Evil Mutants

Skeletor: Ultimate Evil Lord of Destruction (1989)

The 1989 He-Man reboot included no characters from the original Masters of the Universe line, other than He-Man and Skeletor. The so-called “New Adventures” line is filled with colorful, oddball villains (and, frankly, some less-than-exciting heroes). My favorite figures from the line are the various Skeletor variants, and the 1989 version is no exception.

The New Adventures series isn’t well loved by most He-Man fans, but in a way it seems like an effort by Mattel to step things up a notch. These figures that had better articulation, more sculpted detail, and quite a bit of painted detail compared to the original line, and with little or no reuse of parts.

All of the New Adventures Skeletor variants were designed by Dave Wolfram, who had previously designed figures like Scare Glow and Snake Face. The initial 1989 version was developed from his original Laser Light Skeletor design, inspired by the work of HR Giger:

Laser Light Skeletor concept art (working title: Bio-Mechazoid Skeletor), by Dave Wolfram
Laser Light Skeletor, released in Europe in 1988.

The broad conceptual ideas were carried over for the New Adventures design, but the color scheme was modified, initially with a lot of dark blue and red details, with a purple cape. In the concept art below he was also given some kind of pouches at his legs, and a new red staff design featuring a human skull with a bat on top. He was given different boots and, for the first time, gloves. He also features a helmet rather than his usual cloth hood:

Concept art by Dave Wolfram, from May 25, 1988. Image via The Art of He-Man.

The concept version of the character actually makes an appearance on a 1989 bag, although this version has a red cape:

A CGI version of the concept Skeletor (albeit with a finalized staff) also appears in a promotional video (thanks to Dušan M. for the tip):

In the produced toy, the color scheme was altered again, with much more red throughout the costume, and contrasting purple boots and gloves. The staff was redesigned, with some prongs at the end that look like they could shoot bolts of electricity. The helmet and staff were molded in gun metal gray. The pouches he was wearing on his thighs were changed to cybernetic implants.The final figure has a white face with a forest green border around it – the only Skeletor to feature that particular color scheme.

A hand-painted version of the final figure appears in the 1989 French He-Man catalog:

Image source: Grayskull Museum
Image source: Grayskull Museum

In the 1989 German He-Man magazine, Skeletor is depicted a couple of times wearing a bizarre-looking helmet. I’m not sure exactly what it’s supposed to be:

Hand-painted final prototype on a Spanish playing card. Source: http://cuevadelterror.blogspot.com

The final production figure appears in the US 1989 dealer catalog:

One of the coolest things about the figure, in my opinion, is some of the sculpted detail on his back and the back of his head. This is obscured by his cape and helmet normally. It’s quite creepy looking:

The staff has a rather creepy looking, chitinous creature around the back of the skull, which wraps its tail around the upper handle:

Skeletor has a fun but rather subtle action figure. When you turn his waist his hands raise up, making him lift his staff as if to fire.

Cross sell artwork. Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen.

The commercial for the electronic He-Man Power Sword actually has really great footage of an actor dressed as “New Adventures” Skeletor. This costume also shows up in the He-Man vs Skeletor commercial shown earlier in this article.

Skeletor was sold on his own card and in a gift set with He-Man. The artwork on the front was painted by long-time MOTU packaging illustrator, William George.

Packaging art by William George. Image from The Art of He-Man.

According to the 1989 Sears Christmas Wishbook, Skeletor was supposed to be available in a gift set with Hydron, but I’ve never seen an example of that:

Image source: http://www.wishbookweb.com/
Image source: http://www.wishbookweb.com/

There were four minicomics produced for the 1989 He-Man reboot, and all of them featured Skeletor. In the first, The New Adventure (illustrated by Errol McCarthy), Skeletor interrupts Prince Adam as he transformed into He-Man, and is badly injured. In Skeletor’s Journey (illustrated by Carrol Lay), he uses bionic replacements to heal himself and we see him finally in his new costume.

The character looks particularly dynamic in the Bruce Timm-illustrated The Revenge of Skeletor:

In the bottom right panel, we get a look at the cybernetics on Skeletor’s back.

The New Adventures of He-Man animated series (produced by Jetlag Productions) features the character for a surprisingly few episodes before he’s upgraded to his Disks of Doom variant costume. The series starts off on Eternia, before He-Man and Skeletor are whisked off into the future, but both of them already sport their New Adventures costumes. Unfortunately Skeletor has some off-putting and comical-looking eyes for the first five episodes. Otherwise his costume is fairly true to the toy, minus the electrical implants in his body:

By episode six the eyes are blackened, but he also changes to his Disks of Doom costume by the end of the story:

Character-wise the New Adventures version of Skeletor was a more comical figure, manipulating and flattering rather than pounding his fists and demanding. He wasn’t leading his own army at this point – he was dependent upon the cooperation of the Evil Mutants, lead by Flogg.

Initially Mattel had planned to ask Filmation (the studio that had produced the first He-Man cartoon), to animate the new reboot, to be titled He-Man and the Masters of Space (information via Dušan M./James Eatock). Filmation went out of business in 1989, but they did create some artwork and a basic storyline for the pitch. Skeletor’s visual depiction is somewhere midway between the original concept design and the final toy:


Image via the Ancient Library of Grayskull Facebook group/Dušan M.

The 1989 He-Man series was featured in the UK He-Man Adventure Magazine. In this story Skeletor is beamed aboard the ship of Flipshot and Hydron, but Prince Adam tags along for the ride. Strangely we don’t get an explanation for Skeletor’s costume change (images are from He-Man.org):

UK He-Man Magazine pinup

Pinup from German He-Man magazine. Artwork by Giuliano Piccininno – information is from the MOTU Art Facebook page.

There was a series of Italian notebooks that featured New Adventures artwork. The cover of one of them features a concept-art inspired Skeletor (thanks to Petteri H. for the tip):

The Italian magazine Magic Boy featured several New Adventures stories. In one of them, Skeletor acquires a magical chest harness from a six-armed statue and soon after grows six arms of his own (images are from He-Man.org):

Overall I think the rebooted 1989 Skeletor has quite a compelling design, and is worth picking up even if you’re not, generally speaking, a New Adventures fan. In fact, all of the revamped Skeletors are worth a look.

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Evil Horde

Mantenna: Evil spy with the pop-out eyes (1985)

I got Mantenna at the same time I got Leech, for Christmas in 1985. While I gravitated toward Leech at first, I kept coming back to Mantenna. His telescoping eyeball action feature wasn’t all that much fun, but his bizarre appearance kept drawing me back in. What was this guy? He looked like a cross between an ant, an Elephant, and a space alien.

Image courtesy of Axel Giménez
Image source: Battlegrip

Designed by Ted Mayer, Mantenna is certainly the weirdest looking figure in the Masters of the Universe toyline. According to the Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog, Mantenna’s early working names were Sensor (also a working name for Zodac) and Raydor. All of his names are puns on devices used to sense things from a distance – hence his large, pop-out eyes and oversized ears.

This early version of the character (below) has the early detachable horde insignia. He also has white teeth, red hands, and lacks the horde emblem shinguards he would get later in his design evolution.

Image Source: Tomart’s Action Figure Digest issue 202
Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation/The Art of He-Man. His eyes appear to have some kind of hypnotic power.

This revised drawing by Ted Mayer gives the character red teeth, and the standard Horde insignia on his check, shin guards, and left arm. He was given a yellow belt and black trunks. He also had a strange staff weapon with some kind of creature wrapped around it. Hordak had a similar weapon in early concept art as well.

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog

The prototype Mantenna is featured in the 1985 Mattel dealer catalog. The shape is finalized, but there are some color differences between this and the final toy. He has orange sides, rather than black. His chest insignia is outlined in black, as are his red teeth. His eyes seem to also have orange and red veins.

Mantenna’s cross sell artwork represents another intermediate step in his design – his sides are mostly black, there is still a strip of red or orange under his armpits. His teeth are also still outlined in black.

The final Mantenna has fully black sides and simplified teeth. At this point it’s really not obvious that they’re actually teeth. It really looks much grosser than that. It’s not obvious at first, but the toy does retain the original concept of having four legs – but the legs were fused together in pairs.

There is another Mantenna variant that has a color scheme on his chest closer to the cross sell art (with orange around the head of the bat design). It had a black lever in back, but the bats on his shin guards were not painted red:

Mantenna’s pop-up eye mechanism was also patented, although it seems like a simple enough design. The patent was filed December 17, 1984, and it was trademarked on September 10, 1984.

Mantenna was sold on his own single card, of course. He was also sold in a JCPenny giftset with Leech.

Mantenna’s minicomic isn’t a fan favorite. I remember not being able to get through it as a kid – the artwork seemed too jumbled and hastily done. It should also be noted that although Mantenna’s name is in the title, he barely makes an appearance in it.

In The Power of the Evil Horde, illustrated by Bruce Timm, Mantenna has the ability to fire stun rays out of his eyes:

In the Mattel Style Guide (illustrated by Errol McCarthy), Mantenna is characterized this way:

Power: frightening ability to see and hear over great distances with his highly sensitive ears and periscope scanners.

Character Profile: Mantenna can do more than just see with those wild eyes. He can fire a variety of horrible beams from them as well, including paralysis beams, stun beams, etc. Mantenna is also an agile scout and often goes out well ahead of his companions to make sure their way is clear for marauding, pillaging and the like. Since he is no slouch in the combat area, either, Mantenna rarely needs assistance on his scouting missions.

The 1985 Golden story, The Horde, seems to draw directly from Ted Mayer’s concept art in its depiction of both Mantenna and Leech:

Mantenna’s grotesque appearance was toned down for the She-Ra cartoon series. He lost most of the fins on his limbs, and his mouth lost its sphincter-like look. He was also given simple yellow eyes rather than the bloodshot eyes of his action figure. Changes were made to his hands, feet, and costume as well. He was generally depicted a bumbling henchman, often dropped through a trap door by Hordak.

Dusan M. pointed out that this is an intermediate design – final design sheets had a visible tongue.

The Filmation Mantenna did have the ability to shoot various beams from his eyes, which he occasionally used to devastating effect:

Mantenna maintains his Filmation look in this Evil Horde poster by Earl Norem. It appeared in the Summer 1985 issue of Masters of the Universe Magazine (US version).

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Evil Warriors

Scare Glow: Evil Ghost of Skeletor (1987)

I wasn’t aware of Scare Glow’s existence when he was released in 1987, but when I finally saw him as an adult, he made perfect sense. Of course there needs to be a glow-in-the-dark skeleton man in Masters of the Universe. Why didn’t someone think of this sooner? Glow-in-the-dark accessories had been produced previously in the line (Evil-Lyn’s staff, the warrior ring that came with Tri-Klops and Trap Jaw), but never a glow-in-the-dark figure.

Imagery

Scare Glow seems to have been influenced by traditional imagery of the grim reaper. Unlike Skeletor, his entire body is a skeleton (or at least the closest thing to it without creating a newly sculpted body). He has a reaper-like cloak and the closest thing to a scythe in the existing library of Masters of the Universe weapons.

Parts Reuse & Design

Scareglow was released toward the end of the Masters of the Universe toyline. There seemed to be two categories of figures released in 1987 – figures that were made from newly sculpted parts (Mosquitor, Sorceress, Blast Attak) and figures that mostly reused existing parts, with only a new head and perhaps a new weapon (Ninjor, King Randor, Clamp Champ). Scare Glow is in the latter category.

Scare Glow reuses Skeletor’s body. Most versions reuse the legs from Dragon Blaster Skeletor (with slightly enlarged feet compared to the original Skeletor), but the Spanish version reused the original Skeletor legs.  The poleaxe (referred to on the packaging as a “scythe of doom”, and in the style guide as a “spirit staff”) is reused from the Castle Grayskull weapons rack. He was given an all-new head and a new cloth cape. The figure was designed by David Wolfram.

Scareglow’s weapon came in two flavors – bright green and glow-in-the-dark white. The white version was principally sold outside of the US and Canada.

Packaging

Scare Glow’s cross sell art, like most cross sell artwork after the 1983, is a pretty accurate representation of the figure:

Image source: Axel Giménez

Like many other 1987 figures, Scare Glow came with some great artwork on the front of the card, illustrated by Bruce Timm:

Image source: Jukka Issakainen

The back of the card features a somewhat comical scene of Scare Glow scaring the orange pants off of Snout Spout. The scene was illustrated by Errol McCarthy, who also created an illustration for the 1987 Style Guide:

Image source: KMKA

Characterization & Stories

Given that Scare Glow’s tag line calls him the “Evil Ghost of Skeletor”, there has been debate among fans for years about whether or not Scare Glow is actually the ghost of Skeletor, or merely a ghost who serves Skeletor. The 1987 Mattel Style Guide says this about Scare Glow:

Skeletor conjured up this spirit in his own image to frighten travelers on the pathways of Eternia. Scare Glow is invisible during the daylight, but glows at night.

Unfortunately I don’t think this totally clears up the issue. From the short bio, Scare Glow could be Skeletor’s ghost, or he could be just a ghost who happens to have a skull face like Skeletor. In the mini comic, The Search For Keldor, Skeletor conjures up “the most evil beings of time and space” (Scare Glow and Ninjor). So it could be that Scare Glow really is a future, deader Skeletor. I tend to think that Scare Glow is not Skeletor’s own ghost, however. I think the intent was that Scare Glow was just a conjured being who happens to look a bit like Skeletor.

In Masters of the Universe Adventure Magazine issue 9, Skeletor creates Scare Glow in his own image, so it’s apparent they are not the same person in this continuity. As described in the style guide, Scare Glow can become invisible in the light:

In Star Comics Masters of the Universe issue 7, Skeletor calls Scare Glow his “ghostly double”. Scare Glow seems to be a true ethereal ghost, as Blast Attak’s fist passes through him when he attempts to punch him. Scare Glow also has the ability to fly:

Just to make things a little more confusing, this Greek advertisement referred to Scare Glow as Skeletor (the caption underneath his name roughly translates to “Scarier at night!” – thanks Jukka!):

Other Artwork

Coming so late in the Masters of the Universe line, Scare Glow didn’t show up in a lot of artwork, but he was a background character in posters illustrated by William George and Esteban Maroto:

Artwork by William George. Image source: Jukka Issakainen
Artwork by William George. Image source: Jukka Issakainen
Artwork by Esteban Maroto. Image source: Monster Brains

Advertising

He also showed up in a few catalog photos and advertisements:

Scare Glow in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord recently shared this image and short video of Scare Glow in action:

The scans of catalogs and advertisements used in this article came from Orange Slime, Grayskull Museum, and He-Man.org. The Errol McCarthy line art and comic book scans also came from He-Man.org.

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