Sunday, March 23, 2014

Warriors of the Universe: MOTU knockoff vending minis

Vending machine header card
Last week I completed one of my collection goals. I finished my set of 12 Masters of the Universe knockoff vending mini figures in transparent colors! Check out the whole crew above.

I first became aware of these many years ago when I got a green Ram-Man (who was sadly missing his axe) in a lot of random minis off eBay. He was the only one I had up until last year, when I set out to track down more of them. Fast forward to earlier this month, and Man-E-Faces and the He-Man holding an axe were the final two I needed. Thanks to the kindness of another collector and luck on eBay, I got them both within the same week!

According to what I have been able to find out online, these guys were sold in the mid-late 1980s in toy vending machines under the name "Warriors of the Universe." It must have taken someone hours to come up with that name in order to not use Masters of the Universe, huh? I actually don't remember seeing these out in the wild as a kid. I'm sure if I did, I would have gone nuts trying to amass as many quarters as possible.

Here's a list of the MOTU characters included in the set, from left to right, top to bottom in the above photo:

Ram-Man & Zodac close-up
He-Man with axe
Beast Man
He-Man with sword (possibly Faker)

These figures are made of a firm-yet-flexible plastic, maybe a bit softer than a MUSCLE figure, but not rubbery like a Monster in My Pocket figure. They're about 1.5" tall. They were also released in a variety of solid, non-clear colors, but I wanted to put together a set of the transparent versions because I think they look cooler. You can argue that the details don't show up as well on clear figures--and you'd probably be right--but man, nobody will ever be able to convince me that a mini figure doesn't get an extra jolt of awesome when it looks like a Jolly Rancher. The clear colors include orange, red, green and blue (if there are others, I haven't seen them).

Comparison with MUSCLE & Monster in My Pocket figures

Here's a shot of Mer-Man and Man-at-Arms minis in solid color versions. Interestingly enough, Mer-Man is made out of hard plastic while Man-at-Arms is made out of soft, rubbery plastic. Now that I've finished my clear set, I'll probably try to fill out a set in solid colors.

What about you? What do you think of these guys? Do you own any or remember seeing them in vending machines?


  1. Those are super awesome! I've got to start looking for them.

    1. Yeah, they are really fun in that vending bootleg sort of way. Happy hunting if you decide to start going after them. They do pop up somewhat regularly.

  2. These are awesome! It's amazing how big the MotU merchandising was. When you think you've seen it all, you find more stuff outside the official stuff! This really was absolutely HUGE back then, it's too bad I was born in 83, I pretty much miss most of it.

    1. Same here. I was born in '84 so I didn't actually have any MOTU stuff in the '80s. But I just love anything '80s-fantasy related.

  3. What a coincidence! I just picked up a clear blue Evil-Lyn at a random toy vendor at a show. I spotted her right away amidst the random figures in the bin! Born in '84, I missed MOTU for the most part. Love the clear "Jolly Rancher: (LOL!) types more.

    Why is Mer-man holding a club? Doesn't he have a sword? :)

    1. Nice score on the clear blue Evil-Lyn! The clear ones are the coolest. :)

  4. These are great! And BTW, you guys are so young! Haha! I was ripe during the MOTU heyday. I was born in '72, so I was about 9 when it all started.

  5. Hello! Do you have any extra of these translucent guys for sale? Thank you! -John

  6. No worries! These are fantastic and the translucent ones are the ones I remember as a kid. On the hunt for them. Cheers!

  7. Have a bunch of these floating around somewhere in packed up toys. We got them through Oriental Trading magazine back in the 80s when I was little, although no transparent ones. I remember having them in red, orange, dark blue, and green. I always used them as minions for the He-Man character they were of :)

    1. Cool. I didn't realize these were ever sold through Oriental Trading.