Snake Men

Sssqueeze: Evil Long-Armed Viper (1987)

I have no recollection of ever seeing Sssqueeze in stores, but by 1987 I had stopped following what was new in He-Man’s world (back in the day that meant scouting out catalogs and toy aisles rather than forums and social media). My first reaction to seeing him as an adult was that I didn’t think he fit in with He-Man at all. His head reminds me of those hollow plastic Imperial beasts you used to find everywhere. And of course his ultra-long bendy arms are incredibly goofy-looking and gimmicky.  He also reminds me of something that might have come out in the Galaxy Warriors toyline.

But, as is often the case, Sssqueeze won me over once I bought an example for myself. Yes, he’s still goofy, but he’s got some interesting and unique design elements going with his costume, and I am a sucker for his bright green, purple and orange color scheme.  It’s nice that he doesn’t reuse any parts from previous figures, although he easily could have made use of legs from Rattlor or King Hiss.

Sssqueeze is a part of the Snake Men faction (their logo in on his chest). However, like Tung Lashor, he doesn’t seem to be a snake at all. His head has looks like it was taken from some kind of dinosaur. His long arms are certainly snake-like, but otherwise he seems to be a distant cousin of the Snake Men who decided to join in on their fun.

Sssqueeze’s early working name was Tanglor. The concept art below shows the character with a rather oversized head, and some black paint behind the Snake Men symbol, but otherwise it’s pretty close to the final toy, which was sculpted by Eddy Mosqueda:

“Tanglor” concept art. Image source: The Art of He-Man
Cross sell artwork courtesy of Axel Giménez. The artwork is faithful to the look of the final toy.

The figure itself had flexible rubber arms with internal metal wires to maintain their position, similar to Gumby toys. The arms could be rotated within the figure’s hard plastic body, or even slid from side to side, giving the character two arms of different lengths. He had the familiar spring loaded waist, but given the weight of his upper body, it moves rather sluggishly.

Sssqueeze in Mattel’s 1987 Dealer Catalog (image via Orange Slime)

The artwork on the back of Sssqueeze’s card was done by the prolific Errol McCarthy, and I believe the artwork on the front was done by Bruce Timm.

Sssqueeze instr
Image via Grayskull Museum
Image via He-Man.org

McCarthy also illustrated the character for use on a T-shirt and also for the 1987 Style Guide.

According to the Style Guide, Sssqueeze “entangles foes with his powerful constrictor snake arms. Sssqueeze just can’t keep his long arms off any enemy. As soon as a fight starts, he’s in the thick of things, wrapping up the first warrior he gets a grip on.”

There is also a fact file on Sssqueeze in the 1989 UK MOTU Annual:

Image source: He-Man.org

Squeeze plays a fairly major role in two mini comics released in 1987 – Revenge of the Snake Men! and Energy Zoids. In the former he goes by his working name, Tanglor.  At the behest of King Hiss, Snake Face, “Tanglor” and Blast Attak launch an assault on the royal palace, nearly succeeding in overthrowing all the heroic warriors there.

In Energy Zoids, Sssqueeze helps Skeletor capture Rotar, but ultimately becomes Rotar’s weapon as he unleashes his attack against Twistoid.

Sssqueeze works for Hordak in issue 8 of the Star Comics Masters of the Universe series, where he faces off against He-Man, who is equipped with his Scubattack accessory (images via He-Man.org).

In the Fall 1988 issues of the US Masters of the Universe Magazine, Skeletor sends Sssqueeze, Blast Attak, Snake Face and Ninjor to capture King Randor, who has been stranded in the desert.  He-Man defeats the villains with little difficulty (images via He-Man.org).

The same issue comes with a poster painted by the legendary Earl Norem. In the scene, He-Man faces off against Snake Face and Ninjor, while Clamp Champ takes on Blast Attak. Sssqueeze holds King Randor captive at the top of a cliff.

The Winter 1988 issue features a puzzle made from a tangle of Sssqueeze arms.

Image source: He-Man.org

Issue 7 of the 1988 German Ehapa Verlag comic series came with a poster by Esteban Maroto, featuring Sssqueeze, Snake Face and Blade:

Sssqueeze also appears in William George’s Preternia poster:


Sssqueeze is certainly one of the goofiest characters in the MOTU line, but also one of the most fun to play with. He’s certainly the most poseable, and works great as a desk toy.

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Artwork

Creatures of William George

One of the defining characteristics of the packaging artwork of William George is the inclusion of small dinosaur or dragon-like creatures in the background and foreground of the illustration. They add a dimension to the illustration that goes beyond simply demonstrating the product – there is also some world-building going on. The Eternia of William George is a hostile, dangerous and often desolate place, where threats come in all sizes.

I’ll only be focusing on creatures that William George invented for his paintings, not creatures that were part of the products for sale.

Battle Armor He-Man and Road Ripper (1984)

A pint-sized dinosaur and sea serpent.

Dragon Walker (1984)

A miniature pterodactyl

Road Ripper (1984)

Two lizards.

Roton (1984)

Image cleaned up by Retroist
A lizard.
A tree-climbing demon.
A flying bird, with encampment in background.

Bashasaurus (1985)

A diminutive dragon.

Land Shark (1985)

A wicked-looking little dragon.

Land Shark & Battle Armor Skeletor

Part vulture, part pterodactyl.

Laser Bolt (1986)

A tiny, beaked dinosaur.

Scubattack Power Gear (1987)

Image courtesy of Axel Giménez
A vicious-looking eel.

Megator (1988)

An ordinary horse, frightened by the stampeding Megator.

Update: Axel Giménez pointed out to me that there is another William George creature, outside of the box art. In his Bashasaurus poster, he includes one of his familiar little creatures on the rocks near Dragon Blaster Skeletor. It looks a bit like the creature in the Land Shark box art:

Image source: Jukka Issakainen
A diminutive dragon.

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Artwork

Box Art From A-Z, Part Six: 1987

box-art-a-z-graphic-1987

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 Six: 1987

Name: Beam-Blaster & Artilleray
Year: 1987
Artist: William George
Description: In a shadowy desert scene, He-Man uses the Beam-Blaster to “blast” Hordak from his position on the Artilleray vehicle.

beam-blaster

Name: Bionatops
Year: 1987
Artist: Warren Hile
Description: He-Man charges into battle atop the mighty Bionatops.

bionotops

Name: Cliff Climber Power Gear
Year: 1987
Artist: William George
Description: Man-At-Arms scales a rocky cliff face with the Roto-Drill attachment at the ready; He-Man uses the Cliff Climber’s chest crawler feature to zoom down the mountain as Skeletor loses his footing. An enormous moon illuminates a range of pointed rock formations in the background.

02

Name: Gyrattacker (unproduced)
Year: 1987
Artist: William George
Description: Rotar launches the attack module (piloted by He-Man) at Twistoid. He-Man zooms off into the crater-filled desert landscape.

gyra-grayskull-museum
Image Source: Grayskull Museum

Name: Scubattack Power Gear
Year: 1987
Artist: William George
Description: Skeletor explores the murky depths of an Eternian ocean using the Scubattack. In a separate scene, Faker and Clamp Champ, both equipped with Scubattacks, engage in underwater combat as a vicious-looking eel looks on.

scubattack-full

Name: Tower Tools Power Gear
Year: 1987
Artist: William George
Description: He-Man scales castle walls using Power Tools, as Prince Adam and Clamp Champ battle Ninjor far below. Sy-Klone and Terror Claws Skeletor battle on upper levels of the castle using Tower Tools circular saw attachments.

01

Name: Turbodactyl
Year: 1987
Artist: Warren Hile
Description: Turbodactyl, guided be He-Ro (unproduced), catches King Hiss in his claws. Several other Turbodactyls soar above a rocky cliff face.

turbo-top
turbobest

Name: Tyrantisaurus Rex
Year: 1987
Artist: Warren Hile
Description: King Hiss launches a Dyna-Drone from the mighty Tyrantisaurus Rex.

tyrantisaurus-hile
Image source: The Art of He-Man

More in this series:

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