Heroic Warriors

Roboto – Heroic mechanical warrior (1985)

My first exposure to Roboto came on the playground in third grade. I had gone to the same elementary school during kindergarten and first grade. But in second grade, we moved away for a year to a smaller town, which turned out to be something of a He-Man vacuum. All of the kids there seemed to be into either Voltron or Thundercats. But when I returned to my old school in the third grade, I found He-Man was still going strong there.

One fall day on the playground, one of my friends brought out his Roboto and Two Bad figures. I never had either of these figures myself, but I was pretty impressed with both of them. Roboto had all kinds of bells and whistles – a transparent chest that showed moving gears as you twisted his waist, with an automatically-moving jaw. And you could change out three attachments on his right arm, like Trap Jaw.

The next year I had lost most of my interest in MOTU, but I begged my mom for a G.I. Joe B.A.T.S. Figure. It seemed to have been Hasbro’s answer to Roboto, albeit with a hologram sticker that only simulated a transparent chest.

Design & Development

Roboto’s genesis seems to lie in a concept illustrated by Ted Mayer, called Transparent Man. In the sketch you can see that this concept was meant to be an almost completely transparent figure, covered with mechanical bits.

From Tomart’s Action Figure Digest. Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen.
From the Power and the Honor Foundation catalog. Per the book, the image was dated July 7, 1984.

We can get a bead on what a more fully developed Roboto looked like from his minicomic depiction. First minicomic appearances are often based on unfinished concept artwork or prototypes for toys:

At this point in his development, Roboto has a red and orange color scheme, rather than the red, purple and blue colors of the final toy. In the comic we see that there is a very literal “heart” in Roboto’s chest, but no indication of the rotating gears of the toy:

Production Figure

The final Roboto toy is very similar to the minicomics design, albeit with a change in color scheme and simplified design on the chest. I would suspect the external sculpted chest detail in the illustration would have made it harder to see through the chest into the figure’s working gears, which may be why it was not used on the final figure. By turning the figure’s waist, the mouth would open and close as the gears spun around. The figure’s heart was partially obscured behind the central red gear:

Roboto cross sell artwork

Roboto included three removable arm attachments. Aside from the laser canon (shown above), he also had a robotic claw and an axe:

From behind you can also make out his central “heart” inside his chest:

As seen in most of the above figure shots, over time the legs of vintage Roboto figures have started to leech a purple residue. This can be cleaned off with a magic sponge, but it will eventually return.

Speaking of his legs, they are reused from Man-E-Faces. His arms are based off of Trap Jaw’s, but with some additional sculpted mechanical detail added.

Packaging

Roboto was released on the standard blister card, with artwork on the reverse by Errol McCarthy. The artwork feature’s Roboto’s prototype orange and red color scheme:

Scan by Starcrusader

Roboto was also released in a few giftsets as well – one with Hordak and Sy-Klone, one with Thunder Punch He-Man, and another with Mekaneck. Photos are available at Grayskull Museum.

Minicomics

The Battle of Roboto establishes Roboto’s origin as the creation of Man-At-Arms. The story works to explain Roboto’s features, as well as the idea behind the heart in his chest:

Image source: Dark Horse
Image source: Dark Horse

In the story, Skeletor is able to take control of Roboto by removing his heart. Roboto becomes a very dangerous weapon due to his great strength:

Image source: Dark Horse
Image source: Dark Horse

In the end the heroes are able to restore Roboto to normal by returning his heart to his chest. However, Roboto worries that he is too dangerous a weapon should he ever be compromised again. In response, the Sorceress casts a spell of protection on him to prevent Skeletor from taking control of him again.

Image source: Dark Horse
Image source: Dark Horse

Animation

Roboto’s origin story in the Filmation He-Man cartoon is quite different. Roboto crash landed onto Eternia. As revealed in the episode, “Happy Birthday Roboto”, originally he had come from the planet Robotica, which was filled with mechanical beings like himself. As with the minicomic characterization, Roboto was immensely powerful in the Filmation cartoon.

Design-wise, the animated Roboto generally followed the design of the action figure, albeit simplified for animation. The most obvious difference is the mouth plate area, which has less of a steep slope to it compared to the figure.

Roboto model sheet. Vectorized and colored by Jukka Issakainen
Roboto model sheet with alternative concept colors. Vectorized and colored by Jukka Issakainen.
Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen
Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen
Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Other Media

Roboto appeared in quite a number of different stories and activities in comics and magazines over the years. He was the subject of a word search in the Spring 1985 issue of Masters of the Universe Magazine:

Image source: He-Man.org

That same issue also includes a brilliant poster by Earl Norem, depicting Roboto battling against flying Roton vehicles:

In issue 34 of the 1987 run of the UK MOTU Magazine, Roboto and Man-At-Arms are attacked on their Jet Sleds by Dragstor, who is piloting the Fright Fighter. The two heroes’ remaining Jet Sled is damaged, but they are able to repair it using some parts from Roboto:

Image source: He-Man.org
Image source: He-Man.org

In issue 12 of the 1989 run of the UK MOTU Magazine, we see He-Man and Roboto in Viper Tower (which for some reason is identified as the headquarters of the Heroic Warriors). From there they enter a dimensional portal to travel to a distant planet, where they battle alien robots:

Image source: He-Man.org
Image source: He-Man.org

In the He-Man newspaper comic story, “Day of the Comet”, we see a Filmation-like Roboto assembled with the heroic warriors:

Image source: Dark Horse

In the Golden Book story He-Man Smells Trouble, Roboto accidentally causes some damage to a stage when he mistake’s Orko’s magic for a real threat. Orko in turn hurts Roboto’s feelings, and he wanders away. Roboto ends up briefly teaming up with Stinkor, who also had his feelings hurt by the evil warriors. Together they encounter some other robots who actually resemble some of Ted Mayer’s concept art for the figure:

Roboto appears in a couple of MOTU posters by William George:

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen
Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Roboto appears as an extra in the box art for both Monstroid (artist unknown) and Fright Fighter (art by William George):

Roboto (in his concept colors) was featured in a series of Fuzzy Iron-Ons included in boxes of Rice Krispies

Image source: He-Man.org

Roboto in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has graciously shared the following image and video of Roboto in action!

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Evil Warriors

Two Bad – Double-headed evil strategist (1985)

Two Bad is one of two two-headed figures released in 1985 (along with Multi-Bot and Modulok).

My first exposure to Two Bad came on the playground in third grade. I had gone to the same elementary school during kindergarten and first grade. But in second grade, we moved away for a year to a smaller town, which turned out to be something of a He-Man vacuum. All of the kids there seemed to be into either Voltron or Thundercats. But when I returned to my old school in the third grade, I found He-Man was still going strong there. One fall day on the playground, an enterprising kid brought out his Roboto and Two Bad figures.

I never had either of these figures myself, but I was pretty impressed with both of them. Two Bad was bizarre looking, and not just because he had two heads. He had an enormous barrel chest and his arms were mounted toward the top of his shoulders rather than to the sides. His main feature of interest seemed to be his ability to punch himself in the opposing heads.

I don’t know who designed the final look for Two Bad, but Roger Sweet seems to have come up with the general concept for a two-headed warrior. You can see several incarnations of the concept in the images below. An early idea was for a character that had an evil half and a good half. While the final figure was completely evil, he did have a different color scheme and sculpt for each half of his body.

While the concept was Roger’s, I suspect at least some of the artwork was done by Ted Mayer, based on the style. According to the Power and Honor Foundation Catalog, the half good/half evil concept was rejected by Mattel marketing, who said that both halves should be evil.

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen, by way of the Power and Honor Foundation Catalog
Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen, by way of the Power and Honor Foundation Catalog
Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen, by way of Tomart’s Action Figure Digest

Some unrelated concepts by Ted Mayer have a helmet design reminiscent of Two Bad’s blue head:

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

A late hard copy/prototype of the figure shows a few subtle differences from the final toy. The prototype had more prominent and finely detailed ears and horns on the head. It also had a much slimmer torso design. I’m sure that the torso on the final figure had to be enlarged to accommodate the spring punch action feature on both arms, in addition to the spring-loaded waist.


Image source: Toy Archive
Another view of the prototype. Source: Mattel 1985 Spring Program catalog
Two Bad cross sell artwork, based on the final toy, but with a slightly different shade of purple. Image courtesy of Axel Giménez

The final toy has a greatly widened torso and softer sculpted details, but is otherwise close in appearance to the prototype. All of his parts are brand new, with the exception of the standard crotch piece. He is one of several figures in the 1985 wave whose only accessory was a shield:

Shortly after it was released, the figure was reissued with a greatly flattened torso. This didn’t affect the width, but it did affect the depth. This flattened version seems to be somewhat more common than the original release. The second version also has its arms at a slightly lower angle, so they don’t obscure the faces as much.

Unfortunately Two Bad tends to suffer from discoloration with age. This seems to be “sweating” out of the plastic. It can be cleaned up with a magic eraser sponge, but it eventually returns.

There are two main versions of the US card for the figure as well. The first release features “NEW!” on the front:

Note that this set of instructions says to “fit arm to body.” The plan early on may have been to package him with his arms disconnected.

The next release omits “NEW” and has a different set of instructions on the back:

Image source: He-Man.org. The instructions on this cardback include the idea that the figure can “crush” enemies. This is easier to do on the second release of the figure, because he chest doesn’t protrude out as much.

Two Bad is said to be a strategist with “twice the plotting power” due to his two heads, although that characterization was rarely followed in printed or animated stories.

Two Bad’s cardback artwork was done by Errol McCarthy, who also illustrated the character in a number of other contexts:

The 1987 Style Guide, which also features art by Errol McCarthy, characterized Two Bad this way:

Role: Powerful, two-headed master of evil illusion.

Power: Ability to create the illusion that he is “two” evil warriors, twice as devious as any of his comrades.

Character Profile: Though two heads are often better than once, Two Bad is a mixed blessing for the Evil Warriors. When his two heads are working together, Two Bad is nearly as clever and devious as Skeletor, and his advantage in battle is doubled. However, his two heads rarely get along. Quite often, the two heads will bicker with one another just at the wrong moment. Skeletor has little patience with Two Bad, not only because of the distracting arguments, but because Skeletor feels that the two-headed beast could one day gain too much evil brain power.

The Style Guide seems to have taken a cue from the commercial shown earlier in this article, in which Two Bad tricks his enemies into thinking he is actually two evil warriors.

In addition to the single carded figure, Two Bad was sold in a JCPenny giftset with Tri-Klops:

http://www.grayskullmuseum.com/GiftSets/BTJCP.htm

Mattel filed for a patent on Two Bad on December 24, 1984. The inventors lists were Larry Renger and Roger Sweet. The trademark for Two Bad was filed September 10, 1984.

Two Bad came packed with The Battle of Roboto minicomic, and he and Roboto were featured heavily in the story. Each of Two Bad’s heads is constantly arguing and fighting with the other:

Two Bad was characterized in much the same way in his infrequent appearances in the Filmation He-Man cartoon.

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

From the episode, Capture The Comet Keeper

Two Bad doesn’t appear in any of the MOTU box art, but he does make a few appearances in posters by William George and others:

Update: In the comments below, Aidan notes that Two Bad was characterized as an inventor in the UK MOTU comics, so he wasn’t always characterized as a simpleton. Aidan also notes that the individual heads were named Blue Head and Yellow Band, which apparently originated from notes at Filmation studios.

For detailed information about the UK Masters of the Universe comics, check out Aidan’s site at this link: https://www.motuukcomics.co.uk/

Also check out James Eatock’s old blog for a quick example of Two Bad in the UK comics: http://bustatoons.blogspot.com/2006/08/scientific-genius.html

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Artwork

Masters of the Universe Cross Sell Art – 1985

The artwork for this set comes from Axel Giménez, StarCrusader and my own photos and scans.

There are, unfortunately several subpar images in this set, including Roboto, Thunder Punch He-Man, Land Shark, and especially Night Stalker. If anyone out there has a Laser Bolt box, it should have Thunder Punch He-Man on the back. If you happen to have a scan or a high resolution picture of it in a nice natural lighting that you’d like to share, that would be appreciated.

The cross sell artwork for Land Shark appears on the back of the Jitsu/Night Stalker gift set. Land Shark cross sell art also appears on the back of the heroic warriors gift set (the one that included Buzz-Off, Moss Man and Mekaneck figures). If anyone happens to have nicer image of the cross sell art for Land Shark that they could share, I’d be really grateful.

Night Stalker is trickier. I have been unable to locate any cross sell art for Night Stalker, other than the red line art on the back of the Fright Zone box. If anyone knows of a full-color version that exists somewhere out there, I’d appreciate that information!

Update: somehow I overlooked Spydor. Spydor doesn’t seem to have had cross sell art per se, but the explanatory illustration on the back of his packaging is probably the closest analog, as far as I know. The same is true for toys like Battle Bones and Blasterhawk. Thanks to Matthew M. for letting me know!

Masters of the Universe Cross Sell Art:

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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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