Sun-Man joins He-Man’s Iconic Origins toy line as Masters of the Universe turns 40
This year, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe celebrates its 40th anniversary. And more than four decades later, the franchise is still wildly popular, dabbling in various forms of media, from comic books to a few new animated series, an upcoming live-action movie, and of course, toys and action figures. of action.
With all the new media coming for the franchise for the foreseeable future. One announcement this year that certainly piqued my interest is that Sun-Man and the Rulers of Sun will be joining the Masters of the Universe toyline this year.
So who is Sun-Man?
Sun-Man is an action figure created by Yla Eason in 1985. Eason created the figure after his son told him he could never be a superhero because of his skin color while on vacation. “[My son] was playing with the He-Man toy. [Myself and my former husband] told him something about being a superhero and he looked at us with the straightest face possible and said, “I can’t be a superhero because I’m not white”, Eason told IGN when telling the story of the inspiration that drove her. to create Sun-Man.
When asked about Sun-Man’s name, Eason told us that his name was inspired by two things: the first being his son. The second and most important is that Eason started researching “why is our skin brown” and she learned that it was because of melanin or the pigment that gives color to your skin, your hair and your eyes and can also help protect against sun damage and reduce the risk of sunburn. “The more melanin in your skin, the darker you look,” Eason said.
While further noting that the sun is a source of energy. “All of his powers come from his magical melanin skin which cannot be cut, torn, scraped, bruised, or anything can happen to his skin. And it was all intentional to place positive actions, thoughts and beliefs on color my son’s skin and other kids who might think there’s something negative about dark skin,” Eason explained.
At first glance, Sun-Man seems like he could easily fit into the He-Man universe, which has always been the goal, so if fans of He-Man toys bought one of the Rulers of the Sun, it wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb. “It was a conscious decision; we didn’t want Sun-Man to be seen as an outsider through this massive He-Man collection,” Eason said. “That’s why his height, his muscular build, his obvious superhero stance were all intentional.”
The “Doll Test”
While creating Sun-Man, Eason told us she spoke with Dr. Kenneth Clark, an American scientist who is best known for a series of experiments using dolls to study children’s views on race in the 1940s. The tests themselves were massively influential at the time because they observed racial perceptions in children. “At this time, segregation is when children cannot see themselves in a toy, it affects how they feel about themselves, their self-esteem, their importance and can even affect their achievements in their lives,” Dr. Clark told Eason. when they met.
Eason explained that in the 1980s, He-Man and Masters of the Universe toys were among the most popular characters, noting that it was “the landscape” of toys aimed at little boys at the time. “Everyone was into He-Man,” Eason said. When she went out looking for black superhero toys, Eason was surprised that she couldn’t find any in stores and she then asked other mothers of color about it, to which they agreed that they couldn’t find anything for their boys that looked like them.
Sun-Man isn’t the only hero created by the Olmecs, as the rulers of the sun have brought other allies for Sun-Man as well. Including Digitino, a computer wizard of Latino descent, and the Butterfly Woman, one of the rulers of the sun who served as She-Ra’s black counterpart.
Still, creating Sun-Man wasn’t the hardest part of the Sun-Man and the Rulers of the Sun toy line: it was the marketing. Eason explained that when she introduced the toy, she pointed out Sun-Man’s demographics and importance and was met with resistance from retail buyers. “[The] the resistance to the concept was severe, unexpected,” is what Eason told him when trying to bring Sun-Man to market.
Despite this, Eason decided to sell the toy in various local locations, from bodegas to local neighborhood stores, and gather evidence that there was a market for this type of toy. “I took out a full-page ad in Ebony magazine and advertised the product to market, and then I started writing letters and this postman type effort to get people to go to stores and say, ‘Where’s the Sun-Man?'”
Looking to the present, Eason has high hopes for the toy industry in terms of the changes seen. “People recognize that the market is very diverse and that we have to meet everyone’s cultural and social needs.” Eason thinks the toy industry has a lot of growth in which these companies can recognize different figurines of ethnic backgrounds.
This would be the second time Mattel released a Sun-Man figure. Last year, the company released a special limited-edition Sun-Man figure that sold out instantly. The Sun-Man figure as part of the Masters of the Universe Origins toy line will hit shelves worldwide in the first quarter of this year.
Taylor is the Associate Technical Writer at IGN. You can follow her on Twitter @TayNixster.