Artwork, Reviews

T. Mark Taylor – Sketches 2

Many thanks to my buddy Doug Feague for kindly sharing pictures of his copy for this article.

At the 2019 Power-Con, Mark and Rebecca Taylor made available to fans a collection of art prints called T. Mark Taylor – Sketches 2. It’s a sequel to the first set of sketches released at Power-Con last year. A few pieces from this set appear in the 2016 Mark Taylor – The Original B-Sheets Collection, which I reviewed in depth. I’ll take a look at each piece of artwork and provide a little commentary, although several of these pieces are new to me and I don’t know the backstory behind them.

Dungeon Sticker

To start out with, the cover (shown above) is the famous Castle Grayskull dungeon sticker, which was illustrated by Rebecca Salari Taylor.

The dungeon has all sorts of meaning for Mark Taylor, who envisioned it as having held Skeletor at one point, turning him into the monster who he eventually became. More on that in a future article.

Sorceress

The Sorceress was included in the 2016 Mark Taylor Portfolio, and is one of my all time favorite pieces of art. This character’s design was eventually merged with Teela’s. The Sorceress would later show up in the 1983 He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon with a completely redesigned costume. But she does make an appearance in this form (albeit with a green face) in the minicomic, He-Man and the Power Sword. You can read more about this character here.

Face Shifter

Face Shifter is one of many face-changing character concepts that Mark Taylor came up with, eventually leading to Man-E-Faces. This particular version may have inspired the armor used on Terror Claws Skeletor, and possibly even the costume for the New Adventures character Flipshot.

Viking Raid

Viking Raid depicts and early Castle Grayskull concept. This one also appeared in Mark’s 2016 portfolio collection and in Dark Horse’s The Art of He-Man.

Kang Gi

As I understand it, this character was apparently pulled from Mark Taylor’s sketch book from years before his work at Mattel, and the intent was to use him as one of Skeletor’s henchmen, but may have also been considered for the Conan line that never came to be.

Kang Gi’s face bears a strong resemblance to Webstor, and may have been used as a springboard in the creation of that character.

Ram Man

This is a rather exciting bit of concept art for Ram Man that I personally had never seen before. His look is fairly well developed, although he features the red/brown/orange color scheme that seemed to stick with the character right up until the toy was released in stores, where the colors were changed to red and green. The overall look is quite similar to Ram Man as he appears in the minicomic, He-Man Meets Ram Man.

The Merciless

Known to many fans as “Demo Man”, The Merciless is a differently colored version of a piece of Mark Taylor concept art that has been floating around for the fan community for some time. This version features a darker color palette and a blue beard. This may have been a concept for the unproduced Conan line.

The Enforcer

The Enforcer is a character that I’ve not seen previously. To me he fits in very well in the world of MOTU, and I would leave to see a figure made from this wonderfully weird and quirky design.

Mokus

Another character that is completely new to me, Mokus looks like some kind of giant, frightening but also whimsical plant monster. I’d love to learn the backstory behind this character.

Stalker

Stalker is a great plant monster concept predating Moss Man. The face reminds me just a little of Swamp Thing, and the plant-based costume and weapon are right on target.

Blaster

Blaster is a classic-looking science fiction concept character. His helmet almost looks like the prow of a space ship. He seems to be shooting beams of some kind out of his writstband as well. This is another concept I hadn’t seen previously.

Back Page

Finally, the back page features a lovely message from Mark, adorned with another piece of art from the Castle Grayskull playset, again illustrated by Rebecca.

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Galactic Guardians

Battle Punch He-Man (1990)

Battle Punch He-Man was the first He-Man variant in the “New Adventures” reboot of the He-Man series. The name “Battle Punch” implies some kind of action feature, although the figure had none. He did have some unusual articulation that was marketed as a kind of action feature, but I’ll get into that just a bit later.

Design & Development

Battle Punch He-Man seems to have been designed by Mark Taylor, who also designed the original He-Man released in 1982. Shortly after the successful launch of the original Masters of the Universe toyline, Mark left Mattel (eventually working on the wildly successful Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toyline), but he returned as a vice president at about the time that New Adventures line was going full steam.

Image courtesy of Rebecca Salari Taylor

Mark Taylor’s design (above) has some of the broad elements that made it to the final toy, including the specific look of the boots and the sash around his torso. However, Mark’s design seems to depict a rather disheveled He-Man, with torn clothing and gauze wrap around his fists. He looks like a street fighter rather than a space fighter.

In some ways, Battle Punch He-Man is actually closer to the look of He-Man as he appeared in the Jetlag New Adventures of He-Man animated series than was the 1989 release of He-Man. That might have been coordinated, as the New Adventures series was released the the year before Battle Punch He-Man. The animated version essentially looks like Battle Punch He-Man with the sword (and occasionally, shield) of the 1989 release, but in gold.

Update: Dušan M. pointed out that this promotional art for The New Adventures of He-Man is even closer to Mark Taylor’s sketch. He also pointed out that the series debuted in 1989, not 1990:

Update #2: Robert Barbieri recently uncovered some early Jetlag animation concept artwork that was based on Mark Taylor’s concept. Note that this version has the traditional power sword:

Image Source: Robert Barbieri
Image Source: Robert Barbieri

We can see the further development of the figure design in the artwork below (artist unknown), first shown in Mattel’s 2009 SDCC Art Book. The concept art below is pretty close to the look of the final figure, with the exception of the shield. The shield has a stylized bird design on it, while the production shield would have the “New Adventures” He-Man triangular logo on it as as well as some sculpted battle damage.

Images courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

He-Man was given a new power sword as well, with an asymmetrical hilt design.

Battle Punch He-Man vs Disks of Doom Skeletor
Battle Punch He-Man with the unreleased Clawber bird.
Spanish playing card. Source: cuevadelterror.blogspot.com
Spanish playing card. Source: cuevadelterror.blogspot.com

Some similar artwork appears on these French party invitation cards, shared by Øyvind Meisfjord:

The cross sell artwork for the figure shows the finalized design that would be used for the mass-produced toy:

We can see the final hand-painted prototype for the figure in Mattel’s 1990 dealer catalogue:

Image courtesy of Battle Armor Dad
Image courtesy of Battle Armor Dad
Image courtesy of Battle Armor Dad

Production Figure

Battle Punch He-Man is slightly bigger and bulkier compared to the 1989 version. He has some of the same standard articulation that most figures in the series had, including ball joints at the knees and hips. His main feature, however, was a diagonal articulation joint across his chest, which allowed you to manually wind him up for a punch (there was no spring-back action, so the entire action was manual), while making the figure look completely bizarre in the process. Used subtly, however, the articulation can slightly alter his pose and posture in useful ways.

Something has gone horribly wrong

The figure also featured a more pragmatic bit of articulation – a hinge joint at the wrist, allowing him to realistically hold his sword aloft for the first time.

Unlike the 1989 He-Man release, this version has a sculpted pony tail, which conforms to the Mark Taylor concept art as well as the animated depiction.

Packaging

The packaging for Battle Punch Figure features artwork on the front by (I believe) William George. I’m not sure who did the art and instructions on the back.

The back of the card includes a bit of a bio for Battle Punch He-Man:

The most powerful man in the universe! Only He-Man, with his ultra-energized sword and shield, can defeat Skeletor’s new weapons – the Disks of Doom. A stranger stranded in a strange place and time, He-Man has a lot to learn about the future world of Primus. And, the gentle people of this peace-loving planet have a lot to learn about the evil of Skeletor from He-Man.

Mission – To unite the Tri-Solar System against Skeletor and lead a star-legion of Galactic Guardians into combat to defend the last great civilization of mankind.

Battle Equipment: Powersword & Energy Shield

His backstory is all relatively straightforward. There is no explanation for why his power sword and shield looks so different compared to the previous release. Also on the back are the the instructions for his “action feature”:

I can’t imagine any kid had hours of fun playing with that particular feature, but I do think in terms of his overall costume design he is the best looking of the three “New Adventures” He-Man figures.

Other Appearances

Petteri Höglund helpfully pointed out that Battle Punch He-Man appears in the box art for several New Adventures oversized items, as well as on the cover of this promotional VHS tape:

Image courtesy of Petteri Höglund

Unfortunately I haven’t identified a lot of media associated with this variant. If I come across any comics or additional catalogs featuring the figure, I will certainly update this piece to include them.

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Reviews

T. Mark Taylor – Sketches 1

At the 2018 Power-Con, Mark and Rebecca Taylor made available to fans a collection of art prints called T. Mark Taylor – Sketches 1. Unfortunately I was unable to attend, but thankfully fans who couldn’t attend were able to purchase copies directly from the Taylors afterwards.

The set is kind of a sequel to the 2016 Mark Taylor – The Original B-Sheets Collection, which I reviewed in depth. A few pieces from that collection appear in Sketches 1, but mostly this is a new set of artwork. Unlike the first set, much of the artwork in this new collection actually predates work on the He-Man line. I’ll take a look at each piece of artwork and provide a little commentary.

Cover

The cover, which Mark was kind enough to sign, features one of the early Beast Man concepts. Rebecca shared the full artwork several months back. For more information on the evolution of Beast Man, check out this article.

Image courtesy of Rebecca Salari Taylor.

The Eternal Hero

This piece, titled “The Eternal Hero”, doesn’t seem to be a direct ancestor of any particular figure. However, his armor has touches of what would become Skeletor’s armor. His axe and boot designs were reused for He-Man. The shield ended up with the Castle Grayskull weapons. This most likely originated from the 1970s, long before the He-Man line.

Evil Incarnate

Rebecca actually shared with me some of the history behind this image:

It was done before Mark went to Mattel. I found it in a sketchbook. He has a few versions of skeletons as warriors and royalty. It is based off of a story he wrote once when he was a kid in college… about a skeleton king called “The King of Styx” … circa 1971. I found a new stash of sketchbooks when they repaired our garage.

Evil Incarnate or The King of Styx isn’t Skeletor, but you can see that Mark reused several design attributes (most notably the face and cross bones) when he was coming up with what would become Skeletor:

Image source: The 2016 Mark Taylor B-Sheet Collection . Scan by Axel Gimenéz

Paladin

Paladin was actually first intended by Mark Taylor for the never-produced Rob-N & the Space Hoods toyline. When that line failed to be green-lit, the character (eventually named Man-At-Arms) was reused for Masters of the Universe. This is one of my personal favorites from this collection. You can see how the design continued to evolve in the B-sheet below:

Image source: The 2016 Mark Taylor B-Sheet Collection

The Merman

This piece was included in the 2016 B-Sheet collection, although this one has more of a green color, as opposed to the blue of the other version. Personally I think green suits Mer-Man better. This is perhaps my all-time favorite piece of artwork by Mark Taylor. You can see the blue version released in the previous collection below:

Image source: The 2016 Mark Taylor B-Sheet Collection . Scan by Axel Gimenéz

Stygian Moat

The moat was actually intended to be a mat that would come shipped with Castle Grayskull. Unfortunately it proved to be too expensive and it was dropped from the playset. Those who are fans of the creepy creatures in the Castle Grayskull dungeon sticker will appreciate this artwork the most.

The War Cat

The above artwork was also included in the 2016 B-sheet collection, but fans who missed out on that can enjoy this exquisite representation of Battle Cat.

The Segway

Although it’s not immediately obvious, Segway represents an early take on the Man-E-Faces concept. Rebecca has actually shared a number of early designs. This particular version represents an evil character.

Castle Stickers

The Castle Grayskull stickers and cardboard pieces, exactly as they appeared in the vintage playset, are reproduced here. These were done by Rebecca, based on some notes by Mark.

Warrior Teela

Teela was also included in the 2016 B-sheets collection. She remains one of Mark’s most elegant and striking figure designs.

Ursis Prime

Ursis prime is the earliest known Beast Man design. In the beginning the character was based on a bear, although Mattel rejected it because they were afraid it was too similar looking to Chewbacca. The next stage of the design is the savage-looking red Beast Man featured on the cover of this collection. You can read more about the evolution of Beast Man here.

The Castle Grayskull

We got our first peek at this design in the Netflix Toys that Made Us episode on Masters of the Universe. This is a more evolved design compared to what was included in Mark’s previous B-Sheet collection. This is another personal favorite of mine from this collection. Mark sculpted his Castle Grayskull prototype based on this version, although he cut out most of the the near-east influences. Mark’s earlier design is below, for comparison:

Image source: The 2016 Mark Taylor B-Sheet Collection.

The Rhinomen

This design was first shown in the Power and Honor Foundation Catalog. The design is somewhat related to Ram Man, especially in the helmet design. Although this toy was never made, it would have had a ramming feature, as shown below:

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

Back Page

Finally, on the back page we get a picture of Mark and a nice note to fans, punctuating a superb and heart-felt collection.

Many thanks to Rebecca and Mark for making this available to the fans!

You can also watch Mark and Rebecca talking to fans about the origins of He-Man at the 2018 Power-Con in the video below, moderated by MOTU super-scholar Danielle Gelehrter:

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