Tag Archives: Mark Taylor

Custom MOTU Origins feet by Guillermo Grande

I wanted to follow up my recent review of Guillermo Grande‘s amazing custom Castle Grayskull with a quick write-up about his feet. Well, not his feet per se, but the custom feet he’s made for MOTU Origins.

I have slightly mixed feelings on the MOTU Origins line – I love the concept and minicomic-based figures. I mostly like the main vintage toy inspired line, although there are a few things I would change (Battle Armor Skeletor’s frowny face, the retail Beast Man’s face paint and armor color, Mer-Man’s face light paint, Battle Cat’s helmet and chest area, Castle Grayskull’s overall design, etc.) These are things that probably aren’t going to bother any kids who are collecting these toys, but as a (purportedly) grown-up collector, they do stick out to me.

Despite its flaws, I love the potential of the line. I love the idea of having modern toys in the scale and build of the 1980s line that are homages to vintage minicomic and prototype designs. I also love how easy it is to customize these figures.

Although oddly not called out on the packaging, all Origins figures have easily removable heads, arms, hands, boots, and waists. With a bit of added heat (through hot water or a hair dryer) you can also separate the feet at the ankles, the shins at the knees, the legs at the hips, and the forearms at the elbows. This makes it so easy to mix and match different parts.

The 2020 Power-Con exclusive Lords of Power Set is amazing and my favorite thing in the line so far. But as with most limited exclusives, the tooling budget tends to have some limits as well, and some of the parts used in the set were “good enough” reuses from existing parts. The two that stand out the most are the feet on Skeletor/De-Man and Beast Man:

The original Skeletor/De-Man prototype had bare feet, but he had five toes, not three toes (the bare three-toed feet on Skeletor would work great for a cross-sell art inspired variant, however). Poor Beast Man is given “sock” feet that were used on the retail release of Beast Man. The vintage Beast Man prototype based on also had five-toed bare feet. Guillermo Grande has created a foot design that works well for both figures, and can be easily swapped out with the originals with some added heat to temporarily soften the plastic.

Beast Man finally takes off his socks

Both of them are definite improvements, but Beast Man in particular really needs his bare feet – the sock feet really undercut the savage look of the rest of the figure. It’s amazing how such a small change can completely alter the character of a figure.

Those interested in buying these feet, or any of his other customs/commissions, can contact Guillermo through his Instagram page.

Return to Table of Contents.

Post script: I contributed to the upcoming Dark Horse book, The Toys of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. It’s available to pre-order now!

Buying the exclusive combo pack (which includes a supplemental character guide) supports me and all the other contributors to these books: http://toyguide.thepower-con.com

You can also purchase the individual toy guide at Amazon or through Big Bad Toy Store. Thank you!

Custom Castle Grayskull by Guillermo Grande

For a couple of years now I’ve been admiring the minicomic-inspired customs of artist Guillermo Grande. What has caught my eye the most, however, is his recreation of the original Mark Taylor prototype Castle Grayskull (as featuring in the first set of Alfredo Alcala-illustrated minicomics and other material), using a combination of newly sculpted pieces and paint work on an existing vintage Castle Grayskull shell. When he created a second one for sale, I had to jump on it right away.

The original Castle Grayskull prototype (designed and sculpted by Mark Taylor) is shown below for reference. You can also check out my article on the prototype for a more detailed discussion of what sets it apart from the mass-produced castle, which was trimmed and simplified to reduce manufacturing costs and to fit it in a smaller box (which would reduce shipping costs and allow more playsets to fit on shelves at retail).

Image shared by James Eatock, originally via Andy Youssi

Guillermo of course references that prototype in his custom work, but he also references colors and other unique elements from the illustrations of Alfredo Alcala.

On to the custom!

Exterior

Color-wise, the exterior of Guillermo’s castle seems to invoke the more dramatic and moody color scheme of the Alcala comics, with deep blue shadows in the recesses of the exterior and vivid green on all protruding surfaces, as if lit by some eldritch light. This is of course present on the prototype, but it’s more amplified in Alcala’s artwork.

On the front face of the castle, there are quite a few modifications. The most obvious might be the teeth, which are much more ghoulish than the retail castle and have quite a bit of overhang. The teeth ended up being more recessed on the retail version because that was much easier for molding purposes.

Another key feature is the ledge on the side of the tower:

Another obvious change is the so-called pawn-piece on the top of the helmet. The helmet itself also has an enlarged center design.

A really ingenious addition to the castle is a completely reworked jawbridge. The retail castle had an enlarged opening with some extra room at the top half of the entrance. The prototype had a narrower front entrance. It also had a stone textured exterior, while the retail jawbridge had a wood texture on the outside. Guillermo has also modified the jabridge teeth to match the prototype (while extending it a bit to completely cover the entrance when closed):

Image source: Guillermo Grande

There is also a hole to the side of the door for He-Man or Skeletor to insert their sword – a detail taken from the minicomics. I should note that doing this won’t actually open up the jawbridge – that must be done manually.

A more subtle change is the addition of extra material between the eyes and around the nose, to better reflect the prototype design:

Visible from the front is the concept laser cannon. This one was actually kitbashed by Mark Taylor from Micronauts Hornetroid parts – he later designed something from scratch for the production model. You can see also from this view that Guillermo has included simulated stone floor on the platform.

Visible from the front on the taller tower is the “Spirit of the Castle.” This wasn’t from the prototype playset, but it was included at the end of many of the Alfredo Alcala/Don Glut minicomics. The Spirit would appear at the end of the story to deliver a message to the triumphant heroes. The custom “Spirit” glows in the dark.

Something that I’m told will be available in future customs is the prototype flag. Guillermo was kind enough to send me the artwork he did for it, so I could print one out and add that to my castle (note – I made a modification on the colors of the evil side of the flag):

On the exterior of the other half of the castle, there are a few changes as well (other than, of course, the paint). The handle that was added to the retail castle to allow kids to use it as a carrying case has been removed to restore it to the prototype design, and sculpted stone is used to cover up the tops of the battlements.

The tower on the far end has had its roof extended to a sharp point, again to match the source material:

And a really fun feature: a secret door has been created under the side windows, which was again a feature of the prototype, but not included in the retail release:

Secret door behind the prototype combat trainer

Interior

The second floor pieces of the interior have been given a wood-like finish, and the gargoyle piece at the top of the elevator has been cast in a greenish stone finish. The prototype castle had a circular elevator and a skull at the top, although it was never illustrated in the Alcala comics (it does get referenced in Don Glut’s text). On the right side we see a replica of the computer cardboard cutout that came with the retail castle, but below it is a 3-D piece that recalls the prototype castle:

From the prototype

One of my favorite extras here is a green computer and monitor. It wasn’t in the prototype castle, but it was featured in King of Castle Grayskull:

Down below we have a repainted elevator (in red, like the prototype) and a repainted weapons rack. There are also weapons from the retail playset, cast in metal, with wood handles on the spears/poleaxes. Behind you can see that the ground floor is given a stone slab texture.

In the throne room, we have several fun goodies. There is a redesigned throne that is based on the prototype. Included is a red blanket or cloak shown in the Alcala comics. There is also a small green computer, from the Alcala comics. The single rail ladder, featured in both prototype and comics is there as well. Guillermo has also created a 3D version of the space suit cardboard cutout, which was a part of both the prototype and retail castle as a 2D printout:

Rear detail of the laser cannon, also showing stone slab detail on the platform.

A great feature of Guillermo’s custom is that the trap door works just like the vintage castle!

On interior of the front entrance, we have a few more goodies. To the left of the jawbridge, we see the dungeon. The prototype didn’t have walls and a door like this, but it was illustrated in the Alcala comics:

The door to the dungeon opens on a hinge. Inside is a poor unfortunate victim who was left there too long. The dungeon is removable. On the back wall are a set of shackles, which were featured in the prototype:

And that’s the castle! Guillermo has been constantly coming up with new additions and innovations to his designs, so I’m sure his creations will continue to evolve. Some possible extras I might suggest in the future: the prototype combat trainer, jetpack, bop bag and torture rack. The round elevator might be fun too, although that might difficult to engineer. In any case, this is the Castle Grayskull I’ve always wanted and I’m absolutely thrilled to have it in my collection!

Guillermo is accepting commissions – if you’re interested in custom work, you can reach out to him via his Instagram account.

Return to Table of Contents.

Post script: I contributed to the upcoming Dark Horse book, The Toys of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. It’s available to pre-order now!

Buying the exclusive combo pack (which includes a supplemental character guide) supports me and all the other contributors to these books: http://toyguide.thepower-con.com

You can also purchase the individual toy guide at Amazon or through Big Bad Toy Store. Thank you!

Early Alcala reference material

Frequent readers of this blog know that if there is one aspect of Masters of the Universe that endlessly fascinates me, it’s the early minicomics and the concept toy designs for the brand. As I was reviewing the recent Power-Con “Lords of Power” set, I noticed that Alfredo Alcala, illustrator of the first four minicomics (or really, story books) for the series seemed to be using two different references for He-Man, in his early material. I thought it might be interesting to identify all of the reference material Alcala used, based on similarity to known prototypes and concept art.

Before I get into that, I should note some actual extant reference material that Alcala used still exists, and was shared by his son, Alfred Junior. Mattel sent Alfredo Sr. some actual toys to use as references, which were well-loved by his son. It seems that Alcala used this in later comics (he illustrated various comics for the 1983 and 1984 waves). The Teela head below is actually an early incarnation with sculpted eyelids, not present on the production toy, so that might have been used for his 1982 material (images courtesy of Alfred Alcala Jr.).

I thought I would trace the references he used in the first four minicomics by character. I’m also operating under the assumption that the order of illustration of the comics is He-Man and the Power Sword, King of Castle Grayskull, The Vengeance of Skeletor, and Battle in the Clouds. That assumption is based on the evolving look of the characters and how that matches with the evolution of the character designs at Mattel. I’m also going to include some early line art that the artist did for He-Man and the Power Sword.

He-Man

Appearances: He-Man and the Power Sword, King of Castle Grayskull, The Vengeance of Skeletor, Battle in the Clouds.

The earliest Alcala comic, He-Man and the Power Sword, is the only one of the series to feature He-Man with his boot dagger, which shows up in several panels. The dagger shows up only in Mark Taylor’s B-sheet art, and not in any known prototypes, so the reference material at the start must have been Mark’s B-sheet. I imagine someone at Mattel told Alcala to skip the helmet, as they had decided to nix that early on. You can also see the early belt design in several panels (square center buckle, furry shorts spilling over the top). In some panels you do see the revised belt (cleaner top, round center buckle), so that might have been a running change at the 11th hour. The axe and shield are also taken directly from the B-sheet.

Mark Taylor B-Sheet. Source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

In the other three comics, every depiction of He-Man seems pretty clearly based on the prototype figure shown in the “Lords of Power” slide series. The defining characteristics are: no boot dagger, no bracer on the left wrist, cleaned up belt design, x-shaped harness around the back (thanks Dušan M. for the reminder) and somewhat paler skin:

Image source: Andy Youssi
Side view, in prototype Wind Raider

Skeletor

Appearances: He-Man and the Power Sword, King of Castle Grayskull, The Vengeance of Skeletor, Battle in the Clouds.

In all four comics, Skeletor seems to be based on both the original Mark Taylor B-sheet and on the “Lords of Power” prototype. He always has the smooth forearms of the prototype, but he also usually (but not always) has the chest straps of the B-sheet. Sometimes he has the yellow detail of either the chest (which shows up on both references) or just the shin guards (only in the B-sheet). Perhaps there was an additional transitional reference he was working from, or perhaps he simply got notes from Mattel about which arms to use, or (after the first minicomic) dropping the yellow detail on the costume. The skull is of course quite different from the “rotting face” concept. I suspect Mattel told him to replace the concept face with a skull face, and so without a reference Alcala came up with his own unique design there:

Mark Taylor concept art. Image: Super7/Power and Honor Foundation
Image source: Andy Youssi
Image source: The Power of He-Man/Jukka Issakainen

Teela/Sorceress

Appearances: He-Man and the Power Sword, King of Castle Grayskull, The Vengeance of Skeletor, Battle in the Clouds.

Teela and Sorceress change the most from comic to comic, which makes sense, given how many changes these character designs went through behind the scenes. I’m putting them together because at times their costumes and roles converge in the early Alcala comics. Technically Sorceress only appears in the first minicomic.

In He-Man and the Power Sword, Sorceress is the guardian of the two halves of the Power Sword and Teela is a wandering warrior. In King of Castle Grayskull, Teela is the guardian of Castle Grayskull, having been selected by the Castle itself for that role. By Battle in the Clouds, Teela is back to warrior duties but she’s wearing the Sorceress’ snake armor.

Images from He-Man and the Power Sword:

The reference material for both characters above is clearly Mark Taylor’s B-sheets. The one deviation is Sorceress’ face, which Alcala colored green. That may have been an oversight. Also the staff the Sorceress uses has some kind of horn design. It’s unclear why that is.

Image source: Super 7/The Power and Honor Foundation
Image source: Super 7/The Power and Honor Foundation

In King of Castle Grayskull, Teela steps into the Sorceress’ role (who is never mentioned in this series again). Her costume is mainly her B-sheet design but with the Sorceress’ staff. Her boots are redder, and the hair ranges from reddish to blondish – perhaps because the hair in the B-sheet is both reddish and blondish, and the boots are somewhat ambiguous. There may have been some other lost reference material used here. Mark Taylor was also known to do several color variations of his B-sheets, so there may have been more variants that didn’t survive.

Interestingly, early line art for the final panel of that comic shows Teela with the spear from Mark Taylor’s B-sheet. In the final version, she holds the snake staff:

In The Vengeance of Skeletor, Teela looks very much like her first comic appearance (blonde hair, brown boots, with Charger), but she carries the Sorceress staff.

Finally, in Battle in the Clouds, Teela for the first time pulls from identifiably different source material – here she is based on the cross sell art that was used on the back of the action figure cards:

Beast Man

Appearances: He-Man and the Power Sword, The Vengeance of Skeletor

In the first comic, Beast Man is depicted with red fur and a red costume with yellow medallion. In his other appearance (The Vengeance of Skeletor), he has orange fur and a red and blue costume. It’s clear that in both cases, Alcala was using Mark Taylor’s B-sheet (below for reference). But I think there must have been an all red version (with red trunks and a yellow medallion) that has unfortunately not survived.

Image source: Super 7/The Power and Honor Foundation

Man-At-Arms

Appearances: He-Man and the Power Sword, The Vengeance of Skeletor, Battle in the Clouds.

We can see a few different references used in Alcala’s early depictions of Man-At-Arms. In the unused panel below, we see a transitional version of Man-At-Arms – something in between Mark Taylor’s first, pre-MOTU concept (labeled “Paladin” below) for the character, and his B-Sheet. Unfortunately we don’t have Mark’s transitional concept, but thankfully Alcala’s interpretation still exists. What sets this version apart is the piece of armor on his right shoulder, and the bladed rifle that he carries.

Unused Alcala panel, from The Power of Grayskull documentary
Early Mark Taylor “Paladin” design
Mark Taylor B-sheet

In He-Man and the Power Sword, the reference seems to almost entirely from the “Lords of Power” prototype. It has the updated belt and the colors of the prototype, as opposed to the orange boots and squared off belt of the B-sheet. In one panel he has the fur cape, which is a holdover from the earlier design and an earlier draft panel (more on that panel later).

Man-At-Arms prototype

In Man-At-Arms’ other appearances, a major reference is the cross sell art, (note the his symmetrical helmet design and monochromic boots). However, his left arm armor still extends to his fist, which was a feature of the prototype.

Mer-Man

Appearances: He-Man and the Power Sword, King of Castle Grayskull, The Vengeance of Skeletor, Battle in the Clouds.

In the first three appearances, Mer-Man’s art references could have just as easily been Mark Taylor’s B-sheet or Tony Guerrero’s prototype sculpt – they are essentially the same design. Regardless of source, Alcala usually illustrated Mer-Man with a lighter blue color than what appeared in the source material:

Image source: Super 7/The Power and Honor Foundation
Image source: Andy Youssi
Image source: The Power of Grayskull/Jukka Issakainen

In Battle in the Clouds, Alcala bases his Mer-Man on the character’s cross-sell artwork, as evidenced by the more greenish skin, simplified belt, bare feet and modified shin guards:

Stratos

Appearances: He-Man and the Power Sword, King of Castle Grayskull, The Vengeance of Skeletor, Battle in the Clouds.

Alcala’s Stratos illustration in the first three comics all seem to be based on Mark Taylor’s B-sheet design for the character. In the B-Sheet, Stratos seems to have gray skin, except for on his chest. Alcala may have interpreted that to mean the design wasn’t fully colored and the character was to have tan skin. Stratos also has a necklace of feathers and a large buckle at a strap near his belt.

In Battle In the Clouds, the reference changed to the updated (but still not finalized) cross sell art design:

Battle Cat

Appearances: King of Castle Grayskull, Battle in the Clouds.

Battle Cat is a surprisingly infrequent guest in the early Alcala illustrations. When he does show up he tends to have stripes on his tail, indicative of Mark Taylor’s concept art. However, it appears that the reference for Battle Cat was actually the prototype figure, which has a slightly different helmet shape than Mark’s art, as well as orange around the edges of its mouth:

Image source: Andy Youssi
Image source: Super 7/The Power and Honor Foundation

Castle Grayskull

Appearances: He-Man and the Power Sword, King of Castle Grayskull, The Vengeance of Skeletor, Battle in the Clouds.

The striking Castle Grayskull depicted in the early Alcala comics is always based on the prototype castle, rather than on any known concept art. The prototype (sculpted by Mark Taylor) is quite different from Mark’s previous artwork.

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

Vehicles

Appearances: He-Man and the Power Sword, The Vengeance of Skeletor, Battle in the Clouds.

Alcala included various vehicles in the early comics. The earliest vehicles, included in the early line art draft of He-Man and the Power Sword, were actually Mark Taylor concept vehicles. Eventually Mark brought Ted Mayer in to the project to design the vehicles, so Alcala must have started the draft before that time. The earliest known Ted Mayer concept is an early Battle Ram design from April 7, 1981, so Alcala probably started his draft images before then.

One early vehicle in the draft minicomic was a Mark Taylor chariot design, which is being driven by Man-At-Arms below:

Early Alfredo Alcala comic panel, featuring the prototype vehicle. Image source: The Power of Grayskull documentary
Mark Taylor concept vehicle. Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

In the final comic, that vehicle was swapped out for Ted Mayer’s concept Battle Chariot, which was also never produced. That vehicle was designed by Ted Mayer on June 5, 1981, so Alcala must have completed his work on He-Man and the Power Sword after that date.

Ted Mayer’s Battle Chariot concept

Another Mark Taylor vehicle, the Battle Catapult, shows up in Alcala’s draft below.

Image source: Rebecca Salari Taylor

In the final version of the comic, it’s replaced with the Battle Ram and the Battle Chariot:

The Battle Ram itself is (which shows up in Power Sword and Vengeance) was created referencing the prototype Battle Ram toy:

Image source: Ted Mayer

The Wind Raider shows up only in Battle In The Clouds, and is based on one of the prototypes for that vehicle (which, along with Battle Ram, was sculpted by Jim Openshaw). The prototype in question had smaller engine inlet cones and its wings were straight along the trailing edge, rather than ridged.

Further reading:

Mark Taylor Interview
Ted Mayer Interview
He-Man
Skeletor
Teela
Sorceress
Man-At-Arms
Beast Man
Mer-Man
Stratos
Battle Cat
Castle Grayskull
Battle Ram
Wind Raider

Post script: I contributed to the upcoming Dark Horse book, The Toys of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. It’s available to pre-order now!

Buying the exclusive combo pack (which includes a supplemental character guide) supports me and all the other contributors to these books: http://toyguide.thepower-con.com

You can also purchase the individual toy guide at Amazon or through Big Bad Toy Store. Thank you and Merry Christmas!

If you enjoy this content, feel free to throw in a dollar or two to support the blog. To do so, click the link below:

Return to Table of Contents.

The Fighting Foe-Men

One of several copies of The Fighting Foe-Men script

Early minicomic art by Alfredo Alcala, depicting Man-At-Arms with an early weapon from a previous piece of concept art. Image source: Power of Grayskull documentary. Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen.

It’s fairly well known by now that early on, Masters of the Universe had a number of working names. One of them was Lords of Power, a topic I’ve covered previously. Another was The Fighting Foe-Men, which will be the topic of this article.

Former Masters of the Universe Classics brand manager Scott Neitlich shared a number of early MOTU documents his his retrospective video below on the rollout of the Classics toyline. I’d like to discuss those documents relevant to the Fighting Foe-Men idea:

Don Glut, under contract from Mattel, wrote a story treatment for the line, apparently with the idea of turning the treatment into the mini comic books to be included with the figures. The Fighting Foe-Men document includes many working figure titles and a few ideas I recognize from my conversations with MOTU designer Mark Taylor, so Glut may have just taken whatever the Mattel team had at the time and expanded it out into a first attempt at a MOTU mythos:

“THE FIGHTING FOE-MEN”
(working title)
presentation by Donald F. Glut

SETTING

In the distant past, or possibly the distant future, a great global war broke out on the distant planet Eternia. The war was waged among the powerful scientists and sorcerers that ruled that planet. The energies unleashed during that war destroyed the two warring factions, and sent Eternia into a space/time warp, where it remains held in a timeless limbo.

Eternia is a rugged, primitive type world, inhabited by various warlike races. Occasionally other beings from distant worlds are cast into the time warp to take refuge on Eternia. The planet’s surface is a savage world of dense jungles, dark forests, active volcanoes, etc. The seas are turbulent and infested with bizarre formes of marine life. The skies are dominated by all manners of strange flying creatures. What little remains of Eternia’s past science has been channeled into various weapons of war — weapons appearing both primitive and yet strangely futuristic.

The idea of a post-apocalyptic Eternia is one of Mark’s ideas, so this may have been communicated to Glut.

Among the remnants of the pre-war days of Eternia is the ominous and awesome Castle Grayskull. The Castle is so ancient that none of Eternia’s inhabitants knows who (or what) built it. What is known is that the Castle is equipped with all manners of weapons, traps and devices. The place is a veritable fortress. Legend has it that the Castle harbors, in some secret place, the mysterious Power Gem — the product of both pre-war science and sorcery. The Power Gem will make its possessor all-powerful and the master of all Eternia. Naturally, then, Castle Grayskull and the Power Gem are coveted items and the reason for much conflict on Eternia.

I hadn’t seen this “Power Gem” concept before. Obviously it was dropped, and it was replaced by the Power Sword.

Skeletor talks about the Power Sword in He-Man and the Power Sword, written by Don Glut, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala

Don Glut, in a 2001 interview with Matt Jozwiak, said: “The Power Sword was a sort of homage to the various “Power Stone” stories in the 1940s Superman comic books.” The Power Gem must have been a variation on the Power Stone theme, and then it became the Power Sword.

Castle Grayskull concept, by Mark Taylor

HEROES

Among the various characters living on Eternia are four strange beings that we can consider heroes. They are:

He-Man — A native of Eternia, raised by his jungle-dwelling tribe. He is a mass of muscle, with incredible physical strength and a short-fuse-temper. His prowess got him awarded, by the tribe’s elders, a series of fantastic weapons and costumes which they had found in the ruins of a fortress once occupied by Eternia’s pre-war scientists. The costumes augment his strength, each one giving him a single new power — a forcefield, the increased strength of a Hercules, etc. He-Man loves his people, but he craves excitement and adventure, and so has set off on his own. He does not always fight fair and often resorts to underhanded methods to get the job done.

The costumes that give He-Man different abilities are familiar from the first minicomic (although in this case, the tribal elders give him these items, rather than the Sorceress), but the characterization of He-Man as someone who is a short-tempered lout who doesn’t fight fair is something that was obviously abandoned quickly.

He-Man concept art, by Mark Taylor
He-Man’s forcefield garment, as mentioned in the Glut’s Fighting Foe-Men treatment
Early minicomic art by Alfredo Alcala, depicting He-Man and the Sorceress with an early concept vehicle, the Battle Catapult. Image source: Power of Grayskull documentary. Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen.
Battle Catapult concept by Mark Taylor
Early minicomic art by Alfredo Alcala, depicting He-Man and the Sorceress battling a monster. Image source: Power of Grayskull documentary. Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen.

MAN-OF-ARMS (alternate names: Arms-Man, Knight-Man, War-Man) — A cold, calculating and totally confident Master of All Weapons. He was trained since childhood by his people in the arts of battle, and is master of such weapons as the laser-axe, the electro-sword and any others that come his way. Unlike He-Man, he is a planner and never plunges into battle without ample preparation. He has left his people to right wrongs wherever he finds them, but knows that, if necessary, he can summon his people to his side as an army.

This depiction of “Man-Of-Arms” (Man-At-Arms) seems pretty close to Mark Taylor’s own conception of the character, and seems at least compatible with his appearances in early minicomics. However, Man-At-Arm’s mission and motivation was given to He-Man in the published minicomics.

Early minicomic art by Alfredo Alcala, depicting Man-At-Arms in a concept vehicle design by Mark Taylor. Image source: Power of Grayskull documentary. Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen.

Concept vehicle by Mark Taylor. Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

An early concept that became Man-At-Arms. From Mark Taylor Sketches Vol 1
Early “Man-Of-Arms” with laser-axe illustrated by Alfredo Alcala

WING-MAN (alternative name: Air-Man) — One of the last of a race of mountain-dwelling beings who have mastered the air. Wing-Man is a denizen of mountain peaks hidden high above Eternia’s clouds. He utilizes a flying craft equipped with various weapons resembling characters of flying creatures — a deafening bird’s cry siren, a hornet’s sting, etc. But he can fly without use of the craft, thanks to a set of foldable wings — including a set of bird’s wings, bat’s wings, insect’s wing, etc. He has a good sense of humor and is a natural practical joker, which makes him bearly [sic] tolerable to such brooding characters as He-Man.

Wing-Man or Stratos sounds pretty similar to his minicomic depiction, until you get to the description of his various wings. I’m not sure if that was ever in the works at Mattel or if that’s something Glut came up with on his own. I would guess it is the former, since a variety of costumes were offered for Mattel’s Big Jim and Barbie figures.

Stratos concept. Image courtesy of Rebecca Salari Taylor

MER-MAN (alternative name: Sea-Man) — The last survivor of an extraterrestrial race of water-dwellers. When his water-world was drawn into its sun by the force of gravity and evaporated, Mer-Man — a scaly humanoid with fishlike gills and fins — escaped to Eternia and took residence in its seas. There this intelligent being took command of the sea’s creatures. He can exist on land, where his strength, accustomed to the pressures of the sea’s depths, is increased — but extreme heat can dehydrate him, weakening and eventually killing him.

I had heard something like this characterization for Mer-Man before, but hadn’t seen evidence to support it until now. Mer-Man’s susceptibility to dehydration is familiar from the comics, but otherwise his backstory and heroic characterization is totally unlike anything seen in MOTU canon.

Mer-Man as a hero was also something that shows up in a figure sheet included in one of the extra scenes in the excellent Power of Grayskull documentary:

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Mer-Man getting dehydrated in the heat of Skeletor’s blade

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

VILLAINS

Each of the villains is out for his own gain, usually to obtain the Power Gem for himself, but they occasionally accept one of them as their leader — Beast-Man

BEAST-MAN — Another native of Eternia’s jungles whose tribe — or pack — has seemingly always been at war with their natural enemies, the human tribe of He-Man. Beast-Man has formidable strength, but it is his ferocity that makes him a natural leader. He has the agility of a gorilla. But when he dons his various costumes, he takes on the powers of other animals — the speed of a gazelle, the charging force of a rhino, etc. Beast-Man, though he despises He-Man’s tribe, yearns to take one or more of its females as a bride. He is totally evil and corrupt. His only redeeming quality is the “love” he bears for his own race, though it is actually more like instinct than any real emotion. His voice is gutteral, almost a growl.

This is a quite surprising casting of Beast Man as the primary enemy of He-Man. I had heard that this was once the case, but had never seen actual evidence until now and I had honestly dismissed the idea. In this treatment he is given parallel powers to He-Man, in that he gains different power from wearing different costumes.

Beast Man and Mer-Man prototypes. Image via Andy Youssi

Early Mark Taylor Beast Man concept art

DE-MAN — A regular demon in the flesh. De-Man once inhabited an alien dimension resembling Dante’s version of Hell, but was thrown into Eternia’s dimension when the great war created a rift between the two dimensions. De-Man is possibly Beast-Man’s most dangerous ally. He has incredible powers and weapons, which can throw bolts of fire, electrical energy, cold. etc. He can control the very elements, bringing down a terrible storm from a cloudless sky, etc. He speaks in a raspy voice and is waiting for just the right opportunity to turn against Beast-Man and seize the Power Gem for himself. Then he will reopen the dimensional rift and bring more of his own race – to conquer eternia.

Some of De-Man’s (Skeletor’s) story here shows up in He-Man and the Power Sword (specifically the part about De-Man as a demon from another dimension). The control over the weather wasn’t really explored. De-Man’s obsession with the Power Gem became Skeletor’s obsession with the Power Sword.

Mark Taylor’s De-Man (Skeletor) concept art, published by Super7 and the Power and the Honor Foundation. Image courtesy of Axel Giménez.

Skeletor’s origin story

WOODS-MAN (alternate names: Tree-Man, Green-Man) — Another naturally-born Eternian. The master of the Forests and Jungles, Woods-Man has the power to control all plant life. Being a manlike plant himself, Woods-Man does not have the ability to speak — but he does have a telepathic ability to communicate with others of his kind or other plants. His secret ambition is to subjugate all animal life and make Eternia’s plants the rule or this planet.

At first glance Woods-Man reminds me of Moss-Man, who was released in 1985. However, this may have been referring to the Mark Taylor concept below:

From Mark Taylor Sketches Vol 2

KA-MAN (named for the crocodilian Caiman) — a humanoid reptile, not too smart, but incredible sinister and evil. Being reptilian, the scaly warrior is cold-blooded and susceptible to changes in temperature. When he speaks it is hardly more than a hiss. Like a lizard, he can scale walls, change his color to match his environment, look about in all directions with his globelike eyes, etc. His various costumes give him extra reptilian powers — the rattle and striking power of a snake, the fiery breath of a dragon, etc. Naturally his snakelike fangs are venomous. His small reptile’s brain affords him little thinking ability and makes him extremely susceptible to taking orders.

Ka-Man again has the concept of having various costumes that give him different powers. It’s hard to know for sure, but Ka-Man might be this Mark Taylor concept below. It’s certainly reptilian and has “globe-like” eyes. According to Mark’s wife Rebecca, this was originally a private sketch by Mark, which he later proposed as a henchman for Skeletor.

From Mark Taylor Sketches Vol 2

After the characters are set up, Glut lays out a story synopsis for the first comic book in the series, followed by a longer summary. He sets up the heroes as independent and squabbling warriors who must reluctantly form a team to stop the villains. He-Man’s arrogance at first prevents them from working together, after the forces of Beast-Man bring them to the brink of destruction, they must unite in order to survive. I’ll post the entire document at the end. I’ve made the text darker to make it easier to read, although the screen shots aren’t great as far as resolution goes. I’m also typing out the synopsis and summary, and I’ll add a few unrelated illustrations that happen to more or less align with the story.

HE-MAN
STORY SYNOPSIS

In the distant past, warring factions succeeded in destroying each other, sending the planet Eternia into a space/time warp. Filled with war-life races and tribes, only a few remains of the cities were left along with many bizarre forms of life.

He-Man (raised in the jungle, with massive muscles and power-giving costumes) is trying to begin a new life where he can seek and choose his own adventures.

He is interrupted by Wing-Man and told that lights have been seen in the Castle Grayskull (indeterminably old, uninhabited, holds secret “power gem”). He-Man journeys to Castle Grayskull to discover that Beast-Man has captured the beautiful Tee-la and taken her into the Castle. He hopes to make Tee-La his bride when he uncovers the power-gem and gains its supreme power.

He-Man recruits Mer-Man and Wing-Man to help recapture the castle. On the way he must defeat Man-of-Arms (later becomes an ally.)

Beast-Man, Ka-Man, Tree-Man and De-Man manage to overpower and capture the three attackers. The revived Man-of-Arms launches his own attack but is near defeat. When He-Man uses all his strength to break free himself and his companions, He-Man rushes to the defense of Man-of-Arms, and together they defeat Beast-Man and his evil gang. Beast-Man pleads for mercy, and He-Man releases him after he promises not to try to recapture the power-gem.

Tee-la is returned to her people and He-Man wonders if Beast-Man will keep his promise. (Probably not.)

SUMMARY OF 1st BOOK

In the woods of He-Man’s former tribe, a beautiful young woman named Tee-La is captured by Ka-Man. Her people come to her defense, but are suddenly confronted by Woods-Man and De-Man. Woods-Man commands the vines and plants to attack the tribe, while De-Man adds to the attack by firing his laser weapon. Ka-Man makes good his escape with Tee-La, with De-Man and Woods-Man following.

Elsewhere, He-Man is busy starting his new life away from his tribe. Putting on a costume that increases his strength, he starts building himself a dwelling by carving out huge slabs of rock from the mountainside and setting them into place.

He is interrupted by Wing-Man, who flaps overhead with his hawk-wings. Wing-Man says that lights have been observed in the windows of Castle Grayskull and he fears it may have been taken-over by evil beings seeking the legendary Power Gem. He wants He-Man to go with him to investigate. He-Man is angry for the interruption, saying he chooses his own adventures, and hurls a boulder at Wing-Man to drive him away.

At the castle, Beast-Man awaits the return of his three henchmen with their prize, the lovely Tee-La.

When she is brought to him, she panics and tries escaping the castle, only to fall victim to one of the castle’s numerous traps. Beast-Man says that soon he will have the Power Gem that will make him supremely powerful and the ruler of all Eternia — and that she will then become his bride. She cringes at the terrible thought.

Meanwhile, as He-Man finishes his rock dwelling, he sees stepping out of the jungle a number of his former tribesmen.

They related to him how Tee-La was captured and taken away to be given to the Beast-Man, He-Man’s natural (and worst) enemy. Now his attitude changes. Donning another costume, the one that gives him his forcefield, he gets into his chariot and starts rolling in the direction of the distant Castle Grayskull.

Wing-Man, in his flying craft, flies low over the castle when he is spotted by Beast-Man and his cohorts.

De-Man creates a storm and Wing-Man finds himself trying to dodge bolts of lightning. He dons his wings in time to “bail-out” before a bolt destroys his ship.

But as he saves himself, he is defeated by Ka-Man, whose dragon’s breath burns his wings to a cinder. He drops into the waiting arms of Beast-Man. Beast-Man says that Wing-Man’s presence has given him the idea of how to find the Power Gem… use a hero.

In the sea, Mer-Man notices the temperature of the water changing. It begins to bail and become intolerable. Surfacing, he discovers that it is the work of De-Man, who is using his demonic powers to create a heat-wave. Finding himself dehydrating, Mer-Man succumbs to the intense heat and becomes the prisoner of De-Man.

He-Man is still on his way in his chariot, rolling over the rugged terrain, when he is stopped by Man-of-Arms, who wishes to accompany him, having heard there are wrongs to be righted at Castle Grayskull. The arrogant, single-minded He-Man says he neither needs nor wants any help. Man-of-Arms takes his rejection as a personal insult and challenges him to battle, using on of his fantastic weapons. But the weapon cannot pierce He-Man’s forcefield and Man-of-Arms is easily defeated by He-Man’s strength. Man-of-Arms is left beaten and defeated, while He-Man continues on his way.

At the castle, Beast-Man — threatening Mer-Man with more heat, and with the deaths of his other two captives, Wing-Man and Tee-La — forces him to do his bidding. Beast-Man reveals an ancient scroll which states that the Power Gem might be located somewhere beneath water. There is a subterranean lake beneath the castle and that is where Beast-Man believes the Power Gem to be. Mer-Man swims to the bottom of the lake, finding a light in the murky depths. As he grasps the glowing stone, he fears that Eternia is now in the hands of its most evil inhabitant.

He-Man, in his chariot, reaches the castle and challenges his enemy, Beast-Man.

Beast-Man appears atop the castle saying that he now can do anything. He holds up the glowing stone, but it does nothing. This is not the Power Gem! Laughing, He-Man launches his attack with his chariot’s weapons. But the angry Beast-Man commands his three cohorts to defend him. De-Man’s power cuts through He-Man’s forcefield, after which he is overpowered by the attacking Ka-Man and Woods-Man.

Now He-Man, Wing-Man and Mer-Man are all chained in the castle’s torture room. Wing-Man tells He-Man that they should have teamed up earlier. Seeing the captive Tee-La, He-Man believes, at last, that Wing-Man was right. He-Man struggles with all his might, but cannot break his bonds. Beast-Man laughs … when he is interrupted by a commotion from outside.

It is a revived Man-of-Arms, making his own attack — with his own array of fantastic weapons — on Castle Grayskull. Beast-Man orders his cohorts to repel the attack and make Man-of-Arms his prisoner, also. As this is done, He-Man continues to struggle with his bonds and finally — looking once more at Tee-La — musters the superhuman effort to break them. Then he frees the others.

Outside, Man-of-Arms is fighting valiantly like a true knight of old, but is rapidly falling to the overpowering opposing forces. As he is ready to suffer defeat, He-Man, Wing-Man and Mer-Man, acting as a team, rush to his defense. Mer-Man and Wing-Man attack De-Man, Ka-Man and Woods-Man, while He-Man goes after Beast-Man. While the heroes and villains pit power against power, He-Man and Beast-Man engage in a furious one-on-one battle, a fight which eventually takes them to the very top of the castle. Finally He-Man manages to raise Beast-Man over his head and threatens to dash him to the ground, when Beast-Man pleads for mercy. Being human and not a beast, He-Man succumbs, and lets Beast-Man go, on the condition that he promises that he and his allies will never return to seek the Power Gem or cause trouble. Beast-Man promises.

As He-Man, Tee-La and the other heroes watch the departing villains, and prepare to return the young woman to her people, Man-of-Arms wonders if Beast-Man will keep his promise. Probably not, says He-Man, but at least when that time comes the heroes will be ready for them. For He-Man has learned something this day — that sometimes it is good to have allies in battle (not always, but sometimes!). They make a good team, he says, and someday they might again band together for battle.

THE END

Included among the documents is what looks like feedback from Mattel for some changes to the story. Those changes include making Grayskull more mysterious and emphasizing that it holds the secrets of the universe. Mattel also wanted to make De-Man (Skeletor) the primary villain. He-Man was to be made more heroic and less arrogant and underhanded; he was also supposed to get along with the other heroes. In this feedback, Tee-La (Teela) was to be written out of this particular story. That last edit obviously didn’t take, as Teela features prominently in the minicomics written by Glut.

“Tee-La” attacks “Beastman” in the first MOTU minicomic, He-Man and the Power Sword

If you enjoy this content, feel free to throw in a dollar or two to support the blog. To do so, click the “Donate” link below:

Return to Table of Contents.