He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

Synopsis of Toy

“By the power of Grayskull,
I have the power!”

Most of us just inhabit the universe. He-Man and his burly-chested associates mastered it. In the 80’s, few toys ruled boys’ worlds like He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (although G.I. Joe was certainly neck-in-thick-neck). These were true action figures, emphasis on the “action.” Fists swung, water sprayed, armor cracked (then repaired itself), vehicles rode the roads, and a nation of boys was in macho nirvana.

Mattel’s Masters of the Universe line started in 1981, headed by the most top-heavy action hero in many a moon: He-Man himself. Like the rest of his early action figure line, He-Man featured a “Power Punch,” swinging back when his waist was twisted. With this rubber-band-powered action, the fisticuffs got pretty intense come playtime. He-Man battled it out with the skull-faced Skeletor, each backed by a small number of cohorts—Stratos, Teela and Man-At-Arms (along with He-Man’s trusty mount Battle Cat) on the side of good, Beastman and Mer-Man on the side of evil.

The Masters of the Universe quickly became masters of the toy chest (and what a toy chest that He-Man had!), and the line expanded in step with He-Man’s popularity. New figures like Man-E-Faces, Ram Man, Evil-Lyn and the three-eyed Tri-Clops joined the fray, and in 1983, the characters moved onto their own syndicated cartoon series. The two-pronged attack (toy and cartoon) fed each other, and by the 1983 holiday season, He-Man was an absolute must-have.

Never one to rest on his laurels, He-Man constantly upgraded his armada, and graciously allowed Skeletor to upgrade his as well. New features replaced the “Power Punch” on figures like Sy-Klone (spinning torso) and Clawful (giant working claw), while He-Man and Skeletor appeared with bonuses like Battle Armor (which spun to reveal dents), Thunder-Punch (complete with caps) and Flying Fists (swinging arms).

For those with more ample funds, He-Man and his associates could be housed in one of several playsets. Castle Grayskull featured an elevator, trap door and working drawbridge, while the sinister Snake Mountain came complete with chains, pivoting snakes, and a voice-distorting microphone. But the mother of all playsets arrived in 1986. A model of He-Man’s homeworld, Eternia, had towers for Castle Grayskull, Snake Mountain and Eternia, connected by a monorail. Eternia came with its own share of impressive features, but most impressive was the fact that it could be connected to both He-Man’s and Skeletor’s fortresses to create one humongoid world of He-Mania.

Even if mom and dad weren’t willing to spring for the biggies (and no rich uncles were on the horizon), plenty of He-Man fun could be had with the more modestly-priced vehicles and other accessories. The Laser Bolt, Jet Sled, Land Shark and the ripcord-powered Road Ripper were only a handful of the many figure transports available during the Masters of the Universe’s original run.

He-Man may have been the most macho toy line of the 80's, but that didn't mean the Masters of the Universe lacked a feminine side. He-Man's sister She-Ra came onto the scene in 1985, bringing her own friends (Lighthope, Madam Raxx, the owl-like Kowl), enemies (Hordak and his Horde soldiers), steed (Swiftwind), homeworld (Etheria), fortress (Crystal Castle) and even a catchphrase: "For the honor of Greyskull! I am She-Ra!" The toy line was a hit with girls who liked their playtime with fewer tea parties and more heroic swordplay.

He-Man dipped in popularity at the tail end of the mid-80’s, and after a final hurrah in the Masters of the Universe motion picture, the He-Man line was discontinued in 1987. A brief comeback was staged in 1990—along with an all-new He-Man cartoon—but the glory days of The Sorceress, Mek-A-Nek, Orko, Hordak, Kobra Khan, Moss Man, Extendar, Stinkor and the rest were not to return.

Release History of Toy

1981 - He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
1985 - She-Ra: Princess of Power

Sub Categories of Toys

action figures
tv tie-in

Toy and Game Manufacturer


Other Toy Links