Tag Archives: Skeletor

Faker: Evil robot of Skeletor (1983)

When I was a kid, I was first introduced to Faker when visiting with a friend. I don’t remember him being a highly demanded figure among my peers. I liked him but I don’t remember begging my mom for a Faker figure. But among the adult collector community, Faker (along with Zodac) seems to have garnered something of a cult following. I can’t quite put my finger on why that might be, but at the gut level I’m right there with the rest of the fans.

By the time Faker was released in 1983, Mattel would have known they had a hit on their hands with Masters of the Universe. The brand had already made many millions of dollars in 1982, the year of its introduction. So was Faker released because he was cheap to make and the profit margins would be higher than other figures? Or was it because he required no new tooling and would allow Mattel to have another figure out in the market without much lead time? I tend to think it was the latter. New tooling would take time to put together, and Mattel showed they were willing to invest in new sculpts in the 1983 lineup. Meanwhile I would think they would wish to capitalize on the unexpected success of the MOTU line as quickly as possible.

In terms of design, Faker is, very simply, a He-Man figure with Skeletor’s sword and armor, recast in eye-catching candy colors.

In terms of parts reuse, no other figure was as direct a reuse of previous parts as Faker. Even Stinkor and Moss Man (reused from Mer-Man and Beast Man, respectively) got some scent added to their plastic or a coating of green fuzz, in the case of Moss Man. Faker is just Faker. There is something appealing about that design though. Maybe it’s the color scheme. Orange and blue are complimentary colors, after all.

The Faker prototype below is just a repainted He-Man figure. You can see a bit of the original color coming through on one of the legs. The prototype has the same orange color on the hair as on the armor and sword. You can see this is made from an earlier He-Man figure, because it has the irregular looking belly button common on early He-Man figures. Some production Faker figures lack the belly button, just as He-Man did starting in 1983, but others retain it. The prototype below has red eyes, while the production figure had black eyes.

Prototype Faker. Image via Lulu-Berlu.com by way of Grayskull Museum

It’s possible that the idea of Faker being a robot was not the original concept for the character. In this 1982 color-changing advertisement, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala, Faker is described as having powerful muscles, and there no mention of robotic parts.

Image source: http://www.battlegrip.com/

Faker came with the sticker on the chest, mostly hidden under the armor. It looks like it’s meant to represent his robotic control panel. To me it actually looks more like a reel-to-reel tape system. I like to think that Faker would be rocking out to The Fixx as he launched his assault on Castle Grayskull.

When Faker was released in 1983, he came on the same 8-back card as the original 8 figures. He must have been released in relatively low quantities, as a carded example is tough to come by now.

A rare variant of Faker (made in Taiwan) came with Skeletor’s arms. This particular version is from 1983, but includes the updated cardback with artwork by Errol McCarthy. Unless the figure is carded, it’s really impossible to tell if the figure’s arms were swapped with Skeletors, making it a variant that really only has value if it is carded.

Faker was depicted with Skeletor’s arms in a couple of posters illustrated by William George, and in the reissue card artwork illustrated by Bruce Timm (hat tip to Antoine D.):

There is a lot that can be said about production variants of Faker. The version produced in France had bright purple trunks:

Interestingly, a few early versions of Faker (made in Taiwan) seem to have come with an orange copy of Skeletor’s belt and possibly his havoc staff too:

Image source: “Slayer” via Facelessone

For more discussion on that topic, see this thread.

Probably the most sought after production variant of Faker is the Leo Toys India version. It came with all of Skeletor’s armor and accessories in either orange or red, and a rather striking bit of paint around the eyes that resembled the Lone Ranger’s mask:

The version with pink armor seems to have been patterned after the cross sell art colors:

Faker was also unusual in that he got a re-release in 1987 after having been discontinued for years. The line was struggling at the time, and most new figures were heavily reusing old parts. It must have seemed a good time to bring Faker out of retirement.

Notably, this late version of Faker came with a hard rubber head rather than the soft polyvinyl of the original release. In my opinion the hard heads don’t look as nice. The sculpt seems a bit off and doesn’t have the nice matte finish quality of the hollow polyvinyl heads. As Rahul notes in the comments, these ones had heads cast in orange with painted on faces, instead of the blue cast heads of the original release. Some versions have the larger Thunder Punch He-Man feet as well:

Faker reissue with large feet
Faker reissue with regular feet

Faker didn’t appear in a lot of media. He didn’t show up in a mini comic until his 1987 release with the Search for Keldor mini comic, where he was swiftly dispatched with a spear to the heart from King Randor:

Faker starred in his own commercial. Apparently this was produced in 1982. Could the figure have been released in 1982? Possibly, but if so, very late in the year.

Faker doesn’t appear anywhere in the 1982 dealer Catalog. He shows up for the first time in the 1983 edition:

Image source

Faker made a brief appearance in the 1984 Masters of the Universe Annual:

He also appeared a few times in illustrations by R.L. Allen and Fred Carillo:

From the Golden Giant Picture Book coloring book (Evil Warriors version), illustrated by Fred Carillo. Image via Bustatoons Blog.
Illustrated by R.L.Allen
Illustrated by R.L. Allen

Faker made a single appearance in the Filmation cartoon. While his design was a bit boring (it’s just He-Man with glowing eyes), it made a lot more sense, plot-wise. If Faker is supposed to be an evil He-Man impersonator, he would only be effective in that role with the same coloring and clothing as the real McCoy. But then, if you wanted something like that as a kid, you would just buy two He-Man figures. I don’t know of many moms who would have gone for that.

At the end of the episode, He-Man defeats Faker and sends him falling down the bottomless pit near Castle Grayskull. Skeletor makes it known that he plans to restore Faker somehow. I like to think that either the trip down the hole or the restoration would somehow have left him permanently blue.

He’s given possibly his best origin story in the 1984 UK Masters of the Universe Annual:

Image source: Vaults of Grayskull

Finally, making up the whole of Skeletor’s evil gang is Faker, a being created by Skeletor himself with the aim of looking exactly like He-Man, to create maximum trouble and confusion. Unfortunately for Skeletor something went wrong in the spell, and Faker is a miscoloured and negative version of He-Man, easily detectable as the evil being he is. Through magic, Skeletor can make him into an exact likeness, but the spell lasts only a very short time, and the evil creature is soon revealed.

Return to Table of Contents.

Masters of the Universe store display (1982)

This Masters of the Universe store display is an interesting piece. On the side with Castle Grayskull, it features a number of hand-painted prototypes or early casts, including Teela, Wind Raider, Battle Cat and Zodac. It also features a hand painted version of Castle Grayskull that was used in a lot of promotional materials. It’s the same sculpt as the final version, but the paint detail is a lot finer than what you found on any of the production castles.

Promotional Display1
The original eight figures
Promotional Display 2
Seven of the original eight figures, plus Castle Grayskull, Battle Cat and Wind Raider

Return to Table of Contents.

Panthor: Savage cat (1983)

Today we’re taking a look at Skeletor’s savage cat, Panthor. At first glance you could dismiss him as a cheap Battle Cat repaint without the helmet. When I first saw him as a kid, it was immediately apparent that that’s what he was. Battle Cat’s pose and saddle are instantly recognizable, making reuse of his sculpt more obvious than other parts (say, for instance, the standard male chest).

I think if Mattel had left him as a straight-up repaint, we as kids might have felt a bit cheated. Wisely they opted to produce Panthor with some short flocking, giving him a realistic furry texture and making us feel better about spending our allowances on him. Instead of just a an inferior copy of Battle Cat, Panthor became a deluxe toy with realistic fur. What kid could resist that?

Apparently, earlier in Panthor’s development, he was slated to reuse the Battle Cat helmet as well, and was black with purple armor:

he-man-guide-12_full
From the Filmation series guide

In retrospect it was wiser (not just cheaper) to omit the helmet, which is probably Battle Cat’s most distinctive feature. Panthor’s final color scheme was chosen by Mattel designer Martin Arriola.

On the shelves, there were a few options in 1983 if you wanted to pick up a Panthor. All of them featured some pretty epic artwork by William Garland:

1556447_270295929790914_134259830_o

Garland did box arts for Mattel after Rudy Obrero but before (and concurrent with) William George. The style is very much along the lines of Rudy Obrero’s (that is to say, moody and Frazetta-like). That’s probably why I like it so much.

Mattel also offered a Skeletor/Panthor gift set, again illustrated by William Garland, this time with a battle scene featuring Skeletor/Panthor vs. He-Man, Man-At-Arms vs. Beast Man, and Castle Grayskull standing in the background:

Skeletor Panthor hi res

The pose you see for Beast Man and Man-At-Arms comes straight out of the 1981 Licensing Kit. Thanks to Jukka for pointing that out to me!

license020_full
Image via He-Man.org. Artwork by Errol McCarthy.

There was a third way to get your hands on Panthor, in the form of the Battle For Eternia giftset (again illustrated by William Garland). Apparently this was produced in low quantities, as buying the boxed version in 2015 will require taking out a second mortgage:

Image courtesy of Tokyonever

This set featured Skeletor, Panthor and Man-E-Faces, and might be my favorite of the Panthor box arts. It’s something about how Man-E-Faces is portrayed and the craters and moons in the background, I think. There were two versions released: one with the standard Skeletor, and another with Battle Armor Skeletor, released in 1984.

A fourth way to get your hands on the purple panther was to buy the Battle Armor Skeletor and Panthor gift set, featuring artwork by William George:

BA Skel Panthor Bill George

A year after Panthor’s release, Mattel was apparently considering releasing a deluxe version of Panthor, with articulation and some sort of pouncing action feature. This July 13, 1984 illustration by Ed Watts demonstrates the concept. This version of Panthor was, unfortunately, never released in the vintage line, although the 200x version wasn’t far off from this idea.

panthor-ed-watts-2
Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog, Vol 1

In the finalized Filmation version of Panthor, he looks very much like the vintage figure (with green eyes), except for the fact that they’ve cut back on the extra fur around his face, giving him an appearance more like a real panther (ignoring the fact that he’s oversized, purple, and domesticated enough to wear a saddle).

diamond ray panthor

In The Sunbird Legacy, published by Golden Books, some humanoid panther men appear. From their coloration they seem to be inspired by Panthor:

Panthor was on of the first in a series of evil opposites in the Masters of the Universe toyline. Battle Cat had his opposite in Panthor, He-Man had his opposite in Faker, Zoar had his opposite in Screeech, and Stridor had his opposite in Night Stalker. It was a fun and creative way to refresh existing molds. The goal was undoubtedly to maximize profits, but in the end it’s amazing what can be accomplished with a simple change of colors.

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

Return to Table of Contents.