Tag Archives: Skeletor

Ram Man: Heroic human battering ram! (1983)

Ram Man, released in the second wave of Masters of the Universe Action figures, was a big favorite of mine as a kid. Sure, his legs were fused together and his articulation was rather limited, but his unique appearance and action feature made him a prominent protagonist in the battle against the forces of darkness (a battle that happened every day after school on the floor of my bedroom).

Ram Man’s action is demonstrated in this commercial:

Designed by Mark Taylor, Ram Man had several unique looks in the early stages of his conception:

Image via The Art of He-Man

In the left-most drawing he seems to have some technological elements in his helmet design. In the drawing on the right his face is entirely obscured by his helmet, and he looks more Lord of the Rings than Buck Rogers. The second image is ultimately closer to the final Ram Man design than the first.

Update: another stage of the design is shown in the concept below, which is much closer to the final look of the character. The costume is quite similar to the design shown above and to the right, but the face is exposed.

Image courtesy of Doug Feague

Update: This design was developed into a similar character called Jumping Jack Flash (below). Aside from the helmet and facial hair, he looks very close to the final Ram Man figure. He also features metal gauntlets rather than leather straps. He carried a “mace grenade” that would fly loose when the character popped up from internal springs.

Image courtesy of Rebecca Salari Taylor

Another Mark Taylor design for a dwarf figure named Hercule featured a similar action feature. Instead of simply ramming, the idea was that this figure’s spring-loaded legs would cause him to tumble forward in the air at his opponents. I’m not sure exactly how this would have worked in practice, but several elements from Hercule made it into Ram Man’s final design.

Source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

The prototype Ram Man figure (below) carries over the color scheme from Jumping Jack Flash. The face and helmet design have been greatly modified, however. The prototype looks very close to the final figure, color scheme aside. Some differences include the fact that his eyes are closed and that his silver upper arm/shoulder armor is incorporated into his arm pieces

From the ’84 UK Annual, via Jukka Issakainen
Image source: He-Man.org

The cross sell art was based on the prototype, and includes all the same elements, down to the color scheme:

Ram Man cross sell artwork. Image courtesy of Axel Giménez.

Ram Man appears in the 1983 dealer catalog along with all the other new figures released that year, with a new red and green color scheme:

Hand-painted final prototype Ram Man.

Ram Man was the first figure in the MOTU line whose parts were not reused for any other figure. He came packaged with his axe weapon and a comic book. His arm bracers were sculpted and covered with a silver sticker rather than a layer of paint. The sculpt of his arms is quite soft compared to most MOTU figures, but he has a lot of detail elsewhere. The color scheme of the toy is red and green; however, the packaging artwork portrays Ram Man in the prototype colors:

Aside from the single carded figure, Ram Man was available in the following gift sets:

  • Ram Man/Zoar
  • He-Man/Teela/Ram Man

Ram Man had his own mini comic dedicated to him called He-Man Meets Ram-Man (incorrectly hyphenating the character’s name). Rammy is portrayed from the start as a bit thick, which is appropriate for a character whose primary attack involves self-inflicted brain injury. There is an early misunderstanding where Ram Man gets in a fight with He-Man and loses. Skeletor is able to use that to trick Ram Man into bashing his head repeatedly against Castle Grayskull’s doors.

Ram Man is essentially good-hearted, and in the end he turns on Skeletor and comes to He-Man’s aid:

Artwork similar to the Ram Man mini comic was used in this French coloring book:

Image source: Super Shogun

Ram Man as portrayed in the Filmation cartoon was even slower than he was in the mini comics. In certain frames it’s also evident that the artists envisioned Ram Man’s legs as actual springs that propelled him toward enemies (or more often, walls).

Image source: Bustatoons

In the Filmation Series guide, Ram Man resembles the cross sell art more than the toy:

Source: He-Man.org

Ram Man made fairly frequent appearances in mini comics, story books, and marketing materials:

From The Secret Liquid of Life
From the 1985 Demons of the Deep. Ram Man appears in his prototype colors. Illustrated by Fred Carillo.
From the 1984 UK Annual (image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen)
From the 1982 Licensing Kit. Source: He-Man.org. Art by Errol McCarthy
From the 1982 Licensing Kit. Source: He-Man.org. Art by Errol McCarthy.

For some reason Ram Man made no appearances in box art, and few appearances in posters, despite being one of a select number of figures that had a commercial dedicated just to him. Still, Ram Man frequently appeared on the Filmation cartoon and remains a popular character to this day.

Illustration by William George, 1984

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Zodac: Cosmic Enforcer (1982)

The most enigmatic of all Masters of the Universe characters, Zodac was released in the second half of 1982. A late addition to the first wave of figures, Zodac was created to round out the original group of eight figures.

Design & Development

It’s probably fairly well known among fans now that two separate Mark Taylor characters, Teela and Sorceress (aka Goddess), were eventually combined into a single character (Teela). Apparently Mattel’s marketing group didn’t think there was enough demand for two female action figures in one year. That left seven figures for the first year, instead of the eight that were planned. Enter Zodac.

Another Mark Taylor design, Zodac borrowed Skeletor’s arms and legs and Beast Man’s furry chest. New parts included his head, armor, and blaster.

Zodac was originally called Sensor. The idea was that his space-age looking helmet gave him heightened sensory perception.

From the Mark Taylor Portfolio, published by Super7/The Power and the Honor Foundation
Image source: The Toys That Made Us/The Power and the Honor Foundation. Artwork by Mark Taylor.

As indicated by the artwork above, the design stuck closely to the textured arm and leg sculpts used on the finalized versions of Skeletor and Mer-Man.

When the cross sell art was created, Zodac was given very similar forearms and boots to the ones used in the Skeletor and Mer-Man cross sell art, rather than the more textured look of the actual toys. Perhaps this was done to maintain consistency across the artwork:

Zodac cross sell art. Image courtesy of Tokyonever.
Skeletor cross sell art

The prototype is somewhat different from the final figure. Like the b-sheet, the lower sides of Zodac’s helmet are red (they are painted gray in the production version). The white design on his chest armor is quite thick compared to the final toy, and the gun seems to have a wider barrel but narrower “fins” and a shorter handle compared to the toy version.

Prototype Zodac
Prototype Zodac

Production Figure

The final has some slight alterations to the armor and gun, but it otherwise very similar to the prototype:

The very first Taiwan release has this unique-looking connector piece on the lower back. Subsequent versions have a more standardized look compared to other first wave figures.

Zodac’s armor has “bullets” stored bandolier-style at the sides of his armor. I think that’s a really interesting touch, as you don’t normally associate laser pistols with bullets. I like to think his weapon is a fairly primitive kind of laser pistol that can only get off one shot at a time using some kind of single-use cartridge – possibly scavenged from the post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Bullets!

Cosmic Enforcer & Beyond

Zodac was originally sold on the “8-back” with the tag line, “Cosmic Enforcer”. But what is a cosmic enforcer?

According to the 1981 Mattel licensing kit (the earliest material we have on Zodac), it meant that Zodac was a bounty hunter. The Empire Strikes Back had come out the year before, and Boba Fett was a very popular character. It may be that Zodac was portrayed this way to capitalize on that popularity. The original intent by creator Mark Taylor, however, was for Zodac to be a heroic warrior,

Source: He-Man.org

The above describes Zodac as “The Cosmic Enforcer. The bounty hunter of our exciting universe.” Contrast that to Mark Taylor’s original description of his character:

Sensor: Man of the the future scientifically heightened senses, knowledge & weapons. Acts in support roll to He-man and as a foil to Tee La’s mystic nature.

The bounty hunter thing didn’t stick, and Zodac very quickly became a kind of cosmic observer (much like Jack Kirby’s Metron character), intervening in Eternian affairs only when absolutely necessary.

In the 1982 DC Comics MOTU series, Zodac is “rider of the spaceways”. Like Metron, he travels through space in a flying chair (in this case it’s the throne from Castle Grayskull). He is not aligned with the heroic warriors, but he does intervene when it looks like Skeletor is about to gain too much of an advantage:

In Fate is the Killer, Zodac describes himself as “neither good nor evil”. In the panels below, he tells He-Man that he must take him from Eternia, or else kill him, for the good of the planet:

In the 1983 Sword of Skeletor by publisher Golden Books, Zodac is described as a wizard, but he serves the same function as the DC comics Zodac. He intervenes to get He-Man into Castle Grayskull, so he can stop Skeletor, who has taken control. All of this is to keep the “balance between good and evil”.

From The Sword of Skeletor

In the 1983 comic, Power of Point Dread (the large version that came with the Point Dread & Talon Fighter playset and vehicle), Zodac again steps in at the last minute to aid He-Man. Zodac speaks of keeping a universal balance, which Skeletor has threatened by keeping He-Man from guarding Castle Grayskull. Zodac rights the balance by showing He-Man the Talon Fighter, which he uses to defeat Skeletor:

In the 1983 Filmation cartoon, Zodac is again presented as a Metron-like figure, stepping in at the last minute to indirectly intervene. In some ways Zodac is also a kind of Eternian god.

In the cartoon he is clearly an all-powerful character who sees and understands all. The most important of his three episodes is “The Search”, in which he sends He-Man out on a quest to prevent Skeletor reaching the Star Seed, a powerful object that will give him control over the whole universe. A twist ending reveals that Zodac set up the whole affair, telling Skeletor of the Star Seed and sending He-Man to defend it, in a test of He-Man’s ability to resist the temptation of using the Star Seed’s power for himself. – Wiki Grayskull

Source: Filmationcels.com  Colors by Jukka Issakainen

In the episode “Golden Disks of Knowledge”, it’s revealed that Zodac is the last member of the “Council of the Wise”. At the episode’s conclusion, Zodac transforms Zanthor (who had redeemed himself after some misdeeds) into a fellow cosmic enforcer. He’s even given the same costume as Zodac:

The 1982 MOTU Bible, written by Michael Halperin, describes the character like this:

 ZODAC, the wise leader of the Council of Elders, called to the stars for advice… The Council listened to the vision which promised them that if ever the forces of evil should try overcoming Eternia a champion would arise to defend the planet…

Zodac gathered the Council of Elders in the Hall of Wisdom and collectively they concentrated their mind force until the sheer power of their consciousness created a mighty force field. At that moment, an implosion cracked through the corridors of the Hall and the Council disappeared in a blinding flash of energy. Only Zodac retained his human form as one of the Eternia’s guardians.

The 1984 UK Annual describes Zodac like this:

Although neither good nor evil, Zodac, the Cosmic Enforcer, has a vital role to play in this battle between good and evil. There have been many times when Skeletor has attempted to alter the balance of the universe – and several times when he has almost succeeded. In a situation like this, Zodac’s role is to prevent this – by tipping the scales to achieve another balance. This often means informing He-Man of what his enemy is planning to do – or by showing him the future if Zodac is successful, so that He-Man himself can do something about it. Zodac never interferes directly in the affairs of Eternia, but we may be sure that he is always watching.

Evil Cosmic Enforcer

Obviously not everyone at Mattel was on the same page with the story line that had developed between 1982 and 1983. On the 1983 reissued 12-back card, Zodac is portrayed unambiguously as an evil warrior. The artwork by Errol McCarthy shows Zodac attacking He-Man with his blaster.

Illustration at top by Errol McCarthy. Image source: KMKA

By 1983, cross sell art appearing in minicomics and on packaging rebranded Zodac as the “Evil Cosmic Enforcer”.

attak trak back - Copy
Image source: Vaults of Grayskull. Notice that his name is spelled with a “K” here. That spelling would later be used in the 2002 MOTU series.

I should also note that Zodac also appears in another 1983 figure sheet as simply “Cosmic enforcer” (his name is also spelled correctly):

In this 1983 commercial featuring all Masters of the Universe characters produced up until that time, Zodac is grouped with the Evil Warriors:

In the Ladybird-published 1986 He-Man and the Asteroid of Doom, Zodac is portrayed as Skeletor’s evil flunky:

The 1984 mini comic “Slave City” originally featured a villain named Zodak. When the team producing the comic book discovered that “Zodak” had an actual settled on appearance, they changed the villain’s name to Lodar by altering some of the letters in the text:

Reconstructed by Jukka Issakainen

Zodac appeared on the side of the Evil Warriors in this poster illustrated by William George:

Artwork by R.L. Allen; Zodac is being attacked by Man-E-Faces

In several coloring books Zodac was portrayed as a heroic warrior:

Icons of the first wave

Zodac in Action

A photo and a short video of Skeletor in action, contributed by Øyvind Meisfjord:

Zodac wasn’t heavily promoted, and I don’t remember him being all that popular with my friends when I was a kid. Maybe it was because we didn’t know what to do with Zodac. But like Faker, he has become something of a cult favorite among MOTU fans today.

Zodac’s one and only appearance in box art – from Rudy Obrero’s Castle Grayskull illustration

 Special thanks to Jukka Issakainen for providing valuable feedback and several images.

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Skeletor: Lord of Destruction! (1982)

Released with the first wave of characters in the original Masters of the Universe toy line, Skeletor would eventually become one of the most iconic and memorable villains of the 1980s.

Castle Grayskull box art by Rudy Obrero

I remember getting Skeletor along with He-Man, Beast Man and Man-At-Arms in 1982.  I hadn’t even heard of these figures before getting them as Christmas presents. I don’t remember what toys I owned before that day, but the experience of opening and playing with these toys for the first time is permanently etched in my brain. Skeletor especially made a big impression on 5-year-old me. I’d never seen anything like him.

Design & Development

Like all the other first-wave MOTU figures, Skeletor was designed by Mattel artist Mark Taylor. Taylor’s 1979 drawing (before the MOTU line was first conceived) featured his He-Man-like character “Torak” and included a villain in the background who bears a striking resemblance to Skeletor:

Torak, by Mark Taylor. Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation
Close-up of Skeletor-like villain, from The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog

Mark Taylor did another sketch, predating his work at Mattel, that informed his later Skeletor design. In the drawing below, we see a mummy-like character, complete with torn bandages. He has a decaying body and face, but he also has elements of the final Skeletor costume that are recognizable – most notably in the cross bones on his chest. From the crown and collar, he looks like some kind of undead king.

The sketch was recently found by Rebecca Salari Taylor (Mark Taylor’s wife). Of the sketch, she said:

It was done before Mark went to Mattel. I found it in a sketchbook. He has a few versions of skeletons as warriors and royalty. It is based off of a story he wrote once when he was a kid in college… about a skeleton king called “The King of Styx” … circa 1971. I found a new stash of sketchbooks when they repaired our garage.

Image source: Rebecca Salari Taylor. Sketch by Mark Taylor.
A print of “Evil Incarnate”, offered at Power-Con in 2018 as a part of Mark’s “Sketches 1” portfolio. Image courtesy of Doug Feague.

The above drawing was first teased in this poster image sold at Grayskull Con in 2013, produced by the Power and Honor Foundation:

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

The concept character who has come to be known as Demo-Man (1980) is often considered to be an early version of Skeletor, although according to designer Mark Taylor he is a separate character (possibly designed as a villain for the abandoned Conan line, per Emiliano Santalucia). While this Taylor design does feature a skeletal face, it otherwise bears little resemblance to Skeletor. In fact, Demo-Man seems more similar to Beast Man in many ways. It’s unclear what might have become of this character had he been further developed. His sword design seems influenced by the sword in the “undead king” sketch Mark did before coming to Mattel.

The sinister Demo-Man

The B-sheet for “D Man” gives us the first look at a close to final and “official” Skeletor design. He retains the decaying face and general body shape and pose from the mummy sketch. His costume is much more recognizable as Skeletor, however, and he has his characteristic blue skin. He has the five-toed bare feet and yellow bat detail around his shin guards and chest armor that would later appear in the first minicomics. The head of the staff was meant to be attached via string and would have doubled as a flail.

Colored version of Mark Taylor’s Skeletor concept art, published by Super7 and the Power and the Honor Foundation. Image courtesy of Axel Giménez.

The D Man B-sheet was translated into a clay model by legendary Mattel sculptor Tony Guerrero. The paint details on the face were altered to the familiar yellow/green scheme, and the handle of the staff was left unfinished.

Skeletor prototype, sculpted by Tony Guerrero. Notice his stance is very similar to both the concept art and the cross sell art. Image via He-Man.org
Skeletor’s prototype seems to built on top of the original He-Man sculpt. The leg musculature looks identical.

This design was highly detailed and would have required a lot of unique parts. Presumably to save money, Skeletor’s design was simplified and made more generic and reusable.

Skeletor cross sell art

The cross sell art (above) seems to be the next step in Skeletor’s evolution, before the final toy. Skeletor was given legs that could be reused for Mer-Man, with three-toed feet and a more generic shin guard. Instead of the decrepit forearms, he was given unpainted gloved forearms that could be reused for Mer-Man (ironically Mer-Man would eventually lose the painted gloves, making this design change unnecessary). Other differences from the B-sheet include a wider “skirt” and a simplified bird motif on the belt.

Skeletor hand painted prototype. The skirt piece seems to be broken and on backwards.

This final prototype (above two images) shows some further changes to the design. The boots were given a scaly, organic appearance, and the “gloved” forearms were made to look more ambiguous, as if they could either be gloves or bony protrusions. Again, this seems designed to make these molded parts fit with either Skeletor or Mer-Man. Interestingly, the armor seems to sit higher on the body than the final toy.

Packaging

The first release of Skeletor featured the iconic “8-back” packaging. Reissues featured a scene on the card back of Skeletor looking rather sneaky, with Castle Grayskull in the background (art by Errol McCarthy].

Image courtesy of Axel Giménez.

Production Figure

The very first run of Skeletor figures had an error in the face paint. As Mattel marketing director Mark Ellis explained:

As with all large scale endeavors, screw-ups happen. After production was authorized, the factories started to turn out the characters in amazing quantities. I walked by Tall Paul’s office one day and he had a set of MOTU figures on his desk. I picked up Skeletor and noticed on his right cheek there was an orange mark. I asked Paul and he deduced that before the paint master was shipped to the factory, apparently it was moved or some stray color was accidentally added to make that orange mark. So Paul went down and got it fixed, but not before thousands and thousands were produced with that “error.”

This was actually the version I had as a kid. I certainly didn’t see it as an error. When I re-bought Skeletor as an adult, none of the Skeletors looked quite right to me until I found the one with orange cheeks. I remember staring for hours at that face as a kid, memorizing every detail.

Early versions of Skeletor had half-painted boots, which were probably meant to represent shin guards. He also had purple shorts and a black belt. Later versions had fully-painted boots and black shorts (and of course the corrected face paint). The full boot version has traditionally been associated with the black shorts/corrected face, but there are in between versions as well:

Half boots, black shorts, orange cheeks
Half boots, black shorts, corrected cheeks

All of the above have a hit of light blue in the eye sockets as well, which would eventually be cut. Below we see corrected face paint with full boots and black shorts, and no light blue in the eyes:

There are of course all kinds of international production variants as well, with subtle and not-so subtle differences from the initial Taiwan versions.

Gift Sets

Skeletor was sold in a number of configurations, apart from the single-carded figure. I’ll t get into Skeletor variants in future posts (ie, Battle Armor Skeletor, Dragon Blaster Skeletor, etc), but the standard release Skeletor was available in the following gift sets:

  • Skeletor/Panthor
  • Skeletor/Screech
  • Battle For Eternia (Skeletor/Panthor/Man-E-Faces)
  • Evil Warriors (Beast Man/Skeletor/Faker)
  • He-Man/Skeletor (German set)
  • JCPenney Skeletor/Beast Man
  • JCPenney Skeletor/Mer-Man

You can explore what these gift sets looks looked like at the excellent Grayskull Museum site.

Skeletor in Action

A photo and a short video of Skeletor in action, contributed by Øyvind Meisfjord:

Artwork

The box art for the sets featuring Skeletor with Panthor or Screech are particularly good. They capture the same Frazetta feel as Rudy Obrero’s artwork, but with a slightly different flavor. I include the single packaged Panthor art piece as well, because I like the artist’s depiction of Skeletor so much:

The Skeletor/Screech artwork was painted by Rudy Obrero, while the others were likely done by William Garland.

Advertising

Skeletor was featured along with He-Man in this very early live-action commercial:

Minicomic Looks

One of the most memorable depictions of Skeletor in any media was created by Alfredo Alcala, who did the artwork for nine MOTU mini comics, the Power of Point Dread comic book/record set, and the 1982 DC series (he is credited with the inks rather than the artwork for the DC series, but his stylistic influence is evident).

Notice the body and clothing in the above illustration almost exactly match Mark Taylor’s b-sheet (this example is from the first mini comic, He-Man and the Power Sword). The face looks like a creepier, more ghoulish version of the vintage toy, however.

This artwork from The Power of Point Dread (above) is based on the cross sell art, but again the design of the skull face is unique to Alcala.

Sinister Origins

Taylor wasn’t responsible for writing the back story for any of the characters, but he did have one in mind when he created Skeletor:

[Skeletor] is a corrupted super human. His father threw him into the “Pit of Souls” as a youth to eliminate him as a claimant to the throne (Grayskull). Years after, the tribe was completely eliminated by a malevolent witch poisoner (Skeletor’s mother) who then helped him escape from the “Well” but when she saw what it had done to him she went insane and drank her own poison.

His stay in the demonic “Well of Souls” morphed his body and soul forever, before he looked very much like He Man. …. [His] hood is to help hide his glowing eyes and camouflage his distinct silhouette. It is made of the eyelid of a dragon that tried to kill him just after he emerged from the “Well”. [His armor] is made from the hide of an armadillo type monster that dared to defy him, it is tougher than steel.

[Skeletor] is the ultimate bipolar, from quiet malevolent to towering rage. … Not counting the time warp in the “Well of Souls” he is about 317 years old but he doesn’t celebrate birthdays… he never sleeps.

Taylor had no involvement in the production of mini comics, other than seeing them and approving them. The first official origin story (written by Don Glut) gave a simple but effective origin for Skeletor. He was an evil demon from another dimension, bent on stealing the power from within Castle Grayskull, and bringing more of his kind into Eternia. He was apparently brought into Eternia when the “Great Wars” ripped a hole between dimensions.


A dimension full of Skeletors!

Much later in the line, it was hinted that Skeletor was once Keldor, brother to King Randor, but the story was never fleshed out until the 2002 cartoon series.

Animation

Perhaps the most widely-recognizable look for Skeletor came from the Filmation cartoon series. Voiced to perfection by Alan Oppenheimer, Skeletor featured a stripped down, more humanoid design, and more angry-looking eyes than the original toy:

There is a brief reference to Skeletor’s origins in the cartoon. In “The Greatest Adventures of All” VHS release, the Sorceress mentions that Skeletor is a demon from another dimension, which accords with the Don Glut story. (Thanks to both Jukka Issakainen and Dušan Mitrović for the information.) This idea is even more fleshed out in the December 1982 MOTU Bible, written by Michael Halperin:

A new vitality soared through their veins as they woke their new bodies to the horrid laughter of Infinita’s remaining ruler — the evil, megalomaniacal, power-mad monster, SKELETOR.

Beneath his hood eyes peered at them from the dark sockets of his skull face and his voice rang hollowly from the recesses of his bony jaws. In his hand he grasped the black, ram-headed HAVOC STAFF. He knew they were the minions he needed to break the Space Portal seal so he could invade and conquer Eternia. On the other hand Evil-Lyn, Beast-Man and Tri-Klops recognized Skeletor as their device for wreaking vengeance throughout the universe.

Skeletor led them to his lair beneath the twin peaks of SNAKE MOUNTAIN. Around one of the crags twisted a terrible carved snake. A portal along the snake’s back until it reached the fanged mouth. Entrance here entrapped the incautious stranger for once a person stepped into the snake’s jaws they snapped shut thrusting the trespasser into almost inescapable dungeon.

A footbridge connected one mountain with the other where a blood red waterfall cascaded over crags, past blasted trees and murky swamps. Skeletor’s chamber hid behind BLOOD FALLS and only he knew its entrance, its traps and snares. The lair itself was a dark cavern dripping with venom. In one corner, its eyes blazing red, its tail twitching, sat Skeletor’s pet and charger, the giant cat PANTHOR. Its purple fur glistened as its muscles rippled when it stretched out iron claws from the mighty paws.

Skeletor waved his staff and a charge of energy sprang forth rolling back a huge boulder from one wall uncovering a screen. A wave of his hand and a picture swam into view — a picture of Eternia then that of King Randor and Marlena. At the sight of the former captain, the trio snarled and clenched their fists – and it wasn’t lost on Skeletor.

“I see you feel as I do. You’d like to invade Eternia and conquer it. My reasons are simple enough. Infinita can no longer sustain life.  We need Eternia’s air and food and I intend to take it by force. If you are with me we can accomplish our aim. But before we do we must break through the Space Portal sealed centuries ago against my ancestors. Once that’s done we’ll wipe out that simpering Eternian goodness and our dark powers will reign over all Eternia — over all the universe.”

In the animated commercial for the MOTU toy line produced by Filmation in 1982, Skeletor looked even more menacing than his later appearances in the show, with a more detailed design:

I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface on Skeletor. I could cover all his appearances in the box art, or the different comic book depictions and characterizations, or all the advertising and merchandising related to the character, but this really would turn this blog post into a novella. And maybe that’s what you’d need to really do justice to the evil lord of destruction!

I’ll return to the topic another time when I discuss Skeletor variant figures. Perhaps I’ll also do a separate post just on Skeletor-related box art, with some more detailed pictures of packaging.

Special thanks to Jukka Issakainen and Dušan Mitrović for some corrections and guidance on this topic.

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1982 Mattel Toys Dealer Catalog

Note: I recently acquired my own copy of this catalog. I’ve updated this article with all-new, high resolution scans. Please allow a moment or two for the images to load, or try refreshing the page if some images are missing. Open images in a new page if you wish to zoom in and see fine details.

Here is the 1982 Mattel Toys dealer catalog (or at least the portion relevant to the MOTU line). Intended for retailers, the catalog debuted at Toy Fair, February 17, 1982. Mattel’s dealer catalogs showcased all the latest and greatest releases, along with existing merchandise. Because the Masters of the Universe line debuted in 1982, this catalog has the smallest amount of space devoted to the line (only three pages) compared to subsequent years. What’s valuable about this particular catalog is that all of the MOTU items are prototypes (albeit late-stage prototypes, with a few exceptions), rather than factory-produced examples. The sculpt on most of these items is the final sculpt, with the exception of Teela, Wind Raider, Zodac’s armor, Castle Grayskull’s jaw bridge (specifically the locking mechanism) and Man-At-Arms’ armor. There are earlier prototypes of figures like He-Man and Skeletor that don’t appear here – so these photos represent a snapshot of what had been finalized at a particular point in time, very close to the debut of the line in stores.

Note that Battle Cat has orange paint around his mouth and a striped tail, which appear to be applied by hand. A few pre-production examples with this paint scheme are known to exist, although the production version lacks those details. Most of these figures appear to be hand-painted. That is most apparent on Castle Grayskull, which has a much finer paint job than any of the production versions I’ve seen. This hand-painted version pops up in product photography several times.

The prototype Teela that appears in this catalog is my absolute favorite version of the character. The mass-produced toy didn’t have nearly as much depth. I’m also quite fond of the prototype Wind Raider that appears here, which has a number of key differences from the final toy. I discuss those in greater detail in the toy features that focus on those toys.

I’ve included shots of all three pages plus closeups of each individual item.

As a side note, the photo spread on the first two pages was used as a basis for the line art that went into the Castle Grayskull instruction booklet. That line art also showed up on the back of the first version of the Castle Grayskull box.

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