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 1984 that had (at the time) all new parts:
One of the defining characteristics of the packaging artwork of William George is the inclusion of small dinosaur or dragon-like creatures in the background and foreground of the illustration. They add a dimension to the illustration that goes beyond simply demonstrating the product – there is also some world-building going on. The Eternia of William George is a hostile, dangerous and often desolate place, where threats come in all sizes.
I’ll only be focusing on creatures that William George invented for his paintings, not creatures that were part of the products for sale.
Battle Armor He-Man and Road Ripper (1984)
Dragon Walker (1984)
Road Ripper (1984)
Land Shark (1985)
Land Shark & Battle Armor Skeletor
Laser Bolt (1986)
Scubattack Power Gear (1987)
Update: Axel Giménez pointed out to me that there is another William George creature, outside of the box art. In his Bashasaurus poster, he includes one of his familiar little creatures on the rocks near Dragon Blaster Skeletor. It looks a bit like the creature in the Land Shark box art:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Name: Modulok Year: 1985 Artist: Unknown Description: Modulok is shown in fifteen body configurations and poses.
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.)
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.