Tag Archives: Screeech

Box Art From A-Z, Part Two: 1983

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 Two: 1983

Name: Attak Trak
Year: 1983
Artist: Rudy Obrero
Description: He-Man pilots the Attak Trak over rough terrain. Skeletor and Mer-Man are ready to attack, while Man-At-Arms and Teela stand in defense of Castle Grayskull. The artwork below was scanned by me, with box damage repaired by Retroist.

Name: Battle for Eternia
Year: 1983
Artist: William Garland
Description: Panthor swipes his claws at Man-E-Faces, as Man-E-Faces takes aim with his blaster at Skeletor, who is riding atop the savage cat. Twin moons hang in the smokey sky.

Artwork courtesy of Tokyonever

battle-for-eternia-original

Name: Panthor
Year: 1983
Artist: William Garland
Description: Skeletor and Panthor navigate alien terrain. A pterodactyl-like creature swoops in the air and two alien moons set on the smokey horizon. Castle Grayskull stands in the background, shrouded by mists and blowing sand.

panthor-best-quality

Name: Point Dread & Talon Fighter
Year: 1983
Artist: William Garland*
Description: He-Man and Teela sit inside the Talon Fighter’s cockpit, as its jet engines flair. Skeletor, Tri-Klops and Mer-Man race toward Point Dread, which is defended by Man-At-Arms. Twin alien moons hang in the night sky. Castle Grayskull looms in the foggy distance. (*Artist name not confirmed for this particular piece, but the art seems to match the style of the Panthor illustrations.)

point-dread-talon-fighter-logos-removed

Name: Screeech
Year: 1983
Artist: Rudy Obrero
Description: Screeech is depicted both soaring through the smokey skies of Eternia and standing on his perch, which sits on top of a castle turret.

screeech

Name: Skeletor and Panthor
Year: 1983
Artist: William Garland
Description: He-Man clashes swords with Skeletor, who sits astride the savage Panthor. A tiny gargoyle-like creature leaps from harm’s way. Man-At-Arms swings his club at Beast Man in front of the ominous Castle Grayskull.

skeletor-panthor-hi-res

Name: Skeletor and Screeech
Year: 1983
Artist: Rudy Obrero
Description: Skeletor stands at the edge of a lava-filled crevasse with Screeech perched on his arm. Two rodents run away in terror.

skeletor-screeech-largest

Name: Teela and Zoar
Year: 1983
Artist: Unknown
Description: Teela stands atop a rocky mountain peak as Zoar swoops through the skies at sunset. A snowy mountain range is visible in the distance.

teela-zoar-largest

Name: Zoar
Year: 1983
Artist: Rudy Obrero
Description: Zoar swoops through the skies as He-Man and Skeletor do battle on a rocky, volcanic landscape. Castle Grayskull looms in the distance.

zoar-no-logo3

More articles in this series:

Return to Table of Contents.

Martin Arriola: Guardian of Grayskull

Martin Arriola was a designer on the original Masters of the Universe toyline. He went on to work on the  1989 New Adventures of He-Man reboot, the 2009 adult collector Masters of the Universe Classics toyline, and many other lines for Mattel. He graciously agreed to sit down and talk to me about his work.

Battle Ram: Thanks for agreeing to this interview! So, how did you get into the toy design business?

Martin Arriola: My dad was a carpenter, I always watched him work. He was good at what he did.  I was always drawing – I was terrible at math, and I didn’t like hard work, so I wanted to see if I could make it in the field of commercial art.

Everyone keeps telling you it’s very competitive. But if you never try you never know. I went to trade school for two years. I went to UCLA, then I started attending Art Center College of Design.  I started at Art Center at night, and one of my instructors told me to come full time.

I went from there in 1980 and freelanced for a couple of years. Then I got a call from head hunters. One was from Mattel, offering a job that paid $33,000, which was decent money in the ’80s. Another was a call for startup newspaper. These guys saw some of my illustrations (I graduated as an illustration major). They wanted to hire me as director, for same amount of money Mattel was offering. They were based in Washington DC, and Mattel was in California. In the end I wanted to stay in California, so I went with Mattel. It turned out that paper was USA Today.  I stayed at Mattel for 32 years.

BR: What did you start working on when you were hired at Mattel?

MA: I started on Hot Wheels stuff. They didn’t have toy major designs back then. Seventy percent of their designers came from the Art Center. I didn’t know a label sheet from an overspray, but I could draw. There were no computers at the time, no Photoshop. Mark Taylor was great at markers. I was a marker freak – that’s what got me the job.

Ted Mayer was still there when I was there. I was hired to replace Mark Taylor, at least that’s what I had heard. That was back in 1982.

I remember rendering a bunch of vehicles. I did a bunch of renderings for Hot Wheels. I learned everything there at Mattel.

When I first got there the designers were over-worked, but it was also lax, it was so much more fun. Mark Taylor had just left to go to Playmates… I almost quit under Roger Sweet. I came close to quitting. The credit stealing was awful.

Anyway, there was a big paradigm shift. I know Ted and Taylor were part of visual design. I started as an art director in Visual Design. Shel Plat asked if I wanted to work on products or packaging. I thought products would be more fun. A lot more goes into it, although you have to deal with engineers.

BR: When was this?

MA: I think I started in 1983 on He-Man. One of the first things I worked on was the figure with the rotating drum, Battle Armor He-Man. We did same thing with Skeletor, same feature.

I may have done Screeech and Zoar. I don’t know what came first. I started out picking the colors. Zoar was the Big Jim Eagle, and Battle Cat was also from Big Jim. He-Man’s Battle Cat was already done. I worked on the other cat, Panthor. I picked the colors. There was a lot of refresh back then.

Zoar & Screeech
Panthor & Battle Cat

BR: Who were you working with?

MA: Colin Bailey was one. He could draw anything, this guy was awesome. I said to myself, I gotta draw like him. I watched him do Fisto, Buzz-Off. He did the original Stridor. I think I picked colors on Night Stalker. I got more familiar with the line,  and I started doing a lot more as far as art directing and sculpting.

BR: Was  it a challenge get a good design through engineering?

MA: It’s totally different now. Everything goes to Hong Kong. Design now has a big role, as opposed to what it used to be. In 1982, designers never went to Hong Kong. Engineering was the big division then. They traveled everywhere. It wasn’t vendors, it was captive plants. We did tooling inside, and there were all these divisions in Mattel that no longer exist. Design got bigger and bigger and more powerful.

Prelim, guys like Rogers Sweet would always over-promise to marketing, and sometimes add stuff that was unsafe or not practical.

BR: Oh, like what?

MA: There was Dragon Blaster Skeletor. Prelim design came up with breadboard model. It was unpainted, using old legs and arms and a body sculpted from square styrene blocks. Sweet was touting this one, Smoke and Chains Skeletor, it was called. It had a bellows on its back. You would load the bellows with talcum powder, and there was a pipe going from a cavity to the figure’s right hand. Talcum powder would come out like smoke. The figure was draped with chains, so the working name was Smoke and Chains Skeletor.

Image via Tomart’s Action Figure Digest, issue 202

I was thinking about doing the final design. Around that same time there was a big grain factory in Texas that exploded. It killed a lot of people, so it made big news back then. Everyone smoked back then.

I said, wow, this has powder. I lit a match and squeezed the bellows. A four foot flame came out of Skeletor! Luckily I hadn’t pointed it at anybody. I remember going to the VP of Design, Gene Kilroy. I had Smoke and Chains Skeletor and a lighter. I just happened to come across the greatest TV moment. I lit the thing and a big old flame came out it.

BR: That’s insane!

MA: When safety got a hold of this, obviously it couldn’t be released. We tried diluting the powder with baking soda, but then it didn’t look like smoke anymore.

So we brainstormed, me and Tony Rhodes. We didn’t do much with water squirting at the time. We had a big brainstorm, and thought, what about squirting water? So we ended up sculpting the dragon on the back of Skeletor, and being able to load that up with water.

Image source: 1985 Mattel Dealer Catalog, scanned by Orange Slime

There was a lot of trial and error stuff like that. We had to change because prelim would promise that this was going to be the feature, and get it for this much. They would always say it was cheaper than it was going to be. They would say it can’t do this and can’t do that. We were always having to make sure it was safe, affordable and that it would actually work.

BR: Do you know who designed Clawful?

MA: Colin Bailey did Clawful, he was one of the first designers to work on the vintage He-Man line. By then Taylor had already left to do Ninja Turtles with Playmates.

BR: What were the figures you primarily worked on?

MA: Just about all of them, to be honest with you.  I did all the Secret Wars figures as well. I actually became a manager of the (He-Man) line, but they didn’t give me the title. I managed the line from Screeech and the drum rotating guy, until the line got dropped. They over shipped the line to make the numbers, and that’s what killed it.

I hired Dave Wolfram and had some temps working for me too. Basically from Screeech until the end. The dinosaurs, I worked on those as well. I hired a couple of guys. I had to approve everything. I’m not taking credit for that, that’s not what I do. From then until New Adventures. I worked on all that stuff too.

New Adventures He-Man concept, by Martin Arriola (image via The Art of He-Man)

It was not like it is now, I retired on my own time, the politics got so bad. I worked on Disney-Pixar cars stuff. I made a billion dollars for that company.

BR: Do you know who designed Stinkor and Moss Man?

MA: Those were refreshes like Scare Glow and Ninjor. I also worked on Land Shark and Laser Bolt, that was kind of a challenge. I worked on Stinkor, Moss Man, and Ninjor.  Clamp Champ, too. If you look at those, its all existing parts. We tried to save as much money as we could. Whenever we could refresh, we’d do a refresh.

BR: Right, like Faker. Did you work on that figure?

MA: I did label sheets for Faker’s chest, it looked like a reel-to-reel tape deck. On [Sy-Klone], I came up with lenticular lens. We reused the idea for Secret Wars. Sometimes you get lucky.

BR: What about Snake Mountain?

MA: Snake Mountain, I wish I had one now. Eddy [Mosqueda] sculpted it*. Eddy was really really fast. The guy who sculpted [Eternia] was really, really slow.

Snake Mountain. Image via Orange Slime

On the boys’ side, [engineering] was all done inside, and you had to go through politics. Now everything goes to vendor. You had to get saddled with people who were not so talented. Like Bionotops. This guy, Hal Faulkner had a bitchin sculpt, but the engineer started smoothing out the mold and getting rid of musculature. Smoothing it all out. My manager said he was fixing it, but it looked like a piggy bank. He also worked on middle tower for Eternia. There was only so much you could do.

Now it’s different. You do a front three-quarters sketch, send it to Hong Kong, and you see a digital output.

BR: Do you know anything about a brown-haired He-Man variant? People seem to think that you could get it in a mail-away offer. What many people recall is that you would send  in three proofs of purchase and you would get a free figure in the mail, but no one seems to know much about it or why it was made in the first place. It looked like this:

Image courtesy of Arkangel

MA: The brown haired variant was either just done or in the works when I got there, but I think you’re right. Has it been referred to as The Wonder Bread mail-in offer? Again, I just got there and was just trying to keep my head above water, keeping up with great talents like Colin Bailey who drew like an angel with so much ease.

BR: Do you know who designed Jitsu?

MA: I watched Colin draw control art turn views of Jitsu as reference for sculpting.

BR: Besides Rudy Obrero and Bill George, there was another person who painted some of the box art. We don’t know his name, but he did the box art for Point Dread & Talon Fighter, Panthor, Skeletor/Panthor Gift Set, Teela/Zoar Gift Set, Night Stalker, and a few others. Any clues there? Here’s an example of his/her art:

MA: Unfortunately I can’t remember that guy’s name, but his stuff was pretty decent as a fill-in when Bill [George] was overbooked. His art was better than the guy who did the dino art, Warren Hile, who I went to Art Center with. He now makes furniture in Pasadena. I looked up his art in the SDCC He-Man book that I designed, which sold out in a day, but no names are listed. I’ll find out because now it’s bugging me, thanks to you.

BR: What about Tony Guerrero? Do you remember him?

MA: Tony Sculpted THE He-Man. He had a twin brother, Ben. He was on the engineering side and Tony was a sculptor. One of guards once asked Tony for a property pass and offended him. He said, “Do you know who I am, I sculpted He-Man!”

Tony Guerrero’s He-Man prototype. Image source: The Art of He-Man/The Power and the Honor Foundation

Tony didn’t do a lot of the later stuff. I don’t know if he got let go. I can’t tell you how many purgings I survived there. They didn’t care how good you were, or what you contributed. It was how much money you made. They would bring a new guy in that they could pay less and force you out.

Tony and Colin left shortly after I got there. Colin was there for a couple of years.

Bill George did the best art. He was at Power Con, the very first one. Bill’s paintings were the best. He did the best He-Man ever.

Road Ripper, by William George

BR: By 1986, there seemed to be a lot more stylistic diversity in the line. Can you talk about that?

MA: Extendar was designed by John Hollis, he was a temp who reported to me. He did Extendar, and he also did Rattlor and Turbodactyl. Each one has own style. Pat Dunn worked on Mosquitor. They way they turned out depended on they designer’s style and the action feature and play feature. The hardest one I worked on was Sorceress. Her wings popped out on back pack. Roger Sweet promised all those things. It’s hard to pack a mechanism on a thin-looking body. There was no other way I could do it except to put hump on her back.

We did Turbosaurus [later, Gigantisaur] that never got made. Too impractical? Of course. Roger Sweet had a sketch done by Ed Watts. It showed He-Man on this dinosaur. He sold it with all these features at a price that was low. I said, do you know how big this is going to be?

I went to Dave Wolfram, and I said, “We gotta breadboard this stuff.” Sure enough, that dinosaur was probably three feet. I told marketing, if you want this to reflect what Sweet sold you in the B-sheet, this is how big it’s going to be. We hand painted it. One thing that Sweet sold to marketing is that it would swallow a He-Man figure. But you know how splayed out the he-man figures were. It would have been as big as Eternia.


Ed Watts was the best and he actually did some preliminary designing and B-sheets on many of the vintage Masters toys, including Land Shark, the dinos, and Skeletor’s Dragon Fly [Fright Fighter], just to name a few. He actually had talent and thus recognized others who had talent, and was not insecure or jealous of others, so that’s why we got along. He was my manager when I designed/developed all the Bug’s Life line. Unfortunately he died of brain cancer way too young.

BR: What else did you work on in your time at Mattel?

MA: Everything that failed, I didn’t do, like that 2002 series… I was already off the line at that time. I worked on Harry Potter. I remember it was the Four Horsemen that were sculpting it. They were going old school, with clay molds and final waxes. Those guys are awesome. We were going to do Spawn at that time, and then anime stuff came up. I think I was working on Killer Tomatoes and Hook when we left the old building. Anyway, the Four Horsemen went in and did a really great sculpt of He-Man and Skeletor, almost two feet high. But at that time anime was coming in. So when they approached the Four Horsemen they had them sculpt them anime style as well. On that version, He-Man’s neck is coming out of his chest. Mattel did a focus test (which I hate), and the kids picked the anime style.

Then I got put back on He-Man, and started working with the Horsemen on [Masters of the Universe Classics], with no features. So there was this weird roundabout way I came back and worked on He-Man with the Horsemen, which they then gave to Terry Higuchi, because I was pulled to work on Remi from Ratatouille. Terri did a great job.

Masters of the Universe Classics

BR: What figure or other toy are you most proud of in your time at Mattel?

MA: I did so many entire lines there in 32 years. It would seem like bragging if I listed them all, which were approximately 15 to 20. Several never made it to retail. In hindsight I guess my favorites were the vintage MOTU line; resurrecting the then-dead Disney-Pixar Cars Line and generating a billion dollars for the five years I had it before my jealous VP stole it from me; and the Disney-Pixar Ratatouille line, which I designed/developed single-handily with my Hong Kong counterparts.

I’m especially proud that all those toys I designed/brought to retail made kids happy and filled their lives with joy & imaginative play. I’m happily retired now, focusing on painting full time. You can check out my original art on my website, www.martinarriola.com.

To hear more from Martin, check out these Power Con panels:

Several pieces of cross sell art used in this article are courtesy of Axel Giménez.

*Note: Eric L. recently contacted Eddy Mosqueda, and confirmed that Eddy did not actually sculpt Snake Mountain.

Return to Table of Contents.

1983 Kid Stuff Masters of the Universe story record – full transcript

kid-stuff-cover
Image source: He-Man.org

The 1983 Kid Stuff Masters of the Universe story record (written and produced by John Braden) is an interesting piece of intermediate MOTU canon. Its production predates the debut of the Filmation cartoon, and represents an intermediate step between pre and post-Filmation canon. The story seems to be informed by the Masters of the Universe Bible, written at the end of 1982 by Michael Halperin. The recording hasn’t been available in written form, so I’ve transcribed it here.

There are a few interesting tidbits here:

  • Prince Adam shouts, “By the power of Castle Grayskull” twice in order to transform into He-Man.
  • Evil-Lyn speaks in an old crone’s voice and transforms into Screeech. Screeech is a black vulture.
  • Panthor is black, not purple.
  • Castle Grayskull is located in the middle of a thick forest.

In order to make the read a little more interesting, I’ve added illustrations from various sources (most via He-Man.org or Bustatoons’ He-Man and She-Ra Blog), including other Kid Stuff story books.

Masters of the Universe (Lyrics):

A glimmer of magic in the darkest night
A sword is drawn o’er the endless fight
The forces of evil never rest
But we are ready to put them to the test

We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe
We are the makers of our destiny
And we will struggle til the universe is free

We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe
The universe, the universe

Lost in space, lost in time
With our mighty power
We will fight, we will win
The victory shall be ours
It shall be ours

We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe
We are the makers of our destiny
And we will struggle til the universe is free

We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe
The universe, the universe

Lost in space, lost in time
With our mighty power
We will fight, we will win
The victory shall be ours
It shall be ours

We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe

Far in the deepest reaches of space, hidden from view by the swirling gasses of trillion solar systems lies a world beyond all imagining. Here, spinning in the endless blackness of space, exists the planet Eternia.

eternia

Eternia – even in the name you can hear the magic. The roar of the winds that whip their way through the rocky mountain tops. The crashing of the waves that cast themselves on the sandy shores of time on this mysterious world, tucked away in a forgotten corner of the universe. Eternia. The equatorial vine jungle whose steamy swamps swarm with gigantic serpents and twisted man-eating plants, whose roots dangle dangerously, waiting to trap and devour any foolhardy Intruder.

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Eternia, where the evergreen forest towers, as immense trees reach upward toward the fleecy blue sky overhead. The thick ferny underbrush teems with countless strange creatures who have evolved into life forms much different than those on earth. Great winged lizards dangle by their scaly claws from the top-most branches of the pines, while deep within the mossy caves that line the cliffs, awesome dragons watch the world through beady green eyes and spew their sulfurous breath out into the morning chill.

Eternia. The sprawling sands of time. A desert whose shifting dunes hide ruins of long past ages when great stone temples lined the streets of imperial cities. All gone now. Swallowed up and swept away by the constant changing sands. All that remain are a few crumbling monuments to tell the tale of a forgotten civilization that labored and perished in the unforgiving desert.

Eternia – a world of unimaginable beauty and unspeakable danger. For it is here, on this isolated planet, that one of the greatest battles between good and evil in the universe is being played out. The monstrous Skeletor, a villain of unending cunning and wickedness, has escaped after years of isolation on his own planet, Infinita: and with a legion of demons at his side, threatens the safety and tranquility of Eternia.

Skeletor
Image Source: Bustatoons Blog

But Eternia has a protector. A hero foretold in legend and myth since the dawn of Eternian time. Centuries ago Eternia’s wise rulers, the Council of Elders, sensed that some time in the future, danger would descend on their planet. In one moment of incredible concentration, they compressed all their accumulated knowledge and wisdom about the universe into one omnipotent glowing orb of power. They transformed the center of their government, the lustrous hall of Wisdom, into a fearsome rocky castle with a stone face of a skull at its front. They placed the orb of light and wisdom deep in the musty dungeons of the castle, where it would be safe from the forces of evil. Over the thousands of years that followed, the thick evergreen forest swallowed up the frightful edifice, and it disappeared into memory and folk legend. But, to this very day, its name brings a chill of fear and awe. It is the mighty Castle Grayskull.

And now, the evil warrior that the wise Council of Elders feared has arrived. Skeletor stalks the planet, searching for a way to seize control. But at every turn, his wickedness is checked by the heroic protector spoken of in the old tales. A giant of a man, with long golden hair and rippling muscles that gleam in the brilliant Eternian sunlight. This is He-Man.

In order to protect his true identity and thus make it harder for Skeletor to destroy him, He-Man lives a double life as Prince Adam, playful son of King Randor and Queen Marlena. Even now, as we speak, Prince Adam is playing with his pet tiger, Cringer. In the beautiful gardens that surround his father’s castle, he and his feline friend romp in the tall grass, happy and care-free, unaware that as He-Man, he is about to face the most difficult and dangerous challenge of his life – a life and death struggle with Skeletor. The outcome of which will determine the fate of the planet, and perhaps the entire universe.

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Image source: He-Man.org

Prince Adam: Ha-ha, careful my furry friend. Your claws are sharp. Sometimes you do not realize your own strength. Here, I will toss this stick out on to the lawn, and you will find it and return it to me. Do you understand?

Cringer growled with pleasure. He loved the long afternoons he and his master spent in games and fun. Adam hurled the wooden stick high into the air. It soared over the flower beds and landed far away in a bushy area at the very edge of the castle grounds. Sometimes Prince Adam didn’t realize his own strength either.

Cringer charged away after the stick.

Prince Adam: Good cat. Find it and bring it to me.

Suddenly a huge black shadow swept across the green lawn. The warm afternoon air was stirred to a chill at the flapping overhead of two gigantic wings. Prince Adam gazed up into the cloudless sky and saw an amazing sight. It was Zoar, the falcon. The great winged bird whose wingspan was more than 20 yards across glided low, skimming the tops of the tall trees that surrounded the castle walls. And most amazing of all, on the falcon’s wide feathered back rode Man-At-Arms, Prince Adam’s teacher and companion. In a swooping arc the giant bird and its rider soared over the lawn and landed in a flurry just a few yards from the young prince. Man-At-Arms slid down along one of the gigantic wings as Prince Adam rushed to his side.

05
Image source: He-Man.org

Prince Adam: Greetings my friend, and greetings to Zoar the falcon too. I see concern on your brow, my teacher.

The enormous bird settled its mammoth wings by its side in a gust of wind as Man-At-Arms put his hand on Prince Adam’s mighty shoulder, and the two of them walked through the garden, talking.

Man-At-Arms: I am afraid, sire, that I am not the bearer of good news.

maa
Image source: He-Man.org

Prince Adam: This I sensed, my friend. Please tell me what is wrong.

Man-At-Arms: There is trouble in the northlands my lord. The wicked Skeletor has found his way dangerously close to castle Grayskull.

Prince Adam: That boney fiend! His wickedness knows no bounds,

Man-At-Arms: It is worse than you think my prince. Skeletor has learned of the wisdom of the elders which is hidden deep inside castle Grayskull. He has vowed by all that is unholy to break into the castle and gain control over the elders’ wisdom.

Prince Adam: This must not be done! With this power Skeletor could easily rule all Eternia. His cruel leadership would plunge our world back thousands of years into the dark ages once more. All across the planet the light of hope and joy would be snuffed out by this fiend. He must, he will be stopped if it takes my last breath to do it.

Man-At-Arms: I knew, my lord, that you would not let your people down. The fate of the planet rests on the outcome of this battle.

In an instant Prince Adam reached down and grasped the sword which always hung by his side. He seized it in his strong hand and lifted it high overhead. It gleamed in the afternoon sun. This was the sword of power, given to him by the Sorceress, protector of Castle Grayskull.

With this mighty weapon, Prince Adam could transform himself and his pet tiger Cringer into He-Man and Battle Cat, his armored mount.

Prince Adam: I am ready to do my duty to defend this planet. Skeletor will perish!

Then, in a booming voice that echoed off the Castle walls and out into the forest, Prince Adam shouted the magic words that would cause his amazing transformation.

Prince Adam: By the power of Castle Grayskull, by the power of Castle Grayskull!

HM
Image Source: Bustatoons Blog

The earth shook underfoot and black clouds swept across the Eternian sky, darkening the sun. Overhead, the heavens opened up and down through the inky clouds flashed a brilliant bolt of white light. In a split second it flashed on the very tip of the sword power like a bolt of lightning. A shower of blue sparks flew upward toward the heavens. Even the gods watched on in amazement as in a blinding moment the molecules of Prince Adam’s body danced and swirled in a kaleidoscopic pattern of energy and change. Moments later as the blue smoke cleared, Prince Adam was gone. In his place, muscles poised for action, stood He-Man.

By his side stood Battle Cat. The power of Castle Grayskull had transformed Cringer into a fierce animal, a huge cat with green and yellow stripes and gigantic sharp claws and fangs. He-Man leaped up onto the enormous cat’s broad muscular back and with a shout, the two brave fighters charged off into the forest toward Castle Grayskull.

hm bc.jpg
Image Source: Bustatoons Blog

Meanwhile, on a rocky bluff overlooking Castle Grayskull, Skeletor and his wicked followers, Evil-Lyn, Beast Man and Tri-Klops gazed down at the view below. It was dusk and the setting Eternian sun cast strange twisted shadows as its last remaining rays filtered down through the ancient pines.

cardback_triklops
Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Far below Skeletor and his friends, rested Castle Grayskull. In the dim, half-light of sunset, the Castle glowed with an eerie green light that seemed to radiate from within the moss-covered stone walls. The eye-like windows of the skull faced castle stared out menacingly as if to warn any would be intruders to stay far away.

A shroud of swirling fog was settling over the castle now. It wrapped its misty fingers around the castle towers and spiraled towards the damp earth. The castle’s entrance, the huge tooth-lined mouth of the skull, was sealed shut. Like the mouth of a long dead man, it knew many secrets but would speak none of them. Small leathery bats flapped their way out of the cracks in the castle walls and darted madly across the blackening sky. It was a sight that would fill most people with fear and disgust. But it had just the opposite effect on Skeletor. The castle’s bony exterior mirrored his own skull face, and he gazed on admiration.

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Skeletor: Isn’t it beautiful? What a lovely sight. And to think, soon Castle Grayskull will be mine, all mine! Once I am inside the castle I will find the secret of Castle Grayskull, and the wisdom of the elders of this miserable planet will belong to me. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Of course, there is the small matter of the unavoidable fight between He-Man and me. But that is of little consequence. His puny power will prove to be no match for the power of evil I posses. By the time the sun sets another day, I, Skeletor, will be the supreme ruler of all Eternia. And Castle Grayskull will be mine! Mine! Mine!

End side one.

It is dawn on Eternia. As the morning sun creeps up above the craggy mystic mountains, it spills its warm life-giving light onto the dark and foggy valleys below. Small furry creatures stir in their holes. High in the pine trees creep birds stretch their stiff feathered wings while other birds, night predators, return home to their lairs in caves and hollow trees. Even the myriad strange plants that line the forest floor respond to the sun in a ballet of movement too slow to be seen by any eye. They unfurl tender new leaves and twist their faces toward the warmth of the rising sun.

But, this morning, the peace and tranquility of the forest is shattered by a strange intruder. It is He-Man and Battle Cat. All through the long night they’ve raced on toward castle Grayskull determined to reach the castle before Skeletor can begin his attempt to enter the fortress. Battle Cat is fast as the wind, but can they reach the castle in time?

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Nearby, at Skeletor’s campsite, everyone is still sleeping. Everyone, that is, except Panthor, Skeletor’s mammoth black cat. Perhaps it is a scent carried along the wind, or the sound of the rustling bushes that has awakened the cat’s senses. The gigantic animal is anxious and paws at the ground nervously. He smells danger. Soon Skeletor opens his wicked eyes with a start and looks around.

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Image source: He-Man.org

Skeletor: What is wrong, my good friend Panthor? Do you smell or hear something that we cannot sense yet? Up, up you lazy creatures! I have a feeling He-Man is drawing near. We must not let him catch us unprepared.

Soon, Tri-Klops, Beast Man and Evil-Lyn were awake and preparing themselves for battle. As they donned their armor, Skeletor gazed down on Castle Grayskull. Even the gleaming light of the morning sun could not erase the dark and foreboding shadows that clung to the castle walls. In the bright sunlight, Skeletor could appreciate the immense size of Castle Grayskull. Its towers reached skyward and the mammoth stones around its base dwarfed even the huge trees of the forest.

From deep within the castle walls Skeletor thought he could hear a sound, softly at first, but growing slowly louder. It was a voice. No, not one voice but rather a chorus of voices speaking as one. The voices sounded anxious as if they sensed that something dark and horrible was waiting outside the castle walls. The sound grew louder until it reverberated thru the valley and rang with a fury in Skeletor’s ears.

“I know that sound,” whispered Skeletor in a low and raspy voice. “It is the voice of the Council of Elders, keepers of the wisdom and power. Of course they are nervous. They know I am nearby and that soon all that they possess will belong to me. So sing, fools, sing! This is the day I have dreamed of all my life. By sunset, I will be the master of Castle Grayskull.”

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Image source: He-Man.org

Skeletor and his friends made their way down the side of the rocky cliff toward the castle. The approach to the castle was hard. The path was old and clogged with thorny vines and bushes. Skeletor slashed at the underbrush with his sword and hacked his way onward.

Soon they reached the entrance to Castle Grayskull. They all gathered around the raised drawbridge which was caked and crusty with age, and gazed up toward the parapets high above. The fortress seemed impenetrable.

Skeletor: I have not come this far only to be stopped by a wall of stone. We must find a way inside this blasted castle.

“Perhaps I can be of some small assistance, your royal wickedness,” intoned Evil-Lyn in her raspy bird-like voice. “I too have many powers. Watch as I demonstrate my amazing skills.”

Her bird-like eyes grew wild with excitement. “Yar!” She closed the cape overhead and grumbled a strange, unintelligible chant. A pale green mist began to form about her. Soon she was glowing with a putrid light. A foul odor filled the air. When the fetid smoke cleared, Evil-Lyn was gone. In her place scratching at the ground was a hideous vulture. It was Screeech, the alter ego of Evil-Lyn.

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The filthy bird had a plan. She would fly up to the top of the castle and see if she could gain entrance through one of the eye socket windows. With a dreadful screeching sound, the repulsive bird flapped its feathered wings and lurched skyward.

He-Man: Look, Battle Cat, do you see what I see? There by the castle tower. That ugly black bird is circling the parapet trying to get inside. By the power of Zodac, I’m sure that is Evil-Lyn, a companion of Skeletor. We must hurry. I just hope we are not too late to save the castle from this foul intruder.

He-Man and Battle Cat charged onward thru the tall bushes. The giant cat leaped high in the air, covering enormous distance with a single bound. Soon He-Man and Battle Cat arrived at a clearing right outside the castle.

He-Man: Unholy heathens! How dare you try and enter Castle Grayskull. Skeletor, you boney coward! Prepare to fight!

Skeletor: Well, well, if it isn’t He-Man, the pure and puny. We have been expecting you, haven’t we my friends? How I have looked forward to this day. Finally, a chance to put your fabled strength to the test.
You may be strong, He-Man, but you will find you are no match for the great Skeletor. You will perish, just as sure as daylight is devoured by the night, time and time again

He-Man: You are eloquent, my fiendish enemy, but you fail to understand the true nature of the universe. While it is true that night time devours the day, it is doubly true that every morning the sun returns to frighten away the cowardly darkness. Just like the darkness of midnight, you are doomed by time and fate, Skeletor. Darkness has no power here. Be gone!

Skeletor: Ha ha ha! We shall soon see who has the power in the universe. Enough talking. I grow impatient with your idle words. It is time to fight.

He-Man: I would prefer not to engage in violence, but I see now that it is the only language you understand. So, we will fight. By the power of Castle Grayskull!

Skeletor jumped up onto the mighty back of Panthor and drew his sharp sword.

Skeletor: To battle, Panthor. The enemy is upon us! Attack! Attack!

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Image source: He-Man.org

Battle Cat roared into action. He reared up on his hind legs and let out a terrifying growl. As the two arch enemies charged across the stony ground toward conflict, He-Man had drawn the sword of power, and it gleamed in the dazzling sunlight. Soon they were upon each other in battle.

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Image source: He-Man.org

The clash and clatter of sword against sword rang out across the battle field. Tri-Klops and Beast Man stood by and watched in awe as the two giants fought furiously. Suddenly, down from the sky flew Screeech. The savage vulture caught He-Man by surprise and in an instant knocked the sword of power from his hand. In a split second He-Man was struck with a bolt of energy from the sword of Skeletor, and he crashed to the ground in a cloud of dust.

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Image Source: Bustatoons Blog

Skeletor: So light always triumphs over darkness does it? We shall soon see about that. You are defeated He-Man. You are powerless without that sword.

He-Man lay on the ground, stunned and silent. Could this really be happening? Could he actually lose the battle to Skeletor? Then he heard the sound. Softly at first, like a ringing in his ears. Whispering voices. But what were they saying?

Council of Elders: Vortex! Vortex!

On the verge of unconsciousness, He-Man strained to understand the voices.

Council of Elders: The vortex! The time vortex! Right beside the castle walls. You cannot see it, but it is there. Believe us, believe us! You must trick Skeletor into the vortex. It is your only chance. The vortex, the vortex! Vortex…

He-Man staggered to his feet. He understood now. All across Eternia there are time vortexes. Mostly they are concentrated in the Sands of Time Desert, but here and there all over the planet there are these strange vacuums of empty space. Like tunnels through time, they lead back far into Eternia’s history. Anyone who stumbles into one of these holes in time will tumble backward for endless centuries.

07

He-Man knew now what he must do. Still reeling, he shouted to Skeletor, “I am down, but I am not defeated! If you want me, you will have to catch me!”

Skeletor: With pleasure, He-Man. I love the hunt as much as the kill. Come my friends, join me on Panthor. We will chase the cowardly He-Man for sport! What fun!

Beast Man, Tri-Klops and the vulture Evil-Lyn boarded Panthor, and the monstrous cat charged after He-Man. He-Man darted back and forth, leaping high onto rocks, and behind thick bushes. He was amazingly agile of foot, and soon Panthor was dizzy from the constant turning and spinning. Again He-Man heard the voices.

Council of Elders: Over here! Trick him over here! Into the vortex. But be careful. The vortex will capture you too, if you misjudge the distance. Be brave! Be brave! The entire planet is counting on your skill.

He-Man staggered toward the spot where the vortex swirled invisibly. Once he was sure of the exact location, he stood a few feet in front of it and shouted tauntingly to Skeletor.

He-Man: All right you bag of bones, I’m tired of playing with you. I will tear you limb from limb with my bare hands. I await you! Come to me, you coward!

The threat infuriated Skeletor. He dug his heels deep into the flanks of Panthor and with all his helpers he charged angrily toward He-Man

Skeletor: You die, you fool. You die!

He-Man stood courageously. Behind him he could feel the time vortex swirling into infinity. One false move and he would tumble backward into the past and Skeletor would conquer all of Eternia.

The mammoth black cat was almost upon him now. He could see the wild glow in Skeletor’s eyes. Then, as quickly as a fox, he jumped to one side. Skeletor and his minions were unable to stop or turn. They crashed head first into the vortex.

Skeletor: By all the devils, what is happening?

He-Man looked on in wonder as right before his eyes, Skeletor, Panthor, Evil-Lyn, Tri-Klops and Beast Man began to sparkle in the sunlight. They had fallen into the time vortex. Every molecule of their bodies was spinning madly off course and flickering on and off light a firefly. They were growing invisible.

Skeletor: Help us! Help please! Don’t let us die!

He-Man: You will not die Skeletor. You have been trapped in a time vortex. It will carry you far away from here to another time, far in the past. Perhaps for a while we here on Eternia will be safe from your tyranny. Farewell Skeletor! Farewell!

Skeletor: You may have tricked me this time, but be warned. You have not seen the last of me. I will find my way out of this time trap, and return to challenge you again, He-Man. Of that you may be sure. You have not seen the last of Skeletor. I will have revenge. Revenge! Revenge! Revenge!

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The voice of Skeletor faded away to nothing and he was gone, lost in the swirling infinity of time. But He-Man knew better than to count his enemy out. If anyone could find his way back from the depths of history, it was the evil Skeletor. And if it wasn’t Skeletor, it would be yet another foe. For there is always some selfish soul ready to take up the low road of tyranny. He-Man knew at that moment that the battle would never be truly over. In his heart, he knew that he would struggle all his life against the cowards and bullies who mistake gentleness and concern for weakness and fear. But if there were battles to be fought, he could think of no better cause. It was as old as time itself. All across the infinite universe, thousands of brave men and women were carrying on the struggle against tyranny. He was but one lone soldier in an army of heroes. Together, they were truly Masters of the Universe.

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Masters of the Universe (reprise)

We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe
The universe, the universe

Lost in space, lost in time
With our mighty power
We will fight, we will win
The victory shall be ours
It shall be ours

We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe
We are the makers of our destiny
And we will struggle ‘til the universe is free

We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe
The universe, the universe

Lost in space, lost in time
With our mighty power
We will fight, we will win
The victory shall be ours
It shall be ours

We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe

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Night Stalker: Evil Armored Battle Steed! (1985)

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I remember getting Night Stalker as a birthday surprise in the fall of 1985. I believe I got him along with Battle Bones. I hadn’t heard anything about either toy, but I was pretty impressed with both of them. Of course as long as I got He-Man toys, I was happy. I was an easy kid to shop for.

Night Stalker, along with Faker, Screeech, Stinkor, Moss Man and Panthor, come from the “cheap repaint” school of Masters of the Universe toy design. Night Stalker was a recast version of Stridor (who had been released the year before), in gold, purple and black. The US release did not include a recolored version of Stridor’s head armor piece, but Brazilian, Venezuelan, and French versions did. His sticker designs were quite different from Stridor’s.

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From the 1985 Mattel Dealer Catalog. Images via Orange Slime.
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Like Stridor, Night Stalker had a surprising lack of articulation. The design of his legs would lead you to believe that they were movable, but in fact they were not. The only moving parts on both horses were the tail, the rear gun, and the front guns. I was a little surprised by this fact when I first opened him up, but given the lack of articulation on Battle Cat, I made my peace with it pretty quickly.

Unlike an organic horse, Night Stalker was outfitted with a cockpit. The rider would sit in a seat with his legs inside the mechanical steed’s body. He could control the horse via a control panel rather than reins:

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Night Stalker’s control panel.

Night Stalker was sold individually and in a gift set with Jitsu. I’ve always liked the fact that Night Stalker had a rider associated with him besides Skeletor. I feel like it adds a bit of depth to both Jitsu and Night Stalker. You can imagine the two of them having independent adventures far away from Skeletor’s watchful eye.

The artwork on the individually packaged Night Stalker was done by an unknown artist, who I believe also did the artwork for Panthor, Stridor, Point Dread and others. The artwork for the two-pack was done by the great William George:

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Image source: Hake’s Americana
Image courtesy of Tokoynever

To date I haven’t identified any colored cross sell art for Night Stalker. Some red line art appears on the back of the Fright Zone box, and I also located some black and white line art created for advertising copy, featuring Jitsu as the rider:

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Night Stalker didn’t show up in the mini comics, but he did make a few appearances in the UK Masters of the Universe comic book series (images via He-Man.org):

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Note that He-Man is actually riding Stridor, who has been inadvertently colored in Night Stalker’s colors.
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In Issue 3 of the series, Tri-Klops rides a living horse that seems to resemble Night Stalker, although it may be a coincidence (hat tip to James Eatock, who made that observation 10 years ago on his blog).

Night Stalker also makes a couple of appearances in the German audio plays (hat tip to Tetsuo S.):

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

Night Stalker also appears quite frequently in the German Ehapa Verlag comic series:

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Image source: He-Man.org

According to James Eatock’s excellent He-Man and She-Ra guide, Night Stalker was intended to appear the Filmation He-Man series under the name “Knight Mare”,  but for some reason never found his way into an episode. I would guess that that that name Knight Mare was Night Stalker’s initial working name at Mattel. The robotic horse was also called Knight Mare in the old German toy magazines and audio plays (hat tip to Klemens F. and Kevin D.).

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Image source: He-Man and She-Ra, A complete Guide to the Classic Animated Adventures, by James Eatock and Alex Hawkey

Night Stalker seems to be less popular than his heroic brother Stridor, but personally I prefer the evil horse. I’m sure part of that is driven by nostalgia (I never owned Stridor as a kid), but I also think his color scheme is just more striking.

From the 1985 German MOTU magazine. Image via He-Man.org.

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