Tag Archives: Battle Armor He-Man

Battle Armor He-Man: Most powerful man in the universe (1984)

After a sibling destroyed my original He-Man figure (don’t ask), my mother replaced him (the figure, not my sibling) with a new version: Battle Armor He-Man. With this new variant, He-Man’s power harness was replaced by plate mail that you could “damage” with a touch and then “repair” with a flick of your finger. It was an ingenious action feature that provided me with hours and hours of entertainment, although I never quite got over the loss of my original He-Man until I was able to purchase one 30 years later.

Battle Armor He-Man’s look, as near as I can tell, was created by Ted Mayer (as a variation on the original Mark Taylor design), while his action feature was designed by Ronald H. MacBain and Tony Rhodes. Martin Arriola worked on the figure as well. In this December 8, 1983 concept drawing by Ted Mayer (below), we see a design that has elements of both Battle Armor He-Man and Flying Fists He-Man. The action feature here is actually what ended up being used in the Flying Fists variant, but the armor design looks more like Battle Armor He-Man:

Image source: Tomart’s Action Figure Digest (scan via Jukka Issakainen)

In this undated drawing, which I believe was also done by Ted Mayer, He-Man’s armor has the overlapping plated look of the final armor, albeit without the H.

Note that Battle Armor He-Man was originally supposed to come with a shield. Image source: Tomart’s Action Figure Digest

Speaking of the H, this and every other He-Man variant that followed it uses an H in place of He-Man’s original cross design. The one exception is not technically a He-Man variant, but the blue armor piece that came with the 1986 Jet Sled vehicle (also designed by Ted Mayer) had a red cross design on the front:

The stylized H used on Battle-Armor He-Man’s chest also appears on Thunder Punch He-Man, Flying Fists He-Man, and on the side of the Dragon Walker. Laser Power He-Man uses a plainer H design.

An early prototype for Battle Armor He-Man shows up in Mattel’s 1984 Dealer Catalog, as well as in the commercial featured near the beginning of this article. This version of Battle Armor He-Man has a bright red H on his chest with a dark red outline. He also has quite dark red boots and loin cloth. His weapons look like they’ve been painted with a very shiny coat of metallic silver.

The production version (at least the initial Taiwan release] is a bit different from the prototype. The H is salmon-orange rather than red, and his boots and loin cloth are a bit brighter. His weapons are more metallic-looking than the original release He-Man’s weapons, but not nearly as shiny as the prototype. Unlike the original He-Man, he lacks a shield.

The cross sell artwork is based on the finished toy rather than any early prototype:

The front of He-Man’s card has a burst describing the function of the action feature. Unlike most figures released in the toy line, there is no tag line underneath He-Man’s name, although he is tagged with “Most powerful man in the universe” when he appears in cross sell artwork.

Image courtesy of Deimos

The cardback features a scene illustrated by Errol McCarthy, with Mer-Man giving He-Man’s armor a good slice with his sword. There is also an illustration demonstrating how He-Man’s action feature works.

Artwork by Errol McCarthy; Image via He-Man.org

Errol McCarthy illustrated quite a few versions of Battle Armor He-Man for use in Mattel and licensee products and promotional materials:

Battle Armor He-Man was sold with the following vehicles or beasts:

  • Battle Armor He-Man and Battle Cat
  • Battle Armor He-Man and Road Ripper
1
2
1
4

William George painted the fantastic scenes for both sets:

battlecat-painting

The figure was also sold in several gift sets (images via Grayskull Museum):

  • Battle Armor He-Man and Battle Armor Skeletor
  • Man-At-Arms, Battle Armor He-Man, and Man-E-Faces
  • Battle Armor Skeletor, Orko, and Battle Armor He-Man

As I mentioned earlier, Battle Armor He-Man’s action feature was invented by Ronald H. MacBain and Tony Rhodes. The patent was filed December 29, 1983, and the trademark followed on January 27, 1984. It’s a rather ingenious concept, as described in the abstract:

An animated figure toy of the type which includes an upper torso having a chest drum rotatably mounted in a chest opening for sequential rotation to expose an undamaged section, a single damaged section and a double damaged section is provided with an improved multiple-force spring.

So essentially, a small amount of pressure will cause the chest drum to rotate forward one click, exposing an H that appears to have a slash on it, and then another H with two slashes. You can then manually turn the drum back to the start and begin all over again.

The action feature was of course reused in Battle Armor Skeletor, but a similar feature was also used in Mattel’s Hot Wheels Crack-Ups cars, which debuted in 1985:

Strangely, none of the mini comics released at any point in the vintage toy line depict He-Man with his battle armor. This variant also never appeared in the Filmation He-Man cartoon. However, Battle Armor He-Man does show up frequently in box art and posters by William George. In fact, of the 35 or so depictions of He-Man in box art, 15 of them depict He-Man in his Battle Armor. He also shows up frequently in posters illustrated by William George:

Battle Armor He-Man also appears in various Stickers, story books, collectibles, and other media.

Return to Table of Contents.

Rice Krispies He-Man Puffy Stickers Promotion (1984)

The only non-toy He-Man related items I tried to collect as a kid were the puffy stickers offered inside specially marked boxes of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies cereal in 1984. As any blind box toy collector can tell you, collecting stickers like this was as exciting as it was frustrating. You will inevitably get multiples of anything you’re trying collect (I got several copies of Evil-Lyn, as I recall, but alas, no Skeletor). And of course, I could only cajole my mother into buying so many boxes of Rice Krispies.

The stickers came in waxy envelopes, with a coupon for 20 cents off of a variety of “Kellogg’s talking Krispies” cereals. Incidentally, the coupons are still good, as there is no expiration date. But 20 cents was a better deal in 1984 dollars.

kelloggs-collection
ba-he-man
ba-skeletor-best
teela
evil-lyn
orko-best
coupon

I think was really sold me on these as a kid (aside from the He-Man characters) was the facts that the stickers were plastic and puffy. That gave them a sense of permanence that typical paper stickers lacked.

The artwork comes from a couple of different sources. The Teela sticker is directly based on Teela’s cross sell art, albeit with more vivid colors:

Evil-Lyn’s sticker is also based on her cross sell artwork, although they’ve modified the position of her left arm, and given her a blue version of Teela’s shield. Her coloring also seems influenced by Filmation’s version of the character:

Battle Armor He-Man, Battle Armor Skeletor, and Orko do not seem to be based at all off the cross sell artwork. Stylistically they somewhat recall Errol McCarthy’s extensive body of Masters of the Universe illustrations. I have not found any examples of his artwork that are compositionally identical to either He-Man or Skeletor as they appear here. However, Errol did a version of Orko that may have influenced the design of the puffy sticker:

Note that Orko’s hat is off model on the sticker – it’s colored yellow rather than orange. I suspect the reason for that was to save on the number of colors being printed per sticker. The same shade of yellow is used in Orko’s bursts of magic.

Return to Table of Contents.

1984 US He-Man commercials

Masters of the Universe commercials had settled into a comfortable rhythm by 1984. All of them had more or less the same pacing and background music. They often ended with the tag line, “may the mightiest power prevail”, or sometimes just”yaaargh!”

I’ve been able to locate commercials for almost every item released in 1984, including Battle Armor He-Man, Battle Armor Skeletor, Orko, Prince Adam, Fisto, Clawful, Buzz-Off, Whiplash, Kobra Khan, Webstor, Roton, Dragon Walker and Snake Mountain.

I could not locate 1984 US commercials for Road Ripper, Stridor, Jitsu, Mekaneck (he appears in a 1985 commercial with Land Shark), or the Weapons Pack. I’m not sure if they exist, although if I had to guess I would think Mattel would have at least produced a commercial for Road Ripper.

One interesting note – Battle Armor He-Man appears to be an early production sample. The one featured in several of these commercial looks identical to the early version from the 1984 Mattel Dealer Catalog. This sample is a bit different from the final toy in that the “H” symbol has a darker outline and is filled in red rather than orange.He also has relatively dark-colored boots and loincloth.

ba-he-man
Production version (Taiwan)

Clawful is also an early production sample, with brown Skeletor boots. You can read more about the evolution of his design in the feature I wrote on Clawful several weeks back.

One nice thing about some of these commercials is that characters that didn’t feature prominently in commercials from previous years get a little more spotlight here, including Mer-Man, Zoar and Stratos.

Return to Table of Contents.

Dragon Walker: Sidewinding Beast/Vehicle (1984)

The Dragon Walker is one of my all time favorite Masters of the Universe vehicles. I don’t recall if I had seen the Dragon Walker at the store and begged my parents for one, or if they surprised me with it for my birthday. I just remember getting it and frantically searching the house for a pair of C batteries. As I recall we didn’t have any and I had to wait for my parents to buy some. What an agonizing wait that was.

I realize some fans find the sidewinding locomotion concept to be so impractical that it has soured them on the toy. Not me. I thought of the Dragon Walker as the Eternian equivalent of the G.I. Joe Bridge Layer – a vehicle built for getting the good guys across rivers and crevasses.

Image via Yo Joe

Design & Development

The main elements of what would eventually be the Dragon Walker are present in this concept illustration by Ed Watts. The coat of arms design is different from the final toy, featuring a cross and dragons rather than the stylized H from Battle Armor He-Man’s costume. In this concept the driver stands rather than sits, and holds on to a red laser canon mounted on the dragon’s head. The concept was also quite a bit larger than the actual toy.

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

The final Dragon Walker toy was a bit smaller than Ed Watts’ concept, no doubt to keep costs low:

From the 1984 Mattel Dealer Catalog. Image source: Orange Slime

Packaging Art

William George painted the packaging illustration, which features Battle Armor He-Man riding the Dragon Walker through a prehistoric-looking landscape. One hallmark of many of George’s MOTU illustrations is the presence of little dinosaur-like creatures off to the side of the main action.

Original William George line art. Image via He-Man.org.

The cross sell art for the Dragon Walker was very true to the design and look of the toy:

The Spanish version was released without the cellophane window, and included an additional William George illustration and some product photos. Judging by the inclusion of the Land Shark vehicle in the background, I would guess that this box was released in 1985 at the earliest:

(Images via Masters Unbound and 20th Century Toy Collector)

And here is line art:

A US version of this packaging was planned, but never released. Here is a picture of the proof sheet from Grayskull Museum (thanks to Tokyonever for the pointer):

William George’s Hidden Signature

William George also painted a poster featuring the Dragon Walker for Kellogg’s as part of a promotion they were running with Mattel. Mattel designer Ted Mayer tells this story:

There was stuff I did not know about, because Mattel kept us designers isolated, regarding other departments, or outside stuff. I remember that one day the He-Man posters appeared out of nowhere that were done for Kellogg. Apparently Marketing just went out and did them without consulting us. We were pissed off, because we considered ourselves the main reference point.

As it happened, they hired Bill George to do them, and we were good buddies. Funny story. Bill came to me and said “I have to do these paintings for Kellogg’s, but they said I can’t sign them.” Because they were for such a big company he wanted the exposure. I had the same problem with the aircraft illustrations I used to do. I told him to hide his signature inside the illustrations, but do them upside down so they where not obvious. That’s what he did, and they never found it.

William George’s hidden signature

Mechanics

The mechanism of the Dragon Walker is rather ingenious. Rather than a vehicle moving along a track, the track and the vehicle move one after the other. A patent was filed for it on January 10, 1984, crediting Michael Gurner and Herbert May as the inventors. From the abstract:

A moveable toy consisting of a base and a motorized vehicle. The base includes a track having a central groove ending in openings at either end. The track includes teeth which cooperate with a drive gear held in the vehicle to drive the vehicle along the track. Rotors having notches on the top surface are rotatably held in openings at each end of the central groove in the track. Upon actuation, the vehicle travels along the track until it arrives at either end of the track, where the vehicle rotates the base to allow the vehicle to continue along the track end for further movement of the toy in the same direction.

As an aside, Roger Sweet takes credit for the Dragon Walker in this interview, although it’s unclear what his contribution was, other than perhaps managing the project. He’s not listed as one of the inventors in the patent application, and the concept art was done by Ed Watts, as mentioned earlier.

The concept is demonstrated in this video on the Grand Illusions YouTube channel:

From the video description:

The other one is made by Mattel, and Tim remembers the crowds of people watching this with fascination, the first time it was shown at a toy fair.

The character drives his dragon vehicle along the track; once he reaches the end of the track, the track swivels around, so that the section of track that was behind him is not in front of him, and he can set off again, along the track. This keeps repeating, and so he can cover quite large distances quite quickly, on his amazing ‘never ending’ track!

Other Artwork

The inaugural issue of the US release Masters of the Universe Magazine included a blueprint-style poster of the Dragon Walker. I hung this on my wall as soon as I got it and studied every detail:

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Curiously, the poster doesn’t identify the Dragon Walker by name, but instead calls it the Heroic Warrior Carrior. Man-At-Arms is said to be the inventor. Notice that the color version at the top is off-model. It resembles the Filmation version, but it’s not clear if there is actually any place for the driver to sit!

Errol McCarthy created a few illustrations of the Dragon Walker for licensing purposes (images via He-Man.org):

Comics and Storybooks

The Dragon Walker made an appearance in the background of the mini comic, Mantenna and the Menace of the Evil Horde!

It also plays a role in several Golden Books stories, such as The Rock Warriors and Maze of Doom:

Animation

The Dragon Walker shows up a few times in the Filmation Cartoon, in episodes like “Attack From Below”, “The Time Wheel”, and “Fraidy Cat”:

Animated GIF from He-Man Reviewed
Image source: He-Man and She-Ra – A Complete Guide to the Classic Animated Adventures

As shown in the above GIF and model sheet, Filmation increased the size of the seat so that it could fit multiple characters.

Dragon Walker in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has kindly contributed the following image and videos of the Dragon Walker in action:

Return to Table of Contents.