I’ve often wondered about the exact dates that Masters of the Universe figures, vehicles and playsets were released. It’s quite difficult to suss out, and would probably require access to internal Mattel distribution documents that may no longer exist.
However, there is one way of fixing a date to specific MOTU-related items – the date that a trademark claim was filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office. While trademarks would have usually been filed in advance of the actual release date of the item, they do give us a general sense of the order that these toys had reached a certain stage in their development. There are probably exceptions to that, of course, but I think it should hold true in general.
There has long been a notion of “waves” in the world of MOTU collectors. Each wave corresponds to a year:
- Wave 1: Items released in 1982
- Wave 2: Items released in 1983
- Wave 3: Items released in 1984
- Wave 4: Items released in 1985
- Wave 5: Items released in 1986
- Wave 6: Items released in 1987
- Wave 7: Items released in 1988
I’m accounting for the seven waves here, but I’m posting these strictly by order of trademark date. Sometimes that order contradicts fan notions about waves. When that happens, I’ll try to account for that too.
Most of the first wave items were trademarked on the same day – December 14, 1981. That also includes the name of the line, “Masters of the Universe”. Battle Cat was slightly behind, having been trademarked on December 21. Skeletor and Castle Grayskull didn’t get a trademark filed until January 15, 1982.
December 14, 1981:
HE-MAN, TEELA, MAN-AT-ARMS, STRATOS, WIND RAIDER, BATTLE RAM, BEAST MAN, MER-MAN, ZODAC, “MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE”
December 21, 1981:
January 15, 1982:
CASTLE GRAYSKULL, SKELETOR
Wave 2 gets a little messier. The first seven of the items were trademarked in September of 1982. Evil-Lyn, Panthor and Screeech were trademarked in early 1983. Interestingly, Faker wasn’t trademarked until May of 1983, slightly after Prince Adam. It’s possible that Prince Adam was intended to be released as a late second wave figure. In fact, there is even a fan theory that the figure known as “Wonder Bread He-Man” was in reality an early version of Prince Adam that was scrapped after the look was changed by Filmation.
Point Dread & The Talon Fighter were trademarked early on, in September 1982, but the separate names, Point Dread and Talon Fighter were trademarked individually in May of 1983.
September 27, 1982:
ATTAK TRAK, MAN-E-FACES, POINT DREAD & THE TALON FIGHTER, RAM MAN, TRAP JAW, ZOAR
December 10, 1982:
January 21, 1983:
EVIL-LYN, “HEROIC WARRIORS”, “EVIL WARRIORS”
February 16, 1983:
May 23, 1983:
PRINCE ADAM (release probably delayed until 1984)
May 25, 1983:
FAKER, POINT DREAD, TALON FIGHTER
August 22, 1983:
“BATTLE FOR ETERNIA”
As mentioned earlier, Prince Adam was the first figure released in the third wave to get trademarked (May 1983). Most of the rest of that wave was trademarked in August of 1983, including Buzz-Off, Clawful, Mekaneck, Fisto, Jitsu, and others. Webstor, “Battle Armor” (presumably covering both He-Man and Skeletor variants) and Kobra Khan bring up the rear. I couldn’t locate a 1980s trademark date for either Orko or Dragon Walker.
Mekaneck is considered by many to be a second wave figure, but don’t think that’s right. He was of course trademarked the same day as many other third wave figures. Beyond that, Mekaneck also appears in the 1984 Dealer Catalog, but is absent from the 1983 Dealer Catalog. The figure itself is stamped with the same date as other third wave figures (1983 – figures were released the year after the date stamp). He has the clam shell armor that is distinctive to third wave and later figures, and he does not appear in mini comics until 1984. Because so many things about Mekaneck point to him being a third wave figure, in my books that’s what he is.
August 15, 1983:
August 22, 1983:
BUZZ-OFF, CLAWFUL, FISTO, JITSU, MEKANECK, ROAD RIPPER, ROTON, STRIDOR, WHIPLASH
December 5, 1983:
January 27, 1984:
BATTLE ARMOR, KOBRA KHAN
Date Not Found:
ORKO, DRAGON WALKER, WEAPONS PAK
“Fright Zone” was trademarked significantly sooner than the other fourth wave items, in January of 1984. Most of the others were trademarked later in the year, in September, November and December. Sy-Klone was the last to be trademarked, in the summer of 1985. He was actually trademarked on the same day as many figures released in 1986, although the figure is stamped 1984, indicating that he was released in 1985.He also appears with other fourth wave characters in the 1985 mini comics, so I believe this is a case of a delayed trademark filing but not a delayed release for the figure, if that makes sense.
I couldn’t locate a 1980s trademark date for Roboto.
January 27, 1984:
THE FRIGHT ZONE
September 10, 1984:
GRIZZLOR, HORDAK, “THE HORDE”, LAND SHARK, LEECH, MANTENNA, SPIKOR, SPYDOR, STINKOR, THUNDER PUNCH, TWO BAD
November 23, 1984:
BASHASAURUS, NIGHT STALKER, “THE EVIL HORDE”
December 19, 1984:
DRAGON BLASTER, MODULOK, MOSS MAN
December 28, 1984:
Date Not Found:
ROBOTO, EVIL ROBOT (unproduced)
Most of the 1986 figures and other items were trademarked in the summer and winter of 1985. Many were trademarked in early 1986 though. Eternia was among the last of that wave to be trademarked, in June of 1986. I couldn’t locate a 1980s trademark date for either Hurricane Hordak or King Hiss.
June 14, 1985:
LASER BOLT, TERROR CLAWS
June 17, 1985:
FLYING FISTS, RATTLOR, ROKKON, STONEDAR, SY-KLONE, TUNG LASHOR
June 24, 1985:
November 12, 1985:
HORDE TROOPER, MANTISAUR, MULTI-BOT, SNAKE MEN, SNOUT SPOUT
December 2, 1985:
January 9, 1986:
EXTENDAR, RIO BLAST
March 17, 1986:
March 21, 1986:
BATTLE FOR ETERNIA (board game), FRIGHT FIGHTER
March 24, 1986
June 23, 1986:
ETERNIA, GRAYSKULL (Figure), JET SLED, MONSTROID
Date Not Found:
HURRICANE HORDAK, KING HISS, DRAGSTOR, MEGALASER
All of the 1987 items, save Saurod, were trademarked in 1986 – that is, those for which I could find a filed trademark. I couldn’t locate one for almost half of the items released in 1987. That may be because the MOTU line was crashing and burning by then. Interestingly, I did find trademarks for Gigantisaur and Eldor, even though these items were never released.
Of the four figures released in 1988 (Tytus, Megator, Laser Power He-Man, Laser Power Skeletor), only the first two had 1980s trademarks on file. Tytus was trademarked in late 1986, while Megator was trademarked in the spring of 1987. Both Tytus and Megator were slated to come out in 1987, but they were delayed a year and released only in Europe.
June 23, 1986:
BUZZ-SAW, MOSQUITOR, SORCERESS, METEORBS, COMETROID, TY-GRRR, ASTRO LION, COMET CAT, TUSKOR, DINOSORB, CROCOBITE, RHINORB, ORBEAR, GORE-ILLA
September 22, 1986:
BIONATOPS, GIGANTISAUR (unproduced), POWERS OF GRAYSKULL, TYRANTISAURUS REX
October 6, 1986:
ELDOR (unproduced), ROTAR, TURBODACTYL, TWISTOID, TYTUS (release delayed until 1987)
October 7, 1986:
October 14, 1986:
CLIFF CLIMBER, SCUBATTACK
April 27, 1987:
No Date Found:
ARTILLERAY, BEAM BLASTER, BLADE, CLAMP CHAMP, GYRATTACKER (unproduced), HE-RO (unproduced), KING RANDOR, NINJOR, SCARE GLOW, SNAKE FACE, SSSQUEEZE, TOWER TOOLS, LASER LIGHT SKELETOR, LASER POWER HE-MAN
The issue of trademarks doesn’t tell us everything about release dates, of course. I can’t say for sure how long after a trademark was filed that the figure was released (I would guess several months in most cases). But I think it does say something about the order of development of these figures, vehicles and playsets, at least in a broad way.
This was a fairly complicated project. If you think I’ve missed something important, please do let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!
Special thanks to Larry Hubbard for reminding me about the Weapons Pak and Aaron Johnson for reminding me about the Meteorbs! Also thanks to Mike Beezer for letting me know I’d forgotten about Webstor!
Thanks also to Axel Giménez for sharing several high quality pieces of art with me that were used in this post. Many (but not all) of the other images came from the excellent MOTU Portugal site. Others were cobbled together from my snap shots of the back of vintage packaging.