For a while there in the mid-1980s, there was not a bigger multi-media property in the world than He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. When Cannon Films wanted to show that it was ready to be a major player on the blockbuster movie scene, producers went out to go buy the most sought-after licenses in the world. One of those licenses was Spider-Man from Marvel Comics. This will give you the proper context, then, to note that despite getting Spider-Man's license, they paid much more money and fought off more studios to acquire the rights to He-Man. That's how big He-Man was in the 1980s. Of course, as these things usually do, what goes up eventually goes down and by the end of the 1980s, He-Man's fortunes had fallen. His hit Filmation show was finished and Mattel tried one last shot to do a New Adventures of He-Man in 1990, but it did not go over. It would be over a decade before the toy line tried again.
Since the relaunch failed soon after it started, a number of toys were never produced. Longtime He-Man concept artist, Errol McCarthy, put together designs for a number of great toys that were never made. He-Man.org has a collection of McCarthy's designs for both the He-Man figures that did get made for the classic line as well as some failed concept drawings. We will combine this with some other un-produced toys to show you 15 He-Man toys that we wished were made (and one we're glade never got produced).
16 BATTLE BEARD
The revamped Masters of the Universe toy line coincided with a new animated series called The New Adventures of He-Man, where He-Man was taken away from Eternia and placed within more of a science fiction-like setting. As a result, a number of the new characters for the revamped toy line also received designs that would follow in that vein. The Masters of Universe toy line had already gotten a bit into more robotic designs with their last few figures, like Rio-Blast and the lasers that would pop out of his body.
Battle Beard appears to be following in the vein of some of those other late stage characters, with a robotic appendage built around his beard. What is particularly strange about the character is that there are certainly other sorts of things that you could have protrude from someone's face than a beard, so it is surprising that is the direction they took the character. Most likely, he was then revamped into the released figure, Tuskadon, who had a similar design, only with protruding robotic tusks rather than a robotic beard. That is probably a better idea than the beard in the first place, while, of course, being strange in its own right ("Tuskadon"? Seriously?).
15 SLUGGOR VS KICKOR
A general rule of thumb for the Masters of the Universe toy line is that it is always easiest to introduce two versions of the same basic character, a good guy and a bad guy. In fact, that was literally the way that the toy line proceeded with characters, which led to confusion with the original concept of the two-headed character, Two-Bad. He was originally going to have one head that was good and another that was evil, but since that did not fit into Mattel's clear-cut "good or bad" categories, he was altered so that both heads were evil.
The theory was likely that they assumed people would make it a point to buy the opposite version of whichever figure they enjoyed. If you like Fisto, for instance, you would probably want his evil counterpart, Jitsu. So that was the case here with the heroic Sluggor and his evil opposite, Kickor. Another go-to with He-Man characters is for you to just change words ending in "er" to "or." It's not Webster, it's Webstor! It's not Stinker, it's Stinkor! In fact, those naming practices are likely what led to Sluggor and Kickor being revamped into the released figures, Kayo and Hoove. Producers probably wanted to get away from the naming conventions of the previous series.
Towards the end of the original Masters of the Universe toy line in 1987, Mattel planned a new line of figures that would be set in the distant past of Eternia. The line would be called " The Powers of Grayskull," with the Eternia of the toyline called "Preternia" to make it clear that it was a different deal than the modern day line of He-Man toys. It is unknown whether they planned on doing a cartoon series to tie in with this new toy line. In any event, the toy line was canceled before it was released.
The lead character in the proposed line was He-Ro, who was He-Man's ancestor. Mattel's licensing guide for the character, back when they thought that the line was going to come out, described him as follows, "by placing one hand over his heart & flexing the other into a muscle & saying, 'Magic & strength tempered by heart... I stand for peace!,' he would become He-Ro of Grayskull, the Most Powerful Wizard in the Universe!" In his secret identity, his name was to be Gray. Eventually, in the 2009 Masters of the Universe Classics toy line, He-Ro was finally made into a figure.
13 BATTLE WOMAN
A major problem with the original Masters of the Universe toy line is the fact that Teela and the Sorceress were literally the only two female heroes in the entire line, and Evil-Lyn was the only female villain. It is clear that Mattel was going with the then-standard (and outdated) "Only boys buy action figures" way of thinking. The Sorceress did not even show up until the final legs of the toy line, so for years it was just Teela an Evil-Lyn. So it is especially disappointing what happened with the New Adventures of He-Man line.
You see, initially they appeared to be adding a Battle Woman to the line, who had a strange metal headdress that she used to smash her opponents. It is a bit of an odd concept, but it was still cool to see them go with a female character that was designed for fighting. However, they then decided to not release any female characters at all in the initial release of the New Adventures of He-Man line and the character Battle Woman evolved into, Mara, only made it to prototype stages before the line was canceled completely. At least Mara, who was mostly a passive character throughout most of the series, was going to come with a mace in the prototype!
12 CRAZY HAIR SKELETOR
In the transition to the new toy line and TV series, He-Man got a revamped look that was a bit of a simplified design from his classic one. He was also a thinner figure, as they were going away from the overly muscular molds that they used for most of the original series for He-Man and his friends. While most of the cast members from the original He-Man series were dropped for this new line, the one other major carryover was He-Man's nemesis, Skeletor.
These designed by Errol McCarthy suggest a horrific vision of Skeletor with a wild flock of red hair to go with his disgusting facial features. Also, is he carrying a pair of skulls as weapons in this drawing? What is going on here? Whatever it is, it is terrifying but in a totally awesome way. We would love to have seen this version of Skeletor make its way to the toy shelves, but instead, they settled on a sort of cyber-punk update of Skeletor's classic look. It perhaps made more sense for the overall design of the new toy line, which tried to lean heavily into robotic elements of the character designs, but it is not nearly as frightening as this early McCarthy look.
As mentioned before, in 1987, Mattel was set to release "The Powers of Grayskull" toy line, which would be set in the past of Eternia ("Preternia"). One of the figures in the line was going to be Eldor, who would have been He-Ro's mentor and adviser. It is likely that he would serve in much of the same capacity that Man-At-Arms served for He-Man.
Eldor would have been the guardian of the Book of Living Spells, which is quite likely connected to the Book of Spells that played a role on the She-Ra: Princess of Power animated series. The Book of Spells was guarded on the magical realm of Mystacor, which appeared in a number of episodes of She-Ra. In the middle of Mystacor was a floating castle where the book was kept. It is interesting to wonder how it would have made its way to Mystacor from where Elder had it in Preternia. In the 2002-03 MVCreations Masters of the Universe comic book series, Eldor made a cameo as part of The Council of the Wise in a scene set in the past, along with He-Ro and a few other familiar faces from the He-Man cartoon series, like that generation's Starchild.
10 A PAIR OF GIANTS
A confusing part of these Errol McCarthy concept designs is that it unclear at exactly what point the franchise decided to spin some of these characters off into the Powers of Grayskull spinoff line and the New Adventures of He-Man revamp. For instance, take these two designs for a pair of giants. Naturally, there is a good giant and an evil giant, as that is how the Masters of the Universe rolled. However, notice the figure in the background of the evil giant (the one on the left). It sure appears like there is a member of the Snake-Men in the drawing.
That would make this design for the tail end of the original Masters of the Universe toy line, not the New Adventures of He-Man. However, in the Powers of Gray Skull line, there actually were a pair of giants in that series. There was the evil Megator and the heroic Tytus and these giant drawings sure look a lot like those characters. So it might be that they were originally intended for the main line and then spun off into the proposed side franchise. The Megator and Tytus figures were ultimately released in Europe as part of the main series of toys.
9 SPIN MASTER PLANE
Quite often, Mattel would try to make it easier for the toy designers by releasing figures and toys along a particular theme within a larger line of figures. For instance, let's say that you were going to introduce a hero who shoots sludge. Then you would probably then introduce a villain who shoots sludge, as well. Then you would introduce a vehicle for the characters to drive that also shoots sludge. That is likely the thinking that went into this Spin Master Plane from the New Adventures of He-Man line.
The series had a character named Spinwit (Tornado in Europe) who had the ability to spin like a tornado. So it is likely that this vehicle had some sort of spinning capability that would pair it well with Spinwit. It is unclear from the design, though, as it seems to be a sort of generic-looking giant robotic bird plane. There does not seem to be any spot where you would think that it would spin. It is also interesting to note that Spinwit is not the other hero figure shown with He-Man in the drawing. It is unclear exactly who the other hero is, as he does not look like any of the released figures from the line.
Can you even imagine that we do not live in a world where kids got to have a giant sort of robo-dinosaur that He-Man could ride in? Another amusing thing about Mattel and their toy line is that they produced so many other toys that it sure seemed that some of the toys for the Masters of the Universe line were re-purposed for other Mattel franchises. For instance, it would not be surprising if Gigantisaur was originally a dinosaur for some sort of generic dinosaur series of toys that was then retrofitted to work as a He-Man toy.
This likely was going to be part of the Powers of Grayskull line that never came about. See Mattel's description of the canceled line, "Travel back in time through a secret time portal--and discover the ORIGIN of THE POWERS OF GRAYSKULL! Learn how He-Man became so strong! And explore the magical world of Preternia--home of HE-RO, the Most Powerful Wizard in the Universe! Monstrous dinosaurs and fierce giants--both good and evil--struggle for control of this strange & hostile land! The dinosaurs in the time of Grayskull--Tyrantisaurus Rex, Bionatops and Turbodactyl--each possess a fantastic mechanical power! Can HE-RO master all the good magic of the Ancient Wizards, and protect future Eternia from forever falling in the claws of evil? Look For HE-RO and The Powers of Grayskull coming your way in 1987!"
7 CHAOS RAM
A drawback when it comes to designing vehicles for toy lines is that while Mattel would often re-use as many molds and designs from its other toy lines as it could for the Masters of the Universe toys over the years, it was hampered a bit by the size of the action figures. They were bigger than most of Mattel's other action figures, so there were not very many planes or cars that could be re-purposed into Masters of the Universe vehicles.
The size issue also seems to play into the design of a vehicle like the Chaos Ram. There is only room for two figures in the actual main part of the plane, which, like the Spin Master plane, looks basically just like a giant robot bird. Therefore, to fit more figures into the toy, two sort of cup holders were added on the wings. Isn't that an amazingly absurd way of traveling? Just sort of dangling from a ring on the wing of the plane? When you have larger figures, though, you can't fit too many of them in the main part of the vehicle, so you have to come up with creative design elements, like cup holders on the wings.
6 ROCKET LEGS VS. SLEDOR
Most of the time, you can pretty easily discern which one of a given Masters of the Universe pairing is the hero and which one is the villain. However, in the case of Rocket Lets vs. Sledor, it is a bit confusing. Neither of the figures looks particularly heroic. We are going to go out on a limb and say that Rocket Legs looks slightly less ominous, so we are going to assume that he is he hero. What's also confusing about Rocket Legs is that he appears to have rockets on his shoulders, as well, so why is he called Rocket Legs?
Sledor, meanwhile, is a really striking design. While it is almost certainly a coincidence, he seems to have a lot in common with the design for the Green Goblin the original Sam Raimi Spider-Man film. The helmet and the way that he seems to be riding around on his sled legs in sort of the same fashion that the Green Goblin rides on his glider. One last bit that confused about Rocket Legs - so, he's flying in the drawing, right? Is he flying due to the rockets, though, or are they just for him to shoot at people? You are an enigma, Rocket Legs!
One of the intriguing aspects of the Masters of the Universe toy line, and honestly, one of the strangest aspects of it, is how little regard producers cared for any sort of consistency between the figures. There was no underlying drive in the design of a typical figure. So long as Mattel did not need to create that many new molds, there was a free hand and then the writers of the Filmation TV series had to come up with ways to work these bizarre new characters into the story. "Oh, it's He-Man's body, but he has a giant robot elephant head? Uh... let's say he's Eternia's fire fighter!"
A couple of toys that fit that bill were Rotar and Twistoid, two figures who were the opposites of each other (Rotar was the good guy, Twistoid the bad). They were both designed so that the bottom of their figures were, in effect, a top. So that kids could spin them and they would roll around on the ground like a top. They came out just when the original toy line was falling apart. Thus, the vehicle that was meant to be released with them, the Gyrattacker, was never released. It was designed to launch Rotar and Twistoid out from it so that they would hit the ground and start spinning.
4 FLYING MACHINES
The relationship between He-Man and Skeletor had always been an important part of the Masters of the Universe toy line and the accompanying animated series, but interestingly enough, the toy line had begun to pull away a bit from Skeletor after a few years, with Hordak and his Evil Horde being introduced as a sort of wild card third party that could be used to fight against either He-Man and the heroes or Skeletor and the villains. Hordak then became the main villain of the She-Ra: Princess of Power TV series.
However, when the New Adventures of He-Man came about, Skeletor was the main villain again, as he was front and center in the new cartoon more than he had ever been on the Filmation series. A lot of this has to do with the fact that He-Man and Skeletor were both separated from their respective groups on Eternia, so they were the only two established characters on the new TV series, and as a result, they were the centerpiece of the conflicts on the new series. The new line also introduced tiny creatures (both good and bad) into the line. Perhaps they were influenced by the popularity of the Ewoks from Star Wars?
3 EVIL BUGLE
As noted earlier, in the world of the Masters of the Universe, there really was no such thing as being "off brand," because there was no coherent brand to begin with, just a sort of barbarian guy named He-Man. It makes you appreciate the work that the Filmation writers had to do to make the whole thing seem like a coherent narrative. There's no wonder that so many writers from the series went on to become acclaimed universe builders, like Paul Dini and J. Michael Straczynski, because they had to come up with a universe from scratch with a number of discordant elements thrown into the mix.
It is that sort of "whatever you want to try, we'll give it a shot" attitude from Mattel that likely led to this apparently unproduced... evil bugle? Designed by Dave McElroy, this almost certainly has to be an example of Mattel taking a product from one of its other toy lines and then adapting it to make it work in the Masters of the Universe line. The connection, though, is hilariously tenuous. After all, when you think about Skeletor, you certainly don't think about an electronic bugle, not even one with a creepy, moving tongue!
2 MONSTER MOUTH ARENA
A recurring theme in a lot of these Errol McCarthy designs for The New Adventures of He-Man figures is the idea of battle. Not just a general battle between good and evil that has always been a key part of the Masters of the Universe toy lines, but a more specific hand-to-hand combat, sort of like a riff on Thunderdome. Note how many of the characters seem to be literally bonded at either their wrists or the ankles, like some sort of ritualistic competition. The only ones who weren't directly connected to each other were Rocket Legs and Sledor and Battle Woman and her opponent.
That is likely the driving force behind the design for the Monster Mouth Arena, which seems like it is built around the idea of heroes and villains competing in the arena in combat with each other. It is a shame that the New Adventures of He-Man toy line only had two play sets before it was canceled, because it had a history of strong play sets and this one looks like it would have fit in perfectly. It is curious, though, as to whether the creature in the bottom of the arena would have made it into the final version of the play set.
1 HOPE WE NEVER SEE: FEARLESS PHOTOG
In 1986, Mattel had a "Create-a-Character" contest where kids could design a figure that could possibly become part of the Masters of the Universe toy line. However, since this was towards the end of the original toy line's existence, the winning action figure never actually got produced. The finalists in the contest were voted on by over 150,000 respondents.
Some of the figures were Netta, a hero made out of nets, Compactor, a guy who could smash things with his torso, Eye Beam, a giant walking eye, Brainwave, a guy with a giant brian and the winner, Fearless Photog, a sort of anthropomorphic camera. Eleven-year-old Nathan Bitner entered the contest despite not actually owning any Masters of the Universe action figures! He won the $100,000 college scholarship grand prize. Bitner was almost eliminated from the competition when he gave an interview intimating that his father had done a lot of the drawing. His father explained otherwise and Mattel let him remain in the contest. An anthropomorphic camera who drains evil from bad guys via his lens isn't the worst idea for a He-Man figure, but it's up there! Bitner was a camera buff, which informed his design. The figure, though, ended up never actually being released.