I'll Get you, He-Man!
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He-Man is the principal character of a series of comic books and several animated television series, characterized by his superhuman strength. In most variations, he is the alter ego of Prince Adam. He-Man and his friends attempt to defend the realm of Eternia and the secrets of Castle Grayskull from the forces of Skeletor.
In 1976, Mattel's CEO Ray Wagner declined the deal to produce a toyline of action figures based on the characters from the George Lucas film Star Wars, due to the $750,000 license required upfront. Following the commercial success of the film trilogy and its related merchandise during the next few years, Mattel launched several successful toylines which captured the public's imagination, or significantly influenced the toy market.
In the race to design the next hit action figure, Roger Sweet (a lead designer working for Mattel's Preliminary Design Department during much of the 1970s and 1980s) realized that simplicity was the key to success. According to his 2005 book Mastering the Universe: He-Man and the Rise and Fall of a Billion-Dollar Idea, Sweet knew that if he gave marketing something it could sell, he had won 90 percent of the battle.
The only way I was going to have a chance to sell this [to Wagner] was to make three 3D models - big ones. I glued a Big Jim figure [from another Mattel toy line] into a battle action pose and I added a lot of clay to his body. I then had plaster casts made. These three prototypes, which I presented in late 1980, brought He-Man into existence. I simply explained that this was a powerful figure that could be taken anywhere and dropped into any context because he had a generic name: He-Man!"
During the 1980s, rumors claimed that Conan the Barbarian was a source of inspiration for the He-Man character. According to this rumor, Mattel had a licensing agreement to make the Conan action figures associated with the 1982 film of the same name starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Apparently, such an idea had to be modified in order to avoid objections from parents concerned that a toyline for children was promoting a film containing nudity and violence. In addition, brown-haired prototype versions of the He-Man action figure (bearing a strong resemblance to the Conan character created by Robert E. Howard) were produced and given away by Wonder Bread as a promotion through a mail-in offer.