Heroic Warriors

Buzz-Off: Heroic spy in the sky (1984)

Buzz-Off is one of those figures that I never owned as a kid and had limited exposure to in general. I remember seeing him only once in the wild – when visiting some distant relatives for the first time. I remember their son showing me his He-Man collection, which included Mekaneck and Buzz-Off (the first time I had seen either figure in person).

My exposure to him as a character otherwise was mostly punctuated by his appearance in the Filmation cartoon episode, “Disappearing Dragons”, and his inclusion in a couple of my favorite mini comics.

Buzz-Off first appears in the December 1, 1982 Masters of the Universe Bible, under the name Bugoff. I believe that many of the characters listed in the Bible were just very early “back of the napkin” ideas without much development. In this case, Bugoff was based on a beetle rather than a bee, although Buzz-Off retained the high-tech wings in the description below:

BUGOFF* – part man, part beetle, but with high-tech wings, flies swiftly and fast. His sword and lance are his stingers. Bugoff’s beetle-like armor protects him from many dangers including some of the laser weapons of Skeletor and his crew.

*These names are not set yet and may change

In July of 1982, Colin Bailey finished an illustration of a character called Wasp Man, who has many design touches in common with the final Buzz-Off action figure. He has the wings pinned to his back, the yellow and brown striped chest, the helmet with the enlarged insect eyes, the clawed hands, and the  enlarged monster toes.

Concept Wasp Man, by Colin Bailey. Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation/The Art of He-Man

There are a few differences from the final figures as well. Wasp Man has spiny protrusions on the sides of his lower legs, and it looks like his clawed hands were supposed to be gloves. His thighs lack the bony protrusions of the final toy. He has white fur around his shoulders and head, and his wings are white and almost moth-like. But the most obvious difference is the head – it’s a reuse of He-Man’s head. From the working name Wasp Man it doesn’t sound like he was supposed to be a kind of He-Man variant, so the idea of reusing the head from the main protagonist in this way is rather bizarre. Then again, it’s possible that part of the original He-Man head was used as a basis for Mekaneck, so it’s not unheard of.

In this early mock-up of the figure (below), we see a hand-painted mashup of parts, with He-Man’s head (with brown hair instead of blond) and limbs borrowed from Zodac. The striped chest on this piece almost seems to resemble a rib cage. You can see some very thin insect wings on his back, and of course a large helmet with a somewhat creepy-looking insectoid face.

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog, Volume One

Given the parts used here, as compared to the concept drawing, it’s likely that Buzz-Off’s limbs had not yet been sculpted, and the designers went with the closest analogs they had on hand.

Interestingly, there was a version of He-Man released with brown hair – often called Savage He-Man (or erroneously “Wonder Bread He-Man”), he seems to have been been given out as part of a promotion, but otherwise very little is known about him. He may not have anything to do with Buzz-Off, but I thought it was an interesting little connection.

Image courtesy of Arkangel

Roger Sweet designed a character called Mandible Man, who seems to fit the description of Bugoff from the MOTU Bible. Mandible Man even shares the limbs and torso that Buzz-Off had (also used selectively on Clawful and Whiplash). Colin Bailey’s design for Wasp Man don’t seem to exactly match those final sculpted parts, although it certainly looks like an early pass at them. Mandible Man appears to have been made with the exact final sculpted Buzz-Off/Whiplash parts in mind. Putting on our historian’s hat, that should tell us this design came after these parts were sculpted, and Wasp Man came before.

Mandible Man, by Roger Sweet. Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog, Volume One

The final version of Buzz-Off is mostly derived from the original Colin Bailey artwork. Wisely they decided to give him a unique insect head, which has none of the creepiness of the prototype model’s mask. The final, hand-painted prototype appears in the promotional image below:

Final prototype.

The hand-painted prototype also appears in a 1984 Mattel German catalog. In this imeage you can see that the model appears to have been cast in pink and painted over by hand.

Image courtesy of Olmo

This cross sell artwork used to promote the toy is quite faithful to the design of the final prototype. The final prototype itself is identical to the final toy, except for the eye color, which was changed to blue/green for the mass-produced toy.

Buzz-Off cross sell artwork. Image courtesy of Axel Giménez

His clawed arms have the same spiky protrusions as the concept art, although now they look like a part of his anatomy. Similar structures were added to his thighs. His helmet was removable, but so loosely fitting that it was easily knocked off. For a weapon he was given a brown version of the axe from Castle Grayskull’s weapons rack, albeit with an extra loop to allow him to hold it. Even so, it didn’t work terribly well – had his claws been rotated 90 degrees, he could have held the weapon much more naturally.

One my my favorite things about Buzz-Off is the design of his chest. The brown area is covered in little bumps, while the yellow bands that go around this chest are mostly smooth, with a few alternating ridges. That makes him wonderfully tactile in hand.

His wings are quite remarkable as well. Cast in translucent yellow, they have little mechanical parts throughout the structure. There are lots of details to discover in this toy.

Although Buzz-Off’s limbs are technically new pieces, it is apparent that they were made by modifying the original arms and legs used on He-Man. The musculature, in the areas where there are no added ridges or bumps, is identical.

The action illustration on the back of Buzz-Off’s card was done by Errol McCarthy. There are actually two different versions of the illustration on the printed cardbacks. Both of them are different from an earlier take that Errol drew that was not used. I’ll show them in what I believe is the order of design. You can see that Buzz-Off starts off with feet that are quite bird-like in the line art version below:

Errol McCarthy’s first take on Buzz-Off. Image via He-Man.org

Cards marked “NEW!” on the front (representing the early release cards) often feature the illustration below on the back, which is similar to the illustration above, but with feet that are a bit closer to the shape of the toy:

The more common version of the cardback illustration has feet that are closer still to the look of the toy, with thicker toes and clearer delineation between claws and feet. The image is also flipped in mirror image from the original.

McCarthy also illustrated Buzz-Off (along with many other characters) for licensed He-Man T-shirts. This one has feet reminiscent of Skeletor’s:

Image source: He-Man.org

Buzz-Off was also sold in a gift set with Moss Man and Mekaneck, and in a JC Penny two-pack with Fisto.

Image via Grayskull Museum

Buzz-Off makes a couple of appearances in the MOTU box art, in the illustrations for Battle Bones and The Fright Zone. Both were painted by William George:

Buzz-Off also shows up in a few posters by Earl Norem and William George:

Buzz-Off shows up fairly frequently in the mini comics. My favorite appearances are in He-Man and the Insect People and The Obelisk, due in large part to the artwork by Alfredo Alcala.

In Insect People, He-Man, Teela, Buzz-Off and Mekaneck discover a race of insect-like people living under ground. Apparently, however, they are unrelated to Buzz-Off and no mention is made of any kind of connection between the two (mini comic images via the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Mini Comic Collection).

In The Obelisk, Buzz-Off plays a much more active role in the story, first as spy, and then as a warrior who manages to send Skeletor running:

Buzz-Off is also a major character in Grizzlor: The Legend Comes Alive! Buzz-Off scares his compatriots (Man-At-Arms, Fisto, and Teela) with a spooky campfire story about a legendary monster called Grizzlor, who turns out to be very real.

Buzz-Off is a frequent collaborator with Mekaneck, not only in the mini comics but also in the Filmation He-Man cartoon series. Both of them are supposed to be spies, although in a fight I think Buzz-Off’s claws and axe (or stinger lance, which he used in the cartoon) would come in a lot more handy than Mekaneck’s periscoping neck and ornate club.

In the cartoon, Buzz-Off is part of an entire race of bee people. This is one of the few times an animalistic character is said to be part of a larger race of sentient beings in the cartoon series.

Several years back, The Power and the Honor Foundation shared this early model sheet for Buzz-Off (edit: Dušan Mitrović informs me that this was for Bug-Off), which is based off of Colin Bailey’s original concept drawings. Often Filmation would go with concept designs rather than final toy designs given the lead time required to produce an episode. In this, case, however, they ended up going with a simplified version of the final toy design.

Buzz-Off is also a recurring character in the Golden Books series of He-Man books, although perhaps his strongest appearance is in The Rock Warriors:

Buzz-Off seems to have been fairly popular, given the relative frequency of his appearances in the cartoon and mini comics. He was even offered as a Halloween costume by Ben Cooper back in 1985:

Conceptually, Buzz-Off is not so different from characters like Mer-Man or Beast Man. Like them, he is a kind of human/animal hybrid. The bee motif does make him seem less serious, but he remains a personal favorite of mine.

Image source: Wishbook
Heroic Warriors

Moss Man: Heroic spy & master of camouflage (1985)

Moss Man is another figure that I have very clear memories of. I remember getting him for Christmas, probably in 1985. Unlike Stinkor, I didn’t remember him based on his smell. His pine scent wasn’t immediately obvious because I ripped him off of his card right next to the Christmas tree, which had an even stronger pine scent. I remember my parents had allowed us to open one present on the night before Christmas. All the lights were out in the room except for the blinking colored lights on the tree. I remember the way that Moss Man’s green and brown flock glistened in the colored lights, and the prickly texture of the figure. It wasn’t until I had got him back to my room that I realized he also had a pine scent.

Like Mekaneck and Buzz-Off, Moss Man was characterized as a spy, with the ability to blend into his surroundings. I remember being a little frustrated that I could still pick him out deep in my mother’s potted plants. His bright yellow belt gave him away every time.

It’s possible that Moss Man was based on the legendary Florida Moss Man – a creature said to roam Florida’s Withlacoochee State Forest.

Moss Man is very simple action figure. He’s a green Beast Man covered with green and yellow flock (small nylon particles), with a brown version of the mace weapon that came with Castle Grayskull. In fact, the only known prototype for Moss Man is just what you’d expect – he’s literally a Beast Man figure that someone at Mattel painted in green, brown and yellow, with some flock added over top top.

Moss Man prototype. Images via Grayskullmuseum.com
Moss Man prototype. Images via Grayskullmuseum.com

There are a few differences from the prototype to the production Moss Man. The prototype has forward-looking eyes and painted fangs. On the production Moss Man, the eyes are looking off to the side, and the fangs are painted over to give the impression of more human-like teeth. It seems to have been an effort to make the Beast Man face seem a little less angry. It was somewhat successful, although Moss Man still seems pretty intense:

Brothers from another mother.

The cross sell art seems to be derived from the vintage toy given his fangless teeth, however his eyes do look forward:

Cross sell artwork. Image courtesy of Axel Giménez.
Black and white version used in ad sheets.

The illustrated scene on the back of his packaging was done by Dave Stevens, who also illustrated Stinkor and Spikor:

Image source: KMKA

An injured Moss Man also appeared on the illustration on the back of Terror Claws Skeletor’s card:

Illustrated by Errol McCarthy. Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen.

Moss Man was also sold in the following gift sets (second image via Grayskull Museum):

I think it’s likely that both Moss Man and Stinkor were among the first new figures to be released in 1985. Their cross sell artwork shows up first on the back of vehicle packaging, along with the figures released from 1982-1984:

Moss Man is the second and final flocked toy in the vintage MOTU toyline. The first was Panthor. Panthor’s “fur” was much shorter and smoother, however.

The Argentinian Top Toys release of of Moss Man had painted fangs, like the prototype, and his mossy “fur” was quite long and luxurious.

Picture courtesy of Axel Giménez
Picture courtesy of Axel Giménez

Although Errol McCarthy didn’t illustrate Moss Man’s cardback, he did produce this artwork intended for licensees. It features a very friendly-looking Moss Man with a more human-like face:

Moss Man and Stinkor were sold with the same mini comic – The Stench of Evil! In the story, Stinkor threatens Eternia’s wildlife with his rancid smell. Only Moss Man is able to overpower Stinkor with his pine fresh scent:

In the Filmation cartoon, Moss Man had the ability to talk to plants and transform his body:

Filmation model sheet. Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen.

Moss Man appears in a couple of great Earl Norem illustrations that were printed as posters for the US Masters of the Universe magazine:

Image Courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

In the UK Masters of the Universe Magazine, Moss Man was colored brown and gave lessons on manners to kids:

I’m not sure why, but it seems to me that the “cheap repaints” of the Masters of the Universe toyline are among the most memorable action figures. Faker, Stinkor and Moss Man were all entirely made from recycled molds, and yet they seem to be among the most memorable figures in the toyline. Maybe it’s because Mattel tried to make up for that fact by giving them audacious colors (Faker), a powerful and funky smell (Stinkor) or prickly “fur” (Moss Man).

Heroic Warriors

Mekaneck: Heroic human periscope! (1984)

Mekaneck is one of those figures that I never owned as a kid and had limited exposure to in general. I remember seeing him only once in the wild – when visiting some distant relatives for the first time. I remember their son showing me his He-Man collection, which included Mekaneck and Buzz-Off (the first time I had seen either figure in person).

My exposure to him as a character otherwise was mostly punctuated by his appearance in the Filmation cartoon episode, “Disappearing Dragons”, and his inclusion in the He-Man and the Insect People mini comic that came with my Prince Adam figure. More on those later.

In online interactions I see a lot of people claiming that Mekaneck is a second wave figure, released in 1983 along with Tri-Klops, Man-E-Faces, etc. I don’t think that’s true, for several reasons:

  • Mekaneck is stamped 1983 on his back. The year on the back of MOTU figures is almost always the year before the figure was released, when it was in development. 1982 figures are stamped 1981, 1983 figures are stamped 1982, and 1984 figures are stamped 1983:
  • Mekaneck features snap-together clamshell armor. No other 1983 figure has that kind of armor, but many of the 1984 figures have it
  • Mekaneck does not show up in the 1983 Mattel Dealer Catalog. He does show up in the 1984 Mattel Dealer Catalog.
  • Mattel filed a trademark on Mekaneck’s name on August 22, 1983. They filed trademarks on the same day for other 1984 figures and toys like Clawful, Buzz-Off, Fisto, Jitsu, and Roton.
  • Mekaneck’s cross sell art does not appear on the back of 1983 packaging
  • Mekaneck does not appear in the mini comics until 1984 (not conclusive evidence, as the same is true of Evil-Lyn).

There are a couple of evidences that indicate that Mekaneck may have come very early in 1984 – one is that he appears in the 1983 Mattel Licensing Kit, along with Orko, Sorceress and Dragon Walker. This seems to indicate that Mattel was ready to promote him as a figure before many others in the 1984 line. Additionally, while Mekaneck first appears in the 1984 Mattel Dealer Catalog, he is not marked as “New for ’84” as all the other figures were (thanks to Matthew Martin for first pointing that out to me).

Update: Contrary to my earlier arguments, Mekaneck was actually released as early as Christmas 1983, from the Mattel Fall Promotion mini catalog below.

In searching through newspaper archives, the earliest Mekaneck ad I was able to find dates to December 14, 1983 (in the image below). It turns out that Mekaneck isn’t the only figure released just before the year/wave it officially belongs to – 1987 figures like King Randor, Ninjor and Clamp Champ were available as early as December 1986.

I still think it’s sensible to group figures according to yearly waves as defined by Mattel’s official dealer catalogs. So I would consider Mekaneck to be a part of the third wave, even if he came out a little earlier than the other figures.

Mekaneck’s early working name was Spy Man. The late 1982 Michael Halperin Bible describes him this way:

“SPY MAN – an able fighter, he has the ability to literally periscope his neck above obstacles in order to survey the landscape. This trait comes in handy when he’s with He-Man and they have to know the enemy’s location.”

In this concept illustration by Roger Sweet, Mekaneck has a red shirt, yellow boots and armor, a relatively simple armor design (like the final design, it covers the figure’s mouth when his neck is not extended), and a helmet design that looks a bit like it was cobbled together from a traffic cone and some ski goggles:

Image from The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog. Concept art by Roger Sweet.

Mekaneck’s periscoping neck worked by twisting his waist. The mechanism was designed by Tony Rhodes for Mattel, and a patent was filed for it on December 29, 1983:

A hand-painted prototype appears in this Rotoplast catalog (image via Jukka Issakainen):

The cross sell art used for Mekaneck shows a more or less finalized version of the figure, with the exception of his extended neck, which is red:

Image courtesy of Axel Giménez

He features a quite angular, almost Devo-esque helmet and goggles and  fairly bulky and angular armor that obscures the character’s mouth when his head is in its lowest position. As in Roger Sweet’s concept art, Mekaneck reuses He-Man body, but has a unique head, armor and weapon.

The final club design is quite ornate and, again, angular. It’s a strange weapon choice for such a futuristic-looking character, although one could imagine that some of the geometric shapes on the sides of the club are actually buttons that activate hidden functions.

You can see the hand-painted final prototype in this image from the German Mattel 1984 catalog (image courtesy of Olmo):

He has a superhero-esque color scheme, which represented something of a departure for the MOTU toy line, stylistically. As mentioned earlier in the cross sell art, Mekaneck’s mechanical neck is red, but it was colored silver in the final toy.

The exposed area on Mekaneck’s face, in my opinion, very much resembles He-Man’s face. I suspect that whoever sculpted the head used a He-Man head as a base, and added the mechanical elements over top.

The illustration on the back of the card, as with many others, was done by Errol McCarthy:

Errol produced several illustrations featuring or including Mekaneck:

Mekaneck was also available in several gift sets, including a three-pack with Moss Man and Buzz-Off, a two-pack with Roboto, and another two-pack with Ram Man:

On the instructions on the back of the three-pack, Mekaneck is depicted with quite a different color scheme (Beedo Sookcool in the comments pointed out that the color scheme corresponds pretty closely to Roger Sweet’s original concept artwork):

In the Filmation episode, “Search for a Son,” Mekaneck’s neck is badly injured in a storm, and Man-At-Arms finds him and gives him a bionic neck. I suppose that’s as good an origin story as any for a character with such an unusual super power, although if I were Mekaneck I’d be questioning whether Man-At-Arms had ever heard of a simple neck brace.

In various stories over the years, Mekaneck was frequently paired up with Buzz-Off. That’s true of the Filmation “Disappearing Dragons” episode (one of my all time favorites), and it’s also true of Mekaneck’s appearances in the mini comic He-Man and the Insect People.

In He-Man and the Insect People, Mekaneck uses his neck to propel his head into enemies rather than as a means to spy on them:

Mekaneck uses his head as intended in The Obelisk:

Mekaneck also appears alongside Man-E-Faces and Ram Man in the 1985 mini comic, Skeletor’s Dragon.

In at least one German comic book and catalog, Mekaneck is described as an astronaut, which seems to track with his general appearance:

Mekaneck makes an appearance in the Golden Books story, Maze of Doom. Strangely, he seems to have his helmet on backwards in this panel:

In box art, Mekaneck appears most notably in the illustration for Night Stalker (1985):

He also appears as one of many characters in posters by William George:

He appears in the following line art used for black and white newspaper and flier advertisements:

Technical Drawings & Patents

Masters of the Universe patent illustrations

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

Included patents and illustrations:

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

Castle Grayskull trap door patent:

Attak Trak:


Battle Armor He-Man:

Battle Bones:

Blast Attak:

Dragon Walker:

The Fright Zone:

Fright Zone (puppet):

Gyrattacker (unreleased vehicle):

Horde Trooper:

Hurricane Hordak:

King Hiss:

Land Shark:

Laser Bolt:





Rokkon & Stonedar:

Rotar & Twistoid:



Thunder Punch He-Man:

Tower Tools/Cliff Climber/Scubattack:

Two Bad: