While He-Man may be synonymous with Mattel’s Masters of the Universe, his arch nemesis may be even more popular.
Skeletor, the Lord of Destruction, made his first appearance as both toy and in comic form back in 1981. He was included in Mattel’s debut Masters of the Universe line before Filmation’s cartoon of the same name exploded the franchise’s popularity in 1983.
While Netflix is jam-packed with new holiday releases, one of the best is a docu-series “The Toys That Made Us”, which recounts the history of several major toy lines from the 1980s. The first half of season one takes us back to the beginning of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe with in-depth interviews with the creative forces behind the mega-franchise. While He-Man was created in response to market research (a disappointing fact that resulted in lightning in a bottle), his arch nemesis was inspired by a real-life carnival haunt.
Former Mattel artist and designer Mark Taylor recounts the backstory behind the creation of Skeletor, which stemmed back to a traumatizing event at a local carnival in which he was certain he saw a real-life corpse. In fact, 60 years later Taylor learned that his encounter at the Pike Amusement Park was in fact real.
“I knew that was a real person,” he explained. “Over 60 years later, I’m watching the Discovery Channel, it turns out he was a real guy and he was really at the Long Beach Pike! It confirmed all my suspicions!”
An article on Slate explained how the corpse ended up in a Long Beach attraction and it’s pretty interesting. The hanging corpse in question was once Elmer McCurdy, an outlaw who died in a gunfight with police 65 years before being found in the funhouse. In 1911, the mischief-making vagabond robbed a train near Okesa, Oklahoma, then took his spoils — $46 and two jugs of whisky — north, where he holed up in a barnyard on the Kansas border. Police pursued him and ended up killing him in a shootout among the hay.
Who knew that one day his corpse would not only inspire one of the greatest villains of all time, but also the legendary toy line that made us as kids? Catch the new series now streaming on Netflix.
Here’s a look at the first ever Skeletor action figure with comic book: