LOS ANGELES ( Associated Press) – T. Mark Taylor, artist and toy designer for the Man and Masters of the Universe franchise and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, died Thursday at his home in Southern California. He was 80.
The cause was congestive heart failure, Taylor’s family told The Associated Press on Saturday.
He-man was the beefy frontman of the toy maker Mattel Masters of the Universe franchise, which later spawned a cartoon series that became a staple for children. Children squeezed homework between scenes, which featured a tough cartoon character battling sorcerers and other villains.
He-Man may have been known as a hulking superhero warrior, but he also became an icon in the LGBT community, who 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 appeared in his own childhood, when he fantasized about being “the next hero.” He said he based the He-Man concept on his vision of Cro-Magnons as well as Vikings.
According to The New York Times, Mattel has sold over 70 million figurines from its Masters of the Universe collection in the 30 months after it hit stores nearly 40 years ago.
According to his family, Taylor began his career at Mattel in El Segundo in 1976 as a packaging designer.
Mattel did not respond to a request for comment Saturday.
Featuring pizza lovers Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael and Leonardo, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise has launched a multi-year animated series, feature films and the catchphrase: cowabunga!
Although Taylor did not create any of the characters, his work as a designer has helped transform them into iconic childhood images for many around the world, including figurines and costumes that have blown off store shelves.
According to California voter registration records, Terrell Mark Taylor, aka Mark, was born on June 5, 1941. He was survived by his 50-year-old wife, designer Rebecca Salari-Taylor of Ranchos Palos Verdes.
“I felt him say goodbye to this world as I held him in my arms for one last love kiss,” Salari-Taylor wrote in her Facebook post.
Taylor’s family said his father-in-law, Tony Salari, told the artist, “If you can draw well, everything will be fine.”
According to his family, Taylor was a teenager in Redondo Beach in the early 1950s, receiving commissions for hot rod cars. He later studied at the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena.
According to his family, Taylor continued his work at the US Department of Defense in Pasadena and contributed to projects for submarines, biological and technical sonars, and seabed mapping.
Taylor’s toy work has been featured in documentaries including The Power of the Gray Skull and The Toys That Made Us.
“If I was going to make a hero for today, it would be a woman hero – because the time has come, because the heroes of our time are women. … We men had our day, Taylor told fans while performing at the 2015 He-Man Festival.
Calvan reported from New York.