Playsets

Castle Grayskull prototype – a closer look

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The prototype Castle Grayskull was not something that most fans had ever seen until relatively recently. Certainly as kids we were oblivious to its existence. It did, however, make its way into story books, mini comics, games, and cross sell artwork. Many of us wondered why the castle in the early mini comics looked so different from the one in our collections.

In my recent interview with Mark and Rebecca Taylor, Mark said:

“I [sculpted the castle] because Tony [Guerrero] was busy with the figures and the other sculptors kept making it too architectural.  I wanted it to the castle to be organic, coming to life to tell its story.  I made a wood armature and sculpted it in green clay. Ted [Mayer] helped with the plaster mold and vacuum forming, Rebecca did the labels…  The imaginative user applied labels themselves to offset the lack of interior walls.”

The exterior of the prototype Castle Grayskull was similar in many respects to the final toy, but there were many notable differences as well.

proto ext2 good
Prototype exterior
proto ext1 good
Prototype exterior
Toy exterior
Mass-produced toy exterior

There are several details on the prototype exterior that are missing or altered in the final toy that I’d like to draw your attention to:

Pawn
Pawn-like design on top of the helmet
Ledge
Ledge
Jaw bridge and teeth
Ghoulish, rounded teeth and small jaw bridge
Laser - front view
Laser turret made from Micronauts Hornetroid parts
Turret
Extended tower
Rocks
Deeper rock base
Side - no handle
No handle over the battlements
Extended turret roof
Extended tower roof
Deeper recess - hidden door
Deeper recess with hidden door
Moat PAH
Play mat (image via The Power and the Honor Foundation)

Many of these design elements found their way into the Castle as depicted in Golden Books, mini comics, DC Comics, and other sources, as well both versions of the cross sell artwork.

Alc CS CR
Cross Sell artwork by Alfredo Alcala, based very closely on the original prototype; appeared on the backs of the first four mini comics
Alc CS BW
Cross Sell artwork by Alfredo Alcala, in black and white
Castle Grayskull Cross Sell Best
Cross Sell artwork that appeared on the back of MOTU packaging. It is based closely on the prototype castle, but omits the “pawn” and adds a handle on the side

Below: He-Man and the Power Sword, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala. In all of Alcala’s early artwork, Castle exteriors are almost 100% faithful to the prototype design. In a couple of panels, however, the ledge is omitted:

Below: King of Castle Grayskull, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala. Notice that Skeletor opens the jaw bridge through a lock located to the right of the entrance. I’m not sure if this was a feature Mattel intended to add – I don’t see any indication of it in the prototype. In the final toy, the lock was located on the jaw bridge itself.

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Below: The Vengeance of Skeletor, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala:

Below: The Power of Point Dread, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala:

Below: The Sword of Skeletor, illustrated by Fred Carillo:

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Featuring the “pawn” design on top of Grayskull helmet
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Teeth are similar to the prototype, but cleaner looking. Like the Alcala depictions, the “lock” is located to the right of the jaw bridge

To Tempt The Gods, pencils by George Tuska, inks by Alfredo Alcala:

00 cover
Castle features “pawn”, ghoulish teeth and extended turret.
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Castle features “pawn”, ledge, and ghoulish teeth

The Trap, illustrated by Dan Spiegle:

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Somewhat ghoulish teeth, although cleaner looking than the prototype. Like the Alcala depictions, the lock is located to the right of the jaw bridge

Masters of the Universe Pop-Up game:

BFE Grayskull
Ghoulish teeth, “pawn” design on helmet, extended turret; colors match the prototype as well
grayskull 2
Ledge is visible from this angle

From the 1984 UK Annual:

39
Features the Alfredo Alcala cross sell artwork
RL Allen
Artwork by R.L. Allen, showing the ledge and “pawn” from the prototype castle. Unlike all other depictions I’ve seen, the ledge here looks very squared-off an architectural.

The interior of the prototype Castle was also different in many ways from the final toy:

Proto Grayskull interior
Prototype interior
Toy interior
Toy interior

There are various details on the prototype interior missing or altered in the final toy:

Throne
A kingly throne rather than the futuristic dentist’s chair on the final toy
Trap Door
Trap door – more rectangular with a different sticker design
Ladder
Single rail ladder that hooked into the floor of the highest turret
Dungeon
Manacles with chains and a different dungeon grate design
Combat Trainer bop bag secret door
A more three-dimensional combat trainer; a punching bag; the secret side door entrance, partially open (behind the combat trainer)
grayskull training dummy PAH
Combat trainer concept drawing by Mark Taylor; image via the Power & Honor Foundation Catalog
Computer
Computer decals
Elevator weapons sticker
Circular elevator with skull-themed back; additional weapons rack sticker
Elevator top
Red skull design at the top of the elevator

 

Jet Pack
Bat-winged backpack
Torture rack
Torture rack
Laser - back view
Laser turret – rear view

Elements from the interior of the prototype also found their way into mini comics and story books:

Below: He-Man and the Power Sword, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala

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Teela on the torture rack

Below: King of Castle Grayskull, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala. There are many interior shots featuring the prototype throne, trap door, ladder, computer systems and laser turret:

 

Below: The Sword of Skeletor, illustrated by Fred Carillo, features several scenes depicting the prototype throne:

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Below: The Trap, illustrated by Dan Spiegle, also features the prototype throne:

0809

This is of course not exhaustive. I’m sure aspects of the prototype castle made it into other vintage Masters of the Universe media or collectibles.

While Mattel made several changes to the castle before its release in 1982, at least one bootleg manufacturer seemed to take inspiration directly from depictions of the prototype Castle Grayskull:

Galaxy Warriors bootleg 2
Image via ebay.com
Galaxy Warriors bootleg 1
Image via ebay.com
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7 thoughts on “Castle Grayskull prototype – a closer look

  1. What a great post! During my childhood I deeply loved the Alcala mini-comics and always found those discrepancies between the toys and his illustrations fascinating. It was, I think, my very first realization of the concept of artistic license. Thanks to your blog, I now know that it was prototype-inspired art, but I still find it fascinating. By the way, too bad we never got that amazing play mat!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post and great playset! I wish it came to us that way, as I’m a fun of the more barbaric Eternia, which was depicted in the early minicomics! I think another external difference is the more protruding mouth.

    Liked by 1 person

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