The 10 Coolest Skull-Themed Knock-Off Action Figures of All Time

by Luke Toywalker and Steve Seeley on December 19, 2014

in Nerd Culture, The 80s

Collecting knock-off action figures is a growing niche market. In search of the exceptional and weird, collectors are willing to pay good money for these toys, specifically Masters of the Universe knock-offs. What was once the poor man’s Skeletor back in the 80s is the rich man’s gem today. MotU knock-offs never had the production size of the original broad market toys, which means they are much harder to find and often more valuable today.

Due to lower production costs, MotU knock-offs always had a cheaper price at retail. Low quality, bad paint applications, and minimalistic packaging is what they’re known for – and what KOllectors like myself love about them. They were designed to make quick money as opposed to establishing a consistent brand and enduring franchise. Despite this, some of them look incredibly well executed for what they are. Too bad the 80s and 90s are long gone as well as their $1 price tag. Now you need deep pockets to afford the golden age knock-off action figures greats.

Leading the MotU knock-off craze are skull/skeleton themed figures. Not only do these go for the most money, they also happen to look the coolest. If you want to get an action figure line sold, give it a skull. Or at least a villain with a skull. That could have been the motto of cheapo toy manufacturers back in the days. The list of skull-and-bones-themed toys is long, and could fill an entire book on its own. Let’s do the book later, and focus now on the 10 coolest (and perhaps most expensive) skull-themed knock-off action figures of the 80s (& all time):


1. Dethlor – Speclatron (S&T Sales, 1983)

Speclatron’s Dethlor was S&T Sales’ answer to Mattel’s Skeletor. They even bootlegged his face! However, I cannot remember any MotU figure that was this cool. Dethlor had the “Magic Action”.

Like all Speclatron figures, he came with a translucent torso filled with liquid and glitter. Snow globe and skull-themed 5.5“ muscle action figure put into one, what is not to love about that?! Unfortunately this guy is very, very, very… very hard to find. Chances to hunt him down for an affordable price in the wild are probably 1:1.000.000. Ebay prices are a month’s rent. Dethlor is the holy grail of MotU KO collecting par excellence.


2. Jewel Thief & Skullman – Warrior Beasts/Conan (Remco, 1982)

He-Man is rumored to be a KO of what was originally planned to be a Conan action figure. Remco released their Conan toyline one year after Mattel had started to roll out MotU though. That’s why Remco’s Conan was and still is considered a knock-off of what Mattel had initiated. However, Conan’s Jewel Thief is without a doubt one of the most beautiful 5.5“ action figures of all time. It’s also the first 5.5“ action figure that featured a translucent cast. A translucent red skull on a translucent red body to be precise. Is Skeletor really cooler than that? I guess not.

Remco recycled Jewel Thief’s head sculpt for their Warrior Beasts Skullman V2. It’s basically the same figure, but in solid colors and equally awesome. Probably to avoid copyright inflictions with Mattel, Remco had changed the design of Skullman V1 to V2. And in doing so, they created one of the most perfect 5.5“ action figures the world has ever seen.


3. Crossbones & Ribs – Pirates of the Galaxseas (Remco, 1982)

Yet another ’82 MotU KO line from Remco? Oh, and isn’t that the same bone head sculpt again? Yes!

Remco was genius at creating new worlds and characters by simply changing colors and swapping parts. PotG Crossbones and Ribs are no exception. Both are basically the same figure, but in different colors, and with different accessories. The coolest thing about them is their unique skeleton body though. A MotU sized skeleton action figure sure is a boy’s (and probably also girl’s) 80’s toy dream come true!

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