Evil Horde

Horde Trooper: Evil Horde “collapsing” robot (1986)

Co-written with Jukka Issakainen

Horde Troopers are what every kid-friendly adventure francize needs – an army of mindless evil minions that the hero can crush without any moral quandaries. For the He-Man cartoon series, it was was Skeletor’s Hover Robots, and in She-Ra it was the Horde Troopers.

Size comparison image between Hordak’s Horde Trooper VS Skeletor’s Hover Robot.
Images thanks to Dušan M. Assembled by Jukka I.

In the She-Ra series, the Hover Robot by Skeletor would make an appearance as Hordak’s “Capture Robot”. Though it never was made clear if Skeletor took the designs and made his own Robot Knights.

While the design and mean look appear similar between a Hover Robot and Horde Trooper, its not quite the same. When looking at images of Horde Trooper turning its head.

Horde Trooper visor is not same as the Hover Robots Skeletor has.

Design & Development

As Mattel and Filmation worked very closely on the She-Ra series and its characters and concepts, the Horde Trooper concept is a no-brainer. An army for the main villain in the series, as well as a collect-your-own-army idea from toy marketing POV.

In the script and concept, as well as the storyboard for Into Etheria, we get a look at an early design, which gives the characters a heavily-armored and barbaric look. It’s clear that these troopers (or Hordesmen) are organic beings. One is human with a scar on his face, another is reptilian, and the third is a hawk hordesman.

Concept art from the He-Man and She-Ra Animated Guide.
Images from He-Man.org

This idea of different looking races in armor is also evident in the He-Man episode Origin of the Sorceress, where in a flashback told by the Sorceress we meet an early Horde scouting party.

Some Princess of Power -books would also utilize the notion of Horde Troopers as humans in armor. More on Comics and Story books -section below.

At Filmation Studios, one key person who helped design for example the Horde symbol and Evil Horde characters was Charles Zembillas.
And in one of his early sketches, the Horde Troopers looked more like creatures in armor.

Image courtesy of The Power of Grayskull – The Definitive He-Man Documentary.

After that, the Troopers would get a sleeker, more futuristic design:

Image courtesy of Emiliano Santalucia

Eventually the look was changed to the familiar design below, designed by Curtis Cim:

On Mattel’s side, there are a few images of Horde Trooper prototype toys. One features repainted arms from Sy-Klone and legs from Mantenna. Presumably this is because these parts were not completed yet, and the existing parts from other figures fit the bill well enough to show the concept (the Sy-Klone arms have the same shoulder articulation):

On the Toy Archive website, we can also see the “hardcopy” version of the figure, which was larger than the actual final toy:

Horde Trooper’s patent was filed September 25, 1985. Where one of the design images seems to be straight out of Filmation model-kit. A visual layout of how the action feature worked is included in the filing:

Figure & Packaging

Horde Troopers were released on a single card, with yellow blast graphic telling kids to “collect an army of Horde Trooper robots!” The figure’s action feature, true to the “collapsing robot” description, was a button on the figure’s chest that, when pushed, would cause various pieces of the torso to fall apart, as if He-Man had smashed the evil android to bits with one mighty punch.

Image source: KMKA

Mattel trademarked “Horde Trooper” on November 12, 1985.

Animation

Horde Troopers were fairly ubiquitous on the She-Ra cartoon. As mentioned previously, early in production the Horde Troopers were going to be living creatures, with various species inside the armor. Although that concept was eventually dropped, even in “Into Etheria” one of the Troopers is named Marg.

In “She-Ra Unchained” there is a plot-point where He-Man captures one Trooper in order to disguise himself in the uniform and infiltrate the Fright Zone (the storyboard image shows a human tied up while He-Man puts on the armor).

Horde Troopers have been shown to sneeze, be terrified, and shoot beams from their eyes (in “The Laughing Dragon”). By Season 2 the characters kept reminding viewers that the Troopers were robots, particularly in fight scenes with Rebels.

In the episode She-Ra Unchained we learn about the history of Hordak and his Troopers attacking Eternia. Hordak is seen in similar gear as the soldiers, whom have a different appearance to them. To indicate the passage of time possibly, these might be proto-Troopers with helmets that have large openings for eyes and depict hollow insides.

Filmation came up with a number of specialty Horde Troopers for use in different situations, although these variants were never released in the vintage toyline, including Naval Troopers and Flame Troopers.

Though the Horde Troopers themselves got treated more and more as robots for the good guys to trash. In the Horde Empire, they also had humans in different rankings, wearing armor similar to the Horde Trooper design.

Comics, Story Books & Artwork

Horde Trooper figures came packed with The Hordes of Hordak. In the story, Hordak manufactures his troopers with a machine that pulls raw materials right out of the ground and converts them into robot warriors. Hordak knows, however, that his troopers are vulnerable to a punch in the chest. For that reason he kidnaps Sy-Klone, who is uniquely capable of delivering rapid-fire punches (images below are from Dark Horse’s MOTU minicomic collection and from He-Man.org). Unlike the more common yellow-colored eyes, here Horde Troopers have red eyes.

The Golden Book She-Ra Princess of Power showed humans in Horde Trooper armor, and the helmet even has some spikes on top of it, reminiscent of Hordak’s head.

Early book depicts Horde Troopers as humans in armor.

The STAR/Marvel comics showed Horde Troopers as slightly bigger robots, with abilities like shooting a blast from their hand.

Marvel STAR comic issue 3 had Horde Troopers illustrated as large robots.

Edit: Øyvind Meisfjord points out that in the Star Comics, the Horde Troopers were merely empty shells animated by Hordak’s magic:

In the 1986 Kid Stuff story, Prisoner in the Slime Pit, the troopers have a very off-model appearance, and look like organic beings. Some of the text descriptions do not match the visuals. The Kids Stuff books included many other obscure elements from MOTU mythos, like He-Man sleeping inside Grayskull. In the case of this unique Trooper – When asked from artist about the designs, he sadly could not remember if they were his own designs.

In the Golden story The Sword of She-Ra, the Troopers (and the rest of the characters) are closely based on the Filmation cartoon, although they are a bit more colorful here:

The Horde Trooper in the Spring 1988 issue of the US Masters of the Universe Magazine likewise is based on the Filmation cartoon. This is a pretty typical ending for the villains across He-Man and She-Ra stories: they are angry, disoriented and covered in mud!

In the Fall 1988 issue, She-Ra encounters a pint-sized human Horde Trooper who had gotten lost in the woods, was found by Horde Troopers, and taken by Hordak. In the story, She-Ra sets him right and returns him to his family:

Some other appearances of Horde Troopers:

Horde Trooper described with emotions such as being angry and impatient.
London Edition issue 52 showcases earlier Trooper models for Hordak, with editor Brian Clarke noting it in the panel for readers.

Horde Troopers show up in William George’s 1986 Eternia poster:

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Horde Troopers in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has kindly shared the following images and video of Horde Troopers in action!

Adam: Thanks for reading. Until next time!

Jukka: This took a lot of time to research and wanted to express my gratitude for all the help I’ve gotten from other fans, and for Adam on having me contribute here!

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Artwork

Masters of the Universe Cross Sell Art: 1986

The artwork for this set comes from Axel Giménez, StarCrusader, Dark Horse’s Art of He-Man, He-Man World, eBay auctions, and my own photos and scans.

Unfortunately, I don’t know of any cross sell-style artwork for the Eternia playset other than the red line art featured on the back of the Eternia box.

Masters of the Universe Cross Sell Art:

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Resource

Parts Reuse in MOTU, Part Five: 1986

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 1986 that had (at the time) all new parts:

Eternia


Image via He-Man.org

King Hiss

Horde Trooper

Mantisaur


Image via Lu Lu Berlu

Multi-Bot

Monstroid

Slime Pit

Stonedar

Snout Spout

Extendar

Rio Blast

Blasterhawk


Image via He-Man.org

Laser Bolt

Fright Fighter

Jet Slet


Image via He-Man.org

Megalaser

These toys from 1986 reused some existing parts – some of those parts were first created in the same year, however:

Flying Fists He-Man

Terror Claws Skeletor

tc1

Hurricane Hordak

Rokkon

Rattlor

Tung Lashor

Dragstor

Stilt Stalkers

As you can see, there is a great deal more new tooling and much less reuse of existing parts in 1986 than in previous years. Ironically, for all the money pumped into the brand, as I understand it 1986 was the first year that sales for the line started to slip. It is true that stylistically the 1986 lineup was much different than anything that had come before, especially in the heroic warriors lineup. I have to wonder if that had anything to do with faltering sales. It may have had nothing to do with it, but I know that the 1986 toyline did little to catch my eye as a kid, outside of the Snake Men.

There are a lot of limbs in the 1986 lineup that look awfully close to the original He-Man’s arms and legs. However, if you look very closely you’ll see that the musculature is subtly different. The sculptors may have used He-Man as a model, but I don’t see that existing parts have been modified in the same way that was frequently done from 1983-1985.

Update: Øyvind has informed me that only the front half of the armor was reused for the Stilt Stalkers. Thanks Øyvind!

Lastly, there were the Meteorbs- a frequently overlooked bunch of transforming egg toys produced by Bandai under the name Tamagoras in 1984, and rebranded for the MOTU toyline as Meteorbs. Not having held these in my own hands since the 80s, I’ve done my best to catch parts reuse, but I trust that if I’ve misrepresented anything here someone will correct me (images below are from www.he-man.org):

Cometroid

Gore-illa

Dinosorb

Crocobite

Astro Lion

Orbear

Rhinorb

Tuskor

Ty-Grrr

Comet Cat

Parts Reuse series:

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Technical Drawings & Patents

Masters of the Universe patent illustrations

Over the years Mattel filed for patents on a number of Masters of the Universe-related ideas. The language employed is rather difficult to get through, but the illustrations are a lot of fun. I’ve collected some of them here. Special thanks to Manic Man for locating several of these patents, including Blast Attak, Rotar/Twistoid and Gyrattacker!

Included patents and illustrations:

  • Castle Grayskull (trap door mechanism)
  • Attak Trak
  • Bashasaurus
  • Battle Armor He-Man
  • Battle Bones
  • Blast Attak
  • Dragon Walker
  • Fright Zone
  • Fright Zone (puppet)
  • Gyrattacker (unreleased vehicle)
  • Horde Trooper
  • Hurricane Hordak
  • King Hiss
  • Land Shark
  • Laser Bolt
  • Mantenna
  • Megalaser
  • Mekaneck
  • Roboto
  • Rokkon & Stonedar
  • Rotar & Twistoid
  • Spydor
  • Sy-Klone
  • Thunder Punch He-Man
  • Tower Tools/Cliff Climber/Scubattack
  • Two Bad

Castle Grayskull trap door patent:

Attak Trak:

Bashasaurus:

Battle Armor He-Man:

Battle Bones:

Blast Attak:

Dragon Walker:

The Fright Zone:

Fright Zone (puppet):

Gyrattacker (unreleased vehicle):

Horde Trooper:

Hurricane Hordak:

King Hiss:

Land Shark:

Laser Bolt:

Mantenna:

Megalaser:

Mekaneck:

Roboto:

Rokkon & Stonedar:

Rotar & Twistoid:

Spydor:

Sy-Klone:

Thunder Punch He-Man:

Tower Tools/Cliff Climber/Scubattack:

Two Bad:

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