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.
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.
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-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:
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:
The figure was designed by Mark Taylor, shortly before he left Mattel:
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:
Alfredo Alcala’s take on the character in Danger at Castle Grayskull seems to be based on the above prototype:
The cross sell artwork is mainly based on the prototype sculpt:
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:
There was another 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:
Update: another Man-E-Faces concept was recently shared by Mark Taylor’s wife, Rebecca (below). This has the removable mask idea from Maska-Ra, although it has a more conventional body. The the arms and legs contain design elements that would be used in the final figure. The chest armor recalls the design later used in Terror Claws Skeletor (1986), and the overall look may have influenced the design of the 1989 figure Flipshot:
Update: yet another Man-E-Faces concept was shared by Rebecca, with Joe Amato for the podcast Fans of Power. This version has a chitinous, insectoid look and a reversible head. The legs on this character are very similar to the final toy’s design, but otherwise this is a totally different take on the concept:
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.
He is also depicted as a helpless pawn of Skeletor in the Danger at Castle Grayskull comic, drawn by Alfredo Alcala:
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:
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.
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):
In the Filmation cartoon, MEF was an outcast who had to be gently coaxed away from evil by He-Man:
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:
He also appeared in a number of adverts, promotions, catalogs and miscellaneous entertainment:
Later in life, Man-E-Faces struggled with his weight: