Clamp Champ nimbly escaped my detection as a kid. By 1987 I really wasn’t into He-Man anymore, and the only figures released that year that I was kind of dimly aware of were Mosquitor, Scare Glow and King Randor. But I think had I seen Clamp Champ on the shelves I would have dug him.
Ironically some of my least favorite figures (heroic warriors especially) come from 1986, a year when a lot of new tooling was brought into the Masters of the Universe toyline. It’s great that they invested the money, but stylistically a lot of it just wasn’t my thing. By bringing back some shared parts in the 1987 line, the feel of the toys became much more familiar and in line with its established style. Clamp Champ in particular feels like an early MOTU figure, because his body isn’t overly encumbered by gimmicky action features. His gimmick is entirely in his weapon.
Clamp Champ reuses the legs, crotch, chest and arms from He-Man and the armor from Fisto (albeit warped slightly to make it fit on the slightly larger chest from He-Man). He’s given a newly sculpted head as well as a clamp weapon (“power pincer”). The figure was designed by David Wolfram, who also designed Tyrantisaurus Rex, Laser Light Skeletor, King Randor (action figure), Scare Glow, and others.
Clamp Champ’s cross sell artwork closely matched the final toy. He’s given some nice paint deco, including two tone boots and painted bracers, like King Randor. This level of paint detail, ironically, was never given to the original He-Man figure, although it was certainly planned in the prototype stage.
In Clamp Champ’s packaging art (above), he faces off against Ninjor, just as he did in his commercial and in other media. Nothing seems to make the two characters obvious nemeses, other than the fact that they were released in the same year.
In the 1987 Style Guide, Clamp Champ is given the following description (as far as I’m able to make out):
This brave and gallant knight is responsible for guarding King Randor and the Royal Palace of Eternia.
We see these elements in the minicomic he came packed with, The Search For Keldor (illustrated by Bruce Timm, story by Steven Grant). In the story, “Klamp Champ” (probably an early spelling of the name, later dropped) is a tireless, loyal defender of King Randor who uses his might (but not his clamp weapon) to defeat Ninjor. He’s depicted as strong, agile, and in possession of super senses that prevent him from being taken by surprise.
Clamp Champ battles against a bizarrely off-model Beast Man (update: per Dušan M., it’s meant to represent the movie version of Beast Man, although it looks more like a blend between movie and toy) in the MOTU newspaper strip story, “Attack on Snake Mountain”.
In Lifetime Part 2, published by Star Comics, we got a glimps of an older Clamp Champ from an alternate timeline where Prince Adam lost his power sword in a time warp:
Clamp Champ also appears on this Spanish promotional sticker:
Clamp Champ is a part of the large cast of characters in William George’s Eternia and Preternia posters:
Clamp Champ also shows up in two posters by Earl Norem for Masters of the Universe Magazine:
The 1987 Power Tour – a live action stage show featuring He-Man and She-Ra – also included a few relatively obscure characters, like Blast Attak, Snout Spout and Clamp Champ:
Because Clamp Champ came out at the tail end of the toyline (and wasn’t around in stories for years before, like Sorceress or King Randor), there isn’t a great deal of back story to the character. His narrative arc is at least expanded somewhat in the Masters of the Universe Classics continuity, but I’ll write more about that in a separate article.
The Masters of the Universe He-Man figure, released in December of 2008 (almost nine years ago!) is actually one of the least impressive of the early Classics figures, in my opinion. Compared to figures like Skeletor, Mer-Man and Man-At-Arms, this incarnation of He-Man looks pretty bland, although later figures would come with bonus accessories that could be used to spruce him up a bit.
Most Classics figures based on the original eight 1982 figures draw their inspiration from vintage cross sell artwork. In the case of He-Man, his cross sell artwork was almost identical to the toy itself. But the Classics figure is actually less detailed than that source material in a few ways.
For reference, here are the vintage toy and cross sell artwork:
Let’s compare that source material to the Classics figure:
The Classics figure takes many elements from the original toy design, including:
Gray armor with red cross
Orange belt with reddish trunks
Longer half-gauntlet on the left arm
The one unique element from the cross sell artwork – the distinctive power sword – is also replicated in the Classics toy. The figure is “plussed up” in several areas with new details, like rivets on the front of He-Man’s harness, leather straps on his left gauntlet, additional paint details on his belt, and so forth. He’s given orange gauntlets, which the original vintage figure would have had if it hadn’t been for cost reductions.
MOTU Classics He-Man’s axe and shield actually lose some detail compared with their vintage source material. The axe is given a smooth handle, without the ridges of the original, and the center section on the shield is flattened and simplified. The orange of the original shield is also changed to dark red.
MOTU Classics’ He-Man’s head is perhaps the biggest departure from vintage source material. It’s a much more civilized and handsome-looking face compared to the rougher, gruffer vintage figure. The level of detail on the face and hair are toned down compared the vintage source material, which is a reversal of the general Classics ethos. Of course He-Man was originally sculpted before the line was even green-lit, so the “spirit” of the Classics line had not been solidly established.
The Classics head seems to split the difference between the vintage source material and the 2002 He-Man face, which had a younger, anime-inspired look. The Classics harness also has roughly square “buttons” on the straps, like the 2002 figure (the vintage figure’s “buttons” were rhombuses). The Classics figure also has quite dark red/brown boots and loin cloth compared to the vintage figure, which seem to tilt the figure in the direction of the 2002 figure’s dark brown color scheme.
I was somewhat dissatisfied with this figure until alternate heads from the Oo-Larr release became available – but more on that in another post.
King Randor, like the Sorceress, is a character that originates very early in the MOTU mythos, but who didn’t get an action figure until the tail-end of the toyline.
King Randor has his origins in the the November 1982 DC Comics story, “Fate is the Killer”. The king and queen aren’t given names, but as Prince Adam‘s parents, these are clearly the precursors to the Randor and Marlena characters that would be fleshed out later. Randor is a generic looking stock medieval King character, old enough to have white hair, and perpetually disappointed in his irresponsible son, Prince Adam.
In the following issue, “To Tempt the Gods” (December 1982), the king appears again, still without a name. In this issue he’s quite disappointed, even disgusted with Adam – to the point of feeling like he’d prefer He-Man to be his heir rather than Adam.
The unnamed king appears in a single panel in the next issue, “The Key to Castle Grayskull” (January 1983).
Meanwhile, in the Masters of the Universe Bible, completed by Michael Halperin on December 1, 1982, Adam’s father became known as King Randor and is given a backstory, along with the queen, Marlena:
Marlena staggered to her feet and lurched to the captains chair. She called out to the others. No one answered and when she looked only the spacesuits remained mute, empty and wrinkled. Little time remained to brood as the shuttle shot into the Eternian Ionsphere glowing red, yellow and white. She nosed the craft up and bounced off the layer of air slowing the vehicle for a smoother re-entry. Marlena couldn’t spot any runways for the shuttle so she aimed the ship at the only clear spot she saw — a long meadow in a lush, green valley. The space craft hit the ground, its landing gear crumpled on impact and it sank to its belly skidding, pitching and crashing to a wrenching stop.
Unconscious, Marlena couldn’t know the helping hands pulling her out of the wreckage and carrying her to the royal palace of the reigning king of Eternia, the young and handsome RANDOR.
For several days she slept in the palace and each day Randor sat by her bedside and waited for her to wake. All the royal physicians and wizards provided potions and spells in order to insure her well-being and soon color stirred in Marlena’s cheeks. On the seventh day her eyes fluttered open and the first sight she saw was Randor’s rugged, handsome face. A spark flew between them as he reached out his fingers to touch her hand and they both smiled.
Skeletor waved his staff and a charge of energy sprang forth rolling back a huge boulder from one wall uncovering a screen. A wave of his hand and a picture swam into view — a picture of Eternia then that of King Randor and Marlena. At the sight of the former captain, the trio snarled and clenched their fists – and it wasn’t lost on Skeletor.
King Randor made Marlena his queen and three years later she bore an heir to the throne of Eternia — a son, PRINCE ADAM. He was handsome and imbued with his mother’s spirit of adventure and his father’s courage. As a child he had the run of the palace playing tricks and practical joke on his teachers and the nobles of the court.
This backstory was created as a guide for both the Filmation cartoon and printed media. In print media, Randor was almost always very much in the background, but he would be further fleshed out in the Filmation cartoon (more on that later).
We get a bit of this backstory in “To Tempt the Gods”, where we learn that Marlena crash landed on Eternia from Earth. We also get a look at a younger King Randor:
King Randor pops up in a few different places prior to the advent of the animated series.
In order to protect his true identity and thus make it harder for Skeletor to destroy him, He-Man lives a double life as Prince Adam, playful son of King Randor and Queen Marlena. Even now, as we speak, Prince Adam is playing with his pet tiger, Cringer. In the beautiful gardens that surround his father’s castle, he and his feline friend romp in the tall grass, happy and care-free, unaware that as He-Man, he is about to face the most difficult and dangerous challenge of his life – a life and death struggle with Skeletor. The outcome of which will determine the fate of the planet, and perhaps the entire universe.
Castle Grayskull (Kid Stuff, 1983)
He-Man & Battle Cat (Kid Stuff, 1983)
The Power of Point Dread (1983)
In this story illustrated by Alfredo Alcala, the king (not mentioned by name here) has his DC comics look. There is no hint that Prince Adam exists in this story.
The Ordeal of Man-E-Faces (1983)
This version of Randor in the DC-produced second wave of minicomics follows the general look of the 1982 DC series, albeit this time with a purple robe:
The Menace of Trap Jaw (1983)
The Magic Stealer (1983)
King Randor was, at one point in his development, called King Miro – this is briefly mentioned in the Filmation Series Guide, and I believe he is also depicted visually. The series guide reflects earlier designs for almost all of its characters, and here Randor/Miro again looks much like he did in the DC comics. Thanks to Dušan M. for reminding me of the “Miro” name in the comments.
The name Miro is also used in the 1984 UK Annual, which tended to draw from much earlier source material. Thanks to Jukka Issakainen for pointing this out.
Filmation redesigned the character away quite dramatically. He’s depicted as being much younger, and wears a blue jacket over a red tunic, with orange tights and blue slippers.
Randor was a frequent character on the show, occasionally playing a lead role in stories like “The Rainbow Warrior” and “Prince Adam No More”.
Randor’s look in the post-Filmation minicomics is all over the place. Sometimes he follows the DC look, sometimes he has something like the Filmation look, and in the case of the Leech and Mantenna minicomics, bizarrely, he has pink hair:
The Golden Book stories tend to give Randor several unique looks, only occasionally referencing existing, established designs for the character:
The action figure, released in 1987 (initially through a buy-three, get-one-free mail-away offer), looks like a kitbashed version of the cartoon character, sticking to the Filmation colors but otherwise grabbing whatever parts were handy to make a passable King Randor. He uses the basic He-Man body, but with Jitsu‘s armor, the Castle Grayskull spear in gold. The only new parts are his head, crown and cape. Jitsu’s armor was made to fit over a slightly flatter chest, so King Randor’s armor had to be warped outward to work with the He-Man buck. The figure was designed by David Wolfram.
There are a couple of early models or prototypes of Randor. This one (from a French MOTU catalog) looks hand-painted, but otherwise looks just like the final toy, albeit with much brighter, shinier gold paint:
Another version appeared in the US Mattel dealer catalog. It looks like a factory piece, except his armor is painted just like the original Jitsu armor. Perhaps this was an early factory sample, where they had mistakenly used the original paint mask on the armor instead of the revised version for Randor. Or, his armor could have gotten lost somehow, and Jitsu’s armor was used as a quick replacement for the photo:
The cross sell artwork for King Randor is closely based on the final toy, although the work itself is a bit rough in places:
Despite Randor’s release being somewhat low effort, this is actually my favorite look for the character. He looks much more battle ready than either the DC or Filmation designs, and in a place like Eternia, it makes sense to have a king who can kick butt when needed.
Once the look of the toy had been established, the minicomics that followed started adhering to the Mattel design, except he was given a gray beard/hair.
The Search for Keldor
In this story, it is hinted that Skeletor (aka Keldor) is actually King Randor’s long-lost brother, although Randor himself does not know that Keldor is now Skeletor.
Revenge of the Snake Men!
Enter: Buzz-saw Hordak!
King Randor appears in a few posters by Earl Norem and William George:
King Randor also appeared in the Star Comics, which followed Mattel’s design for the character (thanks to Øyvind M. for pointing this out):
However, in the Commodore 64 Masters of the Universe game, the DC design was used:
King Randor’s long, slow evolution makes him a little more interesting to research than many other, more prominent characters in Masters of the Universe. As a kid, I think I was dimly aware that a King Randor figure had been made, but I never saw one in person. Nevertheless, his reuse of parts actually makes him seem instantly familiar now.