I don’t seem to recall much about Terror Claws Skeletor from childhood, but he’s certainly one of the most flamboyant of the Skeletor variants released over the years. He’s often referred to by fans as “sports bra Skeletor”, but his armor, in fairness, is more like the 80s muscle shirt modeled by “Macho Man” Randy Savage, below:
Design & Development
Terror Claws Skeletor was, I believe, designed by Alan Tyler. In the Power and Honor Foundation catalog (below), we can see an early concept design showing how the figure’s action feature would work:
The design on the above armor is reminiscent of the bat design on Battle Armor Skeletor. The armor design would be altered on the final figure, however. We can see it represented (in unpainted form) in David Wolfram‘s Tyrantisaurus concept art, below:
It’s possible the armor was inspired by an early Man-E-Faces concept by Mark Taylor:
The cross sell artwork for the figure represents the finalized design:
This interesting test test shot (photos by Mike Holbrook) shows the figure with light flesh tone skin and an orange and white costume:
Terror Claws Skeletor was trademarked on June 14, 1985, and the copyright for the figure was registered May 19, 1986.
Terror Claws Skeletor was the first Skeletor variant to have almost entirely newly sculpted parts. He has newly designed legs with much larger toes (Laser-Light Skeletor would use the same basic foot shape in its design) and ball-jointed legs. His armor (painted a light metallic purple is a part of his chest sculpt. His arms are based on previous Skeletor arms, but the hands and forearms were modified him to allow him to wear his Terror Claws.
Terror Claws Skeletor was released on an oversized card with an illustration on the front by William George. It was advertised as the “5th Anniversary Collector’s Edition”, which is interesting because Masters of the Universe to my knowledge was launched in 1982, four years earlier. However, some fans have theorized that MOTU actually was launched in late 1981, base on their memories. That’s also backed up by an old audio interview of Mark Taylor. I haven’t found any documentary evidence to really support that MOTU came out in 1981, but this is nevertheless something interesting that at least points in that direction.
The back of the card featured an illustration by Errol McCarthy, and illustrated the figure’s arm-swinging action feature:
The figure was also released in a gift set with Flying Fists He-Man, featuring artwork on the front against by William George:
In the figure’s accompanying minicomic, The Terror Claws Strike!, Spikor is commissioned by Skeletor to create a new weapon. The claws themselves look more or less like the toy (albeit with longer, segmented fingers, similar to those in the concept art), but the “beastly pincher” looks plain and mechanical, not like the skull weapon that came with the toy. Skeletor’s costume is also based on his animated look, rather than the actual Terror Claws figure.
The Terror Claws also appear in Escape From The Slime Pit. In the story, a slime-covered and brainwashed He-Man shows up to destroy Skeletor:
A rather comic depiction of the Terror Claws appears in the May 1, 1986 issue of Star Comics Masters of the Universe series. In the story, the “claws” look like floppy blue gloves:
Update: Øyvind Meisfjord mentions that a better illustration of the Terror Claws appears in a later issue of the Star Comics. He shares these images from his Norwegian copy:
Terror Claws Skeletor struggles with Flying Fists He-Man for the Cosmic Key in this (as far as I know) unproduced illustration by William George
They also appear front and center in William George’s Eternia poster:
They also appear on the box art for the Eternia playset, also illustrated by William George:
The figure also appears illustrated in this sticker from Spain:
Terror Claws Skeletor in Action
Øyvind Meisfjord has kindly contributed the following images and video of Terror Claws Skeletor in action:
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11 thoughts on “Terror Claws Skeletor: Evil leader with the claw-swinging action! (1986)”
Interestingly enough the european release standard for this figure is with the dragon attachment with unpainted (white) inner mouth.
I remember my brother taking one look at Terror Claws Skeletor and saying, “They put a pink-ish sports bra on Skeletor?! I guess that’s one way to ruin a cool character.” Looks like he wasn’t the only one to think that. I still think it was an exceptionally cool idea…but the armor could have been a more menacing treatment.
of course, test shots just used whatever plastic they have laying around, but it’s still an interesting setup ^_^
Kinda didn’t like Terror Claws but it’s not their fault. Never had the figure in person but knew how they went over the hands so it looked like Skeletor was just holding a pair of claws.. modem days, they would probably be lazy and give you swappable hands for them, but still, they could have tried a bit more like LJN did with Lion-o’s glove.. but while it was pretty much (not quite) the same system and had the back missing.. it kinda looked more like a glove.. probably cause the hand almost went over the hand..
still, Terror claws are BAD.. just didn’t like them. Modern view of them?… take it or leave it.. while a new Skeletor mold and all, I don’t think enough to make me rush out and buy it new..
5th Anniversary Collector’s Edition??! A remarkable milestone to be sure… 😉
My Mer-Man has 1981 stamped on the leg, I guess that could be enough to justify the celebration… 🎉🎉🎉
I never had TC Skeletor in my original childhood collection – I was actually never much into variants at all; I’d always rather save my pocket money for a ‘new’ character instead of a variant of one I already had. I guess the claw-slashing action is okay-ish, but I just don’t really care for the look they gave this version of Skeletor… and it seems I’m not alone. If they were going to re-hash Skeletor, they could maybe have gone for a bolder now colour scheme over the pink ‘sports bra’ – maybe in more silver-metalic colours, including the claws, the make more of a big deal of them.
It was about the point in the line where I felt it had got ‘anything goes’ and very gimmicky… and this one felt a bit like “Hey kids, it’s Skeletor… and now he’s holding some slightly over-sized claws!!”. I don’t HATE the figure (and hey, it’s Skeletor), but it was one of the “What can we sell them next” efforts IMO.
It always seemed like a fair toy concept, but I felt would have been better maybe put onto a new figure (a cat warrior?) instead on Skeletor, where maybe ‘the latest gimmick variant’ was lost on such an iconic character.
Also at around this time, Skeletors head seemed to be produced far less well – maybe partly due to the hard head replacing the old rubber version, but looking a bit too angular and blocky… and some of the sloppy paintwork jobs on the faces looked terrible IMO.
As regards to the Fifth Anniversary / 1981 thing, the original eight characters were certainly developed and play-tested throughout that year. Many of my original early figures have a 1981 copyright stamp on them, and I have heard thought the years that possibly early releases of the first four characters (He-Man, Man-At-Arms, Skeletor, Beast Man) were released in select stores/areas in late 1981, maybe to test market response, but of course this has never been solidily proven, as yet.
TC Skeletor is my least favorite Skeletor variant as well, for all the reasons you mention.
I’m one of those that remembers buying a Man-At-Arms figure in 1981. I was seven years old and in the beginning of second grade. So I am pretty sure it was 1981 when I got my first MotU figure.
With another head and as a new character, the idea and the gimmick would be ok, maybe even cool. But Skeletor as a focused melee character… Nah. It would be like giving a giant sword to Gandalf XD
While the idea and the design were nifty, I agree that this was a pretty “out there” version of Skeletor, and if this design had been made into an all-new character, it would’ve been one of my absolute favourites. Having said that, I got him for Easter and had a blast with him.
I get the feeling that his mini-comics design was based around them not having gotten very far in the design process, and the artist was told “it’s like, Skeletor, you know, but with these gloves that have big claws on all the fingers, and like some kind of pinchy weapon,” and he just had to use his imagination.
The fun aspect of Terror Claws Skeletor was that moving his body without the claws, he looked like he was dancing.
I like him better than Dragon Blaster Skeletor, but I never owned that one…which was retread of Kobra Khan’s action feature.
Will you be adding a Flying Fists He-Man write up anytime soon?