He-Man and She-Ra: A Complete Guide to the Classic Animated Adventures is a nearly-600 page love letter to the 1983 and 1985 Filmation He-Man and She-Ra cartoons. James Eatock, the author (the She-Ra section was co-written by Alex Hawkey) has been reviewing and researching the cartoon since at least 1997, and knows more about the series than perhaps any living person. In fact, Eatock published his own Unofficial Guide to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe back in 2010, so it’s fitting now that he has been able to publish an official guide through Dark Horse.
The book takes an exhaustive look at each episode of the He-Man and She-Ra cartoons, offering a synopsis for each episode, a list of characters, memorable quotes, reviews, morals, deleted scenes, information on animation reuse, trivia, artwork and more. There is also a forward by storyboard artist and writer Robert Lamb, as well as some information on abandoned episodes.
I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for these cartoons. I remember well the power struggles over control of the TV when I was a kid. My big sisters would always steer us toward episodes of Three’s Company, Different Strokes, The Monkees or Gilligan’s Island, but when I had a choice, I would always be watching He-Man.
Having said that, the Filmation cartoons have never been the focus of my own research in this blog. My research interests lie mainly in the development of the toys and packaging and comics. So for me, the book is actually a godsend. Anything I could possibly want to know about any episode in the series seems to have already been uncovered by Eatock and Hawkey (or if it hasn’t, it’s probably unknowable).
The book is called a guide, and it works very well in that capacity. I’ve found that the best way to digest this book is to read about an episode and then go immediately watch it, so you can catch all the behind the scenes facts and surprising connections across the series.
One of my favorite things about the book is all the marvelous artwork (in fact, I think a sequel that focuses entirely on artwork would be warranted, particularly rarer pieces from the animated commercial and Filmation’s highly detailed backgrounds). Dušan Mitrović illuminates the black and white character model sheets with colors that are authentic to the look of the series:
There is a great deal of development artwork in the book, including some lovely pieces by Fred Carrillo, known primarily among fans for his work illustrating many of the Golden Books series of He-Man stories:
Eatock’s enthusiasm for the series is infectious, and even non-Filmation fans will find themselves being drawn into the depths of the series through the eyes of the author. Even if you don’t consider yourself much of a fan of the cartoon, this book is a must-own.
The last Masters of the Universe figures I would ever get as a kid were Rokkon, Stonedar and Modulok, for my birthday in 1986. All three were a surprise, and they were all a bit out in left field compared to the figures I had until that point, which mostly reused the same few basic muscular body types that originated with He-Man, Skeletor and Beast Man.
Of the two rock/comet warriors (more on that distinction later), Stonedar was my favorite, mostly because I liked the cratered surface of his outer shell, as opposed to the quartz-like surface of Rokkon’s shell.
It seems that 1986 was the year of the transforming rock toys. That same year, Hasbro released their Inhumanoids toyline, with the heroic character Granok, who could transform from a pile of rocks into a tall rock creature. Tonka also released their Rock Lords toyline, a spinoff from the GoBots series:
These transforming rock toys seem to get regularly panned in articles about 80s toys today (particularly the Rock Lords and Mattel’s rock warriors), but I’ve always liked them. Granok was the only character I owned from the Inhumanoids line, and he was one of my favorite toys growing up. He didn’t make a very convincing pile of rocks, but he was a pretty great-looking rock warrior. Stonedar was kind of the opposite – he made for a very convincing comet or rock, but as a warrior he looked a bit awkward.
Stonedar emerged from a series of designs for transforming rock characters by Ted Mayer. None of the extant concepts below is identical to either Stonedar or Rokkon, but the basic idea is evident:
Both Ted Mayer and Roger Sweet are listed as inventors on the patent application, which was filed January 14, 1986.
Stonedar was sculpted by Steve Varner, a former business partner of Eddy Mosqueda and an outside vendor at the time. The prototype (or at least one version of it) seems to be nearly identical to the final toy, with the exception of the pupils, which are unpainted. It is possible to find production examples like this as well, although they are uncommon:
The cross sell artwork for Stonedar is quite faithful to the toy design, as you can see below:
Stonedar was initially packaged on a card that proclaimed him the “Heroic leader of the rock people.” Moreover, the front of the card said, “Invincible boulder transforms into mighty warrior!” However, on subsequent versions, Stonedar was called the “Heroic leader of the comet warriors” and “Invincible meteor transforms into mighty warrior.” The change may have been made to capitalize on Halley’s Comet, which passed close to the earth in 1986 (thanks to Matthew Martin for pointing out that connection to me). The first version features artwork by Errol McCarthy on the front, while the second version features (I believe) artwork by William George on the front.
Stonedar’s transformation into a rock was achieved simply by posing him in the fetal position. For me the play pattern with Stonedar was to leave him as a boulder until an unsuspecting evil warrior walked by. Then Stonedar would leap into action, getting the best of the bad guy using the element of surprise.
Some releases of the figure had lighter blue skin. I have found both versions from the Malaysia factory. Interestingly, the plugs on their weapons are a different size and cannot be interchanged:
In the minicomic that accompanied the figure, Rock People to the Rescue, Stonedar and Rokkon would hurl themselves downhill in rock form at their enemies. In this issue they put the hurt on Kobra Khan and Webstor, which is in contrast to later stories that would paint the rock warriors as pacifists.
In Escape From The Slime Pit, the rock people are pacifists who hesitate even to defend themselves from the Evil Horde. In the end they defeat the Horde by dazzling them with their shiny armor – a feature that is also mentioned on the back of the packaging. It’s not the most compelling idea for an attack strategy. It perhaps doesn’t help that the armor on the toy isn’t particularly shiny, making the “feature” feel like something of a stretch.
The 1987 style guide, illustrated by Errol McCarthy, describes Stonedar and his people in much the the same way as the Slime Pit minicomic:
One day, a spectacular meteor shower was seen in the night sky over Eternia. This shower was actually the arrival of the Comet Warriors. Stonedar is the leader of this peaceful clan. Though his race tends to shy away from conflict of any kind, Stonedar has offered to help He-Man in the great struggle against the forces of evil. Stonedar is an exceptionally wise old man.
Stonedar can use his “blazing” armor to temporarily blind attackers in battle. He can also use his rocky arms and legs to deflect blows.
Aside from the style guide illustration, Errol illustrated Stonedar in a few other contexts for use in T-shirts and possibly other licensed products:
There is also a fact file for both Stonedar and Rokkon in the 1989 UK MOTU Annual:
Stonedar did not appear in the original Filmation He-Man series, but he did make a couple of appearances in She-Ra. As in the Slime Pit comic and style guide, the rock people are characterized as pacifists. They come to Etheria because the star of their home solar system is on the verge of exploding. The comet warriors immediately get into trouble with the Evil Horde.
Earl Norem illustrated both Stonedar and Rokkon for a poster for the winter 1986 Masters of the Universe Magazine, and, as Matthew Martin points out in the comments, the scene is reminiscent of the illustration that Errol McCarthy did for the style guide (or perhaps, considering the dates, it’s actually vice versa).
Stonedar also appears in William George’s Eternia and Preternia posters:
Stonedar, like many other figures released late in the He-Man line, was rather gimmicky, but he was still a a lot of fun to play with. Even if you don’t like the figure itself, he also works great when in rock mode as background scenery for a diorama.
Special thanks to Larry Hubbard for providing the Stonedar figure photographed for this article.