Heroic Warriors

Stratos – Winged warrior! (1982)

Stratos graphic

Released late in the first year of Masters of the Universe figures, Stratos was one of the few from that 1982 that I didn’t own as a kid. I remember encountering him for the first time at a friend’s house: “Who’s this guy? Oh yeah, I remember seeing him in the comics. Where’s his weapon? No weapon? I guess it’s cool that he can fly. Is he a flying monkey?”

Stratos, designed by Mark Taylor, appears to have been originally conceived as a villain.

wings of wickedness

Given the working name “Bird Man” (also, perhaps “Wing Man”) Stratos was intended to have the hairy arms and legs of Beast Man, but the furless homo sapiens chest of He-Man:

Mark Taylor Stratos
Mark Taylor B-sheet, photo by Jukka Issakainen, image from the Power & Honor Foundation

The body in the B-sheet isn’t fully colored, but a bit of color on the chest indicates a tentative flesh tone or orange color scheme. However, he could also be interpreted as having a light gray body. His wings are blue, and his red backpack attaches around his waist and his neck. That design comes through in the first mini comics drawn by Alfredo Alcala, depicted as first a villain and then a hero:

Orange Stratos
Evil Stratos, in orange fur
page-13
Good Stratos, with tan fur/skin

Eventually his backpack was redesigned and his body color was changed to gray, which was reflected in the last mini comic of 1982. The colors of his backpack and arm feathers were also reversed:

page-22

This design also appears in the cross sell art:

Stratos Cross Sell Best
Stratos cross sell artwork. Image courtesy of Axel Giménez.

Notice in this hand-painted prototype (with another redesign to the chest harness), Stratos has a hairless chest, which matches up with the original Mark Taylor B-Sheet and the cross sell art:

promo
Source: 1981 License Kit/He-Man.org

This image from the 1984 Annual (which used images taken from early prototypes) makes it clearer that Stratos had a smooth chest. This design makes him seem far less animalistic:

annual stratos proto
Image from: He-Man.org. Note that the harness also lacks the feather design at the shoulders.

I thought I had found yet another prototype of Stratos in a German promotional booklet. The harness seems to have a criss-cross pattern on the front, which reminded me a little of the cross sell art. But I think this is simply a case of the photographer putting the harness on incorrectly:

vintage promo 1984a vintage promo 1984b vintage promo 1984c

Eventually it was decided that Stratos would have the same furry chest as Beast Man:

stratoschest

There were some variations of early production versions of Stratos. Some came with blue wings and a red backpack, and others with red wings and a blue backpack. The rarest version had a blue beard and gray goggles. All mint on card examples of this variant that I have seen have blue wings, but loose examples have shown up with red wings. I’m not sure if those were original to the figure or if some part swapping occurred.

In any case, it’s possible that the blue beard version of Stratos is the very first version released, as it accords with Mark Taylor’s original color scheme. However, the earliest Stratos prototypes (as shown earlier in this post), had red wings and a blue backpack, so I remain a little uncertain on the issue. Most blue bearded examples seem to have blue “eyebrows” as well, but there was at least one example (in the first image below) with gray “eyebrows”.

The red wing/gray beard version is probably the most popular, as he was most frequently depicted in this color scheme:

IMG_9721 IMG_9722 IMG_9723 IMG_9724

But of course the blue wing/gray beard version has its fan base too:

1123432   3213 - Copy42313 - Copy

The first release of Stratos was packaged on the “eight back” style card.

11  1111

Subsequent versions featured this scene on the card back by artist Errol McCarthy:

stratosback

Stratos seemed to appear frequently in books and comic books in the first few years of the line, but his appearances became rarer afterwards.

001 cover 09

DC Comics - To Tempt The Gods
DC Comics – To Tempt The Gods
20
In the Sunbird Legacy book, Stratos’ compatriots at Avion were shown in the familiar colors but given unique headgear and wings on their backs
Ladybird Wings of Doom book
Ladybird Wings of Doom book
Not sure how his working name
Not sure how his working name “Bird Man” showed up in 1987

Stratos made occasional appearances in the Filmation cartoon. He wasn’t depicted as a flying ape-like creature. He looks instead like a human in a kind of flight suit.

IMGP4655

filmstratos

Of course, in the Filmation Series Guide he looks a lot closer to the toy:

he-man-guide-9_full

Stratos also makes some appearances in Rudy Obrero’s Castle Grayskull and Battle Ram box art:

grayskull greatBattle Ram high resolution

Stratos probably isn’t near the top of most people’s favorite MOTU character lists (although some people absolutely love him). As a kid he didn’t particularly spark my interest, but as an adult I find him enormously charming.

most powerful toys

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16 thoughts on “Stratos – Winged warrior! (1982)

  1. I never owned a complete Stratos, and hadn’t paid much attention to him, so I never realized that he actually had a jet pack on that harness. I was under the impression that the 200X version added the jet pack to make him seem “cooler.”

    Liked by 1 person

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