Friends, it was in 1982 when Mattel toys released the initial first wave of action figures for their new Masters of the Universe toy line, and it was a massive success. Perhaps kids of the day were primed to accept the sword and sorcery setting thanks to the likes of Dragonslayer, The Beastmaster, and Conan the Barbarian to name a few of the movies released during that time. Whatever the reason was, I can definitely tell you that I was bowled over the first time that I laid eyes on both He-Man and Skeletor at a little toy shop in our local mall. While money was extremely tight when growing up, for some reason my Father allowed me to pick out two action figures that afternoon. And my choices that day were limited to only four characters from the Masters of the Universe toy line, the aforementioned He-Man and Skeletor as well as Beast Man and Man-At-Arms. It seemed like a rather easy choice however and both the ‘Most Powerful Man in the Universe’ as well as ‘The Lord of Destruction’ came home with me to begin their long battle of good versus evil.
Thanks to my Grandparents I was gifted the impressive Castle Grayskull playset on my birthday the following year, it stands as was one of the biggest surprises in my youth, I had not asked for it and when I ripped the paper off and saw that beautiful artwork by Rudy Obrero… I started jumping up and down in excitement. And while I may no longer wage epic battles between He-Man and his fellow Masters of the Universe against the evil legions of Skeletor for the fate of Castle Grayskull – those adventures of my youth still echo in this ‘fortress of mystery and power’.
It was two years after that first wave of Masters of the Universe figures had hit shelves when Kid Stuff Records and Tapes released The Thief of Castle Grayskull, a book and cassette tape set. Interestingly enough the read along book is totally the same as the Golden Storybooks version released the previous year, featuring a story by Roger McKenzie with illustrations courtesy of Fred Carrillo. The former might be best known for his work on Warren Publishing’s line of horror magazines like Creepy, Eerie, and even Vampirella, although in addition he did write for both DC and Marvel Comics. Carrillo also worked with Warren Publishing but was perhaps better known for illustrating a slew of the DC Comics horror tiles such as Weird War Tales, Ghosts, and House of Secrets.
The story for The Thief of Castle Grayskull finds He-Man, Teela, Stratos, Man-At-Arms, and Battle Cat with a serious problem – Skeletor has used his magic to summon a vortex that rips Castle Grayskull from the very ground to transport it to the Land of Shadows. Can He-Man and his allies prevail against the threats of a demon army and Skeletor’s minions?