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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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
“Day of the Comet” newspaper story
UK MOTU Magazine, Issue 71
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.