Artwork

Creatures of William George

One of the defining characteristics of the packaging artwork of William George is the inclusion of small dinosaur or dragon-like creatures in the background and foreground of the illustration. They add a dimension to the illustration that goes beyond simply demonstrating the product – there is also some world-building going on. The Eternia of William George is a hostile, dangerous and often desolate place, where threats come in all sizes.

I’ll only be focusing on creatures that William George invented for his paintings, not creatures that were part of the products for sale.

Battle Armor He-Man and Road Ripper (1984)

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A pint-sized dinosaur and sea serpent.

Dragon Walker (1984)

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A miniature pterodactyl

Road Ripper (1984)

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Two lizards.

Roton (1984)

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A lizard.
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A tree-climbing demon.
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A flying bird, with encampment in background.

Bashasaurus (1985)

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A diminutive dragon.

Land Shark (1985)

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A wicked-looking little dragon.

Land Shark & Battle Armor Skeletor

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Part vulture, part pterodactyl.

Laser Bolt (1986)

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A tiny, beaked dinosaur.

Scubattack Power Gear (1987)

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A vicious-looking eel.

Megator (1988)

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An ordinary horse, frightened by the stampeding Megator.
Evil Warriors

Jitsu – Evil master of martial arts (1984)

Jitsu Graphic2

My  introduction to Jitsu came in first grade, when a classmate pulled out several of his newest He-Man figures to show the rest of us. The three figures I remember him showing us were Tri-Klops, Jitsu and Fisto.

I already owned Tri-Klops from back in kindergarten, but I hadn’t seen these two new figures with their spring-loaded right arms that terminated in either a giant metallic fist or chopping hand. The entire group was suitably impressed, and we each took turns testing out their action features.

Jitsu’s development starts quite early in the series, in the December 1982 MOTU Bible written by Michael Halperin, under the working name, Chopper:

CHOPPER – has a right hand that’s enormous. With one mighty blow this villain can chop through bricks, trees, anything that gets in his way. He’s formidable in hand-to-hand combat.

There is actually some overlap between Chopper and a Filmation character called Strongarm – James Eatock goes into detail in this video for the He-Man Official Youtube Channel:

According to Martin Arriola, Jitsu was created by Mattel designer Colin Bailey. Although no concept art for Jitsu as a toy has been either found or made public, there is an image of his prototype.

jitsu org
Image source: He-Man.org
Proto 2
Image source: Grayskull Museum

The prototype is quite different in some respects from the final figure. As you can see, the prototype was originally to reuse Skeletor‘s legs. Like Fisto, he was also going to reuse Tri-Klops’ sword (the example in the image above isn’t even repainted). He also uses He-Man‘s arms, rather than Fisto’s arms. Everything else in the rough prototype seems to match the general thrust of the figure’s final design.

The Filmation design may represent an intermediate stage in the character’s design, or it may be a “Filmationized” version of the final toy. This incarnation of Jitsu features human feet with unique red samurai boots and an enlarged but ungloved right hand. He also has a purple belt and bracers:

Jitsu appears in a single episode – “The Dragon Invasion”.  In this scene, he squares off against Ram Man, and they both come out a bit worse for wear in the end:

Jitsu gif
Images used in the animation courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

On August 22, 1983, Mattel filed a trademark for the name Jitsu, instead of the original Chopper. The toy was released the following year.

The final design utilizes He-Man’s legs, with two toned gold and black boots. He is also given a unique katana weapon, although the finger guard is molded on the wrong side of the handle. He reuses the left arm, right upper arm, and slightly shallower chest from Fisto. He has a unique head sculpt and unique two-piece armor – the latter would later be used for Mattel’s King Randor figure:

The action scene on the back of Jitsu’s packaging was illustrated by the inimitable Errol McCarthy:

Jitsu Graphic
Image source: Starcrusader
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Image source: He-Man.org

Jitsu instructionsMcCarthy also illustrated the character, along with Fisto, for this T-Shirt design:

Jitsu’s cross-sell artwork is quite faithful to the toy, down to the backwards hand guard on the sword:

Jitsu cross sell from Axel
Image source: Axel Giménez

Jitsu was also sold in a JCPenny two-pack with Clawful, and in a gift set with Night Stalker. The artwork for the Night Stalker gift set was done by William George.

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Image source: Grayskull Museum

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Jitsu Night Stalker

Jitsu and Nightstalker are the “evil opposites” of Fisto and Stridor, who were also sold as a set. Evil opposites is a theme that pops up over and over again in the vintage Masters of the Universe line.

Battle Cat and Panthor

Aside from the Night Stalker gift set, Jitsu appears on one other piece of box art for the Masters of the Universe line – Battle Bones, by William George:

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Jitsu is never really center stage in any story he appears in. His biggest moment in the minicomics is definitely in The Clash of Arms, where he faces off against Fisto and is quickly defeated:

Jitsu also makes some very minor appearances in Mantenna and the Menace of the Evil Horde and in Hordak: The Ruthless Leader’s Revenge.

Jitsu is a little less camera shy in the Golden Book stories, The Rock Warriors and Demons of the Deep, both illustrated by Fred Carillo. He is far from front and center here, but at least he’s operating at the level of henchman of the week, together with Webstor in the first story and Mer-Man in the second:

Jitsu also makes an appearance the Golden Giant Picture Book, also illustrated by Fred Carillo. Here Jitsu commits the worst sin imaginable – he smashes the Battle Ram with his giant golden chopping hand. The images below come from the Bustatoons blog.

Jitsu also appears in several posters painted by William George from 1984 to 1986:

 

Artwork

Battle Ram Box Art Scan

It’s no surprise to anyone who follows this blog that I have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with the Battle Ram – the 1982 Masters of the Universe vehicle designed by Ted Mayer.

I’m just as obsessed with the early MOTU box art by Rudy Obrero, and for a long time I’ve been wanting to get a nice scan of his original artwork for the Battle Ram. There hasn’t been a really good, single composite scan of the full Battle Ram packaging that I know of, at least that anyone has shared publicly. In scanning the example from my collection, I understand why – it’s challenging to get all of the surfaces to lie completely flat, resulting in some areas that are less crisp than others. Adding to the difficulty is that every example has breaks in the artwork where the box bends upward about two-thirds of the way up. I did my best to digitally fix those breaks, but it was challenging to do in the areas that intersect with painted physical objects.

The result isn’t perfect, but it’s still nice to have the complete, high-resolution picture as painted by Rudy Obrero. If you open the image in a new window you’ll find that you can zoom in quite close on the artwork. Allow some time for the image to load: