Thursday, July 27, 2017

Skeletor and He-Man Lego-style minifigures are here!

I came across these LEGO-style minifigs a couple of weeks ago, and naturally, I had to order a set! There are a few issues with them-- He-Man's sword bears little resemblance to the Sword of Grayskull, and Skeletor's hood is far too light a shade of purple, for instance-- but they're still very cool! The quality of the figures is very good; in fact, they're nearly indistinguishable from legit LEGO minifigs! The quality of LEGO-compatible stuff from other manufacturers can vary wildly, so I'm glad that these two are on the higher end.

Regular Rant readers may remember the Throne of Bone I made for my cobbled-together Skeletor minifig a couple of years ago. With a couple of parts swapped out, this new Skeletor minifig looks quite awesome atop the throne! All in all, I'm very pleased with this pair of figures, especially for the dirt cheap price. The only problem is that I now want minifigs of more MOTU characters even more than I did before! Alas, we all have our burdens to bear. That's it for today, but keep scrolling down for a few variations of the throne photo, and be sure to creep on back next Tuesday for the next MOTU Classics review!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Point Dread & Talon Fighter playset with Teela figure

When the adult collector-aimed Masters of the Universe Classics line debuted at the end of 2008, while everyone hoped for the best, I think most of us expected that, realistically, we might get a few dozen figures. I know that I was just crossing my fingers that we'd get the core heroic and evil warriors groups completed, since Mattel's bungling saw that the 2002 MOTU line couldn't even manage that. I don't think anyone was honestly expecting that we'd get so much as a Battle Cat, much less any full-on playsets. And yet, today we're looking at one of the largest vehicles produced for a toyline in this scale, along with the second playset in the MOTUC line! Sometimes I really am astonished at how much the MOTUC team was able to get produced.

As a playset & vehicle combo, the Point Dread & Talon Fighter set is a big-ticket item. Unfortunately for Mattel, but thankfully for me, they wound up with a lot of unsold stock, and I was able to grab one on the cheap. It's a good thing, as even though the Talon Fighter was possibly my favorite vehicle in the vintage MOTU line-- it was always neck-and-neck with the Battle Ram for that title-- I don't know that I ever would have been able to justify spending the cash to grab it for the retail price. that's important to keep in mind, since the execution would have to be extremely poor for me to be disappointed with it at the price I paid for it.

That said, Mattel's spotty quality control reared its ugly head the moment I opened the box. The instructions, sticker sheet, and radar dish were all missing. A replacement is on the way, but since it didn't arrive in time for this review, that dish will be missing in all the photos. I'll also note that the set is so large that my normal photo setup couldn't work for anything other than the pair of photos showing the Teela figure, so I had to photograph it in my bedroom using the flash. The quality of those photos is affected accordingly. My vintage Talon Fighter is in storage, so I couldn't take a comparison photo. With all that out of the way, on to the meat of the review!

The first thing you'll notice upon seeing this set in person is its size. It's huge. The box itself is quite large, and features some great art from vintage MOTU packaging artist Rudy Obrero, but it belies the size of the assembled product. The Talon Fighter is about eighteen inches long, and about as wide. Perched atop Point Dread, it's about eighteen inches tall. It's one thing to read those measurements and see the scale in photos, but until you actually have it in your hands, it's really impossible to know just how gigantic this thing really is. The Talon fighter's cockpit is large enough for up to three figures to sit inside it, though you'll need two females in the back to achieve that. Point Dread itself is tall enough to allow a figure to stand inside in front of the control console, but adding anymore figures requires some creative positioning. This is due to some extra plastic added to the open side of it, which is necessary to support the massive Talon Fighter. there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth over this, but given the choice between posing multiple figures in the back of the playset and having it sag under the weight of the Talon Fighter, I think Mattel's designers made the right call. (If anything, they made a mistake in showing it to us with the open back before the design was finalized.)

Point Dread has an interesting history. Very early in MOTU's existence, before Snake Mountain was created, it was considered the headquarters of Skeletor, but this was abandoned early on. The Point Dread of the early minicomics was a powerful battle station capable of turning the tide of any battle, and was deemed too powerful to remain accessible to the likes of Skeletor and his crew, so the Goddess used her magic to place it atop Castle Grayskull, where it would be inaccessible. This was a very cool play feature with the toy, as the top of Point Dread could be detached and placed on the right-hand turret of the Grayskull playset. So it is with this version, though I can't include any photos of that since I don't have a MOTUC Grayskull... yet.

Thankfully, Point Dread makes a fine display piece all on its own. It still has the odd staircases that are in two different scales, which I always found a puzzling feature on the vintage PD. The base is very wide, giving the set a large footprint, and a very stable base for supporting the weight of the TF. The control console is a plastic piece, which is definitely a huge upgrade to the cardboard of the original. The perch is sculpted with mechanical details, rather than the plain brown of the original, which gives it an appropriate feel that meshes with the futuristic TF. The feet of the aircraft lock into place on the perch, and there is a release lever on the underside. This is a nice touch, and gives the vehicle more stability.

The sculpting on the Talon Fighter is excellent, a perfect update of the vintage toy. I normally find MOTUC releases that are straight updates with nothing new in the mix boring, but this doesn't really apply to the vehicles, for whatever reason. There is so much detail here, and areas such as the thrusters and some of the consoles inside the cockpit are sculpted, rather than stickers. (The flyswatter is there, too!) There are still a couple of stickers in the cockpit, however. I'm not sure why this is, as it's somewhat jarring to see sculpted control panels right alongside stickers. There is a blank area on the main panel, and the sticker sheet has three stickers that can fit in this area, so you can choose the radar screen you prefer. (This is all theoretical in my case, of course, since that sticker sheet was missing.) Paint apps are inconsistent. Some of the small bits on the consoles are neatly applied-- I'm assuming this is tampo-- while other areas have a good bit of slop or overspray. Of particular note is the swath of very gloppy blue paint on the back of my TF's canopy, and the orange bleeding over the front edge of the bird's head. Given the price of this set, and how few paint apps there are, this is an area where the otherwise excellent set is really let down. (Of course, given what I paid for mine, I can easily overlook it.)

Assembly of the set is easy, with only a few detached parts that snap easily into place. When attaching the top of Point Dread to the base, it is necessary to press down fairly hard to get it to lock into place. Otherwise, it will come apart when you pick it up. It's also worth noting that the control console does not snap into place inside Point Dread, it simply stands wherever you place it, so be sure to remove it before you transport the set, or it'll fall out.

Now, on to the most controversial part of the set: the pack-in Teela figure. First seen from behind in a video about something else entirely, this figure was standing inside Point Dread, and could be seen off to the side. Speculation ran wild, particularly since the details that could be made out indicated that this would be a Filmation-style Teela figure. Then the first photos showed up, and people lost their goddamn minds. The figure was derided as the worst in the entire line, and the complaints overshadowed the set itself. Though something clearly happened during production-- the head on this figure is clearly not the same head the Four Horsemen sculpted-- the figure is nowhere near as terrible as the apocalyptic reaction would have you believe. That said, it does have some serious issues.

The normal head sculpt suffers most from the lack of a chin. Her face appears to be sliding off her head. The alternate head is much better, but still nowhere near as good as the original figure's. (Personally, I think this figure will be sporting the extra "snake armor" head from the first MOTUC Teela.) The clothing overlay makes the body look overly bulky, a problem that was plagued the line for years as Mattel's designers seemingly forgot how this issue was avoided in the line's first year. The waist cut really stands out and looks awful, which was unavoidable, given the white expanse of the outfit. The only other option was omitting the waist cut altogether, as with the original MOTUC Teela. Collectors loudly complained about that for years afterward, so Mattel's designers were really in a no-win situation here.

Aside from the head, sculpting is mostly good, though inconsistent. The clothing and new bracers are sparsely detailed in an attempt to capture an animated look, while the upper arm bracers and boots sport the more detailed sculpts of the original version of the figure. This creates an incongruity that gives the figure an odd appearance. The paint apps are pretty good, at least. The paint on the basic head on my figure is much better than many of the heads I've seen online, which improves the overall figure quite a bit. Teela has some very cool accessories, including a Filmation-inspired sword and shield, and a removable visor for the helmeted head.

Despite a few shortcomings, this is a very impressive set overall. The sheer size of it makes it an excellent display centerpiece, if you don't have a Castle Grayskull, anyway. I could see someone having a bit of buyer's remorse if they shelled out to get it at the original $125 price, but as I only paid a third of that, I'm extremely happy with it. The biggest knock against this set is the pack-in figure, and that's hardly a deal breaker. For what you can currently get the set for, Point Dread & the Talon Fighter is a must-have for MOTU collectors.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Saurod figure

I was eight years old when the Masters of the Universe movie was released. I was convinced that this was going to be the greatest movie ever made! In those pre-internet days, information on upcoming movies was tough to come by, especially for a little kid, so aside from a small feature in one of the few issues of the official MOTU magazine I'd read, I had seen virtually nothing of the movie when my Dad took me to the theater to see it soon after it opened. (That's a story in itself. Dad refused to bother with calling the theater to get showtimes, and just left at a random time. We had to drive to all three theaters in town before we got to the right one, and then had to kill about an hour before the next showing!) My thoughts and feelings about the movie are too much to get into here, and my stance on it has softened quite a bit over the years, but let's just say that I was disappointed. After the awesome opening, I began to realize that we just weren't going to get to see all the characters I loved, and were instead being given new characters to fill those roles. My feelings about these new characters at the time: Karg? A fur-wearing loser with a bootleg Trap Jaw arm. Blade? A poor man's Tri-Klops. But the third new villain was actually pretty cool. (So he was the one who got killed pretty early on, naturally.) That was Saurod.

(I'll take a moment here to apologize about the photo quality. I was unable to use my normal lighting setup, and I'm nowhere near a skilled enough photographer to compensate properly, so the result is that all the photos look like Saurod is about to sit down for a Barbara Walters interview. Just bear with me, and hopefully things will be back to normal next week!)

While Mattel has repeatedly insisted that movie figures are not possible in the MOTUC line-- which is a damn shame, as I would fucking love a couple of Langella Skeletor figures, in both standard and golden-armored Master of the Universe versions-- they can make new figures of the characters they produced figures for in the vintage toyline. That means we can get Blade, Gwildor, and Saurod. I wanted the Saurod toy as a child, but never saw any of the movie figures in any store. So, the arrival of this figure has been a long time coming, to me. Does he live up to the anticipation? Well, mostly.

The first thing I noticed about Saurod as I removed him from the package was his size. He's taller than most figures in the MOTUC line, and that additional height also makes his proportions seem a bit leaner, which suits the character. While there are a few re-used parts, most of Saurod is new tooling. His sculpt is more detailed than usual for this line, which is appropriate, given the source is live-action material. His armor has lots of detail, including some small dings and indentations to show that it has seen some wear. The skin and chain mail are meticulously detailed, especially Saurod's eyes. They have a sinister, reptilian coldness that make the character very imposing. Saurod's left hand is sculpted with his fingers flayed out, emulating a movie scene in which he shoots darts from his fingertips. Unfortunately, this brings us to one of the two quality control issues my figure had. His index finger was badly warped in the package, so it's flush against the forefinger. I'll be applying some heat to the hand so I can reposition it. Saurod's lone accessory, his gun, suffers from a similar issue. The scope on top of it was also warped, and leans off to the side instead of facing straight ahead, as it should. Again, heating the part and repositioning it will fix this issue, but it's still annoying that these are recurring problems with these figures. That said, the gun is cool, with a very detailed sculpt. It does have a bit of trouble fitting into its holster, though.

Saurod features the standard articulation for the line, though the stiff armor severely impedes the range of motion in the abdominal hinge. The ankles on mine are super tight, but that's better than them being really loose. His head has particularly good range, far better than many figures in this line. His tail, sadly, is not poseable. Paint apps are very simple, and do just enough to get the job done with no frills. The eyes are quite good, with shades of green and yellow, with a pinkish-red surrounding that looks very alien and cool. Saurod's scales and the mail he's wearing are the exact same color, which just seems odd. The textures are clearly distinct from one another, so I don't think it's all intended to be his skin. A different paint wash on each texture would have helped distinguish between the two, and a wash over the armor to bring out all the sculpted detail would have been most welcome, too. These are things that are easy for me to do myself, but it would have been nice to have the figure that way out of the package. I got this figure for $16, so I'm not too fussed about it, but for the people who paid $30+ when he was first released, I can see it being more of an issue.

All in all, Saurod is a figure with some minor issues that do little to harm him in my eyes. He's a very cool figure with a fantastic sculpt and an imposing presence on the shelf, and he'll make a great addition to Skeletor's army. Now to get Blade and Gwildor!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Anti-Eternia He-Man figure

For a few years, Mattel "treated" MOTUC customers to a chase figure each year. These figures would show up on their adult collector website randomly several times throughout the year, usually disappearing again within minutes. 2016's chase figure drew from a German audio story from the '80s that saw Skeletor opening a portal to a nightmarish dark dimension seeking aid in defeating his mortal enemy, and finding the He-Man of Anti-Eternia. Drawing his power from Hell-Grayskull, shortened to Hellskull in the Classics line, this He-Man was an immense evil that had conquered his own planet. Where Skeletor sought an alliance with him, AE He-Man had other plans. When Mattel stopped producng the MOTUC line at the end of 2016, their remaining stock began appearing on other sites, and AE He-Man turned up on Gamestop's website, of all places. He's still available as I type this, so hurry on over there if you want one!

I rarely touch on the packaging, since it's the same basic design for the entire MOTUC line, but AE He-Man got some sweet custom packaging. It's just the regular MOTUC art tinted red and black to suit his color scheme, but it looks awesome. I always open all my figures, but I was actually tempted to display this one in the package because he just looked so damn cool inside it. Of course, I got over that feeling and opened it before long, but this is one of those very rare cases where I'd pick up an extra to display one in the package if I could spare the cash for it.

As a He-Man repaint, AE He-Man has the same sculpt and articulation we've already seen many, many times in the MOTUC line, with one difference. For whatever reason, the abdominal joint on my figure will not bend forward at all. It bends backward just fine, but once you move it forward into a default standing position, it refuses to go any further. It's not a huge deal, but it is annoying, and worth noting. All other points of articulation work very well, and I had no loose joints on my figure.

The standard He-Man sculpt is more than eight years old at this point, and it still looks great. The 4H really nailed the design their first time out. I do wish Mattel had included the Alcala-style He-Man head along with the standard one so we would be able to use the He-Man head sculpt of our choice. As 100% He-Man repaints go, I have to say this is my favorite. As much as I like the MOTUC Faker, AE He-Man looks far more sinister and intimidating. The red and black color scheme is very eye-catching, and the figure really stands out on the shelf. I went with a red and black color scheme for the weapons and armor with my custom Faker in the 2002 MOTU line, so it's cool to see that officially adopted here. The paint apps are all very clean, thankfully, as any slop would have been very obvious, given the color choice.

AE He-Man is loaded with accessories, even without an extra swappable head. He has his armor, of course, if you count that, along with repaints of the standard He-Man sword, axe, and shield. However, he has a bonus sword using the Alcala-style sculpt, as well as the shield from Castle Grayskull Man, all in his signature color scheme. These extra weapons let you personalized your AE He-Man a bit, which is very handy since he's 100% repaint of an often-seen figure.

Overall, this is a fantastic figure, though that price does sting a bit. With not a single new part, the profit margin on this figure has got to be even higher than normal for this reuse-heavy line. The lack of new pieces may hurt the figure's standing in the minds of some, but for me, AE He-Man shows how a well thought out repaint can breathe new life into an old figure, and make it well worth a (slightly overpriced) purchase.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics The Faceless One figure

As longtime friends and Rant readers are no doubt aware, since I was three years old, Masters of the Universe has been pretty much my favorite thing ever. (Yes, even more than Batman, LEGO, Universal monsters, and The Simpsons. Welllll... maybe it's tied with those last two.) My lifelong love of MOTU has had plenty of ups and downs over the years, though that's a story for another time. Next year's MOTU Day, perhaps?

Anyway, many readers have surely noticed an odd lack of MOTU articles here, despite my love for it. There are a couple of reasons for that. When I started this blog seven years ago, it was specifically devoted to the classic horror movies I cherish so much. As it gradually expanded to cover most anything that interested me, I began to feature the occasional toy review. By that time, however, I'd had to stop buying the MOTU Classics line due to losing my job, as I simply couldn't afford it any longer. Once I was back on more stable footing, I resisted getting back into the line because I still didn't have a lot of disposable income, and so much had been produced in the meantime, and so much of it was so expensive on the secondary market, that it was rather overwhelming. Last week, however, I finally decided to just go for it, and try to get the MOTUC stuff I want the most when I'm able to find it at a price I can live with. The first figure I wanted that I saw for a good price was Evil-Lyn's pop, the Faceless One.

Created for the 2002 animated series by Mike Young Productions, the Faceless One has connections to several established characters, most notably Evil-Lyn, as noted, and as the source of Skeletor's Havoc Staff. I immediately wanted a figure of the character when I saw him on the show, but unfortunately, it would take nearly a decade for one to be produced, and even longer for me to get one of them! Thankfully, he was well worth the wait. Scultors the Four Horsemen have captured the character's detailed design in the MOTUC style perfectly, and he looks quite imposing on the shelf among other figures. (It should be noted, however, that he has at least 30% more face than anyone calling themselves "The Faceless One" should really have.) His color scheme is evocative of the 2002 design for Evil-Lyn, so he will pair well with the MOTUC repaint of her figure in those colors. His accessories include his Havoc Staff-- note that my figure did not come with this, but I didn't have a problem with that since I got him so cheaply-- and the Ram Stone, which his left hand is sculpted to hold perfectly. There is also his large cloak, if you wish to count it as an accessory.

The figure has the usual MOTUC articulation, with ball-jointed head, hips, and shoulders, cuts at the waist, wrists, biceps, upper thighs, and boot tops, hinges at the elbows, knees, ankles, and torso. The cloak may look as if it hinders the head's range of motion, but it really doesn't interfere at all. The figure also stands very easily, despite the cloak's weight.

All in all, this is a great figure, and while he may not be an essential part of every MOTU collection, he is an essential figure for mine. Anyone who enjoyed the 2002 series will likely want him as well, and thankfully, he's one of the cheaper figures on the secondary market. Now that I'm back to collecting the MOTUC line, expect to see much more of them here! In fact, there's a figure arriving today that I'm very excited about; you can expect to see it featured here very soon.