Evil Warriors

Whiplash: Evil tail-thrashing warrior (1984)

Whiplash, released in 1984, was part of a series of five animal-themed figures released in the third wave of the Masters of the Universe toyline, which also included Clawful, Buzz-Off, Webstor and Kobra Khan.

I had something of a love affair with the figure as a kid. I distinctly remember the existential agony of having to choose between him and Clawful at the store. Ultimately I went with Clawful, but it could have gone either way. I remember spending a lot of time playing with Whiplash despite that, so I think I was either able to borrow one from a friend or get my own later.

Just about everything I have to say about the development of Whiplash’s design was already said several years ago by James Eatock, in his excellent “Behind the Scenes – The Evolution of Whiplash” video. I’m including James’ video below, but I’ll also go over the details myself.

Whiplash was designed by Colin Bailey in July of 1982. His original concept, shown below, is in many ways quite different from the final toy, but there are points of convergence as well. The character has the same widely-splayed four toed feet and troll-like facial features that the final toy had. However, this concept character, called Lizard Man, had strangely furry calves, yellow legs, prominent spinal ridges, spikey violet bracers, and two prominent horns.

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog

Lizard Man made it into the December 1, 1982 MOTU Bible, and was listed among He-Man’s allies:

LIZARD MAN – moves quietly, quickly and has the agility of his namesake. He climbs perpendicular walls and his tough lizard skin provides protection against most of his enemies. Liz has one drawback — every year he molts and becomes vulnerable to attack and completely useless to anyone.

The Colin Bailey concept was translated into into a simplified design suitable for animation by Filmation’s artists (see above video), but it was never used, and Lizard Man went back to the drawing board at Mattel. In the mean time, Filmation created a new character with the same name for their episode, “She-Demon of Phantos”:

Mattel made some changes to the shape of Lizard Man’s (or at this point, I should say Whiplash – Mattel filed the trademark claim for that name on August 22, 1983) head, legs and tail. You can see this step in the evolution of the character in the minicomic, The Clash of Arms. Whiplash looks much closer to his final design here, except for his color scheme (green, yellow/orange and purple, like the original concept drawing) and the shape and length of his tail:

The final toy would have a much simplified two-tone green color scheme for his skin, with blue boots and loin cloth, and an orange belt. The hand-painted prototype figure, shown below in Mattel’s 1984 dealer catalog, has his final alligator tail design, and sports a purple repaint of the spear that came packed with Castle Grayskull. He reuses arms from Skeletor, as well as the legs and torso from Buzz-Off.

In this German catalog, you can see the prototype again, this time with some paint wear showing his Skeletor arms. He is holding Man-E-Faces’ sword:

The production toy would come with an orange spear, but otherwise the design remained unchanged compared to the prototype:

Whiplash cross sell art, courtesy of Axel Giménez

Whiplash’s face is somewhat perplexing. He has two large fangs sticking up out of his lower jaw, but he has a third, downward pointing fang that seems to come from the tip of his nose. You can also see that where the concept version had very prominent spikes on the top of his head, the final toy has two short nubs on either side of the crest on his head.

The final design is somewhat reminiscent of a couple of other lizard themed toys that Mattel released in 1980 – an inflatable lizard monster toy called Krusher, and Lizard Woman from the Flash Gordon series:

Whiplash was sold in several configurations, including, of course, the standard blister card packaging, which has some lovely artwork by Errol McCarthy on the back:

McCarthy also depicted Whiplash in several other contexts:

The last image from the series above was used for a T-Shirt design. The final design (below) was colored, with the purple spear that appeared on the prototype version (images courtesy of Unsung Woodworks):

Whiplash was also sold in two giftsets – in a three-pack with Webstor and Stinkor, and a JCPenny two-pack with Kobra Khan:

Whiplash makes only two appearances, apart from his debut, in the minicomics. He shows up, confusingly, as a member of the Evil Horde, along with Clawful, Jitsu, Leech and Grizzlor, in Mantenna and the Menace of the Evil Horde!


He also makes an appearance, this time as part of Skeletor’s crew, in Hordak – The Ruthless Leader’s Revenge! While his depiction in the Mantenna comic was relatively toy-accurate, here he borrows the design from The Clash of Arms, albeit with corrected colors:


Whiplash appears in several of the Golden Books stories. One of my favorite is a scene from Secret of the Dragon’s Egg, where Whiplash lies in wait within a cave to ambush Man-At-Arms. Interestingly, the artist (Louis Eduardo Barreto) depicted the scaly villain with spikes around his shoulders:

A more toy-accurate Whiplash plays a minor role in The Magic Mirror, illustrated by Fred Carillo:

Whiplash is again depicted with spikes around his shoulders in Maze of Doom, illustrated by Al McWilliams. It seems likely he used Barreto’s art as a reference for the character.

Filmation’s He-Man cartoon usually depicted Whiplash as one of Skeletor’s more competent Henchmen. Design-wise, the animated version of the character is more or less a simplified version of the action figure, but with Mer-Man-like feet, blue wrist bracers, and no orange belt.

One of my favorite episodes where Whiplash plays a prominent role is “To Save Skeletor”. In the story, Whiplash arrives half-dead at the royal palace, pleading for help from the heroic warriors. As it turns out, Skeletor had summoned an extra-dimensional being named Sh’Gora with the intent of using him to take over Eternia, but the creature had quickly overpowered the evil warriors and was threatening to destroy the planet.

Whiplash makes a couple of appearances in the box art – once in the Fisto and Stridor giftset, and once in the Battle Bones box art:

Whiplash also makes a couple of appearances in posters by William George, from 1984 and 1985 respectively:

Whiplash appears prominently in one of my favorite pieces of MOTU artwork – a poster by Earl Norem that appeared in the inaugural issue of the US release Masters of the Universe Magazine. The poster features He-Man, Stridor, Buzz-Off, Webstor, Clawful and a somewhat Filmation-inspired Whiplash:

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Reviews

The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2015)

The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (published by Dark Horse, April 28, 2015) is a celebration of He-Man from his  earliest known concept drawings in 1979 to his latest 2015 evolution in modern comics and toys (images below courtesy of Jukka Issakainen).

Limited Edition printing of The Art of He-Man, with Castle Grayskull slipcover and exclusive artwork by Gerald Parel.

The focus of the book is primarily on artwork, although there is some time spent on toys. In many ways the Dark Horse book seems to take some cues from Mattel’s 2009 book, The Art of Masters of the Universe (a San Diego Comic Con exclusive). The 2009 book took a broad approach to the subject, starting with early concept artwork and moving on to cross sell artwork, box art, mini comics, the New Adventures of He-Man line, the 2002 He-Man line, the ongoing Masters of the Universe Classics adult collector line, and finishing up with some modern concept art for a potential rebooted line.  The Dark Horse book follows the same general outline, but radically expands it with more than five times as much content.

The Art of He-Man was written by Tim and Steve Seeley and edited by Daniel Chabon and Ian Tucker, with contributions by Emiliano Santalucia, Joshua Van Pelt, James Eatock, Danielle Gelehrter, Val Staples, and others. Drawing on a wide variety of sources, from current and former insiders at Mattel to external collectors and experts, The Art of He-Man is able to delve deeper into the subject than the 2009 Mattel SDCC book, and expands the territory into areas like the 1983 Filmation cartoon and the 1987 live-action film.

By comparison, The Power and the Honor Foundation’s 2011 Catalog Volume One went into far greater depth on the subject of toy design, but stayed away from topics like packaging design, mini comics, and Filmation. Some of the artwork from both The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog and the 2009 Mattel book made it into The Art of He-Man, but by no means all of it.

Early on, The Art of He-Man was slated to be much shorter, capping out at 168 pages by the beginning of chapter 10 (thanks to Jukka Issakainen for the image and the reminder):

After I believe some extensive contributions from The Power and the Honor Foundation and others, the page count was radically increased to about 320 pages total:

The Art of He-Man starts things off with some tantalizing internal memos, most of them directly or indirectly related to the creation of He-Man. One notable exception is the December 24, 1981 memo from Mark Ellis looking into the creation of a generic male action figure line for use in licensed properties. The He-Man line had already been largely created by then, and the memo seems to favor a smaller scale line of figures.

If you’re familiar with my blog, it might not surprise you that the first chapter of The Art of He-Man is my favorite, as it covers early concept designs by Mark Taylor, Ted Mayer and Colin Bailey, as well as the first He-Man prototype sculpted by Tony Guerrero. We also get to see a number of other concept drawings by Roger Sweet, Ed Watts, Mark Jones, James McElroy, David Wolfram and others. Quite a lot of the artwork in the sample below was contributed by The Power and the Honor Foundation:

About 40 pages in, the book switches gears to packaging artwork, including figure and vehicle cross sell artwork, some of it blown up gloriously large. It’s here where I get a little frustrated at the limitations of printed media, as many of these images are heavily cropped.

At about 50 pages in, the book changes focus to concept artwork for unproduced toys like He-Ro, Turbosaurus, Rotary Man, Rhino Man, Torton, and others. Some of my favorites here are the Ed Watts concepts, which were also contributed by The Power and the Honor Foundation. Watts created some really imaginative vehicle and vehicle/creature designs in full color illustrations with background scenery included.

Turbosaurus, by Ed Watts. An early incarnation of Gigantisaur. Originally via The Power and the Honor Foundation.

About 60 pages in the book begins to explore some of the painted packaging artwork that appeared on product boxes and cardbacks. We’re treated to a gorgeous, two-page spread of Rudy Obrero’s iconic Castle Grayskull illustration. We also see a great deal of artwork by prolific MOTU artists Errol McCarthy and William George. There is also the packaging illustration for Tyrantosaurus Rex artwork by Warren Hile, who painted several packaging illustrations near the tail end of the line.

At around the 70 page mark, the book changes focus to the vintage mini comics. I would say that this section had been rendered mostly redundant by the Dark Horse He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Mini Comic Collection (more on that in a separate article), but this section does feature some lovely blown up pages, as well as an interview with writer Steven Grant and illustrator Larry Houston.

Speaking of interviews, The Art of He-Man is peppered with them. Interviewed subjects include:

  • David Wolfram
  • Dolph Lundgren
  • Earl Norem
  • Eric Treadaway
  • Erika Scheimer
  • Gabriel de la Torre
  • Gary Goddard
  • Joe Ferencz
  • Larry Houston
  • Paul Dini
  • The Power and the Honor Foundation
  • Rob David
  • Scott Neitlich
  • Steven Grant
  • Val Staples
  • William Stout

At the 85-page mark, the book switches focus to the subject of the Filmation He-Man series. It includes some lovely drawings from the early Filmation animated toy commercial, and development artwork and story boards for the actual series. One of my favorites is a page showing numerous early designs for Hordak. There is also included a replica animation cel and three printed backgrounds, so you can get a tangible lesson in the magic of traditional hand-drawn animation.

At 120 pages in, we turn to the subject of artwork from magazines, story books and posters. That means we’re treated to a number of large size images of artwork by the late, great Earl Norem, not to mention the fantastic William George.

Artwork by Earl Norem

Some 150 pages into the book, there is a smattering of miscellaneous subject matter, from the vintage DC comics, newspaper comic strips, Golden Books, coloring books, as well as some style guide and licensing artwork by Errol McCarthy.

At 175 pages, the book takes a very in-depth look at the 1987 Masters of the Universe motion picture, a topic not covered in the 2009 Mattel art book. This section is thick with interviews, draft scripts, and concept artwork by William Stout, Claudio Mazzoli and Ralph McQuarrie.

Ralph McQuarrie’s Man-At-Arms

The subject turns to the New Adventures of He-Man some 200 pages into the book. We get to take a peek at early attempts to relaunch He-Man as a G.I. Joe-like military hero, before designers eventually moved toward a science fiction look for the most powerful man in the universe.

New Adventures of He-Man concept, by Martin Arriola

At 219 pages we finally move on to the 21st century, with a look at the 2002 reboot of Masters of the Universe. I remember at the time I did encounter the Commemorative reissues of the vintage toys (I bought one of the five-packs immediately when I saw it at Toys ‘R’ Us), but I somehow missed the entire 2002 relaunch.

We get some great concept drawings from the Four Horsemen,  including depictions of many new characters who never made it into the toyline or the cartoon series. This section also covers the Mike Young Productions cartoon, with some lovely background art, as well as an extensive look at artwork from the MVCreations comic book series. I do like the Four Horsemen’s original concept He-Man, but I’m not as fond of the anime look and oversized weapons that are peppered throughout the 2002 line. On the other hand, I absolutely adore the line’s vision for characters like Stinkor, Leech, Mer-Man and Webstor. I also find the stories in the 2002 cartoon series more compelling than the original Filmation series, although I prefer the look of the original cartoon.

four-horsemen-concept-he-man
Concept 2002 He-Man, by Four Horsemen Studios. Image via The Art of He-Man.

At about 250 pages in, we turn to the 2009 adult collector series, Masters of the Universe Classics. We to see some of the artwork that Rudy Obrero produced for the toyline (including his maps of Eternia and Etheria), as well as prototypes from Four Horsemen Studios. There are also maps, concept art, packaging artwork by Nate Baertsch and Axel Giménez. Tucked away in this section is also the original 1981 Wind Raider box art, which was used as a basis for the Masters of the Universe Classics version of the toy.

Classics “Alcala” style Skeletor and prototype Demo Man

The last 20 pages or so are a hodgepodge of subjects, from mobile games to social media,  modern DC MOTU comics and far-out, exploratory artwork.

The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is practically mandatory reading for any serious He-Man fan, but I there’s I think it’s broad enough to appeal even to non-collectors who merely remember He-Man with fondness.

Several sections of the book have since been expanded into separate Dark Horse books, or else are in the works:

  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Mini Comic Collection
  • He-Man and She-Ra – A Complete Guide to the Classic Animated Adventures
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe – The Newspaper Comic Strips (Available February 14, 2017)
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe – A Character Guide and World Compendium (May 16, 2017)

I hope that at some point we’ll see the subjects of vintage toy concept artwork and packaging artwork get the same treatment. The two topics could easily fill a couple of large volumes, and would be, in my opinion, required reading.

Modulok illustration for Masters of the Universe Classics, by Axel Giménez

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Heroic Warriors

Moss Man: Heroic spy & master of camouflage (1985)

Moss Man is another figure that I have very clear memories of. I remember getting him for Christmas, probably in 1985. Unlike Stinkor, I didn’t remember him based on his smell. His pine scent wasn’t immediately obvious because I ripped him off of his card right next to the Christmas tree, which had an even stronger pine scent. I remember my parents had allowed us to open one present on the night before Christmas. All the lights were out in the room except for the blinking colored lights on the tree. I remember the way that Moss Man’s green and brown flock glistened in the colored lights, and the prickly texture of the figure. It wasn’t until I had got him back to my room that I realized he also had a pine scent.

Like Mekaneck and Buzz-Off, Moss Man was characterized as a spy, with the ability to blend into his surroundings. I remember being a little frustrated that I could still pick him out deep in my mother’s potted plants. His bright yellow belt gave him away every time.

It’s possible that Moss Man was based on the legendary Florida Moss Man – a creature said to roam Florida’s Withlacoochee State Forest.

Moss Man is very simple action figure. He’s a green Beast Man covered with green and yellow flock (small nylon particles), with a brown version of the mace weapon that came with Castle Grayskull. In fact, the only known prototype for Moss Man is just what you’d expect – he’s literally a Beast Man figure that someone at Mattel painted in green, brown and yellow, with some flock added over top top.

Moss Man prototype. Images via Grayskullmuseum.com
Moss Man prototype. Images via Grayskullmuseum.com

There are a few differences from the prototype to the production Moss Man. The prototype has forward-looking eyes and painted fangs. On the production Moss Man, the eyes are looking off to the side, and the fangs are painted over to give the impression of more human-like teeth. It seems to have been an effort to make the Beast Man face seem a little less angry. It was somewhat successful, although Moss Man still seems pretty intense:

Brothers from another mother.

The cross sell art seems to be derived from the vintage toy given his fangless teeth, however his eyes do look forward:

Cross sell artwork. Image courtesy of Axel Giménez.
Black and white version used in ad sheets.

The illustrated scene on the back of his packaging was done by Dave Stevens, who also illustrated Stinkor and Spikor:

Image source: KMKA

An injured Moss Man also appeared on the illustration on the back of Terror Claws Skeletor’s card:

Illustrated by Errol McCarthy. Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen.

Moss Man was also sold in the following gift sets (second image via Grayskull Museum):

I think it’s likely that both Moss Man and Stinkor were among the first new figures to be released in 1985. Their cross sell artwork shows up first on the back of vehicle packaging, along with the figures released from 1982-1984:

Moss Man is the second and final flocked toy in the vintage MOTU toyline. The first was Panthor. Panthor’s “fur” was much shorter and smoother, however.

The Argentinian Top Toys release of of Moss Man had painted fangs, like the prototype, and his mossy “fur” was quite long and luxurious.

Picture courtesy of Axel Giménez
Picture courtesy of Axel Giménez

Although Errol McCarthy didn’t illustrate Moss Man’s cardback, he did produce this artwork intended for licensees. It features a very friendly-looking Moss Man with a more human-like face:

Moss Man and Stinkor were sold with the same mini comic – The Stench of Evil! In the story, Stinkor threatens Eternia’s wildlife with his rancid smell. Only Moss Man is able to overpower Stinkor with his pine fresh scent:

In the Filmation cartoon, Moss Man had the ability to talk to plants and transform his body:

Filmation model sheet. Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen.

Moss Man appears in a couple of great Earl Norem illustrations that were printed as posters for the US Masters of the Universe magazine:

Image Courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

In the UK Masters of the Universe Magazine, Moss Man was colored brown and gave lessons on manners to kids:

I’m not sure why, but it seems to me that the “cheap repaints” of the Masters of the Universe toyline are among the most memorable action figures. Faker, Stinkor and Moss Man were all entirely made from recycled molds, and yet they seem to be among the most memorable figures in the toyline. Maybe it’s because Mattel tried to make up for that fact by giving them audacious colors (Faker), a powerful and funky smell (Stinkor) or prickly “fur” (Moss Man).

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Evil Warriors

Clawful: Warrior with the grip of evil! (1984)

Clawful, released in 1984, was part of a series of new animal-themed figures released in the third wave of the Masters of the Universe toyline.

Clawful was an instant hit with me as a kid. I distinctly remember the existential agony of having to choose between him and Whiplash at the store. Ultimately I went with Clawful. That giant bright red snapping claw was just impossible for me to resist.

Clawful and his compatriots represented something of a return to form for Masters of the Universe. Several first wave figures were half human, half animal hybrids (Beast Man, Mer-Man, Stratos). The second wave was made up of entirely human-like figures, but the third wave gave us beastly characters like Clawful, Whiplash, Buzz-Off, Webstor and Kobra Khan.

Designed by Colin Bailey, Clawful was originally intended to reuse Skeletor’s legs. In this early prototype, he sports brown Skeletor boots, a brown version of the Castle Grayskull mace, and a head that blended into the armor with a very thick neck:

Clawful prototype

By the time he was shown in the 1984 Mattel Dealer catalog, he was sporting the standard male chest (flesh tone) with clip on armor. His neck was much slimmer as a result, and his head was smaller. He still had the Grayskull mace, but now it was in green with an extra piece to allow him to hold the mace upright (it was never very effective in that regard). He still had the Skeletor legs with brown boot. This version also appeared in the commercial:

Eventually Clawful was given the new legs that were shared by both Buzz-Off and Whiplash. They featured jagged spikes down the sides, and unique feet with one large toe/claw on each side of the foot. These were larger feet than any used in previous figures, and provided the figure with greater stability.

In the cross sell art, Clawful sported these feet, but the boots were still painted brown:

Clawful cross sell artwork. Image courtesy of Axel Giménez.

It’s evident that the change in the design of his legs happened sometime after production had already begun. Early versions of Clawful featured the Skeletor legs, but with blue boots:

The version with Buzz-Off/Whiplash legs seems to be more common, and must have been produced after the initial run:

Illustration by Errol McCarthy
Errol McCarthy’s original line art

Clawful was included in a giftset with Jitsu, but otherwise was only sold as an individual figure.

Image via Grayskull Museum

Clawful appears prominently in one of my favorite pieces of MOTU artwork – a poster by Earl Norem that appeared in the inaugural issue of the US release Masters of the Universe Magazine:

Norem’s artwork was so animated and vibrant. It really blew me away as a kid, and continues to do so now.

Clawful appeared was a main character in the Clash of Arms mini comic, which was also one of my favorites as a kid. Fisto is captured and has to face Clawful, Whiplash and Jitsu in arena combat. It was a great way to introduce new characters to kids, and was one of the more action-heavy mini comics. Clawful’s appearance is based on the early prototype here:

Clawful also appeared in several Golden Books, including Maze of Doom, Dangerous Games and Power From the Sky:

Clawful shows up in the background of the packaging illustration for Bashasaurus, along with Trap Jaw:

Artwork by William George

The Filmation version of Clawful was radically different from the vintage toy. Often when Filmation designs differed from toy designs, it was because Filmation artists were basing their work on early Mattel concept drawings. I would guess that is the case here, but I don’t know for sure:

Unlike many of Skeletor’s other henchmen in the cartoon, Clawful seemed to posses a measure of intelligence and cunning.

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