Evil Vehicles

Land Shark – Evil Monster/Vehicle (1985)

Land Shark is one of those Masters of the Universe vehicles that had to exist. There was no way they weren’t going to get around to making a chomping shark car vehicle, given enough time.

According to The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog, the idea for making this kind of vehicle came from Roger Sweet, and Ed Watts (who also worked on the Dragon Walker) created the design details in the concept drawing below:

Image Source: The Power and Honor Foundation Catalog

The concept design, compared to the final toy, has much sharper lines (ideal for mowing down foes, but probably too sharp for a kid’s toy) and larger eyes, but the broad ideas that went into the final vehicle are all there. Notice that Trap Jaw is depicted driving the vehicle. In a way, the Land Shark is kind of a vehicular version of Trap Jaw, sharing not only his chomping mechanical jaw but also his color scheme. In Watts’ artwork, they even have similar weapons (although non of Trap Jaw’s attachments actually looked like that). The concept version is maroon and green, while final toy was maroon and blue (all three are predominant colors on Trap Jaw).

The cross sell artwork for the Land Shark (which incidentally seems to have been rarely used) is based closely on the final design used on the toy:

The trademark for Land Shark was filed September 10, 1984, and the patent was filed on November 13, 1984 .

Land Shark was sold individually and in a set with Battle Armor Skeletor. The box art on both sets was illustrated by William George:

Land Shark appears with some frequency in the series of minicomics released in 1985. The depiction in comics more or less matches the look of the final toy, although the guns are simpler and seem to connect to the vehicle with a different kind of hinged joint (this is true in all of the minicomic appearances, with the exception of Leech). This may represent an earlier prototype design. Excerpted images below are from the Dark Horse He-man Minicomic collection.

Curiously, Hordak drives the Land Shark in Hordak – The Ruthless Leader’s Revenge:

Errol McCarthy produced a couple of illustrations for the Land Shark. One of them was used in the 1987 Style Guide, which described the vehicle this way:

Role: Evil man-eating assault vehicle
Power: Power to seek, seize and consume the enemies of Skeletor

“Evil man-eating assault vehicle” seems like a good tag line for the toy. I’m surprised it wasn’t used on the actual packaging.

Land Shark makes a couple of appearances in the Golden books stories: A Hero In Need  and The River Of Ruin (images via He-Man.org):

William George included the Land Shark in his 1985 and 1986 posters:

Earl Norem pitted the Land Shark vs the Laser Bolt in a poster included in the Spring 1986 issues of Masters of the Universe Magazine:

Norem also included the vehicle in his “Lake of Mystery” poster, although interestingly he turns it into a water vehicle in the surreal scene below:

The same issue of MOTU Magazine features a story called “The Comet Warriors Have Landed!” The vehicle also makes an appearance there:

The vehicle only made two appearances in the Filmation He-Man cartoon, in the episodes “The Gambler” and “The Cold Zone”. Predictably the vehicle is simplified for animation purposes. The guns were also dropped from the sides. Update: Dušan M pointed out that the animators also added a retractable roof so they wouldn’t always have to animate a driver. Aidan Cross points out that the Land Shark appears to be sentient, since in “The Cold Zone” it snaps aggressively when the Attak Trak says it would rather not be left alone with the Land Shark.

The Land Shark is a gimicky vehicle to be sure, equal parts menacing and comical. But, it’s undeniably one of the coolest vehicles released for the evil warriors, who never quite seemed to have enough of them. The lion’s share of always seemed to go to the good guys.

Image Source: Battlegrip
Image source: Battlegrip

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Heroic Warriors

Ram Man in Minicomics and Golden Books

In my post about Ram Man last year, I touched very briefly on the character’s appearances in minicomics and Golden Books.  I’d like to expand on that now with an exhaustive look at every single appearance of Ram Man in these media. I’ll be skipping pages and panels where Ram Man is absent. Selections from the minicomics come from the excellent Dark Horse Minicomic Collection, and Golden books come from He-Man.org.

1983 Minicomic: He-Man Meets Ram-Man!

Ram Man tousles with He-Man over a misunderstanding, causing some hard feelings. Skeletor is able to use that to trick Ram Man into bashing his head repeatedly against Castle Grayskull’s doors in order to get the power to defeat He-Man. In the end, Ram Man comes to understand that He-Man is not his enemy, and aligns himself with the heroic warriors. Ram Man is given a deep red and magenta color scheme that looks like it wants to follow the cross sell art/concept scheme (the figure was originally designed by Mark Taylor), but couldn’t quite get there. Written by Gary Cohn, penciled by Mark Texeira, inked by Tod Smith, colored by Anthony Tollin.

1983 Minicomic: The Terror of Tri-Klops!

When third wheel Ram Man walks off into the woods to give He-Man and Teela some privacy, Tri-Klops strikes, nearly defeating our heroic warriors. Written by Gary Cohn, pencils by Mark Texeira, inks by Tod Smith, colors by Anthony Tollin.

1983 Minicomic: The Tale of Teela

Ram Man is a minor background character in Teela’s breakout comic. Written by Gary Cohn, pencils by Mark Texeira, inks by Tod Smith, colors by Anthony Tollin.

1984 Minicomic: The Secret Liquid of Life!

Ram Man gets a chance to bust into an ogre’s cavern using his battering ram of a head. Ram Man is portrayed with the green and red color scheme used in the mass-produced toy. Written by Michael Halperin, pencils by Larry Houston, inks by Michael Lee, colors by Charles Simpson, letters by Stan Sakai.

1984 Minicomic: Double-Edged Sword

Ram Man’s head is ineffectual against Skeletor’s vine monsters, but together with He-Man he is able to break through a magic seal. Written by Michael Halperin, pencils by Larry Houston, inks by Michael Lee, colors by Charles Simpson, letters by Stan Sakai.

1984 Minicomic: Temple of Darkness!

Ram Man batters his head against several giant minions of Skeletor, and even seems to have the power power of flight in the final panel. Written by Michael Halperin, pencils by Larry Houston, inks by Gerald Forton, colors by Charles Simpson, letters by Stan Sakai.

1985 Minicomic: Skeletor’s Dragon

Ram Man is barely noticed in the background of this story about magically reanimated dinosaur bones. Written by Christy Marx, illustrated by Peter Ledger, colors by Charles Simpson, letters by Stan Sakai.

1985 Minicomic: Mantenna and the Menace of the Evil Horde!

Ram Man is background character with no lines in this story that, despite its title, isn’t really about Mantenna at all. Pencils by Mike Sekowsky, inks by Steve Mitchell, colors by Charles Simpson, letters by Stan Sakai.

1985 Minicomic: Hordak – The Ruthless Leader’s Revenge!

Ram Man is crushed by Spydor and then plays fight commentator in his last minicomics appearance. Pencils by Larry Houston, inks by Michael Lee, colors by Charles Simpson, letters by Stan Sakai.

1985 Golden Book: The Magic Mirrors

Ram Man is another background character in this engaging story about magic mirrors and trickery. Written by Jack Harris, illustrated by Fred Carillo, cover by Earl Norem.

1985 Golden Books: Demons of the Deep

Ram Man and Fisto accompany He-Man in an underwater rescue mission to save Teela. Of all the characters to take on an underwater mission, Ram Man and Fisto seem the least likely candidates, given their heavy metal armor. Ram Man sports his prototype colors here.

Written by R.L. Stine of Goosebumps fame, illustrated by Fred Carillo.

1985 Golden Book: New Champions of Eternia

Ram Man is a barely-present background character in this story about some mysterious new heroes. Ram Man sports his prototype color scheme in this book. Written by Jack Harris, illustrated by Jeffrey Oh, cover by Fred Carillo.

1986 Golden Book: Power From The Sky

Skeletor uses the power from an eclipse to launch an assault on Eternia. Ram Man shows up occasionally in the background, without any lines. Written by Wallace Green, illustrated by Fred Carillo, cover by Earl Norem.

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Heroic Vehicles

The Battle Ram in Minicomics and Golden Books

The longer I write this blog, the more I realize there is almost no limit to the amount of material that can be written about the vintage Masters of the Universe toyline. I will run out of steam before I ever run out of subjects to write about.

In this post, I’ll examine the Battle Ram‘s appearances in minicomics and Golden Book stories (I’ll skip the Golden coloring books, simply because I don’t have good images for all of them).

Interestingly, in the earliest minicomic stories, it was the Battle Ram, not Battle Cat, that was He-Man’s primary mode of transportation.  By 1983 that changed, and He-Man and Battle Cat became inseparable, while the Battle Ram became more frequently associated with Teela or Man-At-Arms.

When I went through the Dark Horse He-Man Minicomic Collection, I was actually a little surprised at how infrequently the Battle Ram shows up. It actually appears much more often in the Golden collection of stories.

For reference, the vehicle in question is called the Battle Ram, but the detachable front half is referred to as the Jet Sled – although that term isn’t often used within the stories below.

Update #1: I should note that the Battle Ram was designed by Ted Mayer. Alfredo Alcala’s depictions of it (including the image at the beginning of this article) are based on the early prototype sculpted by Jim Openshaw, which in turn was based on Ted Mayer’s concept drawings. More on that at Ted Mayer’s website and in my original Battle Ram toy feature.

Update #2: I wasn’t originally going to include the Giant Picture Books because they’re not really stories per se. But the artwork is so nice, I broke down and decided to include them. Thanks to Jukka for sharing the lovely images, which come from James Eatock (internal) and Polygonus (covers).

1982 Minicomic: He-Man and the Power Sword 

The Battle Ram is pretty ubiquitous in the first ever minicomic (written by Don Glut, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala). Notice that in early media like this, the front half of the Battle Ram does not soar through the air – rather it hovers low over the ground. That was Mark Taylor‘s idea for how the vehicle was supposed to work.

1982 Minicomic: The Vengeance of Skeletor

The Battle Ram is a near-constant presence in what would turn out to be one of the most violent of the MOTU minicomics. Written by Don Glut, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala.

1982 Minicomic: Battle in the Clouds

Battle in the Clouds is the first story where the front half of the Battle Ram (Sky Sled) is not limited to hovering close to the ground. In this story it can soar high into the sky, which serves as an excuse to write it into a story about a furious air battle featuring the Wind Raider. Written by Don Glut, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala.

1983 Minicomic: The Tale of Teela

This is the first minicomic that features both halves of the Battle Ram together. which seems to be Teela’s vehicle of choice. Sadly, it’s also the last appearance of the Battle Ram in the vintage minicomics. Written by Gary Cohn, penciled by Mark Texeira, inked by Tod Smith, colored by Anthony Tollin.

1983 Golden Book: Thief of Castle Grayskull

In this story, Teela is again the driver for Battle Ram, which seems to be mostly used as transportation, as far as this story is concerned. Written by Roger McKenzie, illustrated by Fred Carillo, cover by Gino D’Achille.

1983 Golden Book: The Sword of Skeletor

Teela is again the driver for the Battle Ram in The Sword of Skeletor. In this story, the Battle Ram can apparently travel across water as well as land. Written by Roger McKenzie, illustrated by Fred Carillo, cover by Gino D’Achille.

1983 Golden Book: The Sunbird Legacy

The Sunbird Legacy is probably the greatest of the Golden stories, with an epic, comic book feel. In this story Man-At-Arms is the driver for the Battle Ram, and he uses it to great effect against Beast Man. Written by Roger McKenzie, illustrated by Adrian Gonzales and Fred Carillo, cover by Earl Norem.

1984 Golden Book: Mask of Evil

This story features a brief shot of an out-of-scale Battle Ram from the rear. It’s not clear who’s driving it, though. Written by John Hughes, illustrated by Al McWilliams, cover by Earl Norem.

1984 Golden Book: Giant Picture Book – Heroic Warriors

This isn’t a story so much as a collection of lovely artwork by Fred Carillo. The Giant Picture Book series does include some biographical information on selected characters, however.

1984 Golden Book: Giant Picture Book – Evil Warriors

This evil version of the heroic Giant Picture Book gives us a tantalizing look at the Battle Ram – just before Jitsu goes and destroys it. You’re not winning any points with me, Jitsu! Artwork by Fred Carillo.

1985 Golden Book: The Rock Warriors

This story features a single shot of the Jet Slet, again piloted by Teela, but colored in red and orange. Written by Michael Kirschenbaum, illustrated by Fred Carillo, cover by Earl Norem.

1986 Golden Book: A Hero In Need

Two gray Jet Sleds are on almost every page of this story, piloted by Teela and Prince Adam. Written by Elizabeth Ryan, illustrated by Fred Carillo, cover by Earl Norem.

Golden books images comes from He-Man.org

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Snake Men

Sssqueeze – Evil Long-Armed Viper (1987)

Sssqueeze graphic

I have no recollection of ever seeing Sssqueeze in stores, but by 1987 I had stopped following what was new in He-Man’s world (back in the day that meant scouting out catalogs and toy aisles rather than forums and social media). My first reaction to seeing him as an adult was that I didn’t think he fit in with He-Man at all. His head reminds me of those hollow plastic Imperial beasts you used to find everywhere. And of course his ultra-long bendy arms are incredibly goofy-looking and gimmicky.  He also reminds me of something that might have come out in the Galaxy Warriors toyline.

But, as is often the case, Sssqueeze won me over once I bought an example for myself. Yes, he’s still goofy, but he’s got some interesting and unique design elements going with his costume, and I am a sucker for his bright green, purple and orange color scheme.  It’s nice that he doesn’t reuse any parts from previous figures, although he easily could have made use of legs from Rattlor or King Hiss.

Sssqueeze is a part of the Snake Men faction (their logo in on his chest). However, like Tung Lashor, he doesn’t seem to be a snake at all. His head has looks like it was taken from some kind of dinosaur. His long arms are certainly snake-like, but otherwise he seems to be a distant cousin of the Snake Men who decided to join in on their fun.

Sssqueeze’s early working name was Tanglor. The concept art below shows the character with a rather oversized head, and some black paint behind the Snake Men symbol, but otherwise it’s pretty close to the final toy, which was sculpted by Eddy Mosqueda:

Tanglor concept
“Tanglor” concept art. Image source: The Art of He-Man
Squeeeze axel
Cross sell artwork courtesy of Axel Giménez. The artwork is faithful to the look of the final toy.

The figure itself had flexible rubber arms with internal metal wires to maintain their position, similar to Gumby toys. The arms could be rotated within the figure’s hard plastic body, or even slid from side to side, giving the character two arms of different lengths. He had the familiar spring loaded waist, but given the weight of his upper body, it moves rather sluggishly.

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Sssqueeze in Mattel’s 1987 Dealer Catalog (image via Orange Slime)

The artwork on the back of Sssqueeze’s card was done by the prolific Errol McCarthy, and I believe the artwork on the front was done by Bruce Timm.

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Sssqueeze instr
sssqueezecardback
Image via Grayskull Museum
sssqueezevsrioblastextendar_full
Image via He-Man.org

McCarthy also illustrated the character for use on a T-shirt and also for the 1987 Style Guide.

According to the Style Guide, Sssqueeze “entangles foes with his powerful constrictor snake arms. Sssqueeze just can’t keep his long arms off any enemy. As soon as a fight starts, he’s in the thick of things, wrapping up the first warrior he gets a grip on.”

There is also a fact file on Sssqueeze in the 1989 UK MOTU Annual:

Image source: He-Man.org

Squeeze plays a fairly major role in two mini comics released in 1987 – Revenge of the Snake Men! and Energy Zoids. In the former he goes by his working name, Tanglor.  At the behest of King Hiss, Snake Face, “Tanglor” and Blast Attak launch an assault on the royal palace, nearly succeeding in overthrowing all the heroic warriors there.

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In Energy Zoids, Sssqueeze helps Skeletor capture Rotar, but ultimately becomes Rotar’s weapon as he unleashes his attack against Twistoid.

Sssqueeze works for Hordak in issue 8 of the Star Comics Masters of the Universe series, where he faces off against He-Man, who is equipped with his Scubattack accessory (images via He-Man.org).

In the Fall 1988 issues of the US Masters of the Universe Magazine, Skeletor sends Sssqueeze, Blast Attak, Snake Face and Ninjor to capture King Randor, who has been stranded in the desert.  He-Man defeats the villains with little difficulty (images via He-Man.org).

The same issue comes with a poster painted by the legendary Earl Norem. In the scene, He-Man faces off against Snake Face and Ninjor, while Clamp Champ takes on Blast Attak. Sssqueeze holds King Randor captive at the top of a cliff.

Norem sssqueeze Fal 1987

The Winter 1988 issue features a puzzle made from a tangle of Sssqueeze arms.

winter 1988 magazine puzzle
Image source: He-Man.org

Issue 7 of the 1988 German Ehapa Verlag comic series came with a poster by Esteban Maroto, featuring Sssqueeze, Snake Face and Blade:

8807 maroto

Sssqueeze also appears in William George’s Preternia poster:

Preternia_1


Sssqueeze is certainly one of the goofiest characters in the MOTU line, but also one of the most fun to play with. He’s certainly the most poseable, and works great as a desk toy.

sssqueeze ad art

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