Evil Horde

Grizzlor – Hairy henchman of The Evil Horde (1985)

I didn’t own Grizzlor as a kid, but my brother did, and (I got Leech and Mantenna at about the same time). Grizzlor is simultaneously hilarious and creepy, with his wild furry body and his vicious-looking face, like a cross between a Troll doll and mutant bear. With a predominantly brown color scheme, he’s actually one of the least colorful characters in the MOTU universe, but he certainly “pops” in other ways.

 

Horde faction
Image courtesy of Axel Giménez

Grizzlor seems to have originated at Filmation. Several years back The Power and the Honor Foundation shared an early development image, reportedly created by Curtis Cim. The concept (below) is already quite well developed. Grizzlor wears an early version of the Horde insignia, some extra spikes, and sports five fingers, but otherwise he looks very close to his finished form.

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation. Shared by Dušan M.

Another piece of Filmation development art for the character shows a look that is much closer to the appearance of the final action feature:

Image source: Dark Horse’s He-man and She-Ra

In another image from The Power and the Honor Foundation, we see Grizzlor in full color as depicted by Ted Mayer. He looks very close to his final toy form, except that he is holding a rather strange-looking ornate weapon. His face is quite a dark black/brown, which is how some version of the toy were colored, although most were produced in a lighter brown color. In this version he has two visible, prominent fangs, a hallmark of the look of the action figure.

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog

Ted Mayer came up with a couple of somewhat related hairy henchmen concepts, including a mammoth/boar-like character (who has an identical pose to Grizzlor’s concept art) and a quite primitive-looking bear-like creature who, like Grizzlor, had two prominent fangs:

The first of the above two characters is often referred to as the Horde Mammoth by fans. However, Dušan M. pointed out a couple of interesting things about him. One, he isn’t straight Horde – his “Horde” insignia feature’s Skeletor’s face rather than Hordak’s. Another concept drawing by Ted Mayer, a Skeletor/Horde variant, features this same insignia:

T4 03a - Copy

The other thing about the Horde Mammoth character is he has no trunk. Other than the tusks, he looks quite like a wild boar. Grizzlor is described as a “wild boar” in the 1987 Style Guide, prompting both of us to wonder if these characters aren’t quite closely connected. The Style Guide is discussed in more detail later in this post.

A late stage Grizzlor prototype appears in Mattel’s 1985 dealer catalog. The prototype matches the look of the final toy, except that it is apparently hand-painted, and the Horde emblem on his chest is yellow:

As mentioned earlier, the most common version of the toy was produced with light brown molded plastic, and there was a rarer, darker version that took after Ted Mayer’s depiction. Both versions came with a green Horde crossbow with its spring-action  gimmick. Due to his action feature (if you can call mounds of fur an action feature), he lacked waist articulation.

“Black face” Grizzlor variant

 

Grizzlor’s cross sell art depicts the more common version of the figure. Note that Grizzlor’s unique crossbow appears in white here, rather than the final green.

Grizzlor cross sell axel
Image courtesy of Axel Giménez.

In the illustration on the back of Grizzlor’s card, he’s shown mid-leap in a surprise attack against Kobra Khan.

Image source: StarCrusader

Grizzlor was sold in two gift sets with Hordak – one of them a plain JCPenny box, and a more deluxe-looking set that came with a comic book illustrated by Bruce Timm. William George illustrated the scene on the front of the box, and the back was done by Bruce Timm:

Image source: Grayskull Museum
Image source: He-Man.org

Grizzlor’s name was trademarked on September 10, 1984. The name itself implies that he’s based on a grizzly bear, although looking I wouldn’t immediately associate him with that based on his face. He’s big and furry, which is I suppose close enough. However, as mentioned earlier, according to the 1987 Style Guide (illustrated by Errol McCarthy) Grizzlor is actually a kind of wild boar-like creature. Again, this brings to mind Ted Mayer’s “Horde Mammoth” character.

Power: Ability to ravage his foes with his wicked claws.

Character Profile: This humanoid boar has two sabretooth-like tusks and a large, shaggy body. He also has sharp, dangerous claws. Grizzlor has the same strength and ferocity of a wild boar, but he is no the greatest in the smarts department. Grizzlor is the prison keeper of The Evil Horde.

 

Grizzlor’s final look in the She-Ra cartoon series is somewhat more human-like than his action figure counterpart, and his harness is black rather than yellow, but it’s still a close resemblance. Grizzlor could be a bumbling underling or menacing henchman, depending upon the exigencies of the story, and also oversaw Beast Island. In some ways Grizzlor was the Beast Man to Hordak’s Skeletor.

In the minicomics Grizzlor was generally quite a menacing figure, most especially in the issue that he came packed with: Grizzlor – The Legend Comes Alive! (Illustrated by Bruce Timm.)

Grizzlor also makes appearances in:

  • Mantenna and the Menace of the Evil Horde
  • Hordak – The Ruthless Leader’s Revence
  • The Treachery of Modulok
  • The Power of the Evil Horde
  • Escape from the Slime Pit
  • The Warrior Machine

Grizzlor also appears in the 1985 Golden story, The Horde, where it’s said that he is the Horde prison guard. Here Grizzlor actually looks very close to Ted Mayer’s depiction of him:

Grizzlor appeared in a number of posters by William George, Earl Norem, Esteban Maroto, and others:

Grizzlor of course makes other appearances in a variety of comics and magazines, which is a topic I may explore in a future post.

Image source: BattleGrip
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 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 an early Filmation model sheet and tweaked it slightly, adding a red cape (thanks to Dušan M for this information). Hordak was colored gray, black and red – good vampire colors. He was given a bat-shaped shield and a strange organic-looking weapon. 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 this one is unlikely to have 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

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“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.

Evil Horde

Modulok – Evil beast with a thousand bodies (1985)

modulok-graphic-2

The last Masters of the Universe figures I would ever get as a kid were Rokkon, Stonedar and Modulok, for my birthday in 1986. By this point I was really getting into G.I. Joe. Colorful characters like the B.A.T. (which was kind of a Roboto clone), Viper, and Serpentor (he fit right in with the MOTU Snake Men) had finally pulled me over to the Joe side. Despite that, I was always happy to get a few more He-Man characters to add to my collection. Modulok had come out in 1985, of course, but the figure was new to me.

Modulok was given the most metal toy commercial possible. Compared to most 1980s toy ads, this was like Slayer meets Black Sabbath:

Over the years, Mattel designers toyed with several centaur-type designs, with four to six legs, and in at least one case, four arms.

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Image source: Tomart’s Action Figure Digest. Scan via Jukka Issakainen

Modulok could be configured like the either of the above designs, but he was much more insect-like than previous concepts, as shown below:

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Image source: Tomart’s Action Figure Digest. Scan via Jukka Issakainen.

Often in the development of Masters of the Universe toy designs, prototypes and concepts ended up appearing in mini comics and cartoons, due to the long lead time required to produce them. While comic artists were busy putting together mini comics, Mattel’s toy design team would continue to develop the figures. Often the finished product was noticeably different from early concepts, and that is certainly the case with Modulok. In the comic book that shipped with the figure, The Treachery of Modulok!, Modulok is based on that original concept look:

00-cover
Image via He-Man.org

The concept/mini comic Modulok featured a set of crab-like pincers, a set of He-Man-like legs, a set of Skeletor-like legs, and a set of insect-like legs. It may be that the designer (which I believe was Ted Mayer) intended for Modulok to reuse these parts to cut down on costs.

Another Ted Mayer design, Brainiac, demonstrates a similar design philosophy:

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Image source: Tomart’s Action Figure Digest. This version has one set of human hands and one set of claw hands, like Modulok.
brainiac-copy
Image courtesy of Ted Mayer. This version has two sets of clawed hands and lacks the Horde symbol of the black and white version.

The final toy came with no shared parts at all (unusual for MOTU at the time, but characteristic of Evil Horde figures), and his build was much slimmer than any figure that had come before, with the exception of Teela and Evil-Lyn.

Rather than crab-like pincers, Modulok was given three and two-fingered claws, in addition to his set of human-looking arms. Rather than Skeletor or He-Man legs, he was given one set of human-like legs with green knee pads, one set of legs with a kind of grasshopper-like design, and another set of legs that recalled the design used on Clawful and Buzz-Off. His overall look is something like a Martian crossed with an ant.


Modulok included several segmented thorax pieces, giving him an ant-like look when they were connected. He included the two heads from the concept drawing, along with five two-pronged connectors that could be used to give the figure various head, arm and leg combinations. He came with two tails, one of which could support legs or arms. He also came with a double-sided laser rifle that could be split into two pistols.

Modulok has one of the more clever names in the MOTU toyline. It’s a marriage between the words “modular” and “lock”. His construction is modular, his pieces lock together, and the hybrid word certainly sounds like a credible name for a villain.

The artwork on the box Modulok came in was very true to the overall design of the toy. However, where the action figure featured dark blue paint on some of his arms and legs, those parts were colored light purple in the box art.

modulok-axel
Image courtesy of Axel Giménez
modulok_card
Image via Jukka Issakainen

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The front and back of the packaging featured illustrations of Modulok in dozens of different configuration. The idea, I’m sure, was to help kids engage with the toy more by giving them many different ideas for play. I think I eventually tried out all of them.

The scene on the back of the packaging shows Modulok transforming into various configurations mid-combat as he confounds Skeletor’s Evil Warriors:

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The instruction manual that came with Modulok provided even more ideas for putting him together in bizarre new ways, including some ideas that would require purchasing multiple copies of the toy. It was a bold attempt by Mattel’s marketing department to move more units, I’m sure, but I don’t know that many parents would have been convinced to buy the same toy two or three times over.

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Argentinian manufacturer Top Toys produced a version of Modulok that was packaged on the standard sized blister card. Since there was no such card set up for Modulok, Top Toys reused the cardback from Kobra Khan. The figure itself came with green limbs and is highly sought after today.

The Treachery of Modulok! mini comic was included with the toy (although not in the Top Toys example above), and as mentioned previously, depicted Modulok with his concept design rather than his final form. In the story, Modulok is a defector from Skeletor’s crew. He approaches Hordak with a plan to infiltrate Castle Grayskull. In a rather gruesome and devious plot, he mails his body parts to the heroic warriors, who are baffled by them. After the heroes leave his parts unattended, Modulok assembles himself and wreaks havoc on the unsuspecting heroes.

Modulok is the only member of the Evil Horde without the Horde bat insignia (with the exception of Multi-Bot, who was something of a robotic sequel to Modulok). It may be that his inclusion in the Horde faction was something of an afterthought. And indeed, that may also be the reason he is depicted as non-original member of the group in the mini comic and other media.

back

Modulok’s back story is spelled out succinctly in Mattel’s official style guide (with artwork by Errol McCarthy). These origins don’t appear to have anything to do with the story in the mini comic.

styleguide
Image via Jukka Issakainen

Formerly Galen Nycoff, evil scientist. He constructed a device while in prison to help him become the most deadly villain on Eternia, and emerged… Modulok! He has since allied himself with Hordak and the Evil Horde.

The Filmation series origin for Modulok follows the same basic formula, expanding upon it and giving pre-transformation Galen a pretty standard evil scientist look.

galen

modulok_col_filmation
Image via Jukka Issakainen
modulok_filmation
Image via Jukka Issakainen

Filmation’s take on the character design was created by Fred Carillo and Lou Ott. (Fred also did artwork for quite a few Masters of the Universe Golden Books story books and coloring books.) Here Modulok has been given purple shorts, a green belt, black markings on his legs, and some modifications to the design of his chest and hands.He is always depicted with three legs.

Modulok makes several appearances in the UK Masters of the Universe comic book series, albeit with an altered backstory (images via He-Man.org):

Modulok also makes several appearances in posters by William George, Earl Norem, and others. Notice in the last example below (from William George’s Eternia poster) that Modulok has been combined with Multi-Bot to form “Megabeast”.
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(Poster images courtesy of Jukka Issakainen.)