Monday, November 21, 2011

Under the Man-croscope: Power Lords!

The Man-croscope! A super-calibrated instrument that scrutinizes that which you held dear as a child and criticizes it with the unloving eye of an unfulfilled adult! What will the Man-croscope focus on this week?

We already know that the run away success of Mattel's Masters of the Universe led to a hastily bashed together bounty of sci-fi/fantasy themed muscular miscreants. And not many of them gained traction. But there's one obscure group of toys that will forever be burned into my mind - a line so bizarre and unsettling that both enchanted and terrified me as a child. I'm talking about Revell's short-lived Power Lords, released in 1983, to the delight of no one.

 What made them so memorable and blood-curdingly horrifying? Find out with me, after the jump!

Sadly, I can't find a television commerical for these toys and I have no recollection of how they were unleashed on the general public. I most likely stumbled upon them in the toy aisle and was mesmerized by their mildly threatening hideousness.

This print ad is floating all over the 'net though and gives you a stomach churning introduction to the literally twisted nature of these figures...

Now, believe it or not, that profane ghoul is actually the hero! It's mere coincidence that he looks like a demented soul from Hellraiser. Just try to ignore the dead fleshy human face on the back of his head. It's nothing to worry about. Sleep easy, children.

Even the less human, and more fanciful characters have somewhat of a dark and tortured look. Examine the desperate and penetrating stare of this colourful bad guy. I think they called him "Rape Ape":

So why on earth were these toys so unrelentingly fucking scary? The answer is actually a good one.

I guess H.R. Giger was unavailable, so Revell hired science-fiction and fantasy artist Wayne Barlowe to design these characters. Now, this is particularly fascinating to me because as a child I also owned (and was terrified and amazed by) this truly wonderful book (which I would love to find a copy of!):

Barlowe is an intense artist with a rich imagination, and this book is full of mesmerising one page illustrations that showcase his nightmare creations. As a child I would turn each page with hushed reverence - eyes as big as saucers - thrilled by Barlowe's brilliance, and shit-scared that everything in the book was going to kill me.

You know, it never occurred to me as a young child (who only looked at the pictures) that these are actually depictions of species that had been written about in famous sci-fi books (even though it says as much on the cover). He's also done a fantasy version where he depicts famous fantasy characters. Magnificent bastard!

Anyway, look at some of this stuff!

That's some scary shit right there, right? And WTF is this?:

It's got hands like the birthing droid in Revenge of the Sith! Arrrggh! What does he do with those? And this illustration nearly fucked me up for life:


So yes. Revell sees all this crazy shit, and they think, "This guy is going to make some stellar toys! I can see them right their on the shelf next to Glow Bugs", and Wayne Barlowe gets to unleash some super inspired crazy creepiness onto the page.

And this is where I come in. As a child I got the opportunity to pick one. Scary in his own way, I chose the shotgun weilding, ever-smiling Sydot:

I still find him pretty fascinating. Sort of like a proto Barney the Dinosaur. He didn't transform like our hero Adam Power, but his jaw open and closed with a lever, and his chest plate came off so you could see him in full jumpsuit mode. But disaster struck! I took super good care of my toys but, upon getting Sydot home, one of his legs fell completely off!

It's probably the reason that I didn't end up with more Power Lords in my collection. And I guess Revell - known for their model kits - are more used to selling you shit in a hundred pieces. But we dealt with the loss. My blossoming sense of social justice led us to return Sydot to the store for a replacement and - best of all - I returned him in a hand-made paper coffin! BAD ASS.

There were also some small non-articulated plastic figurines of the main characters and I do recall that I owned a few of those, including Rape Ape and mosquito-like villain Arkus. Finding pictures of this stuff is incredibly difficult though, and I fear that Power Lords has been lost to the ages. If you strain your eyes you'll be able to see most of what the line had to offer, along with one of the scariest vehicles ever known to man...

Do you remember Power Lords? Tell me about it in the comments below!


  1. I remember a friend had Power Lord...his body flicked around to reveal a member of the blue man group. It was only a surprise if you never walked behind Power Lord.

  2. I had the Adam Power figure as a kid and always thought it was a Tron toy.

    Also, his 6-fingered hands REALLY freak me out.

  3. The thought of miniLuke solemnly returning a dead toy in a paper coffin is ADORABLE.

  4. Whoa! I had no idea Barlowe designed toys as well! My wallet isn't going to like this.