Evil Beasts, Heroic Beasts

Battle Bones – Collector’s Carry Case (1985)

Battle Bones is pretty unique among every other official Mattel release for the vintage line. It rides the line between an in-world beast and a fourth wall-breaking collector case.

I believe I got Battle Bones as a birthday present along with Night Stalker in the fall of 1985. Both of them were a complete surprise – I hadn’t heard of either toy before unwrapping them. I was pretty happy with both toys, although of the two Battle Bones was a bit more fun, simply because I could fit nearly all my figures in it. And of course I made Battle Bones “eat” plenty of bad guys along the way.

Design & Development

Battle Bones was designed by Ed Watts, who also designed Dragon Walker. Watts’ concept at (below) is very close to what was actually produced, although the body was elongated, a handle was added on the back, and the teeth, eyes and horns were somewhat modified:

Image Source: Dark Horse/The Power and the Honor Foundation

According to The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog, one proposed early name for Battle Bones was “Dem Bones”.

A patent was filed for the toy on December 14, 1984. The inventors are listed as Michael W. Barbato, Tony Rhodes, and Edward W. Watts. Watts of course did the visual design, but apparently the concept was created by all three. From the abstract:

A holder for animated figures in the form of the simulated skeletal structure of a prehistoric beast, including a simulated rib cage having clip members at the extremities thereof. Each of the clip members is configured for frictionally retaining an animated figure toy at a portion of its anatomy, particularly the waist. The animated figure holder is provided with a handle for carrying, and includes a skull configured to provide storage space.

Production Toy

The production toy was shipped partially disassembled, requiring a few screws and a screwdriver in order to connect the handle and the front and back halves of the body.

The toy can fit a total of twelve figures on clips on the ribs, six to a side. Like Stridor and Night Stalker, it’s mostly unarticulated, save for a hinge joint on the mouth, where accessories can be stored. The figure was cast in an off-white color, with no additional paint applications.

Argentinian manufacturer Top Toys apparently released a painted version of the toy, with a stripe of dark gray paint down the middle of the back and head. It’s known as “Camo Battle Bones” as a reference to “Kamo Khan“, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information about it.

Packaging

The box art for Battle Bones was illustrated by William George. Two separate scenes are depicted on the front of the the box – one with Battle Bones acting as a carrying case, with Evil and Heroic Warriors clipped in, and one with the figure transporting characters into battle:

As depicted in the box art, Battle Bones could be used by either heroic or evil warriors. That idea is fleshed out more in the minicomics, and repeated in a 1985 poster by William George (featured later in the article).

Advertisement & Catalogs

Battle Bones was of course featured in Mattel’s own catalogs, but also advertised by a number of different retailers:

1985 JC Penny Catalog. Source: R.M. Hart
1986 Mattel Dealer Catalog. Source: Battle Armor Dad
Source: www.battlegrip.com
Image source: Steve Macrocranios
Image Source: Super Shogun
Image source: He-Man.org

Minicomics

Battle Bones’ backstory is laid out in Skeletor’s Dragon, a minicomic that came packed with Dragon Blaster Skeletor. In the story, Skeletor raises a buried pile of dinosaur bones to life, and forces the undead creature to do his evil bidding.

Eventually the Sorceress frees Battle Bones from Skeletor’s spell, and we learn that the creature is good, not evil. Battle Bones speaks to the Heroic Warriors, delivering a surprisingly poignant backstory:

In the minicomic, The Stench of Evil, Battle Bones is chosen by He-Man to go up against Stinkor, because Battle Cat wouldn’t be able to stand the smell:

Magazine

Battle Bones appears in a 1985 German MOTU Magazine, which used photos and dioramas to tell stories:

German Audio Stories

Battle Bones makes an appearance in the 1986 Europa audio story, “Skeletors Sieg”:

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Stamp Case & Knock-Offs

HG Toys produced an adorable miniature Battle Bones Stamp Case for holding the various MOTU stamps that were released over the years:

The case was later bootlegged (with some slight modifications) as the Creepy Crawlers “Goop-A-Saurus”.

Artwork

Battle Bones appeared in a couple of posters that, like the box art, were illustrated by William George:

Image Courtesy of Jukka Issakainen
Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Battle Bones also makes appearances in posters made available to members of the UK MOTU Fan Club:

Image source: He-Man.org
Image Source: He-Man.org

Battle Bones in Action

Øyvind Meisford contributed the following image and video of Battle Bones in action:

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Artwork

Masters of the Universe Cross Sell Art – 1985

The artwork for this set comes from Axel Giménez, StarCrusader and my own photos and scans.

There are, unfortunately several subpar images in this set, including Roboto, Thunder Punch He-Man, Land Shark, and especially Night Stalker. If anyone out there has a Laser Bolt box, it should have Thunder Punch He-Man on the back. If you happen to have a scan or a high resolution picture of it in a nice natural lighting that you’d like to share, that would be appreciated.

The cross sell artwork for Land Shark appears on the back of the Jitsu/Night Stalker gift set. Land Shark cross sell art also appears on the back of the heroic warriors gift set (the one that included Buzz-Off, Moss Man and Mekaneck figures). If anyone happens to have nicer image of the cross sell art for Land Shark that they could share, I’d be really grateful.

Night Stalker is trickier. I have been unable to locate any cross sell art for Night Stalker, other than the red line art on the back of the Fright Zone box. If anyone knows of a full-color version that exists somewhere out there, I’d appreciate that information!

Update: somehow I overlooked Spydor. Spydor doesn’t seem to have had cross sell art per se, but the explanatory illustration on the back of his packaging is probably the closest analog, as far as I know. The same is true for toys like Battle Bones and Blasterhawk. Thanks to Matthew M. for letting me know!

Masters of the Universe Cross Sell Art:

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Resource

Parts Reuse in MOTU, Part Four: 1985

Masters of the Universe, for all its diversity and creativity, was quite an economical toyline, creatively (and sometimes uncreatively) using and reusing the same molds over and over again throughout its run. Sometimes this was done fairly invisibly, and other times it was as plain as the nose on Faker’s face.

In this series I’ll be cataloging the reuse of existing molds, in context of what is known and what is likely about which figures were created in what order. For example, He-Man’s prototype was almost certainly finished before Man-At-Arms, so Man-At-Arms reused He-Man’s legs, rather than vice versa. I’ll also include parts that were reused from other toylines.

Sometimes existing parts were modified for use in new toys. For example, Beast Man’s chest seems to have been based on He-Man’s chest sculpt, albeit with a great deal of hair added to it. This didn’t save money on tooling, but it did save some time and effort for the sculptor. I’ll point this out whenever I see it. Whenever a modified part is used again, however, I’ll refer to it as belonging to the toy that used it first (for example, Stratos and Zodac reuse Beast Man’s chest).

I won’t comment on “invisible” parts, such as neck pegs or waist springs that are normally not seen.

First, the toys from 1985 that had (at the time) all new parts. For fun, I’m including one unproduced toy that made it into a 1985 catalog:

Sy-Klone

Modulok

Fright Zone

Bashasaurus

Battle Bones

Land Shark

Spydor

Evil Robot (unproduced)

These toys from 1985 reused some existing parts:

Thunder Punch He-Man

Roboto

Moss Man

Dragon Blaster Skeletor

Two Bad

Spikor

Stinkor

Hordak

Grizzlor

Leech

Mantenna

Night Stalker

A few additional notes:

All of the Horde crossbow share some sculpted areas in common – basically everything except the head and the butt of the weapons. I don’t know which of them was done first – I’m defaulting to Hordak’s weapon as the basis for the others, in the absence of other information.

The modified Thunder Punch He-Man legs (with their enlarged feet for greater stability) were used in some versions of the following figures: Faker II, Spikor, Man-At-Arms, He-Man, Fisto, Tri-Klops, Battle Armor He-Man, and Jitsu, especially in the French “rubber boot” variants.

The modified Dragon Blaster Skeletor legs (with their enlarged feet for greater stability) were used in some versions of the following figures: Skeletor (Hong Kong), Ninjor, and Scare Glow (more on the last two figures in the feature on parts reuse in 1987).

The information about the reuse of these legs was provided to me by Mantisaur82, who is extremely knowledgeable about production variants.

Update: Thanks to Emmanuel V. for reminding me about the made-in-France version of Stinkor, with its blue He-Man shield.

Parts Reuse series:

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Artwork

Box Art From A-Z, Part Four: 1985

box-art-a-z-graphic-image-1985

One of the best things about getting new He-Man toys as a kid was the box art. The toys were of course amazing and fun, but personally I spent almost as much time staring at the boxes as playing with the toys. I remember being pretty heartbroken when my mother made me throw away my Castle Grayskull and Battle Ram boxes. She saw them as clutter, but for me they were almost stories in and of themselves. You could see whole adventures unfolding in a single painted scene.

Unfortunately, good photographs or scans of the original art are not available for every piece. If you happen to have a nicer images than I do (higher resolution, better composition, etc), please do feel free to share, and I’ll make an update! For pictures of the packaging itself, a neutral (white or black) background is preferred. High resolution scans of the artwork, where it appears without logos, would be ideal. Bottom line – if you have better images than I do, please share them!

One final note: I’m defining box art as the front-facing painted artwork that appeared on boxed Masters of the Universe toys. The illustrations on blister card packaging, then, are outside the scope of this series.

Part Four: 1985

Name: Bashasaurus
Year: 1985
Artist: William George
Description: Battle Armor He-Man attacks Battle Armor Skeletor using the Bashasaurus’ “basher ball” as a small dragon-like creature looks on. In the distance,  Clawful and Trap Jaw run down the winding path from Snake Mountain.

bashasuarus

Name: Battle Bones
Year: 1985
Artist: William George
Description: Battle Armor He-Man, Teela, Fisto, Man-At-Arms, Man-E-Faces, Buzz-Off, Battle Armor Skeletor, Beast Man, Kobra Khan, Jitsu, Whiplash and Evil-Lyn pose next to Battle Bones. In a separate scene, Battle Armor He-Man, Fisto, Man-At-Arms, Man-E-Faces, and Mekaneck use Battle Bones to attack Battle Armor Skeletor, Tri-Klops, and Beast Man.

battle-bones-main
battle-bones-secondary


Name: Dragon Walker (Euro Edition)
Year: 1985
Artist: William George
Description: Battle Armor He-Man pilots the Dragon Walker over rocky, volcanic terrain. Beast Man and Tri-Klops are ready to attack but seem unsure how to proceed. In the foreground, a small pterodactyl-like creature seems ready to take flight. In a separate scene, Battle Armor Skeletor (riding in Land Shark) and Beast Man lurk in the background.

dragon-walker-largest
dragon-walker-top-best


Name: Fright Zone
Year: 1985
Artist: William George
Description: In the fearsome Fright Zone, Battle Armor He-Man fights the dreadful dragon, while Hordak snares Battle Armor Skeletor with his tree trap. Buzz-Off is held captive in Hordak’s prison. Dead trees and craggy mountains surround the lair of the Evil Horde, and twin moons hang in the sky.

frightzone_box-edit
Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Name: Hordak Grizzlor
Year: 1985
Artist: William George
Description: He-Man approaches Grizzlor and Hordak, his sword and shield at the ready. The sinister Fright Zone stands in the background.

02-hm-org
Image via He-Man.org

Name: Jitsu & Night Stalker
Year: 1985
Artist: William George
Description: in the middle of a desolate and rocky landscape, Jitsu and Night Stalker attack Fisto, who seems to have been caught without backup.

Image courtesy of Tokyonever

Name: Land Shark
Year: 1985
Artist: William George
Description: Skeletor drives Land Shark over a cracked and rocky desert. A vicious looking dragon-like creature looks on.

land-shark-best

Name: Land Shark & Battle Armor Skeletor
Year: 1985
Artist: William George
Description:  Battle Armor Skeletor, driving Land Shark, races across the cratered desert floor. From his vantage point on a rock, Man-At-Arms seems ready to leap into battle. A vicious-looking winged dragon creature watches from a gnarled tree branch.

land-shark-and-battle-armor-skeletor

Name: Modulok
Year: 1985
Artist: Unknown
Description: Modulok is shown in fifteen body configurations and poses.

modulok-axel
Image courtesy of Axel Giménez

Name: Night Stalker
Year: 1985
Artist: William Garland*
Description: Charging down the narrow path from Snake Mountain, Battle Armor Skeletor and Night Stalker attack Battle Armor He-Man and Mekaneck. A reddened sky and strange rocky formations are the prominent features of Skeletor’s domain. (*Artist name not confirmed for this particular piece, but the art seems to match the style of the Panthor illustrations.)

night-stalker-artwork-best

Name: Spydor
Year: 1985
Artist: William George
Description: Battle Armor Skeletor looms large over Battle Armor He-Man as he uses Spydor to attack the most powerful man in the universe. In the background, tooth-like volcanoes belch smoke. Three moons hang in the alien sky.

spydor-best

More in this series:

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