Collectible Toys & Values #16
Date unknown (c.1992)
BYLINE: By ROBERT ODAK
It started in 1982.
It seems as though they just sort of showed up on the nation's toy shelves: He-Man and The Masters of the Universe, a new line of 5"-6" action figures from Mattel. Two aspects distinguished these notable figures. First, they were the most ambitious sword and sorcery figures on the market, as the average size at that time was 3"-4".
Of course, as everyone with a television set knows, He-Man was one of the earliest toy lines to be released simultaneously with its corresponding TV show. This raised the ire of parents everywhere who charged the that TV cartoons were nothing more than half-hour commercials. However, the TV networks never complained. Since the shows virtually were commercials, they were provided at relatively low cost.
At the time, this line really had a lot going for it. The size and bulk of the figures made them perfect for display and they had a nice chunky feel. They weren't very well articulated, as they were poseable only at the neck, shoulders, and hips, but they had a nice level of sculpting detail and a muscular, in-your-face ruggedness that made them very appealing.
Mattel pioneered the re-using of molds, and various He-Man characters came and went, only to reappear with slight alterations and new paint jobs. The He-Man mold was used for an impersonator named Faker, who was simply He-Man with blue skin. Later, Prince Adam was released, He-Man's "civilian" identity. Beast-Man was an early casualty of the toy line who reappeared later, covered with green flocking as Moss-Man. The amphibious Mer-Man was repainted as a skunk (honestly) and given new armor to become Stinkor. And, of course, the various body parts were used over and over again for many characters.
What made the He-Man line especially interesting was that the figures had special action features build into them. Here's a list of some of the more notable special action gimmicks: spring action waist (He-Man), blood pumping chest (Mosquitor), the ability to fold up into a rock (Stonedar and Rokkon), extending eyes (Mantenna), water squirting mouth (Kobra Khan), bad smell (Stinkor, and I kid you not!), and spring-powered fist (Spikor, inspired by Big Jim's Torpedo Fist, also by Mattel.)
For you investors out there, there are some figures rarer than others. First, there are figures from the first series which were discontinued in the second year. They are Zodak, Beast-Man, Mer-Man and Stratos. Other rare figures came out at the end of the line, which were only produced for a short time. They are: King Randor, Scare Glow, and Sorceress. The other figures are all fairly common. Many dealers snapped these up and are desperately trying to unload them. Your average He-Man figuere can be had for $10.00 or less, but for those rare figures, it's anyone guess.
So, here's the list of figures you've been waiting for, broken down by category (good guys and bad guys).
He-Man's Unstoppable Men of Power
HE-MAN: Star of the series with spring-back waist for power punches. Also came in Battle Armor, Flying Fists, 5th Anniversary, and Thunder Punch versions.
BLAST-ATTACK: Humanoid who flies apart during battle.
BUZZ-OFF: Insectoid bee-man.
CLAMP CHAMP: A rare black character with spring-powered clamp arm.
DRAGSTOR: Wheeled warrior. An abrupt marketing change placed him with the Evil Horde, so technically, he should be in the "Bad Guys" section.
EXTENDAR: Standing erect, this figure's limbs can be raised high.
FISTO: A humanoid, much like a pumped-up Falstaff with a big, meaty silver fist that prings up.
GWILDOR: Elfin sorcerer character from the movie (played by Billy Barty).
KING RANDOR: Listen up, investors, this Leader of Eternia is the rare one!
MAN-AT-ARMS: On the television series, this is Teela's dad. He is heavily armed and armored, with a mean scowl and a silly hat.
MAN-E-FACES: Throwback to face-changing Big Jim. This guy had a roating head with pleasant and decidedly upleasant faces.
MEKANECK: Robotoid with pop-up head.
MOSS MAN: Green ally for He-Man, master of camouflage. (I'll say he is, it's really Beast-Man!)
ORKO: A character with a funny voice and no face. Invented for the cartoon, he wormed his way into the toy line.
PRINCE ADAM: Break out that He-Man mold again, but paint clothes on this this time.
RAM MAN: Semi-articulated figure that popped up, thanks to a spring mechanism.
RIO BLAST: Here's a human warrior armed to the teeth!
ROBOTO: As the name implies, this is the robot in the series.
ROKKON: Alien with ability to fold into a rock.
ROTAR: He sits and rotates like a top.
SNOUT SPOUT: An elephant which squirts water.
SORCERESS: Second rarest figure (hey investors, I said, "Second rarest figure!") and well-sculpted. The den mother of the He-Man Clan.
STONEDAR: Rokkon's pal.
STRATOS: Early winged character which comes in two versions: red wings and blue wings. Even more common is the version with no wings, often found at flea markets.
SY-KLONE: Samurai-like spinning tornado warrior.
TEELA: The first of two female figures, beautifully detailed with muscular thighs.
ZODAC: Jet-powered fighter, a prominent cast member in DC's failed He-Man comic book. Also an early casualty of the toy series.
Avenging Servants of Skeletor
SKELETOR: This figure also came in Dragon Blaster, 5th Anniversary, Terror Claws, and Battle Armor versions.
BEAST MAN: Orage ape with whip for driving slaves.
BLADE: Villain from the feature film, a bald guy with a log of knives.
CLAWFUL: A figure with lobster claws for hands.
EVIL-LYN: Yellow-skinned sorceress. Collectors will notice that this figure was contructed from the Teela mold.
FAKER: If the name is any indicator, this figure is simply He-Man in blue.
GRIZZLOR: An ape who is a member of the Evil Horde, an offshoot group of villains.
HORDAK: Leader of the Evil Horde, and more interesting than Skeletor. His armor had a spiffy bat motif, long before armored bat-men were the rage. (Also came in spin-arm "Hurricane" version.)
HORDE TROOPER: Hordak's evil robotic soldier.
JITSU: Evil Oriental strongman with gold karate-chopping hand, for those off jobs around the castle.
KING HISS: Leader of the Snake Men, another renegade group of villains. Pop off his human guise and -- Aargh!
KOBRA KHAN: Water-spitting member of the snake men.
LEECH: The biggest sucker in Hordak's gang. His mouth and arms are suction cups.
MANTENNA: A member of Hordak's tropps with bulging eyes.
MER-MAN: Aquatic menace who is molded in a real nice shade of green.
MOSQUITOR: This figure has a bug's head and a transparent chest so that when he sucks the blood out of people, you can see it pump though his chest!
NINJOR: Evil Ninja.
RATTLOR: Another Snake Man with a pop-up head.
SAUROD: Monster from the movie and yes, he's another snake character.
SCARE GLOW: Hard-to-find skull-headed phanom. His head glows in the dark.
SNAKE FACE: Snake Man with snakes that pop out of his face.
SPIKOR: A radical purple monster with a spiked head and pop-out weapon arm.
SSSQUEEZE: Snake Man with pop-out grabber arms.
STINKOR: Mer-Man's back and now he's painted black! He's a skunk and the selling point is that the figure smells bad!
TRAP JAW: One of my favorites, an ugly barbarian with a "metal" jaw.
TRI-KLOPS: Trap Jaw's best friend has a rotating visor with three different eyes.
TUNG LASHOR: Yet another Snake Man with a snaky tongue.
TWISTOID: Evil top-like monster.
TWO-BAD: Ultracool binary bad guy makes a dent in the competition. His arms have pull-back action for power punches.
WEBSTOR: A blue monster who webs up his foes and climbs walls, predating Venom by at least a year or two.
MODULOK and MULTI-BOT: Evil members of the Horde you could piece together like Cootie game figures.
The line was diverse enough to include He-Man's animal pals, and Skeletor's beastly baddies. They were: Zoar and Screech (good and bad birds), Battle Cat and Panthor (good and bad felines), Stridor and Night Stalker (good and bad robotic horses), and animalistic vehicles called Bashasaurus, Mantisaur, Land Shark, Monstroid and Spydor. Later came a line of cybernetic dinosaurs: Bionatops, Turbodactyl, and Tyrantisaurus Rex.
Let's face it, Eternia's a big place. He-Man and Skeletor can't exactly take a cross-country bus to meet each other on the field of battle, can they? Here are the vehicles from the He-Man line:
TALON FIGHTER: Plane with Point Dread rock.
WIND RAIDER: Sailboat-style vehicle.
BATTLE RAM: Attack vehicle.
ATTACK TRAK: Has battery-operated movement.
JET SLED: Small sled on blister card.
LASER BOLT: This vehicle could rear up for battle.
BLASTERHAWK: It fired disks.
DRAGON WALKER: Motorized sliding vehicle.
ROTON: Spinning tank.
ROAD RIPPER: Pull cord sends wheels spinning.
And in the catagory of weapons and equipment:
STILT STALKERS: Battle stilts.
BATTLE BONES CARRY CASE: This case was shaped like a dinosaur skeleton.
BEAM BLASTER: Laser battle accessories.
MEGALASER: Blister-carded cannon.
This thing that always impressed me about the He-Man line wasn't the figures or vehicles, and it certainly wasn't the cartoon. No, what impressed me was the line of detailed and inspired playsets. These sets were actually whole environments with mountains, caves, pits, and grottos. The first one was CASTLE GRAYSKULL, a plastic mountain which opened up so you could have adventures inside and out. It had everything you need to make a classic playset: several levels of action, a trapdoor, and a cool weapons rack with weapons.
SNAKE MOUNTAIN was Skeletor's hideout. It was constructed similarly to Castle Grayskull, but came witha voice modulating microphone so you could frighten away intruders.
The FRIGHT ZONE reminds me of Mego's Mission to Gamma Six because it has a cave, a monster to snare characters' feet, and a hand puppet creature.
Last, but not least, we have the SLIME PIT, a turture area where slime oozes from a dinosaur skull.
Overall, I have to admit that the Masters Of The Universe were pretty darn inventive. Figures incorporated action features, playsets were devised with inventive gimmicks, and the sheer imagination it took to create some of the characters is truly scary. (Take, for example, Stinkor!)
Love it or hate it, He-Man and his friends made a lasting impact on toy history. Somewhere even now, in Toy Heaven, Skeletor falls off a kitchen table over and over again, in an endlessy looping He-Man toy commercial. And somewhere, playing endlessly, is that million-dollar chant: HE-MAN, HE-MAN, HE-MAN...