Heroic Beasts

Stridor – Heroic Armored War Horse (1984)

I never owned Stridor as a kid – I only had his evil counterpart, Night Stalker. Both of them were more interesting to look at than they were to play with, having no action features and articulation only in their guns and tails.

Design & Development

According to Martin Arriola, Stridor was created by Mattel designer Colin Bailey, who also worked on characters like Buzz-Off, Whiplash and Fisto. I’m not aware of any concept art that has surfaced for Stridor, but a hand-painted prototype without decals appears in a 1984 French catalog (below). The tail is shaped differently from the final toy, and the prototype helmet looks rather crude:

Image source: Grayskull Museum

The final toy was given a number of decorative stickers, and changes were made to the tail and helmet:

Stridor cross sell artwork

Production Figure

Stridor in Action

Photos and a short video of Stridor in action, contributed by Øyvind Meisfjord:

Packaging

Stridor was sold individually and in a gift set with Fisto. Both sets feature artwork by, I believe, William Garland, who also did the artwork on the three Panthor boxes.

Note that Stridor is described as “Half war horse/half war machine. Stridor carries He-Man to victory!” To me that implies that he was supposed to be some kind of cyborg horse rather than a pure robot.

Comics and Storybooks

Fisto is often associated with Stridor, just as Jitsu is associated with Night Stalker. It’s a rather unique relationship. In general He-Man seems to be given the heroic vehicles and steeds and Skeletor is given their evil counterparts. But Fisto seems to have been popular enough to merit his own steed. That’s certainly the case in one of my favorite mini comics – The Clash of Arms.

In the story, Fisto, riding on Stridor, is ambushed by Clawful, Tri-Klops, Webstor, and Jitsu. He is captured and forced to fight for his life in Skeletor’s arena. He’s successful in beating off Clawful and Jitsu in turn, but Whiplash nearly spells the end for Fisto before He-Man, riding on Stridor, comes in and breaks up the fight. Stridor had apparently escaped, found He-Man, and warned him of Fisto’s plight. (Note: in this story, Stridor has a saddle rather than a bucket seat, and he is ridden like a normal horse.)

Sadly, this is the first and only appearance of Stridor in the minicomics. However, he does make a couple of appearances in Golden stories, including in Secret of the Dragon’s Egg and Teela’s Secret.

Stridor also appears on the cover of this 1985 Golden coloring book:

Stridor appears a few times in the 1985 Ladybird annual, having apparently been mass-produced:

Animation

A robotic horse called “Strider” appears in several Filmation He-Man episodes, including “Pawns of the Game Master” and “A Friend in Need”, but it looks nothing like the Mattel toy, and it’s not immediately obvious that there is a connection beyond the name. It’s possible Mattel got the name for their toy from Filmation, but I don’t know for sure.

The familiar toy-like Stridor appears in “Origin of the Sorceress,” where we learn that Man-At-Arms created the robot horse in his laboratory. Stridor sacrifices himself in order to defeat the evil Morgoth. After he is repaired, He-Man and Man-At-Arms learn that Stridor wants to roam free, and that after his confrontation with Morgoth he had become a living thing. Consequently, they release him into the wild.

Design-wise, Filmation’s Stridor is close to his toy counterpart, except he lacks his red helmet and some of his decorative details.

Other Artwork

Stridor and Fisto were illustrated by Errol McCarthy for use in licensed T-shirts:

Image source: He-Man.org

Stridor also appeared in this 1984 poster by William George:

Stridor also appears in my favorite poster by Earl Norem, which appeared in the inaugural issue of the US Masters of the Universe Magazine:

As limited as Stridor was as a toy, he’s got a terrific design, and his partnership with Fisto lends him a rather unique position within the Masters of the Universe mythos.


Image source: Grayskull Museum

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Resource

Parts Reuse in MOTU, Part Three: 1984

Masters of the Universe, for all its diversity and creativity, was quite an economical toyline, creatively (and sometimes uncreatively) using and reusing the same molds over and over again throughout its run. Sometimes this was done fairly invisibly, and other times it was as plain as the nose on Faker’s face.

In this series I’ll be cataloging the reuse of existing molds, in context of what is known and what is likely about which figures were created in what order. For example, He-Man’s prototype was almost certainly finished before Man-At-Arms, so Man-At-Arms reused He-Man’s legs, rather than vice versa. I’ll also include parts that were reused from other toylines.

Sometimes existing parts were modified for use in new toys. For example, Beast Man’s chest seems to have been based on He-Man’s chest sculpt, albeit with a great deal of hair added to it. This didn’t save money on tooling, but it did save some time and effort for the sculptor. I’ll point this out whenever I see it. Whenever a modified part is used again, however, I’ll refer to it as belonging to the toy that used it first (for example, Stratos and Zodac reuse Beast Man’s chest).

I won’t comment on “invisible” parts, such as neck pegs or waist springs that are normally not seen.

First, the toys from 1984 that had (at the time) all new parts:

Orko

Stridor

Road Ripper

Dragon Walker

Roton

These toys from 1984 reused some existing parts:

Battle Armor He-Man

Prince Adam

Mekaneck

Buzz-Off

Fisto

Battle Armor Skeletor

Whiplash

Clawful

Webstor

Kobra Khan

Jitsu

Snake Mountain

Weapons Pak

Parts Reuse series:

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Artwork

Box Art From A-Z, Part Three: 1984

box-art-a-z-graphic-1984

One of the best things about getting new He-Man toys as a kid was the box art. The toys were of course amazing and fun, but personally I spent almost as much time staring at the boxes as playing with the toys. I remember being pretty heartbroken when my mother made me throw away my Castle Grayskull and Battle Ram boxes. She saw them as clutter, but for me they were almost stories in and of themselves. You could see whole adventures unfolding in a single painted scene.

Unfortunately, good photographs or scans of the original art are not available for every piece. If you happen to have a nicer images than I do (higher resolution, better composition, etc), please do feel free to share, and I’ll make an update! For pictures of the packaging itself, a neutral (white or black) background is preferred. High resolution scans of the artwork, where it appears without logos, would be ideal. Bottom line – if you have better images than I do, please share them!

One final note: I’m defining box art as the front-facing painted artwork that appeared on boxed Masters of the Universe toys. The illustrations on blister card packaging, then, are outside the scope of this series.

Part Three: 1984

Name: Battle Armor He-Man and Battle Cat
Year: 1984
Artist: William George
Description: Battle Cat and Battle Armor He-Man leap through the air into battle.

battle-cat-william-george-gift-set

Name: Battle Armor He-Man and Road Ripper
Year: 1984
Artist: William George
Description: Battle Armor He-Man races over the rocky desert floor in the Road Ripper, as small dragon-like creatures look on. A volcano erupts in the background.

he-man-road-ripper-best


Name: Battle Armor Skeletor and Panthor
Year: 1984
Artist: William George
Description: Battle Armor Skeletor and Panthor race up the rocky path toward Castle Grayskull, which is guarded by Battle Armor He-Man and Man-At-Arms.

ba-skeletor-panthor-best

Name: Battle Armor Skeletor and Screeech
Year: 1984
Artist: Unknown
Description: Screeech takes flight from the perch of Battle Armor Skeletor’s arm. Molten lava erupts from a nearby volcano and the skies are choked with black smoke.

battle-armor-skeletor-screeech-best


Name: Battle For Eternia (2)
Year: 1984
Artist: William Garland
Description: Panthor swipes his claws at Man-E-Faces, as Man-E-Faces takes aim with his blaster at Skeletor, who is riding atop the savage cat. Twin moons hang in the smokey sky. (Note: this set has the same artwork as the version released in 1983, but includes Battle Armor Skeletor in place of Skeletor.)

BFE
Image courtesy of Tokyonever

Name: Dragon Walker
Year: 1984
Artist: William George
Description: Battle Armor He-Man pilots the Dragon Walker over rocky, volcanic terrain. Beast Man and Tri-Klops are ready to attack but seem unsure how to proceed. In the foreground, a small pterodactyl-like creature seems ready to take flight.

dragon-walker-largest


Name: Fisto & Stridor
Year: 1984
Artist: William Garland*
Description: Fisto spots Skeletor and Whiplash as he rides Stridor through a perilous landscape, lit by twin alien moons. A menacing wolf-like creature lurks in the foreground. (*Artist name not confirmed for this particular piece, but the art seems to match the style of the Panthor illustrations.)

fisto-stridor-best

Name: Road Ripper
Year: 1984
Artist: William George
Description: He-Man races over the rocky desert floor in the Road Ripper.

road-ripper-largest

Name: Roton
Year: 1984
Artist: William George
Description: Skeletor tears through a grassy field in the Roton. A horned lizard and demon-like creature look on near a muddy pool of water. A huge, Jupiter-like planet and its orbiting moon dominate the night sky. A group of shadowy figures stand around a campfire in the distance.

roton-brb-scan

Name: Snake Mountain
Year: 1984
Artist: William George
Description: Battle Armor He-Man takes aim with his axe at Battle Armor Skeletor, who stands at the high gate of Snake Mountain. Man-At-Arms is chained to the side of the evil fortress.

snake-mountain

Name: Stridor
Year: 1984
Artist: William Garland*
Description: He-Man rides Stridor across the desert at night, his sword ready for battle. (*Artist name not confirmed for this particular piece, but the art seems to match the style of the Panthor illustrations.)

stridor-largest-saturation

More articles in this series:

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Heroic Warriors

Fisto – Heroic hand-to-hand fighter (1984)

fisto-graphic

My  introduction to Fisto came in first grade, when a classmate pulled out several of his newest He-Man figures to show the rest of us. The three figures I remember him showing us were Tri-Klops, Jitsu and Fisto.

I already owned Tri-Klops from way back in Kindergarten, but I hadn’t seen these two new figures with their spring-loaded right arms that terminated in either a giant metallic fist or chopping hand. The entire group was suitably impressed, and we each took turns testing out their action features.

In the commercial above, Fisto is pitted against Clawful, another character from 1984 with an enlarged right “hand”. I don’t know if that’s because the Jitsu action figure wasn’t quite ready yet, or if they thought that Clawful would sell more. Jitsu seems like a more obvious nemesis for Fisto.

wish
Image source: Wishbook

Fisto was created by Mattel designer Colin Bailey (see: my interview with Martin Arriola). Although no concept art for Fisto has been either found or at least made public, there is an image of his prototype.

The image below, which can be found on both He-Man.org and Masters Unbound, shows a prototype built around the basic He-Man buck. The sculpt for his metal fist and armor is a bit rough, with noticeable divots and irregularities. He seems to have larger eyebrows compared to the final toy. This version also has the standard He-Man arms. The final version of Fisto would have enlarged deltoids to accommodate the width needed for the spring-loaded arm mechanism. He would also be given a closed left hand to allow him to better hold his sword. In this case, the sword is an unmodified copy of Tri-Klops’ sword, but the final toy’s sword would be cast in purple.

fisto-proto-org

The cross sell artwork created for Fisto, at first glance, appears to be identical to the finished toy. But upon further examination, this one still has the standard He-Man arms, complete with open left hand. This time his sword is the correct purple color:

fisto1
Image courtesy of Axel Giménez

Compare that to the final toy, which has the changes discussed previously:

The sword, I think, is an odd choice, given the figure’s action feature. I would think a blunt weapon, like a mace or a hammer, would be better suited to Fisto’s fighting style.

Like many MOTU figures, Fisto was had some variations depending on country of origin or date of manufacture. Malaysian figures have a larger, more hollow head, with much darker purple boots, belt and armor. Various Hong Kong figures have medium or light purple armor, belt and boots. Some have brown hair, and others have auburn or bright red hair:

img_2859
Note:The heads were switched on the two outer figures

There were also a couple of versions that came with a purple Jitsu sword.

For the single carded figure, the artwork on the back was done by the venerable Errol McCarthy, which shows Fisto giving Skeletor a knock-out punch:

fisto-mccarthy-1-reduced
fisto-mccarthy-2-reduced

Some more great Fisto-related artwork from McCarthy:

Fisto was sold in a JCPenny two-pack with Buzz-Off. The box had minimal artwork – the black and white line art that Mattel shipped out to retailers for use in ad copy.

buzzfisto
Image via Grayskull Museum

Fisto was also sold in a gift set with Stridor, with great piece of artwork that seems to have been illustrated by William Garland, based on its style.

fisto-stridor-front-best
02-copy
fisto-stridor
Image via Grayskull Museum

Fisto is often associated with Stridor, just as Jitsu is associated with Night Stalker. It’s a rather unique relationship. In general He-Man seems to be given the heroic vehicles and steeds and Skeletor is given their evil counterparts. But Fisto seems to have been popular enough to merit his own steed. That’s certainly the case in one of my favorite mini comics – The Clash of Arms.

In the story, Fisto, riding on Stridor, is ambushed by Clawful, Tri-Klops, Webstor, and Jitsu. He is captured and forced to fight for his life in Skeletor’s arena. He’s successful in beating off Clawful and Jitsu in turn, but Whiplash nearly spells the end for Fisto before He-Man comes in and breaks up the fight.

Another notable Fisto story in the mini comics is Masks of Power. In this tale, Fisto and He-Man are obliged to team up with Mer-Man and Skeletor to stop two little demons who have stolen powerful masks and threaten to take the power sword.

In Skeletor’s Dragon, Fisto doesn’t play a major role, but there is a fun sequence where the heroes are testing their strength. Fisto bests Man-At-Arms at the “tower of power”, but of course when He-Man takes his turn, he sends the mechanism into orbit:

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Fisto plays some substantial roles in several of the Golden Books stories. In Secret of the Dragon’s Egg, Fisto, again paired with Stridor, leads the search for the coveted Dragon’s egg, and battles against Beast Man and invented villain Goat Man:

In The Magic Mirror, Fisto is replaced by a mirror image duplicate (Skeletor in a magical disguise).  Skeletor is discovered when He-Man notices that “Fisto’s” steel fist is on his left hand rather than his right.

In Demons of the Deep, Fisto, He-Man and Ram Man discover an underwater duplicate of Castle Grayskull inhabited by Skeletor, who controls some nasty robot sea monsters.

In the Filmation He-Man cartoon, Fisto’s design is, as usual, simplified for animation. The most noticeable change in design here is that he is given an enlarged fist even compared to the one on the Mattel toy.

fisto

Fisto is also given an origin story. In “Fisto’s Forest”, we learn that Fisto, like Man-E-Faces, started out as a villain. He’s a loner who lives in the woods and makes trouble for anyone he comes across. Eventually (and somewhat abruptly) he sees the error in his ways and joins forces with He-Man.

fistos-forest

Personally, I remember Fisto best from the episode, “To Save Skeletor.” In the story, Fisto and his compatriots must save the evil warriors (Trap Jaw, in the frame below) from the Lovecraftian demon Sh’Gora.

fisto-save-skeletor

In my mind, Fisto is one of the few heroic warriors who I could see as a leading character in his own spin-off series (I’d say the same Teela and perhaps Zodac). Like most characters released after 1982, he’s a bit gimmicky, but not to the point where he becomes overly cartoonish. I could see a series of comics where Fisto and Stridor explore the savage wastes of Eternia, challenging evil warlords, winning the hearts of bar maids, and causing lesser men to quake at the sight of his mighty red beard.

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