Heroic Warriors, Super7 5.5" Figures

He-Man: Most powerful man in the universe! (2018)

Announced in 2017, Super7’s vintage style, 5.5″ Filmation inspired He-Man figure was released in 2018 along with similar versions of Skeletor, She-Ra and Hordak. The design ethos seems to be based on the following premise: what if, in the 1980s, Mattel released a series of He-Man variant figures that were “as seen on TV”? That’s pretty much exactly what we get with this series, including the occasional design shortcuts that Mattel might plausibly have implemented in the 80s.

Design & Development

Within the packaging for He-Man we get a brief write-up of the history of how He-Man’s design was translated from toy to cartoon:

In the above sheet (put together by The Power and The Honor Foundation), we see the vintage He-Man figure, along with the animated commercial version, and a finalized version of He-Man’s animated design.

In He-Man’s first animated appearance (a commercial animated by Filmation Studios to help advertise the toyline), He-Man more or less follows the design of the action figure, including the rectangular details on his harness and the round designs on his belt and bracers. He also carries his axe and sword, which were originally intended to be his primary accessories. The commercial can be viewed in its entirety here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BpmvudrnPlj/

As shown in the card that came with the Super7 He-Man figure, He-Man’s more detailed action figure design was simplified for ease of animation once the animated series was greenlit for development. His primary weapon became his power sword in the series.

The prototype He-Man figure was revealed in February of 2017 at New York Toy Fair. It’s pretty close to the mass produced figure, although his colors are a bit different, and the hair separation is better on the prototype. He also has a nice matte finish throughout.

Image source: He-Man.org

An early factory sample with some quality control issues was also shown a bit later along in the process. The red paint is flaking off of the harness, which seems to have been made from some sparkling metallic plastic material. This issue would be corrected on the final figure.

Image source: He-Man.org

Production Figure

Design-wise, the sculpt of the chest and pelvis seem to be taken directly from the vintage 1982 figure. The arms are based on the vintage figure as well, but the bracers have been made symmetrical and their design simplified. The feet have been changed, removing all the wrap detail from the original boot design.

He-Man has the same spring-loaded power punch feature of the 1982 original. The figure comes with a cartoon style power sword, as well as a shield (used rarely by Prince Adam in the cartoon) and a half sword that fits with the corresponding Skeletor half sword. Incidentally, He-Man was depicted with the shield in Filmation’s promotional materials, and the half sword almost made it into the show:

Image source: La Cueva del Terror
Image source: James Eatock

The figure’s harness unfortunately doesn’t fit very well around the back, and sits a bit low. It can be made to sit more or less correctly, but requires some finessing. Also, the figure is extremely glossy. I was able to coat the figure with Vallejo Matt Varnish to somewhat reduce the glossiness:

Packaging

The design of the packaging was directed by The Power and the Honor Foundation. The main carded version (which was actually released second) is based on the original 1980s design, with an “AS SEEN ON TV” burst which, although not featured on vintage MOTU packaging, was pretty commercially ubiquitous at one point. The shape of the bubble on the front has been altered compared to the vintage packaging.

Image source: Brooklyn Comic Shop

The main artwork on the back was done by Errol McCarthy, who worked on cardback art for most of the vintage MOTU figures. The Filmation-style cross sell artwork and the insert were illustrated by Emiliano Santalucia:

The first version to be released was actually a two pack, in the style of some of the vintage figure gift sets. This set was released in limited numbers.

Another limited release of the figure came in the form of a “Los Amos” package, based on the design of vintage “Los Amos” (Mexico) figures:

Yet another version will also be released in the style of the Japanese Takara packaging:

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Super7 5.5" Figures

Skeletor – Evil lord of destruction! (2018)

Announced in 2017, Super7’s vintage style, 5.5″ Filmation inspired Skeletor figure was released in 2018 along with similar versions of He-Man, She-Ra and Hordak. The design ethos seems to be based on the following premise: what if, in the 1980s, Mattel released a series of He-Man variant figures that were “as seen on TV”? That’s pretty much exactly what we get with this series, including the occasional design shortcuts that Mattel might plausibly have implemented in the 80s.

Design & Development

Within the packaging for Skeletor we get a brief write-up of the history of how Skeletor’s design was translated from toy to cartoon:

In the above sheet (put together by The Power and The Honor Foundation), we see the vintage Skeletor figure, along with a work in progress and a finalized version of Skeletor’s animated design. His animated appearance in an early Castle Grayskull commercial is also referenced, although an image isn’t included, likely because most images of Skeletor in the commercial are close-ups.

In Skeletor’s first animated appearance (a commercial animated by Filmation Studios to help advertise the toyline), Skeletor more or less follows the design of the action figure, including the highly detailed costume, monster feet, and red eyes. The only liberty taken is with his face, which doesn’t feature the green paint applications of the action feature. The commercial can be viewed in its entirety here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BpmvudrnPlj/

Image source/owner: Rob Hexevo

As shown in the card that came with the Super7 Skeletor figure, Skeletor’s more detailed action figure design was simplified for ease of animation once the animated series was greenlit for development. The evolving and finalized designs can also be seen in the images below. He also has a more realistic hood design compared to the vintage action figure, and an angrier-looking face.

Image source:
He-Man and She-Ra: A Complete Guide to the Classic Animated Adventures (James Eatock)

In some ways these changes brought him a bit closer to Mark Taylor‘s original design, which also featured a larger hood and relatively human-looking feet

In fact, material from the Series Guide shows an intermediate Skeletor design that is partway between Mark Taylor’s original concept and the Filmation version:

Image source: He-Man.org

The prototype Skeletor figure was revealed in February of 2017 at New York Toy Fair. It’s pretty close to the mass produced figure, although his colors are a bit different, with paler blue skin, a more vivid yellow skull, and black fingernails:

Image source: He-Man.org

Production Figure

Design-wise, the sculpt of the chest and pelvis seem to be taken directly from the vintage 1982 figure. The arms are based on the vintage figure as well, but the “fin” structures on the forearms have been removed. The feet have been changed, removing the three-toed feet and substituting the streamlined boots from the cartoon.

The production figure, as is always the case, isn’t quite as sharp as the prototype. It’s pretty closely based on the Filmation source material, but of course with the bulky proportions of the vintage toy.

The figure comes with a pretty Filmation-accurate Havoc Staff, with the exception of the color, which came out more pink than light purple. Skeletor also includes a purple version of the He-Man’s cartoon style Power Sword (not a weapon Skeletor used in the cartoon, but a nod to the vintage figure), as well as a half Power Sword that fits together with the 2018 Super7 He-Man figure. The Swords are pretty closely based on the animated design, but also feature a hand guard, which Mattel tended to use on almost all of its swords in the vintage line.

Out of the packaging the armor tends to ride a little low, and it’s fairly stiff plastic, making it difficult to adjust. However, 10 seconds with a hair dryer makes it temporarily rubbery and pliable, which allowed me to adjust the armor to sit correctly, as shown in my example above.

Compared to the vintage figure, the 2018 version is certainly less detailed, but the face actually looks a bit more evil. The new version has a hard head as opposed to the soft, hollow polyvinyl of the original. The Filmation-inspired Skeletor’s blue skin is also quite vivid compared to the pale blue of the original.

Packaging

The design of the packaging was directed by The Power and the Honor Foundation. The main carded version (which was actually released second) is based on the original 1980s design, with an “AS SEEN ON TV” burst which, although not featured on vintage MOTU packaging, was pretty commercially ubiquitous at one point. The shape of the bubble on the front has been altered compared to the vintage packaging.

The main artwork on the back was done by Errol McCarthy, who worked on cardback art for most of the vintage MOTU figures. The cross sell artwork and the insert were illustrated by Emiliano Santalucia:

The first version to be released was actually a two pack, in the style of some of the vintage figure gift sets. This set was released in limited numbers.

Another limited release of the figure came in the form of a “Los Amos” package, based on the design of vintage “Los Amos” (Mexico) figures:

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Evil Horde

Hordak – Ruthless Leader of the Evil Horde (1985)

For some unfathomable reason, Hordak was the only member of the original 1985 Evil Horde that we didn’t have in the house growing up. My brother had Grizzlor, and I had Leech, Mantenna and Modulok. But what’s a faction without its leader?

Image courtesy of Axel Gimenez

Design & Development

Hordak is the leader of the Evil Horde faction, which debuted in 1985. According to Roger Sweet, the character name and the concept of the Evil Horde were created by Dave Capper, Director of Marketing for Boy’s Toys at Mattel. Mattel and Filmation apparently worked in tandem to develop Hordak, going through many iterations of the character before arriving at two final designs. One design would be appear on  toy shelves and the other in the She-Ra cartoon (source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog).

Dušan M. put together a nice graphic showing the sequential evolution of Hordak’s design. You can check it out at the Ancient Library of Grayskull Facebook group. I’ll go through each design, following Dušan’s ordering. The Filmation images come from Dark Horse’s Art of He-Man, Dark Horse’s He-Man and She-Ra, Dušan M., and eBay.

In this early concept (below), Hordak, while menacing, has the look of a post-apocalyptic thug, like a He-Man character crossed with something from Mad Max.

In the concept drawing below (by Gerald Forton and Herb Hazelton), Hordak looks much less human, and more menacing, in an alien punk-rocker kind of way. The overlapping plates on his armor give him a bit of an H. R. Giger quality. An early Shadow Weaver concept is included.


This concept below looks quite close to the first one, although it lacks the Horde emblem on the chest.


In this concept image shared by Dušan, Hordak’s costume is starting to come together, although his face still looks relatively human.

The concept below is closer still to the final Hordak design, although he still sports a punk rock row of spikes on his head.

From here we get a couple of divergent looks for Hordak, one from Filmation and one from Mattel. Both of them dropped the one-armed look (although in the Filmation cartoon Hordak could transform his arm into a cannon, and Mattel eventually came out with a Hordak variant with arm attachments).

Both of them had a similar looking, mask-like face, with a bone cowl around the back of his head. Filmation’s Hordak had a blue body suit and symmetrical arm bands. The animated Hordak has a somewhat sharp, mechanical-looking head:

Meanwhile, at Mattel, Ted Mayer took an early Filmation model sheet and tweaked it slightly, adding a red cape (thanks to Dušan M for this information). Hordak was colored gray, black and red – good vampire colors. He was given a bat-shaped shield and a strange organic-looking weapon. He has Horde bat insignias all over his costume, including on the armband on his left arm (the Filmation version had two armbands with no insignia). His head has warty-looking bumps on it and looks organic rather than mechanical.

Image source: Tomart’s Action Figure Digest
Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation/Dark Horse

The Evil Horde insignia is actually Hordak’s face, with batwings on either side:

According to Roger Sweet, Hordak’s face was based on a witch doctor’s mask. Interestingly, Ted Mayer did another concept that’s even closer to that idea, although this one is unlikely to have anything to do with Hordak:

Production Figure

The toy was based on Ted Mayer’s final design for the character, although the strange weapon was changed out for a crossbow:

hordak cross sell
Cross Sell artwork, showing the toy’s final design. Image courtesy of Axel Giménez.

An early version of the figure feature red “ribs” on the sides of the armor, and a painted red bat on the back, underneath the cape. The extra paint applications are omitted from subsequent releases, however.

Packaging

In the illustration on the back of the packaging, Hordak and his minions make ready to storm Castle Grayskull. Interestingly, Hordak holds Skeletor‘s staff here:

Other Artwork

Errol McCarthy also depicted the character in a number of different contexts (images below are from He-Man.org), including the 1987 Style Guide, which described him this way:

Hordak acquired his power while passing through the plane from Etheria to Eternia. He as since discovered how to retain and refine it.

Gift Sets

Hordak was sold in a number of gift sets, including a couple of different sets with Grizzlor, and a Canadian set with Roboto and Sy-Klone. Hordak was also sold in 1986 together with Mantisaur, his insectoid steed.

Comic Depictions

As a toy, Hordak was marketed under the Masters of the Universe brand, despite being the primary villain in Filmation’s She-Ra series. Although Hordak was a constant presence is the She-Ra cartoon, Mattel treated him very differently in their own stories. He only shows up in She-Ra’s first minicomic (The Story of She-Ra). In the Princess of Power minicomic canon, Catra is actually She-Ra’s primary nemesis.

Hordak, meanwhile, is a frequently-appearing villain in He-Man’s minicomics starting in 1985, appearing in the following comics:

  • Grizzlor – The Legend Comes Alive
  • Leech – The Master of Power Suction
  • Mantenna and the Menace of the Evil Horde
  • Hordak – The Ruthless Leader’s Revenge
  • The Treachery of Modulok
  • The Power of the Evil Horde
  • Escape From the Slime Pit
  • The Menace of Multi-Bot
  • The Warrior Machine
  • The Hordes of Hordak
  • Between a Rock and a Hard Place
  • Enter… Buzz-Saw Hordak

In Leech’s surreal comic, Hordak and Leech both had the power to grow and shrink at will – which doesn’t seem to follow in any other stories.

LMPS (9)
Image via the Dark Horse He-Man Minicomics Collection

Animation

In the minicomics cannon, Hordak is generally less well-equipped on Eternia than he is on Etheria, the setting for the She-Ra cartoon series. In Etheria, Hordak’s Fright Zone is a massive industrial nightmare structure, and he has access to legions of troops and vehicles:

fz f
hordak throne
throne2

In the He-Man cartoon series, the heroes are in power, and the villains are constantly trying to take it from them. The She-Ra cartoon series has it flipped – the Horde has already defeated Etheria, and She-Ra and her allies strive to overthrow Hordak (voiced by George Dicenzo). The Horde is something like the Empire in the Star Wars series.

When Hordak was introduced, he was written in as the former master of Skeletor; Skeletor is said to have betrayed Hordak and set up shop on Eternia. Hordak has the ability not only to transform his arm into a canon, but his entire body into various mechanical devices. He reports to his mysterious brother Horde Prime, who is the supreme commander of the Horde Empire across all its worlds.

Box Art & Poster Appearances

Hordak makes appearances in the following box art:

  • The Fright Zone
  • Hordak Grizzlor
  • Hordak and Mantisaur
  • Slime Pit
  • Beam-Blaster & Artilleray

Hordak also appears in several posters by William George, Earl Norem, Esteban Maroto and others. He is variously portrayed in both his Filmation and toy looks:

Other Appearances

Hordak of course appears in a wide variety of published media. Because he’s a primary villain, it’s not practical to try to track his every appearance, but I’ll cover some representative samples here:

Golden, 1985: The Horde

“Day of the Comet” newspaper story

UK MOTU Magazine, Issue 71

As a villain, Hordak is certainly creepy enough, although he doesn’t have the archetypal quality of Skeletor. Skeletor is a symbol for death, and you instantly recognize what he’s about at first sight. Hordak has more of a horror movie creature quality. To me, Hordak is outshone by his even more freakish henchmen, while Skeletor is the most interesting villain in his faction. Still, I would have loved to have had this figure as a kid to lead my shambling band of bizarro Hordesmen.

Hordak in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has kindly shared the following image as well as a short video of Hordak in action:

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Reviews

He-Man and She-Ra: A Complete Guide to the Classic Animated Adventures

He-Man and She-Ra: A Complete Guide to the Classic Animated Adventures is a nearly-600 page love letter to the 1983 and 1985 Filmation He-Man and She-Ra cartoons. James Eatock, the author (the She-Ra section was co-written by Alex Hawkey) has been reviewing and researching the cartoon since at least 1997, and knows more about the series than perhaps any living person. In fact, Eatock published his own Unofficial Guide to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe back in 2010, so it’s fitting now that he has been able to publish an official guide through Dark Horse.

unofficial

The book takes an exhaustive look at each episode of the He-Man and She-Ra cartoons, offering a synopsis for each episode, a list of characters, memorable quotes, reviews, morals, deleted scenes, information on animation reuse, trivia, artwork and more. There is also a forward by storyboard artist and writer Robert Lamb, as well as some information on abandoned episodes.

I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for these cartoons. I remember well the power struggles over control of the TV when I was a kid. My big sisters would always steer us toward episodes of Three’s Company, Different Strokes, The Monkees or Gilligan’s Island, but when I had a choice, I would always be watching He-Man.

Having said that, the Filmation cartoons have never been the focus of my own research in this blog. My research interests lie mainly in the development of the toys and packaging and comics. So for me, the book is actually a godsend. Anything I could possibly want to know about any episode in the series seems to have already been uncovered by Eatock and Hawkey (or if it hasn’t, it’s probably unknowable).

The book is called a guide, and it works very well in that capacity. I’ve found that the best way to digest this book is to read about an episode and then go immediately watch it, so you can catch all the behind the scenes facts and surprising connections across the series.

One of my favorite things about the book is all the marvelous artwork (in fact, I think a sequel that focuses entirely on artwork would be warranted, particularly rarer pieces from the animated commercial and Filmation’s highly detailed backgrounds). Dušan Mitrović illuminates the black and white character model sheets with colors that are authentic to the look of the series:

There is a great deal of development artwork in the book, including some lovely pieces by Fred Carrillo, known primarily among fans for his work illustrating many of the Golden Books series of He-Man stories:

Eatock’s enthusiasm for the series is infectious, and even non-Filmation fans will find themselves being drawn into the depths of the series through the eyes of the author. Even if you don’t consider yourself much of a fan of the cartoon, this book is a must-own.

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