Tag Archives: Stratos

Mark Taylor – The Original B-Sheets Collection

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One of the most exciting things to come out for Masters of the Universe in recent years is the Mark Taylor Original B-Sheets Collection, first offered for sale at the 2016 San Diego Comic Con.

The focus of this blog has always been the vintage 1980s MOTU toyline. I’m not breaking with that focus, but because this collection gets at the origins of He-Man, I think it’s very apropos to review it here.

Produced by The Power and the Honor Foundation in collaboration with Super7, the portfolio consists of eleven pieces of original artwork by Mark Taylor. These were the essential designs that culminated in the Masters of the Universe toy line.

Several of these pieces have been available for some time in black and white from such sources as Grayskull Museum and Mattel’s 2009 art book. Some were included in the 2011 Power and Honor Foundation Catalog. Others were made available in the Dark Horse Art of He-Man book (which included a great deal of artwork shared by Foundation). Some were even offered as Easter eggs in the 2012 Glitschsoft game, He-Man: The Most Powerful Game in the Universe.

However, most of this artwork has never been seen in full color until now. This is also the first time, to my knowledge, that the original concept artwork for Zodac has been made available to the public.

Before you even get to the artwork, there’s a lot to unpack in the cover. The front features a very subdued silver version of the Masters of the Universe logo, as recreated by Emiliano Santalucia for the BCI DVD releases. The familiar exploding rocks from the vintage card art are punctuated in red around the title of the collection. In the background there is a blown-up, gray-on-black image of the original concept He-Man design. Everything is slightly embossed for a very nice three-dimensional feel.

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The back cover features a photo and biographical sketch of Mark Taylor, along with an interesting explanation of the origins of the term “B-sheet”

A note from the back cover – the original full-color Teela drawing was lost at some point. The one included in this collection was carefully recolored from other early source materials to capture the original intended look.

Each piece of artwork also includes the character name inside a banner, and line art version of the Masters of the Universe logo. These serve as a homage to the artwork of another artist who worked on the He-Man line – Errol McCarthy. A few examples of this kind of artwork, from The Power and the Honor Foundation website, are below:

Mark Taylor’s B-sheet designs are printed on thick, high quality card stock. I’ll cover each individual illustration, but I will say that one thing that strikes me about this artwork is the amazing colors. The shading and highlighting on many of these pieces is quite dramatic and vivid, giving them a sense of richness that was only hinted at in the line art we had seen previously. Mark Taylor has a unique and instantly recognizable style. Not every designer puts this much care and artistry into what are really preliminary designs, but I think this shows how invested Mark was in this concept.

Each piece is dated 1981. Some tell you the exact date on which they were created, while others give you only the year. For fun, I’ll go over the artwork in the order they are dated. I’ll make an educated guess about the ones without a specific date.

Battle Cat – 1981

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From the Mark Taylor Collection (Super7/The Power and the Honor Foundation)

For years we’ve seen a partially-colored version of this concept, which was first hosted at the Grayskull Museum, beginning March of 2008.  The Grayskull Museum has also displayed black and white B-sheet illustrations of Skeletor, Teela, Sorceress, Man-At-Arms, and others, which have been passed around by fans since that time.

The Grayskull Museum’s version of the Battle Cat B-sheet is described as a color study. I would assume that means that Mark was testing out different colors before committing to any one color scheme. In the color study, there are some pink and purple shades incorporated into Battle Cat’s armor. When Grayskull Museum asked Mark about the date of the image back in 2008, he said he believed it was done in 1979, although that may have been his best guess, as it doesn’t appear to be dated.

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Image source: Grayskull Museum

The illustration included in the Mark Taylor Collection is the final version, and it features the colors we’re familiar with on the vintage toy. The tiger design is of course taken from the Big Jim tiger (or actually going further back, the Jungle Cat from Mattel’s Tarzan line), but Mark designed a saddle and helmet for the figure to make it work as a new toy for the Masters of the Universe line.  The shape of the saddle here is somewhat sleeker and swept backwards than its plastic counterpart, but otherwise the design is very close to what kids were playing with in the early 1980s.

From my interview with Mark:

I had used the cat on the Tarzan line. I liked the sculpt but the 5.30″ He-Man figures wouldn’t ride on him and I wanted him to ride on a huge cat.  Nobody messes with a guy riding a huge armored cat!  … The head armor came from my childhood sketches and had to be engineered for costs and molding ease, or the marketeers would lose it.

Castle Grayskull – 1981

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From the Mark Taylor Collection (Super7/The Power and the Honor Foundation)

Although Castle Grayskull is not given a specific date here, I would guess that this drawing was created quite early in the process of formulating the Masters of the Universe toyline. I believe that is the case because there are no recognizable MOTU figures in this drawing – they look like fairly standard background sword and sorcery characters. Mark sketched similar-looking warriors in his mock-up for the Wind Raider box art, although of course He-Man is also included here:

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Image courtesy of Ted Mayer

Mark called the castle the “Dwell of Souls” (the name Castle Grayskull was created by Don Glut, freelance story writer for the early mini comics). Mark has a complex back-story and mythology for Castle Grayskull and for the characters he created. You can read about some of that in my previous post about the castle.

In the portfolio illustration, we see that the castle is surrounded by water (a “fetid lake”, as Mark describes it). The sides of the castle don’t much resemble the mass-produced playset, but you can see in the castle’s face many elements that were carried into the toy, including the elongated fangs and the asymmetrically-shaped cheekbones. Interestingly, the face of this Castle appears to be hooded, and bears strong resemblance to Skeletor.

Fans may remember this exact illustration from the Art of He-Man book published by Dark Horse published in 2015. It’s nice, however, to have such a large version of it for display.  A black and white version also appeared on the Grayskull Museum website years ago.

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Image Source: Grayskull Museum

Skeletor – March 30, 1981

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From the Mark Taylor Collection (Super7/The Power and the Honor Foundation)

Skeletor, or “De-Man” (a play on the word demon and the name He-Man) as he is labeled here, is the earliest of the B-sheets that bear a specific date. The black and white version of this drawing (as discussed earlier) has been around for some time, but this is the first time most fans have seen a high-quality colored version. I absolutely love the use of color here, particularly the eldritch red lighting on Skeletor’s left side.

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Image source: Grayskull Museum

The element that most sticks out about this early Skeletor is the fact that he does not have a skull face. He seems to have more of an undead look, not unlike the ThunderCats villain Mumm-Ra (ThunderCats, of course, did not come out until four years later).

Almost everything else about this Skeletor will be familiar to fans of the early MOTU mini comics illustrated by Alfredo Alcala. Other than the forearms and the face, Alcala’s earliest depictions of Skeletor are very closely based on Mark Taylor’s original design. He has the same bare feet, the same armor design with yellow bat motiff, and the same “commando” loin cloth (which is to say, he had no furry underwear underneath).

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The design of Skeletor’s arms in the B-sheet is very interesting. The flesh of his forearms and hands seems to be decaying. There also appears to be some hanging skin towards the character’s elbows (unless I’m misreading the intent there). Looked at in another light, they almost resemble gloves, and indeed were interpreted as glove-like fins in later incarnations, such as the cross sell artwork and the mass-produced toy.

Skeletor’s pose here seems to have influenced the way the character was drawn in the cross sell artwork used on the back of packaging. The pose on the B-sheet design is a bit more dynamic, but otherwise the two versions cut the same profile.

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Man-At-Arms – April 1, 1981

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From the Mark Taylor Collection (Super7/The Power and the Honor Foundation)

This concept Man-At-Arms is positively bristling with intricate wires, hoses, buttons, and miscellaneous alien devices. The colors used here don’t quite match any other depiction of Man-At-Arms that I am aware of. That is to say, most of the colors are similar to those found in the cross sell artwork (as is the pose to a certain extent), but the character here sports orange boots and orange fur around his chest armor.

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Image Source: Grayskull Museum

It’s clear to me that the color of his belt and helmet are supposed to be a metallic silver color. In artwork that can often translate as light blue. And indeed in many other incarnations his helmet and belt became more blue than silver.

Speaking of his belt, you’ll note that Man-At-Arms features a squared-off belt buckle, unlike the circular design of the vintage toy . You can also see that the fur of his loin cloth peaks over the top of the belt. These details are repeated in the He-Man, Stratos and Beast Man B-sheet designs. Man-At-Arms also features a knife tucked into his right boot, which he shares with the concept version of He-Man. These parts were clearly intended to be reused.

His pose here seems to have influenced the artist who drew his cross sell illustration, at least from the waist up:

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Image courtesy of Axel Giménez. Note the black boots and black fur around his chest armor.

Mark’s Man-At-Arms concept drawing is one of my very favorites in this collection, which took me a little by surprise.

Beast Man – April 2, 1981

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From the Mark Taylor Collection (Super7/The Power and the Honor Foundation)

Beast Man, or “Tree Man” as he was originally called, is quite a visually striking figure. His colors are not quite what I had expected. Generally speaking, Alfredo Alcala’s early mini comic artwork echoes quite closely Mark Taylor’s concept designs. But his first Beast Man illustrations depicted a character who is entirely red, with only splash of yellow on his armor to break up his monochromatic design.

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Contrary to expectation, this version of Beast Man has a blue loin cloth and blue detail on his armor and around his eyes, very much like the vintage figure. There are other earlier incarnations of an ape-like or bear-like henchman character that appeared in monochromatic red. It makes me wonder if there wasn’t an earlier version of this B-sheet at some point that was colored that way.

In any case, this version has somewhat ambiguously-colored fur. There is quite a bit of highlighting and shading going on that gives his fur a somewhat orange look on balance. But I believe the intent was for him to have a much more reddish-orange color.

You might have noticed that Beast Man carries no whip here. That is also true of Beast Man as he is depicted in the early mini comics as well. Given that the whip was borrowed from a Big Jim action figure, it may have been something of an afterthought.

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Image Source: Axel Giménez

The pose used in Beast Man’s cross sell illustration (above) is almost identical to Mark Taylor’s concept version.

He-Man – April 6, 1981

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From the Mark Taylor Collection (Super7/The Power and the Honor Foundation)

The most powerful man in the universe is indeed quite powerful looking in this B-sheet design. This is another case where I was somewhat surprised at the colors when I first saw them. He sports tan and red boots, red and silver gauntlets, and a plain gray shield.

I was already familiar with a later version of this design (dated May 3, 1981) that had a different color scheme altogether. That color scheme will again be familiar to fans of the early Alfredo Alcala mini comics. He-Man has two-tone red and ocher boots (with boot knife), orange gauntlets, and an orange and gray shield. This version also has orange details on the straps of his armor, rather than the red used on the final design. I must confess that the May 3 version is actually my preferred version – I think the colors are perfect here. Perhaps it will make an appearance in part 2 of this portfolio, should one be offered (which is my not so subtle way of lobbying for a sequel).

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog
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Probably the detail that will stick out most to He-Man fans is his helmet. This was of course dropped in the final toy, but the presence of this helmet really punctuates the original barbarian concept of the character. In time He-Man came to be depicted as almost Superman-like in his personality and abilities (with a Clark Kent-esque alter ego to boot), but it’s pretty hard to think of him like that with this helmet on. Personally I love the look here and would love to see some version of this design made into a figure or a statue. Really that goes for all of the figure designs in this portfolio.

You might notice that He-Man does not carry a sword. The axe was his original weapon, and the sword was added later. This particular axe also found its way into the early mini comics.

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Image source: The Art of He-Man

Teela – May 28, 1981

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From the Mark Taylor Collection (Super7/The Power and the Honor Foundation)
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Image Source: Grayskull Museum
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Teela without her collar/overlay piece (which ended up being a permanent part of the toy, rather than an accessory), by Mark Taylor. Image source: Rebecca Salari Taylor.

As mentioned previously, the colors for Teela (here called simply “Female Warrior”) were restored using prototypes and early mini comic artwork as references. Once again fans of early Alfredo Alcala mini comics will recognize this incarnation of Teela with her blonde hair, spiky red tiara (which was based on a hair accessory owned by Mark’s wife, Rebecca), two-toned brown and white boots, and exquisitely detailed gold and white costume.

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While Teela’s gold and white shield shows up in the Alcala artwork, her spear, as it appears in this illustration, does not. A similar spear does show up in an early prototype of Teela. This prototype of course features the snake armor that was originally intended for Mark Taylor’s Sorceress character.

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Teela’s posture in Mark Taylor’s B-sheet is nearly identical to her posture in the cross sell artwork, although again by that time her design had been cross pollinated with the design of the Sorceress. I don’t think any incarnation quite captured Teela’s face as Mark drew her.

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Sorceress – June 3, 1981

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From the Mark Taylor Collection (Super7/The Power and the Honor Foundation)

The artwork in this portfolio does not give an exact date for the Sorceress, but a black and white version that has been circulating for a number of years is dated June 3, 1981.

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Image source: Grayskull Museum

The Sorceress’ form is in many details identical to Teela’s. She shares the same legs, arms, and basic outfit. As Emiliano Santalucia has explained, the idea was that the Sorceress would reuse Teela’s body. However, the gold detail going up and down the front of Teela’s costume, in addition to her gold collar, was actually intended to be a removable piece. The Sorceress’ design omits that overlay and instead gives her a cobra-themed headdress.

This character is again familiar to fans of the early mini comics. This green Sorceress (commonly referred to as the Green Goddess now) shows up only in the first mini comic – He-Man and the Power Sword. One crucial difference between the comic and the original concept is that the comic depicts Sorceress as having green skin. In Mark Taylor’s original concept, she is wearing some kind of green body suit, not unlike Man-At-Arms’ costume.

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Although the Sorceress and Teela were merged into a single toy, the character of the Sorceress did not entirely disappear. She re-emerged as a character called the Goddess in the second series of mini comics, although it’s a rather confusing concept. Teela was also portrayed in other media with this same look:

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It’s a shame that this version of the Sorceress was never released in the vintage line – she’s a striking-looking design, and frankly the toyline could have used more female characters. According to Mark, Sorceress was intended to be a kind of double agent and a changeling.

Mer-Man – 1981

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From the Mark Taylor Collection (Super7/The Power and the Honor Foundation)
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Image source: The Art of He-Man

Of all of the wonderfully vivid and creative illustrations in this portfolio, Mer-Man is my hands down favorite. In no other media has Mer-Man ever appeared so highly detailed or so rich with color. The closest version we have seen to Mark’s original vision was again in the early mini comics illustrated by Alfredo Alcala. Even then, Alcala simplified the colors and some of the detail (primarily in the colors of his clothing and face – Alcala omitted the copper accents and simplified the shape of his gloves).

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I’m particularly pleased with the range of blues and greens appearing on Mer-Man’s skin. This design is practically begging to be translated into a toy or a statue.

In Mark Taylor’s concept, the shape of Mer-Man’s armor is actually fairly close to what ended up in the vintage toy, albeit without most of the spikes. In Mark’s illustration you can see that Mer-Man would have had some gill-like structures around his neck, which is also indicated in the cross sell artwork:

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The cross sell artwork is very much based on Mark Taylor’s original design (including the pose), although the limbs are simplified and his chest armor is significantly widened. His skin color was also made much greener, perhaps to move him further away from Skeletor’s skin tone.

In his original form, Mer-Man would have required 100% new tooling and molds to produce. Over the course of his design process, Mer-Man was simplified to the point where he could entirely reuse the body and limbs used for Skeletor. Seeing Mark Taylor’s original concept now, it’s unfortunate that his vision was never fully realized in toy form.

Stratos – 1981

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From the Mark Taylor Collection (Super7/The Power and the Honor Foundation)
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Image source: The Art of He-Man

One of the hallmarks of many of these drawings by Mark Taylor is their mix between highly detailed realism, and the altered dimensionality inherent in the production of a plastic toy. That is apparent throughout the portfolio (for instance, Mer-Man’s gloves), but also  in the shape of Stratos’ (originally known as both “Bird Man” and “Wing Man”) feathers. A fully realistic illustration would have rendered the feathers much thinner in profile, but of course Mark was creating this artwork with molded plastic toys in mind as the end product.

The biggest detail about this artwork that sticks out to me are the eyes. We’re used to seeing Stratos’ “eyes” as goggles, but here they do appear to be his eyes. This transforms his look completely, giving him a much more bird-like appearance than was evident in the vintage toy.

Another thing to point out here is Stratos’ backpack. The design around the front is quite different from either the vintage toy or the cross sell artwork, as there are no straps going down his chest. Alfredo Alcala based his early illustrations on this concept Stratos, although he got the skin (or perhaps fur) color wrong. As you can see, Mark added some yellow and tan lighting effects to the center of Stratos’ chest, but I believe the intent all along was for Stratos to be light gray.

Zodac – 1981

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From the Mark Taylor Collection (Super7/The Power and the Honor Foundation)

This Zodac (or “Sensor” as he was originally called) drawing was no doubt created last of the 11 pieces included in this portfolio. As Emiliano Santalucia pointed out several years ago at Grayskull Con, the design details are based on parts already sculpted for the toyline – specifically Skeletor’s arms and legs and Beast Man’s chest.

This is the only piece in the portfolio that has not been published in any form until now. As such it was the one I was most curious about, and it did not disappoint.

Zodac looks quite alien here. He adopts a straight-legged stance, but otherwise has the familiar Skeletor feet and forearms. The version from the cross sell art seems a bit tame by comparison:

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Zodac’s expression here is heroic, if a bit cocky. Mark’s original intention was for Zodac to be an ally of He-Man. Perhaps the name “Sensor” came about because his helmet enhanced his vision and hearing – at least that’s my guess, going from the design cues. Mark has also said that Zodac “was all about flying” – perhaps he would have provided air support for He-Man in the Wind Raider.

Final Thoughts

As amazing as this artwork might look on your flat screen monitor, trust me when I say that it’s nothing compared to how it looks in person. This portfolio was printed in a limited run for San Diego Comic Con, so not everyone was able to get their hands on it. I hope that Super7 and The Power and the Honor Foundation will eventually make more copies available for fans who couldn’t get it the first time around. If you are even a moderate He-Man fan, you need this artwork in your life.

As I intimated earlier, I’d love to see a sequel to this portfolio. Items on my personal wish list would include the August 8, 1981 version of He-Man, alternate versions of any of the characters included in this portfolio, and artwork for Man-E-Faces, Ram Man, and any number of unproduced characters that Mark might have worked on before he left Mattel.

I hope also that this collection of concept illustrations will lead to the production of 3D versions of these designs, whether that takes the form of  new 5.5″ scale action figures, statues, or Masters of the Universe Classics figures. It would be, I believe, a fitting tribute to the man whose creativity and vision launched this beloved toyline.

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Mark Taylor in his office at Mattel. Image courtesy of Ted Mayer.

Thanks to Jukka Issakainen for pushing me to write this review. 

Return to Table of Contents.

Mark & Rebecca Taylor on the origins of He-Man

Mark Taylor is the designer behind so many beloved icons in the He-Man universe: He-Man, Skeletor, Man-At-Arms, Teela, Stratos, Beast Man, Mer-Man, Zodac, Castle Grayskull, Battle Cat, Man-E-Faces, Ram Man, and even an early version of Prince Adam. Mark and his wife Rebecca were gracious enough to answer some of my questions about the origins of these characters, and the process of bringing them to life.

Battle Ram: Thank you both so much for agreeing to answer my questions. I recently interviewed Ted Mayer and Rudy Obrero. It’s a thrill and an honor to also be able to interview you now!

Mark: Adam, thank you for your interest, both Ted and Rudy are my friends as well as excellent designers.  It was a pleasure to work with them on He-Man.  I do not call the brand MOTU because that was just a Mattel marketing and management concept. “Masters of the Universe” also helped them separate it from a potential lawsuit with the Conan property owners.  It also was part of their effort to remove the concept from the original creator and inventor, me.

BR: You were originally hired by Mattel to work on packaging. How did you come to be the designer for He-Man?

Mark: At the age of eleven I was a compulsive reader and drawer, I love story telling and adventure, influenced by Hal Foster’s beautiful strip and Burroughs and Howard’s books. I started telling my own heroic story.

I went to Art Center, Cal State and worked for the US Navy (Combat Illustrator). Then through a friend I found out there was an opening at Mattel in Visual Development group.  They were a very talented “bullpen” who were responsible for the appearance of the product which included packaging but also the products’ labels, color, details and early engineering drawings.  This was a perfect fit for me, and I was promptly assigned to work on Barbie product, which was a honor because Barbie has always been Mattel’s cash cow.

Mark Taylor in his early Mattel days. Image courtesy of Ted Mayer
“Death of Mark Taylor From Night Visitation.” Artwork by Colin Bailey, January 23, 1981. Given to Mark when he was working on his “dark project” (He-Man). Image courtesy of Rebecca Salari Taylor.

BR: He-Man and Skeletor seem very primordial and archetypal to me.  He-Man is the embodiment of life and vitality; Skeletor is the embodiment of death and decay. When you were designing these characters, was any of that running through your head?

Mark: He-Man’s original name was Torak, Hero of Prehistory. He was the defender of the weak and righteous and foe of bullies and villains.  This powerful hero needed a worthy adversary who embodied evil and sorcery on every level.

Torak, by Mark Taylor. Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation, via the Toy Masters documentary sneak preview.

Skeletor was influenced by many literary sources but visually by a carnival scare ride with a skeleton like figure that dropped down and rattled (turned out to be a real mummified outlaw); also a lot of Mexican Day of the Dead art and sculpting. Skeletor had to be powerful in his own right and believe completely in his cause as much as Torak (He-Man).

The battle was set, a righteous hero mounted on a giant Battle Cat verses a nefarious villain imbued with mystical evil powers.  The clash of arms could be heard to the ends of the earth.

The Sunbird Legacy cover art by Earl Norem

BR:  So He-Man originated with your Torak character, which I believe you had been working on since the 1950s. Did Skeletor originate from that same time?

Mark: Absolutely. Skeletor evolved simultaneously with Torak, it had to be this way.  They were the yin and yang,  the reason for being, opposites to battle forever.

BR: As far as I can tell, Stratos was originally supposed to be an evil warrior (correct me if I’m wrong!), but then he was released as a heroic warrior. Were there any other characters who ended up switching sides?

Mark: Yes many, the early figures that switched sides were, Beast Man, Teela, Stratos, Man-E-Faces and Ram Man. It was a money thing, we had to release the figures, vehicles, playsets and accessories in waves to pay for the tooling and advertising.  Mattel did not really believe in the line until after Castle Grayskull was a big hit. Then it was just a matter of corporate greed as to how much we could jam down the public’s throat. I left to work on TMNT.

BR: Can you talk about your working relationship with Ted Mayer on the Masters of the Universe toy line?

Mark: Ted is an industrial designer, I am a designer/illustrator. I sketched out the line but needed help with the vehicles.  I requested Ted and he did a great job. It was important that the figure controlling the vehicle be very visual, we didn’t have a movie to explain and promote our product like Star Wars did.

Battle Ram concept by Ted Mayer

BR: How did you come to hire Rudy Obrero to do paintings for the packaging artwork? Can you speak a little bit about your experience working with him?

Mark: He was the only guy who could paint like Frank Frazetta, he was great to work with.  Always came back with more and better than I expected.  He would do great stuff from very little reference material. We were turning out stuff like crazy fast.  It was like we were joined at the imagination.

Battle Cat box art, by Rudy Obrero

BR: Mattel took quite a risk in producing your designs that were not based on any previous intellectual property. It was a risk that obviously paid off. Do you think toy companies today are more hesitant to take those kinds of risks?

Mark: Mattel took no chances at first. Ray Wagner, President of Mattel at that time, laid his reputation on the line and went against everyone else to give Masters a lift off.  We were forced to do illegal child testing early on (another lame boys toy was supposed to be tested, but the Preliminary guys weren’t ready). We snuck in thanks to Angie DiMicco.  I was there with He-Man, Teela,  Beast Man, Battle Cat and Skeletor. The kids tried to steal the prototypes after the testing. We had a hit.

BR:  A lot of characters went through color changes as they went through development (either to themselves or their costumes or both). Examples include Beast Man, Mer-Man, Teela and Ram Man. What was driving those changes?

Mark: Sorry to admit it, but cost.  Later when the brand was making billions no one cared but in the beginning engineering pinched every penny, especially in paint masks.  Also there was a conscious effort to avoid anything that resembled Star Wars or Conan in any way.

BR: Mer-Man went through quite a few changes from B-sheet to final toy. What was behind the changes to his design, particularly the changes to his face?

Mark: Mer-Man tested the lowest. Tony Guerrero the great sculptor and I chased the negative child test comments until we finally realized the marketeers were just messing with us and then we went with what we had.  Mer-Man was the weakest but people who like him really like him (I based him on Bernie Wrightson’s Swamp Thing).

Swamp Thing, by Bernie Wrightson

BR: There is a character you designed who fans refer to now as Demo-Man. Do you see him as an early incarnation of Skeletor or Beast Man?

Mark: No, he was a separate concept that I was too busy to exploit, I was working until the sun came up and the Mattel building was empty. I was pretty much running on fumes.  I would have loved to take him further but like so many concepts corporate profit came first.

Demo-Man, by Mark Taylor

BR:  You designed the armor and helmet for Battle Cat as a way to reuse the Big Jim tiger. Can you talk a little bit about that design? The helmet design is quite striking, like some mythical beast.

Mark: I had used the Cat on the Tarzan line, I liked the sculpt but the 5.30″ He Man figures wouldn’t ride on him and I wanted him to ride on a huge cat.  Nobody messes with a guy riding a huge armored cat!  I had seen a guy ride a regular tiger in the circus and wow!

The head armor came from my childhood sketches and had to be engineered for costs and molding ease or the marketeers would lose it (thanks Ted).

Battle Cat, by Mark Taylor

BR:  The colors green and orange seem to be pretty prominent on those early toys (Battle Cat, Man-At-Arms, Wind Raider). Is there a story behind that color scheme?

Mark: Not just a story but a lot of work and fighting, those colors were not very common in action toys. They pop but looked somewhat alien. I definitely did not want Battle Cat to look like a real tiger, he was much more that but they sold out on him in the animation and later toys after I left.  He or He-Man were NEVER supposed to be silly in my imagination.

He-Man and Battle Cat box art by Rudy Obrero


BR:  Did you have an origin story in mind when you designed Man-E-Faces? How about Ram Man?

Mark: Yes, but no one was interested, they wanted to ship it out immediately to animators and movie producers, you know “professionals”.  I designed him to have a different and interesting feature besides a twist waist. All the answers to my original story are in clues in Castle Grayskull, where they should be like a puzzle.

BR: Teela and the Sorceress/Goddess (the one with the snake armor) were originally separate characters. Whose decision was it to combine them into a single action figure? How did you feel about that? Did you intend the sorceress character to be a hero or a villain?

Mark: She was actually supposed to be a changeling but the comic book guys had a hard time with that. Also, the head of girls toys wanted to rip her off for Princess of Power (because now the line was very hot!). She was intended to be like a spy and play both sides with some magic but the “professionals” felt that was too complex (I guess they don’t get Game of Thrones either).

BR: In the first couple of years of the toyline, all of the vehicles seem to be geared toward the good guys. Why was that?

Mark: Don’t forget Skeletor used MAGIC but He-Man never did. Skeletor could animate anything and go anywhere.  In my mind that was one of the main differences between the main characters and their followers.

BR: The late Tony Guerrero sculpted a lot of the early He-Man figures. Can you talk a little bit about what it was like to work with him?

Mark: Tony was a great artist and a really nice man and it was my honor to work with him. I also worked on another project, TMNT with a nice and super talented guy named Scott Hensey. Working with both of these sculptors allowed me to break custom by adding a step to the development process. On the He-Man line we did a looks like beauty sculpt, non articulated from my “B” sheet (design sketch) for testing and sales and until we got the first shots from China.  This was Tony’s idea and without this extra step,  the confidence in this “weird” concept wouldn’t have happened.  I repeated this process with the Turtles.

Early He-Man sculpture by Tony Guerrero. Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

BR: These toys were a surprise, runaway success. What is it about He-Man that made it so successful, do you think?

Mark: Everybody pushes us little guys around, we secretly want to strike back at all the bullies.  We need to feel like we can make things better and are willing to fight to do it.  With He-Man we have the power!  We have a chance.  I feel that the  basic concept of courage cannot be taught, it can only be shown.

BR: What did you envision for Zodac when you designed him? What were his abilities and where did he fit in to the MOTU universe?

Mark: Zodac was all about flying. He was the air wing. I was influenced by Flash Gordon and the flying Vikings.

BR: Castle Grayskull is probably the greatest playset ever made, and I understand that you sculpted most of it yourself? What was that process like? What does Castle Grayskull mean to you?

Mark: Yes I did because Tony was busy with the figures and the other sculptors kept making it too architectural.  I wanted it to the castle to be organic, coming to life to tell its story.  I made a wood armature and sculpted it in green clay. Ted helped with the plaster mold and vacuum forming, Rebecca did the labels. Marketing (now everyone wants in on the game) wanted it to retail for twenty nine dollars.  The imaginative user applied labels themselves to offset the lack of interior walls.  Toys R Us sold all they could get fifty dollars which was quite a mark up.


BR: Rebecca, I understand you worked on the stickers and cardboard inserts used in Castle Grayskull. The style ranges from regal to almost psychedelic. What did you have in mind when you were working on that project?

Rebecca: The only chance Mark had to tell the story was with the castle. He always said, “all the answers are in Castle Grayskull”, which is quite a different direction that it eventually went. Once the president of Mattel Ray Wagner chose to go with it, everything moved at such a high velocity because he wanted it and no one else understood it.

Mark asked me to combine classic icons along with futuristic ones because he was going against Star Wars and after all it was a ” warrior-type” premise that had to somehow be more than Conan, Tarzan etc.

Mark had sketches in ancient sketchbooks which I took and redesigned stickers from. I did the designing, drawing, inking and coloring, that includes labels for vehicles as well as directed by and revised by Mark. Just like every label job, I was given areas that I had to fit. Because everything was going so fast, sometimes those areas would change shape and would have to be redrawn on the fly in those cases Mark was redrawing my stuff because he was hands on with the castle. Because we’ve worked together for decades, we speak in brain waves.

I think the reason they are perceived as “psychedelic” is because Mark said, “We’re already going somewhere no one else has so don’t render the labels in the normal hard edged graphic way. I used Dr. Martin’s Dyes and let the colors run and wash into the line art. I think it went through because it was so fast and still no one really “got it”.

It wasn’t until after it looked like it might be “big” did people start making decisions to get connected to the project or shall I say get their “scent” on it if you know what I mean. The innovation on those labels happened because Mark was approving and controlling this project and I knew what he wanted. I’ve done many labels for other toy companies and no one has ever asked me for “something really different” and yet these were a big hit.

I was always disappointed that the Mylar printed moat that surrounded the castle was costed out.

Printed Mark Taylor moat reproduction from the Power & Honor Foundation

BR: Was Errol McCarthy responsible for creating the cross sell artwork on the back of the packaging (below)?

Mark: In the beginning it was someone else and then Errol came in.

BR: MOTU differs a bit from traditional sword and sorcery in that it includes laser guns and flying vehicles. What was behind the inclusion of science fiction with barbarian elements?

Mark: I never wanted it to be a traditional. If I was still working on it I probably would have added zombies, aliens and time travel.  Why not?

BR:  Often in the process from b-sheet to prototype to finished toy, there are a lot design changes. Which finished toy were you most pleased with? Which one do you feel didn’t live up to its potential?

Mark: Castle Grayskull was the best and most innovative, Mer-Man left me a little unsatisfied.

BR: In a nutshell, what is your vision for Eternia? What kind of place is it?

Mark: Eternia is a stupid name to me (not my name). I imagined that world be like a nightmare that you can modify as you go.  ALWAYS about hope.

BR:  In public appearances you often talk about Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey. What has been your personal hero’s journey?

Mark: My wife Rebecca epitomizes attaining a fulfilling goal, she is my Nirvana.  My life is filled with beauty and love, I wish everyone could be as lucky as I.

BR: Are you both still actively involved in creating artwork? What kinds of projects are you passionate about now?

Mark: I am writing a the original prequel to He-Man based on the original Torak.  Also an autobiography about my life in the toy biz. I am fascinated by computer 3D design but it is very non-intuitive for me.  I still love to read and watch movies, I wish I had the resources to make one.

Rebecca: I work on digital art because it is so easy to create my style of graphic art which is strongly based on shapes and color. It is so exciting to me to be able to have such a magnificent palette and to be able to experiment with unlimited color combinations with a couple of keystrokes.

Many thanks to Mark and Rebecca for patiently answering all of my questions. Hopefully we can look forward to a book or two from Mark in the future!

Additional interviews and appearances by Mark and Rebecca:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYYnq_NfQGM

10 Things We Learned From Mark Taylor, the Designer of He-Man – The Robot’s Voice

Q&A with Mark Taylor – Zetaboards

Return to Table of Contents.

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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Beast Man: Savage henchman! (1982)

One of the great evil underlings of 1980s children’s entertainment, Beast Man was among the first four Masters of the Universe figures released in 1982.

As we know from the earliest mini comics, 1982 figures were actually split up into two separate sub-waves:

Wave 1a:

  • He-Man
  • Man-At-Arms
  • Skeletor
  • Beast Man
  • Castle Grayskull
  • Battle Ram

Wave 1b:

  1. Teela
  2. Stratos
  3. Mer-Man
  4. Zodac
  5. Wind Raider

When the Masters of the Universe line was under development in 1980 and 1981, some effort was made to reuse sculpts from previous Mattel toy lines, such as Big Jim and Tarzan. Mattel artist Mark Taylor first conceived of Beast Man as a savage bear creature, possibly intending it to reuse the Grizzly Adams “Ben” bear mold.

Source: PlaidStallions.com
Red Beast, by Mark Taylor
Red Beast, by Mark Taylor

This creature, known to fans now as Red Beast, was brightly colored and fierce looking. Although he bears little to resemblance to Beast Man as we know him, the spiked armor around his neck, the wrist gauntlets and the metal claws would all find their way onto the final design.

The idea of producing a bear creature was dropped because Mattel executives didn’t want to make something too close to Chewbacca (although it’s hard to see much resemblance between the two, beyond the shaggy fur).

Another existing sculpt that Mattel tried to reuse was a gorilla figure that had appeared in both the Big Jim and Tarzan toy lines in the 1970s. The gorilla’s arms could be controlled with a dial on the figure’s back:

Both Mark Taylor and Roger Sweet tried to turn the gorilla into a new figure for the MOTU toy line. Roger Sweet’s creation, Gygor, was unrelated to the development of Beast Man, and was probably done after Mark Taylor left Mattel in 1982. Roger Sweet, in his Mastering the Universe book, wrote:

I changed the ape’s body color from black to bright yellow and gave him a dark olive-green face and chest.His face in contorted with white teeth snarling in an open mouth of blood red. I gave him a black body harness. From his shoulders I hung a dark maroon cape. When I showed “Gygor” to marketing Mark Ellis said that is [expletive] great!!! Ted Mayer in my design group created a striking full-color illustration of the beast, with He-Man mounted on his back. Gygor was decked out with a panoply of harnesses and weapons.

Source: He-Man.org
Source: Power & Honor Foundation

Mark Taylor used the basic Big Jim Gorilla body design to further refine his own Beast Man concept. In this version the spiked armor around the neck from Red Beast is retained in modified form, but the spiked weapons on the hands were removed. The wrist gauntlets actually recall earlier Mark Taylor concept drawings for He-Man. Finally, a belt was added to the character, which featured a compass-like design that would find its way onto the final Beast Man figure.

Image Source: Grayskull Museum

Here’s another version of the character with gold armor, boney spikes, claw weapons on the wrist gauntlets, and a slightly different face:

Image source: Rebecca Salari Taylor. Artwork by Mark Taylor.

This general design was used to create what I believe is the first Beast Man prototype. If it’s not the first, then it’s very early, indeed. This Beast Man (below) follows the general shape of the red gorilla design above, but is colored with the familiar orange fur and red armor. This is not, however, a repainted big Jim Gorilla, as it’s in scale with the other early prototype figures (the Big Jim gorilla is much larger).

Image source: Andy Youssi
Image source: Andy Youssi

Another design that seems to have some features in common with Beast Man is the character who has come to be known as Demo-Man:

Demo Man, by Mark Taylor

Another Mark Taylor design, Demo Man is often thought of as an early version of Skeletor, although Taylor himself says he was a separate character. But if you take a close look at his features, he has elements in common with both Beast Man and Skeletor. In the drawing above, we can see that Demo Man has a hunched, beastly posture, spiked gauntlets, a spiked arm pad, a whip-like flail weapon, a beard, and even a pendant around his neck that vaguely recalls the one on Beast Man’s armor. This isn’t Beast Man, but he might be his long lost undead cousin.

In any case, at some point it was decided that the Big Jim gorilla style body would not be used, even in smaller scale, and so Beast Man was given a unique, updated sculpt. This 1981 Mark Taylor B-sheet shows a synthesis of his earlier designs into an all-new beastly character with simian features. In this B-sheet he is called Beast Man, but he had previously been given the working name of Tree Man:

In this version we see a call out for the familiar color scheme of orange fur with red armor and blue loincloth. But it appears from the first mini comic (“He-Man and the Power Sword”) that Beast Man’s color scheme was originally dominated by red, like the predecessor bear and gorilla designs. Perhaps they were still playing with color options at this point.

Here is how he would have looked if he had been colored like the toy:

The first mini comics featured cross sell artwork closely patterned after the prototype figures and B-sheet designs. The cross sell artwork that made it onto the back of the packaging was usually (but not always) closer to final.

Mini comic cross sell art (Alfredo Alcala)

There are a couple of different “final” prototypes for Beast Man. The first is the version that made it into Mattel’s 1982 dealer catalog and onto the side of the packaging for Castle Grayskull. That version (below) has very nicely applied paint on the compass-like design on his chest armor, with each part individually painted blue:

Image source: Grayskull museum

There’s another prototype that seems to have a paint pattern designed for mass production, with a messy blob of blue on the center of the chest armor, which would become a spray of blue on the final figure:

Image source: Grayskull Museum

That version seems to have been the model for Beast Man’s finalized cross sell artwork, shown below:

Cross sell artwork used on cardbacks. Image courtesy of Axel Giménez.

Note the compass element on Beast Man’s armor, the spikes around his neck, and the spiked weapon on his hand – all elements from previous Mark Taylor designs.

The name “Beast Man” may have been consciously or unconsciously borrowed from the Beastman figure from Mattel’s Flash Gordon line.

From the 1980 Mattel Dealer Catalog

Beast Man came with three separate armor pieces and a whip weapon recycled from Big Jim’s The Whip action figure:

As a side note, the accessories count seems pretty methodically planned for the first wave of figures. Figures in the first half of the first wave (He-Man, Man-At-Arms, Skeletor and Beast Man) were packaged with four accessories each, in various combinations of removable armor, weapons, and/or shields. The second half of the first wave was somewhat cost reduced, with two to three accessories included per figure.

In any case, Beast Man’s armor is the characteristic soft plastic used throughout 1982 and 1983. His whip (designed for a 12-inch figure, it’s technically too big for him, and he has to hold it by the hand guard) has a plastic handle and a cloth string. He is one of only three 1982 figures to be given a paint application on his armor (the others are He-Man and Zodac). The compass-like shape on Beast Man’s chest armor is painted blue. There is an unpainted, smaller version of the compass on the back of his chest armor.

I always found Beast Man’s face intriguing. He has a white face with blue markings under his eyes and over his upper lip. I’m unsure if this is supposed to be his actual face coloring or war paint (there has been some debate among fans about this over the years). As a kid I assumed it was makeup of some kind, maybe because I had been exposed to enough 80’s music videos to make that connection. Perhaps the intent was to give him an appearance similar the golden snub-nosed monkey:

Beast Man featured shorter legs and longer arms than He-Man or Skeletor, befitting his ape-like appearance. His legs, arms and chest were later reused to make Stratos and Moss Man (the latter also reused Beast Man’s head).

Beast Man was originally released on the “8-back” card, featuring cross sell art on the back of the card of all of the first wave characters:

Reissues were produced on the “12-back” card, featuring a striking battle scene between He-Man and Beast Man. This is one of my all time favorite pieces of MOTU art:

The artist responsible for that piece, Errol McCarthy, did most if not all of the card back art for the carded figures. He also did licensing kit artwork for Mattel that was used in various products produced by third parties over the years:

Aside from the single carded figure, you could also pick up Beast Man in the 1983 “Evil Warriors” gift set, featuring Skeletor, Beast Man and Faker:

Reproduction based on vintage packaging

Beast Man is probably the most essential evil warrior next to his master, Skeletor. So, it’s no surprise that he was heavily featured on the box art, appearing on five of the six boxes released in 1982.

He also showed up periodically on other box art over the years:

Beast Man was also a permanent fixture on the Filmation cartoon. Early in his development for the show, Beast Man featured very heavy fur on his lower legs that resembled bell bottoms. This design is actually kind of a halfway point between Beast Man’s first and second prototypes, at least in terms of his costume.

Image source: He-Man Official Youtube page, courtesy of Josh Van Pelt

In the Filmation-produced MOTU toy commercial, Beast Man looked very close to his action figure counterpart.

That same toyetic quality is equally evident in the model sheets for the Filmation commercial (thanks: Dušan Mitrović):

Source: Power & Honor Foundation
Image source: He-Man Official YouTube page, courtesy of Josh Van Pelt

The final Filmation design was simplified. The number of spikes on his armor was reduced. He was given red boots and he lost most of his furry detail:

Filmation portrayed Beast Man as having the power to control some types of animals. This comes from the Masters of the Universe Bible, written by Michael Halperin in December of 1982. The back story where Beast Man was originally an earthling and part of Marlena’s crew of space explorers was never used.

Biff Beastman’s cruel nature spilled on the outside and he became a true BEAST MAN with a lion’s mane, fangs and the power to communicate and command bloodthirsty creatures such as dragons, gorgons, ogres and snakes.

In the DC Comics-produced “To Tempt The Gods”, readers were treated to a whole race of beast men. In most mini comic and Golden Books depictions, however, Beast Man was kind of a standard issue henchman character, something of an Igor to Skeletor’s Doctor Frankenstein, portrayed with varying degrees of intelligence.

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