Heroic Warriors

Ram Man in Minicomics and Golden Books

In my post about Ram Man last year, I touched very briefly on the character’s appearances in minicomics and Golden Books.  I’d like to expand on that now with an exhaustive look at every single appearance of Ram Man in these media. I’ll be skipping pages and panels where Ram Man is absent. Selections from the minicomics come from the excellent Dark Horse Minicomic Collection, and Golden books come from He-Man.org.

1983 Minicomic: He-Man Meets Ram-Man!

Ram Man tousles with He-Man over a misunderstanding, causing some hard feelings. Skeletor is able to use that to trick Ram Man into bashing his head repeatedly against Castle Grayskull’s doors in order to get the power to defeat He-Man. In the end, Ram Man comes to understand that He-Man is not his enemy, and aligns himself with the heroic warriors. Ram Man is given a deep red and magenta color scheme that looks like it wants to follow the cross sell art/concept scheme (the figure was originally designed by Mark Taylor), but couldn’t quite get there. Written by Gary Cohn, penciled by Mark Texeira, inked by Tod Smith, colored by Anthony Tollin.

1983 Minicomic: The Terror of Tri-Klops!

When third wheel Ram Man walks off into the woods to give He-Man and Teela some privacy, Tri-Klops strikes, nearly defeating our heroic warriors. Written by Gary Cohn, pencils by Mark Texeira, inks by Tod Smith, colors by Anthony Tollin.

1983 Minicomic: The Tale of Teela

Ram Man is a minor background character in Teela’s breakout comic. Written by Gary Cohn, pencils by Mark Texeira, inks by Tod Smith, colors by Anthony Tollin.

1984 Minicomic: The Secret Liquid of Life!

Ram Man gets a chance to bust into an ogre’s cavern using his battering ram of a head. Ram Man is portrayed with the green and red color scheme used in the mass-produced toy. Written by Michael Halperin, pencils by Larry Houston, inks by Michael Lee, colors by Charles Simpson, letters by Stan Sakai.

1984 Minicomic: Double-Edged Sword

Ram Man’s head is ineffectual against Skeletor’s vine monsters, but together with He-Man he is able to break through a magic seal. Written by Michael Halperin, pencils by Larry Houston, inks by Michael Lee, colors by Charles Simpson, letters by Stan Sakai.

1984 Minicomic: Temple of Darkness!

Ram Man batters his head against several giant minions of Skeletor, and even seems to have the power power of flight in the final panel. Written by Michael Halperin, pencils by Larry Houston, inks by Gerald Forton, colors by Charles Simpson, letters by Stan Sakai.

1985 Minicomic: Skeletor’s Dragon

Ram Man is barely noticed in the background of this story about magically reanimated dinosaur bones. Written by Christy Marx, illustrated by Peter Ledger, colors by Charles Simpson, letters by Stan Sakai.

1985 Minicomic: Mantenna and the Menace of the Evil Horde!

Ram Man is background character with no lines in this story that, despite its title, isn’t really about Mantenna at all. Pencils by Mike Sekowsky, inks by Steve Mitchell, colors by Charles Simpson, letters by Stan Sakai.

1985 Minicomic: Hordak – The Ruthless Leader’s Revenge!

Ram Man is crushed by Spydor and then plays fight commentator in his last minicomics appearance. Pencils by Larry Houston, inks by Michael Lee, colors by Charles Simpson, letters by Stan Sakai.

1985 Golden Book: The Magic Mirrors

Ram Man is another background character in this engaging story about magic mirrors and trickery. Written by Jack Harris, illustrated by Fred Carillo, cover by Earl Norem.

1985 Golden Books: Demons of the Deep

Ram Man and Fisto accompany He-Man in an underwater rescue mission to save Teela. Of all the characters to take on an underwater mission, Ram Man and Fisto seem the least likely candidates, given their heavy metal armor. Ram Man sports his prototype colors here.

Written by R.L. Stine of Goosebumps fame, illustrated by Fred Carillo.

1985 Golden Book: New Champions of Eternia

Ram Man is a barely-present background character in this story about some mysterious new heroes. Ram Man sports his prototype color scheme in this book. Written by Jack Harris, illustrated by Jeffrey Oh, cover by Fred Carillo.

1986 Golden Book: Power From The Sky

Skeletor uses the power from an eclipse to launch an assault on Eternia. Ram Man shows up occasionally in the background, without any lines. Written by Wallace Green, illustrated by Fred Carillo, cover by Earl Norem.

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Heroic Vehicles

The Battle Ram in Minicomics and Golden Books

The longer I write this blog, the more I realize there is almost no limit to the amount of material that can be written about the vintage Masters of the Universe toyline. I will run out of steam before I ever run out of subjects to write about.

In this post, I’ll examine the Battle Ram‘s appearances in minicomics and Golden Book stories (I’ll skip the Golden coloring books, simply because I don’t have good images for all of them).

Interestingly, in the earliest minicomic stories, it was the Battle Ram, not Battle Cat, that was He-Man’s primary mode of transportation.  By 1983 that changed, and He-Man and Battle Cat became inseparable, while the Battle Ram became more frequently associated with Teela or Man-At-Arms.

When I went through the Dark Horse He-Man Minicomic Collection, I was actually a little surprised at how infrequently the Battle Ram shows up. It actually appears much more often in the Golden collection of stories.

For reference, the vehicle in question is called the Battle Ram, but the detachable front half is referred to as the Jet Sled – although that term isn’t often used within the stories below.

Update #1: I should note that the Battle Ram was designed by Ted Mayer. Alfredo Alcala’s depictions of it (including the image at the beginning of this article) are based on the early prototype sculpted by Jim Openshaw, which in turn was based on Ted Mayer’s concept drawings. More on that at Ted Mayer’s website and in my original Battle Ram toy feature.

Update #2: I wasn’t originally going to include the Giant Picture Books because they’re not really stories per se. But the artwork is so nice, I broke down and decided to include them. Thanks to Jukka for sharing the lovely images, which come from James Eatock (internal) and Polygonus (covers).

1982 Minicomic: He-Man and the Power Sword 

The Battle Ram is pretty ubiquitous in the first ever minicomic (written by Don Glut, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala). Notice that in early media like this, the front half of the Battle Ram does not soar through the air – rather it hovers low over the ground. That was Mark Taylor‘s idea for how the vehicle was supposed to work.

1982 Minicomic: The Vengeance of Skeletor

The Battle Ram is a near-constant presence in what would turn out to be one of the most violent of the MOTU minicomics. Written by Don Glut, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala.

1982 Minicomic: Battle in the Clouds

Battle in the Clouds is the first story where the front half of the Battle Ram (Sky Sled) is not limited to hovering close to the ground. In this story it can soar high into the sky, which serves as an excuse to write it into a story about a furious air battle featuring the Wind Raider. Written by Don Glut, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala.

1983 Minicomic: The Tale of Teela

This is the first minicomic that features both halves of the Battle Ram together. which seems to be Teela’s vehicle of choice. Sadly, it’s also the last appearance of the Battle Ram in the vintage minicomics. Written by Gary Cohn, penciled by Mark Texeira, inked by Tod Smith, colored by Anthony Tollin.

1983 Golden Book: Thief of Castle Grayskull

In this story, Teela is again the driver for Battle Ram, which seems to be mostly used as transportation, as far as this story is concerned. Written by Roger McKenzie, illustrated by Fred Carillo, cover by Gino D’Achille.

1983 Golden Book: The Sword of Skeletor

Teela is again the driver for the Battle Ram in The Sword of Skeletor. In this story, the Battle Ram can apparently travel across water as well as land. Written by Roger McKenzie, illustrated by Fred Carillo, cover by Gino D’Achille.

1983 Golden Book: The Sunbird Legacy

The Sunbird Legacy is probably the greatest of the Golden stories, with an epic, comic book feel. In this story Man-At-Arms is the driver for the Battle Ram, and he uses it to great effect against Beast Man. Written by Roger McKenzie, illustrated by Adrian Gonzales and Fred Carillo, cover by Earl Norem.

1984 Golden Book: Mask of Evil

This story features a brief shot of an out-of-scale Battle Ram from the rear. It’s not clear who’s driving it, though. Written by John Hughes, illustrated by Al McWilliams, cover by Earl Norem.

1984 Golden Book: Giant Picture Book – Heroic Warriors

This isn’t a story so much as a collection of lovely artwork by Fred Carillo. The Giant Picture Book series does include some biographical information on selected characters, however.

1984 Golden Book: Giant Picture Book – Evil Warriors

This evil version of the heroic Giant Picture Book gives us a tantalizing look at the Battle Ram – just before Jitsu goes and destroys it. You’re not winning any points with me, Jitsu! Artwork by Fred Carillo.

1985 Golden Book: The Rock Warriors

This story features a single shot of the Jet Slet, again piloted by Teela, but colored in red and orange. Written by Michael Kirschenbaum, illustrated by Fred Carillo, cover by Earl Norem.

1986 Golden Book: A Hero In Need

Two gray Jet Sleds are on almost every page of this story, piloted by Teela and Prince Adam. Written by Elizabeth Ryan, illustrated by Fred Carillo, cover by Earl Norem.

Golden books images comes from He-Man.org

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Evil Warriors

Jitsu: Evil master of martial arts (1984)

Jitsu Graphic2

My  introduction to Jitsu came in first grade, when a classmate pulled out several of his newest He-Man figures to show the rest of us. The three figures I remember him showing us were Tri-Klops, Jitsu and Fisto.

I already owned Tri-Klops from back in kindergarten, but I hadn’t seen these two new figures with their spring-loaded right arms that terminated in either a giant metallic fist or chopping hand. The entire group was suitably impressed, and we each took turns testing out their action features.

Jitsu’s development starts quite early in the series, in the December 1982 MOTU Bible written by Michael Halperin, under the working name, Chopper:

CHOPPER – has a right hand that’s enormous. With one mighty blow this villain can chop through bricks, trees, anything that gets in his way. He’s formidable in hand-to-hand combat.

There is actually some overlap between Chopper and a Filmation character called Strongarm – James Eatock goes into detail in this video for the He-Man Official Youtube Channel:

According to Martin Arriola, Jitsu was created by Mattel designer Colin Bailey. Although no concept art for Jitsu as a toy has been either found or made public, there is an image of his prototype.

jitsu org
Image source: He-Man.org
Proto 2
Image source: Grayskull Museum

The prototype is quite different in some respects from the final figure. As you can see, the prototype was originally to reuse Skeletor’s legs. Like Fisto, he was also going to reuse Tri-Klops’ sword (the example in the image above isn’t even repainted). He also uses He-Man’s arms, rather than Fisto’s arms. Everything else in the rough prototype seems to match the general thrust of the figure’s final design.

The Filmation design may represent an intermediate stage in the character’s design, or it may be a “Filmationized” version of the final toy. This incarnation of Jitsu features human feet with unique red samurai boots and an enlarged but ungloved right hand. He also has a purple belt and bracers:

Jitsu appears in a single episode – “The Dragon Invasion”.  In this scene, he squares off against Ram Man, and they both come out a bit worse for wear in the end:

Jitsu gif
Images used in the animation courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

On August 22, 1983, Mattel filed a trademark for the name Jitsu, instead of the original Chopper. The toy was released the following year.

The final design utilizes He-Man’s legs, with two toned gold and black boots. He is also given a unique katana weapon, although the finger guard is molded on the wrong side of the handle. He reuses the left arm, right upper arm, and slightly shallower chest from Fisto. He has a unique head sculpt and unique two-piece armor – the latter would later be used for Mattel’s King Randor figure:

The action scene on the back of Jitsu’s packaging was illustrated by the inimitable Errol McCarthy:

Jitsu Graphic
Image source: Starcrusader
karatechopguyvshemanonsteps_full
Image source: He-Man.org

McCarthy also illustrated the character, along with Fisto, for this T-Shirt design:

Jitsu’s cross-sell artwork is quite faithful to the toy, down to the backwards hand guard on the sword:

Jitsu cross sell from Axel
Image source: Axel Giménez

Jitsu was also sold in a JCPenny two-pack with Clawful, and in a gift set with Night Stalker. The artwork for the Night Stalker gift set was done by William George.

JPJC
Image source: Grayskull Museum
01
02
Jitsu Night Stalker

Jitsu and Nightstalker are the “evil opposites” of Fisto and Stridor, who were also sold as a set. Evil opposites is a theme that pops up over and over again in the vintage Masters of the Universe line.

Battle Cat and Panthor

Aside from the Night Stalker gift set, Jitsu appears on one other piece of box art for the Masters of the Universe line – Battle Bones, by William George:

battle-bones-main

Jitsu is never really center stage in any story he appears in. His biggest moment in the minicomics is definitely in The Clash of Arms, where he faces off against Fisto and is quickly defeated:

Jitsu also makes some very minor appearances in Mantenna and the Menace of the Evil Horde and in Hordak: The Ruthless Leader’s Revenge.

Jitsu is a little less camera shy in the Golden Book stories, The Rock Warriors and Demons of the Deep, both illustrated by Fred Carillo. He is far from front and center here, but at least he’s operating at the level of henchman of the week, together with Webstor in the first story and Mer-Man in the second:

Jitsu also makes an appearance the Golden Giant Picture Book, also illustrated by Fred Carillo. Here Jitsu commits the worst sin imaginable – he smashes the Battle Ram with his giant golden chopping hand. The images below come from the Bustatoons blog.

Jitsu also appears in several posters painted by William George from 1984 to 1986:

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Artwork

Lost Golden Book story – featuring He-Ro and Eldor!

Recently an eBay seller was auctioning a number of pieces of original art, many of which came from Golden Book. Among them was this page spread for a story that at least I have not yet heard of, called Passage of Time. Apparently it was going to feature He-Ro and Eldor!

For those who aren’t familiar, He-Ro and Eldor were planned vintage figures by Mattel at the tail-end of the toy-line in a spinoff line called “Powers of Grayskull”. We saw the first part of the story in the final minicomic of the series, but sadly the concept didn’t go any further.

Here we have proof that He-Ro and Eldor were going to be featured in a Golden Book story!

goldenbook-passageoftime-pg03_04

It looks like this was going to be published by the Golden Books division of Western Publishing Company. The writer is not credited or mentioned by the seller, although it could be Jack C. Harris, an active writer at the time for Masters of the Universe books, with titles like Secret of the Dragon’s Egg and Meteor Monsters.

The seller informed me that he thinks the art was done by Fred Carrillo, who worked on numerous Golden Books like The Sunbird Legacy, The Sword of Skeletor, Power From the Sky and more. To his credit, he was also a layout artist at Filmation Studios.

Hopefully more of this story can one day be found. We know Super7 will be making a vintage He-Ro and Eldor figures, so maybe there is hope!

Happy April Fools Day!

Story and image by Jukka Issakainen.