Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Conan/He-man Myth!

A while back, there was a rumor floating around that He-man (Masters of the Universe) was originally designed to be a Conan action figure series based on the movie Conan the Barbarian, but the toy was then redesigned due to the extremely violent nature and subsiquent R rating recieved by the movie.

Makes sense, He-man is a big muscle-bound dude with a big sword and even bigger axe. And to bolster such claims, collectors began showing examples of an alleged Conan action figure that you can see here...

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But, alas, it turns out that the rumors were nothing more but toy urban legend. There have since been interviews with the original designers of the Masters of the Universe line that strike down the rumor saying that He-man was always meant to be He-man with no connection to Conan the Barbarian at all.

The figure that many people were seeing pop up on sites like ebay was actually an early mail-away premium figure that was essentially just a He-man repaint. As you can see here...

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Here is "Conan" in his packaging...

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Despite the light of truth on the legend, some people still tried to keep the myth alive and even tried to profit from it via collector’s sites. One cunning artificer even went as far as to repaint a He-man figure, lavishly covered in spattered blood, then create a package that clearly showed the name "Conan" on the front. He even took it so far as to mock up the back of the card to show that Conan was originally intended to be a part of the line.

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Still, for a fake, it’s a damn good one. I was initally fooled and lusted after it for my collection, but soon learned the truth!

There was, however, a small line of Conan action figures put out in the 80’s by Remco, that looked a whole hell of a lot like the He-man figures, but that is another story...

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UPDATE!

I dug around on the net and found yet another article that SUPPORTS the Conan/He-man myth! Crom! So I guess the debate will go on and on and on...

It seems that the myth that the toys would be based on the movie is false; the movie was always intended to be an adult, R-rated gore-fest. But it is somewhat true that Mattel was looking for a new "fantasy-adventure" toyline and Conan was in the running.

So I would say that although He-man wasn’t "meant to be" Conan, he sure as hell was greatly inspired by Conan.

Check out these article on the subject from some Mattel Creators in the early 80’s...

He-man Article from ToyFare Magazine

And here are some other articles that touch on the subject...

Toon Zone Forum

This fallowing paragraph is taken from Wikipedia, discussing the connection/myth...

"Links to Conan the Barbarian

There is an enduring urban legend about the so-called "Conan toy line". The story is that the Mattel Toy Company originally intended to base an action figure line on Conan the Barbarian, the pulp fantasy character created by Robert E. Howard which at the time was the lead in several popular series produced by Marvel Comics and due to be the subject of a major movie. However, after viewing the film, the Mattel executives despaired at the thought of promoting a children’s toy with ties to a film featuring such graphic sex and violence. Thus they gave their doll blonde hair and re-dubbed him "He-Man". The legend is unverified but persistent, and most likely false since the first He-Man action figures were produced in 1981, a year before the first Conan film. Roger Sweet, the originator of He-Man, asserts that the He-Man/Masters Of The Universe concept definitely was not an outgrowth of Conan. The He-Man concept, later renamed the Masters Of The Universe, was originated and developed by Roger Sweet in late 1980. Later, that initial concept was followed by the original comics by Donald F. Glut. The Conan license had been dropped by Mattel months before the He-Man concept was begun. At that time, the barbarian fantasy theme, later applied to the He-Man/Masters concept and line, was broadly visible notably in Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo barbarian fantasy art - not specifically from Conan."

Full article here; Wikipedia Masters of the Universe

4 comments:

Mikeyboy said...

I got some of my info from Box full'o junk. There is a small paragraph in there similar to what a basically restated.
But c'mon man,,,you aint gonna believe those people are you? "OH NO, HE-MAN HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH CONAN HE WAS ONLY CREATED BECAUSE IT WAS OUR ORIGINAL IDEA "
The head villain looks exactly like Thulsa Doom. Dead give away to me. I saw the connection way back then too.

Mikeyboy said...

It's a pretty big fiasco what went on with this.
There actually was a deal and Mattel did change their minds. There was a lawsuit and a breach of contract and Mattel actually did change there minds. People like to mention that the toys came out in 1981 - in fact the copyright was submitted in 81 and the toys came out early 82. Meanwhile the film was in the can and ready to go. Movies back then took several years to complete. CONAN began filming in 1977. The CONAN people were furious about this. But they lost the suit and Mattel got away with it. So now anyone who represents CONAN or Mattel will deny any connection at all. But One thing that can't be denied is the simple fact that any barbarian character that came out after CONAN was indeed inspired by CONAN.
So I submit to you folks. Who cares what Mattel did? CONAN is the KING rip him off all you want.
CONAN's people's integrity is intact. So the myth is not busted but the Mattel people are. Too bad. An official line of toys with the backing of Mattel would have been awesome.
But we're not supposed to know any of this.

Sean Akizuki said...

Hmmm to say that it's not an outgrowth of Conan seems to much of a lie. Why? Think about it, many of the characters in He-Man were inspired by Conan characters, of course the obvious being He-Man. So here are the others:

She-Ra and Red Sonja- Both are sword wielding females of immense strength, except Red Sonja is not Conan's sister.

Skeletor and Thulsa Doom- Both are undead sorcerers who live in a dark fortress.

King Hiss and Thoth Amon- Both are snake-crazed sorcerers who worshiped a snake god.

Amra and Battlecat- Conan had a battle lion, He-Man had Battlecat.

Mikey D. said...

Conan's Black Lion's name was Sholo...