is Preserving Toy History.
Preserving Toy History.

Power Lords!

  Although perpetually always seeming to be buried here, I do enjoy helping out when possible for a good cause.  Such was the case with the recent gallery show (called Toypocalypse 3) for the 4 Horsemen's unveiling of their new license- the Power Lords.  To help their presentation, I was happy to supply (from our archives) three very nice large original 1980's Power Lords design concept drawings from HMS Associates, which were done in pencil on vellum.  There are a few excerpts from these drawings shown on the lower half of the page here.  These were always some of my favorites, and I hope visitors to the show enjoyed seeing them as well!  Since the gallery show was piggy-backing along with Toy Fair, it all worked out ok, thankfully.  Toy Fair always kills me... too much darn walking!
  For some reason, it appears that this may be the first (and only?) mention of this on the web, but it's all good... I'm used to being invisible, haha.  I don't push promoting this site, as for me it's never been about money, only passion, and sharing with those who might get a kick out of seeing what I feel are important, yet neglected pieces of history.  (I laugh when I think about a comment someone once made regarding things from our archives... that if we ever parted with certain things, it wouldn't matter, they'd be 'the highest bidder'.  They definitely don't know me very well; I only part with things rarely, and money has nothing to do with it!)  If anyone enjoys their time here, that's great; and if you'd like to share the site with someone, that's cool too.  It's all about what went into making our fondest toy memories!  I'd like to think we're one of the best-kept secrets out here on the web.  Sorry to get off-track there for a moment, back to the show!
  The show was nice, and I managed to make it there for the preview on Saturday night.  What made it so much more special was that I was able to bring along my beautiful son, who, of course, loves toys almost as much as I do!  I'm a very honest person (which some people hate), but let's just say that he's truly such a great kid, such a wonderful personality that I treasure whenever I can spend time with him.  He really is an angel here on Earth.  It was very loud there (am I getting old?) but it was really pretty cool.  The displays were done well, beautiful sculpting from the 4HM all around.  We got to speak with Wayne Barlowe for a few minutes, and he was a gentleman.  4HM's Cornboy was like a big kid, and spoke to my son for a little, who was cutely in awe.  The special Power Lords cake was beautifully crafted, and of course delicious (according to jr.) as you can see below.  The various prototypes on display were impressive.  I had worried a little my son might touch (or break something), but he behaved perfectly.  The cake was on the right near where you entered the gallery, behind it (on the wall) was the new Power Lords figure display, and the vintage drawings we supplied were on either side of that, so I was a little proud of my contribution being displayed prominently.  Yes, they are drawings, but to me they're kind of like a part of me, like children... I do worry about them.  As I say, an overall nice experience.  Below you can see the little one's happy cake face, how the drawings were displayed (with Cornboy in the last pic).  Now, 2 weeks later, I nervously sit here waiting the return of my wayward children... *geez, I hope they make it home ok!*  Well, back to work... too much work from Toy Fair further burying me... Just remember, it's all about fun!

Revell's Power Lords!

"No Man on Earth Has Ever Had Such Power."
(by John Kent)
   So proclaimed a series of advertisements appearing on the back of dozens of comics and magazine advertisements in the mid-1980s.

   It was a time of action figure greatness - Star Wars, Gi Joe, He-Man, and the Transformers battled for toy supremacy against all opponents.  Into this arena stepped Revell, a company known for high quality model kits. To secure a piece of the $12.5 million retail toy business (according to the New York Times, 1984), they would need to come up with something so unique and powerful that it could compete with the big lines of the time. If Mattel could make millions from a (He-)Man, Revell would create a Lord... The Power Lords.

   As I have stated on previously, the toy business is one of action and reaction. The original 12-inch Gi Joe had his genesis as a reaction to Barbie. Transformers and GoBots were the logical continuation of American companies exploiting Japanese properties, as previously seen with Shogun Warriors and Micronauts. In the 80s, there was so much money to be had in toys that every company with production capability tried to get a sliver of the market.

   The problem that every company faced was finding a way to bring something new to the table. The lines which survive to this day have a uniqueness that have allowed them to survive through the decades. Gi Joe is military; Transformers has the innate appeal of two modes, an elaborate jigsaw puzzle of robot and alternate mode (or modes); Star Wars was the most marketed phenomenon in the history of man; and Masters of the Universe was a massive world of barbarians, animal people, all executed on the same basic body style. These lines also had media support - films, cartoons, comics, and so on. It's why every other person you meet knows at least one of these properties.  What Revell was faced with was creating a brand that would allow them to compete and flourish against these juggernauts. Enter Wayne Barlowe.

   If it was Revell tasking Strongin-Mayem International with creating their "Masters of the Universe" or Strongin-Mayem bringing a concept to Revell, we do not know. Regardless, all parties put their faith in the mind of Wayne Barlowe, who had gained great notoriety in sci-fi circles with his book, Barlowe’s Guide to Extra-Terrestrials. He was responsible for the creation of the majority of the Power Lords characters. The characters and concepts that he created were true aliens.

   Revell, as they proudly stated in the catalog which introduced the Power Lords to retail buyers, were trying to bring something different to the toy shelves. They were certainly successful at doing so. The figures had a very high level of articulation for the time. There was no shared tooling over the items that saw production. Every figure had some type of moving part or power action feature. There was no other line available at the time like Power Lords.

   Unfortunately, there were some issues. Plastic quality was somewhat brittle; it was not unusual to break your new Power Lord figure within minutes of opening him. The plastic is very similar to model kits of the time.
The designs were too ambitious for production technology of the time. Although there is a great amount of detail in the sculpts, there is a strange quality to the facial details that will either make you a fan of the line - or completely chase you away. Paint can be iffy, even on sealed examples. But perhaps the greatest problem that Power Lords faced was that the concepts were just too out there for the audience in 1983.

   Today, after 30 years of HELLRAISER films, the works of Tim Burton, and various other media experiences, the idea of a hero who looks like his skin has been removed might not seem that shocking. At the time, it was just too much for people to handle. Power Lords soon found their way into the clearance KB racks of time, to be enjoyed by children on the discount aisle. 

   Today, the toys are fondly remembered by those who enjoyed the otherworldly design principles of Wayne Barlowe, and derided by those who cannot remember the joy of childhood.

   In 2013, the Power Lords will return in a new format by the acclaimed Four Horsemen, augmented with the joint system of  the indie toy sensation Glyos by Onell Design.

   The future is bright for these once-clearanced "Extra-Terrestrial Warriors".

Special thanks to John Kent of for this article

Original Power Lords joint design concepts from the ToyMemories archives
Original Power Lords Beast Machines design drawings
Original Power Lords Beast Machines concept drawings in the ToyMemories archives