Heroic Warriors

Battle Armor He-Man – Most powerful man in the universe (1984)

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After a sibling destroyed my original He-Man figure (don’t ask), my mother replaced him (the figure, not my sibling) with a new version: Battle Armor He-Man. With this new variant, He-Man’s power harness was replaced by plate mail that you could “damage” with a touch and then “repair” with a flick of your finger. It was an ingenious action feature that provided me with hours and hours of entertainment, although I never quite got over the loss of my original He-Man until I was able to purchase one 30 years later.

Battle Armor He-Man’s look, as near as I can tell, was created by Ted Mayer (as a variation on the original Mark Taylor design), while his action feature was designed by Ronald H. MacBain and Tony Rhodes. Martin Arriola worked on the figure as well. In this December 8, 1983 concept drawing by Ted Mayer (below), we see a design that has elements of both Battle Armor He-Man and Flying Fists He-Man. The action feature here is actually what ended up being used in the Flying Fists variant, but the armor design looks more like Battle Armor He-Man:

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Image source: Tomart’s Action Figure Digest (scan via Jukka Issakainen)

In this undated drawing, which I believe was also done by Ted Mayer, He-Man’s armor has the overlapping plated look of the final armor, albeit without the H.

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Note that Battle Armor He-Man was originally supposed to come with a shield. Image source: Tomart’s Action Figure Digest

Speaking of the H, this and every other He-Man variant that followed it uses an H in place of He-Man’s original iron cross design. The one exception is not technically a He-Man variant, but the blue armor piece that came with the 1986 Jet Sled vehicle (also designed by Ted Mayer) had a red iron cross design on the front:

The stylized H used on Battle-Armor He-Man’s chest also appears on Thunder Punch He-Man, Flying Fists He-Man, and on the side of the Dragon Walker. Laser Power He-Man uses a plainer H design.

An early prototype for Battle Armor He-Man shows up in Mattel’s 1984 Dealer Catalog, as well as in the commercial featured near the beginning of this article. This version of Battle Armor He-Man has a bright red H on his chest with a dark red outline. He also has quite dark red boots and loin cloth. His weapons look like they’ve been painted with a very shiny coat of metallic silver.

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The production version (at least the initial Taiwan release] is a bit different from the prototype. The H is salmon-orange rather than red, and his boots and loin cloth are a bit brighter. His weapons are more metallic-looking than the original release He-Man’s weapons, but not nearly as shiny as the prototype. Unlike the original He-Man, he lacks a shield.

The cross sell artwork is based on the finished toy rather than any early prototype:

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The front of He-Man’s card has a burst describing the function of the action feature. Unlike most figures released in the toy line, there is no tag line underneath He-Man’s name, although he is tagged with “Most powerful man in the universe” when he appears in cross sell artwork.

The cardback features a scene illustrated by Errol McCarthy, with Mer-Man giving He-Man’s armor a good slice with his sword. There is also an illustration demonstrating how He-Man’s action feature works.

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Artwork by Errol McCarthy; Image via He-Man.org

Errol McCarthy illustrated quite a few versions of Battle Armor He-Man for use in Mattel and licensee products and promotional materials:

Battle Armor He-Man was sold with the following vehicles or beasts:

  • Battle Armor He-Man and Battle Cat
  • Battle Armor He-Man and Road Ripper

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William George painted the fantastic scenes for both sets:

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The figure was also sold in several gift sets (images via Grayskull Museum):

  • Battle Armor He-Man and Battle Armor Skeletor
  • Man-At-Arms, Battle Armor He-Man, and Man-E-Faces
  • Battle Armor Skeletor, Orko, and Battle Armor He-Man

As I mentioned earlier, Battle Armor He-Man’s action feature was invented by Ronald H. MacBain and Tony Rhodes. The patent was filed December 29, 1983, and the trademark followed on January 27, 1984. It’s a rather ingenious concept, as described in the abstract:

An animated figure toy of the type which includes an upper torso having a chest drum rotatably mounted in a chest opening for sequential rotation to expose an undamaged section, a single damaged section and a double damaged section is provided with an improved multiple-force spring.

So essentially, a small amount of pressure will cause the chest drum to rotate forward one click, exposing an H that appears to have a slash on it, and then another H with two slashes. You can then manually turn the drum back to the start and begin all over again.

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The action feature was of course reused in Battle Armor Skeletor, but a similar feature was also used in Mattel’s Hot Wheels Crack-Ups cars, which debuted in 1985:

Strangely, none of the mini comics released at any point in the vintage toy line depict He-Man with his battle armor. This variant also never appeared in the Filmation He-Man cartoon. However, Battle Armor He-Man does show up frequently in box art and posters by William George. In fact, of the 35 or so depictions of He-Man in box art, 15 of them depict He-Man in his Battle Armor. He also shows up frequently in posters illustrated by William George:

Battle Armor He-Man also appears in various Stickers, story books, collectibles, and other media.

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24 thoughts on “Battle Armor He-Man – Most powerful man in the universe (1984)

  1. I remember getting both BA He man and Skelly on a family holiday from a seaside shop in Devon. Both figures came together on a double card twin pack and im sure Mattel never packaged their figures in this way again.

    Great post as always, keep up the good work 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I know I definitely had BA He-Man, but I cannot for the life of me remember if I had BA Skeletor. I have strong, clear memories of playing with him, but I’m not sure if he belonged to me or if it was a friend’s

      Liked by 1 person

  2. … great research, once again. BA He-Man really made me all excited once it came out back then. This is the essence of Motu: making the armor look/ work futuristic (the damage function and the “self-healing” power within that armor) and at the same time appeal to a classic theme (the knight-armor thing). Awesome. I like the French Version of BA He-Man. Bright colors (hair, Boots) and shiny armor. Great read once again!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great research as always. BA He Man was my first He man. He came to me from Germany in an extremely nice card…. On the top left corner had a little game. A rounded card, that could be turned and give he man the one or two cracks on his armour…. Inside the package was a great double faced paper mask. Face A was He Man , Face B was old Skelly. Magic. I can not post a foto here, but if you google- search “zauberhe he man” you will see a foto of this card.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. While it was a good gimmick that has been used quite a bit these days with tweaks (like completely turning around without the need for resetting), I kinda feel the gimmick comes off as weird.. “Hey, I got this Mighty Strong new Battle Armour!, How is it different from the old armour? This one takes Damage!”.. sure, it heals but.. since his original armour was often say to make him almost invincible, larger armour which now takes damage seams a bit.. weird..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I never thought of the armor as actually being self-healing. In my mind it just allowed you to have some battle damage on He-Man’s armor. Then you could just start over again from scratch. Maybe He-Man went home and replaced his old armor with a new set.

      Sure, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it entertained me for hours.

      On the other hand, it does look a bit weird to give He-Man a “shirt” of sorts but leave his legs bare. It’s almost like he’s walking around the house in a tank top and briefs 😀

      Like

  5. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but you have produced a wonderful resource for fans. I’ve been reading the DK MOTU books over the past couple years, and while I appreciate each in its own way, they have not really covered the toys and their history. Your archive is the book we’ve been missing. I hope you’ve contacted the publishers with the idea to publish the content you’ve created/curated. I hope I’m behind the times and a book is already in the works. Thank you for what you continue to provide.

    Liked by 1 person

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