Evil Warriors

Dragon Blaster Skeletor – Evil leader & dreadful dragon (1985)

Dragon Blaster Skeletor was the “deluxe” version of Skeletor that everyone in my grade school peer group coveted. You could tell he was a deluxe figure because he came on an oversized card and wore an oversized dragon backpack and came with a real metal chain. These were the unmistakable tokens of quality in the secret language of childhood.

 

Dragon Blaster Skeletor actually has a fascinating backstory. In my interview with Martin Arriola, he explained to me that the action feature was once quite dangerous:

MA: Prelim, guys like Rogers Sweet would always over-promise to marketing, and sometimes add stuff that was unsafe or not practical.

BR: Oh, like what?

MA: There was Dragon Blaster Skeletor. Prelim design came up with breadboard model. It was unpainted, using old legs and arms and a body sculpted from square styrene blocks. Sweet was touting this one, Smoke and Chains Skeletor, it was called. It had a bellows on its back. You would load the bellows with talcum powder, and there was a pipe going from a cavity to the figure’s right hand. Talcum powder would come out like smoke. The figure was draped with chains, so the working name was Smoke and Chains Skeletor.

I was thinking about doing the final design. Around that same time there was a big grain factory in Texas that exploded. It killed a lot of people, so it made big news back then. Everyone smoked back then.

I said, wow, this has powder. I lit a match and squeezed the bellows. A four foot flame came out of Skeletor! Luckily I hadn’t pointed it at anybody. I remember going to the VP of Design, Gene Kilroy. I had Smoke and Chains Skeletor and a lighter. I just happened to come across the greatest TV moment. I lit the thing and a big old flame came out it.

BR: That’s insane!

MA: When safety got a hold of this, obviously it couldn’t be released. We tried diluting the powder with baking soda, but then it didn’t look like smoke anymore.

So we brainstormed, me and Tony Rhodes. We didn’t do much with water squirting at the time. We had a big brainstorm, and thought, what about squirting water? So we ended up sculpting the dragon on the back of Skeletor, and being able to load that up with water.

Image from Tomart’s Action Figure Digest, issue 202. I don’t know if this inspired Smoke & Chains Skeletor, but it does have some chains on the costume. The artist is unknown.

This concept art by Colin Bailey (below) seems to have been for some kind of dungeon master Skeletor. The lock, chains and cuff from this design ended up being used for Dragon Blaster Skeletor.

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog

Early catalog images of the figure seem to depict a standard hollow head Taiwan figure with the new dragon backpack piece. They also include the original Skeletor’s baltea accessory, although that was cut from the final figure. This look was carried forward into the cross sell art as well.

Image from Tomart’s Action Figure Digest, issue 202. Originally taken from Mattel’s 1985 dealer catalog.
1985 Mattel Dealer Catalog. Image Source: Orange Slime
Dragon Blaster Skeletor cross sell artwork. Scanned by StarCrusader.

The actual production toy had a solid, rubbery head. Mexico versions had face paint reminiscent of earlier incarnations of Skeletor, but Hong Kong examples have quite a jarring “M” pattern on the green sections of the face. Some Mexico examples had the original Skeletor feet, but most had enlarged feet (with reduced sculpting detail) for the purposes of greater stability, given the weight of the backpack. Boot colors ranged from reddish purple to blueish purple to a very dark purple. The baltea was also cut from the production version.

Hong Kong version

As mentioned earlier, this version of Skeletor was packaged on an oversized card. It features some artwork by William George on the front and an action scene by Errol McCarthy on the back:

Image source: Hake’s Americana
Image source: Hake’s Americana
Scan by StarCrusader
Original Errol McCarthy line art. Image via He-Man.org
Instructions
Pencil line art by William George. Image source: He-Man.org

Note that the dragon is supposed to paralyze victims with venom – which seems to be muscling in on Kobra Khan‘s raison d’etre. Maybe that ‘s why he ultimately defected to the Snake Men faction.

The 1987 Style Guide talks a bit about Skeletor’s dragon pet:

Weapons: Skeletor stalks the land with his evil pet, freezing foes with the dragon’s vicious paralyzing venom.

Dragon Blaster Skeletor came packaged with the minicomic Skeletor’s Dragon, which shows off his new action feature as well as the Battle Bones carry case toy.

In the story, Skeletor’s chains have mystical energy draining powers, and his dragon frequently walks around off his leash:

Image source: Dark Horse’s He-Man Minicomic Collection

Skeletor’s design has a strong Filmation influence (especially around the face and boots), and a differently colored costume than the toy. The colors may be based off of early concept art for the figure. The minicomic artwork is by Peter Ledger, with colors by Charles Simpson.

Errol McCarthy depicted the variant for use in a T-shirt design in the artwork below:

Image source: He-Man.org

McCarthy also illustrated the character in the poster below that appeared in the UK Masters of the Universe Magazine:

He also appears in a 1985 MOTU poster by William George. He is again shown with the baltea from the original Skeletor figure:

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Dragon Blaster Skeletor isn’t my favorite Skeletor variant – in fact he’s probably my second least favorite, next to Terror Claws Skeletor. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like him. Skeletor is Skeletor, and it’s hard to make a bad Skeletor figure.

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18 thoughts on “Dragon Blaster Skeletor – Evil leader & dreadful dragon (1985)

  1. This is one I never had as a child, but wanted very badly! As you say, the figure had a very “deluxe” air about it, as did Thunder Punch He-Man. (I did have that one, and it was among my favorite figures.) Something about Skeletor running around with a dragon clinging to his back is hilarious and awesome! I always felt this variant set was mismatched, though. The other two pairs of Skeletor & He-Man variants were opposites with the same or similar augmentations. DB Skeletor and TP He-Man, on the other hand, seemed kinda random, and it made little sense in my chilhood mind to face them off against each other. I’d like to see a similar He-Man variant with, I dunno… maybe a wolf? And to counter TP He-Man, hm… Groin Kick Skeletor!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I see your point but personally I think that this choice make more sense that the Flying Fist and Terror Claws, for example, because the dragon blaster is suited for Skeletor combat style as the Thunder Punch is for He-Man’s. Skeletor is a sorcerer and therefore he fight from distance: the Dragon Blaster suits him well because with it he can neutralize enemies before they’d have the chance to engage him in melee combat.
      On the opposite side, He-Man is a strictly melee fighter so he got the TP.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. DarkAlex1978 – Interesting point, though I could easily imagine the caps feature having been adapted and well matched the Skeletor variant as well (a conjured up spell to scare enemies?) Likewise, whilst He-Man isn’t a sorcerer, the water feature could have been adapted and given a “heroic” spin (maybe for putting out fires, a la Snout Spout?). The pair do kinda seem mismatched in that all other variants in the line “match” each other.
        TC Skeletor was okay I guess, but personally I was never so bothered by variants as a kid. I might be been cooler if the dragon was removable, to also use as a separate character.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. P.j. Gathergood – Yes, it would be possible and the cap feature would fit Skeletor well… something like “Thunder Shout Skeletor”.
          I agree that they are mismatched but it never bothered me; maybe I’m the only one, but I feel that the concept that two enemies must have the same kind of optional equipments is very weird XD

          Like

  2. This was a very informative post. I never had Dragon Blaster Skeletor, but one of my close friends did. I always thought it was really cool. A lot of people still do, as it’s one of the more expensive figures. Even loose, and incomplete it nets more than the usual loose figure price. Glad I still have my carded Thunder Punch He-Man though!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I have this variant and is pretty interesting but as you point up, Kobra Khan was already doing the same thing and better. However the figure had real chains: who could have resist? And the chain was also the first thing to disappear, as happened to me: bad toy design and ironically I think that somewhere in one of my spare part boxes I still have that stupid, useless green lock.
    An interesting detail (at least on my copy/version: I don’t know if is common) is that his Power Sword is actually the He-Man’s one but casted in the usual Skeletor’s color (by the face paint design is the hong kong version).
    To bad that they cutted off the loincloth: the figure looks better with it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Interesting! I have the Mexico version, and it has the “female” version of the sword. It’s actually slightly shorter than the original Skeletor’s sword, though, and the plastic feels different.

      Like

  4. I never had a standard Skeletor; Battle Armor was my main Skelly. I did get this version eventually. I broke the armor, probably immediately, by constantly removing it so the dragon could crawl around on its own.

    My Dragon Blaster figure somehow inherited Faker’s armor so I had something close to the original. I guess I liked playing dress-up with my MOTUs, something that continues as I make custom figures today.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Poor Skelly, think of all the back pain he must of suffered lugging that thing around. I remember getting Dragon Blast Skelly from our local Tescos. Their toy aisle was the stuff of legend and seemed to go on forever. They had special glass cabinets in each toy section with dioramas to show off the latest toys. The Masters version had purple rocks with posed figures and vehicles to show em off, to me it looked a bit like snake mountain . I still shop there and allways think back to those days when ever im browsing the DVD’s which live were the toys used to be.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Skelly took a brief break from back pain when he got his Terror Claws outfit, only to return to an even heavier backpack soon afterwards (Laser Light).

        Sad you don’t see those kinds of displays at toy stores today.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. great post! I’m surprised they couldn’t use non-flammable power because smoke & chains skeletor sounds awesome. I’m going to get out my DB skeletor tonight, I don’t think I ever took the dragon off the armor. plus now i know it’s called a baltea.

    Liked by 1 person

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