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).

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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: Apparently Mekaneck was released as early as Christmas 1983, so again, on the vanguard of the third wave 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:

The cross sell art used for Mekaneck shows a more or less finalized version of the figure:

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. 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:

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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:

Bashasaurus:

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:

Mantenna:

Megalaser:

Mekaneck:

Roboto:

Rokkon & Stonedar:

Rotar & Twistoid:

Spydor:

Sy-Klone:

Thunder Punch He-Man:

Tower Tools/Cliff Climber/Scubattack:

Two Bad:

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Catalogs

1984 Mattel Toys Dealer Catalog

Here is the 1984 Mattel Toys Dealer Catalog. Intended for retailers, Mattel’s dealer catalogs showcased all the latest and greatest releases, along with existing products within its various current (at the time) toy lines. New products are highlighted here with a “New For 84” graphic. New releases included:

  • Snake Mountain
  • Dragon Walker
  • Road Ripper
  • Stridor
  • Roton
  • Battle Armor He-Man
  • Battle Armor Skeletor
  • Fisto
  • Buzz-Off
  • Orko
  • Prince Adam
  • Whiplash
  • Clawful
  • Webstor
  • Kobra Khan
  • Jitsu
  • Weapons Pack

Interestingly, Mekanek is not marked as “New For 84”, but he also doesn’t appear in the 1983 catalog. He seems to have been an in-between figure. I tend to think of him as a third wave figure for various reasons, but more about him another time.

(Source: Orange Slime)

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Close up shots of the “new for ’84” items. As you can probably tell, Orko is an early prototype, not the final figure. Many of the others seem to be late stage prototypes that are painted by hand. Clawful has Skeletor feet with brown boots (he also showed up like that in the cross sell art). Whiplash has meaner-looking eyes and a purple spear. The gold detail on Jitsu’s boots are is a bit brighter than final. Buzz Off has metallic blue eyes instead of metallic green (again, this showed up in the cross sell art). Battle Armor He-Man’s “H” symbol is colored a dark red. All in all not dramatic differences, but worth noting.

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