Land Shark is one of those Masters of the Universe vehicles that had to exist. There was no way they weren’t going to get around to making a chomping shark car vehicle, given enough time.
According to The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog, the idea for making this kind of vehicle came from Roger Sweet, and Ed Watts (who also worked on the Dragon Walker) created the design details in the concept drawing below:
The concept design, compared to the final toy, has much sharper lines (ideal for mowing down foes, but probably too sharp for a kid’s toy) and larger eyes, but the broad ideas that went into the final vehicle are all there. Notice that Trap Jaw is depicted driving the vehicle. In a way, the Land Shark is kind of a vehicular version of Trap Jaw, sharing not only his chomping mechanical jaw but also his color scheme. In Watts’ artwork, they even have similar weapons (although non of Trap Jaw’s attachments actually looked like that). The concept version is maroon and green, while final toy was maroon and blue (all three are predominant colors on Trap Jaw).
The cross sell artwork for the Land Shark (which incidentally seems to have been rarely used) is based closely on the final design used on the toy:
The trademark for Land Shark was filed September 10, 1984, and the patent was filed on November 13, 1984 .
Land Shark was sold individually and in a set with Battle Armor Skeletor. The box art on both sets was illustrated by William George:
Land Shark appears with some frequency in the series of minicomics released in 1985. The depiction in comics more or less matches the look of the final toy, although the guns are simpler and seem to connect to the vehicle with a different kind of hinged joint (this is true in all of the minicomic appearances, with the exception of Leech). This may represent an earlier prototype design. Excerpted images below are from the Dark Horse He-man Minicomic collection.
Curiously, Hordak drives the Land Shark in Hordak – The Ruthless Leader’s Revenge:
Errol McCarthy produced a couple of illustrations for the Land Shark. One of them was used in the 1987 Style Guide, which described the vehicle this way:
Role: Evil man-eating assault vehicle
Power: Power to seek, seize and consume the enemies of Skeletor
“Evil man-eating assault vehicle” seems like a good tag line for the toy. I’m surprised it wasn’t used on the actual packaging.
Land Shark makes a couple of appearances in the Golden books stories: A Hero In Need and The River Of Ruin (images via He-Man.org):
William George included the Land Shark in his 1985 and 1986 posters:
Earl Norem pitted the Land Shark vs the Laser Bolt in a poster included in the Spring 1986 issues of Masters of the Universe Magazine:
Norem also included the vehicle in his “Lake of Mystery” poster, although interestingly he turns it into a water vehicle in the surreal scene below:
The same issue of MOTU Magazine features a story called “The Comet Warriors Have Landed!” The vehicle also makes an appearance there:
The vehicle only made two appearances in the Filmation He-Man cartoon, in the episodes “The Gambler” and “The Cold Zone”. Predictably the vehicle is simplified for animation purposes. The guns were also dropped from the sides. Update: Dušan M pointed out that the animators also added a retractable roof so they wouldn’t always have to animate a driver. Aidan Cross points out that the Land Shark appears to be sentient, since in “The Cold Zone” it snaps aggressively when the Attak Trak says it would rather not be left alone with the Land Shark.
The Land Shark is a gimicky vehicle to be sure, equal parts menacing and comical. But, it’s undeniably one of the coolest vehicles released for the evil warriors, who never quite seemed to have enough of them. The lion’s share of always seemed to go to the good guys.
My memory of getting Rattlor is quite vivid. It was our last summer in our Eastern Washington house, before our big move across the mountains to a rainier, more temperate part of the Pacific Northwest, and we were taking a road trip vacation to California before the move. I remember gravely weighing my options at a store along the way. I could get two toys, and I was determined that they be Snake Men.
I was looking at getting Kobra Khan, or perhaps the newly released King Hiss or Rattlor. I don’t remember seeing Tung Lashor at the time. After studying all three toys and their packaging intently, I concluded that King Hiss was a cool idea, but his hidden snake body wasn’t all that great looking, so I went with the other two figures instead.
Design & Development
Rattlor started life as a Roger Sweet concept, although in this very early concept drawing he’s barely recognizable. As is evident in the artwork, he was to have a yellow and green color scheme and would have reused Buzz-Off’s legs and Skeletor’s arms, just like Whiplash. If you look carefully you can see the rattle at the end of his tail, without which we would have no visual cues to assume this character was based on a rattle snake. There are no obvious signs that his head was to have the pop-out action feature. This design came about sometime around 1983, at the same time Whiplash and other third wave characters were being developed, per Aidan in the comment section.
Ted Mayer’s Basher concept illustrates the general idea for Rattlor’s action feature. In this illustration the character’s head is being used as a blunt weapon, but of course for Rattlor the idea was that he could quickly strike his head forward and deliver a bite.
As for the snake Men, Rattlor and Tung Lashor were designed ahead of King Hiss (and included as Horde Villains based on their earliest designs). By the time King Hiss was completed and the Snake Men as a faction had been created, She-Ra was already in full swing.
Depictions of Rattlor in the minicomics give us a glimpse of an intermediate design. He is usually depicted with the dragon-like spines from the prototype, but with the updated scaly limbs and two-toed feet that were used in the final toy. This represents a mid-point in Rattlor’s design evolution. Most of these appearances feature the character with his final rust, cream and blue color scheme, but in his first appearance he is yellowish orange.
The actual toy has an elongated neck and a tail with a sculpted rattle at the end of it, but otherwise it has little in common with Sweet’s initial design, and the final toy was redesigned by John Hollis, who also worked on Extendar and Turbodactyl. The toy’s head certainly looks much more rattle snake-like than the concept artwork. Rattlor lost the spines along his back, and the final figure featured all new limbs. He came with a staff borrowed from King Hiss, but molded in brick red plastic.
In order to accommodate Rattlor’s long neck when it was recessed, his torso had to be quite large compared to most He-Man figures. His legs are relatively short, however – they’re about the size of Beast Man’s legs, but look even more undersized because of his large torso. His arms look like they were based on the He-Man’s arms (with a similar open left hand) with added scales and gloves, and slightly different musculature. Curiously, the staff is omitted in the cross sell artwork below:
Rattlor’s quick-strike action feature was activated by pushing a button on the back of his belt, revealing a long yellow (or sometimes red) neck. There were also some loose bits of plastic in the figure, so that when you shake him you hear a rattling sound.
The artwork on the back of Rattlor’s packaging was done by an unknown artist (Jukka Issakainen pointed out that it’s not Dave Stevens, as I originally thought – it’s signed either MT or TM). The name Rattlor was trademarked by Mattel on June 17, 1985, a year before the toy’s release.
As mentioned earlier, Rattlor’s design in most of his minicomics appearances represents an intermediate stage in his development, particularly in his first appearance in King of the Snake Men. His appearances in the last couple of minicomics of the toyline are much closer to his toy look. Throughout, he is described as a fairly typical muscle-headed henchman who rarely says much. In Snake Attack! Tung Lashor seems to be the brains, while Rattlor is the brawn. Rattlor also appears in The Ultimate Battle Ground, Revenge of the Snake Men, Energy Zoids, and The Powers of Grayskull.
When Rattlor and Tung Lashor are introduced in King of the Snake Men, it’s mentioned that they had been serving Hordak before King Hiss summoned them. This is a reference to their appearances on the She-Ra cartoon series (they came out too late to appear in the original He-Man series, which ended in 1985).
In the She-Ra series, Rattlor is usually mute, although that’s not the case in the Christmas Special, where Rattlor gets a brief line. (There are other She-Ra episodes where he is given lines as well – see the comment from SpineBear at the end of this article.) Design-wise, Filmation’s Rattlor lacks the colored strips on his arms and legs, and he’s given purple trunks and a blue belt:
Before Filmation settled on the toy-like design for Rattlor, they were using a model sheet based on Roger Sweet’s original design:
Stories, Comics & Magazines
In the 1986 Kid Stuff story book/record, Battle Under Snake Mountain, Rattlor seems to be more intelligent and talks more frequently than in other media, although he seems constantly terrified of King Hiss:
Both Rattlor and Tung Lashor are wildly off model in the 1987 UK MOTU Magazine story, “Attack of the Snakemen.” Tung Lashor especially looks unrecognizable and bizarre (I first learned about this issue from James Eatock’s excellent He-Man and She-Ra Blog).
In the MOTU newspaper story, Vengeance of the Viper King, Rattlor is also wildly off model, albeit based on line art from the Filmation She-Ra series. He appears here with green skin and no tail:
Rattlor appears in issue 7 of the US Masters of the Universe Magazine in The Armies of King Hiss:
The same issue features one of Earl Norem’s most iconic MOTU paintings, featuring all of the snake men (including Kobra Khan, who had been retconned into that faction starting in 1986) that existed up to that point:
William George illustrated the character in both his Eternia playset boxart and in his Eternia poster:
Artist Errol McCarthy drew Rattlor in a number of contexts, including in an illustration for the 1987 Style Guide:
The Style Guide characterizes Rattlor this way:
Power: Can sneak up on enemies and strike with lightning speed and precision.
Character Profile: Rattlor never says much: he’d rather just hiss. He sticks close by Tung Lashor, keeping a low profile so his attacks are that much more surprising. Just before he is about to strike, Rattlor will sound his ominous battle rattle, giving his quarry the merest fraction of a second to realize his horrible fate.
Note: Filmation has positioned Rattlor as a member of The Evil Horde. For story purposes, he and Tung Lashor joined The Evil Horde when King Hiss was banished eons ago. Now that King Hiss has returned, however, Rattlor and Tung Lashor have rejoined him.
There was also a fact file on Rattlor in the 1989 UK MOTU Annual, which also says that Rattlor preferrs hissing to speaking:
Rattlor is my favorite of the snake men. I love his Southwestern-looking color scheme, his detailed scaly skin, and of course his action features. I would have preferred a unique weapon for him, but otherwise he’s one of my favorite figures to come out in the last years of the line.
I was a little conflicted about Sy-Klone as a kid. For whatever reason I was bothered by his blue and yellow dominated color scheme, but fascinated by the Saturn-like rings around his helmet, gloves and boots (a Jetsons-like design choice, to be sure), his lenticular chest radar sticker, and of course his spinning action feature. I would tornado him around the house using the wheel on his belt until my thumb got sore. Update: interestingly, Mattel made at least three commercials for Sy-Klone. They each have some subtle differences from each other.
Sy-Klone was created by Mattel Designer Roger Sweet, under the working name “Tornado”. The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog shows two early concept designs for the character.
This version [below] doesn’t have lot in common with the specific design details of the final figure, other than the circular shape on his chest and the general design on the crotch piece.
This version of “Tornado” (below) is closer to the final design. Note the presence of the arm “fins” and the various retro-futuristic rings on the costume. Significant differences from the final toy include the shape of his chest radar and his color scheme, which is has a great deal of green in it.
As is often the case, elements from a concept version of Sy-Klone ended up in the minicomics – specifically Spikor Strikes (which came packed with both Spikor and Sy-Klone). The design is almost identical to the second concept version of the character, except the “fins” on his arms are mounted on oval plate-like structures, which resemble the design of the shield that would come with him. He also has a Caucasian face, rather than a blue or metallic one, and carries a Mekaneck-like club (as does Spikor). This likely represents a third version of the concept art, or even an early prototype. Note that in the third image below, he is referred to as “Tornado”, although he’s called Sy-Klone throughout the rest of the comic:
The patent for Sy-Klone’s spinning mechanism was filed December 14, 1984. The following drawings were included, showing the inner workings of the mechanism. Note that the figure drawing still follows the look of the early concept artwork:
Sy-Klone wasn’t trademarked until June 17, 1985. I suspect he was released somewhat later than other 1985 figures, given that his trademark filed later than any other 1985 figure.
The final toy is a somewhat streamlined looking version of the second version of the concept art. His color scheme is simplified to blue and yellow, with red highlights. He lost the rings around high thighs and biceps, and the top of his helmet was modified. He was given a space-themed belt, and of course his chest radar was made circular. The cross sell artwork is closely based on the final toy, and reflects all these changes.
Sy-Klone reuses no previously existing parts. He is one of the few vintage Masters of the Universe figures with ball-jointed shoulder articulation. The ball joint was very loose, allowing the arms to raise on their own with centrifugal force as the figure began to spin. Sy-Klone’s face, like Mekaneck’s face, bears a strong resemblance to He-Man.
Like many figures released in 1985, his only weapon is a shield. In examining the 1985 wave of heroic and evil warriors (leaving aside the evil horde), some clear patterns emerge.
Looking at the non-variant heroes and villains, there is one of each that is an entirely (or nearly) new sculpt, with almost no reused parts (Two Bad and Sy-Klone). There is one of each that has significant new tooling, but also reuses some parts (Spikor and Roboto). There is also one of each that is entirely made up of preexisting parts (Stinkor and Moss Man). Clearly this was planned out ahead of time and likely based on budgetary concerns.
Of the six 1985 unique heroic and evil warriors, half of them (Sy-Klone, Stinkor and Two Bad) have a shield as their only accessory.
Spikor was released on the standard blister card, with artwork on the back by Errol McCarthy (images via Jukka Issakainen and Starcrusader).
Errol McCarthy also illustrated the character for use in licensed products, as well as the 1987 Style Guide.
The guide had this to say about Sy-Klone:
Power: Ability to fly and plow through enemy lines with turbulent fist-whirling action.
Character profile: His built-in radar screen enables him to sense oncoming attacks. He often senses the physical presence of evil long before others of the Heroic Warriors. Sy-Klone is extremely fast on his feet and quick with his fists.
Sy-Klone was sold in a couple of giftsets – in a three pack with Hordak and Roboto, and in a JCPenny two pack with Moss Man (images via Grayskull Museum):
Sy-Klone makes appearances in box art for the Eternia playset as well as Monstroid and Tower Tools:
Sy-Klone makes some brief appearances in the Filmation He-Man cartoon, showing up in “Beauty and the Beast” and “Here, There, Skeletors Everywhere”. In the series Sy-Klone has the ability to spin his entire body in tornado fashion, or just his arms. His Filmation look is quite close to the toy counterpart, with the exception of his radar screen, which is greatly simplified (color images courtesy of Jukka Issakainen; color model sheet originally from He-Man and She-Ra: A Complete Guide to the Classic Animated Adventures):
As mentioned previously, Sy-Klone came packed with the Spikor Strikes comic. In the story, his unique powers and courage allow him to rescue Teela from Skeletor. He also plays bit parts in the following minicomics:
Leech – The Master of Power Suction Unleashed!
The Flying Fists of Power
The Terror Claws Strike
The Menace of the Multi-Bot!
The Hordes of Hordak
He is illustrated with variations on his concept art look until his appearance in The Hordes of Hordak, which probably comes down to artists using Spikor Strikes as a reference.
Sy-Klone appears on the cover art (illustrated by Earl Norem) in the Golden Book story, Power From the Sky. He does not, however, show up in the story itself.
Sy-Klone is given an origin story in the hardback Golden Book story, I Have The Power. In it, Skeletor inadvertently gives an acrobat called Human Tornado his powers using a “mechano-ray” device.
Sy-Klone makes several appearances in the German Ehapa Verlag comic series. This image comes from the end page of issue nine from the 1988 run (image via He-Man.org):
Sy-Klone also appears in posters by William George and Earl Norem:
The Earl Norem poster featuring Sy-Klone, Moss Man, and He-Man battling the beast from the Fright Zone is one of my particular favorites. For this reason I often think of Moss Man and Sy-Klone working as a team.
Sy-Klone was given another origin story in issue 71 of the UK MOTU Magazine. In the story his real name is Dash-El, a runner who rebels when the Evil Horde invade his planet. Injured in an explosion, Dash-El’s father nurses him back to health by repairing his damaged body with cybernetic parts. Healed with cybernetics and cloning technologies, Dash-El’s father comes to call him Sy-Klone.
I remember getting the Road Ripper as a present when it came out in 1984. I want to say I got it at the same time as the Dragon Walker. It didn’t blow me away like the Dragon Walker did, but it was a memorable vehicle and I sent it speeding across the kitchen floor on many Saturday mornings.
The Road Ripper seems to have been the brainchild of Mattel designer Roger Sweet. I believe that an early working name for the vehicle was the Tri-Trak. As described in the December 1982 MOTU Bible, the Tri-Trak was “a three-wheeled motorcycle which He Man uses whenever he needs a fast ground transport. Tri-Trak travels most of the places the Attack Trak goes only much faster. The motorcycle bears two very deadly photon machine guns.”
An early version of the vehicle had a much smaller figurehead on the front of the vehicle, a couple of small fins on the back, and control handles for He-Man to hold on to. This early concept was colored red rather than green, and had a comparatively narrow front end.
A subsequent revision to the design was much closer to the final toy, with its enlarged figurehead and green color scheme. It was more highly detailed than the final toy, with additional orange and yellow triangular patterns and green mechanical details, but otherwise it’s very familiar to anyone who owned the production vehicle.
A somewhat similar concept was illustrated by Ted Mayer on September 29, 1983. It has the twin guns mentioned in the description of the Tri-Trak, although it seems to have four wheels, not three. It would have used a launcher base as a means of propulsion, with a similar ripcord feature. However, given that the Road Ripper was trademarked on August 22, 1983, this may have been a related idea and not a version of the Road Ripper itself.
According to the Power and the Honor Foundation catalog, Roger Sweet got the idea for the Road Ripper from the Evel Knievel Super Stunt Cycle.
The final toy has a rubber seat belt (similar to the ones used in the Attak Trak and Dragon Walker), rather than the clip featured in the concept artwork. The sculpt work is well-executed, and it’s augmented by a number of brightly colored stickers. It came with a long red ripcord, that, when pulled through the back of the vehicle, set a heavy rubber wheel hidden underneath the vehicle in motion, propelling the whole thing forward.
The cross sell art closely mirrors the toy, but it lacks some detail in on the back area of the vehicle:
The Road Ripper was sold individually and in a gift set with Battle Armor He-Man. The artwork on the front of both boxes was done by William George. They both have a sense of speed to them, and feature the artist’s usual desolate landscapes and fearsome little creatures:
William George also illustrated the Road Ripper in this 1984 MOTU poster:
Argentinian manufacturer Top Toys produced a version of the Road Ripper in blue, although they retained the artwork on the packaging that depicted it in green:
Errol McCarthy illustrated the Road Ripper for a T-Shirt design:
The vehicle makes a two appearances in the Filmation He-Man cartoon, in “The Time Wheel” (thanks to Dušan Mitrović for pointing that out) and “The Energy Beast.” It doesn’t last long in the the latter story, as Orko starts up the vehicle and quickly crashes it, destroying it. Man-At-Arms remarks that he had spent six months working on it.
It also makes a single appearance in the mini comics. It shows up in a single panel in Temple of Darkness, illustrated by Larry Houston.
An off-model red version of Road Ripper shows up in Issue 71 of the UK MOTU magazine, which in turn originates from Ehapa MOTU issue 7 (thanks to Dušan Mitrović for pointing that out):
It also appears in the first issue of the US MOTU magazine, in the short comic story, Maddening of the Monstones. He-Man uses it as his primary means of transportation:
The Road Ripper never had the kind of permanence and ubiquitousness that other vehicles like the Wind Raider and Battle Ram had, but it was a fun little racer and I think it fit in well with the other Masters of the Universe vehicles. Surprisingly, Tonka even made a Road Ripper-themed crossover tricycle. I suppose that makes sense given the fact that the Road Ripper also has three wheels, but it’s an interesting choice given the general lack of exposure of the vehicle otherwise.
The general formula for MOTU vehicles really seems to be angular, Star Wars vehicle-like bodies, combined big engines and animalistic figureheads at the front, which is as good a description as any for the Road Ripper. In fact, it reminds me in many ways of the Battle Ram, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Battle Ram were a major source of inspiration.