Snake Face, true to his tagline, is indeed the most gruesome-looking of the Snake Men faction, and one of the creepiest figures in the vintage Masters of the Universe lineup.
Design & Development
An early concept for Snake Face appears in the Power and Honor Foundation Catalog (below). The artist isn’t mentioned (from the style I think it could perhaps be by Alan Tyler), but it seems to be a first crack at a concept involving a character with snakes popping out of his face and chest. This concept would have reused the arms and legs from Skeletor. Other than the action feature, it bears little resemblance to the final Snake Face concept.
The character was revisited (with the working name Medusa Man), and David Wolfram took the reigns at designing a character around the action feature. His design, shown below, is very close to the final look of the figure, other than some of the colors used on his costume.
In David’s design, the figure was to have no shared parts, other than the staff (borrowed from King Hiss) and his pelvis piece. Even the latter was given a unique sculpt on the final figure.
The cross sell art for Snake Face appears to be based on the final toy design:
We can see a hand-painted final prototype for the figure in Mattel’s 1987 dealer catalog:
The final toy is a gruesome-looking creature with a purple, black and green costume. He features a fair amount of green overspray on his arms and head, which is something not normally seen on figures in the MOTU line. His action feature is similar to Mantennna‘s eyes – a lever on the back can be raised, causing the snakes to pop out of his face, shoulders and chest.
Snake Face is covered in warty and scaly gray skin, and his arms are wrapped in snakes. His legs are rather short, probably to compensate for his tall torso and to keep his overall height similar to other figures in the line.
Snake Face’s card features the Snake Men special logo on the front as well as character artwork by Bruce Timm (thanks to Jukka Issakainen for the tip). Errol McCarthy provides the illustrations for the action scene and instructions on the back.
Snake Face was given the following characterization in the 1987 Style Guide:
Group Affiliation: Snake Men, Evil Warriors
Role: Evil beast with a head full of shocking snakes
Power: When his snakes strike out, enemies are turned to stone.
Character Profile: Another of the Snake Men trapped under Snake Mountain an eon ago, Snake Face was called forth by King Hiss to do battle with He-Man. Snake Face was a right-hand man to King Hiss in the days of Grayskull. Snake Face can turn any enemy to stone by lashing his snakes out at him. He-Ro and He-Man are the only warriors powerful enough to reverse the horrible spell, and then only when aided by the Magic Staff or Power Sword.
Weapons: Serpent Staff and Medusa Shield.
As Snake Face came quite late in the line, his bio includes a mention of He-Ro and the cancelled Powers of Grayskull storyline.
Snake Face was packed with Revenge of the Snake Men, written by Phil White and illustrated by Chris Carlson. In the story, Snake Face and Sssqueeze (called by his concept name “Tanglor”) are brought form the nameless dimension by King Hiss to kidnap Queen Marlena. Snake Face uses his powers to turn anyone who gets in his way to stone:
Snake Face also appears in Energy Zoids, where he turns his power against Rotar:
Other Comic Appearances
Snake Face makes a number of appearances in other comics, including the following:
Issue 35, 1987, UK MOTU Magazine:
Issue 41, 1987, UK MOTU Magazine:
Issue 8, 1987, Star Comics Masters of the Universe:
Fall 1987, US MOTU Magazine:
Snake Face appears in a couple of posters by Earl Norem, done for the US MOTU Magazine:
He also appears in William George’s Preternia poster:
Snake Face is featured in posters by Esteban Maroto and others as well:
Masters of the Universe had its fare share of nightmarish and gruesome action figures, but Snake Face has to be one of the creepiest.
Snake Face in Action
Øyvind Meisfjord has kindly contributed the following images and video of Snake Face in action:
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8 thoughts on “Snake Face: Most Gruesome of the Snake Men Warriors (1987)”
Sadly I never had him as kid but I liked him a lot: the amount of details, the nightmarish look and the shield design captured my imagination. A great figure in my opinion.
However the Snake Men have a serious problem in versatility. I mean, Tung Lashor paralyzes people. Kobra Khan paralyzes people. Sssqueeze entagles people. Snake Face turns people in stone. Basically four characters with different abilities to do the same thing: stop people from moving. Poor King Hiss XD
I guess it’s up to King Hiss or Rattlor to make all the finishing moves :p
Lol. Poor Rattlor too: a very overworked henchman XD
Except isn’t King Hiss’s power to hypnotise – i.e. stop people moving?
The front Art is by Bruce Timm
Another fantastic entry! Thank you!
Speaking of the placeholder “Medusa Man” name, ol’ Snake Face really DOES look like Medusa from the 1981 “Clash of the Titans,” doesn’t he?
Seeing the first concept idea, reminds me of something toy designer Mel Birnkrant said once (though talking about a much later period and images:
“These renderings, so slick and professional, reveal Mattel’s strengths and their weaknesses too.”…” Some of the individuals who did this group of product concepts had mild but fanciful ideas. On the other hand, they didn’t have a clue as to what toys, in this world, governed by reality and the force of gravity, can really do. Many of these concepts, although the artwork might look pretty defy, both logic, and the laws of physics.”
bits of that art just wouldn’t work.. the chest snakes are completely wrong, and the face ones are pretty bad..
where as if you look at the David Wolfram art, that is completely buildable and works. This also highlights some of the problems with the real toy.. the face looks a bit iffy with the snakes in. The mouth kinda works but the eyes… yeah.. that’s not working and is probably one of the things that always bothered me with Snake Face.
An oddity of the Star Comic is that Snake Face and Sssqueeze are introduced as Horsemen, presumably simply because it was easier to throw them in the same issue as Mosquitor and Buzz Saw Hordak which was Mike Carlin’s last as well. Just how many characters have had multiple factions across different stories?