Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Extendar figure

Today we're looking at the white knight of the MOTU mythos, the heroic master of extension, Extendar! Because, y'know, He-Man needs somebody to get his frisbee off the roof whenever it lands up there. Extendar is a figure that instantly appealed to me when I was a kid. In my mind, taller equaled more powerful, as it did for many kids, so the idea that an already cool-looking knight could actually grow larger seemed pretty awesome. It was like a non-crappy version of those "giant growth" sponges our grandmas were always getting us at the dollar store! Of course, given the realities of toy production, there were some limitations to exactly how much Extendar could grow. In the end, he didn't get all that much taller than a standard MOTU figure, but he still had some impressive size and bulk, so it was still pretty cool.

Helping matters was a nice origin story provided in his included minicomic. Feeling inadequate next to the powerful and renowned heroes of Eternia, the oddly already-named-Extendar-even-though-he-has-no-extending-powers-yet Extendar is an easy mark for Hordak's shilling for his "warrior machine." Hordak promises it will make him a mighty warrior, and Extendar, apparently terminally stupid, decides to trust Hordak and go along with him to his lair. Hordak has already transformed an ordinary schlub into the cybernetic terror Dragstor, who lurks nearby as Hordak straps Extendar into the machine. The machine does indeed imbue Extendar with power, and using a nice little motivational rhyme Hordak teaches him, he is able to extend his limbs and become very strong. After He-Man shows up and convinces longshanks to do a face turn, Hordak sics Dragstor on them, and Extendar takes him out pretty easily. He-Man, realizing that his day won't be complete unless he smashes something, destroys the machine before they leave. (Some alternate versions of Extendar's origin have him and Dragstor as friends prior to their enhancements at the hands of Hordak, a nice little additional layer to the story. The MOTUC bio references this version.) An interesting tidbit about this minicomic is that in my copy of it, Extendar's name looks a bit odd every time it appears, as if another name was originally there and hastily replaced. (This famously happened with Lodar's name in the Slave City minicomic.) Interestingly, the version you can read over at He-Man.org has different word balloons and captions than my copy does. As I don't have a scanner, these photos of my copy of the comic will have to suffice for illustrating what I'm talking about. It's tougher to notice in the photo, but it's obvious in person.

Extendar's sculpt is pretty nice, if a bit underwhelming overall. It's a very good update of the vintage sculpt, and I think that's my issue with it. Figures that were strictly vintage updates, with nothing really added, tend to not thrill me as much as figures like Bow or Trap Jaw, where they really went the extra mile. There is some good detailing in the appropriate areas, particularly on the limb extensions, and they even included the peace sign on the neck. The face still has that odd robotic design with the grate where a mouth should be. The armor overlay is very bulky, even more so than the larger-than-usual torso on the vintage figure, and there is no chance of getting the figure's arms to rest at his sides. That said, his proportions are not as bloated as with the vintage figure, which is nice. There's also the belt, which is sculpted with an oddly large top rim. I'm assuming this was necessary because of the extension feature. It looks a bit odd once you notice it, but it doesn't particularly bother me. Ultimately, there's really nothing exactly wrong with the sculpt, it just wound up not really wowing me. It feels as if Extendar wasn't a favorite of anyone who worked on the figure, preventing him from getting that extra "oomph" that many other figures got in this line.

Paint is basic, but neatly applied. The pearl white and gold is every bit as eye-catching and visually appealing as it was back in the '80s. Accessories include a set of six extension pieces, the extending shield, and a lance. The extensions all work well and seems sturdy, though I do wish there were more of them. the shield, like the figure itself, is a well-done update to its vintage counterpart. The lance is a cool bonus, finally giving highpockets an offensive weapon, and one that makes sense with his design and features. Unfortunately, it's warped due to how it was packaged, and the tip tends to droop.

Articulation is kinda all over the place. Extendar has some additional points of articulation due to his extensions, but some POAs don't work very well because of the figure's design. The torso hinge, ankles, shoulders, and hips are severely restricted. On the plus side, the head has a surprisingly good range of motion, especially once extensions are in place. Extendar also has a swivel/hinge joint at each elbow, which is nicely implemented. There is also an additional swivel anywhere you pop on an extension, of course. The joints are all nice and tight, so even with the restrictions, you can get some nice poses.

As one of the tail-enders in the vintage line, Extendar isn't one of the more well-liked characters. Even for someone like me who thinks he's cool, his MOTUC figure definitely has some issues. I'm glad to add him to the collection, but there are some things I would personally have preferred be done differently. Still, he's a figure with a striking appearance, a cool gimmick that works pretty well, and he's cheap, to boot! I recommend the figure for anyone who wants to fill out the ranks of their heroic warriors, or even army build a group of heroic knights! That's it for this week, but keep scrolling down for plenty more photos, and see you next time!




Thursday, April 5, 2018

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Lodar figure

We're taking a break today from reviews of figures that released years ago to take a look at one that is currently shipping to customers: Lodar, one of the figures from the first full wave of Super 7's offerings. (If you don't count the Ultimates or last year's Power Con exclusives, anyway!) As I've mentioned previously, the minicomics packed in with the vintage MOTU figures were my first point of entry into the MOTU mythos. The early minis, in particular simply were MOTU to me in a way that nothing else was, and that remains the case to this day.

Though it was released near the middle of the vintage toyline's run, 1984's Slave City (which you can read at He-Man.org) made nearly as big an impression on me as those early stories. The main reason was its villain, Lodar. The villainous master of a city full of slaves forced to battle one another for his amusement, Lodar was immensely powerful, and had an army of cool creatures called kobolds to do his bidding. Whereas a typical encounter saw He-Man dispatch whatever enemy stood before him in a couple of panels, usually with a single punch, Lodar battled He-Man for several pages! Of course, interviews with the creative team in the years since (which can be read in the awesome MOTU Minicomics collection) make it clear that they extended the battle to ensure the comic met its required length, but I knew nothing of that as a small child. That Lodar was able to trade blows with He-Man for so long was hugely impressive, and that made him a very formidable foe in my mind. Surely, five year old me assumed, we'd be getting a Lodar figure soon! As it turned out, I'd have to wait more than three decades to get one. Was he worth the wait? Read on to find out! (Or skip to the end, if you want. I'm not the boss of you!)

The figure's sculpt is extremely faithful to the character's single minicomic appearance, though the Four Horsemen have added some details here and there in appropriate spots. Lodar's eyes gaze menacingly from within his helmet, and his boots have some very nasty-looking spikes on their soles.  With even more spikes on his helmet and bracers, there's a definite theme here. The belt/crotch piece is one of the areas with added detail, with even more spikes sculpted onto the belt, and a ribbed pattern descending from it. His pauldrons resemble Beast Man's bicep armor, but they do not share a mold. These pieces have some different sculpted texture, and are more simple in appearance overall. They're very soft, so they don't impede the shoulders' movement too badly. Unfortunately, the armor is glued in place. I do like to mix and match armor on my figures sometimes, so it's annoying that the option has been removed.

I'll mention here that the plastic has a different feel from that of the Mattel figures. Some have accused this plastic of being cheap and brittle, and while it does have a slightly harder feel, I see nothing to indicate that it's any cheaper. The figure feels good and solid in-hand, though I do have a slightly oily residue on my fingertips after handling it. I've bought figures in the past whose joints had been oiled in the factory, so perhaps that's what happened here. Moving on...

The MOTUC articulation model has been tweaked a bit by Super 7, mostly for the better. Lodar has ball joints at the head, shoulders, and hips, hinges at the elbows, knees, and torso, swivels at the biceps, thighs, and waist, and a swivel/hinge combo at the wrists and ankles. The addition of hinges at the wrists is most welcome. As I've stated many times, this should have been a standard POA for this line from day one, so it's always nice to see it added. The elbows and knees have the ratchet-style joints introduced with the Power Con 2017 figures, which I quite like. The articulation works well overall, but there are a couple of issues. The abdominal hinge is very loose, though it helpfully has a catch in the middle so that Lodar can easily hold an upright standing pose. The head feels a bit odd when I'm moving it, though it does hold whatever pose I place it in, so it's not the neck peg bending. Still, many people have had the neck pegs break on their figures, so I won't be getting too twist-crazy with it. I'm not sure if this figure is supposed to have side-to-side rocker motion on the ankles or not, as there is a bit of this on the right foot, but none at all on the left.

Lodar only has two accessories, but they're pretty great ones. He has his trademark mace, seen on the cover of the Slave City minicomic, and a set of shackles to slap onto a captive figure of your choice. The spikes on the mace, as with the other spikes on the figure, are a good deal sharper than we ever got on a Mattel figure! These shackles are very cool, and naturally, I couldn't resist recreating the cover scene! The manacles will fit most MOTUC figures' wrists. (As well as plenty of figures from other lines, so you can finally teach the likes of Superman, Ash, or Jason Vorhees a lesson in humility, if you so choose.) Paint is mostly good, with neat, clean work on the eyes and various rivets. There are a couple of spots where paint was either rubbed off or not applied, though these are mostly in areas where it's tough to spot, such as the bottom of the figure's crotch, as seen below.

I hope his mother doesn't see this. C'mon, Lodar, if you needed money, there were other ways to earn it! Anyway, Lodar's skin seems too light and bright to me, but given the way it varies from panel to panel in the comic, it's tough to say they definitely got it wrong. It certainly doesn't look bad, and I do like the contrast it creates with the darker purple on his armor. I do wish his body had gotten the airbrushed highlights many Mattel figures had, as that would have really made the sculpted musculature pop. If you're in doubt, just look at the original release Mer-Man, and check out how much the airbrushing enriches that figure's look. He'd be far more plain without it! While I do like Lodar's look, I do lament what could have been. I suspect I'll wind up adding a wash myself in the near future.

Aside from a few QC issues and questionable design decisions, Lodar is a fantastic figure. He's definitely not an essential figure for every MOTU collection, and many collectors will feel fine about skipping him. For those of us who are really into the "deep cut" figures, however, he's a total delight, and a perfect example of exactly why this line is so damn great. I've been waiting a very long time for a figure of this character-- I liked him enough that I even made a custom figure of him in the 2002 MOTU line-- and I'm giddy as hell about finally having one in my MOTUC collection. As soon as it became clear how expansive the MOTUC line was going to be, Lodar was the first character that popped into my mind. Finally having this figure in my hands feels like a promised fulfilled. It's nearly everything I could have hoped for! That's it for today, but be sure to swing back by next week for the next review! The next one will also have the usual amount funny photos; perhaps due to how long-awaited Lodar was for me, this one wound up with more action shots and fewer humor pics than usual. I didn't even realize it until I was putting everything together. Hopefully nobody is too disappointed about that. See you next week!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Rant Review Special 300th Post Edition: Masters of the Universe Classics Wind Raider with full-length comic story!

It's a big one today, as we're looking at one of the quintessential modes of transportation in the MOTU universe: The Wind Raider! On top of that, it's our 300th post, so I wanted to do something extra special. You know how I always include some humorous photos in all my reviews? About fifteen years ago, I used to do full stories in that style. I've been wanting to return to that for awhile now, and when I realized this milestone was coming up, I figured it would be the perfect time. (This is also why there was no post last week, as I had to put in a lot of extra work to get this done!) So, apart from the unrelated photo above, every photo in this week's review is part of a full story featuring the Wind Raider! Be sure to let me know what you think, and rest assured that more full-length comic stories will be showing up. Now, on to the review!

I never actually had the Wind Raider as a child, though I wanted one quite a bit. As a vehicle, its was priced higher than what was generally allowed when I could pick out a toy when we were in a store, yet it was small enough that I never asked for it as a birthday or Xmas present. (I usually aimed for something a bit larger, such as the Bashasaurus, on such occasions.) Many of my toys came from garage sales, and I never chanced upon a Wind Raider at one of those, either. Eventually, the toy disappeared from stores before I managed to get one. The 2002 line never gave us a Wind Raider toy, despite a redesigned version featuring prominently on the tie-in cartoon.

So it was that I never owned a Wind Raider until I picked up this MOTUC version recently. Thankfully, if you're only gonna own one version, this is the one to have! I don't normally comment on packaging, but as with the Talon Fighter, this package features some badass art by MOTU artist extraordinaire Rudy Obrero! It's a cool battle scene, giving us a look at some Rotons as well. While it doesn't measure up to the amazing art he provided for the original Wind Raider's package, it's still really awesome to get another great piece from him on a MOTU toy.

First things first: It's huge. We're not talking Talon Fighter huge here, but it's a good bit larger than I expected. It's about as long as the Battle Ram, and much wider. The sculpt draws some features from the vintage prototype, which is very welcome. As with the Battle Ram, details that were stickers on the vintage toy are sculpted here. This is very cool, and improves the overall look of the toy immeasurably. The big engine pods have panels that flip open, giving a nice peek inside. Assembly is quick and easy, as the wings snap right into place, and the rudder clips onto the back. It can take a bit of wiggling to get into just the right position, but it's secure once there. These can all be swiveled after attaching if you so desire. The cockpit is large enough to fit all standard-sized MOTUC figures easily, though getting both control handles into their hands can take a bit of work. One issue with my Wind Raider is some cloudiness in the orange plastic on the wings. There's also a slight change in the texture wherever it is present. Based on my own experience working in an injection-molded plastics factory, this is very similar to what we would see for the first few cycles after cleaning a mold. Basically, these parts should have gone to the rejects bin, and never made it to a finished product. I don't think I'll be returning the vehicle over this, as it's not terribly obvious, but it is annoying.

Paint/tampo work is pretty neat overall, even with most of the small details such as the control panel, and inside the engine pods. There's also an action feature, as the anchor launches, and the cord winds back up by turning the figurehead at the front of the vehicle. The button is disguised as a large rivet, and the feature is completely unobtrusive, so it gets my approval. The string is pretty damn short, however, so the posing options using it are somewhat limited. It would be nice to have a few more inches. (You know what I mean, keep your minds outta the gutter!)

While it's rather unusual for vehicles to include accessories, the Wind Raider has one: A rather cool flight stand! The vehicle has a hole at the bottom worked into the design, and that is the point of attachment. The stand arcs down from there, resting on a large base to maintain stability. The top of the base has a swivel, increasing the posing possibilities. My only gripe with the stand is that it really should have been clear. Still, it's well-made and quite sturdy, and I'm very pleased that it was included. It's a shame that Mattel never sold these flight stands on their own, as I'm sure many of us would like some for our Sky Sleds!

As one of the main vehicles in the world of MOTU, the Wind Raider is essential for any collection that includes vehicles at all. Basically, if you only own a single MOTU vehicle, it needs to be this one. It's ever-present in virtually every incarnation of MOTU, and its classic design is executed extremely well here. It's one of those MOTU elements that is so iconic that even non-fans will recognize it, and it adds a huge coolness factor to any display. All that aside, it's a great toy in a line that we honestly thought might never see any vehicles at all, as such things are very rare in collector-focused lines these days. Barring a movie, this is something that might not come around again, so I highly recommend getting your hands on one and enjoying the hell out of it!























Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Despara figure

Today we're looking at a true rarity in the MOTUC line, as Despara is a character drawing not from the vintage toyline, cartoon, comics, or concept art, but from the recent comic series from DC Comics. (It's a shame we didn't get more, as that series was ripe with great designs and characters for Mattel to draw from!) Despara was created as a darker, somewhat more realistic take on the origin story of She-Ra. In the Filmation cartoon, baby Adora was abducted and raised by Hordak, growing up to become a high-ranking member of the Horde. Once reunited with her twin brother, He-Man, and given her own version of the power sword, she instantly becomes heroic, and all of the atrocities she no doubt committed as a member of the Horde are forgotten. Of course, much of that is due to the limitations placed on programming aimed at kids in those days, but it's still one of the weakest points of the character's story. The DC Comics series explored this much better, and re-envisioned force captain Adora in a far more intimidating form as part of that. Wearing her adopted father's face, Despara led the Horde's invasion of Eternia, and her transition from villain to hero was more gradual, and far more painful. The weight of her crimes tormented her, and gave her a powerful motivation to be a hero, as she sought to undo all the evil she had taken part in. It made for a better-developed version of the character, and one that is more than worthy of inclusion in the MOTUC line.

The sculpt by the Four Horsemen is good overall, and she certainly has a formidable presence on the shelf. That said, the details are rather soft, and there aren't as many sculpted details as I would have liked. Stand her next to Hordak, and this really becomes apparent! The alternate head is well-sculpted, and it certainly looks like the previous versions of the character we've gotten in this line, but her cheerful facial expression just doesn't suit the character. A grimacing, angry, or even screaming facial expression would have worked far better here. Thankfully, I had no plans to display the figure with this head, anyway. The large cape is cool, but it's so heavy that it makes it tough for the figure to stand for long without toppling. So, while the figure's sculpt isn't bad at all, it does miss the mark in a few key areas. That's very rare for the 4H. Due to a production issue, the figure's left hand is misshapen, making it practically impossible for her to hold anything in that hand for more than a few seconds. It can be reshaped with the application of some heat, but once again, this is something we simply shouldn't have to bother with, particularly with how much most of these figures cost.

Paint apps are another sore spot. There's quite a bit of slop, and some areas simply aren't completely filled in. In contrast, both heads are very well painted, with crisp lines, and some nice highlights on the masked head. It's odd to see the paint apps vary so wildly in quality like this, but if there's going to be slop, I would prefer it be on the body, rather than the head, so I can't get too bent out of shape over how things worked out. Articulation is another uneven area for the figure, with some key points of articulation missing. Despara has ball joints at the neck and shoulders, swivel & hinge hips, hinges at the elbows, knees, and ankles, ankle rockers, and swivels at the biceps, wrists, boot tops, and waist. The torso hinge and thigh swivels are missing, as they are on many female MOTUC figures, and those omissions hurt this figure as much as it did all of them.

Despara fares well as far as accessories go. She has the previously mentioned alternate head, her Horde staff, and her twin swords. The weapons have nice sculpts, and I particularly like the design of the swords. Both swords can be stored on her back, which is always a nice touch. Unfortunately, she has a lot of trouble holding her accessories in her left hand, due to the production issue mentioned earlier. It's just another issue with a figure that already has far too many.

Overall, Despara is a mixed bag. I love the idea of the character, and she was an excellent choice to be produced as a figure, but the issues with the sculpt, paint, and articulation take a figure I really wanted to love and made it one that I think is just okay. Still, she does look cool standing on the shelf, assuming you can get her in a stable pose, and she fits right in with the rest of the Horde. I imagine she'd look absolutely badass leading a group of Horde Troopers into battle! (Note to self: I really need to get some of those!) Fans of the comics are also sure to want her, and even with all the figure's issues, she is worth tracking down. Just don't pay too much for her, and be prepared to fix that hand if you want her to actually be able to hold her weapons! That's all for today, but scroll down for many more photos, and be sure to swing back by next week!