Heroic Warriors

Sy-Klone – Heroic fist-flinging tornado (1985)

I was a little conflicted about Sy-Klone as a kid. For whatever reason I was bothered by his blue and yellow dominated color scheme, but fascinated by the Saturn-like rings around his helmet, gloves and boots (a Jetsons-like design choice, to be sure), his lenticular chest radar sticker, and of course his spinning action feature. I would tornado him around the house using the wheel on his belt until my thumb got sore.

Sy-Klone was created by Mattel Designer Roger Sweet, under the working name “Tornado”. The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog shows two early concept designs for the character.

This version [below] doesn’t have lot in common with the specific design details of the final figure, other than the circular shape on his chest and the general design on the crotch piece.

IMG_3481
Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog

This version of “Tornado” (below) is closer to the final design. Note the presence of the arm “fins” and the various retro-futuristic rings on the costume. Significant differences from the final toy include the shape of his chest radar and his color scheme, which is has a great deal of green in it.

sy-klone concept 2
Image source: The Art of He-Man/The Power and the Honor Foundation

As is often the case, elements from a concept version of Sy-Klone ended up in the minicomics – specifically Spikor Strikes (which came packed with both Spikor and Sy-Klone). The design is almost identical to the second concept version of the character, except the “fins” on his arms are mounted on oval plate-like structures, which resemble the design of the shield that would come with him. He also has a Caucasian face, rather than a blue or metallic one, and carries a Mekaneck-like club (as does Spikor). This likely represents a third version of the concept art, or even an early prototype. Note that in the third image below, he is referred to as “Tornado”, although he’s called Sy-Klone throughout the rest of the comic:

The patent for Sy-Klone’s spinning mechanism was filed December 14, 1984. The following drawings were included, showing the inner workings of the mechanism. Note that the figure drawing still follows the look of the early concept artwork:


Sy-Klone wasn’t trademarked until June 17, 1985. I suspect he was released somewhat later than other 1985 figures, given that his trademark filed later than any other 1985 figure.

The final toy is a somewhat streamlined looking version of the second version of the concept art. His color scheme is simplified to blue and yellow, with red highlights. He lost the rings around high thighs and biceps, and the top of his helmet was modified. He was given a space-themed belt, and of course his chest radar was made circular. The cross sell artwork is closely based on the final toy, and reflects all these changes.

Sy-Klone cross sell
Image courtesy of Axel Giménez

Sy-Klone reuses no previously existing parts. He is one of the few vintage Masters of the Universe figures with ball-jointed shoulder articulation. The ball joint was very loose, allowing the arms to raise on their own with centrifugal force as the figure began to spin. Sy-Klone’s face, like Mekaneck’s face, bears a strong resemblance to He-Man.

Like many figures released in 1985, his only weapon is a shield. In examining the 1985 wave of heroic and evil warriors (leaving aside the evil horde), some clear patterns emerge.

Looking at the non-variant heroes and villains, there is one of each that is an entirely (or nearly) new sculpt, with almost no reused parts (Two Bad and Sy-Klone). There is one of each that has significant new tooling, but also reuses some parts (Spikor and Roboto). There is also one of each that is entirely made up of preexisting parts (Stinkor and Moss Man). Clearly this was planned out ahead of time and likely based on budgetary concerns.

Of the six 1985 unique heroic and evil warriors, half of them (Sy-Klone, Stinkor and Two Bad) have a shield as their only accessory.

Spikor was released on the standard blister card, with artwork on the back by Errol McCarthy (images via Jukka Issakainen and Starcrusader).


Errol McCarthy also illustrated the character for use in licensed products, as well as the 1987 Style Guide.

The guide had this to say about Sy-Klone:

sy-klone style guide
Image via He-Man.org

Power: Ability to fly and plow through enemy lines with turbulent fist-whirling action.

Character profile: His built-in radar screen enables him to sense oncoming attacks. He often senses the physical presence of evil long before others of the Heroic Warriors. Sy-Klone is extremely fast on his feet and quick with his fists.

Sy-Klone was sold in a couple of giftsets – in a three pack with Hordak and Roboto, and in a JCPenny two pack with Moss Man (images via Grayskull Museum):
gifts
Sy-Klone makes appearances in box art for the Eternia playset as well as Monstroid and Tower Tools:

eternia-best

Sy-Klone makes some brief appearances in the Filmation He-Man cartoon, showing up in “Beauty and the Beast” and “Here, There, Skeletors Everywhere”. In the series Sy-Klone has the ability to spin his entire body in tornado fashion, or just his arms. His Filmation look is quite close to the toy counterpart, with the exception of his  radar screen, which is  greatly simplified (color images courtesy of Jukka Issakainen; color model sheet originally from He-Man and She-Ra: A Complete Guide to the Classic Animated Adventures):

As mentioned previously, Sy-Klone came packed with the Spikor Strikes comic. In the story, his unique powers and courage allow him to rescue Teela from Skeletor. He also plays bit parts in the following minicomics:

  • Leech – The Master of Power Suction Unleashed!
  • The Flying Fists of Power
  • The Terror Claws Strike
  • The Menace of the Multi-Bot!
  • The Hordes of Hordak

He is illustrated with variations on his concept art look until his appearance in The Hordes of Hordak, which probably comes down to artists using Spikor Strikes as a reference.

Sy-Klone appears on the cover art (illustrated by Earl Norem) in the Golden Book story, Power From the Sky. He does not, however, show up in the story itself.

Sy-Klone is given an origin story in the hardback Golden Book story, I Have The Power. In it, Skeletor inadvertently gives an acrobat called Human Tornado his powers using a “mechano-ray” device.

28
Image source: He-Man.org. Note that Sy-Klone is modeled after his concept design.

Sy-Klone makes several appearances in the German Ehapa Verlag comic series. This image comes from the end page of issue nine from the 1988 run (image via He-Man.org):


Sy-Klone also appears in posters by William George and Earl Norem:

Heroic Warriors

Sorceress – Heroic Guardian of Castle Grayskull (1987)

sorceress-graphic-battleram

This article was co-written with guest writers Dejan Dimitrovski and Jukka Issakainen. 

Of all of the Masters of the Universe characters, the Sorceress has perhaps the most complicated and mercurial history, particularly in the first few years of her existence, with twists and turns relating to Teela both as a toy and character.

The story of the the Sorceress begins with Mark Taylor, the artist who designed all of the figures released in the first year of the toyline’s existence, along with Castle Grayskull.

The original Sorceress B-sheet concept art by Mark Taylor is the earliest known version of this character, dated June 3, 1981.

The skin of the original Sorceress was not intended to be completely green as it appeared in the first MOTU minicomic He-Man and the Power Sword; instead she was supposed to wear a tight green costume, very much like Man-At-Arms. Unlike Teela, Sorceress was not supposed to have the golden leafy overlay over the front of her costume. The overlay, which intended to be a separate piece, was eventually molded to the Teela figure’s torso (this observation was first made by Emiliano Santalucia during Grayskull-Con):

As Mark Taylor has explained in public appearances, he didn’t want to give up on the idea that Sorceress was a “bad person”. Her personality is perhaps mirrored in her stern, cold, almost angry facial expression in Mark’s concept art.

Sorceress (2)

Mark has also said that, though initially “bad”, he had the idea that Sorceress could at times team up with either Skeletor or He-Man.

In the first series of minicomics, the Sorceress appears only in the aforementioned He-Man and the Power Sword. The illustrator, Alfredo Alcala, depicted the Sorceress with green skin color and snake armor, and this is the only time in the minicomics that she is seen this way. Contrary to Mark’s conceptualization, she is unambiguously heroic, providing help for He-Man and defending the Power Sword and Castle Grayskull.

Alcala Sorceress
Alfredo Alcala’s interpretation of Mark Taylor’s Sorceress

Beginning with the 1982 DC Comics series of He-Man comics, the Sorceress was given a Caucasian human skin tone, similar to Teela. Mark Taylor intended that the Sorceress should get her own figure, as she tested well, but Mattel made a decision to “merge” Teela and Sorceress in production, into a single figure (more on this later).

As mentioned earlier, Teela was supposed to have her white costume upon which the golden decorations could be applied as a separate armor piece, while the Sorceress figure would have had the same body sculpt as Teela, with the snake armor piece in place of the gold decorative overlay. Mattel made the decision to make just one female figure in the first wave of figures, and in so doing they combined elements from both Teela and Sorceress. She was called Teela, the Warrior Goddess. She was manufactured with the golden decorations already sculpted on her costume, and the removable snake armor could be worn over top of that. She was given a red version of Sorceress’ original brown snake staff, and a red version of Teela’s original golden shield.

So actually, by buying a Teela figure you could either display her as the Sorceress or as the warrior maiden Teela. It is perhaps because of this change that the green skin theme was abandoned, and she was from that moment, depicted with normal human skin tone. The green sorceress doesn’t appear to have made it into prototype form, but the hybrid Teela/Sorceress concept did. It is mentioned in an interview by Paul Kupperberg that they used, for the most part, a box full of prototype toys and accessories as references when creating the DC Comics MOTU stories.

We see this reflected in comic book form first in the DC crossover comics, From Eternia With Death! (July 1982) and Fate is the Killer (November 1982). The Sorceress is referred to as both “the Sorceress” and then “the Goddess”. (Teela was at one point in the series given a totally new outfit to more clearly differentiate between the two.)

Starting from Death, the Sorceress’s home is the Cavern of Power, an important location for the early DC MOTU media, since Prince Adam transforms into He-Man by passing through the entrance of the Cavern (not by using his Power Sword).

The weapon of the Sorceress/Goddess in the first crossover comic is a golden spear and shield, identical to the accessories of the early Teela prototype figure, while in the second story, she is seen holding a cobra-headed staff.

Sorc Eternia With Death
From Eternia With Death! – pencils by Curt Swan

In fact, in early media, whenever we see what looks like “Teela” with her cobra armor on, there is a chance that what we’re looking at is actually supposed to be the Sorceress:

Sorceress Fate is the Killer
From Fate is the Killer, artwork by Curt Swan and Dave Hunt; note that this version has a golden snake staff, like the cross sell artwork for Teela.

Following these stories are the DC mini-series comics, containing three stories arranged into chapters: To Tempt the Gods, The Key to Castle Grayskull! and Within these Walls… Armageddon! Depicted very similarly to her previous appearance in the DC crossovers, the Sorceress gets a spotlight in this series, as it revolves around her rescue from Skeletor‘s imprisonment.

As a side note, the people at DC Comics also depicted Teela with a bikini in the first issue of the mini-series, and then with no explanation illustrated her with her regular outfit from the second issue onward.

James Eatock, who had original B&W pages of the miniseries, mentioned this: “Throughout the third issue, Teela was illustrated in her Battleground Teela costume… each illustration of her has white-out over the top and her “standard” costume is re-drawn!” That could mean the last minute decision to utilize the Teela action figure for two characters caused these changes in the comic.

On that third issue, DC mentions on their Letters page that “DC has produced a special series of mini-comics that will be “packed-in” with a whole new group of Masters of the Universe hero and villain toys. In one story “The Tale of Teela”, you’ll discover that Teela is a mystical extension of the goddess…”

In the wave two (1983) series of minicomics, the Sorceress is featured in four issues: The Magic Stealer!, He-Man meets Ram-Man, The Ordeal of Man-E-Faces! and The Tale of Teela!, but is also seen on the cover of The Power of Point Dread!, though she doesn’t take any part in the actual story.

In The Magic Stealer! the Sorceress is again referred as the “Goddess”, and the same title is used for her in The Tale of Teela!, a story in which an actual magical merging of Teela and the Goddess takes place, possibly as a fictional counterpart to Mattel’s decision on merging the designs of Teela and the Sorceress. In all other cases, in the mini-comics, she is called “the Sorceress”.  So, the DC produced wave 2 mini-comics stand out in this regard as well.

Minicomics series 2 group

In the MOTU series Bible, written in late 1982 by Michael Halperin, the Sorceress is described as “…an elegant and beautiful woman adorned in snake shaped armor and bearing a twisted snake-headed staff.” Judging from this description, she was supposed to appear as she did in the mini-comics and the DC comics.

The Series Bible also gives her an origin story: she is of celestial origin and appears on Eternia when Zodac calls to the stars for advice. She is a peace-loving being, yet dressed for war. Her role is that of stern but wise mother figure who foresees the rise of a powerful champion will defend the planet from evil. After the Hall of Wisdom transforms into Castle Grayskull, the Sorceress remains behind to guard it.

Zoar is also featured in the 1982 Series Bible but is described as an immense, colossal-sized falcon. There is no indication, at this point, that Zoar is the alter ego of the Sorceress.

The Sorceress as depicted in the 1983 Kid Stuff Castle Grayskull audio story is very similar to how she is portrayed in the 1982 Series Bible, from her physical description and the staff she is carrying, to her prophecy of the appearance of the forces of evil and He-Man.  Her illustration in the book matches the one in the minicomics and DC comics.

00 coverkid stuffkid stuff 2

The early, snake-themed Sorceress is not seen in the first four Golden Books stories released in 1983, but a Sorceress is mentioned in the Thief of Castle Grayskull, created sometime in 1983. It actually remains unknown which version of the Sorceress was discussed here, though Skeletor says that she guards and lives inside Castle Grayskull, which more likely indicates the latter Sorceress, showcasing the ever-changing world of Eternia as comics and books were published.

This is of course speculation, but her staying in Grayskull is a strong case for the falcon-outfitted character, as well as the mention of Snake Mountain which didn’t exist during the time that cobra-armor Goddess was prevalent. What we do know is that Teela is universally depicted wearing the snake armor in these stories.

The sorceress appears in The Sunbird Legacy, likely released a bit later in 1983. In this story her look is based on her appearance in the Filmation cartoon (more on that later).

sunbird-sorceress

On an interesting note, as the role of the Sorceress was being more defined and in a changing state, in the German audioplays the Sorceress was depicted as the Spirit of Grayskull. Appearing as a head in a cloud (similar to minicomic “The Temple of Darkness”). The heroes usually would go to Grayskull in search for advice and the Sorceress mainly talked in cryptic words to them, leaving it up to the heroes to find out what her clues meant.

The early Sorceress also appears in the 1984 World I.P. UK Annual. (The Annual seems to draw from very early source materials – for instance, the book showcases many prototype toy photos, uses names early working names like Miro and Gorpo and includes Mark Taylor’s original idea that the Battle Ram’s front sled could only skim along low to the ground).

Though the Sorceress has the early snake-themed design, she seems to have the function of the later Sorceress – the Guardian of Castle Grayskull, as described in “The Time Portal Opens” story.

The Sorceress, again wearing with her snake priestess costume, shows up The Shrine of the Iron Mountains. Teela also appears, without the snake armor. Confusingly, in the same book, the prototype figure with snake armor is labeled as “Teela.” At this point the difference between the two characters is tough to suss out, and it’s no wonder really that the Sorceress was fated for a radical redesign.

prototype-teela_uk-annual84
Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

At some point in 1983, the Sorceress was redesigned by the Filmation Studios.  The changes made to the character of the Sorceress were not only visual, but also concerned her relationship with Zoar, her role and duties, and many other aspects of her character.

The first two major differences made are most evident and perhaps inseparable, and concern her overall appearance and design changes as well as her relation to Zoar.

In the 1983 He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Series Guide, written as an official updated version of the 1982 MOTU Bible, she got a totally new concept design. Sorceress was illustrated with purple skin and somewhat ancient Egyptian costume design. It seems as if at this point, the Filmation staff made a decision to unify Zoar and the Sorceress into one character. The falcon was simply an alternate magical form of the Sorceress. This is stated in the Series Guide – the Sorceress can retain her human form only inside Castle Grayskull and if she wanted to venture outside, she had to transform herself into Zoar.

egyptian sorceress

For the series itself, the Sorceress got her final design which implemented many aspects from the orange, white and blue of Zoar in the design. Whether the decision to change colors for Zoar came at same time with Filmation’s Sorceress designs is speculation. According to James Eatcok; for the first batch of character models, there are three primary designers at Filmation; Herbert Hazelton, Diane Keener and Carol Lundberg. It is likely that at least one of those three worked on the Sorceress design.

Sorc Model SheetSorc

When analyzing the differences between the roll and duties of the early and the “new” Sorceress, one difference is evident – the early Sorceress was NOT bound to Castle Grayskull. The Castle seemed to stand on its own and protect itself, not needing a guardian. In fact, in the media where the pre-Filmation Sorceress was featured, she was rarely seen in the Castle, instead residing in Eternia’s woodlands or inside the Cavern of Power. Overall, concerning all the media where she appeared in, she had no “primary” duty, instead having many different responsibilities and roles, which ranged from guarding the two halves of the Power Sword and being the protector of the whole of Eternia, to being a god-like entity which is essential for the continued flow of time and space.

In the Filmation series, the Sorceress was a pivotal character, appearing in total of 62 episodes out of the 130 (not including her appearances in the She-Ra series). Early on she served a similar role to the pre-Filmation Sorceress, calling out the main hero when danger was imminent. Early in the first season, in the “Teela’s Quest” episode, we learned that the Sorceress, or Teela Na, was the biological mother of Teela. Due to her duties in the Castle, she kept that relationship secret, leaving her to be raised by Man-At-Arms.

sorceress-scr-captures00013
Image source: Jukka Issakainen
sorceress-scr-captures00014
Image source: Jukka Issakainen
sorceress-scr-captures00015
Image source: Jukka Issakainen

As more episodes were being produced, the Sorceress’ role grew, from Emotional support for characters like Orko, Guidance for Prince Adam, Magical help to heroes when required and acting as pivotal connection to other important characters like Zodac and Granamyr. Many times she also is seen keeping a careful eye of Eternia, acting as its overall Watcher, like when Evil-Lyn steals Coridite from the Widgets (“Evil-Lyn’s Plot”) or when there’s trouble at the Fortress in the Sands in “House of Shokoti – Part 1”.

The Sorceress’ impact in the show should not be underestimated. Often that impact actually comes through the catalyst of Teela. Their connection is explored in episodes such as “Teela’s Triumph”, “Into the Abyss” and the aforementioned “Teela’s Quest”. Her own origins were also explored in the episode “Origin of the Sorceress”, where it was revealed how she had been chosen to be the Guardian of Castle Grayskull, taking over for the castle’s previous guardian, Kuduk Ungol. It is revealed that the keeper of Grayskull was not necessarily blood-related, something that would be used in MYP series and to some extent the Modern DC Comics. The episode showcased her bravery and willingness to do whatever was necessary to protect Eternia.

The table below shows some major, (as well as few minor differences) between the snake-themed and the falcon-themed Sorceress:

Dejan table

These design and character changes became crucial as they were reflected in all other upcoming minicomics, books, and other materials (with a few exceptions like the UK Annuals). The snake theme was abandoned, as was the concept of the “Goddess”, and the “official” Sorceress became the falcon-themed guardian of Castle Grayskull. This version of the character undoubtedly became the most well-known and popular.

In the entire third series of the minicomics, and for the first time in the minicomics, the character has her “new” redesigned look she got from Filmation Studios, with the exception of the colors of her costume; instead he colored it simply white with some rendered shading. Just speculating here, but it’s possible that Alcala was provided with a black and white model-sheet but no color-codes (something similar happened for 2002 reboot).

The falcon-themed Sorceress makes her premiere in the Masks of Power story, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala. She has an almost identical design in He-Man and the Insect People and in The Obelisk, also illustrated by Alfredo Alcala.

Then, in The Secret Liquid of Life!, the Sorceress appears only on page one, drawn and inked by Larry Houston and Michael Lee, and colored by Charles Simpson. Seen only partially – her head, chest and arms – her costume and headdress are white, but somewhat different than in the other mini-comics, in that it has no sleeves and she lacks her feathered cape. Also her arms are bare showing her skin and golden arm wrists, similar to those Teela has. Mattel’s decision to change the Sorceress’s appearance from the early version to that of the falcon-themed Filmation version, is perhaps most evident in this panel (see below), where we see how Larry Houston initially illustrated the Sorceress, as the snake-themed version, and then changing it to the new design:

secret liquid
Image Source: Larry Houston

What is interesting about this illustration is that she holds a falcon staff, not unlike the later Staff of Zoar – a toy accessory that will be produced much later in the figure series, with the first official Sorceress figure in 1987. This is also the only place in the mini-comics where we see such a staff (in the Filmation Series, the Sorceress was also without a staff). The bird design on the staff is different than that of her figure accessory, but the basic idea of a staff with a falcon motif remains the same.

The last series 3 minicomic to feature the Sorceress is the Temple of Darkness!, also illustrated by Larry Houston. Like the Sorceress herself, Zoar is colored differently than in the Filmation Series – here the falcon is completely blue. On page 12, she is seen with translucent white wings as she manifests before her rescuers.

Temple 1

When the Sorceress finally appears in the Golden Books stories in 1984 and afterward, she typically takes her design cues directly from the Filmation cartoon. Some of the stories she appears in include Masks of Evil, Time Trouble, The Sword of She-Ra, She-Ra, the Princess of Power, Skeletor’s Flower of Power, Teela’s Secret, The Horde, Demons of the Deep, Maze of Doom and New Champions of Eternia.  In a few cases she appears in a white cape, such as in Skeletor’s Flower of Power and The Horde.

Sorceress
Sorceress appears in Golden’s Giant Picture Book – Heroic Warriors, illustrated by Fred Carillo. Image source: James’s Eatock’s He-Man and She-Ra blog.
RL Allen
Sorceress appears in “Sticker Fun”, with illustration by R.L. Allen

In the 1985 minicomic Skeletor’s Dragon, the Sorceress  is given a new color scheme; though she retains her Filmation design, the greyish-white color of her costume has been changed to pink (illustrated by Peter Ledger and colored by Charles Simpson). From this point on, until The Ultimate Battleground story, she will retain this pink color scheme whenever she appears in the mini-comics. (Including: The Battle of Roboto and The Stench of Evil, both illustrated by Larry Houston and colored by Charles Simpson; Zoar is also seen, this time as a pink falcon.)

A pink clad Sorceress also appears in the very first story of the Princess of Power mini-comics  – The Story of She-Ra, illustrated by Jim Mitchell and colored by Charles Simpson, which was created around the similar time as the MOTU comics of Series 4 (1984/1985).

She-ra

In the fifth series of minicomic, the first two stories where the Sorceress appears, The Flying Fists of Power! and King of the Snake Men, again feature her clad in the pink costume. However, in her third appearance (in The Ultimate Battleground!) her colors match those of the Filmation Series, though the artist made a small mistake with upper part of her costume above the breasts – she seems to be lacking her blue V collar undershirt, but not the sleeves. From this minicomic, to the end of the original MOTU mini-comic series, she will retain this Filmation-accurate color scheme.

Ultimate BG

All of the Series 6 mini-comics came packed with Wave 6 figures in 1987, among which was the Sorceress figure. This could explain why the Sorceress’s color scheme was changed from the former pink to match the colors of her action figure/Filmation appearance.

In the entire Series 6 the Sorceress is no longer bound to Castle Grayskull: starting from the first story. In The Search for Keldor the Sorceress explains how, since the appearance of the Three Towers of Eternia, she can freely assume and maintain her human form outside Grayskull. It was established in the Filmation cartoon that she could be in human form mainly inside the Castle, although Filmation themselves played fast and loose with this “rule”. And in minicomics’ own canon, it should be noted that she is frequently seen in human form outside the castle.

The Sorceress also takes a more active role in battle in series 6, which was not common in the previous mini-comics. In Series 6 she casts complex spells, engages in magical combat, and even sacrifices herself for the life of Queen Marlena. It may be that these changes were introduced as a marketing decision to her more appealing as an action figure and give her more to do during play time.

00

It’s a bit odd that the Sorceress’ release was delayed until 1987, the tail end of the MOTU toyline. It may coincide with movie’s release (she was included in the movie). She’s a character that surely many fans wanted to see in toy form, thanks to her pivotal presence and impact in the Filmation cartoon. However, given Mattel’s resistance to releasing two female figures in the first wave, it could be that they were reluctant to release a third female figure (after Teela and Evil-Lyn) in a toy line aimed primarily at boys.

IMG_2789IMG_2793

sorceress cross sell
Sorceress cross sell art

The figure itself was sculpted by Martin Arriola. Reflecting on the figure, Martin recently recalled:

The hardest one I worked on was Sorceress. Her wings popped out on her backpack. Roger Sweet promised all those things. It’s hard to pack a mechanism on a thin-looking body. There was no other way I could do it except to put hump on her back.

Unlike most Masters of the Universe figures, Sorceress had the ability to raise her arms horizontally due to her ball-jointed shoulders. However, she lacked articulation in the head. Matteal easily could have reused Teela’s legs for this figure, but instead chose to give her all unique parts, including boots with feather detailing at the cuffs. The figure also came with the “staff of Zoar”, which seems to have been invented for the toy (but as previously discussed, somewhat resembles a design by Larry Houston earlier in the minicomic series), and it suits the character very well.

Her design doesn’t exactly match the Filmation version – she has more pronounced wings, and her headdress is tilted upward. This gives her the appearance of a bird in flight when you hold her horizontally, but compromises the look of the figure somewhat when she is standing.

Some promotional artwork by Pat Dunn depicts the sorceress with a clip on the wing that attached to her forearm. This was not present in the production toy, and may have been present in an early prototype:

P Dunn sorceress
Image Source: The Art of He-Man

The artwork on the front of her packaging was done by Bruce Timm, and the artwork on the back of her packaging was done by Errol McCarthy:

2010023

Sorceress_instructions

07

sorceressvshordakw_castle_full
Artwork by Errol McCarthy – interestingly, the Sorceress faces off against Hordak, who was primarily an Etherian villain, at least in the cartoon.

Errol also illustrated her for an appearance in the 1987 Style Guide. Note that her bio takes elements from both the original MOTU Bible and the Filmation cartoon. She is also said to be the ally of He-Ro, a character that was planned for a 1987/88 release but never produced.

sorceress_m1040_full
Image source: He-Man.org
sorceressandzoar_full
Image source: He-Man.org

For the 1987 Power Tour, the Sorceress (played by Sally Ann Bartunek) also was part of the story and had a bird-motif outfit with white-blue colors, highlighted by gold parts.

The Sorceress appeared in the 1987 Masters of the Universe movie, played by Christina Pickles. In the film she played her traditional role as guardian of Castle Grayskull, although her costume (like many others in the film) underwent a radical redesign:

sorceress-scr-captures00190sorceress-scr-captures00178

The all-white costume is very elegant and may work better for film-adaptation than a animal-motif costume. The colors are also a great contrast of goodness when standing next to all-black that Skeletor wears. The final look was a collaboration by Production designer William Stout and costume designer Julie Weiss. Though Stout had hired Jean “Moebius” Giraud to do concept designs for the Sorceress, sadly none were used. Moebius had one idea where the million-year-old Sorceress be played by a 12-year old girl.

The sorceress makes an appearance William George’s Eternia and Preternia posters, done late in the toyline:

Eternia_1Preternia_1

The character of the Sorceress appears in both New Adventures of He-Man minicomics (the earliest released with figures in 1989) and cartoon series (first aired in fall 1990), despite the fact that she didn’t have a figure in the new line and probably was not planned to have one.

In the minicomics of this series, the Sorceress gets a very interesting design change, and this version is the most technology-based, futuristic design of the Sorceress seen in any MOTU media. Two of four mini-comics of this series, among which is the first mini-comic, were illustrated by Errol McCarthy.

Her new design is shown on the front cover of first minicomic of the series, The New Adventure. She is seen floating in the air in a metallic-white cyber outfit, with all traces of the falcon costume gone, except for the helmet that is only reminiscent of the falcon theme (notice the feather-like plates below her jaw line and a crest-like plate above her forehead, on the closeup panels).

NA 1

From the story point, the Sorceress and the Power of Grayskull (now contained within Starship Eternia) served to connect Eternia and old He-Man mythos with the new one in the future of Tri-Solar System. Two other major changes made to the character are: the concept of Zoar seems to be abandoned; and the Sorceress is no longer associated with Castle Grayskull in any way, but seems to be connected with Starship Eternia where the Power of Graykull now lies.

It should also be noted that the Sorceress in “The New Adventures of He-Man” cartoon looks completely different, and her design looks like a hybrid between the Filmation look and the mini-comic version, as it has the elements of both.

bustatoons sorceress
Image source: Bustatoons Blog

Sorc ad sheet

Special thanks to James Eatock and Sebastian “Sir Reilly” Vogl (from PlanetEternia).

Heroic Warriors

Prince Adam – Heroic “Secret Identity” of He-Man (1984)

prince-adam-graphic

Of all of the He-Man toys I got when I was young, Prince Adam was perhaps the second-most disappointing to me at the time, next to Orko. Like many fans, I was introduced to He-Man through the first wave of toys and mini comics in 1982. While I loved the Filmation cartoon (which debuted in September of 1983), I never gelled with Prince Adam. To me he represented a softening of the brand to something silly instead of awesome. He-Man to me was about axe-wielding barbarian dudes fighting skeletons and monsters. Prince Adam seemed pretty tame, and as a boy in the 1980s, I just wasn’t having that pink vest and those lavender pants. I watched the cartoon religiously, but I was always wanting the episodes to get to the “good part” where the weak Prince Adam would be replaced by the hero, He-Man.

In any case, I received both Orko and Prince Adam as birthday presents in 1984. I wouldn’t have chosen either of them had I been consulted, but, on some level I was still happy to get anything He-Man related. I was also pleased to note that Prince Adam’s vest had been changed from pink to dark maroon.

The earliest incarnation of Prince Adam comes from Mark Taylor, who envisioned the character, according to The Power and the Honor Foundation catalog, as a “nobleman who would sometimes ally himself with He-Man and sometimes with Skeletor.” He was not He-Man’s secret identity then, but a separate character. As acknowledged in Taylor’s notes in the concept drawing below, he was a foppish looking character with a more slender build than typical He-Man figures. Note that he has the pageboy haircut that was used for both Adam and He-Man in the Filmation cartoon:

mark-taylor-prince-adam-concept
Artwork by Mark Taylor. Image source: The Art of He-Man/The Power and the Honor Foundation

It’s unclear exactly why Prince Adam was reenvisioned as He-Man’s secret identity, but the earliest known example of that is from the July 1982 He-Man/Superman crossover comic, From Eternia With Death! In his print debut, Adam bears little resemblance to what he would become later, although there are a few points in common. He has a cowardly pet tiger, Cringer, and a reputation for being irresponsible. Unlike the cartoon version, his irresponsibility includes carousing, drinking, and getting into bar brawls. He also seems to be quite strong already, as he manages to tie a barbell into a knot.

barknot

This version of Prince Adam, unlike Mark Taylor’s design, looks like He-Man in a different costume. He wears a kind of long blue tunic with no sleeves, sometimes with a red vest over top, and light brown/tan boots. In order to transform into He-Man, he enters the “Cavern of Power” and is transformed by the Sorceress (who here looks like Teela with her red armor on – eventually Teela and this version of the Sorceress became the same character).

cavern
Artwork by Curt Swan and Mike DeCarlo; Story by Paul Kupperberg

Update: From the letters section of the same issue, we get a little more background on how the comic came about:

dc-comics
Image Source: Dušan Mitrović

So it appears that the storyline in these early DC Comics (and, presumably, the idea to make Prince Adam the alter ego of He-Man) came about as a result of discussions between Dave Manak, Paul Kupperberg and Mark Ellis (Ellis was Director of Marketing for male action toys at Mattel at the time). Hat tip to Dušan Mitrović, who pointed this out to me.

Mark Ellis explains the concept of power and empowerment here, which seems to be driving some of the changes to the He-Man story. He doesn’t take any credit himself for the Prince Adam as He-Man idea:

What became clear was that for a five year old, power was a central issue because seemingly they were always being bossed around.  Psychologically, they wanted to be the boss.  They wanted the power.  This then was manifested in the figure by making him “the strongest man in the universe.”  The idea is, if you are in charge of the most powerful man in the universe, then this feeds directly into the “why” of their play.  As the line developed, the phrase “I have the power” was born to emphasis that point…

We told DC about the research for the product line, the powers of each character, and the importance of power as a theme.  The fact of the matter was that we were toy people, not comic people.  All of the credit for the storylines in the comic goes to them.  We did do a series of TV commercials, which I thought hit the exact right notes. Although forgotten now, these commercials were instrumental in the initial success of the line. I would think they were inspirational for the guys doing the comic…

Others developed the Prince Adam/He-Man storyline. 

As the DC series of comics progressed, Adam’s look underwent some subtle changes. In the November 1982 comic, Fate is the Killer, Adam has blue and yellow boots, a yellow belt, and yellow fringes around the arms of his blue vest. He still maintains the image an irresponsible carouser – here he is shown drinking with a woman on each arm:

pimp-adam
Again Adam and Cringer transform into He-Man and Battle Cat when they enter the Cavern of Power.

cavern-2

We get a very similar sequence in the following issue, To Tempt The Gods (December, 1982). Adam has the same costume as before, and he again transforms into He-Man by entering the Cavern of Power:


That’s the last we see of Prince Adam in the first run of DC-produced Masters of the Universe comics.

Meanwhile, on December 1, 1982, Michael Halperin finished his Masters of the Universe Bible, which would influence the development of Filmation’s storyline as well as future minicomic canon.

In the Bible, we get our first example of Prince Adam changing into He-Man without any reference to DC’s Cavern of Power concept. Instead, he is lead into Castle Grayskull by Man-At-Arms, where the Sorceress (still described as holding a snake staff, like Teela) gives Adam the power sword, and he transforms into He-Man by shouting, “By the power of Grayskull!”

The Sorceress proceeded to tell Man-At-Arms and Adam a brief history of Eternia and how Grayskull came into existence. She withheld the story of the Council of Elders for that would be told in its time. Adam asked who this champion would be? Where did he come from? With that the Sorceress looked upon the prince with her stern, dark, wise eyes.

She told him there was one who could save Eternia and the universe. Perhaps, in time, he would also rule as the true Master of the Universe along with others of good heart and true.

Man-At-Arms at last broke his silence. He also wished to know where this champion lived and why hadn’t he come forth at once. To this the Sorceress answered:

“He is one among you. The last to be thought of and yet the first in many minds.”
She raised her serpent staff and out of the very air within the chamber a brilliant light gathered together into a magnificent sword which gleamed with the soul of a thousand fires.

“Behold the SWORD OF POWER created from the very heart of Castle Grayskull and imbued with the forces of the ancients who once dwelt bodily within its walls at a very different time. Take hold of the sword Man-At-Arms.”

The warrior-teacher reached out and grabbed the handle. A knot of pain raced from the weapon through his hand and into his arm. As quickly as he snatched the sword he let it go. Man-At-Arms had never experienced such excruciating anguish in his life and he had been through battle where swords and lasers and photons left scars as testimony to his bravery.

Adam watched in amazement. Never before had he seen his teacher flinch at anything. “The sword knows its master,” intoned the Sorceress. “Adam, take the sword!”

The prince backed off, shaking his head. If it could make Man-At-Arms wary he was no match for this dancing blade. The Sorceress voice poured forth like a trumpet. “Take the sword, Prince Adam!”

With a pounding heart Adam reached out a steady hand ready to retreat in a moment. He didn’t have to grasp the hilt for it floated gently into his palm. The grip felt as if it had been molded to his hand. It was light as a feather and seemed to shine brighter as he held it. Adam looked questioningly at the Sorceress. Man-At-Arms backed away from his young pupil as the guardian of Grayskull approached the prince.

“Hear me and hear me well,” she said, firmly. “The mastery of the Sword of Power is insignificant to the mastery of yourself and the conquest of evil which even now stands upon Eternia. You, Prince Adam, are heir to all Eternia’s wisdom and power, but it shall not come easily for you must earn it by your actions and your actions will be dictated by your heart and your head. You shall go forth and battle the power-mad Skeletor — that spawn of a base and vile world where treachery rules. You shall use your might to defeat his renegade companions who subject themselves to his will for the hope they may rule Eternia by his side.”

Standing straight and tall, Adam demanded to know how he, a mere mortal, could accomplish all the things desired by the Sorceress.

“Within you,” chanted the keeper of Grayskull, “is a soul of power and might and truth. The soul of one called HE-MAN.” Adam continued looking without comprehension upon this strange woman of miracles. “Raise the sword above your head, Prince Adam.” He lifted the blade toward the heavens. “Now call out ‘By the power of Grayskull!'”

Adam opened his mouth, but the words stuck in his throat. Man-At-Arms stepped to Adam’s side and prodded his student. Adam finally shouted the words. A blazing, brilliant, flaring burst of light illuminated the room. Man-At-Arms shielded his eyes from the incredible white blast of energy. The prince was obliterated from sight except for the Sword of Power which seemed suspended over the spot where Adam stood.

The light faded and when Man-At-Arms opened his eyes an awesome vision stood in place of the prince. A man, vaguely resembling Prince Adam, with mighty rippling muscles, taller by a head than the prince, with wild shoulder-length hair, piercing eyes, clad in a battle kilt, buckler shod with leather boots strapped about with supple metal bands and girded by a belt of many pockets. This was HE-MAN champion of Eternia, bearer of all Eternia’s virtue.

He-Man looked down and about himself in amazement. The Sorceress informed him that The Sword of Power had the ability to cut through almost anything on Eternia as well as ward off magic and sorcery. She held out a shield which almost vibrated with a life force of its own, the shield could repel both magic spells and weapons.

Adam using the power sword and the phrase “By the power of Grayskull” to transform into He-Man would become standard Masters of the Universe canon for the rest of the life of the vintage toyline, and beyond. The Filmation cartoon would add the phrase “I have the power!”, but other other stories after the MOTU Bible, but before the cartoon, would stick to the Halperin formula, more or less.

The 1983 Kid Stuff Masters of the Universe story record (written by John Braden) would have Prince Adam shout the phrase “By the power of Grayskull” twice in order to bring about the transformation:

Prince Adam: I am ready to do my duty to defend this planet. Skeletor will perish!
Then, in a booming voice that echoed off the Castle walls and out into the forest, Prince Adam shouted the magic words that would cause his amazing transformation.
Prince Adam: By the power of Castle Grayskull, by the power of Castle Grayskull!
The earth shook underfoot and black clouds swept across the Eternian sky, darkening the sun. Overhead, the heavens opened up and down through the inky clouds flashed a brilliant bolt of white light. In a split second it flashed on the very tip of the sword power like a bolt of lightning. A shower of blue sparks flew upward toward the heavens. Even the gods watched on in amazement as in a blinding moment the molecules of Prince Adam’s body danced and swirled in a kaleidoscopic pattern of energy and change. Moments later as the blue smoke cleared, Prince Adam was gone. In his place, muscles poised for action, stood He-Man.

Filmation’s 1983 Series Guide, created before the studio finalized the looks of the characters for animation, seems to draw Prince Adam’s look from the From Eternia With Death comic, at least from the waist up. His boots are red and yellow, influenced by a prototype look for He-Man that also appears in the series guide:


In the Series Guide, Prince Adam is portrayed this way:

The carefree, happy-go-lucky Prince of Eternia, known to all on his home planet as a rousing free spirit who lives a fun-loving life to its fullest. The daily problems of the royal ship of state mean nothing to this charming rogue. He’s brash, bold and, to the chagrin of his parents, completely irresponsible. They hope he’ll grow out of it, but he seems to have developed a natural appetite for fun and amusement. From the royal court to the distant island states of Eternia, the escapades of Adam have become legend. He constantly lands himself in the most embarrassing predicaments. The people of Eternia are actually quite fond of the good-natured Prince and are amused by his antics. However, the King is not amused, particularly when he has had to send regiments of royal guards to retrive his errant heir!

On his many sojourns, Prince Adam’s over-enthusiastic behavior helps to hid his true goal-and his true identity. On the BATTLE RAM, he travels to the turbulent areas of Eternia – or, through Grayskull’s Space Portals, he travels to the warring planets of the Universe-as an ambassador of good cheer, but also as a powerful agent of justice – HE-MAN!

Where the turmoil is greatest, the Prince is mostly likely to find the evil MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE upon such an encounter. Prince Adam sheds both his royal attire and his carefree manner. He strikes his sword against stone and “by the power of Grayskull” becomes…HE-MAN!

Note that in this guide, Adam strikes his sword against stone as part of his transformation sequence. This idea was never used in the cartoon.

The Filmation He-Man cartoon debuted in the latter half of 1983, but even in the 1984 series of mini comics, Adam retained his mini comic look, with a blue and yellow vest and red boots:page_98

From He-Man and the Insect People. Artwork by Alfredo Alcala, story by Michael Halperin

Filmation’s animated Prince Adam looked quite different than any version that had appeared previously. He was given a long-sleeved white undershirt with a pink vest, as well as lavender tights and purple boots. He was portrayed in the series as affecting the demeanor of a lazy Prince, but he was not given to womanizing or getting into drunken fights (Filmation president Lou Scheimer was highly concerned about instilling good values in children).

As mentioned earlier, when Mattel released Prince Adam as a toy, they gave him a darker, maroon-colored  vest. They also gave him a maroon version of the power sword. Adam was the first toy in the MOTU series to come with cloth accessories – his vest and his elastic belt. The prototype version of Prince Adam is simply a hand-painted He-Man figure with the added cloth elements.

From some catalog images, it’s possible that Prince Adam was originally going to come with the standard gray power sword that came with He-Man:

adam-france-catalog

The cross sell artwork used for Prince Adam matches the design of the final toy exactly:

prince-adem-axel2
Image courtesy of Axel Giménez


The transformation scene on the back of the card was done by Errol McCarthy, one of the most prolific artists who worked on the line:

The Taiwan release of Adam had a few different versions of the vest. The first release had separate shoulder pieces that were sewn on. The second was a single piece of fabric, with stitching along the shoulder line. The third was a single piece of fabric with no stitching at all (hat tip to Mantisaur82).

Aside from his carded release, Prince Adam was also offered in a JCPenny two-pack along with Orko:

02
Prince Adam was trademarked on May 23, 1983, long before any other third wave character. It’s possible he might have made it into the second wave of MOTU figures, but was delayed due to the development of the character for the Filmation cartoon.

The Golden Books stories released from 1984 onward followed the Filmation look and characterization for Prince Adam. In Golden Books stories released prior to 1984, He-Man had no alter ego.

In Demons of the Deep, Adam is portrayed with short sleeves:

06
Image source: He-Man.org

Prince Adam makes a single appearance in the MOTU box art – on the 1987 Tower Tools packaging illustration by William George. Interestingly, he appears in the same scene with He-Man, which is somewhat like portraying Bruce Wayne and Batman together.

Prince Adam also makes an appearance in several posters by William George:

grayskull_1-adamhorde_poster-adameternia_1-adam

Some fans favor versions of the Masters of the Universe canon that omit Prince Adam, and others feel like he’s essential. I will say that the transformation sequence in the Filmation cartoon is iconic and thrilling (even if perhaps overused given that every episode started with it), and there is something to the idea of a weak character powering up to take down the villains (similar to DC Comics’ Shazam character).

On the other hand, it’s hard to root for Prince Adam. He’s the spoiled and wealthy heir to the throne of a vast kingdom. It’s like trying to root for the the popular jock who already has everything and gets the girl in the end. If there had to be an alter ego for He-Man, I would think that an underdog type character would have been more effective, and easier for fans to relate to than a prince.

Fans who don’t like Prince Adam tend to prefer what is called the “pre-Filmation” canon, although as we saw earlier in the article, Prince Adam is just as about as pre-Filmation as it gets. I think his portrayal in the Filmation cartoon is so ubiquitous that some fans tend to forget that he was a frequently-depicted character long before the debut of animated show.

Special thanks to Larry Hubbard, who provided the example Prince Adam figure photographed for this article.