Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Geldor figure

When it comes to MOTU media, I've always been more into the minicomics than anything else. These were the main source of information about who these characters where in the days before the Filmation animated show debuted, and some of my earliest memories are of looking at these pack-in comics, and having them read to me. Quite a few original characters were introduced in these stories, and it's a very rich area to draw from when considering who to make into new figures. While this wealth of characters is woefully under-represented in the MOTUC line, we did at least get one of the most interesting of the minicomic villains in Geldor. As a warrior obsessed with attaining immortality, Geldor sought the Secret Liquid of Life at all costs. He had a pretty impressive showing in the single story that featured him. He had some cool henchmonsters that resemble bipedal dimetrodons:

He had his own wizard with some killer eyebrows who was capable of some very convincing illusions to help further his goals:

He poached Validus from the Fatal Five as a henchman:

And he actually died at the end of the story, purely because He-Man is a big dick:

Really, dude? You're gonna drop the stuff on the ground, probably knowing full well what's gonna happen, then make a lame-ass joke while the guy's getting killed? That's some cold shit. But anyway, it made for a memorable character who was long overdue to be immortalized in plastic by the time it finally happened. The creators behind the comic also made a concerted effort to include more minorities in their stories, which can also be seen in Slave City and Double-Edged Sword. Considering how early in the '80s this was happening, they were kinda ahead of the curve. (As always, you can read these stories over at the He-Man.org archives.)

As with most MOTUC figures, Geldor makes use of the basic body, with the newly-sculpted parts he needs. He looks as if he stepped right off the page, as the Four Horsemen have nailed the character's look with their sculpt. He has a fierce facial expression that captures the character's ruthless determination. The loincloth and armor straps have a nice leather texture, and there are some rivets here and there in the appropriate spots. Thanks to the design of Geldor's armor, he avoids the "fat armor syndrome" that has afflicted far too many figures in this line. It would be nice if he had a spot on his armor to hold his axe, but for whatever reason, that didn't happen.

Geldor has the standard MOTUC articulation, with ball joints at the head, shoulders, and hips, hinges at the elbows, knees, ankles, and torso, and swivels at the biceps, wrists, thighs, boot tops, and waist. The ankle rockers are present, but very limited. As always, I'd like to have swivel & hinge wrists instead of the simple swivels the figure has.

Paint apps are very neat, with little to no slop around the straps, and the face looks perfect. There's some nice drybrushing on the hair, and various shades of red, including some metallics, are used throughout the figure to make the very plain color scheme pop. There has been some discussion about his skin tone, and I certainly remembered him being darker, but looking at the minicomic, the skin tone they chose matches his appearance throughout most of the comic. My figure has a small defect on his chest armor, a black spot that appears to be contamination in the plastic used to mold the piece. It's not a huge issue, but it is unfortunate. Geldor only has two accessories, but they're straight from the comic. His axe is closely based on its design on the comic's cover, with some added detail and paint apps. The sculpt is a bit plain for my liking, but it is true to the source design. The other accessory is the Secret Liquid of Life itself! Unfortunately, Geldor can't actually hold it, as both his hands have openings that are far too small. Still, I always like getting accessories like this, and it'll be useful as a prop with many different figures! I would also liked to have gotten the sword Geldor is seen wielding in the comic, as he seems a little light in this department.

Geldor is far from an essential MOTU character, but lovers of the classic minicomics will be very happy to have him. He's also an independent villain, which is always a cool addition to the collection. (I think I'll have him allied with Skeletor, though; Now that he's seeking vengeance on He-Man, they have a common enemy. It seems sensible that Geldor would seek a powerful ally in his vendetta against such a formidable foe. As for Skeletor, he doesn't need Geldor, but he's always down to use someone else for his own ends!) He's not the most visually interesting figure, but he's a cool character with an interesting backstory, and his roots go very far back in MOTU lore. As with Lodar, Geldor is a "figure that should have been," and it's about damn time we got him in plastic form! He may seem rather bland to those unfamiliar with him, but this figure captures the character every bit as well as I'd hoped. That's it for today, but keep scrolling down for more photos, and I'll see you next week!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Strongarm (Strong-Or) figure

The beloved Filmation MOTU animated show featured quite a few original characters over the course of its run, and many of us who watched it as a child expected that we would get figures of some of these characters eventually. For whatever reason, that rarely happened; as it stands, Orko and the Sorceress were the only Filmation characters and designs that made an appearance in the vintage MOTU toyline. While the Sorceress was cool-- never mind that I never had a hope of finding her figure in a store when I was kid-- my childhood self would have traded Orko for literally anyone else from the show. As a kid who loved the villains, Strongarm, or Strong-Or, as Mattel has named this figure, was near the top of my want list. (Along with another Filmation villain that we'll be looking at in a couple of weeks!) For many MOTUC collectors, this figure is long overdue. His bio on the package gives him a backstory linking him to Queen Elmora, featured in the episode "She-Demon of Phantos," in which Strongarm was fairly prominent. This is pretty cool, as it actually gives him a strong motivation for his actions against Elmora in that episode. For all of the issues with the MOTUC bios, they do include some good ideas from time to time.

The sculpt by the Four Horsemen has translated the animated character's look into the MOTUC style quite well. All of the expected design elements are here, with an adequate amount of detail added to make him mesh with the rest of the line. There is some nice detailing on the armored parts, with rivets and spikes throughout. The head sculpt makes him look pretty vicious, though it's a shame about the rounded spikes. With their prominent placement, they really stand out, and their severe roundness lends the figure a bit of a Fisher Price feel that is very much out of place in this line. While Strongarm has the new parts he really needs to shine as a figure, he does reuse the standard torso, which means we have yet another figure whose costume features nipples and a navel. (Insert obligatory Joel Schumacher Batman reference here.) Overall, however, the sculpt definitely meets the standard set for this line.

Strongarm features mostly standard articulation for the line, with one difference. His right elbow features a swivel/hinge design, rather than the usual hinge. Apart from that, he has the usual hinged left elbow, knees, ankles, and torso, ball joints at head, shoulders, and hips, and cuts at the biceps, wrists, thighs, boot tops, and waist. The paint apps on my figure are pretty neat for the most part, but there is some noticeable slop here and there, most notably on the ears. Speaking of those ears, they're bright orange! They look rather goofy sticking out from the metal head, but it's accurate to the source material. Strongarm comes with two cool accessories. One is an extension for his metal arm, which pops on and off easily at the elbow joint. Thanks to the articulation model used for these figures, finding a stable pose even with the arm extension isn't difficult. His other accessory is a neat ray gun that I know I've seen in the cartoon at some point, but with a gun to my head I couldn't tell you which episode it featured in. It's always cool to get gear like this with the figures, even if they don't really go with the figure they're packaged with!

While he was never one of Skeletor's core group of henchmen, Strongarm fleshes out the ranks nicely, and Filmation fans will find him essential. It certainly doesn't hurt that he also has a cool look  with a giant fist that would make Fisto envious, and a nice, eye-catching color scheme. (As you can see in the photos, I couldn't help pairing him up with Faker, as his color scheme gives him a sort of reverse-Faker vibe.) I wouldn't rank him in the upper echelon of MOTUC figures, but Strongarm is a solid middle-of-the-pack figure, and I'm happy to add him to my shelf. that's all for today, but keep scrolling down for more photos, and I'll see you next week!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Blade figure

We're tackling another character from the MOTU movie today! As I mentioned in Saurod's review, the movie was a pretty big disappointment to me as a child. I even went so far as to call Blade "a poor man's Tri-Klops." My feelings about the movie, and the villains it introduced, have softened over the years. I now consider Blade a pretty cool character. He's still no Tri-Klops, but he's much cooler than the other notable character who's known by the same name! ;) As an apparently normal human-type character, he really stands out among all the beasts and monsters in Skeletor's crew. (I'll mention here that actor Anthony de Longis, who portrayed Blade in the movie, did some great work promoting MOTUC subs for the year that Blade was to be produced. It's well worth checking out his video if you haven't seen it!)

The Four Horsemen always do great work with their sculpts, but occasionally a figure comes along that is a true standout, where they really just knock it out of the park. Blade is such a figure. This sculpt simply kills! Many of the parts are reused, of course, but there is a lot of new tooling here, and the detailing on all of these new pieces is exceptional. The face is one of the best in the entire line, with a facial expression that has plenty of personality, and a strong likeness to the actor. Unfortunately, the metal "wings" on the sides of the figure's head are made of a very soft rubbery plastic, and are already beginning to wilt. That aside, the sculpting on the rest of the figure is just as great. Every link of the chain mail is lovingly sculpted, and the bracers and wrist-mounted launcher are nicely detailed. The only plain-ish parts are the legs and boots, but those are accurate to the source material. Blade does suffer a bit from the "fat armor" syndrome, which is a shame. It makes the figure look bulkier than he really should, but it doesn't throw off his look too much. There is a small gap between the top and lower sections of armor at the waist that is pretty annoying, but I'm honestly not sure how that could have been avoided in any practical way.The armor could have been done all as one long piece, but that would interfere with the articulation far too much.

Blade's articulation is standard for the MOTUC line, with ball joints at the head, shoulders, and hips, joints at the torso, elbows, knees, ankles, and wrists, and swivels at the thighs, wrists, and waist. The armor interferes a bit with the torso hinge's range of motion, of course. Blade's accessories include two swords, one based on the swords seen in the movie, the other based on the vintage toy's, and his laser whip. The whip has a handle that, while movie-accurate, is pretty damn tough to get into his hand. (See the photo above.) Now that I've removed it during the course of taking photos for this review, I doubt I'll ever bother putting back in his hand. Having two swords is cool, but it's a little annoying that they don't match. (It's also annoying that they each have "CHINA" molded into them in very obvious places, but that's apparently just something we have to live with on these figures.) Even with all the new tooling this figure has, I don't think two of each sword, so we could have a matching set of the sword of our choice, is too much to ask. The swords are almost completely unpainted, which gives them a rather cheap look that doesn't mesh with the rest of the figure. Apart from that, paint apps on the figure are good. The silver & black color scheme on the armor is source-accurate and eye-catching, and the paint apps on the face turned out quite well. My one gripe here is that the large chest emblem has a lot of sculpted detail that doesn't show up very well because of the light silver color it's molded in. A wash with black, or a darker shade of silver or gray, would have made this really pop. (That's an easy fix, though; I'll definitely be applying a wash myself.)

While he's far from an essential figure for any MOTU collection, Blade is a cool character and an awesome figure that will flesh out the villains' shelf very nicely. He pairs up well with Saurod, of course, but also looks at home among the numerous muscle-bound barbarians and beasts in the MOTUC line. Now that a "totally not based on the movie version, but it really sort of is" Karg figure is on the way, we'll soon be able to unite the MOTU movie villains on our shelves for the very first time! Now they just need to find a way to make a movie Skeletor happen! (I still say the "future Skeletor" from the last couple of issues of Marvel's MOTU series from the mid-'80s is close enough, since a straight-up movie version is off the table!) That's it for today. Scroll down for many more photos, and come on back next week!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Stinkor figure

Welcome to the first review of 2018! (Some health and family issues prevented me from posting the first couple of weeks of the year, but things should proceed as normal now.) In a move that I sincerely hope won't set the mood for the entire year, let's kick off 2018 with a foul stench! I first encountered Stinkor, as I did most MOTU figures, when I saw him hanging on the pegs at a local store. On a trip to the mall, we visited McCrory's, one of the few stores in the mall I liked, since it had toys. I discovered Stinkor and his nemesis Moss Man that day, hanging next to each other on the pegs. Even without having seen any media featuring these characters, it was clear that they were good/evil counterparts to one another. I remember excitedly explaining to my Mom that they complemented each other, so I really needed to get both! Getting a new toy wasn't a regular thing, so I was shocked when she told me I could get both! (Of course, I now know how tight money was for us at the time, so Mom probably had to give up or delay getting something she was planning to get herself so that I could have a lump of plastic that reeked of patchouli. She always put her family ahead of herself, and continues to do so to this day.)

I don't think it's an exaggeration to claim that Stinkor is one of the best-remembered of all MOTU characters, despite never appearing in the Filmation cartoon. Like it or not, the cartoon is quite possibly the biggest cultural touchstone for MOTU to the general public. For a character who never once made an appearance on it to be one of the most famous characters is quite unusual. The figure's gimmick-- he was a skunk man toy who actually smelled bad-- is just that memorable. Even my own Mom, who can scarcely recognize any MOTU characters beyond Skeletor and He-Man themselves, knows exactly who Stinkor is.

The same gimmick that lent him such notoriety also made him a huge fan-favorite, and the excellent 2002 redesign by the Four Horsemen kept that flame alive. (Of course, we never got a figure in the 2002 line since Mattel's bungling led to its premature demise, but he did at least merit a statue in the awesome figure-scaled staction line that was produced by the 4H and NECA.) The 2002 tie-in cartoon finally gave Stinkor an origin story: Diminutive furry thief Odiphus was involved in an accident while trying to join Skeletor's crew, and was transformed into the hideous Stinkor! Initially kicked out of Snake Mountain, he was welcomed back once Skeletor saw how useful an appallingly smelly mutant could be against his enemies. Stinkor was one of the most-demanded figures in the MOTUC line almost from its inception, eagerly awaited by collectors of all stripes. Not bad for a character who started out as a simple repaint of Mer-Man!

As with the vintage figure, Stinkor is composed of many re-used parts. Unlike his vintage counterpart, the Classics figure has a few new pieces that allow you to customize him a bit to suit your own preferences. The 4H used the greater range of parts available to them to give Stinkor a furry body, while retaining the Skeletor gloves, hands, feet, and shin guards. (Though those forearms are new pieces too, as the furry texture had to be added.) The armor is the same as Mekaneck's, though this time around, Stinkor gets it first. We've seen all these pieces before, and they sport the same great sculpts. The furry body works far better for the character than the smooth parts the vintage figure was stuck with. However, there is a glaring issue here: The forearms are reversed. Swapped parts were an irritatingly frequent problem with the MOTUC line, and the forearms are particularly problematic. The muscles appear to be shaped wrong due to the swap, the points on the gloves face the wrong direction, and the wrist doesn't quite line up with the hand properly. Swapping forearms is not a difficult thing, but since the white stripes would then be on the wrong side of the forearms, it will also involve some repainting for anyone who wants to do it. Thankfully, Stinkor's status as a deformed mutant gives him a bit of an out here, for anyone who doesn't want to bother with it. The bigger issue was Mattel's handling of the mistake, claiming it was an intentional choice. (I don't think anyone actually bought that.)

Putting that aside, we can check out Stinkor's new parts. He has a new 2002-inspired head sculpt, which looks simply fantastic. The vintage-style Mer-Man head works great as well, so it really comes down to personal preference here. The heads are actually quite similar, though the 2002 head is much pointier in general. I have a slight preference for the 2002 head, but I honestly could go either way. Stinkor also has a neck overlay, like Mer-Man received. In Stinkor's case, it adds a lot of fur to his upper body. It looks great, though it does limit the head's range of motion a bit. Moving into accessory territory, Stinkor has several options to allow you to customize his armor a bit. First, there is the rebreather, molded to fit on the 2002-style head. It fits well and looks good, but I just can't bear to cover up that wonderful head sculpt! The dot on the front of the armor is also removable, and there is an air nozzle piece that fits in that spot nicely. Stinkor also include a set of air tanks that fit on back of the armor. All of these pieces can be mixed and matched any way you like to get just the look you want. This attention to detail is fantastic, and it would be damn nice if more figures had gotten this level of care.

Stinkor's other accessories are his shield and gun. We've seen the shield before, and I feel the sculpt is too soft on it, just as I did before. While the shield echoes the vintage figure's accessory, the gun is based on the 2002 staction's weapon, and has some nice detailing. Nothing too wild, though. Both weapons look nice, but they (along with the air tanks) were molded in blue and then sent out to die. There are no details painted in, no wash to bring out the sculpted detail, nothing at all. It lends them a cheap appearance that is totally incongruous with the rest of the figure. Odiphus would have been very cool to get as a pack-in, but for whatever reason, that didn't happen. (More than five years later, we still haven't gotten him!) Articulation is standard for the line, with ball joints at the head, shoulders, and hips, hinges at the elbows, knees, torso, and wrists, cuts at the biceps, upper thighs, calves, wrists, and waist, and rocker joints in the ankles. The head's range of motion is limited a bit by the fur overlay, as I mentioned earlier, but everything else works as you would expect. The ankle rockers are a bit loose, but not to the point where they cause any stability issues. As usual, the only change I would really make are the addition of swivel & hinge wrists.

All those words, and I still haven't mentioned that Stinkor is one of the only figures in the line with an "action" feature: He stinks! Like his vintage counterpart, the smell seems to be mostly (or entirely) patchouli, though the smell is nowhere near as strong. I still have my childhood Stinkor, and he still smells much stronger than the MOTUC version! I think they made the right call here, though, as a slightly underwhelming level of smell is preferable to the pine scent bomb of Moss Man! I could smell him from a couple of rooms away for weeks after opening him!

Though he was never part of Skeletor's core group of underlings in various MOTU media, Stinkor made an indelible mark of the children of the 1980s. As a figure in the MOTUC line, he's definitely in the upper echelons of vintage updates, with a nice mix of 2002 elements to let us get the look we want. It's great to get a figure that allows for that sort of fine-tuning right out of the package, and it's a shame that that happened so rarely in the MOTUC line. The swapped forearms are very annoying, though. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to fix mine or not; even with the necessary repainting, it won't be difficult. I'm just not sure if it's worth the trouble. Even with that annoyance, Stinkor is a wonderful figure, and an essential part of any MOTUC collection. That's it for today, be sure to swing back by next week!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Top Ten Posts of 2017

It's New Year's Eve, and you know what that means: No, I'm not hosting a NYE party rife with drunken debauchery; it's time to review the most popular posts of the past year! (You can totally get hammered while you take in the list, though, I won't mind!)

It's quite a change from previous years. Since I began reviewing MOTUC figures when I resumed collecting that line as a way to return to updating the blog regularly, those posts dominated the year. Since all of those posts were reviews, I'll omit the "Rant Review" header from the posts. Without any further ado-- 'cause let's face it, that was way too much ado I was indulging in just now-- let's have a look at the list!

10. Point Dread & Talon Fighter playset with Teela 2.0 

9. Serpentine King Hiss 

8. Anti-Eternia He-Man 

7. Goat Man 

6. Battleground Teela

5. Clamp Champ 

4. Skeletor(s)

3. Octavia

2. Battle Ram with Man-at-Arms

1. Oo-Larr, the Jungle He-Man

A few thoughts: While it was a given that the MOTU reviews would have a stranglehold on the list, I am a bit surprised that the always-popular Free Comic Book Day primer didn't even crack the top ten! The FCBD guide is always one of the most popular posts of the year, but the popularity of the MOTU reviews pushed it right out of the top ten. It's also interesting to see a few underdog figures rank high, while heavy hitters like Beast Man and the Sorceress didn't make the list. I'm particularly surprised to see Octavia in the top three! Vultak just missed making the top ten, so the influence of figures many see as D-list at best was nearly even more pronounced!

Putting these reviews together is a lot of work, but I have fun with them too, and I truly appreciate all the messages and comments I receive. (Mostly on other sites, though. It's okay to post comments directly on the posts here, I promise!) I have no plans to end the weekly reviews anytime soon, and there will be the occasional horror-related posts, as always! I hope you all have a great New Year's Eve, and here's to a great 2018!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Sorceress (Temple of Darkness)

One of the most impressive aspects of the Masters of the Universe Classics line is its diversity. While the all-embracing nature of the line has been a longtime gripe of many collectors who are only interested in one particular area of MOTU, it has allowed us to receive figures of characters who we really never expected to see immortalized in plastic. It's also given those of us who prefer alternate versions of some of the main characters to receive "our" version. This minicomic-based figure of the Sorceress is a perfect example. After the character transitioned from the snake-themed character seen in early MOTU media into the more familiar falcon-themed incarnation, variations of the look popped up frequently. This is especially true of the minicomics, where she didn't appear fully on-model until the final series. In the 1984 minicomic The Temple of Darkness, the Sorceress appeared in a fully white costume. It's a striking look that stuck with many MOTU fans who read it as children, myself included. For whatever reason, that rendition of the character superseded the far more familiar blue & orange look to become "my" Sorceress. (The full minicomic is posted over at He-Man.org if you'd like to read it!)

As a recolored version of the earlier figure, one would expect the sculpt to remain the same, but that's actually not quite true. While everything is the same from the waist up, TOD Sorceress eschews the thighs and hips used on Battleground Teela, so she has the hip articulation that is lacking in the original Sorceress figure. Her boots are also the standard leather-wrapped model, as opposed to the smooth boots of the earlier figure. (I'll point out here that the left hand on my figure has been swapped for the spell-casting hand seen on such figures as Castaspella and Battleground Evil-Lyn. The figure normally comes with two gripping hands.) The sculpt is quite good overall, capturing the look of the character very well. This face just looks like the Sorceress, without slavishly copying any specific version. The bustier-on-top-of-a-shirt look can look a bit odd, but it is accurate to the character's design. Even in the minicomic, the collar is partly drawn in, though not identical to this look. Still, it's close enough that I can't really fault them for not altering this part of the figure. I would like a bit more detail in the sculpt overall, but even so, there are a few areas that stand out in that respect. The headdress features some nice detailing, as do the wings.

Speaking of the wings... Let's go ahead and tackle the elephant in the room. The implementation of the wings has remained one of the major hot-button issues in the MOTUC line, even years after this figure was released. As seen in the photo above, the wings are divided into segments, which are attached to pegs on the figure's shoulders. Not-so-affectionately nicknamed "the drums" by collectors, these pegs allow the wings to swivel up and down, expanding as needed to match the pose of the figure's arms. Frankly, they look pretty terrible. They also impede the articulation, which is never a good thing. If you want an arm to be bent forward, you have to adjust the wing to do so, and then the wing just doesn't look right. To be fair, this was a big design challenge for this figure, and there really was no solution that would have pleased a majority of MOTUC collectors. That said, I can think of several alternatives right offhand that I feel would have worked better. This is the single biggest issue with the figure, by far. On the positive side, the wings are molded in a nice translucent white, matching their appearance in the minicomic. They could have easily just molded them in plain white, so this attention to detail is very nice.

Articulation is mostly standard for the females of this line, with ball joints at the head, shoulders, and hips, hinged knees, elbows, and ankles, swivels at the biceps, wrists, thighs, boot tops, and waist, and the aforementioned "drums" on each shoulder. As mentioned, the implementation of the wings severely limits the range of motion of the shoulders. The headdress also limits the head a great deal, and the "skirt" piece is definitely stiffer than I would like. It's a damn good thing that I was only planning to display my Sorceress standing around holding her staff, since that's damn near all she can do. Her accessories include her staff, molded in a nice pearl white, and a stand for the King Grayskull's shooter-- er, the Orb of Grayskull. If you have a Castle Grayskull, and the orb is currently residing in its chamber there, you'll have to find an alternate use for this stand. I reckon I'll toss some in-scale burgers or something on it so the Sorceress can have a makeshift grill for Grayskull cookouts. Or maybe I'll go the most obvious route and pose the various Zoars around it as a birdbath?

While I'm very happy to have a figure of "my" Sorceress, she is definitely a mixed bag. The figure's positive aspects are enough that I can easily get past issues like the stiff skirt and headdress, but the drums are a huge problem. They're not a big enough drawback that I'll be getting rid of the figure over them, but I will be leaving her on the shelf instead of getting her down and re-posing her regularly like I do with most of my MOTU figures. They don't ruin the figure, but they do drag her down to the point that she's a pretty good figure, rather than a great one. Still, if you want a minicomic-inspired Sorceress, she's the only game in town unless you customize your own. Thankfully, she does run significantly cheaper than the standard colors Sorceress, so she won't hurt your wallet too badly. I am glad I have her, but she won't be stealing center stage on the shelf from the Goddess. Scroll down for more photos, and I'll see you here next week!