Heroic Warriors

Battle Armor He-Man: Most powerful man in the universe (1984)

After a sibling destroyed my original He-Man figure (don’t ask), my mother replaced him (the figure, not my sibling) with a new version: Battle Armor He-Man. With this new variant, He-Man’s power harness was replaced by plate mail that you could “damage” with a touch and then “repair” with a flick of your finger. It was an ingenious action feature that provided me with hours and hours of entertainment, although I never quite got over the loss of my original He-Man until I was able to purchase one 30 years later.

Battle Armor He-Man’s look, as near as I can tell, was created by Ted Mayer (as a variation on the original Mark Taylor design), while his action feature was designed by Ronald H. MacBain and Tony Rhodes. Martin Arriola worked on the figure as well. In this December 8, 1983 concept drawing by Ted Mayer (below), we see a design that has elements of both Battle Armor He-Man and Flying Fists He-Man. The action feature here is actually what ended up being used in the Flying Fists variant, but the armor design looks more like Battle Armor He-Man:

Image source: Tomart’s Action Figure Digest (scan via Jukka Issakainen)

In this undated drawing, which I believe was also done by Ted Mayer, He-Man’s armor has the overlapping plated look of the final armor, albeit without the H.

Note that Battle Armor He-Man was originally supposed to come with a shield. Image source: Tomart’s Action Figure Digest

Speaking of the H, this and every other He-Man variant that followed it uses an H in place of He-Man’s original cross design. The one exception is not technically a He-Man variant, but the blue armor piece that came with the 1986 Jet Sled vehicle (also designed by Ted Mayer) had a red cross design on the front:

The stylized H used on Battle-Armor He-Man’s chest also appears on Thunder Punch He-Man, Flying Fists He-Man, and on the side of the Dragon Walker. Laser Power He-Man uses a plainer H design.

An early prototype for Battle Armor He-Man shows up in Mattel’s 1984 Dealer Catalog, as well as in the commercial featured near the beginning of this article. This version of Battle Armor He-Man has a bright red H on his chest with a dark red outline. He also has quite dark red boots and loin cloth. His weapons look like they’ve been painted with a very shiny coat of metallic silver.

The production version (at least the initial Taiwan release] is a bit different from the prototype- the H is salmon-orange rather than the orange/red of the prototype. His weapons are more metallic-looking than the original release He-Man’s weapons, but not nearly as shiny as the prototype. Unlike the original He-Man, he lacks a shield.

The cross sell artwork is based on the finished toy rather than any early prototype:

The front of He-Man’s card has a burst describing the function of the action feature. Unlike most figures released in the toy line, there is no tag line underneath He-Man’s name, although he is tagged with “Most powerful man in the universe” when he appears in cross sell artwork.

Image courtesy of Deimos

The cardback features a scene illustrated by Errol McCarthy, with Mer-Man giving He-Man’s armor a good slice with his sword. There is also an illustration demonstrating how He-Man’s action feature works.

Artwork by Errol McCarthy; Image via He-Man.org

Errol McCarthy illustrated quite a few versions of Battle Armor He-Man for use in Mattel and licensee products and promotional materials:

Battle Armor He-Man was sold with the following vehicles or beasts:

  • Battle Armor He-Man and Battle Cat
  • Battle Armor He-Man and Road Ripper

William George painted the fantastic scenes for both sets:


The figure was also sold in several gift sets (images via Grayskull Museum):

  • Battle Armor He-Man and Battle Armor Skeletor
  • Man-At-Arms, Battle Armor He-Man, and Man-E-Faces
  • Battle Armor Skeletor, Orko, and Battle Armor He-Man

As I mentioned earlier, Battle Armor He-Man’s action feature was invented by Ronald H. MacBain and Tony Rhodes. The patent was filed December 29, 1983, and the trademark followed on January 27, 1984. It’s a rather ingenious concept, as described in the abstract:

An animated figure toy of the type which includes an upper torso having a chest drum rotatably mounted in a chest opening for sequential rotation to expose an undamaged section, a single damaged section and a double damaged section is provided with an improved multiple-force spring.

So essentially, a small amount of pressure will cause the chest drum to rotate forward one click, exposing an H that appears to have a slash on it, and then another H with two slashes. You can then manually turn the drum back to the start and begin all over again.

The action feature was of course reused in Battle Armor Skeletor, but a similar feature was also used in Mattel’s Hot Wheels Crack-Ups cars, which debuted in 1985:

Strangely, none of the mini comics released at any point in the vintage toy line depict He-Man with his battle armor. This variant also never appeared in the Filmation He-Man cartoon. However, Battle Armor He-Man does show up frequently in box art and posters by William George. In fact, of the 35 or so depictions of He-Man in box art, 15 of them depict He-Man in his Battle Armor. He also shows up frequently in posters illustrated by William George:

Battle Armor He-Man also appears in various Stickers, story books, collectibles, and other media.

Commercials, Videos

1984 US He-Man commercials

Masters of the Universe commercials had settled into a comfortable rhythm by 1984. All of them had more or less the same pacing and background music. They often ended with the tag line, “may the mightiest power prevail”, or sometimes just”yaaargh!”

I’ve been able to locate commercials for almost every item released in 1984, including Battle Armor He-Man, Battle Armor Skeletor, Orko, Prince Adam, Fisto, Clawful, Buzz-Off, Whiplash, Kobra Khan, Webstor, Roton, Dragon Walker and Snake Mountain.

I could not locate 1984 US commercials for Road Ripper, Stridor, Jitsu, Mekaneck (he appears in a 1985 commercial with Land Shark), or the Weapons Pack. I’m not sure if they exist, although if I had to guess I would think Mattel would have at least produced a commercial for Road Ripper.

One interesting note – Battle Armor He-Man appears to be an early production sample. The one featured in several of these commercial looks identical to the early version from the 1984 Mattel Dealer Catalog. This sample is a bit different from the final toy in that the “H” symbol has a darker outline and is filled in red rather than orange.He also has relatively dark-colored boots and loincloth.

Production version (Taiwan)

Clawful is also an early production sample, with brown Skeletor boots. You can read more about the evolution of his design in the feature I wrote on Clawful several weeks back.

One nice thing about some of these commercials is that characters that didn’t feature prominently in commercials from previous years get a little more spotlight here, including Mer-Man, Zoar and Stratos.


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)


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.