Heroic Warriors

Teela – Warrior goddess (1982)

Teela graphic

Teela, released in the later half of 1982, was the first female figure in the Masters of the Universe line, and probably the best. Another Mark Taylor design, Teela was conceived as a powerful heroic warrior armed with a shield and spear:

taylor6 (2)
Image source: Grayskull Museum

Although the colored version of the Teela B-sheet hasn’t been made public, she originally had brown boots with white tops, a golden spear and shield, and blonde hair, as depicted in the first MOTU mini comic, He-Man and the Power Sword.

Alcala Teela
A close shave for Beast Man

Update: A colored version of Teela’s B-sheet has been recently released in the Mark Taylor Portfolio, from Super7 and The Power and the Honor Foundation:

teela-mt

It’s probably fairly well known among fans now that two separate Mark Taylor characters, Teela and Sorceress (aka Goddess), were eventually combined into a single character (Teela). Apparently Mattel marketing didn’t think there was enough demand for two female action figures in one year. Zodac ended up being created to take the eighth spot in the 1982 lineup.

sorceresstaylor
Image source: Grayskull Museum

Sorceress, or Goddess as she is usually called now, was intended to be a changeling and double agent. Her snake head dress had fangs and she had a cold, calculating expression in the concept art. She had brown boots, brown armor and a brown staff, a light green body suit, and a dark green outfit. Her outfit was very similar to Teela’s, but lacked the leaf-like overlay hanging down her front.

sorceress
Colored version of Mark Taylor’s Sorceress concept art, published by Super7 and the Power and the Honor Foundation. Image courtesy of Axel Giménez.

Although she wasn’t produced as a figure in the vintage line, she did make an appearance in the first MOTU mini comic. By that time she had been re-imagined as a noble and mysterious defender of Castle Grayskull.

Alcala Sorceress

It’s worth noting that although Mark Taylor envisioned her as a human woman wearing a green body suit, the comic book (art by Alfredo Alcala) portrayed her with a green face as well. When Teela and Sorceress/Goddess were combined into the same character, Teela inherited the Sorceress’ snake armor and staff, but kept her own Caucasian complexion.

It’s also worth noting that Mark Taylor’s original design for the the basic Teela buck lacked the golden collar overlay that was molded into the final figure. That piece was intended to be an additional accessory. Sorceress/Goddess would have had a unique head, and the snake armor would have gone over the basic body design below:

mark-taylor-sketchbook-rst
Fun fact: Teela’s spiky tiara was based on a hair accessory owned by Mark Taylor’s wife, Rebecca. In fact, Teela was also based on Rebecca! Image source: Rebecca Salari Taylor

The cross sell art depicts Teela with reddish-brown boots and armor (these could appear more red or more brown, depending on the printing) and Goddess’ snake staff in gold:

teela hi res2 crop
Image Source: Axel Giménez

At some point Mattel must have decided that she needed more vibrant colors, and so this prototype depicts Teela with bright red boots and armor. She is carrying the gold spear and sword from the original concept Teela drawing. In marketing materials she is depicted playing the same role that the Goddess/Sorceress did in the first mini comic.

teela_full

teela
Ad sheet artwork based on the prototype. Scan by Battle Ram Blog.
teela proto grayskull box
This image of a prototype Teela appeared on the side of the Castle Grayskull box
teela-goddess-scene-better
Licensing kit image featuring prototype Teela in a scene reminiscent of the first mini comic

Another view of the prototype from the 1982 Mattel dealer catalog:

At some point along the way, it was decided Teela would come with the snake staff rather than the spear, and it along with the shield would be colored the same red as her armor. This closer to final prototype gives her Barbie-like leg articulation. She also retains the white tops to her boots and the green detail on her snake armor. The shield looks rougher than the final version.

Prototype 2 teela
Closer to final prototype

In the 1983 Mattel Dealer Catalog, Teela appears in her final form, except she retains the green eyes on her snake headdress. This detail appears in earlier prototypes as well. I’m unaware of any production models with this detail, but this does look like a factory example rather than one painted by hand. Perhaps this is like the Battle Cat with the striped tail – an early test model that never went into full production.

Teela Green Snake Eyes

Yet another variation appears in the 1982 JCPenny Christmas Catalog. Here again Teela looks like the final toy, except the tops of her boots and her forearm bracers are painted white:

1982-jc-penny-catalog-copy

Several test runs were done of Teela’s head, one with her hair in a bun (chosen for the final toy), and one with long, flowing hair:

teelaproto3
Source: Grayskullmuseum.com.
teelaproto4
Source: Grayskullmuseum.com. Note the long-haired version on the right, which resembles the head from a second prototype drawing, shown below.
teela concept 2
Another concept Teela drawing. The details on her outfit are accurate to the vintage toy, but the head has the loose, flowing hair of the unused test run head.
An early, racier sculpt of Teela
An early, racier sculpt of Teela

The final toy features the ball-in-socket leg articulation used in the male figures. She loses the white detail on her boots and the green detail on her snake armor. The sculpt is noticeably softer than the earliest prototypes.

Notice that the right boot has a larger heel than the left boot. This allows her to stand on the ball of her right foot (as the first prototype depicts) with some measure of stability.

teelaboots2protoboots

There was a lot of inconsistency in the application of paint on the figure’s face. The look could vary wildly depending on the country of manufacture:

Teelas Mantisaur 82
Image source: Mantisaur82

Reissue versions were released with brownish boots and hair, and brighter red accessories:

Artistic depictions of Teela in card art, box art and other media were all over the map.

hemanback
He-Man cardback art. Red armor, sword, no shield
manatarmsback
Man-at-Arms cardback art. No armor, red staff, no shield
teelaback - Copy
Teela cardback art. Brown armor, gold staff, no shield.
clawfulback
Clawful Cardback art. No Armor, red shield, power sword
grayskull great
Castle Grayskull box art. Red armor, gold staff, no shield
Battle Ram box art. No armor, gold spear and shield
Battle Ram box art. No armor, gold spear and shield
Wind Raider box art. No armor, red staff and shield
Wind Raider box art. No armor, red staff and shield
Talon Fighter box art. Brown armor
Talon Fighter box art. Brown armor
attak trak crop
Attak Trak box art. Red armor, red staff, no shield
Teela and Zoar box art. Brown armor, gold staff, no shield
Teela and Zoar box art. Brown armor, gold staff, no shield
Battle Bones box art. Rrown armor, brown staff, no shield
Battle Bones box art. Reddish brown  armor and staff, no shield

Teela was sold in a number of configurations. She was available as a single carded figure, on “8 back” and reissue cards:

The tag line on Teela’s cardback art seems to present her as a kind of sorceress, which seems indicative of her roots in the Goddess/Sorceress character:

fadsfdas - Copy
Teela the sorceress

She was also sold in a gift set package with Zoar. This one is rare and hard to find now:

topangle  other angleinside back

Another rare item is the Heroric Warriors gift set, featuring He-Man, Teela, and Ram Man:

3pack2

Teela was also sold in a JC Penny gift set, with minimal cross sell line art on a brown box:

Source: Grayskull Museum
Source: Grayskull Museum

Teela’s first appears as a warrior woman with no real back story in the Alcala mini comics. The first attempt at giving her a backstory occurred in Mark Texeira’s Tale of Teela mini comic, where Skeletor makes a clone of the Goddess (here depicted with without the green skin) in order to take her as his bride. By depicting Teela as a clone of the Goddess, the attempt seem to be to brand Teela as a kind of two-in-one toy. Take off the armor, and she’s Teela, fearsome warrior. Put it on and she can be Goddess, mystical guardian of Grayskull.

The Tale of Teela!
The Tale of Teela!

In Filmation, Teela is the natural daughter of the Sorceress. The identity of her mother has been hidden from her, but it is made clear in the series that Teela will someday replace her mother as the guardian of Grayskull.

sorcteela img_show-30 img_show-43 IMG_106225822337934 he-man-guide-7_full filmationstyleguide_05_fullteela design

Some of my favorite depictions of Teela come from Errol McCarthy’s licensing kit and style guide artwork. I love how dynamic she is here:

motu_sg1_27_full motu_sg1_19_full motu_sg1_21_full license070_full

My all time favorite look for Teela comes from a puffy sticker that came with Kellogg’s cereal. I distinctly remember getting Teela and Battle Armor He-Man.  The Teela sticker comes from the cross sell art, but gives the character red armor and boots instead of brown, and retains the gold staff. I don’t know why, but I’ve always thought it was the perfect look for her.

teela sticker - Copy

And of course there were many other depictions of the Warrior Goddess:

Art by Earl Norem
Art by Earl Norem
Art by Earl Norem
Art by Earl Norem
Art by Fred Carillo
Art by Fred Carillo

Early concept art for the 1987 movie envisioned Teela in a two-piece bikini with her snake armor over top:

87 movie teela proto
Ralph McQuarrie concept art

The costume actually used for the movie was a radical departure from any prior version of Teela, with only a few visual references to the original toy design.

87 movie teela costume

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32 thoughts on “Teela – Warrior goddess (1982)

  1. Awesome, I never realized that Teela and the Goddess were originally meant to be separate characters. I always assumed that the writers were just not very clear on who or what Teela was meant to be.

    Liked by 1 person

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