Snake Men

Snake Face – Most Gruesome of the Snake Men Warriors (1987)

Snake Face, true to his tagline, is indeed the most gruesome-looking of the Snake Men faction, and one of the creepiest figures in the vintage Masters of the Universe lineup.

Design & Development

An early concept for Snake Face appears in the Power and Honor Foundation Catalog (below). The artist isn’t mentioned (from the style I think it could perhaps be by Alan Tyler), but it seems to be a first crack at a concept involving a character with snakes popping out of his face and chest. This concept would have reused the arms and legs from Skeletor. Other than the action feature, it bears little resemblance to the final Snake Face concept.

The character was revisited (with the working name Medusa Man), and David Wolfram took the reigns at designing a character around the action feature. His design, shown below, is very close to the final look of the figure, other than some of the colors used on his costume.

Image courtesy of David Wolfram

In David’s design, the figure was to have no shared parts, other than the staff (borrowed from King Hiss) and his pelvis piece. Even the latter was given a unique sculpt on the final figure.

The cross sell art for Snake Face appears to be based on the final toy design:

We can see a hand-painted final prototype for the figure in Mattel’s 1987 dealer catalog:

Image source: Orange Slime

Production Toy

The final toy is a gruesome-looking creature with a purple, black and green costume. He features a fair amount of green overspray on his arms and head, which is something not normally seen on figures in the MOTU line. His action feature is similar to Mantennna‘s eyes – a lever on the back can be raised, causing the snakes to pop out of his face, shoulders and chest.

Snake Face is covered in warty and scaly gray skin, and his arms are wrapped in snakes. His legs are rather short, probably to compensate for his tall torso and to keep his overall height similar to other figures in the line.

Packaging

Snake Face’s card features the Snake Men special logo on the front as well as character artwork by Bruce Timm (thanks to Jukka Issakainen for the tip). Errol McCarthy provides the illustrations for the action scene and instructions on the back.

Image source: Final Frontier Toys

Style Guide

Snake Face was given the following characterization in the 1987 Style Guide:

Group Affiliation: Snake Men, Evil Warriors
Role: Evil beast with a head full of shocking snakes
Power: When his snakes strike out, enemies are turned to stone.
Character Profile: Another of the Snake Men trapped under Snake Mountain an eon ago, Snake Face was called forth by King Hiss to do battle with He-Man. Snake Face was a right-hand man to King Hiss in the days of Grayskull. Snake Face can turn any enemy to stone by lashing his snakes out at him. He-Ro and He-Man are the only warriors powerful enough to reverse the horrible spell, and then only when aided by the Magic Staff or Power Sword.
Weapons: Serpent Staff and Medusa Shield.

Image via He-Man.org

As Snake Face came quite late in the line, his bio includes a mention of He-Ro and the cancelled Powers of Grayskull storyline.

Minicomics

Snake Face was packed with Revenge of the Snake Men, written by Phil White and illustrated by Chris Carlson. In the story, Snake Face and Sssqueeze (called by his concept name “Tanglor”) are brought form the nameless dimension by King Hiss to kidnap Queen Marlena. Snake Face uses his powers to turn anyone who gets in his way to stone:

Snake Face also appears in Energy Zoids, where he turns his power against Rotar:

Other Comic Appearances

Snake Face makes a number of appearances in other comics, including the following:

Issue 35, 1987, UK MOTU Magazine:

Image via He-Man.org

Issue 41, 1987, UK MOTU Magazine:

Image via He-Man.org

Issue 8, 1987, Star Comics Masters of the Universe:

Fall 1987, US MOTU Magazine:

Image via He-Man.org

Poster Art

Snake Face appears in a couple of posters by Earl Norem, done for the US MOTU Magazine:

He also appears in William George’s Preternia poster:

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Snake Face is featured in posters by Esteban Maroto and others as well:

Masters of the Universe had its fare share of nightmarish and gruesome action figures, but Snake Face has to be one of the creepiest.

Swedish ad featuring Snake Face, courtesy of Petteri Höglund

Snake Face in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has kindly contributed the following images and video of Snake Face in action:

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Snake Men

Tung Lashor – Evil tongue-shooting SNAKE MEN creature (1986)

I don’t remember seeing Tung Lashor in stores as a kid, so my first memory is really from reading about him in the minicomic that came packed with Rattlor. One of the first things of course that strikes you about Tung Lashor is that, despite being a member of the Snake Men, he looks much more like a frog than a snake.

Design & Development

As for the snake Men, Rattlor and Tung Lashor were designed ahead of King Hiss (and included as Horde Villains based on their earliest designs). By the time King Hiss was completed and the Snake Men as a faction had been created, She-Ra was already in full swing.

James Eatock

The earliest known design for Tung Lashor doesn’t look like a frog creature, but it doesn’t look particularly snake-like either. This concept by Ted Mayer seems to be a demon or an imp in an acrobat costume:

Image source: The Art of He-Man/The Power and the Honor Foundation. Dated July 12, 1984.

There may or may not be some relationship with the Ted Mayer Jester design below. The costume and pose are quite similar, but otherwise the relationship between the two is unclear:

Image source: Tomart’s Action Figure Digest, courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Ted Mayer’s early design was used to create the design for the animated version of Tung Lashor, and there may have been an intermediate Mattel design along the way that was used for the Filmation model sheet below. Compared to Ted’s original design, this character lost his pointed ears and has arms and legs reminiscent of Skeletor (or at least his action figure). The color scheme roughly follows Ted’s drawing.

Image source: He-Man and She-Ra – A Complete Guide to the Animated Adventures

The final version of the design is so different from the early concept that it’s hard to find much of a connection between the two, other than the long tongue. The production figure looks quite a lot like a poison dart frog, but with sharp fangs. He has a mottled two-toned purple color scheme, with an orange front torso, and the Snake Men logo in green on his chest. He has frog like-fingers, covered in black rubber gloves. His feet look like smoother, simplified versions of the type of the feet used for Buzz-Off and Whiplash.

Tung Lashor cross sell artwork

Production Figure

Tung Lashor came with two accessories – a purple repaint of King Hiss’ staff, and a dragonfly crossbow weapon. He reuses He-Man’s trunks, but all of his other parts are newly-sculpted. His thin plastic tongue (which was painted in a rather venomous looking, two-tone green and yellow color) could be made to flick in and out by turning a dial on the figure’s back.

The first release of the figure has a dark purple design painted on its back, while subsequent releases omit the paint on the back. This was a fairly common practice in the MOTU line. Some examples: The first release Skeletor had purple trunks with a painted black belt, while later versions had a plain black belt. The first release Mer-Man had orange trunks and a green belt, while later versions had an unpainted belt.

Tung Lashor in the 1986 JCPenney Catalog. Image courtesy of RM Hart.
Tung Lashor in the 1986 JCPenney Catalog. Image courtesy of RM Hart.
Tung Lashor in the 1986 Mattel Dealer Catalog. Image source: Orange Slime.
Tung Lashor advertising line art for retailers.

Packaging

Tung Lashor was not included in any gift sets or multi-packs. The artwork on the back of his card was, in my opinion, likely illustrated by Dave Stevens, who also worked on the packaging for Moss Man and Stinkor.

Tung Lashor in Action

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

Artwork

Tung Lashor appears in the Eternia poster and packaging art, both painted by William George:

A poster by Earl Norem included with issue 7 of Masters of the Universe Magazine features all of the snake men (including Kobra Khan, who had been retconned into that faction starting in 1986) that existed up to that point:

Tung Lashor was illustrated in several dynamic poses by frequent Mattel contributing artist Errol McCarthy. McCarthy’s art makes the character look a bit more snake-like, and may represent an earlier stage in Tung Lashor’s design evolution.

Characterization

The above illustration is from the 1987 Mattel Style Guide (which depicts the character with three-toed feet, similar to Ted Mayer’s concept), which provides Tung Lashor’s bio and characteristics:

Role: Evil Snake Men creature with the “venomous” tongue

Power: Quick-licking tongue shoots out to reach enemies in battle, inflicting a dose of vile venom.

Character Profile: This unusually mean creature possesses a truly terrible tongue. Tung Lashor is loyal to King Hiss, although he does answer to Skeletor at Times. He is an extremely brutal creature, more openly vicious than Rattlor. He cowers before King Hiss, however, like all the others. He likes to lash his tongue at just about anything, even his comrades to shake them up once in a while.

Note: Like Rattlor, Tung Lashor is a member of The Evil Horde in the Filmation shows. However, he has now become a member of the Snake Men.

There was also a fact file on Tung Lashor in the 1989 UK MOTU Annual:

Comics & Stories

In the Snake Attack minicomic, Tung Lashor takes the active speaking role in his partnership with Rattlor, although his impulsiveness gets him into trouble. Tung Lashor’s tongue in this instance isn’t exactly poisonous – it rather has the ability to paralyze his victims and cover them with some kind of hard coating.

When Rattlor and Tung Lashor are introduced in King of the Snake Men, it’s mentioned that they had been serving Hordak before King Hiss summoned them. This is a reference to their appearances on the She-Ra cartoon series (they came out too late to appear in the original He-Man series, which ended in 1985). King Hiss does not appear in the series, so the snake men are made to serve Hordak.

Tung Lashor appears in issue 7 of the US Masters of the Universe Magazine in “The Armies of King Hiss”:

Both Rattlor and Tung Lashor are wildly off model in the 1987 UK MOTU Magazine story, “Attack of the Snakemen.” Tung Lashor especially looks unrecognizable and bizarre (I first learned about this issue from James Eatock’s excellent He-Man and She-Ra Blog).

In the 1986 Kid Stuff story book/record, Battle Under Snake Mountain, Tung Lashor makes another appearance, again with the three-toed feet design.

Animation

Tung Lashor is inconsistently called Tung and Tung Lash in the Filmation She-Ra series, probably a reflection of early working names for the figure. He has a high voice and a rather adolescent-like personality, and is usually subordinate to Rattlor.

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Snake Men

Sssqueeze – Evil Long-Armed Viper (1987)

Sssqueeze graphic

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
“Tanglor” concept art. Image source: The Art of He-Man
Squeeeze axel
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.

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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.

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Sssqueeze instr
sssqueezecardback
Image via Grayskull Museum
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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.

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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.

Norem sssqueeze Fal 1987

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

winter 1988 magazine puzzle
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:

8807 maroto

Sssqueeze also appears in William George’s Preternia poster:

Preternia_1


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.

sssqueeze ad art

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Evil Warriors

Kobra Khan – Evil master of snakes (1984)

KK Graphic

I remember getting Kobra Khan quite vividly. It was our last summer in our Eastern Washington house, before our big move across the mountains to a rainier, more temperate part of the Pacific Northwest. Although Kobra Khan was released in 1984, I didn’t get him until 1986. I remember gravely weighing my options at the store. I could get two toys, and I was determined that they be Snake Men. I  was looking at getting Kobra Khan, or the newly released King Hiss or Rattlor. I don’t remember seeing Tung Lashor at the time. After studying all three toys and their packaging intently, I concluded that King Hiss was a cool idea, but his hidden snake body wasn’t all that great looking, so I went with the other two figures instead.

Snake Men

I spent the last hot summer in the old house running around with Kobra Khan. After he had sprayed his paralyzing mist on all of my heroic warriors, he turned his venom on most of our house plants, and of course on me as well. The figure put out a highly dispersed sort of mist, and it was a great way to stay cool. I played with him so much that I remember getting a sore finger from pushing down on his head.

Kobra Khan seems to have originated with a Roger Sweet concept for a warrior wearing a snake costume, like a male version of Teela. Actually, the concept  recalls the G.I. Joe villain Serpentor on some ways, too, although that wasn’t released until 1986. In any case, as is noted in The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog, Roger Sweet’s drawing seems to have a hole in the snake’s mouth, suggesting the water squirting feature was already planned out at this stage:

Roger Sweet KK
Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog. Like Buzz-Off, this character started out as a costumed human being.

The final toy was, of course, quite different from Sweet’s original concept. While both toy and concept were to reuse Skeletor’s arms and legs, the final toy had a unique sculpted and scaley chest and crotch piece. Due to the action feature, he didn’t have the usual twist waist action feature. Kobra Khan was given a snake head rather than the concept human head and snake cowl. Probably due to the fact that the character’s head had to press downward in order to activate the spray feature, he lacked the characteristic cobra hood. For his accessory, he was given an orange-red version of Zodac’s gun. The name Kobra Khan was trademarked on January 27, 1984.

Kobra Khan cross sell Axel
Image source: Axel Giménez

Kobra Khan was sold on the standard single card, as well as in a JCPenny two-pack with Whiplash. Errol McCarthy painted the scene on the back of his card, which features the villain trying to attack He-Man and Man-At-Arms with his hypnotizing mist:

Note that in this illustration, Kobra Khan’s center column of chest scales is painted brown. Image source: KMKA
KK emc bw
Image source: The Art of He-Man

Errol McCarthy also illustrated the figure in a variety of contexts for use in licensed merchandise:

One of the above illustrations was also used in the 1987 Style Guide. Note that the character is given the cobra hood that the figure lacked – no doubt an influence from the Filmation cartoon (more on that later). Interestingly, he puts a Snake Men symbol on Kobra Khan’s chest, which is part and parcel to the retconning of Kobra Khan as part of the Snake Men. That faction wasn’t introduced until 1986:

kobra_khan_m410_full

Interestingly, there was a version of Kobra Khan that did have the snake symbol on his chest– a variant made by Argentinian manufacturer Top Tops, called Kobra Khan Camuflado. Known as Camo Khan to many fans today, the figure had a green and black camouflage style paint job, gold boots and belt, and strangely, Buzz-Off’s clawed arms. He was given Clawful’s green mace as a weapon:

kkcamo1_full
Image via He-Man.org
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Image via He-Man.org
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Image via He-Man.org
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Image via He-Man.org

A note about Kobra Khan appears in the 1989 UK MOTU Annual, in a fact file of the snake men. It reads:

Note: The Snake Men are often aided in their endeavors by Kobra Khan. He is not one of the original members of hte Snake Army, but it is thought that he is the desendant of a Snake Man who miraculously escaped banishment by the Elders. Khan is one of Skeletor’s evil allies, and although he is quite willing to help King Hiss, his true loyalties lie with the living skeleton.

Image source: He-Man.org

Kobra Khan first appears briefly in the background of the 1984 minicomic, Double-Edged Sword, and again in the background of Hordak, The Ruthless Leader’s Revenge (1985). He plays a much more central role in the 1986 minicomic, Rock People to the Rescue, where he teams up with Webstor against Rokkon and Stonedar.

In the 1986 comic, King of the Snake Men, Skeletor instructs Kobra Khan to join with King Hiss as a spy. But in Fastest Draw in the Universe (also 1986) Kobra Khan is again a henchman of Skeletor.

Kobra Khan appears prominently in the Golden Books story, Meteor Monsters, and plays a background role in Maze of Doom.

He also makes several appearances in poster artwork by both William George and Earl Norem:

Norem Snake Men
Illustration by Earl Norem. Note that Kobra Khan has his hood in this image.

He only appears once on box art – in the 1985 Battle Bones illustration by William George:

battle-bones-main

Kobra Khan didn’t appear frequently in the Filmation He-Man cartoon, but his appearances were memorable. The character was portrayed as clever and credibly threatening, able to knock out most opponents with his sleeping mist. His most memorable appearance is probably in “Disappearing Dragons”, where he teams up with Webstor and they square off against Buzz-Off and Mekaneck.

dis drag

In the series, Kobra Khan is typically illustrated with his mouth closed. When he wishes to use his knockout gas on someone, his cobra hood extends and the gas seems to come from the hood rather than his mouth.

filmation mist
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fisto mekaneck kobra khan
kobra khan

In “The Good Shall Survive” Khan displays the odd ability to elongate his arms (a trait later shared by Sssqueeze).

arms

The final He-Man episode, “The Cold Zone”, features Khan as the primary villain, and we learn more about the Reptons (the race of snake men on Eternia). Because of that episode, I generally like to display Kobra Khan in the Land Shark.

cold zone

Kobra Khan was, oddly, colored brown in his appearance in issue four of the Star series of MOTU comics (thanks to an anonymous commenter below for pointing that out):

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Image source: He-Man.org

Kobra Khan is typical of third wave characters in that he was never ubiquitous in Masters of the Universe storytelling, but he was used occasionally as a henchman or villain of the week. The principle characters of the mythos seem to be grouped around the figures released in 1982 and 1983 as a general rule, with few exceptions.

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