The only non-toy He-Man related items I tried to collect as a kid were the puffy stickers offered inside specially marked boxes of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies cereal in 1984. As any blind box toy collector can tell you, collecting stickers like this was as exciting as it was frustrating. You will inevitably get multiples of anything you’re trying collect (I got several copies of Evil-Lyn, as I recall, but alas, no Skeletor). And of course, I could only cajole my mother into buying so many boxes of Rice Krispies.
The stickers came in waxy envelopes, with a coupon for 20 cents off of a variety of “Kellogg’s talking Krispies” cereals. Incidentally, the coupons are still good, as there is no expiration date. But 20 cents was a better deal in 1984 dollars.
I think was really sold me on these as a kid (aside from the He-Man characters) was the facts that the stickers were plastic and puffy. That gave them a sense of permanence that typical paper stickers lacked.
The artwork comes from a couple of different sources. The Teela sticker is directly based on Teela’s cross sell art, albeit with more vivid colors:
Evil-Lyn’s sticker is also based on her cross sell artwork, although they’ve modified the position of her left arm, and given her a blue version of Teela’s shield. Her coloring also seems influenced by Filmation’s version of the character:
Battle Armor He-Man, Battle Armor Skeletor, and Orko do not seem to be based at all off the cross sell artwork. Stylistically they somewhat recall Errol McCarthy’s extensive body of Masters of the Universe illustrations. I have not found any examples of his artwork that are compositionally identical to either He-Man or Skeletor as they appear here. However, Errol did a version of Orko that may have influenced the design of the puffy sticker:
Note that Orko’s hat is off model on the sticker – it’s colored yellow rather than orange. I suspect the reason for that was to save on the number of colors being printed per sticker. The same shade of yellow is used in Orko’s bursts of magic.
My first memory of Screeech (yes, his name is spelled with the extra “e”) is from kindergarten. There were a couple of days during the year where kids were invited to bring a favorite toy to school to show to the class. On one occasion I recall bringing in Mer-Man, who I was enamored with at the time (and still am). But another boy brought in Screeech. I owned Zoar, but I had never seen this purple and blue repaint.
It was pretty clear to me what he was – a repainted version of Zoar. Had I been a little older I might have recognized that both were repainted versions of the Big Jim Eagle:
Screeech makes all kinds of thematic sense in the Masters of the Universe scale of cosmic balance. For every Battle Cat there is a Panthor. For every He-Man there is a Faker. And for every Zoar there is a Screeech. In fact, the colors for both Screeech and Panthor were chosen by the same designer at Mattel – Martin Arriola.
Screeech was sold individually, in a gift set with Skeletor, in a gift set with Battle Armor Skeletor, and in a gift set with Trap Jaw. The packaging illustrations for the first two sets were painted by Rudy Obrero, who also did the artwork for Castle Grayskull, Battle Cat, and many others.
The Battle Armor Skeletor/Screeech set was illustrated by an unknown artist – perhaps someone on staff at Mattel:
The Trap Jaw/Screeech gift set was quite plain by comparison:
Screeech is probably the most obscure character from the first few years of the MOTU toyline. He was rarely depicted in stories or television, and when he was shown, it was usually very much in the background.
A noteworthy exception to that is in the Golden Books story, The Sunbird Legacy. In the story, Evil-Lyn has the power to transform into Screeech. This ability gives the character some nice symmetry with Filmation’s version of the Sorceress.
In Sunbird, Screeech resembles a buzzard rather than an eagle or falcon. I’m not sure if that’s because the artist wasn’t given a visual reference for the character, or if there were plans early on for Screeech to have a unique buzzard appearance.
Screeech’s cross sell artwork is likely just a recolored version of the original Zoar line art. It was seldom used, however. It didn’t appear on the back of any boxes that I’ve been able to identify. The only full color version I’ve found is on the back of the Power of Point Dread comic book and record:
In the Filmation He-Man cartoon, Screeech is a mechanical bird sent on missions by Skeletor to drop bombs on the heroic warriors:
According to James Eatock, the name for Screeech in the original cartoon scripts was the Robot Raven. Perhaps this was actually a character invented by Filmation, but renamed Screeech at the last minute to tie things back to the Mattel toy.
My first introduction to Evil-Lyn was through the 1983 Filmation cartoon. When I finally saw the toy (which belonged to another kid), I was a little taken aback at how bright yellow her skin was in comparison to the character on the show. I remember thinking about it for a minute and deciding that they probably made her colors brighter to appeal to kids. I think 6-year-old me was probably right on that count.
Evil-Lyn probably has roots in Mark Taylor’s Sorceress concept, although the connections are somewhat tenuous. Mark Taylor intended the Sorceress (also known as the Goddess, and eventually fused with the Teela concept) to be a double agent and a changeling, playing both sides. The Sorceress wore a head piece under her snake armor that formed a V-shape on her forehead, a design repeated with Evil-Lyn.
And of course from the neck down, Evil-Lyn is a repaint of Mark Taylor’s Teela:
Having said that, Evil-Lyn was designed by Mattel artist Colin Bailey, who also designed Trap Jaw and Buzz-Off.
There are a few things to unpack here. Notice the very short wand in the above concept illustration. The version that came with the toy was more of a short staff than a wand. The size was no doubt increased in order to reduce the likelihood of it becoming a choking hazard.
The artist mentions that Evil Lyn’s face should resemble Sophia Loren, or at least mimic her expression. Some of that did end up in the final toy’s face:
The original working name for Evil-Lyn was “Sultra”. It might be worth noting that the Sultra drawing is dated October 5, 1982. Mattel never filed a trademark claim on Sultra, but they did file one for the name Evil-Lyn on Jan 21, 1983.
The toy was packaged on the standard card, with a very nice illustration by Errol McCarthy on the back. Evil-Lyn’s wand was molded in glow-in-the-dark plastic. Strangely, there is no mention of this feature on the packaging, which seems like a missed opportunity.
Note that in the above Errol McCarthy illustration, Evil-Lyn carries the short wand from the original concept art. In the black and white versions of the same illustration (below), you can see that Errol tried out a couple of looks for He-Man: one with a shorter neck, and one with a longer neck. The shorter neck version appears in the final colored illustration.
Errol also illustrated the character for one of Mattel’s licensing kits:
The cross sell art is pretty faithful to the final toy:
In both the Kid Stuff audio book and the Golden Books story, The Sunbird Legacy, Evil-Lyn has the power to transform into Screeech, the barbarian bird:
Although Evil Lyn appears in the 1983 Mattel Dealer Catalog, she doesn’t show up in mini comics until the 1984 lineup.
As I mentioned earlier, my first introduction to Evil-Lyn was through the Filmation cartoon. In the series, Evil-Lyn always reminded me a lot of Ursa from the 1980 film, Superman II (we watched this many times on the old video disc player).
In the Filmation Series guide, Evil-Lyn is very reminiscent of Colin Bailey’s concept artwork, including the short wand. I would guess that the colors in this depiction are what Colin originally had in mind, but the colors were altered at some point during the development of the toy.
The final design that Filmation went with was somewhat simplified. Evil-Lyn lost the skull on her helmet, and the decoration on her costume was simplified. Her wand looked like a cross between the concept and toy versions. She also gained a cape, which seems to suit her:
As James Eatock noted in his “50 Things About…Evil-Lyn” video, Evil-Lyn did sport a skull motif on her helmet in some early animation cells in the series, but it was painted over in black and wasn’t visible.
In the 1982 Masters of the Universe Bible, written by Michael Halperin, Evil-Lyn’s real name was Evelyn Powers. She was a scientist from earth and part of Marlena’s crew that crash-landed on Eternia and Infinita. Evelyn was transformed in to Evil-Lyn via the evil magic coursing through Infinita, domain of Skeletor.
Evil-Lyn was a central character in the 1987 live-action Masters of the Universe movie. Early concept art for Evil-Lyn’s (played by Meg Foster) costume was very close to the toy design, but the final costume was much more ornate:
Evil-Lyn was depicted in posters, coloring books and box art by artists such as R.L. Allen, William George, Esteban Maroto, and many others. She remains a quintessential 80s villain and a fan favorite to this day.
Here is the 1983 Mattel Toys Dealer Catalog (or at least the portion relevant to the MOTU line). Intended for retailers, Mattel’s dealer catalogs showcased all the latest and greatest releases, along with existing merchandise. The catalog showcases all the 1982 items plus everything new for 1983. As we’ve seen in other catalogs, the “new” items tend to be hand-painted rather than final factory examples.