Sunday 15 November 2020

The Weird and Wacky World of 80s Cartoons

As I progress through the cast of characters of 'He-Man and the Masters of the Universe', the ways in which times have changed since the 80s becomes increasingly obvious. 

The past, as they say, is another country. The characters I've painted this week emphasise that in a variety of ways.

All four are from the same sculptor who did the original set of characters from Quest Miniatures, although he is no longer working with that company and these were a private commission.

From left to right we have the villains Fakerand Jitsu, and the heroes Mekanek and Sy-Klone.

'He-Man'was famously a toy led cartoon (in fact the cartoon was created purely to convince Mattel to make the toys) and perhaps no character reflects this more than Mekanek. His design was clearly influenced by the desire to create toys with 'action' features combined with the limitations of 80s manufacturing techniques.

Blessed with the lamest superpower in the universe, Mekanek has the ability extend his neck to see over thing slightly taller than himself. In the 2002 remake there's even an episode where he has a crisis of confidence over his embarrassingly weak gifts.

In game, his powers present an issue as his neck potentially could give him line of sight anywhere, but he has no ranged weapon to exploit this. I'm thinking of using a pre-game mechanic which link to his ability to recon the battlefield.

The series was cheaply made, re-using the same animation clips repeatedly. The design of Faker reflected that a similar attitude was applied to the toy line, as he was clearly made using the same mould as He-Man (and the same accessories as Skeletor) just with a different coloured plastic.

Amusingly, the only time he appeared in the cartoon, he wasn't blue, but was exactly the same as He-Man. His toy's blue design does present some problems for Skeletor's plan to have the 'Evil Robot Impostor' impersonate He-Man and ruin his reputation. However, nobody on Eternia is bright enough to work out that He-Man is Prince Adam in different clothes, so perhaps a bright blue impersonator might actually fool the dimwits.

Ah. Jitsu. The karate-chopping, samurai-styled, ever so uncomfortable reminder that racial stereotypes were not only common, but were happily promoted on children's TV. In a cast of fish people, lizard men and talking green tigers, Jitsu was the only 'human' character that wasn't white.

I suppose he represents the growing popularity of martial arts in western culture. Something that the release of the 'Ninjor' toy at the end of the line built upon. Making them both villains doesn't help though. 

At least when Thundercats came along, the samurai Hachiman became a hero after first appearing as a villain. It's funny how both Eternia and Third Earth both seem to have a Japan tucked away somewhere.

Sy-Klone is not a character I'm that familiar with, as he's from the later releases of the toys. He at least had a genuine power in the ability to manipulate the winds.

He was a bit of a bugger to paint with the heavy use of yellow and the radar scanner in his chest (how does he use it?), which Mattel achieved with a handy sticker, but I had to paint freehand...several times.

I'm pleased with the four of them as they are ticking off those key characters that I want to get to 'complete' the project. Mekanek and Faker are specifically characters that I felt that I was missing. Whiplash and Buzz-Off are now the last two remaining on that list of 'must-haves'.

Progress is slower at the moment as I'm very busy with work, but at least still moving forwards as lockdown is having an impact on my purchases.

Acquired: 217
Painted: 256


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks. There's something faintly pathetic about him. :)

  2. Splendid additions. The radar on Sy-Klone looks great!

    1. Thanks. For some reason I did it off centre the first time.

  3. Mekanek and Jitsu - I love them!

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