Freelance illustrator Rudy Obrero left an indelible mark on the Masters of the Universe landscape. He was originally selected by Mattel designer Mark Taylor for his ability to produce artwork in the style of Frank Frazetta, a major early influence on the He-Man toyline. Rudy’s moody atmospheres have made him a fan favorite in a toyline that was blessed with many talented artists and designers.
Today I’d like to take a look at something we often don’t notice in this artwork – the background characters and vehicles that never existed as actual toys.
The artwork under discussion:
The original Battle Cat artwork (the first piece painted by Rudy for the He-Man toyline) is pretty sparse. You have He-Man on Battle Cat, some rocks and Castle Grayskull in the background, and not much else.
However, if you look more closely at the Castle, you’ll notice a barbarian warrior manning the laser canon on the castle turret:
In the background, to the left of Battle Cat’s helmet, you can also see a couple of shadowy figures:
In the original charcoal drawing (a piece owned Eamon O’Donoghue, who graciously shared a picture of it), you can also see there were going to be a few more background characters in the illustration, but they were dropped in the final oil painting. Like many of Rudy’s background characters, they look like barbarian warriors straight from a Frank Frazetta painting.
Rudy’s Castle Grayskull artwork has nearly a complete line-up of all the 1982 action figures, with the exception of Mer-Man. But there are also two shadowy figures in the background, behind Beast Man.
Rudy also includes a small fleet of flying Sky Sled-like vehicles. They are v-shaped and each appears to have a single pilot.
Rudy’s Battle Ram illustration features a barbarian warrior with a Viking helmet, and the suggestion of at least a couple of figures on the turrets of Castle Grayskull.
It also features six of the V-shaped Sky Sled-like vehicles that appeared in the Castle Grayskull painting, each with its own pilot. Some of them are shown in side profile here. The basic design seems to be the front half of the Battle Ram without the griffin figure head, and extended, swept-back wings.
Rudy Obrero’s Wind Raider illustration features about a dozen warriors at ground level, most in silhouette. One of them, however, is a blue-skinned warrior with red armor and helmet. Update: this may in fact be Stratos. Thanks to Øyvind M. for pointing this out!
The artwork also features three Wind Raiders, each with an unknown pilot, mounting an attack on He-Man, who mounted his own attack against Castle Grayskull.
He-Man and Wind Raider
The illustration for the He-Man/Wind Raider gift set shows the clearest example of an invented character. I used to think this was an off-model version of Zodac, but Rudy has said he hadn’t seen Zodac when he did the painting (indicating this was done before Castle Grayskull). Dubbed the “Warrior in Red” by fans, he is just that. His costume looks a bit like He-Man’s, but recolored. He seems to have some kind of red and gray helmet on, but it’s hard to make out any details.
Special thanks to Shawn, who gave me the idea for this post.