LOS ANGELES – T. Mark Taylor, artist and toy designer for the He-Man and Masters of the Universe franchise as well as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, died Thursday in his Southern California home. He was 80 years old.
The cause was congestive heart failure, Taylor’s family said in an email to The Associated Press on Saturday.
He-man was the muscular frontman of toy maker Mattel’s Masters of the Universe franchise, which would later spawn an animated series that became a staple for kids. Children crowded with homework between scenes featuring the beefy cartoon hero as he battled wizards and other villains.
He-Man was the epitome of the towering superhero warrior, but also became an icon within the LGBTQ community, which saw parallels in the secret life of Prince Adam, He-Man’s alter ego.
As with many creative endeavors, many hands have shaped the franchise. Taylor said the prototypes dated back to his own childhood when he dreamed of being “the next hero.” He said he based the concept of He-Man on his view of Cro-Magnon men, as well as the Vikings.
Mattel sold more than 70 million action figures from its Masters of the Universe collection – which launched in 1982 – during the brand’s first 2.5 years, according to the New York Times.
Taylor began his career at El Segundo-based Mattel in 1976 as a packaging designer, his family said.
Mattel did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise – starring pizza-loving Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael and Leonardo – has spawned a lengthy animated series, live-action movies, and a tagline: cowabunga.
Although Taylor didn’t create any of the characters, his work as a designer helped propel them into iconic childhood images for many people around the world, including action figures and costumes that have flown off store shelves. .
Terrell Mark Taylor – who was called his middle name, Mark – was born on June 5, 1941, according to California voter registration records. He is survived by his wife of 50 years, designer Rebecca Salari-Taylor of Ranchos Palos Verdes.
“I felt him say goodbye to this world as I held him in my arms for a last kiss of love,” Salari-Taylor wrote in a Facebook post.
Taylor’s family said her stepfather Tony Salari told the artist, “If you can draw well, you’ll be fine.”
Taylor took scratch commissions for “hot rod” cars as a teenager in Redondo Beach in the early 1950s, his family said. He then attended ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena.
Taylor then worked for the US Department of Defense in Pasadena and helped with submarine, biological and technical sonar technology, and seabed mapping projects, his family said.
Taylor’s toy work has been featured in documentaries including “Power of Grayskull” and “The Toys That Made Us”.
“If I had to make a hero for today, it would be a female hero – because now is the time, because the heroes of our time are women. … We men have had our day, ”Taylor told fans during an appearance at a He-Man festival in 2015.