Tag Archives: Stratos

Stratos: Winged warrior! (1982)

Released late in the first year of Masters of the Universe figures, Stratos was one of the few from that 1982 that I didn’t own as a kid. I remember encountering him for the first time at a friend’s house: “Who’s this guy? Oh yeah, I remember seeing him in the comics. Where’s his weapon? No weapon? I guess it’s cool that he can fly. Is he a flying monkey?”

Design & Development

Stratos, designed by Mark Taylor, appears to have been originally conceived as a villain.

Given the working name “Bird Man” (also, perhaps “Wing Man”) Stratos was intended to have the hairy arms and legs of Beast Man, but the furless homo sapiens chest of He-Man.

Artwork by Mark Taylor, showing the front, side and rear of the figure. Shared by Rebecca Salari Taylor.

The body in the B-sheet isn’t fully colored, but a bit of color on the chest indicates a tentative flesh tone or orange color scheme. However, he could also be interpreted as having a light gray body. His wings are blue, and his red backpack attaches around his waist and his neck. That design comes through in the first mini comics drawn by Alfredo Alcala, depicted as first a villain and then a hero, although he didn’t always include the jetpack:

Eventually his backpack was redesigned and his body color was changed to gray, which was reflected in the last mini comic of 1982. The colors of his backpack and arm feathers were also reversed:

This design also appears in the cross sell art:

Stratos cross sell artwork. Image courtesy of Axel Giménez.

Notice in this hand-painted prototype (with another redesign to the chest harness), Stratos has a hairless chest, which matches up with the original Mark Taylor B-Sheet and the cross sell art:


Source: 1981 License Kit/He-Man.org

This image from the 1984 Annual (which used images taken from early prototypes) makes it clearer that Stratos had a smooth chest. This design makes him seem far less animalistic:


Image from: He-Man.org. Note that the harness also lacks the feather design at the shoulders.

I thought I had found yet another prototype of Stratos in a German promotional booklet. The harness seems to have a criss-cross pattern on the front, which reminded me a little of the cross sell art. But I think this is simply a case of the photographer putting the harness on incorrectly:

Eventually it was decided that Stratos would have the same furry chest as Beast Man:

Image source: The Art of He-Man

There were some variations of early production versions of Stratos. Some came with blue wings and a red backpack, and others with red wings and a blue backpack. The rarest version had a blue beard and gray goggles.

The blue beard version of Stratos is the very first version released. It’s probably a factory error. Even though Mark Taylor’s original color scheme included a blue beard (and blue goggles), pre-production prototypes all had gray beards.

Blue wing blue beard Stratos
Red wing blue beard Stratos

The red wing/gray beard version is probably the most popular, as he was most frequently depicted in this color scheme:

Of course the blue wing/gray beard version has its fan base too:

The first editions of Stratos was packaged on the “eight back” style card.

Later versions were packaged in the “12 back” card and featured this scene on the card back by artist Errol McCarthy:

Strangely, Stratos is depicted with three-toed feet

Minicomics

Stratos appears fairly frequently in early minicomics, although his appearances gradually taper off in later years.

Aside from the afore-mentioned first year minicomics, Stratos takes a starring role in Siege of Avion, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala and written by Michael Halperin. The story is based on Filmation’s He-Man espisode, “Reign of the Monster”. In the story, as in the cartoon, Stratos is the leader of Avion, home to a race of bird people. Both stories revolve around the Staff of Avion and Skeletor’s plot to steal it.

DC Comics

Stratos is a supporting character throughout the 1982-1983 run of Masters of the Universe comics by DC Comics.

Stratos appears only on the cover of Fate Is The Killer, released November 1982. This is a recolored version. Image courtesy of Dejan Dimitrovski.
From To Tempt The Gods, December 1982. Image source: Vaults of Grayskull

Golden Books

Stratos appears in the early Golden Book stories as well, and plays a particularly strong role in The Trap:

He also plays a strong role in The Sunbird Legacy, where we see a different take on the people of Avion. Stratos’ compatriots were shown in the familiar gray/blue/red colors but given unique headgear and wings on their backs :

Animation

Stratos made occasional appearances in the Filmation cartoon. He wasn’t depicted as a flying ape-like creature. He looks instead like a human in a kind of flight suit.

Image source: Heritage Auctions
Image source: Heritage Auctions
Image source: Heritage Auctions

Of course, in the Filmation Series Guide he looks a lot closer to the toy:

Other Artwork

Stratos also makes some appearances in Rudy Obrero’s Castle Grayskull, Wind Raider and Battle Ram box art:

From Castle Grayskull box art
From Wind Raider box art
From Battle Ram box art

Stratos also appears in several posters by William George:

Stratos probably isn’t near the top of most people’s favorite MOTU character lists (although some people absolutely love him). As a kid he didn’t particularly spark my interest, but as an adult I find him enormously charming.

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1982 Mattel Toys Dealer Catalog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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