, Roboto and Extendar are in an earth-like park in an earth-like city. They are trying to impress three earth-like women. Just as they are starting to win the women over, they suddenly start attacking them. It turns out that Skeletor used some kind of radio transmitter to gain control of them, causing them to attack their would-be dates, and then He-Man.
Artwork & Advertisements
Rotar appears in William George’s 1987 Preternia poster:
He appeared in a handful of ads, the majority of which seem to have been published in Europe:
Rotar in Actions
Thanks to Øyvind Meisfjord for providing the image and video below showcasing Rotar and Twistoid in action!
Return to Table of Contents.
10 thoughts on “Rotar: Heroic Master of Hyper-Spin (1987)”
I always thought Rotar’s backstory was funny. I imagine it going something like this:
Man-at-Arms walks into the recovery room to see Rotar lying in bed. Rotar says, “How bad is it, Man-at-Arms?”
Man-at-Arms replies, “It was pretty bad. You’d lost both legs and your torso was heavily damaged. But I was able to use my tech to help you out.”
“That’s great! So you gave me new robotic legs? Am I going to be Kickor now? Will I have the ability to do super kicks?”
“Um, no, not exactly.”
“Oh! Maybe I’ll be able to run super fast! I’ll be Speedor!”
Rotar, looking a bit anxious. “So… what did you do to me?”
“You’re a top now.”
“A what? A top? What does that even mean?”
“You know… A top. Like a kid’s toy. You spin. I didn’t give you legs. I gave you a point to balance on so you can spin really fast.”
“Are you serious?! You did what?! You’re telling me you, the man who built a robot from scratch, the guy who gave Mekanek his super-stretchy robot neck… The person responsible for Extandar to be able to become a little bit taller… you couldn’t give me robot legs? Your best idea was to just stick me on a point and tell me to spin around? Are you kidding me?!”
“Well, I did what I could with what I–”
“You didn’t have a spare pair of legs from Roboto you could use? Maybe a prototype version that didn’t work quite so well but were still AT LEAT LEGS AND NOT A TOP!”
“Umm… I… I didn’t think of that. Plus, tops are cool.”
“I hate you.”
HA! Love it!
I have a question:
On the advertisement below the patent filing (I mean this picture: https://battleramblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/MOTU-ad.png), there’s a female character on the bottom left that I’ve never seen before.
Is this a character from the She-Ra/Princess of Power line that was (probably accidentally) “sneaked” into a Masters ad?
Yes, that’s She-Ra. So far she is the only Princess of Power figure to have been released in the MOTU Origins line
That’s She-Ra from the MOTU Origins line.
Great article! Thank you! Growing up in NE Ohio was a trip, because they seemed to get EVERYTHING in my area. Our local Children’s Palace had basically a wall of Rotars, Twistoids, and the three Preternian beasts. Heh. If I knew then what I know now . . . . . (Fast-forward a couple years, and all they had were overstocked Hordaks and Stinkors, though.)
If it’s any consolation, you didn’t miss out on a great deal not having these guys as a kid. They worked okay as stand-alone tops, but Rotar’s Roto-Pod / Gear Grinder thing didn’t work particularly well, Rotar couldn’t even be displayed upright, and they were somewhat fragile. Both the rubber top-tip and Hatchet Whipper / Buzz Cutter of my first Twistoid broke fairly quickly. Luckily, there was that wall of rarities at Children’s Palace, so I was able to get a replacement.
Good to know! Wow, you could have cleaned up if you had bought a bunch of those on sale and stored them in your attic for 35 years
Rotar and Twistoid do look cheap, lacking in detail compared to some of the earlier sculpts
Sculpt-wise, they’re not the best, that’s true, but I don’t think they’re the worst, either. I’d put Orko in that dubious place of honour, personally.
Wow, you’re almost done with vintage figures, right? Who’s left: Twistoid, Tytus and Flying Fists He-Man?
Yup, that’s it for regular figures. I’ve also got some beasties and vehicles yet to cover, including:
Jet Sled/Megalaser/Stilt Stalkers
Tower Tools/Cliff Climber/Scubattack