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.
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:
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:
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:
This design also appears in the cross sell art:
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:
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:
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:
Eventually it was decided that Stratos would have the same furry chest as Beast Man:
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:
But of course the blue wing/gray beard version has its fan base too:
The first release of Stratos was packaged on the “eight back” style card.
Subsequent versions featured this scene on the card back by artist Errol McCarthy:
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.
Of course, in the Filmation Series Guide he looks a lot closer to the toy:
Stratos also makes some appearances in Rudy Obrero’s Castle Grayskull and Battle Ram box art:
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.