The line of toys manufactured by Mattel showcases He Man and the Masters of the Universe, along with She-Ra, Princess of Power in four display cases during the 30th anniversary of their groundbreaking release.
In 1982, Mattel introduced the unique line of action figures for boys. This part science fiction, part sword and sorcery, new line of action figures was different from most toys of its time.
These action figures stood an imposing five inches tall, were heavily muscled and included various weapons, such as swords, shields and ray guns. In no time, Masters of the Universe became a 1980s phenomenon, which included an animated series, numerous comics and a 1987 science-fiction fantasy film.
Ashley Raburn, an instructional technology specialist at Cleveland State and longtime collector of Masters of the Universe toys, said he is pleased to present the exhibit of his favorite action figures.
“These were my favorite toys as a kid,” he said. “I guess, it’s one of those things I never let go of. As a kid it wasn’t so much of a collection, but it has evolved into that. I’m married, so I have a life outside of this, but it’s something fun to do.”
Raburn, who manages online courses at Cleveland State, explained his fascination with the toys he still cherishes.
“I tell people when they ask me about it that toys are meant to be played with,” he said. “When you see my collection on display, there are not many toys in boxes or packages. There are some, but not many.
“A toy tells a story — not just the story of the character the toy is modeled after — but it tells the story of the kids who played with it. To me that makes it fun. I call these imagination toys — storytelling toys — where people can tell their own stories with their toys.”
Raburn, 30, said he wanted to share the joy of toys with others and “this is one way of sharing it — putting it on display for people to see it.”
“I decided a long time ago that I was never going to grow up,” Raburn said. “I have good memories of my dad, who is still alive, and my grandparents who would buy toys for me. We’d play with them. It all goes back to not wanting to grow up. I’m not a big fan of that.”
The Cleveland native who graduated from Bradley Central High School and received both his master’s degree in instructional technology and bachelor’s degree in broadcasting at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, said the exhibit took four hours for him and his wife, Jennifer, to set up.
“I still have my Masters of the Universe collection from when I was a kid and they are my favorite,” he admits. “A lot of those on display are ones I have acquired. They came out at a time when you had “Star Wars” and “Conan the Barbarian” in theaters.
“Mattel wasn’t doing very well as a company and this made them the top company. It was the biggest thing they could possibly do. It was an incredible toy line in the ‘80s.”
Mattel hit pay dirt again in 2008, when they created the Masters of the Universe Classics toy line which was marketed to adult collectors. The Classics line is said to return to the original source material — the artwork, concepts, original figures — and adds superior sculpting.
Reaction to the exhibit has been very good, according to Raburn, who said the librarians tell him people ask if they can photograph the display and make comments like, “This is too fun for the library.”
“They have some really good stories about people who have come in and asked about it,” he said. “Unfortunately, I don’t get to participate with a lot of the people who are looking at it.”
While his collection may look costly, Raburn said the toys he collects are inexpensive.
“I haven’t paid a lot of money for these things. I don’t go into debt for them. If you look, you can find these things for really cheap. I do it because I enjoy it.”
Raburn said the 30th anniversary of Masters of the Universe was a primary reason for deciding to put his toy collection on display for the special exhibit. For further information, contact Ashley Raburn at: firstname.lastname@example.org.