Mattel changed the world in 1982 when they introduced the revolutionary Masters of the Universe toy line, starring He-Man, to the market. Just a few years earlier, Mattel saw its market shares drop as Kenner gambled with the Star Wars brand. Worse still, Mattel had the option to be the company to create toys for the science fiction epic, but they turned it down. At the time, the decision seemed reasonable since George Lucas provided a small window to create the toys. Instead, Kenner made a game-changing deal that put them on top of the world. Thus, Mattel was determined to prove that they still were the most influential toy company around.
To produce the newest phenomenon, Ray Wagner, the President of Mattel at the time, formed a crack team filled with marketing specialists and brilliant designers. Heading up the design ideas, Roger Sweet put his love of bodybuilders to the test. Thus, he modified Big Jim action figures to create the first He-Man prototype. As the team settled on the barbarian aesthetic, illustrator Mark Taylor used his skills to create the look for the first set of characters. Other figures, like Battle Cat, were designed on the fly by taking a large pre-made tiger toy from Mattel’s vault and painting it green before putting armor on it.
As Mattel prepared to send these toys to market, they discovered that retailers expected multimedia support for toys. So they made on-the-spot claims that they had both a comic series and a cartoon set to go to help complement the toys. To follow through with these promises, Mattel commissioned writer Donald F. Glut and artist Alfredo Alcala to create a mini-series that would accompany the first wave of toys. This mini-series was then followed up by another series of comics by powerhouse DC comics. Meanwhile, their promise of a cartoon series became just as huge of a hit as the toys themselves.
Finding the perfect partner in Filmation, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe launched in 1983. To produce this show, Michael Halperin created a detailed “series bible” that cemented the world and characters within it. This cartoon placed a spin that Mattel originally never thought of, giving He-Man an alter ego, Prince Adam. The battle between the evil Skeletor and the Masters of the Universe was also followed up by memorable “life lessons” or “moral of the stories”. The success of this series, along with the toys, led to a follow-up sister series, She-Ra: Princess of Power.
When the Masters of the Universe hit store shelves in 1982, the first wave featured He-Man, Skeletor, Man-At-Arms, Beast Man, Stratos, Mer-Man, Teela, and Zodac. This toy line alone quickly brought Mattel to the top of the pack. Since Mattel designed the toys modularly, they were able to produce multiple new characters for the line quickly. Unfortunately, this wave of new characters was a double-edged sword. As shelves began to overflow with He-Man side characters, support for the line fell. Thus, the original Masters of the Universe run fell flat on its face and vanished by 1987.
The downfall of the toy line was not helped by the live-action film that appeared in 1987. Rather than generate more interest in the brand, the movie quickly became known as a bomb.
While the Masters of the Universe was most popular, several companies officially licensed the toys across the world. In Mexico, two companies brought over the toys: Aurimat and MABAMEX. Meanwhile, Congost brought the toys to the market in Spain. Estrela created the Masters of the Universe toys for Brazil while Roboplast made them in Argentina. There were also Leo from India, Top Toys in Argentina, and Takara in Japan.
Masters of the Universe did not remain dead forever though. By 1990, they were willing to give He-Man another chance at life. In tandem with a new cartoon and comic series, The New Adventures of He-Man tried to catch the hearts of buyers once more. However, it only lasted until 1991.
In 2002, Mattel attempted to relaunch the brand for good with a brand new toy line and animated series. Knowing that a collectors market had formed, Mattel turned to Four Horsemen to design the sculpts for this new line. Unlike the original toys, this line produced multiple alternate versions of He-Man, Skeletor, and Man-At-Arms. With little else available in the line, interest waned and the line puttered out in 2004.
Even though Mattel discontinued the 2002 toy line, they still felt that the collector market held potential. So, they returned in 2008 with Four Horsemen once again sculpting the toys. The Masters of the Universe Classics set forth to recreate the excitement of the original toys at a 6” scale. The Classics line also included characters from the various iterations of He-Man to date, including She-Ra and The New Adventures from the 90s.
Recently, He-Man has returned in animated from twice over on Netflix. First, the Masters of the Universe: Revelation debuted in 2021, intending to continue the tale from the original Filmation cartoon series. Then, there was a CGI animated series that also launched in 2021, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. This time, Prince Adam and his comrades were de-aged to catch the interest of modern children.
Likewise, the toys have returned in new forms as well. First, Mattel introduced the Masters of the Universe Origins line in 2019. This line aimed to recreate the look and feel of the original 80s toys. They have also recently released toys to go along with the latest CGI animated series.
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How to use the Identification Tool to find your action figures and toy lines
Do you have an old-school G1 Transformers toy you are trying to identify? Don’t know the name? No problem! I’ll help you use this identification tool. For example, just type in “jet” in the figure name field and hit search. You’ll see all the Transformers G1 Toys that are jets. Maybe try “car” and select the color “blue” and a list of Transformers matching those results will appear. Maybe you don’t know what the finished vehicle will make, so try searching by “red” only. Did you forget to remove “car”? Now search just the color “red”. Perhaps you know the name, but can’t spell it try “Wheljck” instead of “Wheeljack” and all the Wheeljack characters are listed for you.
We have all the G1 Transformers list of characters in our database. You can search by Transformers name, as well as just line or subgroup. You can identify Transformers that are all red or all the figures that are orange. The Transformers toy list can even be sorted by package type. You can identify which came with a sticker sheet, or which came without instructions. Want to know all the 1984 Transformers toys and none of the others from 1985-1990? No problem, just select the release year from “1984” to “1984”. Perhaps you just want to know the list of G1 Transformers “Autobots”, or just the “Decepticons”, our ID tool can do that.
Mostly we made this so you could see if your action figures were missing some accessories or parts. So you can see that too.
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