Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Interviews:

Vintage Masters of the Universe (1982-1988):

New Adventures of He-Man (1989-1992):

Masters of the Universe Classics (2008-Present):

Reviews:

Catalogs, Books, Comics, Magazines & Games:

Commercials:

Other Articles:

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Artwork

Masters of the Universe Cross Sell Art – Alcala Variants

The artwork for this set comes primarily from my own scans and photos, as well as from Axel Giménez. This is a comparison between the cross sell artwork by Alfredo Alcala that was featured on the backs of the first four minicomics, and the standardized cross sell artwork on the backs of the packaging. The Alcala artwork is based on some of the earliest prototype designs, but also is informed by Alcala’s own indelible artistic style.

Others in this series:

GoFundMe

Battle Ram Blog needs your help!

Flickr, the service I’ve used to host images since I ran out of space on my free WordPress account, is going to start charging for image hosting. All free accounts will soon loose their images beyond the first 1000. I could try to find another free image host, but the risk is another host would do the same thing eventually. My goal is to raise enough money for a premium WordPress account, which would give me all the space I need to house all the great images used in the Battle Ram Blog. Hopefully once I get that set up, there will be enough ad revenue to continue to pay for hosting every year after that.

If you have enjoyed the great content in Battle Ram: A He-Man Blog, please consider contributing whatever amount makes sense for you! As always, the content in the blog will remain 100% free. Thanks for reading.

Battle Ram: A He-Man Blog is a blog about He-Man toy design, history and packaging art. The author contributed to the Netflix series The Toys That Made Us, and the blog was referenced in How He-Man Mastered the Universe.

https://www.gofundme.com/battle-ram-blog

 

Production Variants

1982 MOTU Figures: The First Production Run (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1!

Because Masters of the Universe figures were produced over many years in a number of different countries, there is no shortage of production variants, some subtly different  and some radically different from the norm. In my own collecting, I’ve always gravitated toward the earliest figures released in the US, particularly for the first wave of figures. They tend to have the nicest paint and plastic applications, in my opinion. All of the 1982 lineup was manufactured in Taiwan, except for Castle Grayskull, Battle Ram and Wind Raider, which were initially manufactured in the US.

Much assistance for this article was given by Unsung Woodworks, who runs the Lords of Power blog on Facebook. The research of Mantisaur82 and Tokyonever has also been invaluable.

Broad Characteristics

The early Taiwan figures tend to have the sharpest detail and the finest paint applications compared to later reissues. Subsequent releases tend to cut down on the paint applications and sometimes on the sculpted detail. The earliest figures tend to have boots that are painted on using spray paint and a paint mask, which sometimes shows up as unevenness at the boot tops. Later figures seem to use a dipping method. Since this seems to apply to all the early figures (or at least those with painted boots), I won’t mention this when I talk about each individual figure.

On the lower backs of the figures (or in Teela’s case, the lower part of the back of the head) they are stamped © Mattel Inc. 1981 Taiwan. This stamp can also be found on the undersides of the male heads. These figure were released in 1982, but most MOTU figures are stamped the year before they were sold in stores, when the tooling was being created. However, as these Taiwan figures were released in subsequent years, they often retain the 1981 date, albeit sometimes with a slightly larger font.

Stratos

V1: Blue Beard

The earliest Taiwan Stratos figures have the following characteristics:

  • Blue beard and eyelids
  • Gray goggles
  • Three tabs each strap
  • Short straps

Commonly referred to as “Blue Beard” Stratos, this figure is quite rare and difficult to find. From the beginning, Stratos was available with either blue wings and a red backpack, or red wings and a blue backpack. This continued throughout the production run.

Red wing variant of Blue Beard Stratos. Image source: Asher99
Image source: Carlo

V2: Short Strap

The next early run of Taiwan Stratos figures have the following characteristics:

  • Gray beard and eyelids
  • Blue goggles
  • Four tabs each strap
  • Short straps

Even this version of Stratos is a little difficult to find – the subsequent versions with elongated straps seem to be much more numerous. V2 can also be found on the first “no warranty” cards, so the run of Blue Beards must have been VERY limited. Like all US-release versions of Stratos, this one was available in both red and blue wing variants.

Image source: Asher99
Short strap (top) vs long strap

Mer-Man

The first Taiwan Mer-Man figures have a couple of distinguishing characteristics that are easy to spot:

  • Green belt
  • Short straps on the back of the armor

Subsequent Taiwan releases added the longer straps and eventually omitted the painted belt.

Green (top) vs unpainted orange belt
Short straps (top) vs long straps

Teela

Taiwan Teela figures don’t have a ton of obvious variations during the first two years they were produced. The general characteristics are deep red hair and boots and dark red accessories in the figures released from 1982-1983.

However, an extremely rare first issue Teela has recently been discovered by Unsung Woodworks, who runs the Lords of Power blog on Facebook. Like the Striped Tail Battle Cat, this variant was probably an early sample used for catalog photographs (and indeed this version shows up in several of them.

V1: Green Snake Eyes Teela

Characteristics include:

  • Painted green eyes on snake armor with “v” pattern
  • Accessories seem almost translucent, like hard candy
  • Dots in eyes are hand painted (uneven)
  • Dark red accessories and deep red hair/boots
  • Marked “© M.I. 1981 Taiwan” on back of neck.
  • Shield slightly deformed on one side

Image from the 1983 Mattel dealer catalog, via Unsung Woodworks
Image from 1983 Mattel Department Store Division catalog, courtesy of Unsung Woodworks

More common early Taiwan Teela figures generally have the same characteristics as the above example, minus the green snake eyes and the deformed shield.

Zodac

The earliest Taiwan release of of Zodac has a rather unique looking latch in the back of the armor, in addition to short straps. Subsequent reissues lengthened the straps and gave him a more conventional-looking latch.

First release (top) vs second release

Castle Grayskull

The very first release of Castle Grayskull has a much neater paint pattern on the face, with black applied only within the eyes, nose, and down the center of the helmet. You can see this version in Mattel’s 1982 Wish List catalog. The teeth, helmet, and towers have some green spray applied to them.

Image courtesy of Unsung Woodworks

It’s also possible this early version came with black string for the elevator, rather than the usual white (first brought to my attention by Unsung Woodworks). That’s what’s shown in early catalogs, anyway. The early release castle was manufactured in the USA, and has the following codes stamped on it.

  • Under the entrance: 1162C2
  • Near the handle: © Mattel Inc 1981 USA 3991-2139
  • On the back side of the helmet: 3991-2129 © Mattel Inc 1981 USA

Notice the black string on the elevator.

The next release of the castle, as near as I can tell, is similar to the first release except the black paint around the eyes and nose is not so carefully applied, and was done freehand. This is mentioned in the MOTU documentary, The Power of Grayskull. The factories initially were looking to use some kind of paint mask, but where then instructed by Mattel to do the painting free-hand (presumably to save time and therefore money). As a result, the paint applications seem to be rather haphazard, especially in later years.

Both early versions were manufactured in the USA, and have similar codes. The second release castle has the same codes as the first, with the exception of the marking under the entrance. My personal version is coded 0104C2.

Early versions of the castle came in a box that featured only the 1982 figures on the back. The artwork here was traced directly from a photo used in Mattel’s 1982 Dealer Catalog:

Starting in 1983, the back of the box was altered to feature cross sell art from both the 1982 and 1983 figures:

Image source: Hake’s Americana

Battle Ram

The first release Battle Ram was manufactured in the US. I haven’t noticed much if any variation in the US-release Battle Rams other than country code. The first release vehicles are stamped “© Mattel Inc, 1981 U.S.A.”, as shown below:

 

The first release Battle Ram box shows only the 1982 figures on the back of the packaging:

Starting in 1983, Battle Rams were manufactured in Mexico as well as the US. The Mexico versions omit the country of origin on the copyright stamp, as shown below:

The back of the 1983 packaging features contemporary figures like Trap Jaw and Man-E-Faces. Starting in 1983, the box also features the Rudy Obrero artwork on the bottom as well as the front of the box:

Wind Raider

Like the Battle Ram, the first release Wind Raiders were produced in the US. The back of the packaging shows cross sell art from only 1982 figures. This holds true for both the single release Wind Raider and the He-Man/Wind Raider gift set.

The wings on first release Wind Raiders have the following markings:

Starting in 1983, Wind Raiders were manufactured in Mexico as well as the US. The Mexico versions are stamped “Mexico” on the wing tips. 1983 boxes also feature the Rudy Obrero art on the bottom of the box, and include 1983 figures in the cross sell artwork on the back.

Further reading: