Evil Warriors

Ninjor: Evil Ninja Warrior (1987)

Ninjor is perhaps the most G.I. Joe-like figure in the Masters of the Universe series. He certainly feels like He-Man’s answer to Snake Eyes or Storm Shadow. He doesn’t exactly fit with the general science/sword and sorcery motif of MOTU, but then of course by the last couple of years of the line it had become a something of a kitchen sink of ideas.

Design & Development

Ninjor was designed by David Wolfram. In my interview with him, David had this to say regarding Ninjor:

Early on in my Mattel career , I was given the task to do four figures using minimal new tooling. They were Scareglow Skeletor, King Randor, Ninjor, and Clamp Champ. The four characters had already been conceived of and the concepts sold in, so all I had to do was to make it happen.

Part of that was going through the tooling banks to find parts to add to the appearance of the figures. I did get new tooling for Clamp Champ’s weapon, and for four heads. Hal Faulkner, one of our good outside sculpting vendors, sculpted the heads.

Ninjor was a dead ringer for Lee Van Cleef, who had done some karate or kung fu based show around that time, so we had to change that.

Production Toy

Ninjor cross sell art. Image courtesy of Axel Giménez

Ninjor came with three weapons – a sword (borrowed from Jitsu), a bow and arrow (borrowed from the Eternia playset) and nunchucks. He also came with a cloth costume that obscured most of his face. He borrows the spring arm action feature from Fisto and Jitsu, which allows him to attack with his sword or nunchucks with his right hand. Jitsu was of course also a martial arts themed figure, although he looked more heavily armored rather than stealthy.

1984 Jitsu figure

The one piece of his design that separates Ninjor from a typical terrestrial ninja is his three-toed feet, borrowed from Dragon Blaster Skeletor.

Packaging Art

The illustration on the front of Ninjor’s card was done by Bruce Timm, while the scene on the back of the card was done by Errol McCarthy:

Original Errol McCarthy line art. Image source: www.he-man.org

At one point Mattel was planning to reuse the Ninjor concept to create a white-costumed ninja warrior, making the Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow comparison all the more apt. However, these plans never came to fruition.

Minicomics

As in the card art and in the commercial at the beginning of this article, Ninjor was often portrayed as the nemesis of Clamp Champ. That is also evident in the comic that came packed with Ninjor, The Search For Keldor. In the story, Skeletor summons the “most evil beings from time and space” from another dimension to do his bidding:

In the comic, you can see Ninjor with the arms and legs of He-Man (all in black) rather than Skeletor. That may represent an earlier concept design for him.

Characterization and Other Stories

The 1987 Style Guide (above, illustrated by Errol McCarthy) characterized Ninjor this way:

Power: Mastery of many martial arts weapons.

Character profile: This awful assassin has come from another world to serve Skeletor. His mission is to eliminate Heroic Warriors one by one, until He-Man no longer has any help in defending Eternia. Ninjor always moves with great speed, skill and silence.

In Masters of the Universe Adventure Magazine issue 9, Skeletor summons Scare Glow and Ninjor. As described in the style guide, Ninjor excels at stealthy attacks. In this issue he is depicted with a purple, green and white costume:

In Star Comics Masters of the Universe issue 7, Skeletor again summons Ninjor, along with Blast Attak. The two don’t immediately hit it off:

In the 1987 winter issue of the US MOTU Magazine, Ninjor makes another prominent appearance, where he manages to elude both Clamp Champ and Rio Blast:

Artwork & Advertisements

Coming so late in the Masters of the Universe line, Ninjor didn’t show up in a lot of artwork, but he was a background character in posters illustrated by William George, Earl Norem and Esteban Maroto:

Artwork by William George
Artwork by William George
Artwork by Earl Norem
Artwork by Earl Norem
Artwork by Esteban Maroto

Errol McCarthy went on to illustrate the character again, this time battling He-Man with his live-action movie costume:

Image source: He-Man.org

Ninjor also showed up in a few catalogs and advertisements:

Ninjor isn’t the most distinctive-looking figure in the world, but he does look rather smart and has some fun features and accessories.

Ninjor in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has generously shared the following image and video of Ninjor in action:

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Heroic Warriors

Clamp Champ: Heroic Master of Capture (1987)

Clamp Champ nimbly escaped my detection as a kid. By 1987 I really wasn’t into He-Man anymore, and the only figures released that year that I was kind of dimly aware of were Mosquitor, Scare Glow and King Randor. But I think had I seen Clamp Champ on the shelves I would have dug him.

Ironically some of my least favorite figures (heroic warriors especially) come from 1986, a year when a lot of new tooling was brought into the Masters of the Universe toyline. It’s great that they invested the money, but stylistically a lot of it just wasn’t my thing. By bringing back some shared parts in the 1987 line, the feel of the toys became much more familiar and in line with its established style.  Clamp Champ in particular feels like an early MOTU figure, because his body isn’t overly encumbered by gimmicky action features. His gimmick is entirely in his weapon.

Clamp Champ reuses the legs, crotch, chest and arms from He-Man and the armor from Fisto (albeit warped slightly to make it fit on the slightly larger chest from He-Man). He’s given a newly sculpted head as well as a clamp weapon (“power pincer”). The figure was designed by David Wolfram, who also designed Tyrantisaurus Rex, Laser Light Skeletor, King Randor (action figure), Scare Glow, and others.

Clamp Champ’s cross sell artwork closely matched the final toy. He’s given some nice paint deco, including two tone boots and painted bracers, like King Randor. This level of paint detail, ironically, was never given to the original He-Man figure, although it was certainly planned in the prototype stage.

In Clamp Champ’s packaging art (above), he faces off against Ninjor, just as he did in his commercial and in other media. Nothing seems to make the two characters obvious nemeses, other than the fact that they were released in the same year.

In the 1987 Style Guide, Clamp Champ is given the following description (as far as I’m able to make out):

This brave and gallant knight is responsible for guarding King Randor and the Royal Palace of Eternia.

We see these elements in the minicomic he came packed with, The Search For Keldor (illustrated by Bruce Timm, story by Steven Grant). In the story, “Klamp Champ” (probably an early spelling of the name, later dropped) is a tireless, loyal defender of King Randor who uses his might (but not his clamp weapon) to defeat Ninjor. He’s depicted as strong, agile, and in possession of super senses that prevent him from being taken by surprise.

Clamp Champ battles against a bizarrely off-model Beast Man (update: per Dušan M., it’s meant to represent the movie version of Beast Man, although it looks more like a blend between movie and toy) in the MOTU newspaper strip story, “Attack on Snake Mountain”.

In Lifetime Part 2, published by Star Comics, we got a glimps of an older Clamp Champ from an alternate timeline where Prince Adam lost his power sword in a time warp:

Clamp Champ also appears on this Spanish promotional sticker:

Clamp Champ is a part of the large cast of characters in William George’s Eternia and Preternia posters:

Clamp Champ also shows up in two posters by Earl Norem for Masters of the Universe Magazine:

The 1987 Power Tour – a live action stage show featuring He-Man and She-Ra – also included a few relatively obscure characters, like Blast Attak, Snout Spout and Clamp Champ:

Note that his description above paraphrases the 1987 Style Guide.

Because Clamp Champ came out at the tail end of the toyline (and wasn’t around in stories for years before, like Sorceress or King Randor), there isn’t a great deal of back story to the character. His narrative arc is at least expanded somewhat in the Masters of the Universe Classics continuity, but I’ll write more about that in a separate article.

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Evil Warriors

Scare Glow: Evil Ghost of Skeletor (1987)

I wasn’t aware of Scare Glow’s existence when he was released in 1987, but when I finally saw him as an adult, he made perfect sense. Of course there needs to be a glow-in-the-dark skeleton man in Masters of the Universe. Why didn’t someone think of this sooner? Glow-in-the-dark accessories had been produced previously in the line (Evil-Lyn’s staff, the warrior ring that came with Tri-Klops and Trap Jaw), but never a glow-in-the-dark figure.

Imagery

Scare Glow seems to have been influenced by traditional imagery of the grim reaper. Unlike Skeletor, his entire body is a skeleton (or at least the closest thing to it without creating a newly sculpted body). He has a reaper-like cloak and the closest thing to a scythe in the existing library of Masters of the Universe weapons.

Parts Reuse & Design

Scareglow was released toward the end of the Masters of the Universe toyline. There seemed to be two categories of figures released in 1987 – figures that were made from newly sculpted parts (Mosquitor, Sorceress, Blast Attak) and figures that mostly reused existing parts, with only a new head and perhaps a new weapon (Ninjor, King Randor, Clamp Champ). Scare Glow is in the latter category.

Scare Glow reuses Skeletor’s body. Most versions reuse the legs from Dragon Blaster Skeletor (with slightly enlarged feet compared to the original Skeletor), but the Spanish version reused the original Skeletor legs.  The poleaxe (referred to on the packaging as a “scythe of doom”, and in the style guide as a “spirit staff”) is reused from the Castle Grayskull weapons rack. He was given an all-new head and a new cloth cape. The figure was designed by David Wolfram.

Scareglow’s weapon came in two flavors – bright green and glow-in-the-dark white. The white version was principally sold outside of the US and Canada.

Packaging

Scare Glow’s cross sell art, like most cross sell artwork after the 1983, is a pretty accurate representation of the figure:

Image source: Axel Giménez

Like many other 1987 figures, Scare Glow came with some great artwork on the front of the card, illustrated by Bruce Timm:

Image source: Jukka Issakainen

The back of the card features a somewhat comical scene of Scare Glow scaring the orange pants off of Snout Spout. The scene was illustrated by Errol McCarthy, who also created an illustration for the 1987 Style Guide:

Image source: KMKA

Characterization & Stories

Given that Scare Glow’s tag line calls him the “Evil Ghost of Skeletor”, there has been debate among fans for years about whether or not Scare Glow is actually the ghost of Skeletor, or merely a ghost who serves Skeletor. The 1987 Mattel Style Guide says this about Scare Glow:

Skeletor conjured up this spirit in his own image to frighten travelers on the pathways of Eternia. Scare Glow is invisible during the daylight, but glows at night.

Unfortunately I don’t think this totally clears up the issue. From the short bio, Scare Glow could be Skeletor’s ghost, or he could be just a ghost who happens to have a skull face like Skeletor. In the mini comic, The Search For Keldor, Skeletor conjures up “the most evil beings of time and space” (Scare Glow and Ninjor). So it could be that Scare Glow really is a future, deader Skeletor. I tend to think that Scare Glow is not Skeletor’s own ghost, however. I think the intent was that Scare Glow was just a conjured being who happens to look a bit like Skeletor.

In Masters of the Universe Adventure Magazine issue 9, Skeletor creates Scare Glow in his own image, so it’s apparent they are not the same person in this continuity. As described in the style guide, Scare Glow can become invisible in the light:

In Star Comics Masters of the Universe issue 7, Skeletor calls Scare Glow his “ghostly double”. Scare Glow seems to be a true ethereal ghost, as Blast Attak’s fist passes through him when he attempts to punch him. Scare Glow also has the ability to fly:

Just to make things a little more confusing, this Greek advertisement referred to Scare Glow as Skeletor (the caption underneath his name roughly translates to “Scarier at night!” – thanks Jukka!):

Other Artwork

Coming so late in the Masters of the Universe line, Scare Glow didn’t show up in a lot of artwork, but he was a background character in posters illustrated by William George and Esteban Maroto:

Artwork by William George. Image source: Jukka Issakainen
Artwork by William George. Image source: Jukka Issakainen
Artwork by Esteban Maroto. Image source: Monster Brains

Advertising

He also showed up in a few catalog photos and advertisements:

Scare Glow in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord recently shared this image and short video of Scare Glow in action:

The scans of catalogs and advertisements used in this article came from Orange Slime, Grayskull Museum, and He-Man.org. The Errol McCarthy line art and comic book scans also came from He-Man.org.

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