Clamp Champ nimbly escaped my detection as a kid. By 1987 I really wasn’t into He-Man anymore, and the only figures released that year that I was kind of dimly aware of were Mosquitor, Scare Glow and King Randor. But I think had I seen Clamp Champ on the shelves I would have dug him.
Ironically some of my least favorite figures (heroic warriors especially) come from 1986, a year when a lot of new tooling was brought into the Masters of the Universe toyline. It’s great that they invested the money, but stylistically a lot of it just wasn’t my thing. By bringing back some shared parts in the 1987 line, the feel of the toys became much more familiar and in line with its established style. Clamp Champ in particular feels like an early MOTU figure, because his body isn’t overly encumbered by gimmicky action features. His gimmick is entirely in his weapon.
Clamp Champ reuses the legs, crotch, chest and arms from He-Man and the armor from Fisto (albeit warped slightly to make it fit on the slightly larger chest from He-Man). He’s given a newly sculpted head as well as a clamp weapon (“power pincer”). The figure was designed by David Wolfram, who also designed Tyrantisaurus Rex, Laser Light Skeletor, King Randor (action figure), Scare Glow, and others.
Clamp Champ’s cross sell artwork closely matched the final toy. He’s given some nice paint deco, including two tone boots and painted bracers, like King Randor. This level of paint detail, ironically, was never given to the original He-Man figure, although it was certainly planned in the prototype stage.
Image thanks to Jukka Issakainen
In Clamp Champ’s packaging art (above), he faces off against Ninjor, just as he did in his commercial and in other media. Nothing seems to make the two characters obvious nemeses, other than the fact that they were released in the same year.
In the 1987 Style Guide, Clamp Champ is given the following description (as far as I’m able to make out) EDIT: Thanks to Jukka Issakainen for providing a higher-quality image of Clamp Champ’s Style Guide page.
ROLE: Heroic soldier with the iron grip.
CHARACTER PROFILE: This brave and galant knight is responsible for guarding King Randor and the Royal Palace of Eternia.
WEAPONS: Trigger action claw weapon that traps and holds warriors allows Clamp Champ to immediately put the squeeze on any intruder.
We see these elements in the minicomic he came packed with, The Search For Keldor (illustrated by Bruce Timm, story by Steven Grant). In the story, “Klamp Champ” (probably an early spelling of the name, later dropped) is a tireless, loyal defender of King Randor who uses his might (but not his clamp weapon) to defeat Ninjor. He’s depicted as strong, agile, and in possession of super senses that prevent him from being taken by surprise.
Clamp Champ battles against a bizarrely off-model Beast Man (update: per Dušan M., it’s meant to represent the movie version of Beast Man, although it looks more like a blend between movie and toy) in the MOTU newspaper strip story, “Attack on Snake Mountain”.
In Lifetime Part 2, published by Star Comics, we got a glimps of an older Clamp Champ from an alternate timeline where Prince Adam lost his power sword in a time warp:
Clamp Champ also appears on this Spanish promotional sticker:
Clamp Champ is a part of the large cast of characters in William George’s Eternia and Preternia posters:
Clamp Champ also shows up in two posters by Earl Norem for Masters of the Universe Magazine:
The 1987 Power Tour – a live action stage show featuring He-Man and She-Ra – also included a few relatively obscure characters, like Blast Attak, Snout Spout and Clamp Champ:
Because Clamp Champ came out at the tail end of the toyline (and wasn’t around in stories for years before, like Sorceress or King Randor), there isn’t a great deal of back story to the character. His narrative arc is at least expanded somewhat in the Masters of the Universe Classics continuity, but I’ll write more about that in a separate article.
I never owned Stridor as a kid – I only had his evil counterpart, Night Stalker. Both of them were more interesting to look at than they were to play with, having no action features and articulation only in their guns and tails.
Design & Development
According to Martin Arriola, Stridor was created by Mattel designer Colin Bailey, who also worked on characters like Buzz-Off, Whiplash and Fisto. I’m not aware of any concept art that has surfaced for Stridor, but a hand-painted prototype without decals appears in a 1984 French catalog (below). The tail is shaped differently from the final toy, and the prototype helmet looks rather crude:
The final toy was given a number of decorative stickers, and changes were made to the tail and helmet:
Stridor in Action
Photos and a short video of Stridor in action, contributed by Øyvind Meisfjord:
Stridor was sold individually and in a gift set with Fisto. Both sets feature artwork by, I believe, William Garland, who also did the artwork on the three Panthor boxes.
Note that Stridor is described as “Half war horse/half war machine. Stridor carries He-Man to victory!” To me that implies that he was supposed to be some kind of cyborg horse rather than a pure robot.
Comics and Storybooks
Fisto is often associated with Stridor, just as Jitsu is associated with Night Stalker. It’s a rather unique relationship. In general He-Man seems to be given the heroic vehicles and steeds and Skeletor is given their evil counterparts. But Fisto seems to have been popular enough to merit his own steed. That’s certainly the case in one of my favorite mini comics – The Clash of Arms.
In the story, Fisto, riding on Stridor, is ambushed by Clawful, Tri-Klops, Webstor, and Jitsu. He is captured and forced to fight for his life in Skeletor’s arena. He’s successful in beating off Clawful and Jitsu in turn, but Whiplash nearly spells the end for Fisto before He-Man, riding on Stridor, comes in and breaks up the fight. Stridor had apparently escaped, found He-Man, and warned him of Fisto’s plight. (Note: in this story, Stridor has a saddle rather than a bucket seat, and he is ridden like a normal horse.)
Sadly, this is the first and only appearance of Stridor in the minicomics. However, he does make a couple of appearances in Golden stories, including in Secret of the Dragon’s Egg and Teela’s Secret.
Stridor also appears on the cover of this 1985 Golden coloring book:
Stridor appears a few times in the 1985 Ladybird annual, having apparently been mass-produced:
A robotic horse called “Strider” appears in several Filmation He-Man episodes, including “Pawns of the Game Master” and “A Friend in Need”, but it looks nothing like the Mattel toy, and it’s not immediately obvious that there is a connection beyond the name. It’s possible Mattel got the name for their toy from Filmation, but I don’t know for sure.
The familiar toy-like Stridor appears in “Origin of the Sorceress,” where we learn that Man-At-Arms created the robot horse in his laboratory. Stridor sacrifices himself in order to defeat the evil Morgoth. After he is repaired, He-Man and Man-At-Arms learn that Stridor wants to roam free, and that after his confrontation with Morgoth he had become a living thing. Consequently, they release him into the wild.
Design-wise, Filmation’s Stridor is close to his toy counterpart, except he lacks his red helmet and some of his decorative details.
Stridor and Fisto were illustrated by Errol McCarthy for use in licensed T-shirts:
Stridor also appeared in this 1984 poster by William George:
Stridor also appears in my favorite poster by Earl Norem, which appeared in the inaugural issue of the US Masters of the Universe Magazine:
As limited as Stridor was as a toy, he’s got a terrific design, and his partnership with Fisto lends him a rather unique position within the Masters of the Universe mythos.
Masters of the Universe, for all its diversity and creativity, was quite an economical toyline, creatively (and sometimes uncreatively) using and reusing the same molds over and over again throughout its run. Sometimes this was done fairly invisibly, and other times it was as plain as the nose on Faker’s face.
In this series I’ll be cataloging the reuse of existing molds, in context of what is known and what is likely about which figures were created in what order. For example, He-Man’s prototype was almost certainly finished before Man-At-Arms, so Man-At-Arms reused He-Man’s legs, rather than vice versa. I’ll also include parts that were reused from other toylines.
Sometimes existing parts were modified for use in new toys. For example, Beast Man’s chest seems to have been based on He-Man’s chest sculpt, albeit with a great deal of hair added to it. This didn’t save money on tooling, but it did save some time and effort for the sculptor. I’ll point this out whenever I see it. Whenever a modified part is used again, however, I’ll refer to it as belonging to the toy that used it first (for example, Stratos and Zodac reuse Beast Man’s chest).
I won’t comment on “invisible” parts, such as neck pegs or waist springs that are normally not seen.
First, the toys from 1984 that had (at the time) all new parts: