Rudy Obrero’s Battle Cat packaging illustration was the first piece of box art done for Masters of the Universe, which I think affords it a special place among the myriad of other pieces of ingenious artwork created for this toyline. I would put it in my top three personal favorites (the other two being Castle Grayskull and Battle Ram, with the He-Man and Battle Cat giftset artwork coming in a close fourth). When it comes to MOTU box art, there is a great deal of amazing work to choose from. Rudy’s work is my favorite, but of course I also love the art of the late, great William George.
Rudy Obrero was hired by Mark Taylor to paint Frank Frazetta-like artwork for the fledgling Masters of the Universe toyline, and that feeling is perhaps most evident in the original Battle Cat illustration.
I shared the original scan several months back in another post, but I’ve since done some digital manipulation to remove the most obvious wear marks and the horizontal packaging fold that goes across Battle Cat’s legs. Enjoy!
Skeletor’s most iconic weapon has always been his havoc staff, with its distinctive and menacing ram’s skull. The two are so interconnected as to be practically inseparable. Skeletor also carried his purple half of the power sword, and it made plenty of appearances in mini comics and story books.
There is however, another weapon that Skeletor carried in the 1982 mini comics (artwork by Alfredo Alcala, story by Don Glut). This was Skeletor’s energy blade (sometimes called lightning blade or lightning weapon). It was a fairly ordinary-looking short sword with a curved hilt that was capable of releasing searing blasts of energy, or even calling up magical images.
I always assumed that this particular sword’s design was an invention of artist Alfredo Alcala. But I recently noticed what appears to be the same sword showing up in early box art by Rudy Obrero. That lead me to believe that the energy blade may have originally come from Mattel*. I’d like to think there is a B-sheet lying around in a box somewhere with a drawing of this sword in it. Without definitive proof, of course, we can’t know for sure.
Here are some representative appearances of the energy blade in the 1982 mini comics. There is some variation with how it was drawn, even within the same comic:
Here are the appearances of the sword in Rudy Obrero’s packaging illustrations for the Battle Ram, He-Man/Wind Raider, Wind Raider, He-Man/Battle Cat, and Castle Grayskull boxes. Note that at times Beast Man carries the same sword:
Incidentally, a sword of the same design appears in Man-At-Arms’ hand in the 1983 comic book, The Power of Point Dread:
He-Man holds a similar sword on the cover of the same booklet (hat tip to Jukka Issakainen):
Somewhat similar swords appear in this 1982 advertisement for Faker:
In one depiction of Mark Taylor’s Vikor character (who pre-dated He-Man), Vikor carries a sword similar to the energy blade:
Øyvind Johannes Meisfjord pointed a fatal flaw in my reasoning. It seems that Alfredo Alcala drew a very similar looking sword that predated the He-Man property by several years:
Furthermore, swords similar to those in the Rudy Obrero illustrations show up in artwork by Frank Frazetta and John Buscema throughout the 1960s and 1970s:
Given this evidence, it seems unlikely now that the common source for this design was Mattel (it’s possible, but I don’t think a strong case can be made for it). I have to conclude that Alfredo Alcala was drawing upon the fantasy concepts he’d been illustrating for years, and Rudy Obrero was drawing upon general sword and sorcery themes of the ’60s and ’70s. Given Mark Taylor’s Frazetta influences, he probably drew from the same general creative well for his Vikor sword.
Thanks to Øyvind for challenging my theory. I think it’s been successfully refuted!