Monday, April 8, 2013

Toy Review: Masters of the Universe Classics He-Man and Battle Cat

Just about any kid who grew up in the 1980s remembers the powerhouse character He-Man from the Masters of the Universe toy line.  While not quite as popular as Star Wars, the MOTU toys rivalled Transformers, G.I. Joe, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for space on most boys' birthday and Christmas wish lists.  First released in 1981, the line spawned multiple television shows, a live-action film, as well as subsequent toy lines, including the Masters of the Universe Classics.

The original line consisted of a series of toys whose component parts were often re-used to form other figures.  For example, there is a trademark furry loincloth with studded leather belt that was used across the majority of the male characters in the line.  Likewise, legs, arms, and torsos were often the same from figure to figure, with only plastic color or paint applications showing differentiation from one to the next.  Heads were almost always different, though.  Characteristically, the line was focused on a swords and sorcery vibe, but with technological elements thrown in as well, which gave it quite a different feel from other toy franchises at the time.  

In 2008, a new line of MOTU toys was introduced.  These figures were created in such a way as to mimic the feel of the original line, but with much-improved articulation.  More detailed paint applications and a slightly larger size (original figures were around six inches tall where these were seven inches) differentiated these figures further from the earlier toys.  Still manufactured by Mattel, these new Masters of the Universe Classics (usually shortened to MOTUC) toys were marketed towards the "adult collector" and were not sold in stores, being only available via the web.
Oddly, the subject of this review, He-Man, was not the first toy released in the line.  That honor went to King Grayskull, a supposed forebear of He-Man.  It was a smart marketing move, though, as this "preview" figure brought the fans to a frenzy of anticipation for the release of He-Man himself.  He-Man was released in December of 2008, and the toy line has continued ever since, with new figures released each month.  

He-Man comes with the full set of gear that his original counterpart did - a battleaxe, shield, trademark X-shaped harness, and, of course, the Power Sword.  The sword was made famous in the original television series as the magical device with which Prince Adam could transform into He-Man, while uttering the phrase "By the power of Grayskull, I have the power!"  However, I was one of the lucky ones to have had MOTU toys a full year or so before the TV show ever aired, so I have always been more enamored of the axe that he carries in the minicomics that came with the original toys.  Eventually the sword becomes his primary weapon, but I've always preferred the axe.  

The MOTUC He-Man has much the same look as the original, with bulging muscles, clean-shaven face, and slightly shaggy blonde hair.  The character is somewhat reminiscent of a Frank Frazetta creation.  In fact, there is an old rumor (incorrect, though) that the original He-Man toys grew out of Mattel's failed attempt to create Conan the Barbarian figures to tie in with the 1982 Arnold Schwarzenegger film.

This new He-Man's facial features seem to be a merger of the look of the original toy and the character from the television show.  I think they did a fine job making the face quite recognizable as a proper He-Man.

The sculptors did a fine job integrating certain of the joints on the figure into the character's musculature.  

However, elsewhere the joints are plainly visible, such as at the knee and elbow.  Here you can see how the Power Sword can be carried on He-Man's back.

Speaking of weapons, all three of his accessories are very similar to the original, just manufactured with additional detail and paint applications.

The lower legs feature multi-directional joints in the ankle, and a swivel joint where the boots meet the rest of the leg.

There's a waist joint here, and the legs are are also on multi-directional joints.  The furry loincloth is somewhat flexible in order to allow for greater leg movement.  Paint application is a bit sloppy on mine, and this is one of the criticisms I have for the entire line.

Speaking of paint, on each of these figures there is a slight airbrushing of paint to enhance the musculature.

The hands are nicely sculpted, and there's a joint where the hand meets the wristband.

All these various joints allow for a fairly wide range of motion and ability to pose the toy.

Like on the original toy, He-Man's harness can be removed.  Basically, these were like dolls for boys, so the various accessories could be swapped from figure to figure.

This more clearly shows the "ab crunch" sort of joint that exists on almost every figure in the line.  

He-Man had an unusual steed - a giant green and orange striped cat called Battle Cat.  The 80s toy was actually just a repainted version of a tiger from Mattel's earlier "Big Jim" toy line.  That battle cat had no articulation to speak of, though with his armor on, He-Man was able to sit astride him.  This updated toy was  released in 2010, and, unlike its earlier counterpart, features joints galore.

Battle Cat's armor has been spiffed up a bit with some subtle paint applications.

Every part of Battle Cat is covered with furry detail.

Just as with He-Man, some of the joints could have been integrated better.

The saddle armor and helmet can be removed.

I think Battle Cat is more fearsome looking without the armor.

He even has a joint along the midsection of his body.  The proliferation of joints makes for fairly natural posing.

The saddle is sculpted in such a way to allow He-Man (or most any other MOTUC figure) to sit without the loincloth getting in the way.  

Battle Cat's saddle also provides loops on either side where the Power Sword can be carried.

My few criticisms aside, this is a fantastic update to the toys I loved as a kid.  Great attention was paid to making these clearly recognizable as He-Man and Battle Cat, and the updated articulation and paint applications make the toys really stand out on a shelf.  Whereas most toys in the Masters of the Universe Classics line are only available on the day of sale or through online retailers, these two are always able to be purchased at  

1 comment:

  1. You think you know a guy and then 13 years later you find out he prefers the axe to the power sword.