Artwork

Battle Cat Box Art Scan

Rudy Obrero‘s Battle Cat packaging illustration was the first piece of box art done for Masters of the Universe, which I think affords it a special place among the myriad of other pieces of ingenious artwork created for this toyline. I would put it in my top three personal favorites (the other two being Castle Grayskull and Battle Ram, with the He-Man and Battle Cat giftset artwork coming in a close fourth). When it comes to MOTU box art, there is a great deal of amazing work to choose from. Rudy’s work is my favorite, but of course I also love the art of the late, great William George.

Rudy Obrero was hired by Mark Taylor to paint Frank Frazetta-like artwork for the fledgling Masters of the Universe toyline, and that feeling is perhaps most evident in the original Battle Cat illustration.

I shared the original scan several months back in another post, but I’ve since done some digital manipulation to remove the most obvious wear marks and the horizontal packaging fold that goes across Battle Cat’s legs. Enjoy!

More posts about MOTU box art:

Evil Horde

Hordak – Ruthless Leader of the Evil Horde (1985)

Card art Hordak - Copy

For some unfathomable reason, Hordak was the only member of the original 1985 Evil Horde that we didn’t have in the house growing up. My brother had Grizzlor, and I had Leech, Mantenna and Modulok. But what’s a faction without its leader?

Hordak is the leader of the Evil Horde faction, which debuted in 1985. According to Roger Sweet, the character name and the concept of the Evil Horde were created by Dave Capper, Director of Marketing for Boy’s Toys at Mattel. Mattel and Filmation apparently worked in tandem to develop Hordak going through many iterations of the character before arriving at two final designs – one for the toy shelves and one for the She-Ra cartoon (information source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog).

Dušan M. put together a nice graphic showing the sequential evolution of Hordak’s design. You can check it out at the Ancient Library of Grayskull Facebook group. I’ll go through each design, following Dušan’s ordering. The Filmation images come from Dark Horse’s Art of He-Man, Dark Horse’s He-Man and She-Ra, Dušan M., and eBay.

In this early concept (below), Hordak, while menacing, has the look of a post-apocalyptic thug, like a He-Man character crossed with something from Mad Max.

In the concept drawing below (by Gerald Forton and Herb Hazelton), Hordak looks much less human, and more menacing, in an alien punk-rocker kind of way. The overlapping plates on his armor give him a bit of an H. R. Giger quality. An early Shadow Weaver concept is included.


This concept below looks quite close to the first one, although it lacks the Horde emblem on the chest.


In this concept image shared by Dušan, Hordak’s costume is starting to come together, although his face still looks relatively human.

The concept below is closer still to the final Hordak design, although he still sports a punk rock row of spikes on his head.

From here we get a couple of divergent looks for Hordak, one from Filmation and one from Mattel. Both of them dropped the one-armed look (although in the Filmation cartoon Hordak could transform his arm into a cannon, and Mattel eventually came out with a Hordak variant with arm attachments).

Both of them had a similar looking, mask-like face, with a bone cowl around the back of his head. Filmation’s Hordak had blue skin (or else a blue body suit) and symmetrical arm bands. The animated Hordak has a somewhat sharp, mechanical-looking head:

Note: As Dušan M. observed, an earlier version of this design featured upturned “spurs” on Hordak’s heels.

Meanwhile, at Mattel, Ted Mayer took the design in a slightly different direction. Hordak was colored gray, black and red. He was given a bat-shaped shield and a strange organic-looking weapon. He also has a red cape, making him look a little like some sort of alien vampire. He has Horde bat insignias all over his costume, including on the armband on his left arm (the Filmation version had two armbands with no insignia). His head has warty-looking bumps on it and looks organic rather than mechanical.

Image source: Tomart’s Action Figure Digest
Image Source: The Art of He-Man/The Power and the Honor Foundation

The Evil Horde insignia is actually Hordak’s face, with batwings on either side:

According to Roger Sweet, Hordak’s face was based on a witch doctor’s mask. Interestingly, Ted Mayer did another concept that’s even closer to that idea, although I don’t know if it has anything to do with Hordak:

The toy was based on Ted Mayer’s final design for the character, although the strange weapon was changed out for a crossbow:

hordak cross sell
Cross Sell artwork, showing the toy’s final design. Image courtesy of Axel Giménez.

In the illustration on the back of the packaging, Hordak and his minions make ready to storm Castle Grayskull. Interestingly, Hordak holds Skeletor‘s staff here:

Image Source: StarCrusader

Errol McCarthy also depicted the character in a number of different contexts (images below are from He-Man.org), including the 1987 Style Guide, which described him this way:

Hordak acquired his power while passing through the plane from Etheria to Eternia. He as since discovered how to retain and refine it.

 

 

 

 

Hordak was sold in a number of giftsets, including a couple of different sets with Grizzlor, and a Canadian set with Roboto and Sy-Klone. Hordak was also sold in 1986 together with Mantisaur, his insectoid steed.

As a toy, Hordak was marketed under the Masters of the Universe brand, despite being the primary villain in Filmation’s She-Ra series. Although Hordak was a constant presence is the She-Ra cartoon, Mattel treated him very differently in their own stories. He only shows up in She-Ra’s first minicomic (The Story of She-Ra). In the Princess of Power minicomic canon, Catra is actually She-Ra’s primary nemesis.

The beginning of this story mirrors the opening scenes of Secret of the Sword

Hordak, meanwhile, is a frequently-appearing villain in He-Man‘s minicomics starting in 1985, appearing in the following comics:

  • Grizzlor – The Legend Comes Alive
  • Leech – The Master of Power Suction
  • Mantenna and the Menace of the Evil Horde
  • Hordak – The Ruthless Leader’s Revenge
  • The Treachery of Modulok
  • The Power of the Evil Horde
  • Escape From the Slime Pit
  • The Menace of Multi-Bot
  • The Warrior Machine
  • The Hordes of Hordak
  • Between a Rock and a Hard Place
  • Enter… Buzz-Saw Hordak

In Leech‘s surreal comic, Hordak and Leech both had the power to grow and shrink at will – which doesn’t seem to follow in any other stories.

LMPS (9)
Image via the Dark Horse He-Man Minicomics Collection

In the minicomics cannon, Hordak is generally less well-equipped on Eternia than he is on Etheria, the setting for the She-Ra cartoon series. In Etheria, Hordak’s Fright Zone is a massive industrial nightmare structure, and he has access to legions of troops and vehicles:

fz fhordak thronethrone2

In the He-Man cartoon series, the heroes are in power, and the villains are constantly trying to take it from them. The She-Ra cartoon series has it flipped – the Horde has already defeated Etheria, and She-Ra and her allies strive to overthrow Hordak (voiced by George Dicenzo). The Horde is something like the Empire in the Star Wars series.

When Hordak was introduced, he was written in as the former master of Skeletor; Skeletor is said to have betrayed Hordak and set up shop on Eternia. Hordak has the ability not only to transform his arm into a canon, but his entire body into various mechanical devices. He reports to his mysterious brother Horde Prime, who is the supreme commander of the Horde Empire across all its worlds.

 

arm

Hordak makes appearances in the following box art:

  • The Fright Zone
  • Hordak Grizzlor
  • Hordak and Mantisaur
  • Slime Pit
  • Beam-Blaster & Artilleray

Hordak also appears in several posters by William George, Earl Norem, Esteban Maroto and others. He is variously portrayed in both his Filmation and toy looks:

Hordak of course appears in a wide variety of published media. Because he’s a primary villain, it’s not practical to try to track his every appearance, but I’ll cover some representative samples here:

Golden, 1985: The Horde

11

“Day of the Comet” newspaper story

Day of the Comet

UK MOTU Magazine, Issue 71
UK 71 (10) - Copy

German Ehapa Verlag, 1987, issue 3

 

As a villain, Hordak is certainly creepy enough, although he doesn’t have the archetypal quality of Skeletor. Skeletor is a symbol for death, and you instantly recognize what he’s about at first sight. Hordak has more of a horror movie creature quality. To me, Hordak is outshone by his even more freakish henchmen, while Skeletor is the most interesting villain in his faction. Still, I would have loved to have had this figure as a kid to lead my shambling band of bizarro Hordesmen.

Heroic Warriors

Ram Man in Minicomics and Golden Books

In my post about Ram Man last year, I touched very briefly on the character’s appearances in minicomics and Golden Books.  I’d like to expand on that now with an exhaustive look at every single appearance of Ram Man in these media. I’ll be skipping pages and panels where Ram Man is absent. Selections from the minicomics come from the excellent Dark Horse Minicomic Collection, and Golden books come from He-Man.org.

1983 Minicomic: He-Man Meets Ram-Man!

Ram Man tousles with He-Man over a misunderstanding, causing some hard feelings. Skeletor is able to use that to trick Ram Man into bashing his head repeatedly against Castle Grayskull‘s doors in order to get the power to defeat He-Man. In the end, Ram Man comes to understand that He-Man is not his enemy, and aligns himself with the heroic warriors. Ram Man is given a deep red and magenta color scheme that looks like it wants to follow the cross sell art/concept scheme (the figure was originally designed by Mark Taylor), but couldn’t quite get there. Written by Gary Cohn, penciled by Mark Texeira, inked by Tod Smith, colored by Anthony Tollin.

Mess with the bull, get the horns.

Ram Man uses his head.

Skeletor is in for months of traction.

Allies at last.

1983 Minicomic: The Terror of Tri-Klops!

When third wheel Ram Man walks off into the woods to give He-Man and Teela some privacy, Tri-Klops strikes, nearly defeating our heroic warriors. Written by Gary Cohn, pencils by Mark Texeira, inks by Tod Smith, colors by Anthony Tollin.

This is the happiest Ram Man has ever looked.

Not Ram Man’s finest moment.

1983 Minicomic: The Tale of Teela

Ram Man is a minor background character in Teela‘s breakout comic. Written by Gary Cohn, pencils by Mark Texeira, inks by Tod Smith, colors by Anthony Tollin.

tt (1)tt (2)tt (3)tt (4)tt (5)

tt (6)
Ram Man driving an orange and red Attak Trak.

1984 Minicomic: The Secret Liquid of Life!

Ram Man gets a chance to bust into an ogre’s cavern using his battering ram of a head. Ram Man is portrayed with the green and red color scheme used in the mass-produced toy. Written by Michael Halperin, pencils by Larry Houston, inks by Michael Lee, colors by Charles Simpson, letters by Stan Sakai.

slq (1)

slq (2)
Clobberin time?

slq (3)slq (4)slq (5)slq (6)slq (7)

1984 Minicomic: Double-Edged Sword

Ram Man’s head is ineffectual against Skeletor’s vine monsters, but together with He-Man he is able to break through a magic seal. Written by Michael Halperin, pencils by Larry Houston, inks by Michael Lee, colors by Charles Simpson, letters by Stan Sakai.

des (1)des (2)des (3)des (4)des (5)

des (6)
Ram Man and He-Man can break through anything.

des (7)des (8)

1984 Minicomic: Temple of Darkness!

Ram Man batters his head against several giant minions of Skeletor, and even seems to have the power power of flight in the final panel. Written by Michael Halperin, pencils by Larry Houston, inks by Gerald Forton, colors by Charles Simpson, letters by Stan Sakai.

tod (1)tod (2)tod (3)tod (4)tod (6)tod (7)tod (8)tod (9)tod (10)tod (11)

tod (12)
Either Ram Man can fly or the laws of physics work differently on Eternia.

1985 Minicomic: Skeletor’s Dragon

Ram Man is barely noticed in the background of this story about magically reanimated dinosaur bones. Written by Christy Marx, illustrated by Peter Ledger, colors by Charles Simpson, letters by Stan Sakai.

sd (1)sd (2)sd (3)sd (4)sd (5)sd (6)

1985 Minicomic: Mantenna and the Menace of the Evil Horde!

Ram Man is background character with no lines in this story that, despite its title, isn’t really about Mantenna at all. Pencils by Mike Sekowsky, inks by Steve Mitchell, colors by Charles Simpson, letters by Stan Sakai.

mta (1)mta (2)mta (3)mta (4)

1985 Minicomic: Hordak – The Ruthless Leader’s Revenge!

Ram Man is crushed by Spydor and then plays fight commentator in his last minicomics appearance. Pencils by Larry Houston, inks by Michael Lee, colors by Charles Simpson, letters by Stan Sakai.

HRLR (1)

HRLR (2) - Copy
Skeletor pinches more than an inch.

HRLR (4) - CopyHRLR (5) - Copy

1985 Golden Book: The Magic Mirrors

Ram Man is another background character in this engaging story about magic mirrors and trickery. Written by Jack Harris, illustrated by Fred Carillo, cover by Earl Norem.

00 cover01

0203
Kobra Khan is in for a world of hurt.

04060709101112131415

16
Ram Man looks particularly short here.

1719202122

1985 Golden Books: Demons of the Deep

Ram Man and Fisto accompany He-Man in an underwater rescue mission to save Teela. Of all the characters to take on an underwater mission, Ram Man and Fisto seem the least likely candidates, given their heavy metal armor. Ram Man sports his prototype colors here.

Written by R.L. Stine of Goosebumps fame, illustrated by Fred Carillo.

00 cover12131415

16
I’m not sure how Ram Man is managing to tread water here.

1718202122242628

1985 Golden Book: New Champions of Eternia

Ram Man is a barely-present background character in this story about some mysterious new heroes. Ram Man sports his prototype color scheme in this book. Written by Jack Harris, illustrated by Jeffrey Oh, cover by Fred Carillo.

cover35_full10

15
The blond hero is clearly Hulk Hogan.

1986 Golden Book: Power From The Sky

Skeletor uses the power from an eclipse to launch an assault on Eternia. Ram Man shows up occasionally in the background, without any lines. Written by Wallace Green, illustrated by Fred Carillo, cover by Earl Norem.

00 cover2021