Heroic Warriors

Man-E-Faces – Heroic human…robot…monster! (1983)

manefaces graphic

I distinctly remember when I got Man-E-Faces (along with Ram Man) as a present, probably for my birthday in 1983. There was something endlessly fascinating about his ability to change faces at will. In my mind it was his way of disguising himself. Sure, no one would be fooled given his very distinctive silhouette, but that’s how I thought of it.

Man-E-Faces was something of a sea change for the line as it had existed in 1982. He was given all new parts (legs shared with Trap Jaw, who came out the same year) and a new gimmick – a rotating head drum that allowed you to display three distinct faces: human, robot, and monster. His design had more technology integrated into it than any MOTU figure that had come out before, although it was more steam punk than Star Trek.

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Incidentally, his blaster was later reused as a tail gun for a couple of the Voltron lions:

You might notice that his legs are a little too short for his body. That’s probably because his rotating faces action feature gives him a rather tall torso, which may have necessited smaller legs in order to fit into the standard MOTU packaging.

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The single-carded Man-E-Faces was released in a couple of different flavors – standard, featuring his red blaster, and a deluxe version (often referred to now as Man-E-Weapons) that came with five bonus weapons from the Castle Grayskull set, but cast in maroon.

man-e-weapons card man-e-weapons 2

Man-E-Faces was also released in a three-pack with Battle Armor He-Man and Man-At-Arms, a J.C. Penny two-pack with Faker, a J.C. Penny two-pack with Battle Armor He-Man, and in a giftset with Skeletor and Panthor:

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Battle For Eternia giftset artwork. Artist unknown.

Errol McCarthy did the cardback illustration and style guide art for Man-E-Faces, as he did for most of the figures in the line:

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manefacesback

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Image via He-Man.org
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Image via He-Man.org

The figure was designed by Mark Taylor, shortly before he left Mattel:

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Notice that while the design details are close to the final toy, the color choices around the helmet are different. On the final toy, parts of the helmet are colored in flesh tone or orange. Image via The Art of He-Man.

All the classic Man-E-Faces elements are present in the B-sheet and design documents above, but the look is slightly different from the final toy, with purple detail on the shoulders and a helmet without any tan/orange accents. The figure was sculpted into a prototype, and some some ridges and sloping were added to the top of the helmet. He seems to have green accents on his shoulders and thighs:

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Prototype Man-E-Faces
Prototype Man-E-Faces

Alfredo Alcala’s take on the character in Danger at Castle Grayskull seems to be based on the above prototype:

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Man-E-Problems

The cross sell artwork is mainly based on the prototype sculpt:

MEF Cross Sell Best
Image courtesy of Axel Giménez.

An earlier incarnation of Man-E-Faces (called Multi-face) was also designed by Mark Taylor. While the original artwork hasn’t been published, Emiliano Santalucia has created a mock-up for a potential Masters of the Universe Classics figure based on that artwork, which appears to have been quite different from the finished MEF design:

Multi-Face-Pitch
Source: Emiliano Santalucia

There was another distantly-related Mark Taylor concept called Maska-Ra that was explored but never developed. Rather than a spinning face mechanism, Maska-Ra would have come with a variety of masks to imitate other characters, luring the unwary to their doom:

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From the “Bring Your Man-E-Faces To Work” Facebook page, via The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog

Man-E-Faces was packaged with his own mini comic (drawn by Mark Texeira), called The Ordeal of Man-E-Faces. He was depicted as an Eternian actor who was given a potion by Skeletor that would change him into a monster and bring him under Skeletor’s control. The Sorceress tries to free him from the enchantment, and in a struggle between the two powers, a third face arises – that of a neutral robot.

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He is also depicted as a helpless pawn of Skeletor in the Danger at Castle Grayskull comic, drawn by Alfredo Alcala:

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Man-E-Faces was given other origin stories in British publications. In issue 3 of the UK Masters of the Universe Magazine, Man-E-Faces is transformed by Skeletor as punishment for mocking him in a play:

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Image source: Bustatoons. Brought to my attention by Joe Amato.

In the 1985 UK Masters of the Universe Annual, Man-E-Faces is again transformed by Skeletor, in a somewhat unsettling story about abductions and lab experiments. In his monster form he is evil, and in his robot form he may be controlled by anyone.

mef-uk-annual
Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Man-E-Faces made an appearance in the box art for Battle Bones (by William George) and the previously mentioned Battle For Eternia (by William Garland) three-pack. Man-E-Faces was slated to appear as the prisoner in the Snake Mountain box art (by William George), but at the last minute Man-At-Arms was substituted (for more on that, read this interview with package designer Bob Nall):

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Image source: Jukka Issakainen

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Image source: Tokyonever

In the Filmation cartoon, MEF was an outcast who had to be gently coaxed away from evil by He-Man:

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Early Filmation designs for the character, as shown in the Series Guide below, show a design that seems primarily based on the early prototype version of he character, albeit with a rather unique-looking robot face:

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He also appeared in a number of adverts, promotions, catalogs and miscellaneous entertainment:

Later in life, Man-E-Faces struggled with his weight:

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Artwork by Alfredo Alcala
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23 thoughts on “Man-E-Faces – Heroic human…robot…monster! (1983)

  1. Wow! This is a great writeup! I seem to remember that MEF was “parodied” in another advert… A cross-sell with another product, perhaps… But he was drawn differently.

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  2. Man-E’s backstory for me never did a good job exploring his appearance. Sure, Skeletor put a curse on him that changes his demeanor, but then why does he wear all that strange equipment? But questions like that are part of what makes MOTU so fun, because you have to come up with your own stories to fill in the blanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a good observation. The design cues suggest he was probably intended to have an ability to change faces via the technology built into his costume. The actor thing never made a lot of sense to me. I would have thought that a monster face might be something he would have built in already, rather than getting it via a magical potion

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The only story that makes sense to me is MAN-E-FACES had to be the work of some evil doctor. Who try to combine a man, beast and robot. So in a way he is aN Aminal/Man Cy-borg. The only motive I can come by is he needed to have at his command a reasoning man who could get powerful like a beast, and compute like a robot if needed.

    Lets say it was skeletor masterplan to create his best “right hand” since he always complain of his servants that are never up to the task. But He-Man and Mant-at-Arms help the good human of him taken control over machine and beast and know he is good and can use his others egos if need it.

    This has always be my canon and believe all others story I have seen in media are dumb.

    Like

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