Artwork

Masters of the Universe Cross Sell Art: US Variants

The artwork for this set comes from Axel Giménez, Tokyonever, Plaid Stallions (for the Monogram Talon Fighter), and my own scans and photos. This is not meant to be exhaustive – it merely represents the variants in US cross-sell art that I am aware of.

Teela

Teela shows up with brown boots and armor in the early 8-back cardbacks, but she can also be found with red armor/boots on some of the early vehicle packaging. It’s possible that this is just a variation in the way the print was set up, but the change may have been deliberate, in order to more accurately reflect the colors of her action figure.

Mer-Man

Mer-Man shows up with blue skin in early 8-back cardbacks, but he can be found with green skin on much of the vehicle packaging as well as later figure cardbacks. I believe the change was deliberate, in order to reflect the skin tone of his action figure. Of course the cross sell art still looks quite a bit different from the toy, regardless.

Trap Jaw

Trap Jaw’s cross sell art is something of a curiosity. It’s very common to find a version of it where he is missing not only his jaw but also his chest armor. On the other hand, only the jawless version features the skull and crossbones design on his belt. There was actually a catalog that featured a jawless version of the figure itself, making me wonder if the art wasn’t based on an incomplete sample, and the artist wasn’t aware of that fact.

Evil-Lyn

I found the flesh tone version of Evil-Lyn on the back of Dragon Walker packaging, and the yellow version on Fisto’s cardback. I don’t know for sure whether or not the change was deliberate or a printer artifact, but the flesh tone version recalls the character’s animated appearance.

Zoar

Zoar typically shows up with a two-tone orange color scheme and green armor on the backs of minicomics. Conversely, he appears in the toy-accurate orange and blue color scheme with red armor on the back of vehicle packaging. I believe the version with green armor represents and early, abandoned color scheme for the figure.

Attak Trak

The Attak Trak variants are the most subtle of this group. The cross sell artwork appears in both orange and red. There are also some orange versions of the toy, although most are red. I believe the earliest releases are orange.

Talon Fighter

The Monogram model kit Talon Fighter looks much different than its Mattel counterpart, and so of course does its cross sell art. The Monogram version represents, I believe, an earlier Mattel design for the toy.

Masters of the Universe Cross Sell Art:

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Resource

Parts Reuse in MOTU, Part Two: 1983

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 1983 that had (at the time) all new parts:

Ram Man

Man-E-Faces

Point Dread & Talon Fighter

These toys from 1983 reused some existing parts:

Man-E-Faces – free weapons offer

Trap Jaw

Tri-Klops

Evil-Lyn

Faker

Savage He-Man

Panthor

Zoar

Screeech

Attak Trak

Parts Reuse series:

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Reviews

Hammer of the Gods: The Bearer and the Burden

Masters of the Universe was a unique blend of classic barbarian sword and sorcery high adventure crossed with the high-tech drama of Flash Gordon and Star Wars, with a splash of color and gimmickry to make it irresistible to six-year-olds. So what happens if you take Masters of the Universe and peel away the science fiction elements while keeping the colorful characters? You get something very much like The Bearer and the Burden, a new He-Man inspired minicomic from Hammer of the Gods.

The world of Hammer of the Gods is not simply Masters of the Universe minus the techno-gadgetry, however. He-Man bears the unmistakable influence of Conan the Barbarian, but He-Man’s morals were totally different. He-Man was always a selfless protector, even from his earliest “savage” minicomic days. Conan, driven mostly by id, was ever looking out for number one, even if he grudgingly got pulled into solving other people’s problems.

Punch-Out, the protagonist of Hammer of the Gods, splits the difference between the He-Man and Conan – that is to say, he is a tireless protector of the innocent, but he is frequently driven by ego.

In that way, Punch-Out is also a little like Dagar the Invincible. He-Man is perhaps a bit closer to Larn from Fire and Ice.

The Bearer and the Burden was written by Hammer of the Gods creator Walter Harris, and illustrated by Daniele Danbrenus Spezzani. Harris is best known for his custom HOTG and Thundarr the Barbarian action figures. Danbrenus is known for his original minicomic illustrations done in the style of the legendary comic book artist, Alfredo Alcala. (Alcala actually worked on both He-Man and Conan, among other properties.) Danbrenus, like Alcala, works in inks and water colors rather than digital media, and the extra effort toward greater authenticity really pays off here.

From Danbrenus’ The Triumph of Skeletor

The Bearer and the Burden is formatted like the original “adventure books” (illustrated by Alfredo Alcala) that came packaged with the first wave of He-Man figures. Each page has a single illustration and about 75 words of text at the bottom. Unlike conventional comic books, there are no word balloons.

We begin with Punch-Out, whose real name is Cestus, a gladiator fighting to win his freedom. Already we see a tonal shift away from the kid-friendly He-Man comics, as Cestus is pictured holding the severed head of one of his opponents.

In his post-gladiatorial life, Cestus relentlessly seeks purpose by throwing himself into danger, in a sequence with some amusing nods to Tarzan and Indiana Jones. The comic doesn’t take itself too seriously, but the humor is subtle enough that it doesn’t take the reader out of the story or erase the stakes in our hero’s journey.

When I say hero’s journey, I mean that quite literally. The Bearer is a pretty textbook example of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth in action, which is why I think it works so well.

Meanwhile, a dark threat surrounding rumors of a demonic sorcerer (Wrath Azuhl, the Skeletor to Punch-Out’s He-Man) and his cultic followers begins to grow. The Monks of Axis Mundi, who guard a legendary weapon forged by the gods, identify Cestus as the champion worthy to wield the Hammer of the Gods.

Through an intensely painful process, Cestus is fused with the Hammer, which is a metal gauntlet and sleeve imbued with divine magic. Now endowed with power from the gods, Punch-Out, as he is now called by the monks, goes to train with his new weapon. Of course, it doesn’t take long before the inevitable conflict with Wrath Azuhl and his colorful minions.

Incidentally, if there is something familiar about Punch-Out, it’s because the action figure he’s based on is made up of parts from an Apollo Creed figure, as well as bits from Man-At-Arms, Fisto, Trap-Jaw and Roboto.

I don’t want to spoil the climax or the ending, as the comic just went on sale. I will say that I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading The Bearer and the Burden, but I was pulled into the story from the first couple of pages onward. It’s a well-balanced blend of classic sword and sorcery story-telling with just enough pulpiness and humor to keep things fun. Harris’ skillful narration combined with Danbrenus’ charming Alcala-esque illustrations make for a very enjoyable read. Fans of Masters of the Universe will get what this is about instantly, and those familiar with the vintage minicomics will be delighted with the little Easter eggs that Danbrenus has left for them.

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