Evil Horde

Buzz-Saw Hordak: Ruthless Leader with Blaster Blade (1987)

Buzz-Saw Hordak was released in the last wave of the 1987 line-up for Masters of the Universe. He is the second variant in the vintage toyline after Hurricane Hordak (1986), but unlike that version, his appearance is very similar to the original Hordak (1985) at a first glance.

Design and development

In an interview over at he-man.org/[archive link], Derek Gable (Former Director of Preliminary Design) mentioned:

“I also formed an invention company West Coast Innovations and one of the many items we licensed was Buzz-Saw Hordak from the Evil Horde.”

He-Man.org Interview – January 29th, 2014

Toy Packaging Art

For the packaging artwork, Buzz-Saw Hordak was fortunate and got the triple hat-trick of artists:

The front art for the cardback was illustrated by Bruce Timm.

The cross sell artwork is most likely by William George who did the cross sell art.

The cardback art was done by Errol McCarthy. So all three artists had a hand in depicting Buzz-Saw Hordak.

We see Hordak getting ambushed by King Hiss, Tung Lashor and Rattlor. But as the accompanying text reveals, his “buzz-saw blasts them away!”

Errol McCarthy black & white illustration. Source: he-man.org

The cardback art has the main action piece covering most of the top, with a one rectangular frame on top-left corner showing the preceeding event. The same method was also used with the same 1987 wave figures such as Blast-Attack and Snake Face‘s cards.

Looking at Hordak’s close-up image in the Buzz-Saw card, while not a traced re-use, the head appears to be very close to the art of Hordak in Sorceress’ card art.

Action Figure

Catalogs & Advertisement

from the 1987 Mattel Catalog

Curiously in the catalog image (US top, Italian below) that depicts the action feature, Hordak’s chest armor piece is not lowered but removed completely.

Italian Catalog.
1988 French Catalog. Image via Grayskull Museum
Italian advert with Buzz-Saw Hordak. [source: Facebook]

Buzz-Saw Hordak also was advertised in a Finnish toy booklet.

Finnish toy booklet “Suuri Lelukirja” 1988 – advertising upcoming figures. [Image credit: Arto Paappanen]
A Finnish action figure poster by BRIO. showing Buzz-Saw Hordak – but labeled simply as “Hordak”.
There was a French Masters of the Universe Club in the 80s, that sent this leaflet to the members, thanks to Jerry Chamand for the information. Buzz-Saw Hordak is depicted on the cover with Mosquitor, fighting against Clamp Champ. [source: Facebook]

In the Spanish Masters of the Universe Club magazine from 1989 Buzz-Saw Hordak was advertised with many of the very last released action figures.

source: Mundo Masters Association

Buzz-Saw Hordak managed to appear in the Burger King box art along with Snake-Face, He-Man, Orko, Teela, and Skeletor.

Media

Buzz-Saw Hordak appears in the 1987 Preternia poster art by William George.

Image source: He-Man.org

Buzz-Saw Hordak was called “Hordak Torpedor” in a Spanish minicomic sized booklet. The art by Bruce Timm was mirror-flipped.

Comics and Magazines

In the final 1987 wave of minicomics, there was a lot more continuity at play that dealt with the new playset Eternia (referred to as the Three Towers of Eternia / Ultimate Battleground in stories). Writer Steven Grant talks about it in an interview for the 2015 He-Man and MOTU Minicomics Collection book: “There wasn’t any long-range plan to the stories, but the project manager liked the idea of weaving in threads where possible…”

The Mattel minicomic “Enter… Buzz-Saw Hordak”, written by Steven Grant and art by Bruce Timm introduces to the readers Mosquitor as the newest addition to the Evil Horde and when Hordak discovers that the Central Tower of Eternia Towers has risen, he reveals that he helped build it long ago, before his banishment to Etheria.

Hordak knows only the true King of Eternia can enter the Central Tower, and uses King Randor to sneak inside, but it turns out the Powers inside the Tower alter Hordak.

In the Marvel comics under STAR imprint issue #8 “The Getaway” (street date release: March 24th, 1987), written by Mike Carlin and art by Ron Wilson we get a different depiction for Hordak’s new Buzz Saw feature. (The Hurricane powers had been previously on display in issue #3.)

Similar (on surface level) to the minicomic, the STAR comic shares the introduction of Mosquitor at the same time as the Buzz-Saw variant powers for Hordak.

In the comic Hordak has already at the start of the story raided Palace Eternia, and while Orko goes to check out the situation at the Palace, He-Man (in his Cliff Climber attire) follows and confronts Hordak. Hordak taunts He-Man for having “borrowed” something from the Palace and then displays his ability to shoot a Buzz Saw from his chest.

He-Man is at first taken back when Hordak shows he can actually shoot multiple buzz saws from his chest. He-Man deduces that “only one man could have created a weapon so fantastic – Man-At-Arms

No explanation is given as to what the actual invention by Man-At-Arms was – the buzz saws themselves, or if they were simply a part of some larger new creation. Hordak never reveals how he was able to incorporate the buzz saws into his own armor either.

With the use of his Sword of Power, He-Man manages to destroy the buzz saw function in Hordak’s armor.

In the Masters of the Universe Magazine Winter issue 1988 we also get an appearance from Buzz-Saw Hordak in the story “Time Trap”, written and illustrated by Paul Kirchner.

Here Hordak is accompanied curiously by Saurod and Blade (but alliances were loose in some of the stories presented in MOTU Magazine), and displays the power of his Buzz-Saw by cutting up some trees, but in the end, his weapon is no match for a cube the heroes set up for the villains.


Personally, I have many fond memories of this version of Hordak. I received it on a holiday trip to Rhodes, Greece with my father and since I didn’t have the original version, the Buzz-Saw Hordak became my de facto Hordak. He still ruled the Evil Horde with an iron grip.

The minicomic story is also one of my absolute favorites from the entire run. It introduces a new character (I also had a Mosquitor toy which was a lot of fun), deepens the mythology of the Three Towers of Eternia, gives a mysterious origin to the variant powers (yet still meaningful), and leaves the story open to many possibilities. I really wish there had been a follow-up minicomic where Hordak would learn more about his Buzz-Saw powers and the Preternia technology of the Eternia Towers…

Jukka Issakainen with Buzz-Saw Hordak action figure – circa 1989

Buzz-Saw Hordak in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has graciously contributed the following image and video showing Buzz-Saw Hordak in action:

Evil Horde

Multi-Bot: Evil robot of a thousand bodies (1986)

Multi-Bot was a figure I don’t recall ever seeing as a kid. The concept is familiar enough – take the transforming body idea from Modulok and turn it into a robot. It certainly makes more logical sense for a robot to be able to swap around its body parts, as opposed to an organic creature like Modulok. Then again part of the fun of Modulok was the gruesome fun of imagining a monster that could do such a thing. Update: Thanks to Eric Spikes for finding the stand-alone Multi-Bot commercial immediately below and sharing it with me! It includes an intro with some computer graphics, and there is mention of his origins as a creation by Modulok:

Design & Development

Modulok and Multi-Bot apparently originated with the same concept idea by Roger Sweet, called Modular Man (source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog). Ted Mayer did the visual design work for both figures in June and July, 1984. We can see two of Ted’s designs for Multi-Bot below. They’re similar, although the right head and left yellow arm designs differ.

Modular Man, by Ted Mayer. This one has an organic green face on the right head. Image source: Power and Honor Foundation/Dark Horse
Modular Man, by Ted Mayer. This version has a robotic right head and a hammer shaped left yellow arm. Image source: Power and Honor Foundation/Dark Horse

Both of these designs, although different from the final look of the figure, were ported into the minicomic and the She-Ra cartoon, respectively. As was often the case, animators and comic book artists needed more lead time in order to meet deadlines, resulting in a mismatch between what was on the shelves and what was on TV screens.

Concept character vs animated look. Image source: Dušan M.

Production Toy

The cross sell art for the character reflects the finalized design of the toy, albeit with some slight differences in the exact color shades used:

The toy design is closer to the Ted Mayer concept design that was used for the minicomics, particularly in regard to the green and black head. The color choices are generally retained, although switched around a bit. The torso design has been reworked quite a bit, and the figure was given a second torso, giving him greater flexibility to work as two fully independent figures.

Generally speaking, Multi-Bot about the same height as Modulok, but he’s significantly bulkier. And of course depending on how they are configured either figure can be made to be either short or tall. The 1985 wave of Evil Horde figures was generally filled with monsters, while the 1986 wave was mostly comprised for robotic characters, including Horde Trooper and Dragstor.

Left to right: Multi-Bot, Modulok, Hordak
1987 German MOTU Magazine. Source: www.he-man.org
1986 Mattel catalog. Source: Battle Armor Dad

Multi-Bot and Modulok are compatible with each other, and can be mixed and matched to create “Mega-Monster” (also known as “Megabeast”).

Image courtesy of Øyvind Meisfjord

Packaging

Multi-Bot came in a box very similar to the one used for Modulok, down to the size, shape, and art style. The back features a number of ways to “build” the character, as well as an action scene depicting Multi-Bot transforming while battling Evil Warriors and Snake Men.

There are two versions of the packaging – the blue background, as shown earlier, and a silver background version, shown below (thanks to Thorsten G. for pointing this out):

Minicomics

In The Menace of Multi-Bot, we find out that Modulok invented Multi-Bot. He gives Multi-Bot enormous strength, and the ability to reassemble himself when damaged. Multi-Bot is sent to Eternia to challenge He-Man (with a secret plan to attack Hordak after He-Man was defeated, allowing Modulok to take charge).

Mult-Bot is at first a formidable foe, but he is defeated (and turned on Hordak) in the end with the use of some magnets:

Star Comics

In issue 5 of the Star Comics Masters of the Universe series, a (more or less) toy-accurate Multi-Bot is used as a kind of antenna to summon Monstroid:

Later in the story, Multi-Bot tussles with Extendar, but in the end Orko forces him to save Extendar from drowning. Notice that Multi-Bot is given a goatee, which seems to stem from a misinterpretation of the source material.

Animation

In the She-Ra animated series, Multi-Bot was again the invention of Modulok. Multi-Bot is not frequently used, but he seems to have the ability to transform his body into anything at all:

Other Artwork

Multi-Bot makes a minor appearance in this Eternia poster by William George, as “Megabeast” (combined with Modulok):

Multi-Bot in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has graciously shared the following images and video of Multi-Bot in action!

Playsets

Slime Pit: Evil pit of gruesome ooze (1986)

The Slime Pit was the second and final small playset released in the original Masters of the Universe toyline (the first was Point Dread, in 1983). Of all the playsets MOTU had to offer, the Slime Pit perhaps packed the most punch for its size. It was all centered around one play feature, but it what a feature!

Design & Development

The Slime Pit was designed by Ted Mayer, from an idea that came out of the boy’s design group’s many brain storming sessions.

In the above illustration, you can see many of the hallmarks of the final playset are in place, including the grabbing hand in the front, the hand around the side and the scroll design near the top. The slime-spewing head is wolf-like in this concept (a frequent theme in Ted’s designs, it seems), whereas the final version seems to have more of a dinosaur skull look.

Mattel more or less invented slime as a commercial product, and it has been a popular seller since the late 1970s. The Slime Pit was a clever way for Mattel to integrate its popular slime products into the world of Masters of the Universe.

Pixel Dan has done some extensive research on the history of slime. Take a moment to check it out in this video:

There is also some great information about slime in this article at Plaid Stallions and again in this piece by Dinosaur Dracula.

Production Playset

The final play set has a deeper pit area than the concept version. The paint applications are fairly simple, but it does have some well executed red and gray overspray on the gray stone areas and some brown overspray on the skull. These seem more well thought-out than the often haphazard looking paint applications given to the exterior of Castle Grayskull (particular later releases of the playset). Like the Fright Zone, the Slime Pit is adorned with Hordak’s visage (Hordak seems really into branding his image on all things Horde). There is also a sculpted skull near the back wall.

The playset came with a can of Mattel’s Horde Slime. This particular slime mix was much runnier than the kind of slime typically found on toy store shelves today. It was also available for free, separate from the playset, with the purchase of two action figures.

That runniness made it work great for the purposes of sliming action figures, but it also made it hazardous to rugs and upholstery, not to mention any furry MOTU figures like Moss Man, Panthor and Grizzlor. For that reason, there were a few warnings given about what not to do with the slime, which were of course promptly ignored by many enterprising young mad scientists.

Some kids just want to watch the world burn. Image source: He-Man.org

Packaging

The box art was painted by the late, great William George. Taking cues from the design of the playset itself, the scene is set in ancient Greco-Eternian ruins.

Image: The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
Images: The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

Minicomics

The Slime Pit came packed with Escape From the Slime Pit, which showcased the mini playset’s power to turn its victims into mindless slaves of the Horde. In the story, He-Man is slimed and is only restored to his right mind by exposure to brilliant light:

Animation

The Slime Pit appears in the She-Ra episode, “Loo-Kee’s Sweetie.” It doesn’t really look like the playset, but it does feature slime and a number of dinosaur-like bones. In the story, the Slime Pit saps its victims’ strength rather than turning them into zombie slaves. It’s easy to see why this less disturbing concept might be preferred for the purposes of an animated kids’ show.

Other Media

The Slime Pit was featured in the June 1986 edition of Masters of the Universe Magazine, as both the cover subject and as a poster by Earl Norem. The artwork features Buzz-Off as the victim and Flying Fists He-Man riding to the rescue on Battle Cat.

It also is the centerpiece in a Kid Stuff audio book called Prisoner In the Slime Pit:

Like the Slime itself, the Slime Pit was a concept that Mattel would revisit over and over again:

The Slime Pit was planned to be reissued in Mattel’s King Arthur toyline, but never came to be. Image source: Fabrizio Fernetti
200x MOTU Slime Pit. Image source: Lulu Berlu
Mattel’s Harry Potter Slime Chamber playset
Imaginext Ooze Pit, very closely modeled on the original Slime Pit.

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Playsets

Fright Zone: Trap-filled stronghold of terror (1985)

I only saw the Fright Zone once as a kid, in the late 80’s. I was immediately filled with regret for never having owned such a creepy-looking playset, a situation that was not rectified until a quarter of a century later.

Of the three major playsets depicted in the Filmation He-Man and She-Ra cartoons, the Fright Zone toy was the least like its animated counterpart. What I believe happened is that Filmation came up with its design on its own (an HR Giger-esque monstrosity), and then Mattel decided to use an older concept to represent the hideout of the Evil Horde in toy form. The animated Fright Zone would have been immense and complicated to produce, to say the least, although I suppose they could have replicated a portion of it.

The playset version of the Fright Zone begins with a December 5, 1983 piece of concept art called “Masters Villain Playset.” The concept, illustrated by Ed Watts, was no doubt intended for the Evil Warriors. It has the tree (this version has hands) down next to the jail cell, and it has some kind of man-eating plant on the right side, but otherwise it’s very close to the look of the final toy.

It’s not clear if the rock monster trap was included in this early concept, but there was a somewhat similar concept floating around Mattel:

A couple of separate patents were filed connected with the development of the Fright Zone playset. One (filed October 4, 1985) is connected with the tree and rock monster traps, and the other (filed April 5, 1985) is connected with the mold process for the rubber dragon puppet. Mattel applied for a trademark claim on the Fright Zone on January 27, 1984.

The playset has four main play features. There is the rubber dragon puppet that can be manipulated through the hole to its den on the right side of the playset. There is the haunted tree that can be made to grab hold of figures. There is the prison, which can be unlached with the flick of a switch, and there is the rock monster trap near the entrance to the dragon’s den, that can grab on to a figure’s foot:

The packaging artwork was painted by William George. 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 source: Hakes Auctions

The Fright Zone also appears on the box art for Hordak/Grizzlor:

Image source: LGC Auctions

The 1987 Style Guide (illustrated by Errol McCarthy) described the Fright Zone this way:

Power: Ability to capture and consume enemies of The Horde.

Character profile: Located in Etheria, the Fright Zone is the dreaded domain of The Evil Horde. Exploreres are loath to enter the region, for few who travel into the Fright Zone ever return – and those who do are haunted forever after. It is the Fright Zone through which Hordak and his horde pass to enter the realm of Eternia.

As you might expect, the Fright Zone appears most frequently in the minicomics in 1985, the year it was released. It’s showcased most effectively in The Power of the Evil Horde, illustrated by Bruce Timm:

A Filmation version of the Fright Zone appeared in issue four of the US Masters of the Universe Magazine:

However, the same issue has this activity page depicting a playset-influenced version of Hordak‘s lair:

This version of the Fright Zone, in poster form appears in the same issue. It’s a much more realistic depiction, but still based on the playset:

Several other posters featured the Fright Zone as a backdrop. It was rendered at times just like the toy, and sometimes like the Filmation She-Ra cartoon version:

In the Masters Mail for the UK Masters of the Universe Magazine, issue 13, we get some clarification on why the different looks for the Filmation and toy/comic Fright Zones (you can read a bit more about this at James Eatock’s He-Man and She-Ra Blog). As retcons go, it’s pretty elegant and it works well enough for me:

Apart from miniature playsets like the Slime Pit and Point Dread, the Fright Zone was by far the smallest, but it was also the creepiest, and in my opinion, one of the most fun to actually play with.

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