Friday, November 20, 2020

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Origins Orko figure


Today we're looking at the newest plastic incarnation of one of the most polarizing of all MOTU characters, Orko! Loved and loathed in seemingly equal measure by the MOTU fandom, Orko is nevertheless a fixture in the mythos, so it's not at all surprising to see him recieving a figure so early in the Origins line. Personally, I hated Orko when I was a kid. I always disliked the so-called "child identification" characters because it felt like I was being pandered to, and really, that's exactly the idea behind those characters. In my mind, Orko was the worst offender of them all, because he was plopped smack dab in the middle of my beloved MOTU. By the time he made the scene in the Filmation cartoon, I was already way into the more hard-edged world seen in the early minicomics. Orko was emblematic of the shift into a blander, more toddler-friendly version of MOTU that I didn't like nearly as much. While I enjoyed the animated show well enough for what it was, it was never the "real" MOTU to me, and Orko was a big part of why I felt that way. The vintage figure suffered countless tortures at the hands of Skeletor, culminating in his murder for "being a tosser," at which point he was buried in the front yard. As far as I know, he's still down there! (Side note about the "tosser" thing: I picked that up somewhere, doubtless from a movie or something, and just liked the sound of it. My Mom either found out what it meant, or just decided it was likely something her five-year-old didn't need to be saying, and promptly put a stop to my useage of it. For a little while, however, it was my insult of choice!) My feelings about Orko have softened over the years, but he remains far from one of my favorites. So, was buying this figure just a huge brain fart on my part, or what? Read on...

Where the Origins figures have mostly emulated the vintage figures, Orko is a big departure from that approach. He's based entirely on the Filmation design, and looks as if he floated right off the TV screen! While I don't consider the Filmation designs preferable to the figures or minicomic designs, they are the ones who created this character, so deferring to their design was definitely the right approach here. Orko still features a level of detail on part with the rest of the line, with wrinkles and such sculpted where the design allows, chiefly on his scarf and the back of his hat. The sculpting of the eyes is just about perfect. This is a crucial element of the character's design, yet it is something nearly every figure of the character has struggled to get right. Scale continues to be an issue with the character, as he his simply too large compared to the rest of the line. This is a persistent issue with the character, as Mattel presumably makes him large enough that he can be sold as a separate figure without being perceived as a poor value. (Only the Classics version was nicely scaled, but he had the advantage of being a con exclusive packaged with an entire extra figure as his "accessory.")

Unlike other wave two figures I've seen, Orko has very neatly applied paint apps. the colors are appropriately bright, and pop nicely on the shelf. I like the bright colors on this line in general, but they seem especially for this character! Orko's articulation is as close to the line's standard as his design allows, with a ball-jointed head and swivel & hinge shoulders, elbows, and wrists. All points of articulation have a wide range of motion and hold poses well, especially the head. Orko's head has a hole that is slightly smaller than that of the other figures. With a bit of heat, however, it can be swapped with the line's other figures, so you can easily create some truly nightmarish mashups! Sadly, Orko's scarf prevents other figures' heads from popping into place atop his body. It's worth pointing out that the figure does feel rather top-heavy. The solid head and had atop a hollow body creates this issue, though it's alleviated by his body's width at the bottom. The figure can feel a little weird in-hand because of the wonky weight distribution, but it doesn't really affect posing. 

Orko only has one accessory, but it's a big one. His display base is a large glittery purple cloud with a clear stand rising from it. There are two pivot points, allowing for many posing opportunities. the base's width makes it stable enough to support even the most extreme angles without issue. Orko also includes this wave's minicomic, which features him prominently. Despite the base's size, Orko still feels pretty light for a $15 figure. The inclusion of his wand (which was added in the 2002 line, I know) or some alternate hands would have gone a long way toward sweetening the deal here. As it is, it feels like you're paying a few dollars too much for him compared to the other figures. 

While the individual merits of Origins figures to their vintage versions continue to be heavily debated,  Orko is easily the biggest improvement over his vintage counterpart that we've seen in this line to date. There are aspects of some of the vintage figures I prefer to the Origins versions here and there, but Orko is a grand slam all the way. The one big issue is his scale, but even that is better than it was with the vintage version. Unless you can lay hands on the Classics Orko, scale issues are simply something that have to be accepted with this character. I'm someone who doesn't even like Orko much, and I debated whether or not to get the figure, as I usually skip him. (The only other Orko I currently own is the 2002 figure, which is in storage as I type this.) I'm glad I got him, though. While he'll never be a favorite character of mine, he's a wonderfully designed figure. While taking photos for this review, I was surprised at how photogenic he is, and how much fun I had putting him in various poses. If you flat-out loathe the character, this figure won't change your mind, but if you're on the fence about this figure, go ahead and get it. Orko is one of the unmitigated triumphs of the Origins line to date. That's all for today, but scroll down for more photos, and be sure to float back over this way next week for the next review! Until then, happy hunting, and stay safe out there! 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Origins Trap Jaw figure

 Wave two of Mattel's Masters of the Universe Origins line is gradually rolling out in the US, following an early debut internationally. (In fact, as I type this, wave three is now beginning to show up internationally! While I can be as impatient as anyone about this stuff, it's actually kinda nice to see collectors outside the US getting access to new figures before us, for a change.) Following the pattern set by the line thus far, trying to pre-order these on Walmart's website was an utter bloodbath, and many still had their pre-orders cancelled afterward. I was one of the lucky ones whose pre-orders survived, and my figures arrived in batches on the final days of October. (I wasn't so lucky with my WWE MOTU wave four pre-orders, alas.) The duo of ghoulish bastards Trap Jaw and Scareglow arrived at my door, appropriately enough, on Halloween! Trap Jaw is traditionally one of the coolest and most popular figures from any given MOTU line, so this new incarnation has a lot to live up to. Does he rise to the occasion? Read on...

One of the first things I noticed about this figure is that, in a break from tradition, the armor on the right side of his torso is actually sculpted on, rather than a separate piece slipped over the standard torso. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does seem a bit odd to create new tooling in a case where it was completely unnecessary. I know I used to enjoy mixing and matching the armor on my figures when I was a kid, Trap Jaw included, and I wasn't the only one. Having it molded to the torso limits that, and I hope this isn't a sign of a new trend with this line. Aside from that, the sculpt is generally well done, though bizarrely, details are noticeably softer in many areas compared to the vintage figure. The legs are rather undersized, but this is carried over from the vintage figure. I would have preferred they made them more proportional, but as it is primarily a vintage-based line, I can't fault them for not doing so. Those few gripes aside, this is the same batshit crazy cyborg-pirate-mercenary we all know and love. I'll also note that the plastic quality is good enough that the loop on top of the figure's helmet is strong enough for the zipline feature, which hasn't been the case with some of the other Trap Jaw figures we've gotten in the past.

Paint apps, while few in number, are kinda all over the place in terms of quality. We have some extremely neat work on the thighs and eyeballs, and then some very sloppy work on the left wrist an helmet. The top of the helmet is the worst offender, as the entire paint app is off-center, leaving some of the sculpted bit bare, and paint spilling over to the right of it. Much has been said about the new colors for Trappy's eyes and lack of eyebrows, not all of it good. Personally, I dig it. I've always though Trap Jaw was likely a mental case, and should therefore look pretty bonkers, and this definitely aids that perception. With the bare brow and sickly yellow pupils floating in those dead, black eyes, the dude looks like a total maniac! 

Trap Jaw sports the line's standard articulation for the most part, but with a few differences owing to his construction. He has a ball-jointed head, swivels at the right shoulder, waist, and calves, and swivel & hinge elbows, hips, knees, ankles, left shoulder, and left wrist. His jaw is articulated, and lacks the spring of the vintage and 2002 figures, so it can be posed in an open position. There is also a swivel created when a weapon is plugged into his mechanical arm, so that adds another POA if you wanna count it. It's a little disappointing that the mechanical arm is limited to a swivel shoulder, rather than the standard swivel & hinge combo. It could have been implemented, as we've seen with the Classics figure. Going with the basic swivel just seems a bit like lazy design. The head has a severely limited range of motion owing to a different construction, as seen in the photo below. I'm at a lost as to why this change was made, as it limits the head movement so much that it's barely better than a basic swivel. (Head swaps still work though, as seen in the photo above!) Again, let's hope this is the last we see of this in the line! I love this line's articulation model, and it's a shame to see it compromised by a couple of baffling and, frankly, unnecessary design decisions.

UPDATE: Shortly before this review went live, FedEx delivered the pair of Trap Jaws I was lucky enough to order from Walmart last Friday. Both of these figures actually have a swivel & hinge shoulder on the mechanical arm, so apparently a running change was made. I noticed that both figures had a small gap between the shoulder and torso that was visible while they were still sealed in the package, so use that as a guide to find one with the additional articulation if you're fortunate enough to come across a few Trap Jaws! See the photo below for the difference between the two different versions of the mechanical arm. The range of motion isn't as good as with the standard arms in the line, but it's still an improvement over a simple swivel.

Trap Jaw has plenty of accessories, though he's not quite as loaded as his vintage counterpart. His standard trio of arm attachments are present, of course, along with his removeable belt and this wave's minicomic. All three arm attachments store in his belt, as expected. The fit is a bit more snug than with past figures of the character, so they stay in place much better. When posing and re-posing the figure in my display and for these photos, none of them fell off once! It's also worth noting that there is a somewhat limited compatibility between these attachments and the vintage figure's. The pegs are different sizes, so the new attachments don't fit perfectly into the old figure's arm, and the vintage pegs are too large to go all the way into the new figure's arm, but they do fit well enough to work in a pinch. (See the photo below for an example.) The minicomic is an improvement over the first wave's though it's still very limited by the tiny page count. It still manages to feature a decent bit of characterization, and even ends in a way that holds promise of a follow-up! Sadly, Trap Jaw does not include the glow-in-the-dark "warrior's ring." We've known for a while that it wouldn't be included, but it's still a bit disappointing. Maybe Mattel decided they'd met the glow-in-the-dark quota with this wave already, what with Scare Glow's inclusion? Hopefully the ring will pop up with Tri-Klops next year! 

While a figure that is destined to be one of the line's most demanded, Trap Jaw falls a bit short of perfection. If the design team had not made a couple of regrettable decisions that compromised the articulation, and with some better quality control at the factory, this figure would be a lock for the line's finest to date. But honestly, removing my "objective reviewer" hat, he's pretty much there anyway. My handful of minor gripes aside, Trap Jaw is a very cool figure, and as tremendously fun as he ever was! He's just too damn awesome to be dragged down by a couple of sloppy paint apps and less-than-ideal articulation. If you haven't secured one yet, keep checking Walmart's website, as he has been popping up periodically. Good luck, happy hunting, and stay safe out there! See you back here next week for more MOTU goodness!

Friday, September 25, 2020

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Origins Sky Sled with Prince Adam figure

 One of the major drawbacks collectors have had to accept in recent years is that most toylines simply don't get vehicles and playsets. Sure, you'll see plenty for lines that tie in to big movies and TV shows, but outside of that, they are largely a thing of the past. As toy aisles continue to shrink, shelf space becomes ever more valuable, and larger items with a larger footprint on the shelf must belong to a line with strong enough sales to justify that space if retailers are expected to stock it. With all that in mind, the presence of something like the subject of today's review is a clear sign of the confidence Mattel has in its new-ish Master of the Universe Origins line. As part of the iconic Battle Ram, the Sky Sled is one of the most quintessential MOTU vehicles. Love him or hate him, Prince Adam is one of the property's most recognizable characters. Did Mattel do them justice with this latest iteration? Read on...

As with Battle Cat, I was absolutely floored by the beautiful packaging. Like the rest of the line, it recreates the look and feel of the vintage toys, and includes many details and homages to the vintage art. In fact, I was so taken by it that I overlooked this until I made it home and was about to open the thing.

Apparently Adam got too crazy on the dance floor and dislocated his pelvis. Good thing these figures snap right back together! Once I popped Achy Breaky Adam's waist back together, I put him through the usual joint checks and other tests a new figure must endure. His sculpt is the same as He-Man's, of course, though cast and painted in different colors. The color scheme mostly matches the vintage figure, but the vest is a bright pink instead of the maroon of the '80s version. Another difference is the choice of materials, as this figure's vest is made of a pliable plastic, rather than the soft goods of its vintage counterpart. The vest is glued shut, but can be slid off if you pop off the arms and legs. (Of course, you could always just cut it open, too!) A gloss coat over the bracers would have helped set them apart from the "shirt", but other than that, I'm satisfied with the figure's paint apps. Adam sports the line's standard articulation, with a ball-jointed head, swivels at the waist and boot tops, and swivel & hinge shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles. As usual, most of these POAs pop apart for easy mixing & matching with other figures, though I recommend heating the elbows, knees, and ankles before trying to pop them apart. Adam's lone accessory is his sword, cast in a pink to match his vest. Interestingly, it's a full sword, rather than the half sword his alter ego is saddled with. It uses the Alcala look, but the handle is too thick for the figure to comfortably hold. You have to force it into his hand, and then it falls out a minute or two later. It's an odd design oversight, to say the least. 

The Sky Sled itself follows the general design of the vintage toy, with some embellishments taken from the vintage package art. There's a greater emphasis on firepower with this version, as the cannons are much larger than those on any previous version of this vehicle. The cannons and rear thrusters are cast in a silvery plastic, while the rest of the sled is cast in the familiar dark blue. The front cannon swivels side to side, and any of the figures released so far can fit into the seat to pilot the sled. The gargoyle head and side panels can be removed and swapped out for alternate "evil" versions, allowing for some easy customization. Completing the package is a flight stand with some khaki colored terrain as its base. The stand pops into place easily, and removes with a little force. The sled can tilt and swivel while the base is attached, allowing for a nice range of poses. (Note that the stand does not work with the MOTU Classics vehicles, as the plug is a different size.) Rounding out the accessories is a very cool laser blast effect that can plug into the front cannon. It's cast in a translucent plastic, stays in place easily, and looks cool doing it!

The Sky Sled is a fantastic choice for the line's first vehicle, and Mattel has done a great job with it. They took a vehicle that was sure to sell anyway, and really went the extra mile and included those swappable parts to basically make it two vehicles in one! The oversized cannons may bother some, but in my view, they're just big enough without becoming comical. (They'll look even better once I get around to customizing this thing and painting in the sculpted details!) The Sky Sled itself is small enough that it would be a tough sell at $30, even packed with a figure, but the flight stand and swappable parts give it that little extra oomph it needs to justify that price. Many collectors will already want to army build the Sky Sled, and the ability to make an "evil" version of it only increases that temptation! That brings us to the major drawback of this set: the pack-in figure. Adam is a decent enough figure, but for a vehicle like this that encourages multiple purchases, the included figure really should have been an army builder. Swapping Adam out for a palace guard would have made this a damn near perfect set. As it is, a lot of collectors are gonna wind up with a few extra Adams lying around gathering dust! Since Adam is a top-tier character that could easily sell on his own as a single-packed figure, his inclusion here is even more mystifying. Still, whatever the reasoning behind it, Adam is the figure we got. This is a great set that is well worth buying, but the inclusion of a unique character makes army building a much tougher sell. And I still want the rest of the Battle Ram soon, you hear me, Mattel? That's it for today, but be sure to hack and slash your way back here next week for another review! Until then, happy hunting, and stay safe out there!

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Thoughts on the Masters of the Universe Origins Castle Grayskull leak

 Within the last 24 hours, a photo of what appears to be the MOTU Origins Castle Grayskull has been making the rounds online. It was apparently found in the files of a German retailer's website, promptly uploaded to, and from there, it quickly spread across the 'net. Note that while this seems legit, it is not official, and even it is is real, we don't know how close to this image the final product will be. 

There's a lot to unpack here. At first glance, it bears a strong overall resemblance to the vintage Grayskull, which should come as no surprise to anyone. That said, there are enough differences to make it distinct and interesting in its own right. One of the first things I noticed is the brown jawbridge. This seems an odd decision, as the vintage castle looked fine with it molded in the same green as the rest of the castle. I had no problem believing there are green trees on Eternia! While the brown chosen might make the door look better from the outside, the jawbridge itself suffers. Hopefully this is something that will change before this version of Grayskull, if it is indeed legitimate, enters production. If not, it can be repainted, so it's really not a huge deal. The weapons rack is present, though it has fewer weapons included than any previous version of Grayskull. The ladder is much wider, and actually looks functional for the figures. It's a bit difficult to make out, but behind the ladder, we can see what appears to be the torture rack that was scrapped from the final version of the vintage Grayksull! That is a very interesting inclusion, if that is what it actually turns out to be. The dungeon sticker appears to be on the floor underneath it. Finishing off the first floor is the elevator, looking very much like its vintage counterpart.

On the second floor, we have a sculpted version of the viewscreen, which was represented by a cardboard cutout in the vintage castle. The Sorceress appears in her Temple of Darkness minicomic color scheme, presumably as a pack-in figure. I'm glad to see her in the white costume, as that has long been my preferred version of her. The banners hanging on the wall look very similar to those included in the MOTU Classics Grayskull, and may well be reused from it. The control console, like the viewscreen, is sculpted, instead of a simple cardboard insert. The space suit, sadly, is not present. The throne looks very much like the vintage version. The sticker over the trapdoor appears to be on the floor, and we can only assume that it works as the vintage version did. On the castle parapets we have the laser cannon, flag, and, oddly enough, the combat trainer. I like the addition of a third platform here. 

A few more general observations: The overall shell seems much more shallow than the vintage version, though it's difficult to tell for sure. There also doesn't appear to be an actual hinge, but just a seam in the plastic that allows the castle to open and close. If this photo is legit, let's hope that this is a prototype version, and that the final toy will have actual hinges. I was hoping for a Grayskull that looked far more like the early Mark Taylor prototype and Alfredo Alcala's rendering of it, but that doesn't seem to be what we're getting here, though the torture rack is a nice (and surprising!) homage to it. The inclusion of the "chess piece" on top of the facade and the ledge on the right side would go a long way toward achieving a middle ground between vintage toy and that prototype version. While I'm glad to see the ToD Sorceress, I would prefer a pack-in figure to be a character we're not likely to get as a single-packed figure, like a King Grayskull statue figure, Castle Grayskull Man, or an actual figure version of the space suit that seems to have been nixed altogether. The prototype version of the throne would be nice, as well. Extending the top ledge all the way across would also increase play and display space. I'd also love to get the Spirit of Grayskull piece that was slated for inclusion with the MOTU Classics Grayskull at one point! 

While there's quite a bit we can see in this low-res photo, it's important to keep in mind what we cannot deduce. Most obviously, we can't see the front of the castle. Here's hoping it has some of the more ghoulish teeth and detailing seen in the vintage Taylor prototype and Alcala renderings, but we really won't know until more photos surface. This castle isn't perfect, but I do dig it. It's different enough from previous Grayskulls to have its own charm and identity, and should hold plenty of appeal to any kids who have bought into the Origins line. (Kids are the primary audience for this line, after all. Adult collectors have a tendency to forget that the toy world doesn't revolve around them!) According to a Target listing found earlier this year, the castle may retail for $75. Given what we see here, that seems about right. For now, we'll just have to wait until more details surface, hopefully in an official capacity from Mattel itself. That's it for today, but feel free to share your thoughts in the comments, and trek on back in two days for another MOTU Origins review. Until then, happy hunting, and stay safe out there!

Friday, September 11, 2020

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Origins Man-at-Arms figure

 Oh, it was an epic moment. I checked Brickseek while taking a quick break at work, and the furthest Walmart in town from my house was showing the MOTU Origins assortment case as in stock. As the hours dragged by, I resolved to drive over there in the hopes of finding the final wave one figure I needed. My hopes were not high.These things have been selling quickly, and the assortment cases in particular seem to evaporate within minutes of being stocked. Plus, this Walmart is the biggest and most heavily shopped in town, and collectors who live much closer to it than I do keep it pretty well cleaned out. Still, I had to check. Walking to the aisle, my mask cinched tight, keeping my distance from the denizens of Walmart as best I could, I mentally prepared myself for what I would likely see: A few pegs, probably empty, but with perhaps a Skeletor or He-Man or two hanging there, mocking me for not arriving earlier. 

Instead, I was greeted by this sight: 

The packages for these three were heavily damaged-- it's much worse than is apparent in the photo-- and that's probably why they were still there. Many adult collectors will pass on something in this shape, but for me, the package is just something to be ripped open, then tossed into the trash. (I do save the cardbacks on these for the cool art, though!) Green leotard-clad warrior in hand, I strolled to the checkout. Was this fella worth all the trouble? Read on...

Like his fellow wave one figures, Man-at-Arms is a more sharply-sculpted version of the vintage figure, with the head standing out as the one real point of departure. To make the figure jive better with most of his depictions in various media, MAA now has a mustache! Whether this is good or bad will depend on your personal preference; for my part, while I prefer the depictions in the early minicomics for pretty much everything, I actually like MAA with a 'stache. While I do hope we get one without it in the future for variety's sake, I'm quite satisfied with this head for now. (Some collectors have pointed out a resemblance to Jack Black, and it's definitely hard not to notice it once you've seen it!) As with the vintage figure, MAA sports a more detailed sculpt than most of the other figures in the line, with lots of tiny details sculpted into his armor and helmet. While the green body is supposed to be armor, there is no 2002-style detailing here, and the the figure is the exact same sculpt as He-Man from the neck down. This is true to the line's mission statement, so no foul there. 

The paint apps are sparse, but again, true to the spirit of the Origins line. Most everything is cast in the appropriate color, and the few paint apps the figure has are neat and clean, particularly on the face. Some may take issue with the hair color chosen, but as there is no real canonical hair color for the character-- the vintage figure's sculpted hair was unpainted, and its color varied across different media, from brown, to gray, to black, to blonde on the cross-sell art-- so I can't fault them for this. It's an easy enough fix for anyone who wishes to change it. (I'm partial to dark brown, personally.) It wouldn't have killed them to paint in the red dots on the helmet, as a reference to the early run vintage figures, but that's really not a big deal.

Man-at-Arms sports the standard articulation for the line, with a ball-jointed head, swivels at the boot tops and waist, and swivel & hinge shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles. All points of articulation work well, with a nice range of motion, and hold poses with no issues. As I've said before about these figures, this is a very well-designed articulation model, and I like it quite a bit. The parts pop apart and reassemble easily at most POAs, though I recommend heating the elbows, knees, and ankles before trying to disassemble them, as you're liable to break them otherwise.

Man-at-Arms comes loaded with accessories, including his four pieces of armor, his mace, and the standard wave one minicomic. The mace has caused a bit of debate, with some collectors expressing disappointment that the designers mimicked the one included with the vintage toy, rather than the larger version seen in early minicomics and cross sell art. I'm torn on this personally, as I can see the logic behind both. While the line does have some influence from the early minicomics, its chief inspiration is clearly the vintage toys, so I can't say I was surprised by their decision. (At any rate, I have extras of the MOTU Classics mace lying around if I decide the figure needs an upgrade!) The armor looks good, and goes on and off with no issues. The arm armor is designed a bit differently due to the added articulation, however. It's in two sections, with the middle "flex"portion designed so that it can overlap when the arm is straightened, similar to the design of the MOTU Classics version. (This is demonstrated in the photo a couple of paragraphs down.) It works well enough, though the lower section is prone to slipping down at times. As for the minicomic-- I hope this is the last time I'll have to type this-- while it's very short and underwhelming, it still feels awesome to be getting an honest-to-god minicomic with a figure in this day and age! Hopefully the quality of them improves in the future. 

As one of the handful of key characters in pretty much every iteration of MOTU across all media, Man-at-Arms is one of those figures that anyone who collects this line at all is bound to pick up. With that in mind, it's nice to see that Mattel's designers pretty much nailed it right out of the gate. While some optional extras like clean-shaved & helmet-less heads, or different versions of the mace, or additional weapons will be nice to get with upcoming figures or--dare we hope-- an updated version of the Weapons Pak, this is a great basic version of this essential character. While the figure holds no real surprises, it delivers all you really need in a Man-at-Arms figure, and is definitely worth having to do a bit of driving around to find. That's all for today, but be sure to don your armor and battle your way back next week for more! Until then, happy hunting, and stay safe out there!

BONUS: Check out my Man-at-Arms after I spent some time repainting him! I love the weathered look his armor has now; it definitely looks like it's seen a  lot of use! I also had to repaint his hair, as the black just didn't look right to me. A bit of paint washes and some metallic paint make a world of difference with these figures! (Apologies for the use of the flash; after finishing the repaint, I didn't have access to my usual photography spot, and the area just wasn't lit all that well, so the flash was necessary.)

Friday, September 4, 2020

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Origins Battle Cat figure

There are few certainties in life, and fewer still that are comforting. One thing we can always rely on: When a new Masters of the Universe line makes the scene, He-Man won't be expected to hoof it everywhere. Nope, he will have his old buddy Battle Cat! In the vintage line, Battle Cat-- or Big BC, as his friends call him-- quickly grew beyond his roots as a cheap reuse of an old mold from Mattel's earlier Big Jim and Tarzan lines to become one of the handful of absolutely essential characters in all of  MOTU, and one of the biggest pop culture icons of the '80s. When someone buys a He-Man figure, they also want Battle Cat to accompany him. The two are practically inseparable. And so it is with Mattel's new-ish Masters of the Universe Origins line! How does the newest iteration of the big green cat fare? Read on...

From the moment you see him on the shelf, Battle Cat benefits greatly from the presentation of this line. The vintage-inspired artwork is gorgeous, emulating the original art by Rudy Obrero, while still standing on its own two legs. There are numerous tiny details and Easter eggs for sharp-eyed viewers, and the overall effect is one that made me reluctant to open the damn thing. I'm not a MOC collector, so any package that makes me hesitant to rip into it is  a special thing indeed! As with the rest of the line, the sculpt is evocative of the vintage figure, but more sharply detailed. There's a great deal more fur texture sculpted, and the front rows of teeth between the canines are actually sculpted. It's not as detailed as the Classics version, but then, I don't think anyone was expecting it to be. That's not what the Origins line is aiming for. (Unfortunately, my vintage, 2002, and Classics Battle Cats are in storage, and thus unavailable for comparison shots.) 

BC doesn't require much in the way of paint apps, but even so, what's present isn't all that it should be. The yellow stripes are mostly neat, but there are some gaps in areas where the underlying sculpted fur is a bit thicker than in others. This is most apparent on his shoulders. The tail is unpainted, as with most vintage BCs, but given this line's mission statement, I think it should have been striped like the BC prototype and very early production run. The eyes are left the same green as the head was molded in, but they did at least apply a nice gloss coat to give them a bit of a sheen. The rows of teeth between the canines were left unpainted. The body would also have greatly benefited from a light wash, but I'm not really expecting paint washes and the like from this line, so I won't hold that against them. The saddle and helmet also feature a few gloss coats on a few spots, such as the protruding horns. The helmet also features painted eyes, a first for a BC toy! They're too Filmation-y for my liking, but it's nice that they did it. (I always display my BC without the helmet, anyway.) 

BC's articulation is a mixed bag. He fares far better than his counterparts from the vintage and 2002 lines, but falls short of the Classics version. He's so close to having everything he needs that it's frustrating. BC has a swivel hinge joint at the tail and knees, swivels at the hips with very limited outward movement, a hinged jaw, and a wonderful ball-jointed head. The lack of ankle articulation of any kind really hurts him, as it limits the poses he can strike, and makes many of the poses he can hold look unnatural. You can't even get him into the iconic pose his vintage counterpart was sculpted in! The range of motion for the head is fantastic, though. That one POA alone is so well implemented that it can add much expressiveness to the figure. The tail helps with this, as well. It's a good thing, since he's pretty much destined to just stand with his legs straight underneath him. BC's only accessories are his saddle and helmet, and that's really all he needs. They fit in place well and are easy to remove, and He-Man (or any of the figures released so far) fits into the saddle perfectly. 

I admit that I was on the fence about buying this version of Battle Cat at first, and I considered digging out my Classics BC to use, instead. That may actually be the best option for anyone who has a Classics BC, but as he is very expensive on the secondary market, this Origins version is the best bet for anyone who doesn't already own one. His articulation is the big sticking point, but it's still a vast improvement over the vintage and 2002 versions. I don't regret buying him, and I like him quite a bit more than this summation probably makes it sound. I really do wish Mattel had implemented those ankle hinges, though, as that would have made a huge difference. However, let's face it: If you're collecting this line, you've gotta have a Battle Cat, and unless you already own another one, or have lots of disposable income, this is the only game in town. It's not a bad purchase, and kids will certainly care less about the limited articulation than we adult collectors do, but it's a shame that some questionable work from the design team holds it back. That's it for this week, but be sure to ride your over-sized jungle cat back next week for more! Until then, happy hunting, and stay safe out there!

Friday, August 28, 2020

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Origins Beast Man figure


It's still slim pickings for Mattel's MOTU Origins line around here as I type this, but I did get lucky and find remnants of the four figure assortment case, which seems to be the most elusive of all the Origins stock at the moment. After seeing that the largest Walmart in town had received one of those cases via Brickseek, I headed over and saw a lone Beast Man hanging among several Skeletor and He-Man figures. Amazed (but thankful) that someone had apparently bought a set of the figures but left Skeletor's right-hand henchman behind, I head toward the checkout. 

Beast Man is perhaps the closest of all the wave one MOTU Origins figures to his vintage counterpart. He uses the furry beast body, of course, making him unique among the figures released so far. As with the other figures, this is a recreation of the '80s parts, with slightly sharper detailing. These sharper details are perhaps most obvious when looking at the back of the figure's right hand, where the spiky weapon is plainly visible, as opposed to the very soft sculpt on the original. Unlike most of the wave, Beast Man's head is damn near exactly the same as the original, with only his gritted teeth really setting it apart. As you can see in the photos, the two heads are remarkably close. My one gripe with the figure's sculpt is the smooth little baby booties he seems to have slipped over his feet. Though this is a vintage-inspired line, they have been improving details and tweaking designs a bit in general, and this is an area where I think such a change would been most welcome. Give Beast Man some damn feet with claws on them, for Grodd's sake! I can't hold this against the designers too much, since these figures mostly adhere pretty closely to the vintage versions, but I do think they made a mistake in sticking so closely to the original figure here.

Most of the paint work is pretty neat, with some particularly crisp work on the face. Another casualty of aping (heheh) the original figure too closely is the paint work on the figure's armor, however. The designers opted to simply have the airbrushed blue blob sort of on and around the medallion, and call it done. This sort of  slapdash paint work was acceptable back in the day, but again, despite this being a vintage homage line, it just feels cheap and lazy here. I didn't expect them to paint every tiny sculpted detail on the armor, but I don't think it's unreasonable to at least expect the medallion to be neatly painted blue without the paint application spraying all around it just because the old toy did it that way. I really feel that this line can pay homage to the beloved classic line quite adequately while still improving little things like this, and it feels like a missed opportunity when they don't.

Beast Man sports the line's standard articulation, with a ball-jointed head, swivels at the waist and calves, and swivel & hinge shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles. I don't have anything new to say here, but I continue to like this articulation model quite a bit, and the parts-swapping feature continues to work well and add a lot of fun to the figures. Beast Man's lone accessory is his whip. Broken record time! The vintage figure had a whip with a handle that was too large for the figure to hold because it was borrowed from Mattel's larger-scaled Big Jim line. This necessitated the figure holding it be the little hand guard, rather than the handle itself. Again, I feel this is something that could have been "fixed" with the Origins line, but the line's designers apparently felt otherwise. This isn't a deal breaker or anything, but it is annoying. The standard wave one minicomic is also included, and as I stated in my reviews for the other wave one figures, it's short and underwhelming, but it's  awesome to be getting an honest-to-god minicomic with these figures. Hopefully they'll improve in the future.

While I feel this figure suffers more than some of the others from being too beholden to the vintage figure, it's still a great toy overall. Honestly, even with the handful of issues I have with it right out of the package, it's one of my favorites from this wave! It's just a shame that it isn't all that it could have been, but those factors won't be issues for everyone. Either way, Beast Man is still Skeletor's number one whipping boy, and an absolutely essential character to any incarnation of the MOTU mythos, so anyone who's interested in this line will no doubt be grabbing one of these. Warts and all, this is a good figure, and a fantastic vintage-style representation of the character. Even if they didn't quite knock it out of the park, it's great that Mattel has done a very solid job with such a crucial character. That's all for today, but be sure to swing back by next week for more! Man-at-Arms still eludes me, so next week's review will focus on something a bit... larger. Until then, happy hunting, and stay safe out there!

Here's a look at Beast Man after some repainting and drybrushing. A decent paint wash really makes you appreciate the detail in this sculpt!

Friday, August 21, 2020

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Origins Evil-Lyn figure

Despite managing to order Evil-Lyn from Walmart's supremely uncooperative website a couple of weeks ago, it took six days before it was actually shipped, so I actually had my store find He-Man in-hand first. Hence, this figure that I ordered a week prior is going up a week after him. Such are the hoops we jump through when a hot new toyline launches! Evil-Lyn's inclusion in the initial launch of the MOTU Origins line is an example of how Mattel is (thankfully) mixing things up a bit with the figure assortments, rather than rolling them out in more or less the same order as the vintage line. (Scare Glow in wave two, Ninjor in wave three, and Clamp Champ in the debut wave of the deluxe line are even better examples!) This is a very good thing in my mind, as it adds a bit of anticipation to reveals, instead of us all knowing who is coming next. It also means that those of us who count some of the later series figures among our favorites might not have to wait years to get Origins versions of them! (Seriously, we're already getting the Champ in a few short months! I am all over that!) It's particularly nice in this case, as Evil-Lyn is one of the core characters in the mythos, and it would really kinda suck if we had to wade through multiple waves before we got to her. 

As with Teela, with whom Evil-Lyn shares most of her parts, the sculpt is more or less a more sharply detailed recreation of its vintage counterpart, with a few differences. The weird left hand that both of the main MOTU ladies were saddled with always looked to me like they were being introduced to people at a fancy dinner party who were lining up to kiss their hands. Thankfully, this has been replaced with a functional grasping hand, adding to posing options far more than a recreation of the old "How do you do?" hand would have. Like her snake armored counterpart, Evil-Lyn also lacks the vintage figure's fuller Frazetta-style thunder thighs. Childhood me would be very disappointed! 

The biggest departure, as with most of these figures, is with the head. Evil-Lyn has a snarling expression that, while very specific to certain situations, does suit the character. The tiny teeth are individually sculpted, which surprised me a bit. The face does look noticeably different from the vintage figure, and it only kind of looks like this is the same person. It's not a bad sculpt, but it is different. As seen in the photo below, my figure's helmet wasn't put on straight during assembly, so the damn thing is crooked. It's not noticeable unless you're looking at her straight on, but it annoys me enough that a bit of surgery will be required. Hopefully the glue they use at the factory isn't too strong! Unfortunately, based on the many photos I've seen of other people's figures, the crooked helmet seems to be a widespread issue.

The paint apps are pretty neat for the most part, but my figure has a little blob of light blue between two of the points on her crooked helmet. This figure got beaten all up by the QC stick! The paint apps on the face are responsible in large part for how different this head sculpt looks from the original, as the lipstick and eye shadow applications are far more restrained. The eye shadow, in fact, is barely there at all! I'm still on the fence about whether or not to add some myself. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is something to be aware of.

Evil-Lyn sports the line's standard articulation, with a ball jointed head, swivels at the waist and boot tops, and swivel & hinge shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles. The joints move easily and hold poses well, and they pop apart and back on without much trouble. I do recommend heading the elbows, knees, and ankles before popping them out, as they're much smaller and tighter on the ladies. It's a great articulation model that I like quite a bit, though the knees stand out much more on the ladies. Evil-Lyn falls far short of the others in the accessory department, with only her magical orb staff. This is simply cast in light blue, and it does not glow in the dark as many of the vintage ones did. This really does feel like we're being shorted here, as there are numerous sensible options that could have been included to prevent the accessories from being so light. How about a set of swappable "spell casting" hands? What about the dagger that's been a standard inclusion since the character's 2002 iteration? Or a swappable head without the helmet? Or maybe a removable cape, since the character is often featured with one? With so many viable options, it really does feel like Mattel cheaped out here. The standard wave one minicomic is also included, and (broken record time!) it remains short and underwhelming, but it's cool as hell to get an honest-to-god minicomic with a figure in this day and age! Hopefully their quality will improve in the future.

As an essential character and a fan-favorite, Evil-Lyn is a sought-after figure for pretty much anyone who is collecting this line. Despite a few flaws, this is a good plastic rendition of the character, but unlike most of the wave one figures, I consider this one as a bit of a starting point. We need a better head, and we need more accessories. By all means, grab her if you can, but be prepared that the figure feels a little light compared to the rest of those released so far. She's good, but there's plenty of room for improvement. Below is a shot of the figure after a bit of repainting, mostly applying some metallic blue dry brushing to the armored parts of her outfit, and painting the orb on her staff. I'm not done with her yet, as I still have to remove the factory-applied blob on her helmet and paint in the boot detailing, but it's already looking better! That's all for this week, but swing on back next week for a look at another Origins figure! Until, then, happy hunting, and stay safe out there!

And here's a look at what happens when Evil-Lyn tries to sneak out for a girl's night out! ;)