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The He Man series grew out of an idea in the early 1980s by Roger Sweet, a designer at Mattel. By 1982 Mattel had brought the toy line to market. Mattel the company then began to make original He Man action figures in 1981 which also spawned later incarnations. There were similarities between He Man and “Conan the Barbarian” which happened to have a movie out during the same time. This similarity resulted in Conan Properties suing Mattel for copyright infringement. Mattel ended up winning the lawsuit and He-Man and The Masters of the Universe (MOTU) became one of their best selling toy lines. By 1983 a cartoon series had even been produced featuring He Man and the other MOTU characters.
He Man had a bevy of things he could do over other mortals. When he transformed himself into the hero we all know, he was capable of lifting whole cities somehow. He would transform into He-Man by raising his sword and saying, “By the power of Grayskull!”, at which point his transformation would begin. He could transform into a tornado and whirl himself away in flight. With his breath he could blow with the power of Superman. He ran much faster than normal and created a vacuum while doing so. He could rub his hands together fast enough to make glass out of sand. The source of his powers were magical forces emanating from the Castle Grayskull. He Man was a super-human in many capacities. He is seen as a good guy, a fighter of the evil Skeletor. The tiger he rode on is similar to He Man in personality. The tiger is green and timid, but when Adam, He Man’s alter-ego, transforms, so does the tiger. His sidekick was called “Man at Arms” and he was the closest friend of He Man. His other name was Duncan. Duncan created the new technology for the super hero. In many of the television episodes Duncan revealed some new device that could help to destroy the bad guys. He Man kept his identity hidden from his family to protect them. Only Man-at-Arms knew Prince Adam was really He Man.
The size of the original 1981 He Man action figures was 5 ½ inches tall. This was a departure from the standard 3 ¾ inch figures of the day. His enemies were given the same height. His came packaged with a gray sword, a battle axe and a shield. The baldric covered the chest area with an “X” shape. His hair was blonde and his shorts and boots were colored an off-brown shade. The action figure pivoted at the waist which was interesting because the waist contained a spring which brought He Man back to the original position. This gave him surprising strength to hit other enemies. The spring was actually an elastic band, so it would wear out after enough “hits”.
Other versions of He Man were made by other companies. The Wonder Bread company made a version that was part of a mailorder promotion during the early 80’s that is fairly hard to find these days as not many were made. This He Man looked a little different, with brown hair, brown shorts and a different baldic. His weaponry was different as well, and included guns and a rifle. The second and third series of this action figure added changes as well. In 1984, the new versions were called, “Battle Armor He Man”. His enemies were upgraded to keep up with him. The next year would see him with the title of, “Thunder punch He Man”. This one was unique in that caps were included to make a bang whenever the toy’s hands hit something.
The MOTU first series has a couple of card variations. Early versions of the figures were released with an “8 back” card in which eight action figures from the series are shown on the back of the card. The first card came with eight action figures portrayed on the back of the card, later versions had twelve action figures. The earlier “8 back” versions are harder to find then the subsequent “12 backs”. Some He Man figures are very hard to find and you will have to pay a pretty penny to get them in high grade condition. Sales prices for the 1982 He Man action figure range from around $50 dollars for a loose figure in excellent condition up to around $350-$400 for an unopened He Man “12 back”. The “8 back” He Mans can be significantly higher.
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