Comics

Sticker Fun: The Evil-Lympics (1985)

Some time ago Joe Amato (customizer and host of the Fans Of Power Podcast) scanned the MOTU Sticker Fun book, The Evil-Lympics. My good friends Jukka Issakainen and Øyvind Meisfjord shared the scans with me, and with Joe’s kind permission, I’m sharing them with readers of this blog.

This particular book stands out because it was illustrated by the venerable Alfredo Alcala, whose artwork in various MOTU minicomics from 1982-1984 (as well as inks on some of the full-sized MOTU comics published by DC) is beloved by many fans. You can peruse these comics at at Vaults of Grayskull and He-Man.org, as well as in the Dark Horse Minicomic collection (the Dark Horse collection only includes the MOTU minicomics).

The level of detail in these illustrations is somewhat reduced compared to Alcala’s other work. That’s not surprising given that it’s just an inexpensive sticker/coloring book rather than a real comic. But still, his unmistakable style is there, and it’s a real treat to see more Alcala goodness. Some of the monster characters he creates here are reminiscent of his work on The Obelisk and Masks of Power minicomics.

Zodac is portrayed as an Evil Warrior here, which is unsurprising considering the date (for more on the shifting alignment of the character, see my article on the topic). What is surprising is that Man-E-Faces is also portrayed as an Evil Warrior. In previous stories, Man-E-Faces would sometimes fall under Skeletor’s sway in his monster form, but generally-speaking he was almost always aligned with the Heroic Warriors. Also, as Waylon Piercy in the comments notes, Stratos and Ram Man are in there too! I’m wondering if the original idea was to include both Evil and Heroic Warriors in the games, but then the story was revised after the art was finished.

In any case, enjoy!

As several eagle-eyed readers have pointed out, He-Man is holding a unique single-bladed axe in the cover illustration.

For some additional context, I’ve included some eBay auction photos of the original sticker pages as well as the back cover:

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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.

Heroic Warriors

Ram Man: Heroic human battering ram! (1983)

Ram Man, released in the second wave of Masters of the Universe Action figures, was a big favorite of mine as a kid. Sure, his legs were fused together and his articulation was rather limited, but his unique appearance and action feature made him a prominent protagonist in the battle against the forces of darkness (a battle that happened every day after school on the floor of my bedroom).

Ram Man’s action is demonstrated in this commercial:

Designed by Mark Taylor, Ram Man had several unique looks in the early stages of his conception:

Image via The Art of He-Man

In the left-most drawing he seems to have some technological elements in his helmet design. In the drawing on the right his face is entirely obscured by his helmet, and he looks more Lord of the Rings than Buck Rogers. The second image is ultimately closer to the final Ram Man design than the first.

Update: another stage of the design is shown in the concept below, which is much closer to the final look of the character. The costume is quite similar to the design shown above and to the right, but the face is exposed.

Image courtesy of Doug Feague

Update: This design was developed into a similar character called Jumping Jack Flash (below). Aside from the helmet and facial hair, he looks very close to the final Ram Man figure. He also features metal gauntlets rather than leather straps. He carried a “mace grenade” that would fly loose when the character popped up from internal springs.

Image courtesy of Rebecca Salari Taylor

Another Mark Taylor design for a dwarf figure named Hercule featured a similar action feature. Instead of simply ramming, the idea was that this figure’s spring-loaded legs would cause him to tumble forward in the air at his opponents. I’m not sure exactly how this would have worked in practice, but several elements from Hercule made it into Ram Man’s final design.

Source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

The prototype Ram Man figure (below) carries over the color scheme from Jumping Jack Flash. The face and helmet design have been greatly modified, however. The prototype looks very close to the final figure, color scheme aside. Some differences include the fact that his eyes are closed and that his silver upper arm/shoulder armor is incorporated into his arm pieces

From the ’84 UK Annual, via Jukka Issakainen
Image source: He-Man.org

The cross sell art was based on the prototype, and includes all the same elements, down to the color scheme:

Ram Man cross sell artwork. Image courtesy of Axel Giménez.

Ram Man appears in the 1983 dealer catalog along with all the other new figures released that year, with a new red and green color scheme:

Hand-painted final prototype Ram Man.

Ram Man was the first figure in the MOTU line whose parts were not reused for any other figure. He came packaged with his axe weapon and a comic book. His arm bracers were sculpted and covered with a silver sticker rather than a layer of paint. The sculpt of his arms is quite soft compared to most MOTU figures, but he has a lot of detail elsewhere. The color scheme of the toy is red and green; however, the packaging artwork portrays Ram Man in the prototype colors:

Aside from the single carded figure, Ram Man was available in the following gift sets:

  • Ram Man/Zoar
  • He-Man/Teela/Ram Man

Ram Man had his own mini comic dedicated to him called He-Man Meets Ram-Man (incorrectly hyphenating the character’s name). Rammy is portrayed from the start as a bit thick, which is appropriate for a character whose primary attack involves self-inflicted brain injury. There is an early misunderstanding where Ram Man gets in a fight with He-Man and loses. Skeletor is able to use that to trick Ram Man into bashing his head repeatedly against Castle Grayskull’s doors.

Ram Man is essentially good-hearted, and in the end he turns on Skeletor and comes to He-Man’s aid:

Artwork similar to the Ram Man mini comic was used in this French coloring book:

Image source: Super Shogun

Ram Man as portrayed in the Filmation cartoon was even slower than he was in the mini comics. In certain frames it’s also evident that the artists envisioned Ram Man’s legs as actual springs that propelled him toward enemies (or more often, walls).

Image source: Bustatoons

In the Filmation Series guide, Ram Man resembles the cross sell art more than the toy:

Source: He-Man.org

Ram Man made fairly frequent appearances in mini comics, story books, and marketing materials:

From The Secret Liquid of Life
From the 1985 Demons of the Deep. Ram Man appears in his prototype colors. Illustrated by Fred Carillo.
From the 1984 UK Annual (image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen)
From the 1982 Licensing Kit. Source: He-Man.org. Art by Errol McCarthy
From the 1982 Licensing Kit. Source: He-Man.org. Art by Errol McCarthy.

For some reason Ram Man made no appearances in box art, and few appearances in posters, despite being one of a select number of figures that had a commercial dedicated just to him. Still, Ram Man frequently appeared on the Filmation cartoon and remains a popular character to this day.

Illustration by William George, 1984

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Evil Warriors, Heroic Warriors

Zodac: Cosmic Enforcer (1982)

The most enigmatic of all Masters of the Universe characters, Zodac was released in the second half of 1982. A late addition to the first wave of figures, Zodac was created to round out the original group of eight figures.

Design & Development

It’s probably fairly well known among fans now that two separate Mark Taylor characters, Teela and Sorceress (aka Goddess), were eventually combined into a single character (Teela). Apparently Mattel’s marketing group didn’t think there was enough demand for two female action figures in one year. That left seven figures for the first year, instead of the eight that were planned. Enter Zodac.

Another Mark Taylor design, Zodac borrowed Skeletor’s arms and legs and Beast Man’s furry chest. New parts included his head, armor, and blaster.

Zodac was originally called Sensor. The idea was that his space-age looking helmet gave him heightened sensory perception.

From the Mark Taylor Portfolio, published by Super7/The Power and the Honor Foundation
Image source: The Toys That Made Us/The Power and the Honor Foundation. Artwork by Mark Taylor.

As indicated by the artwork above, the design stuck closely to the textured arm and leg sculpts used on the finalized versions of Skeletor and Mer-Man.

When the cross sell art was created, Zodac was given very similar forearms and boots to the ones used in the Skeletor and Mer-Man cross sell art, rather than the more textured look of the actual toys. Perhaps this was done to maintain consistency across the artwork:

Zodac cross sell art. Image courtesy of Tokyonever.
Skeletor cross sell art

The prototype is somewhat different from the final figure. Like the b-sheet, the lower sides of Zodac’s helmet are red (they are painted gray in the production version). The white design on his chest armor is quite thick compared to the final toy, and the gun seems to have a wider barrel but narrower “fins” and a shorter handle compared to the toy version.

Prototype Zodac
Prototype Zodac

Production Figure

The final has some slight alterations to the armor and gun, but it otherwise very similar to the prototype:

The very first Taiwan release has this unique-looking connector piece on the lower back. Subsequent versions have a more standardized look compared to other first wave figures.

Zodac’s armor has “bullets” stored bandolier-style at the sides of his armor. I think that’s a really interesting touch, as you don’t normally associate laser pistols with bullets. I like to think his weapon is a fairly primitive kind of laser pistol that can only get off one shot at a time using some kind of single-use cartridge – possibly scavenged from the post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Bullets!

Cosmic Enforcer & Beyond

Zodac was originally sold on the “8-back” with the tag line, “Cosmic Enforcer”. But what is a cosmic enforcer?

According to the 1981 Mattel licensing kit (the earliest material we have on Zodac), it meant that Zodac was a bounty hunter. The Empire Strikes Back had come out the year before, and Boba Fett was a very popular character. It may be that Zodac was portrayed this way to capitalize on that popularity. The original intent by creator Mark Taylor, however, was for Zodac to be a heroic warrior,

Source: He-Man.org

The above describes Zodac as “The Cosmic Enforcer. The bounty hunter of our exciting universe.” Contrast that to Mark Taylor’s original description of his character:

Sensor: Man of the the future scientifically heightened senses, knowledge & weapons. Acts in support roll to He-man and as a foil to Tee La’s mystic nature.

The bounty hunter thing didn’t stick, and Zodac very quickly became a kind of cosmic observer (much like Jack Kirby’s Metron character), intervening in Eternian affairs only when absolutely necessary.

In the 1982 DC Comics MOTU series, Zodac is “rider of the spaceways”. Like Metron, he travels through space in a flying chair (in this case it’s the throne from Castle Grayskull). He is not aligned with the heroic warriors, but he does intervene when it looks like Skeletor is about to gain too much of an advantage:

In Fate is the Killer, Zodac describes himself as “neither good nor evil”. In the panels below, he tells He-Man that he must take him from Eternia, or else kill him, for the good of the planet:

In the 1983 Sword of Skeletor by publisher Golden Books, Zodac is described as a wizard, but he serves the same function as the DC comics Zodac. He intervenes to get He-Man into Castle Grayskull, so he can stop Skeletor, who has taken control. All of this is to keep the “balance between good and evil”.

From The Sword of Skeletor

In the 1983 comic, Power of Point Dread (the large version that came with the Point Dread & Talon Fighter playset and vehicle), Zodac again steps in at the last minute to aid He-Man. Zodac speaks of keeping a universal balance, which Skeletor has threatened by keeping He-Man from guarding Castle Grayskull. Zodac rights the balance by showing He-Man the Talon Fighter, which he uses to defeat Skeletor:

In the 1983 Filmation cartoon, Zodac is again presented as a Metron-like figure, stepping in at the last minute to indirectly intervene. In some ways Zodac is also a kind of Eternian god.

In the cartoon he is clearly an all-powerful character who sees and understands all. The most important of his three episodes is “The Search”, in which he sends He-Man out on a quest to prevent Skeletor reaching the Star Seed, a powerful object that will give him control over the whole universe. A twist ending reveals that Zodac set up the whole affair, telling Skeletor of the Star Seed and sending He-Man to defend it, in a test of He-Man’s ability to resist the temptation of using the Star Seed’s power for himself. – Wiki Grayskull

Source: Filmationcels.com  Colors by Jukka Issakainen

In the episode “Golden Disks of Knowledge”, it’s revealed that Zodac is the last member of the “Council of the Wise”. At the episode’s conclusion, Zodac transforms Zanthor (who had redeemed himself after some misdeeds) into a fellow cosmic enforcer. He’s even given the same costume as Zodac:

The 1982 MOTU Bible, written by Michael Halperin, describes the character like this:

 ZODAC, the wise leader of the Council of Elders, called to the stars for advice… The Council listened to the vision which promised them that if ever the forces of evil should try overcoming Eternia a champion would arise to defend the planet…

Zodac gathered the Council of Elders in the Hall of Wisdom and collectively they concentrated their mind force until the sheer power of their consciousness created a mighty force field. At that moment, an implosion cracked through the corridors of the Hall and the Council disappeared in a blinding flash of energy. Only Zodac retained his human form as one of the Eternia’s guardians.

The 1984 UK Annual describes Zodac like this:

Although neither good nor evil, Zodac, the Cosmic Enforcer, has a vital role to play in this battle between good and evil. There have been many times when Skeletor has attempted to alter the balance of the universe – and several times when he has almost succeeded. In a situation like this, Zodac’s role is to prevent this – by tipping the scales to achieve another balance. This often means informing He-Man of what his enemy is planning to do – or by showing him the future if Zodac is successful, so that He-Man himself can do something about it. Zodac never interferes directly in the affairs of Eternia, but we may be sure that he is always watching.

Evil Cosmic Enforcer

Obviously not everyone at Mattel was on the same page with the story line that had developed between 1982 and 1983. On the 1983 reissued 12-back card, Zodac is portrayed unambiguously as an evil warrior. The artwork by Errol McCarthy shows Zodac attacking He-Man with his blaster.

Illustration at top by Errol McCarthy. Image source: KMKA

By 1983, cross sell art appearing in minicomics and on packaging rebranded Zodac as the “Evil Cosmic Enforcer”.

attak trak back - Copy
Image source: Vaults of Grayskull. Notice that his name is spelled with a “K” here. That spelling would later be used in the 2002 MOTU series.

I should also note that Zodac also appears in another 1983 figure sheet as simply “Cosmic enforcer” (his name is also spelled correctly):

In this 1983 commercial featuring all Masters of the Universe characters produced up until that time, Zodac is grouped with the Evil Warriors:

In the Ladybird-published 1986 He-Man and the Asteroid of Doom, Zodac is portrayed as Skeletor’s evil flunky:

The 1984 mini comic “Slave City” originally featured a villain named Zodak. When the team producing the comic book discovered that “Zodak” had an actual settled on appearance, they changed the villain’s name to Lodar by altering some of the letters in the text:

Reconstructed by Jukka Issakainen

Zodac appeared on the side of the Evil Warriors in this poster illustrated by William George:

Artwork by R.L. Allen; Zodac is being attacked by Man-E-Faces

In several coloring books Zodac was portrayed as a heroic warrior:

Icons of the first wave

Zodac in Action

A photo and a short video of Skeletor in action, contributed by Øyvind Meisfjord:

Zodac wasn’t heavily promoted, and I don’t remember him being all that popular with my friends when I was a kid. Maybe it was because we didn’t know what to do with Zodac. But like Faker, he has become something of a cult favorite among MOTU fans today.

Zodac’s one and only appearance in box art – from Rudy Obrero’s Castle Grayskull illustration

 Special thanks to Jukka Issakainen for providing valuable feedback and several images.

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