And so Mattel has
once again gone back to MOtU, but this time they're trying a different
approach. Since the collector aspect of the 2002 release seemed to have
potential, they are going with a purely collector focused line called
Masters of the Universe Classics, and selling it direct through their
These figures are new designs, but are just updates to the original
figures, adding a little more detail to the sculpt, updating the level
of articulation a bit, but keeping the 80's feel as much as possible.
The started the line off with an
exclusive of King GreySkull, He-man's ancestor, at last years SDCC. I
picked one up for a friend,
but skipped it for myself. However, now that they've started releasing
the individual figures at Matty Collector, I thought it was worth doing
a review of the first three. He-man and Beast Man were released in
and now Skeletor has been released as well. The plan for 2009 is to
release a new figure each month on the 15th (Skeletor came out just
last week), and they already have the figures announced for the first
I really like the style of packaging here. There's a nice retro 80's
feel to it without being campy or silly, and in Poe Ghostal's review he
mentioned that the graphics and design look quite a bit like the old
boxes for the vehicles and play sets, which is a nice change
bio cards on the back of each package for the characters, and long time
fans will quickly notice that Mattel is doing what it can to smoosh
together the various incarnations of the license over the years into a
more united continuity.
The packages are small and
show off the figures well. That means less waste, and it's always a
good idea to put less in the land fills. God knows, Mattel filled up
enough with Speed Racer toys this last year.
Sculpting - He-Man,
Beast Man ***1/2; Skeletor ***
first heard about this relaunch, I was very skeptical. It sounded to me
like they were taking the classic figures, making some minor tweaks,
and re-issuing them. And let's face it, re-issuing vintage figures does
not work out well, particularly when the vintage figures themselves can
still be had at reasonable prices.
But once I had these in hand,
I realized how wrong I'd been. There aren't just minor tweaks here -
these are really the MOTU figures every kid would have loved to have in
the 80's, if the level of overall action figure quality had been what
it is today.
The designs themselves are very
retro, and based on
the original look of the characters. But there's far more detailing,
texturing and lots of Eternian-realism.
This is most obvious on
Beast Man, where the furry aspects of his nature are nicely detailed.
He also has a fantastic head sculpt, rivaling the work of companies
like NECA and McFarlane. Of course, with the Four Horsemen providing
the sculpts and designs, that should be no huge surprise.
are remaining true to some of the basic tenants of mass market toys
(although these are specialty market, collector aimed releases), such
as reusable parts and pieces. These torsos, arms and legs are going to
show up plenty of times through the series, which is why it's nice that
they got the basic appearance down well the first time.
also some toy-like attributes that are part of the manufacturing
process, like mold lines, flashing and rough edges on some of the
parts. These aren't a major negative for me here, because they actually
make them feel more like 'toys' and less like 'collectibles', something
I think keeps some of that nostalgic feel to the line, but your mileage
These are designed to fit in
with 7" scale figures,
giving them a nice heft and size. He-Man is the tallest of the three so
far, because his head sticks up a smidge more than Skeletor. Both of
them are right about at that 7" mark, while Beast Man is the shortest,
coming in about a quarter of an inch shorter.
Paint - ***1/2
All three of these have high quality paint ops, certainly well above
the average work we see in a mass market toy, and even above the normal
specialty market work right now.
course, some have more operations than others, with Beast Man getting
the lion's share of the paint detailing. Lots of the various body parts
are merely cast in the proper color plastic (another of those mass
market tenants they are sticking with here), but he has some nicely
done small details, especially in his face. In fact, I almost went the
extra half star with him, but there was a little too much slop around
the medallion to pull it off.
He-man and Skeletor don't have quite the same level of detailed
operations, what they do have is clean and neat. There's some minor
variation in He-man's skin tone, but it's really only noticeable once
you know to look for it.
Articulation - ***1/2
These aren't *quite* Marvel Legends level articulation, but they are
close. In fact, I think these might have just the right amount, without
do wish the ball jointed neck worked a little better. It does allow for
some tilting, but it's slightly limited as compared to other ball
jointed necks out there.
The ball jointed shoulders are
on both sides of the ball, and have an excellent range of movement.
Sure, Beast Man's armor hinders that a little, but that's to be
The arms also have pin elbows
and cut wrists, which
allow for quite a few arm poses. The arms can hang relaxed, or they can
take on a variety of arm swinging, face punching positions.
torso has a cut waist, as well as a ab-crunch joint. Both of these work
well, allowing for a decent range of movement and add a little more
life to just about any stance.
The legs sport ball jointed
pin knees, and pin ankles on all the figures. He-man adds in a cut
joint at the top of his boot. The leg articulation allows for deep and
wide stances, as well as fairly natural relaxed poses. Some
additionally lateral movement in the ankles would have been nice, but
that's a minor nit.
Accessories - He-man, Skeletor
***; Beast Man **1/2
This is the one category where Beast Man gets stiffed, compared to the
other two releases so far.
comes with a whip, designed much like his original. I'm told that his
whip was originally recycled from the Big Jim line, and this new
version has a handle very similar. At least it fits well in his hand,
and he won't drop it easily.
He-man comes with two of his
critical weapons, his sword and ax. There's also a nicely designed
shield which pops on his forearm to protect him from Skeletor's
attacks. The one area where the paint ops could be better is on the
accessories, where there's not much in the way of detail. For
example, He-man's sword really needed a painted hilt.
has his half of a sword. The second half comes with Skeletor, and you
can pop the two pieces together to form a complete weapon. I believe
this has something to do with later incarnations of the show, and is
part of Mattel's attempt to tie the various cartoon story lines
together through this new series of figures. In any event, the two
halves don't snap together particularly well, and the sword looks
pretty silly once they do. These two halves are going to end up tossed
in the extras box.
Skeletor has his regular sword
as well, with a
nice two tone finish. Finally, he has his Havoc staff, with nifty dead
animal skull on top. This skull can turn on the staff, adding another
minor point of articulation.
While I love the sculpt on the
staff, I do wish there were more paint ops here as well. The two tone
finish doesn't pop as well on the staff as it does on the sword, and
additional paint detailing on the skull would have really added a lot
to its appearance.
Fun Factor - ****
The beauty of this line is that these are TOYS. Mattel has managed to
take everything that was great about the original MOTU line, combine it
with what makes action figures so much better today, and produce a line
that has a nostalgic feel, and yet plays like a 2009 toy. When the 2009
Poppies come rolling around 11 months from now, I'm positive that the
MOTUC line is going to be a contender for a number of categories.
Value - **
Perhaps the biggest issue for these figures is the price point. You'll
be trading a Jackson for every one of these figures, and I don't think
the founder of the Democratic party would consider it even.
course, part of this cost is created by aiming these squarely at
collectors, with a low production run and limited availability. Part of
it is simply because of the make up of Mattel itself - while you'd
think the lack of a license cost would make them cheaper, Mattel's
sheer size requires that all products have a larger margin than would
be the case with a smaller company. And finally, action figures across
the board are getting more and more expensive right now, with mass
market stuff going for $10 - $15 regularly. Even so, these are pushing
the envelope at $20 each.
if you ordered your Skeletor when it first hit the site and still
haven't received it, don't get too nervous yet. When I ordered He-Man
and Beast Man, they were at most house within two days. With Skeletor,
it took 10 days from the time Matty Collector said they'd shipped it to
showing up on my doorstep.
Things To Watch Out For
Not a thing. These are as sturdy as any action figure designed for
kids, and if you are an adult fan of the show looking to bring your own
children into the fold, then these (along with the cartoons) are the
way to do it.
Overall - He-man,
Skeletor ***1/2; Beast Man ***
I have no interest in the Masters of the Universe cartoon, and yet I'm
loving this line so far. These are some really fun toys, and I can see
where the fans of the old show, who grew up playing with the originals,
will take to these like flies to...well, you know what I mean. I've
been sucked in, and I'll be sitting at the computer on the 15th of
every month, waiting for that page to refresh.
been lots of debate over this line, but I really like a number of
aspects of how Mattel is handling it. First, they are providing access
to the figures direct from their site at MattyCollector.com.
Anyone that wants to get them can get them, as long as they don't delay
also like that they are pushing them out once a month, on a set
schedule. While that $20 a pop isn't cheap, it seems a lot easier to
take when it's only $20 a month. Instead of being hit with a wave of 5
or 6 figures that would cost $100 or more, a collector can budget out
his spend over the year. And yet they also end up with a full 12
figures, giving them a solid display in a relatively short period of
And finally, I like the concept
of 'retiring' each figure
when the next one hits. Actually, I suspect they won't get that far
with some of the releases, and the scuttle butt on the street right now
is that Skeletor is *almost* sold out already. But Mattel has always
struggled with their determined belief that they HAVE to make something
'limited' in an action figure line to make it interesting for
collectors, and this approach is certainly less repugnant than the
handling of the DCUC figures. Yea, at some point you'll have to
scramble and head to ebay if you came in late on a figure. But
considering that everyone has weeks to buy each of these before that's
the case, I think it's a relatively innocuous version of a limited
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpting - He-Man, Beast Man ***1/2; Skeletor ***
Paint - ***1/2
Articulation - ***1/2
Accessories - He-man, Skeletor ***; Beast Man **1/2
Fun Factor - ****
Value - **
Overall - He-man ***1/2; Skeletor, Beast Man ***
Where to Buy -
Skeletor is available right now through MattyCollector,
Mattel's collector website. When the Skeletor figure went up for sale,
Mattel pulled the other two off the site, so right now ebay
is your best bet unfortunately. If you're really interested in
pick him up before February 15th, when the next figure (Stratos) goes
on sale. In fact, rumor has it that he's almost sold out already, so
don't dilly dally.
those traveling to SDCC later this year, Mattel has said that they've
held back a few of the He-Man, Beast Man and Skeletor figures to sell
at the show as well.
They are also looking at a
for the remaining figures this year. Early plans appear to give you the
choice of signing up and getting each figure mailed to you
automatically each month, or wait until December 15h and having them
all shipped at once to save on costs. Stay tuned to Matty Collector for
further details, or to their facebook
Related Links -
I have a number of guest
reviews of earlier MOTU products:
- I have guest reviews of
Stactions series 5,
2, and series 1.
- from the 2002 line, I have a
guest review of a bunch of the MOTU
vs the Snakemen, as well as one of the very first wave of the series.
- and if you're really into all
things MOTU, you should check out Roger Sweet's book, Mastering
the Universe: He-Man and the Rise and Fall of a Billion-Dollar Idea. It's a
fascinating look at the inner workings of the early development of the
Want to chat about this review? Try out one of these terrific forums where I'll be
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