Heroic Warriors

MOTU Classics He-Man

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.

Source Material

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:

Second release MOTU Classics He-Man, with corrected shoulders and toned down paint around the eyes.

First release MOTU Classics He-Man, with reversed shoulders and red paint around the eyes.

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.

Original Classics He-Man prototype. Notice the gray gauntlets, which echo the color on the 2002 He-Man figure. Image source: He-Man.org

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.

Further reading: He-Man – Most powerful man in the universe! (1982)

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Heroic Warriors

King Randor – Heroic ruler of Eternia (1987)

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.

DC/Matty Collector Reissued Version. Image via Dejan Dimitrovski.
DC/Matty Collector Reissued Version. Image via Dejan Dimitrovski.

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).

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Image source: He-Man.org

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.

Masters of the Universe Audio Story (Kid Stuff, 1983)

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.

Image source: He-Man.org

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”.

Young King Randor
“Rowdy scrapper”

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.

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:

Image via Grayskull Museum

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:

Image source: Axel Giménez

Artwork by Bruce Timm. Image source: Jukka Issakainen
Image Source: Star Crusader

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:

Earl Norem
William George
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):

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Image source: MOTUCFigures.com

However, in the Commodore 64 Masters of the Universe game, the DC design was used:

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Image courtesy of Øyvind M.

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.

Heroic Warriors

Ram Man in Minicomics and Golden Books

In my post about Ram Man last year, I touched very briefly on the character’s appearances in minicomics and Golden Books.  I’d like to expand on that now with an exhaustive look at every single appearance of Ram Man in these media. I’ll be skipping pages and panels where Ram Man is absent. Selections from the minicomics come from the excellent Dark Horse Minicomic Collection, and Golden books come from He-Man.org.

1983 Minicomic: He-Man Meets Ram-Man!

Ram Man tousles with He-Man over a misunderstanding, causing some hard feelings. Skeletor is able to use that to trick Ram Man into bashing his head repeatedly against Castle Grayskull‘s doors in order to get the power to defeat He-Man. In the end, Ram Man comes to understand that He-Man is not his enemy, and aligns himself with the heroic warriors. Ram Man is given a deep red and magenta color scheme that looks like it wants to follow the cross sell art/concept scheme (the figure was originally designed by Mark Taylor), but couldn’t quite get there. Written by Gary Cohn, penciled by Mark Texeira, inked by Tod Smith, colored by Anthony Tollin.

Mess with the bull, get the horns.

Ram Man uses his head.

Skeletor is in for months of traction.

Allies at last.

1983 Minicomic: The Terror of Tri-Klops!

When third wheel Ram Man walks off into the woods to give He-Man and Teela some privacy, Tri-Klops strikes, nearly defeating our heroic warriors. Written by Gary Cohn, pencils by Mark Texeira, inks by Tod Smith, colors by Anthony Tollin.

This is the happiest Ram Man has ever looked.

Not Ram Man’s finest moment.

1983 Minicomic: The Tale of Teela

Ram Man is a minor background character in Teela‘s breakout comic. Written by Gary Cohn, pencils by Mark Texeira, inks by Tod Smith, colors by Anthony Tollin.

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Ram Man driving an orange and red Attak Trak.

1984 Minicomic: The Secret Liquid of Life!

Ram Man gets a chance to bust into an ogre’s cavern using his battering ram of a head. Ram Man is portrayed with the green and red color scheme used in the mass-produced toy. Written by Michael Halperin, pencils by Larry Houston, inks by Michael Lee, colors by Charles Simpson, letters by Stan Sakai.

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Clobberin time?

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1984 Minicomic: Double-Edged Sword

Ram Man’s head is ineffectual against Skeletor’s vine monsters, but together with He-Man he is able to break through a magic seal. Written by Michael Halperin, pencils by Larry Houston, inks by Michael Lee, colors by Charles Simpson, letters by Stan Sakai.

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Ram Man and He-Man can break through anything.

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1984 Minicomic: Temple of Darkness!

Ram Man batters his head against several giant minions of Skeletor, and even seems to have the power power of flight in the final panel. Written by Michael Halperin, pencils by Larry Houston, inks by Gerald Forton, colors by Charles Simpson, letters by Stan Sakai.

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Either Ram Man can fly or the laws of physics work differently on Eternia.

1985 Minicomic: Skeletor’s Dragon

Ram Man is barely noticed in the background of this story about magically reanimated dinosaur bones. Written by Christy Marx, illustrated by Peter Ledger, colors by Charles Simpson, letters by Stan Sakai.

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1985 Minicomic: Mantenna and the Menace of the Evil Horde!

Ram Man is background character with no lines in this story that, despite its title, isn’t really about Mantenna at all. Pencils by Mike Sekowsky, inks by Steve Mitchell, colors by Charles Simpson, letters by Stan Sakai.

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1985 Minicomic: Hordak – The Ruthless Leader’s Revenge!

Ram Man is crushed by Spydor and then plays fight commentator in his last minicomics appearance. Pencils by Larry Houston, inks by Michael Lee, colors by Charles Simpson, letters by Stan Sakai.

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Skeletor pinches more than an inch.

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1985 Golden Book: The Magic Mirrors

Ram Man is another background character in this engaging story about magic mirrors and trickery. Written by Jack Harris, illustrated by Fred Carillo, cover by Earl Norem.

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Kobra Khan is in for a world of hurt.

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Ram Man looks particularly short here.

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1985 Golden Books: Demons of the Deep

Ram Man and Fisto accompany He-Man in an underwater rescue mission to save Teela. Of all the characters to take on an underwater mission, Ram Man and Fisto seem the least likely candidates, given their heavy metal armor. Ram Man sports his prototype colors here.

Written by R.L. Stine of Goosebumps fame, illustrated by Fred Carillo.

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I’m not sure how Ram Man is managing to tread water here.

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1985 Golden Book: New Champions of Eternia

Ram Man is a barely-present background character in this story about some mysterious new heroes. Ram Man sports his prototype color scheme in this book. Written by Jack Harris, illustrated by Jeffrey Oh, cover by Fred Carillo.

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The blond hero is clearly Hulk Hogan.

1986 Golden Book: Power From The Sky

Skeletor uses the power from an eclipse to launch an assault on Eternia. Ram Man shows up occasionally in the background, without any lines. Written by Wallace Green, illustrated by Fred Carillo, cover by Earl Norem.

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