One of the main lines I've been collecting for the last few years is Masters of the Universe Classics, and honestly, I think it's one of the best toy lines to come out in a long time. I've been wanting to start covering the MOTUC figures here on the Plastic Eyeball, but before I get to them I figured I'd go back to the beginning. Also, I guess I still have some nostalgia left over from the last post.
I don't think the kids of today will ever understand what we kids of the 80's got out of the Masters of the Universe. It was a toy line that had something for everyone. You like wizards and barbarians in a fantasy setting? Done. You like monsters or robots? You can have both. You like magic, futuristic technologies, time travel, space aliens, or super powers? MOTU had it all! Combine all that with a cartoon series that still resonates with people today (for me it's the music, sound effects, and characters more than the storylines themselves), and a series of old-school techno-fantasy comic books and you've got yourself a winner.
BATTLE ARMOR HE-MAN
I'll always think of He-Man's classic battle harness look as the definitive He-Man, but the Battle Armor version is MY He-Man. This was the He-Man figure I had the longest, and also the one I thought was the most fun. He had battle damage before battle damage was popular, and the action feature became a classic of the line.
You hit He-Man once, shame on you. You hit He-Man twice... You ain't gonna hit He-Man again!
This version is He-Man's second most popular look. Even though everyone knows the classic battle harness look, this version was still used on book covers, t-shirts, etc. I still don't have a classic-look MOTUC He-Man, but I do have the Battle Armor version, and that's good enough for me.
He-Man's not going anywhere without his trusty Battle Cat! Well, I guess he could take the Attack Trak, Wind Raider, Talon Fighter, etc, but He-Man without Battle Cat is like Batman without the Batmobile. It just doesn't compute. Battle Cat was completely unarticulated, but he's posed in such a way that he looks good whether he's taking out the bad guys or just standing around. Obviously he doesn't come with any weapons (because he IS a weapon), but his armor is removable.
Take the armor off, and Battle Cat becomes Cringer! Well, kinda. More like naked Battle Cat, but everyone used him as Cringer like this.
Prince Adam has got to be the worst secret identity that any hero ever had. People make fun of Superman for his simple Clark Kent glasses, but Adam doesn't even have those! His voice isn't as deep as He-Man's, and he's less tan (in the cartoon). That's it. He still looks exactly like He-Man! Yet even his father King Randor couldn't put two-and-two together. At least in the 200X series the designers had the good sense to make Adam and He-Man different ages and sizes. The figure itself is interesting enough. Sure, the purple tights are kinda sissy, but who doesn't love that snappy red vest?
BATTLE ARMOR SKELETOR
Now, as iconic as He-Man is, he's still got nothing on Skeletor. I almost always favor the good guys over the bad guys, but Skeletor is just too Skeletor to be ignored. He's got the hooded skull head, the wicked havoc staff, that laugh... I truly believe that more than Megatron, more than Cobra Commander, more than Mumm-Ra, Skeletor is the villain of the 80's. Only Darth Vader could match his pure villain-ness, but he doesn't count, cuz he's from the 70's.
With that bat symbol on his chest, you could almost say this is the Evil Horde version of Skeletor. You could use him as Skeletor back when was Hordak's apprentice. He's also got the same cool battle damage action feature as Battle Armor He-Man:
Like Battle Armor He-Man, Battle Armor Skeletor is MY Skeletor. I had most of the vintage Skeletor versions at one point or another, but this was probably my first, and he was around the longest. He must have really meant something to me, because he's with me in this old portrait of my brother Alexander and I.
He made it into the portrait! I can just picture how this scenario went:
PHOTOGRAPHER: Should we make him put it down?
MOM: Don't bother. He won't put it down.
PHOTGRAPHER: Are you sure? These portraits are usually in people's families forever.
MOM: Yeah. He won't put it down.
LITTLE ZACH: Cheese!
This Stratos looks like he's in perfect shape, but that's because he's actually a modern re-release of the original figure. I never had a vintage Stratos, and truth be told, he was never one of my favorite characters. It's not that I had anything against him, he was just kind of boring compared to some of He-Man's other teammates. Still, he's got some bright colors for a flying monkey-man, and they clash oh so nicely.
From this point on, the figures in this spotlight are going to either have moderate-to-significant paint wear, no accessories, or both. I got this Teela second-hand, and she's still in decent shape. I had to reinforce a crack on her somewhere with glue, but I must have done a good job because I can't find it.
Teela is one of only three female characters to show up in Masters of the Universe, which is still pretty impressive givien the time period these figures came out. And unlike the old Star Wars or G.I. Joe lines, they weren't afraid to make her obviously feminine. I'm not gonna lie. I like those hips. Yeah. I like those hips...
And now for the second-ugliest figure in the line! Ol' hamburger head here was also bought second-hand and came with none of his armor. I don't know why I even bought him without his armor, because without it he looks like a lowly Eternian guard at best. Man-At-Arms is an important character in the mythos, but you'd never know it by looking at this figure. Only Whiplash is uglier. In fact, Whiplash was so ugly (and not in a good, monster-y kind of way), even as a kid I didn't want him, and I wanted everybody.
Skeletor's right-hand goon was featured almost as much as Skeletor himself in secondary merchandise. I had a pair of scissors with a lenticular sticker that would switch between He-Man and Beast Man. My favorite Beast Man detail was always his colorful face, which for some reason never made it into any of the cartoons or movies he was featured in.
I never really liked how all of Skeletor's underlings were portrayed as idiots. I guess that's why I like Evil-Lyn so much. Even back in the beginning, her intelligence and her scheming made her an interesting character. She's evolved over the years to being one of the core MOTU characters, and it was even revealed that she had a secret son with Skeletor. I wonder who he is. And there's those hips again.... Nummy nummy....
This one's seen some wear and tear. This is my original Orko, and as you can see, he's had a lot of use over the years. I think he's usually a love-him-or-hate-him kind of character, but he's one of my faves. This figure had a ripcord-activated spinning gimmick, and I'm guessing that's why he's so big. We wouldn't get a perfect Orko until the MOTUC line.
Out of all the Heroic characters I had as a kid, Moss Man was probably my favorite. I've always loved a good flocking, and his fresh "pine" smell was burned into my memory. I'll still smell it at random times, and it always takes me back. Too bad this figure's smell is long gone (this one just smells... old). My original Moss Man lost his head when I left him in the sun in the back of the car for too long while we were at the zoo. I came back, turned his head, and it popped right off in my hands.
One thing I've always loved about the MOTU line is how much they were able to do with a limited number of parts. Moss Man is just a green, flocked version of Beast Man, but they look so different you rarely think of it.
My Stinkor is still in pretty good shape. He was often portrayed as Moss Man's nemesis, since they both had "smelling" gimmicks. Stinkor supposedly stank, but I always thought he actually smelled pretty good. It's another one of those unique scents that always takes me back to my childhood when I smell it. But unlike my Moss Man, Stinkor here still has his smell! It's concentrated in his ass, so it feels kinda weird sniffing him, but nothing triggers my nostalgia quite like a smell, so it's a small price to pay. Stinkor shared his head with Mer-Man, which works as well for a mammal as it does for a fish! More parts-sharing at its finest!
This is where the magic is.
Fisto is similar to Stratos in the fact that I never really thought he was anything special. His big metal fist is cool, but he's just so normal compared to the likes of Man-E-Faces or Snout Spout. Still, he's not without his charm, and future versions of his character would be much more impressive.
Stridor is one of two robotic war horses from MOTU, and the design works so well they could have easily used it a few more times. I'm missing the helmet and the tail, but he still barely looks incomplete. His box showed He-Man riding him, but I always saw him as Fisto's horse. I'm positive that's backed up somewhere. Was it from the cartoon? I think so. It would be cool to see Stridor all articulated in the MOTUC line, but I won't be holding my breath.
While I find Jitsu more interesting than his arch-enemy Fisto, he's still only a mid-level Evil Warrior. I have some cool ideas for his MOTUC counterpart, but the original one was always just kinda there for me (although I did pretend to be him as a kid). Because of the finger guard (or whatever it's called) on his sword, he can't hold it nicely. One detail that always appealed to me was his hollow wrist. Fisto's fist could easily be a big glove, but I always assumed Jitsu's hand was fake, mostly because of that hollow wrist.
For me, Buzz-Off marked a shift between the "normal" Heroic Warriors and the more interesting weirdos. He looks like a mutant or some kind of fantasy creature, but his mechanical wings make me wonder what his origins actually are. Details that make you think like that are one of my favorite things about MOTU, in any incarnation.
The first thing you'll probably notice is that this is not Webstor's vest. That's very astute of you. This is another one of my second-hand figures, and he didn't come with his vest. I somehow had an extra Zodac vest, so I gave it to him. Cosmic Enforcer Webstor! I used to think Webstor was just okay, but when the 200X series made him all mysterious and lethal I gained a new appreciation for him.
Nipples Magee Rattlor, one of my all time favorite MOTU characters. The addition of the Snake Men and the Evil Horde gave us a whole slough of new villains for the heroes to battle, and MOTU always did villains right. Rattlor was cool because he had various story elements to use (he's a high ranking Snake-Man, then he's a member of the Horde). I usually prefer a blank slate for a character so I can make up what ever I want, but Rattlor's got plenty for me to work with, and I love it!
For the story behind his nipples, see the previous post.
I'll always love Skeletor and his goons, but the Horde has got to be my favorite faction of MOTU villains. All of the best weirdos are there! Like this guy. Mosquitor is a mosquito themed monstrosity who could suck your blood till his chest cavity was filled with it. I hate mosquitoes, but I love this guy! Was he ever in the cartoons? I can't remember. I can't imagine what he would sound like, and I'm thinking it makes him even freakier if he can't speak. It's not like he has much of a mouth, not that that ever stopped anyone in these kinds of lines before.
Noticing a trend with the names here? The Horde had the weirdest looking characters, but that doesn't mean Skeletor's Evil Warriors were ignored. Spikor is another one of my favorite figures from the line. I remember getting him for Christmas one year when I was a kid, and I also got the Land Shark for him to drive. That was a badass combination! The only part of Spikor that I never cared for was his trident hand. I know it's one of his main details, but it just doesn't look threatening. With the balls on the end of the tips, it looks more like a shiny frog hand than a deadly trident.
If the Heroic Warriors were going to keep my attention, they were going to have to jump on the weirdness wagon too (because I loved the weird stuff even way back then). Well, they went above and beyond the call of duty, because Snout Spout is one of the weirdest characters in the line! A firefighter in bright orangey-red, with a mechanical elephant head - you know he would become one of my faves! Moss Man was my favorite Heroic Warrior as a kid, but Snout Spout became my favorite over the years. You just can't beat the weirdness!
... Or can you? Snout Spout may be my favorite Heroic Warrior, but Mantenna has got to be my favorite figure from the original MOTU line. Look at him! The combination of bright red and dark blue colors, the four legs, the leech mouth, and those eyes! Those beautiful bug-eyes! You raise the lever on his back and his eyes bugged out of his head! He's from the Evil Horde of course. Mantenna was all skinny and cowardly in the She-Ra cartoon, but his figure was buff and threatening. I prefer him this way.
At the time of this writing I still have a month or so to go before I get the new Masters of the Universe Classics Mantenna, but you can bet I'm super stoked for him!
Another one of those slimy Snake-Men, Snake-Face could pop snakes out of his face and turn people to stone. His action feature worked the same way Mantenna's did with the back lever, but this one is much more creepy than weird. Still a cool gimmick though, and I haven't seen much like this in toys since.
If there was anyone that would probably be impervious to Snake-Face's powers, it would have been the Rock Warriors, Rokkon and Stonedar. I never had a Stonedar until the recent MOTUC version, but I've had Rokkon for years, so he's naturally the Rock Warrior I prefer. The Rock Warriors could transform into boulders, and the transformation gimmick was so simple and easy to do that I'm still impressed with it today. You just bend them over and... that's it! Seriously, it's simple, but effective. I love it!
You know, I didn't find out that Rokkon had lasers in his arms until the last week or so, but there they are! I rarely used a figure's accessories as a kid, because I didn't have the patience to find them in my toy baskets and use them. I usually just pretended the weapons were there. But when they came molded to a figure like this, I was extra happy. Too bad I missed these ones...
Here's Grizzlor, or as my wife calls him, "Fuzzy Poo Man". Grizzlor is another great figure, but he's also the least weird of the Evil Horde. That says something! I love his furry body, and I would have thought they'd use it again with other characters. A green fuzzy guy, or even a human dressed in fur for cold climates would have been cool. There were two versions of Grizzlor: One with light brown plastic fur, and one with dark brown plastic fur. I'm pretty sure the actual furry parts were the same color. I've both over the years, but not at the same time. I prefer the light one myself, since I had that one as a kid, but I think the dark one is the rarer of the two. So either way, I'm good.
Saurod is from the live action Masters of the Universe movie, and I always thought he was super cool looking. He's much less cool without his helmet though, which I sadly lost down the toilet. Don't ask. The tab on his back that you pump to make him blow sparks is missing too, but I can still get him to spark. He didn't last very long in the movie, and his death was less than impressive (just vaporized by Skeletor for failure). If the MOTUC line manages to keep going forward, I hope we get a new Saurod, because I plan on significantly upping the "lethal" factor with him.
At least without his helmet, you can look down into Saurod's spark-making brain. So I that's something. I guess.
The last of my Evil Horde weirdoes is Leech, and he's another one of my all time faves. He's got a pump-powered suction cup for a mouth that really does have some wicked suction to it. I've stuck him on mirrors so tightly I thought I would either break him or the mirror if I just yanked him off. Luckily you can pick at his lips to detach him without issue.
I remember getting my first Leech figure as a kid while visiting a store with my dad. My mom bought way more of my figures for me than my dad did, but on this occasion we found ourselves in the toy aisle. I remember going, "Hey Dad, there's Leech!", and he said, "I wonder what he's doing here?". I said, "Maybe he's waiting for someone to buy him", and my dad took him off the shelf and handed him to me.
That's one of my favorite childhood memories.
Some of the earlier beast figures were Screeech and Zoar. I never had either one as a kid, but I picked up Screeech second-hand. Like so many other figures in this line, he's got an action feature that's simple, but very effective. You push and release the tab on his leg which lifts and drops his wings. The wings are made of a soft, rubbery plastic, so the effect really looks like he's flapping his wings and flying. The perch he comes with is just a nice bonus.
Screeech was released as a pack-in with Evil-Lyn in the MOTUC line, as a normal-sized eagle instead of a giant monster bird. It's nice to have him in the line again, but I think I prefer him as a monster (with awesome wing-flapping action).
One of the more random MOTU subsets was the Meteorbs, transforming egg-creatures from space. These figures have been rereleased a dozen times in different colors and in different lines, and the one I have isn't the official Crocobite. But the mold is the same and the colors are so close, I keep him with my MOTU stuff anyway. He has a robotic look to his gator parts, so he fits right in with the theme MOTU was going for. I don't have much for him to do story-wise, but I can picture the Meteorbs having a similar origin to the Rock Warriors.
FLYING FISTS HE-MAN
There were a few versions of He-Man and Skeletor peppered throughout the line, but the main characters weren't repeatedly jammed down our throats like they are in some lines today. Chalk that up as another point for MOTU! One of He-Man's other versions was this bling'd out figure here. "Flying Fists" He-Man's arms would swing up and down when you twisted his torso, and he also came with whirling balls of doom (not the official name) and a whirly shield (also not the official name) if you wanted more than just his fists to fly.
He's a cool figure, but it can't be denied that he has one of the freakiest thumbs I've ever seen on a toy. Sound like an odd gripe? Well, look at that thing! Is his thumb broken? Does he had a toe for a thumb? They couldn't just give him a standard open-fist grip to hold his whirling balls? It's bizarre, and it looks painful.
BRAKK / FLOGG
We might as well get the second He-Man line out of the way, since I only have the one figure left. After Masters of the Universe ended, He-Man would eventually return to the toy aisles in a line named after himself, as well as a new (and quite terrible) cartoon called The New Adventures of He-Man. Brakk (or Flogg, if you're American), was the leader of a band a Space Mutants that would serve as Skeletor's new goons once he left Eternia for outer space. He originally came with a harpoon-whip that he could swing around by moving his torso left and right. He also has removable armor that doesn't look weird and bulky when he wears it. Fits like a glove! Or, fits like head and shoulder gloves...
So there you have it! The first toy line I ever got into, and still one of my all time faves! At this point, it hasn't been revealed if MOTUC has gotten enough subscriptions to continue in 2014, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that all is well. But even if MOTUC ends this year, He-Man has been around since 1982 (same as me), and I'm sure he'll keep coming back as long as people like me want to see him.
And we do.