Heroic Warriors

Laser Power He-Man – Heroic Master of Light Energy (1988)

Laser Power He-Man was released Italy and Spain a year after the end of the Masters of the Universe toyline in the US. He was a figure most North American fans were not aware of until they discovered it online years later. That was certainly true for me. Because the figure was produced in limited numbers overseas, it’s one of the most expensive vintage He-Man toys to acquire today. (Update: I’m also informed that there was some distribution of Laser Power He-Man in Switzerland. Thanks to Olmo for the information.)

Design & Development

In my interview with David Wolfram, he gave some great information behind the development of the Laser Power He-Man, and his evil counterpart, Laser-Light Skeletor:

Laser light Skeletor and the corresponding He-Man were both done for the international markets. The domestic MOTU line was essentially dead after the 1986 (or maybe 1987, it is hard to remember precisely). Pre-Toy Fair, which was a Mattel-only event held in August in Scottsdale for many years. I remember the marketing person saying that no domestic buyers even wanted to go in the gallery.

However, the international markets were a couple of years behind in their product cycle, so they wanted a few pieces of new news. It just so happens that one of the new MOTU segments we had been looking at was a “Power Crystal” segment with crystals “powering” vehicles, interacting with playsets, etc. The He-man and Skeletor were borrowed from that segment.

While MOTU was tanking domestically, it was still going strong internationally, which was a year behind in the product cycle. This was done to have something new for that market. LISA (the light transmitting plastic) was a fairly new “shiny toy” for the designers at the time, so that was the hook for that segment. I think Martin did the final He-Man design. I frankly don’t remember for what purpose I did that awful He-Man illustration for, but I’m sure that it was after the fact (and most likely rushed), and I’m sorry that it has survived.

David Wolfram

A few things to unpack there. David mentions some artwork that he did for Laser Power He-Man. Martin Arriola was the actual designer of the figure, but David did a study of the character, seen below. The concept has white boots and a kind of white collar at this stage of his design. He has the familiar combined “HM” emblem on his belt, used on figures like Battle Armor and Thunder Punch He-Man:

Artwork by David Wolfram. Image source: The Art of He-Man/The Power and the Honor Foundation

David also mentions a power crystal segment, where crystals would be used to power playsets and interact with toys. We certainly see evidence of that in concept art by James McElroy for various crystal powered vehicles and playsets, and in an early Laser Power He-Man prototype:

Crystal powered capture accessory, by James McElroy. Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation/Dark Horse
Crystal powered Battle Base, by James McElroy. Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation. Laser Power He-Man is shown with the playset.

There was some discussion of making the He-Man “crystal segment” into an interactive TV series, as noted in the concept art below. Mattel abandoned that idea for He-Man and instead implemented it with Captain Power:

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation. Note that we see roughed out Laser Power He-Man and Laser Light Skeletor figures with the “Harm Arm”
Captain Power ad. Image source: He-Man.org

The earliest known prototype for Laser Power He-Man keeps the general shape of the concept “collar” piece, but it’s turned into a backpack. His color scheme has a lot more blue in it, which will persist to the production toy.

Behind his head you can see the green crystal that his segment would have been based on. This prototype is a kind of kit bash, with arms from the original He-Man figure, hands borrowed from Rio Blast, and what looks like the original He-Man’s legs, hacked up and straightened out. The face looks pretty close to the original He-Man, but with updated hair.

Crystal-powered Laser Power He-Man prototype. Image source: Grayskull Museum
Crystal-powered Laser Power He-Man prototype. Image source: Grayskull Museum
Image source: Antieternia Facebook page
Image source: Grayskull Museum
Image source: La Cueva del Terror

In the next stage in Laser Power He-Man’s development,we see him with his final, newly sculpted body, which included silver gloves and a smaller belt. The green crystal was removed from his backpack, and some subtle changes were made to his harness. His face has also been modified. Instead of bearing his teeth, he’s been given a more placid expression.

Image source: Grayskull Museum
Image source: MOTU Vintage Toys Facebook page
Image source: Grayskull Museum

Action Figure

The final Laser Power He-Man figure design has a somewhat simplified harness/backpack design, and a much modified light up power sword design, but otherwise is fairly similar to the previous prototype:

Laser Power He-Man cross sell art, with unpainted gloves.

As with Laser Light Skeletor, the figure’s light up feature is activated by raising his right arm. A wire is snaked from the sword, under the armor on the right arm (which seems to exist only to hide the wire) and into the backpack. The light in the sword is powered by an AA battery that fits in the backpack.

The Italy release (shown below) has the newly sculpted head, which some have speculated is supposed to resemble Dolph Lundgren, who played He-Man in the 1987 Masters of the Universe Movie. Alternatively, it could resemble some actor who might have starred in the (never produced) interactive He-Man TV show. That’s purely speculative – they might not have had any actors in mind for the series.

Looking at this and the early prototype closely, however, I think the most likely interpretation is that it’s just supposed to look like the original He-Man’s face sculpt, but with a more neutral expression and updated hair.

Like Laser-Light Skeletor, all of Laser Power He-Man’s tooled parts are unique to the figure:

Image source: He-Man.org
Custom figure by Barbarossa Custom Creations

Laser Power He-Man was also produced in Spain. The Spanish versions are marked Italy, but they can be easily distinguished by the fact that they use the original 1982 He-Man head sculpt (images and videos courtesy of “NoPatricioNo”):

The figure has ball-jointed legs, as opposed to the rubber connectors used in most MOTU figures.
With Top Toys He-Man for comparison.

Packaging

Laser Power He-Man was sold on an oversized card. There’s some nice artwork on both front and back, although I’m not sure who illustrated it:

Image source: He-Man.org
Image source: He-Man.org

The card art on the front and back differs just a bit from the actual figure. It shows He-Man with bare hands, a black hilt on his laser sword, and a kind of brass knuckles like strap around his right hand. No doubt this represents a late stage concept or prototype design.

Update: I got a bit more information about dates and card types for the Laser figures from Dani Ramón Abril, of Yo Tengo el Poder :

I wanted to comment The Lasers were sold in 1988 in Europe with Eurocard (England, Germany, Italy and France) and in 1989 in Iberocard (Spain and Portugal).

Spanish Advertising

The catalog that came packed with the Spanish figures cross sell art of both figures:

Image source: He-Man.org

The cross sell art also appears on these Spanish stickers:

The Yo Tengo el Poder site has unearthed a couple of other interesting Spanish ads featuring both laser figures:

Image source: Dani Ramón Abril
Image source: Yo Tengo el Poder

There is also a great 1989 mini magazine published in Spain that features the Laser figures, which comes by way of La Cueva del Terror.

Into the Future

Because Laser Power He-Man was only released in Europe and at the very tail end of the line, he doesn’t appear in stories or comics. I think he has a pleasing futuristic design. Not as exciting as Laser-Light Skeletor perhaps, but overall a nice take on a space age He-Man.

In many ways, Laser Power He-Man represents an intermediate step in the evolution of the the New Adventures He-Man figure from the rebooted 1989 line. The “New Adventures” He-Man figure was also designed by Martin Arriola. His colors and costume are quite different from Laser Power He-Man, but he does feature a translucent “laser” sword, which persisted in Martin’s futuristic He-Man designs:

Right to left: New Adventures Thunder Punch He-Man, Battle Punch He-Man (designed by Mark Taylor), 1989 He-Man, and Laser Power He-Man (replica)

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Reviews

Barbarossa Custom Creations Laser Power He-Man

Earlier this year I acquired the Barbarossa Custom Creations Laser Light Skeletor. I had become somewhat obsessed with the figure, and it was my best shot at getting a complete, working and nice-looking example of the rare, European release figure at a price that wouldn’t require the sale of an internal organ. At the time I was only planning on getting the one figure, but I was so impressed with it, I had get Laser Light Skeletor’s heroic counterpart, Laser Power He-Man.

If you’ve ever purchased a custom or replica action figure from any customizer/builder, you know they’re not cheap. That’s just a factor of economies of scale. It’s considerably more difficult for one person to create one figure at a time than it is for a fully equipped factory (with steel molds, paint masks, etc.) to pump out one figure among tens of thousands. It’s even more difficult with a complex toy like Laser Power He-Man, with his internal electronics. But as the original laser figures were produced in low numbers and only released oversees, they go for quite a lot of money on the secondary market. In this case, the replica is something like a third of the cost of the original.

Barbarossa offers the figure in both of its vintage configurations – with either the unique head sculpt that came with the Italian version of the figure, or the 1982 style head which came with the Spanish version of the figure. The Italian version is often called the “Dolph” head for its resemblance to Dolph Lundgren. In my opinion, no He-Man head sculpt will ever surpass the original 1982 version. However, I opted for the Italian “Dolph” version, as this was my one chance to get a figure with that particular head, and I’ve already got the original head on my other vintage He-Man figures.

Vintage 1988 Italian LP He-Man vs 1988 Spanish LP He-Man

Barbarossa has actually done something really interesting with this figure that adds to its durability. Rather than casting the figure in one or two colors and painting in the details (as was done in the vintage figure), Barbarossa casts the trunks and boots in the same teal as the armor. The belt and gloves are cast separately in silver. These pieces are glued together for a seamless look, and the there is no possibility of paint wear on the gloves or boots (an issue that plagues many vintage figures). The only painted parts, in fact, are the head (hair, eyebrows, and eyes) and the silver accents on the armor. The figure retains all of his vintage points of articulation. Another modification is that the belt lacks the “M” design of the original.

The plastic has a very realistic feel to it. I don’t know what the secret formula Barbarossa uses for his materials, but it feels very much like a factory figure. The cast is nice and crisp, with better paint details than many factory examples.  The figure also stands solidly without a tendency to fall over.

The light up action feature has been altered from the 1988 original. Instead of raising his arm to activate the sword, the light turns on with a switch hidden in the battery compartment. The light runs on a watch cell battery, rather than an AA battery as the original did.

If you happen to have a vintage LP He-Man without his accessories, Barbarossa also sells them separately for a reduced cost.

The sword glows quite brightly, especially in the dark. I took some shots with him next to the modern Masters of the Universe Classics Laser Power He-Man for comparison.

He looks great next to his arch nemesis, Laser Light Skeletor (also by Barbarossa):

Laser Power He-Man was quite a departure from the original He-Man design. In 1988 Mattel was heavily exploring different ideas for a more sci-fi take on He-Man. Laser Power He-Man represents an intermediate step in that direction, just before the “New Adventures” reboot:

Original 1982 He-Man and Barbarossa replica Laser Power He-Man
Left to right: 1992 Thunder Punch He-Man, 1990 Battle Punch He-Man, 1989 “New Adventures” He-Man, Barbarossa Laser Power He-Man.

You can see in the photos above that a big theme in Mattel’s sci-fi themed He-Man figures is translucent yellow swords. My understanding is that all of the above figures were designed by Martin Arriola, with the exception of Battle Punch He-Man, who originates from a design by Mark Taylor. Laser Power He-Man, to me, is much more recognizable as a He-Man figure than any of the New Adventures versions. I suspect if the rebooted line had been more in the style of the Laser figures, they might have had greater success.

I’ll explore the history of Laser Power He-Man in more depth in a future toy feature. In any case, I’ve been thoroughly pleased with Barbarossa’s customs so far, and would recommend his Laser figure replicas to anyone looking to add these hard to find figures to their collection.

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Resource

Parts Reuse in MOTU, Part Seven: 1988

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 1988 that had (at the time) all new parts. For fun, I’m including unproduced toys as well.

Tytus


Image Source: He-Man.org

Megator


Image Source: He-Man.org

Laser Power He-man

“Ambush” Playset (unproduced)


Image Source: Grayskull Museum

These 1988 designs reused some existing parts:

Laser Power He-Man (Spanish version)

Laser Light Skeletor

There were at least six figures additional figures planned as part of the 1988 line, but were never released. These were to be entirely constructed from existing parts, no doubt as a way to inject some quick cash into the dying line at minimal cost. We only know the name of one of them (Strobo), so I’ll make up names for the others:

Strobo

Snake Trooper

Cyborg Strike

Bow Blaster

Snappor

Samuran

Note: The above artwork is by Errol McCarthy, sourced from He-Man.org. I’m assuming “Sumuran’s” arms and legs would reuse He-Man’s, although the artist draws them without gauntlets or boots, so it’s possible they might have been new parts.

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