Now that we are starting to see some close to final production samples for the unproduced Eldor and He-Ro figures being sold by Super7 (under license from Mattel), I’d love to share some thoughts I have about some possibilities for more figures like these in the future.
For those not aware, Eldor and He-Ro were planned for release in 1987 as part of the Powers of Grayskull line, a not-quite spinoff of the original MOTU line that included characters from Eternia’s ancient past, such as Tyrantisaurus Rex, Bionatops, Tytus and Megator. A fair number of these POG toys were released in 1987 and 1988, but the two main protagonists, while featured in packaging art and in Mattel’s 1987 catalog, were never released as planned.
Super7’s 5.75″ scale line-up of Masters of the Universe figures has, so far, mostly focused on Filmation style variants. As a fan of the Filmation He-Man and She-Ra cartoons myself, I’m happy that they’re offering these variants. At the same time, I’d love to see Super7 really take off and expand on recreating more lost concepts and prototypes from Masters of the Universe History.
Early Concepts & Prototypes
In my mind, some of the most amazing prototypes and concepts were those created during the early development of the Masters of the Universe line. I would love to see recreations of these figures. Many of them appeared in this way in the early minicomics, so these prototypes would really be killing two birds with one stone.
This early Skeletor is quite different in many ways from the vintage toy, and doubles as a minicomic variant as well. I would suggest making his head removable, and including an Alcala-style alternative head.
There are really two prototypes that should be recreated – the early helmeted version and the later one (with blonde hair) that served as a model for the early minicomics. For the first prototype below, my gut suspicion (and I could be wrong) was that they might have been considering outfitting the figure with cloth boots, hence the bare feet. I would also guess that he would have had some version of the iconic harness. That could be wrong, but they would make great accessories.
Beast Man & Mer-Man
These early prototypes were part of the “Lords of Power” slide show presentation, shared by Andy Youssi. (Lords of Power was an early working name for the line, later replaced with Masters of the Universe.) Mer-Man neatly doubles as a mini-comic style variant. This version of Beast Man was very rarely portrayed in published media, but is nevertheless a fascinating figure.
There are several Teela/Sorceress concepts that could be produced, and all of them showed up in various early comic stories.
This is another prototype design that could double as a minicomic style figure.
This is another early concept that neatly doubles as a minicomic variant:
This wish probably isn’t terribly realistic, but I’d love to see a replica of Mark Taylor’s original Castle Grayskull prototype:
The prototype Battle Ram was more detailed than the mass-produced toy, and this design shows up in both box art and comic depictions of the vehicle:
This early Wind Raider is depicted in cross sell art, comic book and storybook illustrations of the vehicle. A nice bonus could be a removable figure head that could cover both early prototypes:
Battle Chariot was a slick concept by Ted Mayer that appeared in the very first He-Man minicomic, never to be seen again.
This version of Ram Man, while fairly rough-looking, influenced cardback and comic book depictions of the character for years. A cleaned up version of this would make a great figure. Possibly a removable head could be included to transform it into Mark Taylor‘s earlier “Jumpin Jack Flash” concept:
This prototype isn’t so different from the actual vintage figure, but there are some unique differences in the head, armor and sword. This is also how he was depicted in cross sell artwork.
This prototype Man-E-Faces design can double as a minicomic/cardback variant as well.
Other Prototypes & Concepts
There were plenty of unrealized prototypes and concepts done for the Masters of the Universe line (the same is true for just about any toyline). Here are a few of my favorites:
A creepy crustacean brain creature by Ted Mayer that was never produced:
Unnamed Skeletor Variant
A wicked looking Skeletor variant figure by Ted Mayer:
Although this character was likely not even intended for the He-Man line, it appeared in the Masters of the Universe Classics line and has a great, classic sword and sorcery design:
This was Roger Sweet’s take on repurposing Mattel’s old Big Jim gorilla figure for the He-Man line. It was never released (outside of the modern Masters of the Universe Classics line).
An early jungle playset later repurposed into Snake Mountain.
This early Kobra Khan concept by Roger Sweet would make for a fun action figure.
He-Man and Skeletor Variants
These unnamed He-Man and Skeletor variants by Ted Mayer had spring-loaded pop-out chest weapons, similar to Rio Blast’s action feature.
This is another Ted Mayer design. It’s probably not really a mammoth but it’s become known as such to fans over the years.
The Gyrattacker made it into the 1987 Mattel catalog, but was never produced. The original molds were sold in an eBay auction several years back, so it’s theoretically possible to reproduce this vehicle, assuming Super7 could find the owner. The command module would be launched forward, but it could also launch Rotar or Twistoid.
Gigantisaur was the only dinosaur shown in the 1987 Mattel catalog that was not produced. Due to demands that it be capable of swallowing a figure whole, it was impractically large. My suggestion would be to instead create an earlier incarnation of the toy, called Turbosaurus, which as a more interesting external design with a more realistic size.
More concept designs are available to see at the following links:
He-Man.org poster R.M. Hart has graciously shared some high resolution scans of JCPenney catalogs from 1982 to 1986. Where there is a high resolution scan available, I’ve offered a link so that readers call see these images up close.
This page has few rarer images, including the striped tail version of Battle Cat (an early version produced in very low numbers), a hand painted version of Teela with white boot tops and bracers, and an early Castle Grayskull with much finer paint work, also produced in very limited numbers. More discussion on this topic is available here.
There are also some interesting toy descriptions included as well. For instance, Castle Grayskull is described as a “sinister stronghold.” Teela is the “patroness of warriors”. Stratos is a “winged sky baron” and Beast Man is his henchman! Skeletor is the “master death-dealer” and Mer-Man is a “cunning sea lord.” The Wind Raider is described for “air or sea”, which is as it was intended originally, although it was almost always described as an air vehicle after it was released. (Thanks to Jukka Issakainen for pointing some of this out.)
1983 JCPenney Catalog, page 316
The tent and sleeping back in this collection feature artwork by Errol McCarthy.
This page contains some text describing the images on the previous page. Items 7-9 are describing two-pack giftsets. Interestingly I have never seen an example of a Ram Man/Skeletor giftset or a He-Man/Trap Jaw giftset. Either these existed and just haven’t turned up yet, or the sets were planned but not released, or the catalog copy writers were simply mistaken.
This page features the Genadier lead model set. The models come unpainted, but in the picture Ram Man features his concept colors, as does Panthor. The Monogram Attak Trak and Talon Fighter kits are also shown.
1984 JCPenney Catalog, page 474
He-Man is pictured here along with the Trundaxx Battle Transporter, which looks like a cousin to the Attak Trak, but was not a part of the Masters of the Universe line.
This page features the JCPenney two-packs, which came packaged in brown boxes with simple line art representing the included characters. Webstor in this image features his blue rifle, a rare accessory included in only the first run of the figure.
Two different Masters of the Universe toy chests are presented, along with the Battle Cat Spring Ride. A MOTU table and chairs set is also included, something I’ve never seen posted anywhere online before.
This page again features a number of MOTU JCPenney exclusive two-packs. Webstor again includes his rare blue blaster. Some interesting product descriptions are here as well. Dragon Blaster Skeletor is “wrapped in treacherous magical metal chains.” Snake Mountain apparently includes a “scalping ladder” (a typo – it’s supposed to be scaling ladder).
This page features the rare, first release “black belt” version of Leech. This page also features the Infaceables, a rather bizarre, short lived action figure line with characters that could change their faces in an unusual way.
1985 JCPenney Catalog, page 471
This pages features the Road Ripper Mighty Cycle, which has a handlebar section sculpted and decorated to resemble the Road Ripper vehicle.
1985 JCPenney Catalog, page 490
This page features a Kidstuff MOTU story book with cassette or record, as well as a couple of Golden stories with cassette or record.
Descriptions for the toys shown on the previous page, as well as a closer look at some of the new 1986 figures. Thunder Punch He-Man, Dragon Blasters Skeletor, Flying Fists He-Man, Terror Claws Skeletor and Hurricane Hordak are considered “deluxe” figures and cost a dollar more than other MOTU figures.
Masters of the Universe Pop-Up Game is the first board game released during the original run of the He-Man series of toys. The game was advertised in the early minicomics included with the first run of figures:
Western Publishing produced quite a few Masters of the Universe-related items, including coloring and sticker books, as well as the Golden Book series of He-Man stories. The ad describes the Pop-Up Game this way:
Based on the Mattel jungle man. Pop-up sections are two volcanoes and the graphics of He-Man and other characters. Object of play is to cross the treacherous terrain of jungle, climbing the volcanoes which open, causing a man to fall through.
In terms of game play, the MOTU Pop-Up Game is a pretty basic “roll and move” type board game, not too dissimilar to Sorry!or Candyland. A flick of the spinner tells each player how many spaces to move forward. Certain spaces have instructions, like “Go Back 1,” or “Move Beastman 1.” Beast Man and Skeletor function as the “Volcano Keepers.” Their likenesses can spin around the volcano, revealing pits that players can fall into. Falling into a pit is more dramatic than consequential – you’ll only have to move back a few places on the board if it happens to you. The first to reach Castle Grayskull wins the game.
The most interesting thing about the MOTU Pop-Up Game isn’t so much the game-play as it is the artwork. The artwork is very closely based on early MOTU prototypes, specifically a set of prototypes shared last year by Andy Youssi. I wrote about that extensively here.
Lots of early MOTU artwork is based on early concepts and prototypes. However this particular game is based specifically on the “Lords of Power” collection (an early working name for the line that was later abandoned). That is evident by some of the specific details in the drawings:
The Beast Man illustration is very explicitly taken from the above prototype design (sculpted by Tony Guerrero). The prototype is somewhat less detailed than the concept art by Mark Taylor, so we can determine that the reference here was in fact the sculpture. It has quite a different costume and overall look compared to the mass-produced toy.