In 1982 by the power of Grayskull, Mattel released the “He-Man” toy line known as the “Masters of the Universe.” These toys led to a television series, spawned a live-action movie and the spin-off cartoon series “She-Ra: Princess of Power.” Telling the story of Prince Adam and his alter ego He-Man, the series focused on the battle between He-Man and his allies against the evil Skeletor and his minions. The toy line launched with a first wave featuring a mixture of figures, creatures, vehicles and one massive play set. Included in the first wave were He-Man, Man-At-Arms, Stratos, Teela, Beast Man, Mer-Man, Skeletor, Zodac, Battle Cat, Screeech, Battle Ram, Wind Raider and Castle Grayskull.
RELATED: The 15 Best Marvel Funko Pops
While the original “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” series only lasted two seasons running from 1983 to 1985, it spawned seven waves of toys running until 1988. In this list, we look at the best 15 of those toys.
15. TWO BAD
They say that two heads are better than one. In the case of the villain Tw0 Bad, this is only true part of the time. Billed as a master strategist, this minion of Skeletor could use his two heads to cook up evil plan, but he was just as likely to scuttle those plans by getting in a fight with himself. Two Bad appeared in season two episodes “Capture the Comet Keeper” and “The Ancient Mirror of Avathar.”
The action figure was released in 1985 as part of the fourth wave of figures. Two Bad starred in his own toy commercial and with dialogue like “The name’s Two Bad. Yeah, too bad for you,” how could any kid resist? Two Bad’s highlights are the two differently colored halves, the shield and the spring-loaded arms. The arms allow for a punch, a bear hug or even causing each one of Two Bad’s halves to punch each other.
Buzz-off may on first sight remind you of horrible halloween costumes of your youth or the Bumblebee Man from “The Simpsons,” but he was actually a very cool “He-Man” toy. Buzz-Off, whose real name was Tzzzzt zzz zzTTTzz, was one He-Man’s heroic warriors and a member of the Bee People. Buzz-Off was described as He-Man’s spy in the sky. He appeared in four episodes of the series, “Island of Fear,” “Disappearing Dragons,” “The Good Shall Survive” and “Search for a Son.” Buzz-Off’s action figure was released in 1984’s wave three of the toy line.
Buzz-Off came with a removable helmet and ax accessory. He also featured a very cool set of yellow wings. The figure’ articulation of the wings as well as the ability to twist at the waist to deliver punches led to great play-ability. Action figure manufacturers of today could learn from what Mattel did with Buzz-Off’s wings.
The most powerful robot in the galaxy represents the extreme element of technology in the “He-Man” cartoon. The world of Eternia is a mixture of fantasy, magic and high technology. Created by Man-At-Arms, Roboto featured a metal body, a highly intelligent cybernetic brain and a cybernetic heart. His chest was translucent, so that you could see his inner workings. Roboto only appeared in one episode of the original series, “Happy Birthday Roboto.”
The action figure also featured the translucent chest and, when you twisted his waist it would cause the blue and orange gears inside him to turn. His other features included a face mask that moved and interchangeable attachments for his right hand. The attachments were a claw, an ax and a blaster. Nothing like an ax-wielding and incredibly tough robot to go up against; it is no wonder that Skeletor and his crew lost so many battles.
Half man and half spider, Webstor is one of the wave of more competent villains that appeared in the second season of the television series. The evil master of escape starred in the season two premiere, “The Cat and the Spider,” and subsequently appeared in episodes “Disappearing Dragons” and “Journey to Stone City.” He was popular enough to continue on as a villain in an episode of “She-Ra.” In the television series he played the part of a thief in addition to being a warrior.
Webstor’s action figure went on sale in 1984 as part of the third wave of toys. This ugly blue monster came with an orange blaster as well as chest armor and a backpack that features a grappling hook. The coolest feature of this figure was that the grappling hook was actually functional, so you could make Webstor climb up the line to scale the heights of Castle Grayskull or wherever your imagination took you.
An armored horse with laser guns is another example of Eternia’s technological advancement in the form of Stridor the robotic horse. The machine shaped like a horse is somewhere between the concept of the organic Battle Cat and the more purely high-tech transports such as the Wind Raider, Jet Sled, or Attak Trak. The use of these mechanical horses also brings to mind medieval knights and is a great example of blending the advanced technology into the more traditional fantasy elements.
Stridor came with the tagline, “Half war horse/half war machine Stridor carries He-Man to victory.” He was sold individually as part of 1984’s wave three. Stridor was also available during the same wave as part of a gift set containing the hero with the giant armored fist, Fisto. The Stridor figure was the same in both cases, featuring a removable helmet, movable twin lasers on the front and a rotating laser canon on the back.
10. JITSU & NIGHT STALKER (GIFT SET)
Gift sets were common in the “He-Man” toy line and one of the coolest was the Jitsu & Night Stalker set. Jitsu is an evil minion of Skeletor’s who uses his Karate skills and his special golden right hand to take out opponents. Jitsu only appeared in one episode of the original series “The Dragon Invasion.” Night Stalker didn’t appear in the television series but did appear in the mini-comics. He may be some form of Stridor that magic was practiced upon or a new creation in and of himself. The gift set containing Jitu and Night Stalker functions as the antagonist set for Fisto and Stridor.
This gift set was released in 1984 as part of the third wave of toys. Fisto’s figure highlights include a gold-chromed karate chop hand, a samurai sword and a cool breastplate of red and gold. The gold hand rotates, which is a nice added bit of articulation. Night Stalker is just as cool as Stridor, featuring the same basic figure, only repainted in a black, gold and purple motif. Some folks may even prefer Knight Stalker’s bold colors.
Faker is the blue He-Man, and no, he is not depressed. He is actually an evil creation of Skeletor’s. In the television series, he was a magical creation that appeared in the episode “The Shaping Staff.” In this incarnation, he wasn’t blue, but instead looked exactly the same as He-Man except for glowing eyes. Briefly doing battle with He-Man in the episode, he fell down a bottomless pit and was never seen again in the series. He does later appear in a mini-comic “The Search for Keldor,” which establishes a robotic origin for the character.
The Faker action figure was released as part of wave two in 1983 and came billed as an evil robot created by Skeletor. The figure included blue skin, red hair and removable orange armor, as well as an orange fake sword of power. If you did remove his chest armor, you would see a sticker on his chest showing an electronics panel. If Skeletor and He-Man had a baby, he would probably look like Faker.
8. SLIME PIT (PLAY SET)
One of the smallest play sets for the “He-Man” toy line was the Slime Pit. A creation of Hordak’s, the Slime Pit would be used to transform captives into slime monsters that he could control. The Slime Pit may be the coolest play set released for the series despite its size. The ability to play with slime and to cover your action figures in the goo was a lot of fun. The good thing is that due to a lack of soft goods for the “He-Man” figures, clean up was fairly simple.
The Slime Pit was released in 1986 as part of wave five. The back of the box described how the pit works, “Hordak leads his captives to the pit,” “raise the claw to trap the warrior, He can’t escape,” “fill the head with ooze. Then tilt it forward,” and “slime coats the warrior, turning him into a slime-monster.” The play set came with a can of slime included, but additional cans of slime were also sold separately.
If you already have magic, monsters and high technology, where do you go next? Dinosaurs, of course. Bionatops was the adversary of the evil Tyrantisaurus in Preternia. Bionatops was a variation of triceratops while Tyrantisaurus was a variation of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. These characters were introduced in the 1986 mini-comic series beginning with “The Powers of Grayskull – The Legend Begins!” Bionatops never appeared in the original television series.
Bionatops as a toy was released with the Grayskull card back in 1987 as part of wave six. As big dinosaur toys go, this one was pretty sweet. Bionatops features a movable mouth that allows him to bite down on enemies or defenses. He also features horn-mounted blasters and, though he lacks a saddle, figures are able to sit behind his horns. A laser-shooting, bad-guy-chomping triceratops carrying He-Man into battle seems like enough to send just about any enemy running.
Appearing in a dozen of the original television series episodes, Whiplash was one of the most frequently used villains and one of the better ones. He appeared as the main bad guy in the episodes “Trouble in Trolla” and “Betrayal of Stratos.” The high point for Whiplash may be the episode “To Save Skeletor,” in which he shows a little more complexity and allies with He-Man and his forces against the demon Sh’Gora.
Whiplash the action figure was released as part of wave three in 1984. Whiplash was one of the simpler figures released. He consists mostly of a two-tone green paint scheme, with purple and orange accents. He comes with only one accessory, which is a large, orange spear that he didn’t use in the television series. He does not come with any removable chest armor unlike many of the figures. But the thing that really made Whiplash so cool and such a playable action figure was his giant tale. You could twist the action figure’s waist and he would deliver a powerful blow with it.
5. CASTLE GRAYSKULL (PLAY SET)
Home of The Sorceress and source of He-Man’s power, Castle Grayskull is one of the most memorable locations in cartoon history. The main entrance to the castle features a massive and fanged skull with the mouth serving as the front door. While such imagery might normally be reserved for supervillain lairs, in this case, it invoked more of a heavy-metal vibe in that it was just a really cool-looking home base.
The massive green plastic play set opened to reveal two interior sections featuring items such as an elevator, trap door, throne, draw bridge, training device, weapons rack, laser canon and a ladder. Some assembly was required along with application of stickers and paper inserts. The big draw of this play set was the ability to stage battles outside the castle as well as scenes inside. An added bonus was that some of the weapons included in the set were exclusives.
4. SKELETOR & PANTHOR (GIFT SET)
Hands down one of the coolest villain designs of the 1980s was Skeletor, in both cartoon form and in the film version as portrayed by Frank Langella in the 1987 movie, “Masters of the Universe.” Skeletor was the main villain of “He-Man” and his sole ambition was to gain power. Skeletor hoped that by capturing castle Grayskull, he would gain the knowledge and power to control Eternia and the universe. Panthor was Skeletor’s feline companion, a giant purple panther that would occasionally don armor and be ridden into battle by Skeletor. The rest of the time, Panthor would spend his time curled up near Skeletor’s throne.
The Skeletor and Panthor gift set was acquired in 1983 as part of the second wave of toys. Both Skeletor and Panthor were released separately. The blue skin and skull-faced Skeletor figure came with multiple accessories. He has his own purple power sword, the ram-headed havoc staff and a removable belt and chest armor. Panthor featured a removable armored saddle and felt-like realistic purple “fur.” While both figures on their own are great, combined together they make this gift set a toy that can’t be missed.
A member of Hordak’s Evil Horde and a recurring villain in the “He-Man series,” the Modulok was a toy customizer’s dream. Modulok appeared in the television series episodes “Mistaken Identity,” “Happy Birthday Roboto,” and “Here, There, Skeletors Everywhere.” His debut episode was written by J. Michael Straczynski and he is portrayed as a mad scientist. In the series, his character model was simplified by showing one body form and a single head. Meanwhile, the comic line and the toy featured him with multiple heads and changing body parts.
The action figure for Modulok was released in 1985 as part of wave four. He came with 22 body parts that could be arraigned in over 1,000 combinations. These included a torso, two heads, three waists, four arms, five Y-connector joints, six legs and a tail. He also came with a laser gun that could be separated into two smaller guns. There are enough pieces for Modulok that you could even create two separate figures to play with.
2. FRIGHT ZONE (PLAY SET)
Though it never appeared in the original animated series, the Fright Zone was one of the toy line’s best play sets. The base of operations of Hordak and his Evil Horde, the Fright Zone appeared in various incarnations in both the mini-comics as well as in the spinoff series “She-Ra.” In the various portrayals of the location, its design was changed multiple times, sometimes being based off of the play set and sometimes not.
The toy set for the Fright Zone was released in 1985 as part of wave four. While the set didn’t come with any figures, it did come with four major features. There is a cave with a dragon puppet that was included with the set that allows you to snatch up figures. The tree on the top of the set was controlled by a switch that allows you to capture a figure in the closing branches. There is a prison cell with a door that snaps shut and has a release switch. The final feature was a hidden rock monster that traps a figure’s feet. With the cool rock appearance and these multiple features, the Fright Zone was one of “He-Man’s” most awesome play sets.
1. BATTLE ARMOR HE-MAN & BATTLE CAT (GIFT SET)
You couldn’t have a “He-Man” toy list without the big man himself. In this case, our favorite version is Battle Armor He-Man. In this gift set, you got both Battle Armor He-Man and his feline companion, Battle Cat. He-Man was the heroic identity of Prince Adam, who served as the defender of Eternia and protector of Castle Grayskull. His magical transformation could also transform his cowardly cat, Cringer, into the brave and powerful Battle Cat.
This set was released in 1985 as part of the fourth wave. The Battle Cat included featured a green body with yellow accents, an armored saddle and an armored helmet. The Battle Armor He-Man was originally released in 1984. It came with two accessories: a battle ax and a power sword. The highlight of the figure, though, was his chest armor. In the middle of his chest there is a rotating piece that displays an “H” symbol in three states: undamaged, one slash and two slashes. When you were staging your battles with this He-Man figure, you could hit his chest and get a very satisfying display of damage. Mattel also released the previously mentioned Battle Armor Skeletor to take the battle to the next level.
Which “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” toys were your favorites? Do you still have them? Let us know in the comments!