Heroic Warriors

Man-At-Arms – Master of weapons! (1982)

umaa graphic

Man-At-Arms, ally of He-Man and master of weapons, was released with the first four action figures of the Masters of the Universe line early in 1982. I remember getting all four of them (shown below) for my birthday soon after they were released, which was the first I had heard of them. I was, of course, instantly hooked.

back-cover
Cross sell artwork by Alfredo Alcala

Man-At-Arms is by far the most tech-heavy character among those early figures. Looking something like a futuristic space gladiator crossed with a conquistador, Man-At-Arms was envisioned by creator Mark Taylor as a scavenger of high-tech equipment from the remnants of a higher civilization that has been destroyed:

I based [Man-At-Arms] on the Spanish Conquistadors. I always wondered how those suckers had the nerve to do the things they did. They had to be ballsy beyond belief! Mattel’s marketing team was really on me to incorporate lots of technology, since Star Wars was still so popular. So I told them I could put high-tech gear on Man-At-Arms. I’d just read Piers Anthony’s classic science-fiction novel Sos the Rope, about a character who goes into a wasteland where a superior civilization had once lived. And he digs down and brings out their technology, which gives him a huge advantage over everyone else! So Man-At-Arms does that too.

Man-At-Arms was actually originally designed by Mark Taylor for the never-produced Robin and the Space Hoods toyline. When that line failed to be green-lit, the character (or a version of him) was reused for Masters of the Universe.

In this B-Sheet design by Mark Taylor (here he is given the working name of “Arms Man”), the conquistador element is quite evident in his helmet. His armor bristles with wires, hoses and gadgets. His mace weapon was originally supposed to function a bit like a flail, with the ball end of the weapon detaching from the handle to be swung about on a string.

In the color version of the same B-Sheet design, we can see that while the loin cloth was intended to be black, the boots and right arm bracer were originally supposed to be orange:

man-at-arms-mt
From the Mark Taylor Portfolio, published by Super7/The Power and the Honor Foundation

In early mini comic art (below) by Alfredo Alcala, you can see some changes that were  made to Man-At-Arms’ color scheme. The loin cloth and boot colors were changed to a dark maroon color, and the right arm bracer was made blue instead of orange. The high tech conquistador helmet still is quite evident, although it would be altered in the final toy. The boot knife seems to have been cut from the design, although it’s not totally clear here:

Man-At-Arms Cross Sell Best
Man-At-Arms cross sell artwork. Image courtesy of Axel Giménez.

In the above cross sell art that was printed on the backs of figure cards and vehicle boxes, we see that Man-At-Arms has lost a few design details from the original B-sheet. Gone are his square belt buckle and his metal glove. His shorts and boots were colored black, and his helmet was rounded off at the top.

As we see in the hand-painted prototype above, Man-At-Arms’ design was simplified even more from the cross-sell art. His chest armor lacks the furry lining around the arms. His weapon was reduced in size and in detail. He regained the red color on his shorts and boots, but lost the red detail on his belt.The major difference between this prototype and the final toy is that he retains the “bracelet” section of the armor on his left arm (the bracelet does show up in version manufactured in France, however).

In this very early prototype, Man-At-Arms’ left boot is unpainted. That may have been an oversight rather than a deliberate design choice:

However, Man-At-Arms makes an appearance with the green left boot in the July 1982 DC Comics story, From Eternia With Death, apparently based off of the early green-booted prototype:

02 - Copy03 - Copy

The hand-painted prototype features a blue belt and red details on his helmet. The very first production examples of the figure were colored that way as well, but subsequent releases lack the red details on the helmet; later versions came with a gray belt.

Note that Man-At-Arms actually had sculpted hair below the helmet line on the back of his head. It was, however, painted the same light blue as the rest of his helmet (thanks to Jukka Issakainen for reminding me of this).

blue hair

The first releases came packaged on the 8-back card, and reissues starting in 1983 featured a scene on the back painted by artist Errol McCarthy:

frontbackback2man-at-arms-instructionsbackart

Errol McCarthy also depicted Man-At-Arms many times over in Mattel licensing kit and style guide artwork, with some influences from the Filmation version:

As one of the main characters of the line, Man-At-Arms showed up quite frequently on MOTU box art:

In the mini comics, Man-At-Arms is first portrayed as an independent and occasional ally of He-Man who teams up with him to defeat Skeletor when necessary. By the time The Tale of Teela mini comic was released in 1983, Man-At-Arms had started to be a more permanent fixture around the palace of Eternia and was also portrayed as Teela’s adopted father:

This portrayal of Man-At-Arms quickly became almost universal across all media, from the Filmation series to the most recent DC Comics series.

Speaking of Filmation, Man-At-Arms was one of the most frequently-seen characters in the cartoon series. He appears in the introductory animation to each episode as one of the few people who know Prince Adam’s secret identity. He is also given the real name of Duncan.

intro

Design-wise, Man-At-Arms underwent some fairly dramatic design changes in the Filmation cartoon. his arm and leg armor was simplified and made symmetrical to allow the animators to flip cells over and reuse the same sequences going left or right. And of course, he was given the mustache that has defined his look ever since.

Filmation of course did a commercial for the Masters of the Universe toyline before their popular cartoon series. In the ad, Man-At-Arms was drawn on-model to the actual toy:

Depictions of Man-At-Arms in the golden books generally follow the evolution of the character in other media, from clean-shaven independent warrior to mustachioed royal weapons master and step-father of Teela.

The 1987 Canon-produced Masters of the Universe Movie featured Man-At-Arms as one of its primary characters. The design for Man-At-Arms’ costume early in the film’s development was closely based on the original toy, but the film neared production Man-At-Arm’s costume underwent a radical transformation. His uniform was eventually colored blue instead of the traditional orange and green. The face guard was flattened and made ornamental rather than functional.

Jon Cypher
Jon Cypher as Man-At-Arms

Man-At-Arms

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41 thoughts on “Man-At-Arms – Master of weapons! (1982)

  1. Great article. One of the little details I love about the Classics Man-at-Arms figure is the gun barrel they added to his wrist armor, as an homage to the lasers MAA is always firing out of his wrists in the Filmation cartoon. That figure also realizes many of the simplified elements of the cross-sell artwork, like the furry armor lining, wider mace, green boots/loincloth, and red gem on the belt. I never noticed these small differences before reading this article!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had Man-At-Arms reasonably early on in my collection, maybe six or seven figures in. I recall that even as the more action-feature (or “gimmicky!”)-driven characters of the third wave started to appear, I still was keen to get MAA in my set as he was one of the main characters, and also because I always was (and still am) attracted to the more ‘character’ based figures that some of the asaid later wave ones who each had more of an action feature but sometimes lacked as much real character to them. I’ve also always been a fan of the more “human” or human-influenced characters, which is why I love the first two waves so much over some of the creature-heavy later lines (though I love many of those too).

    Either way, Man-At-Arms is a decent enough figure, even if he might look a little ‘basic’ in hindsight as he came from the original four figures released. His colour scheme was vibrant, and the figure had a very soldiery feel to me. Whilst I liked the figure I always felt it never quite lived up to the cross-sell illustration, with the black ‘fur’ round the arms of the armour, chunkier mace and all.

    I hadn’t read up on the initial concept of him being a “scavenger” of the technology left behind after the Great Wars, but it makes perfect sense (especially when looking at his design) and fits perfectly with my preferred original-two-waves mythos.

    Of course, Duncan was one of the most regular characters in the Filmation series, and whilst a decent character there, I always felt could be a little ‘fuddy duddy’ at times; I kinda like to think of MAA as a war-beaten warrior with technical knowledge, who’s learned to live off of wastelands in times of battle, as is kinda suggested in the earliest mini-comics. I see him as a hardened solider and who became He-Man’s closest friend and trusted fighter.

    I never minded that the figure didn’t have a mustache, but the face always looked a little ‘squished’ to me – so it’s interesting to consider that the helmet was originally conceived as slightly taller, before being rounded down. I actually wonder if the final head sculpt was manipulated from this earlier ‘taller helmet’ version which is why the face does look a little squashed up maybe. Who knows!

    As mentioned in the blog, there are a few variants in colour to be found on MAA, both deliberate changes, and subtle due to country of production. When I collected the line on the second hand market, I found is green body could vary from quite deep to much brighter, and similarly with his armor. I had one version – possibly French produced, but I’m hazy on the details – that had a vibrant, lime green body and bright, near-yellow armor (which really ‘popped’ and looked great). I believe this was a soft head version, though I did collection some hard head versions too.

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