Artwork

Masters of the Universe Cross Sell Art – 1985

The artwork for this set comes from Axel Giménez, StarCrusader and my own photos and scans.

There are, unfortunately several subpar images in this set, including Roboto, Thunder Punch He-Man, Land Shark, and especially Night Stalker. If anyone out there has a Laser Bolt box, it should have Thunder Punch He-Man on the back. If you happen to have a scan or a high resolution picture of it in a nice natural lighting that you’d like to share, that would be appreciated.

The cross sell artwork for Land Shark appears on the back of the Jitsu/Night Stalker gift set. Land Shark cross sell art also appears on the back of the heroic warriors gift set (the one that included Buzz-Off, Moss Man and Mekaneck figures). If anyone happens to have nicer image of the cross sell art for Land Shark that they could share, I’d be really grateful.

Night Stalker is trickier. I have been unable to locate any cross sell art for Night Stalker, other than the red line art on the back of the Fright Zone box. If anyone knows of a full-color version that exists somewhere out there, I’d appreciate that information!

Update: somehow I overlooked Spydor. Spydor doesn’t seem to have had cross sell art per se, but the explanatory illustration on the back of his packaging is probably the closest analog, as far as I know. The same is true for toys like Battle Bones and Blasterhawk. Thanks to Matthew M. for letting me know!

Masters of the Universe Cross Sell Art:

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Evil Horde

Mantenna – Evil spy with the pop-out eyes (1985)

I got Mantenna at the same time I got Leech, for Christmas in 1985. While I gravitated toward Leech at first, I kept coming back to Mantenna. His telescoping eyeball action feature wasn’t all that much fun, but his bizarre appearance kept drawing me back in. What was this guy? He looked like a cross between an ant, an Elephant, and a space alien.

Image courtesy of Axel Giménez
Image source: Battlegrip

Designed by Ted Mayer, Mantenna is certainly the weirdest looking figure in the Masters of the Universe toyline. According to the Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog, Mantenna’s early working names were Sensor (also a working name for Zodac) and Raydor. All of his names are puns on devices used to sense things from a distance – hence his large, pop-out eyes and oversized ears.

This early version of the character (below) has the early detachable horde insignia. He also has white teeth, red hands, and lacks the horde emblem shinguards he would get later in his design evolution.

Image Source: Tomart’s Action Figure Digest issue 202
Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation/The Art of He-Man. His eyes appear to have some kind of hypnotic power.

This revised drawing by Ted Mayer gives the character red teeth, and the standard Horde insignia on his check, shin guards, and left arm. He was given a yellow belt and black trunks. He also had a strange staff weapon with some kind of creature wrapped around it. Hordak had a similar weapon in early concept art as well.

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog

The prototype Mantenna is featured in the 1985 Mattel dealer catalog. The shape is finalized, but there are some color differences between this and the final toy. He has orange sides, rather than black. His chest insignia is outlined in black, as are his red teeth. His eyes seem to also have orange and red veins.

Mantenna’s cross sell artwork represents another intermediate step in his design – his sides are mostly black, there is still a strip of red or orange under his armpits. His teeth are also still outlined in black.

The final Mantenna has fully black sides and simplified teeth. At this point it’s really not obvious that they’re actually teeth. It really looks much grosser than that. It’s not obvious at first, but the toy does retain the original concept of having four legs – but the legs were fused together in pairs.

There is another Mantenna variant that has a color scheme on his chest closer to the cross sell art (with orange around the head of the bat design). It had a black lever in back, but the bats on his shin guards were not painted red:

Mantenna’s pop-up eye mechanism was also patented, although it seems like a simple enough design. The patent was filed December 17, 1984, and it was trademarked on September 10, 1984.

Mantenna was sold on his own single card, of course. He was also sold in a JCPenny giftset with Leech.

Mantenna’s minicomic isn’t a fan favorite. I remember not being able to get through it as a kid – the artwork seemed too jumbled and hastily done. It should also be noted that although Mantenna’s name is in the title, he barely makes an appearance in it.

In The Power of the Evil Horde, illustrated by Bruce Timm, Mantenna has the ability to fire stun rays out of his eyes:

In the Mattel Style Guide (illustrated by Errol McCarthy), Mantenna is characterized this way:

Power: frightening ability to see and hear over great distances with his highly sensitive ears and periscope scanners.

Character Profile: Mantenna can do more than just see with those wild eyes. He can fire a variety of horrible beams from them as well, including paralysis beams, stun beams, etc. Mantenna is also an agile scout and often goes out well ahead of his companions to make sure their way is clear for marauding, pillaging and the like. Since he is no slouch in the combat area, either, Mantenna rarely needs assistance on his scouting missions.

The 1985 Golden story, The Horde, seems to draw directly from Ted Mayer’s concept art in its depiction of both Mantenna and Leech:

Mantenna’s grotesque appearance was toned down for the She-Ra cartoon series. He lost most of the fins on his limbs, and his mouth lost its sphincter-like look. He was also given simple yellow eyes rather than the bloodshot eyes of his action figure. Changes were made to his hands, feet, and costume as well. He was generally depicted a bumbling henchman, often dropped through a trap door by Hordak.

Dusan M. pointed out that this is an intermediate design – final design sheets had a visible tongue.

The Filmation Mantenna did have the ability to shoot various beams from his eyes, which he occasionally used to devastating effect:

Mantenna maintains his Filmation look in this Evil Horde poster by Earl Norem. It appeared in the Summer 1985 issue of Masters of the Universe Magazine (US version).

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Resource

Parts Reuse in MOTU, Part Four: 1985

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 1985 that had (at the time) all new parts. For fun, I’m including one unproduced toy that made it into a 1985 catalog:

Sy-Klone

Modulok

Fright Zone

Bashasaurus

Battle Bones

Land Shark

Spydor

Evil Robot (unproduced)

These toys from 1985 reused some existing parts:

Thunder Punch He-Man

Roboto

Moss Man

Dragon Blaster Skeletor

Two Bad

Spikor

Stinkor

Hordak

Grizzlor

Leech

Mantenna

Night Stalker

A few additional notes:

All of the Horde crossbow share some sculpted areas in common – basically everything except the head and the butt of the weapons. I don’t know which of them was done first – I’m defaulting to Hordak’s weapon as the basis for the others, in the absence of other information.

The modified Thunder Punch He-Man legs (with their enlarged feet for greater stability) were used in some versions of the following figures: Faker II, Spikor, Man-At-Arms, He-Man, Fisto, Tri-Klops, Battle Armor He-Man, and Jitsu, especially in the French “rubber boot” variants.

The modified Dragon Blaster Skeletor legs (with their enlarged feet for greater stability) were used in some versions of the following figures: Skeletor (Hong Kong), Ninjor, and Scare Glow (more on the last two figures in the feature on parts reuse in 1987).

The information about the reuse of these legs was provided to me by Mantisaur82, who is extremely knowledgeable about production variants.

Update: Thanks to Emmanuel V. for reminding me about the made-in-France version of Stinkor, with its blue He-Man shield.

Parts Reuse series:

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Evil Horde

Leech – Evil master of power suction (1985)

leech-graphic

Leech is one of those figures that that is permanently etched in my memory. I got Leech and Mantenna for Christmas of 1985 (my brother got Grizzlor). At the time I was just starting to get distracted away from Masters of the Universe by G.I. Joe. I remember my cousin making the argument that G.I. Joe was cooler than He-Man because you could “put them in better poses.” I wasn’t terribly interested in army toys, but I looked up to my cousin and was easily swayed by his opinions. By 1986, Hasbro was putting out G.I. Joe figures that were much more colorful and weird, maybe in an effort to attract the attention of He-Man fans (it certainly worked on me). In any case, getting Leech and Mantenna sucked me right back in to the world of He-Man.

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Masters of the Universe had long been a toyline filled with colorful, freakish monsters, but the Evil Horde took the bizarro factor to a whole new level, and Leech was an instant favorite. An evil green monster with suction cups for hands and a suction cup mouth? Sold! Leech reminded me of the salt vampire from the original Star Trek series – the creature also had a sucker face and suckers on its hands. That episode gave me a serious case of the creeps as a kid, so to have something a little like it in figure form was thrilling.

salt-vapire-gif

Leech was not the first suction cup monster to be sold by Mattel. In 1980, Mattel released a character called Suckerman (invented by Roger Sweet), covered head to foot in suction cups and made from a flexible vinyl material:

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There are a couple early concepts for Leech, one from Filmation and the other from Mattel. My understanding is that the Evil Horde concepts originated from Filmation, and Mattel took those concepts and often took them in a different direction.

Several years back, James Eatock shared an early Leech concept created by Charles Zembillas. This incarnation of Leech was not quite the freak show character he ended up being. In fact stylistically he fits right in with the type of character designs Mattel had put out in 1984 for the Evil Warrior faction:

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Image source: James Eatock/The Power and the Honor Foundation

Back at Mattel, designer Ted Mayer took the concept in a much different direction. Ted’s concept (below) presents a character that is much more alien looking, with more prominent suction cup hands and a face also dominated by a giant suction cup. Leech’s limbs here are much slimmer than the actual figure, but this design is otherwise much close to the toy design than the Zembillas drawing.

leech-ph_fotor

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog, Vol 1

As noted in The Power and the Honor Foundation catalog (image above), the Horde insignia on Leech and the rest of the Evil Horde was originally envisioned as an alien creature that controlled the actions of these monsters. It was an interesting idea, but was ultimately dropped.

This close to final prototype (sculpted by Eddy Mosqueda, who also worked on Grizzlor, Sssqueeze and Eldor) appeared in the 1985 Mattel Dealer Catalog. The sculpt is final, and the figure appears to be hand-painted. As you can see, the prototype lacks the painted teeth on tongue inside his suction cup face. The suction cup itself is shallower than the final version, and lacks the wide rim on the toy (thanks to Manic Man for pointing that out). Unlike the final toy, the armor covering his left shoulder is painted orange, and the Horde bat insignia on his left arm is painted red. He also has black nostrils.

leechproto

Compared to most other MOTU figures, leech was much more solid and bulky. His action feature required a fairly large torso. The suction cups on his hands (which never seemed to work all that well) were typical suction cups other than the sculpted finger details, but the suction cup on his mouth actually had a hole in the middle of it, with a tube leading down to a rubber bladder in the center of Leech’s torso. A button on the figure’s back would force the air out of the bladder through the hole in Leech’s mouth. This would create a vacuum in the bladder, resulting in a stronger suction force to better keep the figure attached to smooth surfaces.

leech-card-art

In this scene Man-At-Arms is holding Mekaneck’s club. Leech is based on his prototype, with black belt buckle and painted orange shoulder armor.

There are a several different production variants for Leech, the most notable being the version with a black belt buckle and light green abs. This is likely the first release version of Leech, as it is closest to the cross sell artwork (and the prototype figure that the artwork was based on):

leech-cross-sell
black-belt-1
black-belt-2

Aside from his single carded release, Leech was also sold in a J.C. Penny two-pack with Mantenna. There was also a planned three-pack with Hordak and Mantenna, but as far as I know no one has seen one in the wild.

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h3p

Image via Grayskull Museum

The mini comic that came with Leech is no doubt the strangest piece of the entire series. In the story, Mer-Man (who is inexplicably bearded) is running from terror from Leech, who in this story is the size of the mountain, but has undersized two-fingered hands. Sy-Klone manages to temporarily defeat Leech (delivered with one of the best quips of all time – “Try a taste of knuckle sandwich, blubber gut!”), and the heroes take the frightened Mer-Man back to the palace to discuss the new threat with King Randor (who for some reason has a pink beard here).

03-04-copy

As I said before, Leech is a giant behemoth in this comic. When he returns to Hordak empty-handed, it’s clear that Hordak is human-sized. However, when He-Man takes on Hordak in the Talon Fighter, Hordak is also giant-sized. Reading this comic as a kid, I assumed that both Leech and Hordak had the power to grow or shrink at will. I’m not sure if that was actually a power they were intended to have, or if this comic book can best be explained by the effects of a bad acid trip. Either way, I was left scratching my head. Still, for some time afterward I believed that Leech had this ability, and when I had him facing off against the Heroic Warriors, I would often pretend that he was a giant.

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07-08-copy
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I wasn’t aware until some time later that Leech was actually a frequent character on the Filmation-produced She-Ra cartoon. Certainly there was nothing on Leech’s packaging that connected him to She-Ra in any way.

His appearances were enough to get me interested enough to watch a couple of episodes. It was fun to see Leech in action, but it was also tough as a little boy in the ’80s to admit to being into something that was branded for girls.

The Filmation version of Leech was a bit different from the toy version (and radically different from the  Charles Zembillas concept). Compared to the toy he had a more realistic mouth, a yellow belt, and symmetrical yellow shoulder armor.

leech-film
leech-mantenna-grizzlor-trooper-filmation-copy

Errol McCarthy’s depiction of Leech was based on the cartoon incarnation:

emc-horde
leech-emc
leech_full

Leech didn’t make any appearances on box art, but he was a background character in several posters by William George, Earl Norem, and others (images courtesy of Jukka Issakainen):

posterhordeb
poster_07
horde-poster
horde-poster-85
leech-crop-3
leech-crop-2

I won’t say that Leech is my all-time favorite Masters of the Universe figure, but he’s definitely in the top 10. He left a big enough impression on me that he was the first vintage MOTU figure that I repurchased as an adult.

Mini comic images and Errol McCarthy artwork are from He-Man.org.

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