Masters of the Universe
He-Man toys and some of the imitators
Original eight figures
I remember getting my first Masters of the Universe toy when I was five years old in 1982 as a surprise in an Easter Basket. My first figure was Skeletor and my twin brother's was Stratos. I was instantly hooked. It was still a year before the Filmation cartoon would come out and it was the first time I had seen anything like it. All of my other action figures (Star Wars, Clash of the Titans, GI*JOE, etc.)were on a 3 1/2 inch scale and these were 5 1/2 inches and completely buff. Each figure also came with a mini-comic that explained their origin or just some random story set on Eternia the planet they were from.
Skeletor was the leader of the Evil Warriors and was some kind of skull-faced demon with blue skin complete with havoc staff.
Stratos was one of the Heroic Warriors and the leader of the bird-like people of Avion. After receiving the first two figures that was all I wanted for Christmases and birthdays.
He-Man is a wandering barbarian. He is the greatest warrior of his tribe, and leaves his people to defend Eternia from the evil that has been gathering since the great war. The war destroyed most of the civilizations of Eternia and who left behind advanced machinery and powerful weapons. All that is left of the inhabitants of Eternia are nomadic bands of people and creatures.
Man-At-Arms is a weapons smith and a Heroic Warrior who aids He-Man against the Evil Warriors. Eventually he becomes the weapons master and chief engineer for the king. He is also the foster parent of Teela. From the cartoon we find out his name is Duncan.
He-Man sets out in search of the ancient Castle Grayskull, a fortress of mystery and power left standing during the great war. Castle Grayskull contains the advanced technology and powerful weapons of the ancient civilizations. Whomever controls the power of Grayskull will become the master of the Universe. Castle Grayskull is haunted by the spirits of the ancients and protected by the Sorceress/Goddess. A tear in the fabric of space and time has allowed Skeletor to come to Eternia who now wants to conquer Castle Grayskull to become master. The Sorceress gives He-Man half of the sword of power to protect eternia. He-Man becomes the most powerful man in the universe. The other half is hidden. Skeletor wants to find the other half of the sword to be able to take control of Castle Grayskull.
The toy was phenomenal. One of the best play sets for action figures ever. It had a working "jaw" bridge that lowered and locked. It could be opened using the power sword as a key. It had an ancient throne that was also a secret lever to release the trap door. Your enemies would fall through the trap door to the dungeon below. It also had a cool weapon's rack. Unfortunately the castle's accessories were easily lost or broken.
Skeletor also had Evil Warriors to assist him in his quest for power.
Beastman is a savage henchman who can control animals.
Mer-Man is the ocean warlord who controls sea life.
Teela is a Heroic Warrior who is the daughter of the Sorceress and who is adopted by Man-At-Arms. She becomes captain of the guards for the king. Teela is wearing the armor of the Goddess the protector of Castle Grayskull in the original mini comics replaced later in the cartoon by the Sorceress.
Zodac was originally listed as an Evil Warrior is actually neutral and a cosmic traveler who chronicles events in the universe. Those are the original eight figures of the toy line.
I now pause from Masters of the Universe (MOTU for short) to tell you about Mattel's other line of action figures, Big Jim and how some of the concepts may have been reused when designing MOTU and definitely some of the molds were. There is also a persistent rumor that MOTU was originally planned as toys for the film Conan the Barbarian, but that mattel changed the concept or backed out because they did not think the violence and nudity of the film would translate well into a children's toy line. I am a huge fan of Conan and loved the film, but the film did not come out until 1982. Mattel was designing and producing MOTU figures from 1980 until they were first released in 1981. Conan is Robert E. Howard's Character from 1932. One interesting side note however is that Science Fiction and Fantasy was immensely popular in books and that Mattel toy designers admitted using Frank Frazetta's paintings of barbarians and science fiction as inspiration for He-Man. Incidentally Frank Frazetta painted the covers for the Lancer press 1966-1977 paperback editions of the Conan Stories.
Big Jim is an action figure/doll line for boys that came out in 1971, a full decade before MOTU. The figures closely resembled Hasbro's GI*JOE but were only ten inches tall to their twelve. They ranged from cowboys and spies, to pirates and astronauts.
Captain Drake a hooded skeletal faced villian is eerily reminiscent of Skeletor. The whip that Beastman uses (go ahead and scroll back up to look at it again) is the exact same whip used earlier by a Big Jim character called the Whip.
The second wave of MOTU figures continued Mattel's practice of reusing existing molds and concepts.
Faker is a robot duplicate of He-Man or in some instances a clone or magical being. It is the exact same toy as He-Man with a different paint scheme and Skeletor's armor.
Tri-Klops is a Evil villain huntsman with three eyes that can see in all directions and even through solid objects. The figure had a spinning ring on its head that could rotate so you could select the eye you wanted. The cartoon gave special powers to each eye including one for seeing the future.
Evil-Lyn is a evil witch who assists Skeletor with her magic. She is the exact same toy as Teela with a different head sculpt and paint job.
Trap Jaw is a evil cyborg weapons expert with a bionic arm. He is more than likely heavily influenced by the Big Jim character Iron Jaw.
Man-E-Facesis a Heroic Warrior that can change his face to that of a monster or robot and gains the abilities of whichever face he is using.
Ram-Man a Heroic Warrior has the abilities to batter down obstacles with his head. In my opinion he was one of the lamest of the toys having fused legs and a spring action.
The design of Man-E-Faces was more than likely influenced by two Big Jim characters. Vektor has armor closely resembling Man-E-Faces and Zorak had the ability to change his face into a monster.
He-Man had a powerful armored fighting tiger as a mount, the mighty Battle Cat. The cartoon later changed Battle Cat into the cowardly Cringer who is the literal "fraidy cat" and is afraid of nearly everything only becoming the brave Battle Cat when He-Man utilizes the power sword. Look closely at the next picture from the packaging, Skeletor and Beastman also have tiger steeds.
Panthor is Skeletor's mount and is a giant purple panther. It is the same mold as Battle Cat but flocked in purple velvet. Both Battle Cat and Panthor are reused from the black panther mold from Tarzan (the first Mattel figure with a Big Jim body) in 1971. Below are some pictures of my Tarzan panther Jungle Cat. When ever someone sees it they always accuse me of shaving the purple velvet off of a MOTU Panthor, until I show them the package.
Mattle reused the panther mold for a tiger in the Big Jim line in 1976 that was only available in Europe. Big Jim on the Tiger Trail came with a cage to catch the tiger and clothes and a rifle for Big Jim. Battle Cat and Panthor did not come out until 1982 and 1983 respectfully.
Zoar is a fighting falcon that the cartoon changed into the alternate form of the Sorceress when she is away from Castle Grayskull.
Screech is Skeletor's evil fighting falcon.
The toys had rubber wings that could be flapped by using a lever on one leg. Of course (you guessed it) Mattel reused existing molds to create them from the Big Jim line. There was a golden eagle and a bald eagle available for Big Jim and Big Josh.
Attak Trak (Left) is one of the many vehicles from the MOTU line and was inspired by a Big Jim vehicle (Right).
Onto the third wave of MOTU figures!
Battle Armor He-Man and Skeletor with a chest panel that can be spun to show progressive damage.
Prince Adam is the Filmation cartoon creation of He-Man's alter-ego and disguise. He is billed as inept and cowardly to mask his true identity as He-Man. The toy just like the cartoon looks exactly like He-Man in a change of clothes/alternate paint job. You would have to be blind not to realize He-Man and Adam are the same. My two year old son while watching the cartoons isn't even fooled and calls Adam, He-Man. What is with those lame purple stretchy pants?
Buzz-off a Heroic Warrior bee man.
Fisto a Heroic Warrior with a smashing hand reminiscent of Boris from Big Jim.
Orko created by the Filmation cartoon as comic relief was made into toy form by Mattel. On his home world he is a master magician. He was accidentally transported to Eternia where his magic nearly always backfires and he is the king's court jester.
Jitsu is the Evil Warrior version of Fisto with a smashing hand similar to Big Jim's Dr. Steel.
Whiplash resembles an alligator or lizard man and uses his tail as a weapon for the Evil Warriors.
Clawful is a giant Crab man who fights for the Evil Warriors.
Webstor is an Evil Warrior spider-humanoid master of escape.
Mekaneck has an extending neck feature and is a scout for the Heroic Warriors. In my opinion the dumbest figure of the line.
The fourth wave of figures
Thunder Punch He-Man and Dragon Blaster Skeletor use caps to make noise.
Moss-man is a Heroic Warrior made of moss who can manipulate plants and is a master of camouflage. The toy is Beastman with green velvet flocking and was actually scented.
Roboto is a Heroic Warrior robot wanna be mechanical Trap Jaw.
Sy-Klone is a Heroic Warrior who can generate powerful winds by spinning at the waist.
Two Bad is the Evil Warriors double-headed evil strategist, two heads are better than one. In the cartoon both heads always fight with each other.
Stinkor is a giant evil humanoid skunk. The toy was scented like patchouli oil and actually stunk.
Spikor is an Evil Warrior covered in spikes with a trident for an arm.
The fifth wave
Flying Fist He-Man and Terror Claw Skeletor with spinning hand accessories, more variations of the central characters.
Rio Blast Is a bionic Heroic Warrior with guns built into his chest and knees. He looks like some of the Bravestar figures from Filmation's later cartoon of the same name that were made also by Mattel.
Snout Spout a metallic looking elephant headed hero. The toy could squirt water. I changed my mind, he is definitely the stupidest figure of the entire line.
Extendar is a Heroic Knight and a variation of the Mekaneck concept except his waist and neck extend.
Final Wave of figures, some of the coolest or longest awaited figures
King Randor and the Sorceress were both prominently in the cartoon from the beginning but very late to debut as toys.
King Randor is the ruler of Eternia and Prince Adam's father. The toy reuses Jitsu's armor. His wife Queen Marlena was never produced.
The mystic Sorceress and protector of Castle Grayskull in her human form. She is also Teela's mother who will one day replace her.
Scare Glow, the evil ghost of Skeletor, glows in the dark and was probably the coolest toy of the entire line. His glowing bones are enough to scare anyone even Prince Adam to the point where he was powerless to change into He-Man.
Ninjor is an Evil ninja Warrior.
Clamp Champ a Heroic Warrior and master of capture uses his clamp to trap any foe.
Blast Attak an evil robotic walking time bomb. The toy explodes into pieces.
Mail-a-way He-Man was available from an unknown mail in offer. A few have shown up like this one still bagged. There is some speculation that it was a promotion for Wonderbread as some MOTU cards with Wonderbread logos have also turned up. This figure also adds more fuel to the fire of the urban legend that He-Man was originally intended as Conan toys because the figure has brown hair. The Conan character in the original writings has black hair with blue eyes. Arnold Schwarzenegger's portrayal of the character on film had brown hair.
Laser Power He-Man and Laser Light Skeletor were exclusive to Europe and were the last figures of the line in 1988. As their name implies the toys' weapons light up as well as Skeletor's eyes.
The Evil Horde
In addition to the Heroic Warriors and Evil Henchmen there was additional figures marketed as the Evil Horde led by Hordak.
Hordak is Skeletor's old master who rules the planet Etheria which is Eternia's sister planet. Hordak takes over the role as main bad guy when he arrives and attempts to dominate Eternia as he did Etheria. He also becomes the main nemesis of She-Ra, He-Man's twin sister in a spin off cartoon from the original.
This is Hordak and Buzz-Saw Hordak a later variation that had a small spinning blade that could come from his chest.
Hurricane Hordak had several attachments that could spin.
Leech is a Horde Warrior with the power to drain life from others with suction. The toy had mouth and hand suction cups so you could stick him to various surfaces.
Grizzlor is a wild man Horde Warrior and a legend to Eternians not unlike Sasquatch. There was also a black skinned variation.
Mantenna is a strange Horde creature with four legs and pop out antenna eyes. It is a shame that the four legs of the action figure were designed molded as it could have been a very cool and unique toy.
Modulok, the evil Horde beast of a thousand bodies. Maybe Mattel realized the potential of multiple limbs instead with this character who came with 22 body parts and could be shaped various ways and taken apart again.
Dragstor is part Horde Warrior and part vehicle. The toy came with a rip cord that you placed in his back and quickly pulled out spinning his wheel and propelling him across the floor.
Horde Troopers are the back bone infantry men of the Horde. If you punched the red emblem on their chest they would partially disassemble.
Multibot is the robotic version of Modulok.
Mosquitor is the Horde's evil energy-draining insectoid who could drain the life force from an opponent. He had a transparent chest where that could fill with a red liquid resembling the blood of his enemies.
The Snake Men were another group marketed like the Evil Horde who were originally supposed to be the main villains of the pre-historical times of Eternia.
Ruled by King Hiss who had the power to shed his skin and human disguise to reveal his true serpentine nature.
Kobra Khan was originally one of Skeletor's Evil Warriors but I don't know any kid that didn't immediately associate him with the Snake Men. He had the power to emit a cloud of sleeping gas from his mouth like a spitting cobra. The figure could be filled with water and sprayed like a spray bottle emitting a fine mist.
Tung Lashor a Snake Man with part-time allegiance to the Horde spreads his venom with his lashing tongue. The toy had an extending tongue.
Rattlor was another Snake Man with part-time allegiance to the Horde. He had the ability to strike from a distance. The figure had a spring loaded retractile neck.
Squeeze a Snake Man with the ability to constrict his opponents using his long arms.
Snake Face has protruding snakes that come from his face to petrify his opponents, sort-of a male Medusa. He-Man's power sword can reverse the effects and turn them back from stone. The snakes were retractile in the toy.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe movie toys
These toys were marketed after the 1987 live action film.
Gwildor a dwarf-like locksmith and inventor who has the Cosmic key allowing the user to be transported anywhere in space and time.
Saurod a reptilian armored villain. The toy could emit sparks from his mouth.
Blade is an evil sword master and also one of the coolest figures.
Powers of Grayskull
Near the end of the toy line Mattel wanted to implement a new story line with He-Ro as the central character fighting against the Snake Men and others in Eternia's Pre-History. A few toys were produced but were folded into the regular line as the series died out.
Tytus a Giant who fights for good. The toy was only available in Europe with a limited production run. I think it stood 12 inches tall and was a true giant to the other figures and had "real" hair.
Megator a ogre-ish Giant who fights for evil. The toy was only available in Europe with a limited production run. I think it stood 12 inches tall and was a true giant to the other figures and had "real" hair.
Tyrantiasaurus Rex Bionic Tyrannosaurus with snapping jaws, cannon and dyno-drone sawblade.
Bionatops Bionic Triceratops from the land of PRETERNIA.
Turbodactyl Bionic Pterodactyl from the land of PRETERNIA.
Stonedar and Rokkon comet warriors that can transform into rocks. In addition to these two there were also several Meteorbs, little balls that transformed into various animals and creatures.
Twistoid and Rotar energy zoids with spinning abilities.
Snake Mountain evil stronghold of Skeletor. It had manacles to hold an enemy prisoner, a suspension bridge, working gate with trap where enemies would fall into a net, and a wolf's head microphone that you could use to project your voice. I always did a diabolical laugh Mwaah haa haa ha! The play set looked nothing like the cartoon version.
Point Dread and Talon Fighter the top part could attach to the uppermost tower of Castle Grayskull.
Slimepit used by the Evil Horde this playset came with slime that you could pour onto your enemies taking control of them like mindless zombies to do the Horde's bidding.
Frightzone a trap filled stronghold of terror. Another of the Evil Horde's hangouts complete with grabbing tree, prison and puppet snake creature to devour the enemy.
Eternia the ultimate battleground with three towers that represent the powers of Eternia a Castle tower, a Snake Tower and the tower of the Ancients. It had motorized trams that could transport figures overhead. The main tower had three levels. The Castle Tower had a trap with dungeon underneath with a portcullis door.
Because of the huge success of MOTU and the immense marketing and staying power of the toy line several imitations were spawned. I don't know of any kid that didn't have at least some of these knock-offs mixed in with his He-Man collection. There are far too many to name or show so I will just show a few.
Remco Warrior Beasts
These guys were my favorites of the imitations and had cool sculpts. Craven, Gecko, Ramar, Guana, Hydraz, Skullman, Skullface, Snakeman, Stegos, Wolf Warrior, and Zardus (names in no particular order). The wolf guy was my favorite.
Remco Lost World of the Warlord
Based on a DC comic, Warlord, Mikola, Machiste, Hercules, Deimos, and Arak.
Monsters of the Galaxy
Black Thunder and Kron, there were various others but these two are the only pictures I could find.
Sungold Galaxy Warriors
Ygg, Triton, Tigerman, Thor, Spikes, Sahak, Rahh, Huk, Dragoon, Dinoman, Deevil, Baltard, Anubi, Tiger Steed, Mammoth Creature, and Dinosaur Creature.
Sewco Galaxy Fighters
Walph, Sunhawk, Robic, Magoon, Maceape, Kobraa, Iguana, Daton, Centurn, Batoon, Baltard, Anobi.
Check out that Castle of Doom on the cardback. What a rip off of both Castle Grayskull and Snake Mountain, it looks cool though. If anyone has a photo of it please share, I would love to see it. Both Kobraa and Rahh pictured above remind me of that cobra headed guy on the move Dreamscape.
Soma Fantasy World
Herocon, Fantasar, Trikin, Ironmask, Hellord, Nizard, Dragonman, Piro.
Fantasy world even had velvet covered panther steeds in grey, purple and black.
Sparkle Toys Inc. Defenders of the Planets
Zardoom, Quasar, Weapon's Master, Strongarm , and Canis Major
From 1984, not really based on the fictional characters from the Robert E. Howard novels and sort of based on the Marvel Comic book adaptations. Warrior Conan, Thoth-Amon, King Conan, Jewel Thief, and Devourer of Souls.
Hasbo Conan from 1992 based on the Cartoon Conan the adventurer there were several figures and they were even further from the literary characters. Conan and Skulkur.
Imperial Beasts and Creatures
Imperial came out with two different series made to be compatible with MOTU figures:
Dragons, Knights and Daggers
Robots, Lasers and Galaxies
The creatures came with spare weapons as well as saddles, chariots, or "cruisers and were pretty awesome for cheap rubber toys!
Revell Power Lords
The figures were not the same scale as MOTU but the larger Beast Machines resembles some characters we know.
I had Warbot and my brother had Thrash.
Fuerza T means T Force in Spanish and these toys came from Argentina fairly recently I think.
Titano is Fisto with Man-At-Arm's armor and a normal hand.
Tekno is Stratos combined with Trap Jaw.
Shidoshi is Jitsu with Fisto's armor.
Platino is He-Man with green hair and a goatee! With Fisto's fist and Jitsu's armor.
Pantano (which means swamp or pantanal) is a black Beastman with Mer-Man's armor.
Felino is Mer-Man with Skeletor's armor this time as a cat. There was already a fish and a skunk why not a cat?
Destructo is Clawful with normal hands and Skeletor's staff.
Carnivor is Webstor with Beastman's body and armor, with Stratos' arm wings.
well anyway if you actually made it to the bottom of this way too long article congratulations.
Until next time.
"BY THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL, I HAVE THE POWER!!!!"
Log in to comment on or rate this article. You can even write your own!