Heroic Beasts

Stridor: Heroic Armored War Horse (1984)

I never owned Stridor as a kid – I only had his evil counterpart, Night Stalker. Both of them were more interesting to look at than they were to play with, having no action features and articulation only in their guns and tails.

Design & Development

According to Martin Arriola, Stridor was created by Mattel designer Colin Bailey, who also worked on characters like Buzz-Off, Whiplash and Fisto. I’m not aware of any concept art that has surfaced for Stridor, but a hand-painted prototype without decals appears in a 1984 French catalog (below). The tail is shaped differently from the final toy, and the prototype helmet looks rather crude:

Image source: Grayskull Museum

The final toy was given a number of decorative stickers, and changes were made to the tail and helmet:

Stridor cross sell artwork

Production Figure

Stridor in Action

Photos and a short video of Stridor in action, contributed by Øyvind Meisfjord:

Packaging

Stridor was sold individually and in a gift set with Fisto. Both sets feature artwork by, I believe, William Garland, who also did the artwork on the three Panthor boxes.

Note that Stridor is described as “Half war horse/half war machine. Stridor carries He-Man to victory!” To me that implies that he was supposed to be some kind of cyborg horse rather than a pure robot.

Comics and Storybooks

Fisto is often associated with Stridor, just as Jitsu is associated with Night Stalker. It’s a rather unique relationship. In general He-Man seems to be given the heroic vehicles and steeds and Skeletor is given their evil counterparts. But Fisto seems to have been popular enough to merit his own steed. That’s certainly the case in one of my favorite mini comics – The Clash of Arms.

In the story, Fisto, riding on Stridor, is ambushed by Clawful, Tri-Klops, Webstor, and Jitsu. He is captured and forced to fight for his life in Skeletor’s arena. He’s successful in beating off Clawful and Jitsu in turn, but Whiplash nearly spells the end for Fisto before He-Man, riding on Stridor, comes in and breaks up the fight. Stridor had apparently escaped, found He-Man, and warned him of Fisto’s plight. (Note: in this story, Stridor has a saddle rather than a bucket seat, and he is ridden like a normal horse.)

Sadly, this is the first and only appearance of Stridor in the minicomics. However, he does make a couple of appearances in Golden stories, including in Secret of the Dragon’s Egg and Teela’s Secret.

Stridor also appears on the cover of this 1985 Golden coloring book:

Stridor appears a few times in the 1985 Ladybird annual, having apparently been mass-produced:

Animation

A robotic horse called “Strider” appears in several Filmation He-Man episodes, including “Pawns of the Game Master” and “A Friend in Need”, but it looks nothing like the Mattel toy, and it’s not immediately obvious that there is a connection beyond the name. It’s possible Mattel got the name for their toy from Filmation, but I don’t know for sure.

The familiar toy-like Stridor appears in “Origin of the Sorceress,” where we learn that Man-At-Arms created the robot horse in his laboratory. Stridor sacrifices himself in order to defeat the evil Morgoth. After he is repaired, He-Man and Man-At-Arms learn that Stridor wants to roam free, and that after his confrontation with Morgoth he had become a living thing. Consequently, they release him into the wild.

Design-wise, Filmation’s Stridor is close to his toy counterpart, except he lacks his red helmet and some of his decorative details.

Other Artwork

Stridor and Fisto were illustrated by Errol McCarthy for use in licensed T-shirts:

Image source: He-Man.org

Stridor also appeared in this 1984 poster by William George:

Stridor also appears in my favorite poster by Earl Norem, which appeared in the inaugural issue of the US Masters of the Universe Magazine:

As limited as Stridor was as a toy, he’s got a terrific design, and his partnership with Fisto lends him a rather unique position within the Masters of the Universe mythos.


Image source: Grayskull Museum

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Resource

Parts Reuse in MOTU, Part Four: 1985

Masters of the Universe, for all its diversity and creativity, was quite an economical toyline, creatively (and sometimes uncreatively) using and reusing the same molds over and over again throughout its run. Sometimes this was done fairly invisibly, and other times it was as plain as the nose on Faker’s face.

In this series I’ll be cataloging the reuse of existing molds, in context of what is known and what is likely about which figures were created in what order. For example, He-Man’s prototype was almost certainly finished before Man-At-Arms, so Man-At-Arms reused He-Man’s legs, rather than vice versa. I’ll also include parts that were reused from other toylines.

Sometimes existing parts were modified for use in new toys. For example, Beast Man’s chest seems to have been based on He-Man’s chest sculpt, albeit with a great deal of hair added to it. This didn’t save money on tooling, but it did save some time and effort for the sculptor. I’ll point this out whenever I see it. Whenever a modified part is used again, however, I’ll refer to it as belonging to the toy that used it first (for example, Stratos and Zodac reuse Beast Man’s chest).

I won’t comment on “invisible” parts, such as neck pegs or waist springs that are normally not seen.

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

Sy-Klone

Modulok

Fright Zone

Bashasaurus

Battle Bones

Land Shark

Spydor

Evil Robot (unproduced)

These toys from 1985 reused some existing parts:

Thunder Punch He-Man

Roboto

Moss Man

Dragon Blaster Skeletor

Two Bad

Spikor

Stinkor

Hordak

Grizzlor

Leech

Mantenna

Night Stalker

A few additional notes:

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

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

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

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

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

Parts Reuse series:

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Evil Warriors

Jitsu: Evil master of martial arts (1984)

Jitsu Graphic2

My  introduction to Jitsu came in first grade, when a classmate pulled out several of his newest He-Man figures to show the rest of us. The three figures I remember him showing us were Tri-Klops, Jitsu and Fisto.

I already owned Tri-Klops from back in kindergarten, but I hadn’t seen these two new figures with their spring-loaded right arms that terminated in either a giant metallic fist or chopping hand. The entire group was suitably impressed, and we each took turns testing out their action features.

Jitsu’s development starts quite early in the series, in the December 1982 MOTU Bible written by Michael Halperin, under the working name, Chopper:

CHOPPER – has a right hand that’s enormous. With one mighty blow this villain can chop through bricks, trees, anything that gets in his way. He’s formidable in hand-to-hand combat.

There is actually some overlap between Chopper and a Filmation character called Strongarm – James Eatock goes into detail in this video for the He-Man Official Youtube Channel:

According to Martin Arriola, Jitsu was created by Mattel designer Colin Bailey. Although no concept art for Jitsu as a toy has been either found or made public, there is an image of his prototype.

jitsu org
Image source: He-Man.org
Proto 2
Image source: Grayskull Museum

The prototype is quite different in some respects from the final figure. As you can see, the prototype was originally to reuse Skeletor’s legs. Like Fisto, he was also going to reuse Tri-Klops’ sword (the example in the image above isn’t even repainted). He also uses He-Man’s arms, rather than Fisto’s arms. Everything else in the rough prototype seems to match the general thrust of the figure’s final design.

The Filmation design may represent an intermediate stage in the character’s design, or it may be a “Filmationized” version of the final toy. This incarnation of Jitsu features human feet with unique red samurai boots and an enlarged but ungloved right hand. He also has a purple belt and bracers:

Jitsu appears in a single episode – “The Dragon Invasion”.  In this scene, he squares off against Ram Man, and they both come out a bit worse for wear in the end:

Jitsu gif
Images used in the animation courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

On August 22, 1983, Mattel filed a trademark for the name Jitsu, instead of the original Chopper. The toy was released the following year.

The final design utilizes He-Man’s legs, with two toned gold and black boots. He is also given a unique katana weapon, although the finger guard is molded on the wrong side of the handle. He reuses the left arm, right upper arm, and slightly shallower chest from Fisto. He has a unique head sculpt and unique two-piece armor – the latter would later be used for Mattel’s King Randor figure:

The action scene on the back of Jitsu’s packaging was illustrated by the inimitable Errol McCarthy:

Jitsu Graphic
Image source: Starcrusader
karatechopguyvshemanonsteps_full
Image source: He-Man.org

McCarthy also illustrated the character, along with Fisto, for this T-Shirt design:

Jitsu’s cross-sell artwork is quite faithful to the toy, down to the backwards hand guard on the sword:

Jitsu cross sell from Axel
Image source: Axel Giménez

Jitsu was also sold in a JCPenny two-pack with Clawful, and in a gift set with Night Stalker. The artwork for the Night Stalker gift set was done by William George.

JPJC
Image source: Grayskull Museum
01
02
Jitsu Night Stalker

Jitsu and Nightstalker are the “evil opposites” of Fisto and Stridor, who were also sold as a set. Evil opposites is a theme that pops up over and over again in the vintage Masters of the Universe line.

Battle Cat and Panthor

Aside from the Night Stalker gift set, Jitsu appears on one other piece of box art for the Masters of the Universe line – Battle Bones, by William George:

battle-bones-main

Jitsu is never really center stage in any story he appears in. His biggest moment in the minicomics is definitely in The Clash of Arms, where he faces off against Fisto and is quickly defeated:

Jitsu also makes some very minor appearances in Mantenna and the Menace of the Evil Horde and in Hordak: The Ruthless Leader’s Revenge.

Jitsu is a little less camera shy in the Golden Book stories, The Rock Warriors and Demons of the Deep, both illustrated by Fred Carillo. He is far from front and center here, but at least he’s operating at the level of henchman of the week, together with Webstor in the first story and Mer-Man in the second:

Jitsu also makes an appearance the Golden Giant Picture Book, also illustrated by Fred Carillo. Here Jitsu commits the worst sin imaginable – he smashes the Battle Ram with his giant golden chopping hand. The images below come from the Bustatoons blog.

Jitsu also appears in several posters painted by William George from 1984 to 1986:

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Artwork

Box Art From A-Z, Part Four: 1985

box-art-a-z-graphic-image-1985

One of the best things about getting new He-Man toys as a kid was the box art. The toys were of course amazing and fun, but personally I spent almost as much time staring at the boxes as playing with the toys. I remember being pretty heartbroken when my mother made me throw away my Castle Grayskull and Battle Ram boxes. She saw them as clutter, but for me they were almost stories in and of themselves. You could see whole adventures unfolding in a single painted scene.

Unfortunately, good photographs or scans of the original art are not available for every piece. If you happen to have a nicer images than I do (higher resolution, better composition, etc), please do feel free to share, and I’ll make an update! For pictures of the packaging itself, a neutral (white or black) background is preferred. High resolution scans of the artwork, where it appears without logos, would be ideal. Bottom line – if you have better images than I do, please share them!

One final note: I’m defining box art as the front-facing painted artwork that appeared on boxed Masters of the Universe toys. The illustrations on blister card packaging, then, are outside the scope of this series.

Part Four: 1985

Name: Bashasaurus
Year: 1985
Artist: William George
Description: Battle Armor He-Man attacks Battle Armor Skeletor using the Bashasaurus’ “basher ball” as a small dragon-like creature looks on. In the distance,  Clawful and Trap Jaw run down the winding path from Snake Mountain.

bashasuarus

Name: Battle Bones
Year: 1985
Artist: William George
Description: Battle Armor He-Man, Teela, Fisto, Man-At-Arms, Man-E-Faces, Buzz-Off, Battle Armor Skeletor, Beast Man, Kobra Khan, Jitsu, Whiplash and Evil-Lyn pose next to Battle Bones. In a separate scene, Battle Armor He-Man, Fisto, Man-At-Arms, Man-E-Faces, and Mekaneck use Battle Bones to attack Battle Armor Skeletor, Tri-Klops, and Beast Man.

battle-bones-main
battle-bones-secondary


Name: Dragon Walker (Euro Edition)
Year: 1985
Artist: William George
Description: Battle Armor He-Man pilots the Dragon Walker over rocky, volcanic terrain. Beast Man and Tri-Klops are ready to attack but seem unsure how to proceed. In the foreground, a small pterodactyl-like creature seems ready to take flight. In a separate scene, Battle Armor Skeletor (riding in Land Shark) and Beast Man lurk in the background.

dragon-walker-largest
dragon-walker-top-best


Name: Fright Zone
Year: 1985
Artist: William George
Description: In the fearsome Fright Zone, Battle Armor He-Man fights the dreadful dragon, while Hordak snares Battle Armor Skeletor with his tree trap. Buzz-Off is held captive in Hordak’s prison. Dead trees and craggy mountains surround the lair of the Evil Horde, and twin moons hang in the sky.

frightzone_box-edit
Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Name: Hordak Grizzlor
Year: 1985
Artist: William George
Description: He-Man approaches Grizzlor and Hordak, his sword and shield at the ready. The sinister Fright Zone stands in the background.

02-hm-org
Image via He-Man.org

Name: Jitsu & Night Stalker
Year: 1985
Artist: William George
Description: in the middle of a desolate and rocky landscape, Jitsu and Night Stalker attack Fisto, who seems to have been caught without backup.

Image courtesy of Tokyonever

Name: Land Shark
Year: 1985
Artist: William George
Description: Skeletor drives Land Shark over a cracked and rocky desert. A vicious looking dragon-like creature looks on.

land-shark-best

Name: Land Shark & Battle Armor Skeletor
Year: 1985
Artist: William George
Description:  Battle Armor Skeletor, driving Land Shark, races across the cratered desert floor. From his vantage point on a rock, Man-At-Arms seems ready to leap into battle. A vicious-looking winged dragon creature watches from a gnarled tree branch.

land-shark-and-battle-armor-skeletor

Name: Modulok
Year: 1985
Artist: Unknown
Description: Modulok is shown in fifteen body configurations and poses.

modulok-axel
Image courtesy of Axel Giménez

Name: Night Stalker
Year: 1985
Artist: William Garland*
Description: Charging down the narrow path from Snake Mountain, Battle Armor Skeletor and Night Stalker attack Battle Armor He-Man and Mekaneck. A reddened sky and strange rocky formations are the prominent features of Skeletor’s domain. (*Artist name not confirmed for this particular piece, but the art seems to match the style of the Panthor illustrations.)

night-stalker-artwork-best

Name: Spydor
Year: 1985
Artist: William George
Description: Battle Armor Skeletor looms large over Battle Armor He-Man as he uses Spydor to attack the most powerful man in the universe. In the background, tooth-like volcanoes belch smoke. Three moons hang in the alien sky.

spydor-best

More in this series:

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