Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It’s doubtful that this rings true in all cases. However, it does make for some interesting outcomes in the world of action figures. As a kid growing up in the 80’s I saw my fair share of copycats and knock-offs. I myself had a few generic Transformers; in fact, my first Transformers toy was a GO-BOT sized black van. I was so excited to finally get a transforming robot that I didn’t noticed it wasn’t a true citizen of Cybertron. This discovery didn’t tarnish my opinion of my new toy. Sadly this could not be said for most unwanted knock-offs.
Knock-Offs are mostly destroyed or simply discarded soon after being purchased in favor for their more legitimate counterparts. This outcome mixed with the limited production is the very reason that knock-offs are so hard to come by. Then why do these figures even exist? Well, with everything popular there always is someone looking to cash in. And in the early 1980’s there was no boy’s toy line more popular the Mattel’s Master of the Universe. I remember seeing these knock off Eternians in the grocery store and gas station in my youth. I was always fascinated with them, but my mother was never one to splurge on toys while in coupon mode at the local Jewel Osco.
This brings up another good question. Why should I now plunk down my hard earned cash and spend my precious time hunting for these second rate figures? The answer is simply: rarity. Like all collectables rarity is what makes collectors collect and collectables desirable. It’s the reason that a double die wheat penny fetches six grand while it’s unflawed brothers are only worth the copper they’re pressed from. It also about representing the complete timeline and history of the toy line. No self respecting Starwars aficionado doesn’t have the blue snaggle tooth rounding out their collection. The main reason however, is that knock-offs explore areas the original line dare not tread. This leads to the uniquely strange, the some times ridiculous and, in some rare cases, truly amazing figures. We will be looking down all these avenues as we explore the world of MOTU Knock-Off figures.
MOTU biggest competitor was Remco’s Warrior Beasts released only months after He-man raised his power sword over the towers of Grayskull. Some say that the small New Jersey based toy company was in fact not copying MOTU, but only paying homage to the same influences that He-Man was based on. Such as: Conan the Barbarian, Sword and Sorcery comics and the art of Frank Frazetta. I myself don’t buy this for a second. The very existence of the Remco’s Skullface shouts a hurried attempt to ride the coat tales of the of Mattel’s main baddy, Skeletor. This lead to the inevitable lawsuit by Mattel and the thus a re-sculpt of Skullface. Remco produced 11 figures in the line with 2 variations. The most significant being the before mentioned Skullface. There were also two versions of the War Beast 2-Packs that consisted of a mount (Fire Dragon) and rider.
Remco also made a companion line to Warrior Beast called Lost World of the Warlord which was advertised as the Hero’s of the WB’s universe. This line was based on the DC comic series by Mike Grell. Much like WB’s, the figures came in many versions, and were also packaged with mounts in Warteam two packs and play sets. Most collectors consider these line separate even though Remco intermixed these figures on card backs and tried to create a halo effect for their consumers. Remco had some success with both GW and LWOW that in turn spawned other lines like Conan, Pirates of the Galaxies and Mighty Crusaders. They even inspired several Knock-Offs of their own.
Unfortunately, both lines never made it past one series and never reached the same level as the Master of the Universe. Mattel’s continuity, Filmation cartoon, and overall high level of art direction out produced, out sold, and outlived both of Remco’s attempts to enter the 80’s boy market. That being said Warrior Beast and Lost World of the Warlord were great additions to the 6” muscle men universe. Now if I only could of convinced my mom to get me a few growing up.
Galaxy Warriors is a MOTU knock-off in the truest sense the word. Produced in 1983 by Sungold toys, the Galaxy Warriors only mission was to tap into the MOTU market. The 12 figure and 4 mount line was also highly influenced by Frank Frazetta. His influences can be clearly seen in the artwork on the cardbacks. The Warriors were developed and manufactured at light speed in order to take advantage of the MOTU popularity. Their frenetic pace caused many inconstancies throughout the line as well as many variations in figures. These inconsistencies mixed with whimsical stye lend well to the sword and sorcery theme of the figures. Galaxy Warriors high level of detail and modest origins make it the perfect toy to also be targeted for bootlegging. The first
company to make a bootleg was a GW line up from the back of the Beast of Ferroe box. company called Sewco. Sewco made it’s Galaxy Fighters in the mid to late 80’s. The Galaxy Fighters look more or less like their Warrior counterparts. The fighter did come with different more elaborate accessories but were made with inferior materials. The biggest difference however is in the detail of the sculpts. More and more companies home and overseas began manufacturing their version of the Galaxy Warriors. It’s hard to know how many do exist. What we do know it that this process created some truly unique figures that would never have been produced in a more corporate setting.
Superhead Muscle Fighters is one of those unique variation in the KO world. I discovered them hunting the interweb looking for information on rare un-produced toys. My investigation lead me to finding the truly rare Superhead figures. The SMF are a solid black rubber figure with no articulation much like a LJN Wrestler. They have a removable glow in the dark head that can be interchanged. There are five different head sculpts. The Warlock, Snake-Face, Robo-Knight, Deep-One and the FLY. These head sculpts are what really make these figures amazing. All of the heads are from an original designs and wonderfully detailed. As far as I can tell SMF came with one head per package, however most collectors that have been fortunate enough to find one loose seem to find more than one head included. It’s possible that some were packaged with multiple heads, but the only ones I have seen MOC have have been packed with one. In any event I am still hunting for this rare knock-off.
Speclatron figures are the holy grail of MOTU knock-offs. They were manufactured by S&T Sales as well as some other brands overseas. Speclatron figures get their name from their clear chest filled with water and sparkles. Yes, sparkles! Well, glitter, I guess, is the more correct term. Recently I had no idea that these figures even existed at all. I ran across them at local toy show and was immediately captured by a piece of glitter in the chest of a 30 year old toy. These amazing figures were most likely inspired by the Galaxy Warriors line and borrow heavily from their sculpts, accessories and packaging. Speclatron is one of those toys that really captures the creative juggernaut that was the 80’s. The truly exciting thing is that it’s almost impossible to know the extent that some of these lines morphed into. I have only given a brief description of only a few know MOTU knock-offs. So with that, the hunt continues Warpers. Tell next time, Keep digging in through those garage sales and dollar boxes!