Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Battle Ram with Man-at-Arms figure

As one of the first MOTU vehicles ever released, the Battle Ram was high on wishlists for inclusion in the MOTUC line. When sculptors the Four Horsemen showed up with a fully-sculpted figure-scaled Battle Ram, which they had made completely on their own time, at at SDCC in 2010, the reaction from everyone was ecstatic. With the expansion of the line following its success in the previous year, it actually seemed possible that we might get it, despite Mattel regularly claiming we would not. It wound up taking quite a while. Several years later, Mattel released just the front sky sled portion. It was cool, but also a merciless tease to those of us who still craved the entire vehicle. Finally, in 2014, the entire vehicle was finally released, with a Man-at-Arms variant figure that was also heavily fan-requested bundled with it.

Simply put, the Battle Ram is a marvel. It's not quite as big as the Talon Fighter-- incidentally, my other favorite vehicle from the vintage MOTU line-- but it's still quite large. Like other vehicles in the MOTUC line, it restores many details that were present on the original vintage prototype, but were cut from the released version. (An excellent breakdown at some of those changes in the vintage toy can be found here.) All details of the stickers on the vintage toy are sculpted here. The painting/tampo work here is mostly good, and there's a dark wash over the vehicle to help bring out the sculpted detail. There are also some nice metallic blue highlights on certain parts. The wheels roll well, and the missile, while a little on the soft side, works well. It doesn't fire as far as its vintage counterpart, but considering how hard that thing hit, that's probably a good thing.

There is one thing about the sculpt that could be considered a negative, depending on your point of view. Instead of the griffin head sculpted on the vintage toy, this version of the Battle Ram has a snake head, reminiscent of the sky sleds Skeletor's evil warriors used in the Filmation cartoon. Since the griffin head version of the sky sled had already been released, Mattel decided to use the snake head version for this release, enabling people to choose which version they wanted attached to the main part of the vehicle. This is a good idea in theory, but the problem is that it forces people to buy two pricey toys to assemble a MOTUC version of the vintage vehicle. Now that the stand-alone sky sled is long out of production and commands a high price on the secondary market, it's even tougher. I quite like the Battle Ram as it is, but I admit that I'm a little disappointed that I'll have to shell out a good bit more money to get a true MOTUC version of the vintage toy. If you're lucky enough to have the stand-alone sky sled, though, you're all set.

The included Man-at-Arms figure is kind of a mutt. He has a 2002 cartoon-inspired head, and the symmetrical armor of the Filmation version. He's basically a parts horse designed for use with various pieces of Man-at-Arms figures you already own to assemble your own ideal version(s). That said, the figure is pretty cool all on its own, if you choose to leave him as is. If you already have the original MOTUC Man-at-Arms figure, this one is pretty much the same, with a few key differences. Obviously, there's the new head. The sculpt is a very good representation of the 2002 cartoon version of the character, with a suitably determined expression. Some of the paint apps are also different, but not hugely so. The armor is softer, which means the clips on the back don't do nearly as good a job at holding the weapons. The figure is completely different below the knees. Aping the Filmation look, Mattel opted to use the Skeletor boot tops, with plain booted feet. While this does look closer to the character's Filmation appearance, it's completely incongruous with the rest of the figure, and it just looks odd. The figure would have been better served if Mattel had just included two sets of the normal Man-at-Arms leg armor instead. One other thing to note is that the armor just does not want to stay in place on the right arm. Even in a couple of these photos, pieces of it have clearly slid down or around. I just got sick of having to adjust it constantly. (This may not be a widespread issue, though.) As a pack-in with a vehicle, it's unsurprising that Man-at-Arms doesn't include the arsenal the stand-alone release did, but it's pretty close! He has his trademark mace, a silver Grayskull weapons rack mace, and a laser pistol, all of which can (sort of) be stored on his back. (Note that the silver mace is not pictured, as Teela is currently sitting in the Talon Fighter holding it, and I didn't remember until after I was done with all the photos.)

All things considered, the Battle Ram is an extremely impressive toy, particularly for a modern adult collector-focused line, which typically don't even get any vehicles. Its size, meticulous detail, and the fact that you can comfortably fit three figures on this thing with no problem, just like the vintage one, make it essential for any MOTU collector who has the space for it. (And you can totally get more then three figures on it if you want! It'll just get a little crowded.) I scored mine for $42 through the closeout sale Mattel has on their remaining MOTU stock. They seem to have all disappeared, but keep an eye on their Walmart and Ebay stores. You never know, they may reappear! In the meantime, keep scrolling down for more photos!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Goat Man figure

Fandom is a funny thing. No matter what franchise you look at, be it a movie, TV series, comic book, toyline, or, in this case, all of the above, people will become fascinated with some of the most random and obscure characters. Case in point: Goat Man. This character appeared for a few pages in a single MOTU storybook (featuring art by the late, great Eduardo Barreto) in the '80s, and honestly, he didn't do much of anything. Yet, for whatever reason, people have been clamoring for a Goat Man figure for years. He wasn't as fan-demanded in the MOTUC line as even the C-listers who had figures in the vintage line, of course, but there were enough people who wanted a Goat Man figure that he maintained a perpetual presence on "most wanted" lists. I certainly wanted a toy of him when I was a kid. His appearance was in one of the few MOTU Golden Books I owned, and he just popped up as if he had always been a part of this world. I assumed he also appeared in other books, or even cartoon episodes, that I'd missed, and figured we get a Goat Man toy at some point. Sadly, in the original MOTU line, it was not to be. I liked him enough that I even customized a Goat Man figure for the 2002 MOTU toyline.

Now that we finally do have a Goat Man figure, another hole in the line has been filled. This is yet another figure that shows how well the MOTUC buck system works, as the Four Horsemen have created a very cool and book-accurate figure with only a few new parts. Mattel could have cheaped out and used the standard bracers, and frankly, it would have worked fine, but it's nice to see them include new ones to make the figure as accurate as possible. The black straps have a nice leathery texture sculpted into them, and the head sculpt has a lot of character. It's one of those sculpts that can seem to have a completely different expression if you view it from different angles, and those are always nice to get. Goat Man can look pissed off, dismayed, or completely befuddled depending on how you look at him.

Articulation is standard, though the figure has the "fat armor" issue that became depressingly common in many figures, so, like Ralphie's little brother,  he can't put his arms all the way down. The armor doesn't inhibit the abdominal hinge much, though, which is nice. The ankles on my Goat Man are very loose, which makes it difficult for him to hold certain poses. Paint apps are pretty basic, but they're neat, especially where they matter most, on the eyes and teeth.

Goat Man includes two accessories, though only one of them is intended for him. He has a huge badass hammer, which has a cool sculpt and a nice paint wash over it. The other accessory is the long-awaited Staff of Avion, so Stratos finally has something to hold. If he could hold anything, that is. Thankfully, the 4H sculpted a bracket around the handle, so that it can fit around either of Chinstrap's open hands.

Goat Man is about as far from essential as you can get when it comes to MOTU characters, and that's largely why I love this figure as much as I do. After several false starts, and years of canned "Stay Tuned!" responses that never seemed to lead anywhere, the fact that we finally have a MOTU toyline that is so expansive fills me with glee. Mattel and the 4H took an obscure, single-appearance character and knocked him out of the park with this figure. Many, perhaps most, MOTU fans won't consider him a "must have" figure, but if you like the oddballs, as I do, you'll wanna grab him for your collection.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Procrustus figure

I know I say this sort of thing a lot in these reviews, but when the Masters of the Universe Classics line kicked off in late 2008, Procrustus was the type of figure nobody expected to get. Due to retailers' total disinterest in carrying MOTU toys(which was understandable, considering Mattel's colossal bungling of the then-recent 2002 line), the adult collector-focused, online exclusive toyline was seen as something of a desperation move, and getting the main few dozen characters as new figures was the best most of us hoped for. Obscure characters who only appeared in a couple of pages of a single minicomic, much less a giant, seemed like a pipe dream.

And yet, here Procrustus stands. I remember being very, very young and looking at him in the early minicomic The Magic Stealer, and wanting a toy of him so damn bad! Like the Goddess, he was one of those early comic characters I was drawn to, and who never received his due in plastic until decades later. While he's not as huge as depicted in the minicomic-- a six-foot-tall toy would be rather cost prohibitive, particularly in this line-- he's quite large, and his extra arms give him even more bulk than the other giants, Tytus and Megator. Procrustus was released during the period during which I was unable to buy any MOTUC stuff, and I purposely avoided looking at photos of him, since it would only be torturing myself. Given this line's heavy reuse, and Mattel's general chintziness, I figured he would probably be mostly reused parts from Tytus, with a few key parts newly tooled to set him apart. Basically, the bare-ass minimum, which is often all Mattel is willing to deliver. (Do note that when I rant about how cheap and often incompetent Mattel is, I'm not talking about the teams that work on the individual lines. There are some very passionate and talented people working on Mattel's various lines, and the fault for such decisions very rarely lies with any of them. It's the higher-ups who make some key decisions who often undermine what the people who actually work on these toylines try so hard to accomplish.)

Thankfully, this is not the case. Procrustus is composed almost entirely of newly tooled parts, and he is all the better for it. His sculpt is typical of the excellence we have come to expect from the Four Horsemen, with lots of detail in his craggy skin. Even his hair and loincloth have that rocklike texture. This makes for a figure that is very visually interesting. The exceptions are two of his hands and his legs. These are reused from Megator, and the smooth appearance of the legs is completely incongruous with the rest of the figure. Given how many new parts Procrustus has, I can live with the reuse here, but it does harm the figure's overall appearance a bit.

Procrustus is cast in a tannish/peachy sort of color that is pretty close to his comic appearance, with a very nice paint wash to bring out the sculpted detail. This paint wash also helps blend the smooth legs in with the rest of the sculpt a bit. His eyes are white, with a touch of eyeliner for the stylish flair you'd expect from an immortal giant who spends his time holding the entire planet together. Articulation is not up to the normal standard for this line due to the additional cost that would incur. (Though I do find Mattel's claim that a fully-articulated figure in this scale would have to cost $100 pure bullshit. Other toy companies have figured it out, even on limited-run items, so they should be able to do the same.) Procrustus does fare better than his predecessors, thankfully, especially Tytus. His shoulders are not ball joints, despite appearing to be. Each attaches to a peg mounted in his torso, and moves as a swivel. He also has swivels at the biceps, wrists, hips, and waist, joints at the elbows and knees, and a ball-jointed head. His hair and loincloth are very stiff, however, and severely limit the range of motion. You can get him into some cool poses, but he is extremely limited from the waist down. (Something no man likes to admit!) Some of his hands are sculpted to hold weapons, but he doesn't include any. His lone accessory is the Star Seed, an immensely powerful magical artifact. I always like getting lore-friendly items like this, so it's a cool bonus with the figure.

I waited more than three decades to get this figure, so he needed to be pretty damn awesome. While I would really like him to have more articulation, and the reused smooth legs are a shame, Procrustus is still a very cool figure. I still can hardly believe this figure even exists, much less that I have one on my shelf! His height and bulk give him a very impressive presence, and he is essential for anyone who loves the pre-Filmation era of MOTU. Now we just need an Attak Trak in the MOTUC line so we can re-enact that scene from the minicomic! ;)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Battleground Teela figure

We've got more pre-Filmation Masters of the Universe goodness today, with Battleground Teela! This was one of those character variants I figured wasn't too likely to be produced as a figure early on in the MOTUC line's life. Though she had blonde hair in multiple appearances in the early years, Teela only appeared in this outfit in a single early DC-produced comic. Honestly, simply reissuing the standard Teela figure with repainted hair seemed much more Mattel's speed than putting forth the effort to create a figure that's different enough that it could serve as another character altogether. (Really, given their preference for doing that in the MOTUC line, I'm rather surprised they didn't give this figure a different name!) Anyway, we did get the figure, and damn, is she ever cool!

The sculpt is typically great work from the Four Horsemen. There are only a few new pieces here, but they're the ones the figure really needed to warrant being sold as a new figure. The most notable new piece is the head. Despite creating generally excellent work, the 4H have had some issues with female head sculpts. All too often, their women wind up having faces that appear flat or pinched. Thankfully, BG Teela avoids these issues, though her expression is perhaps a bit too serene for an incarnation that's supposed to represent her in full warrior mode. This can be largely attributed to the tampo work on her eyes, which has her perpetually looking up. I reckon she's rolling her eyes at how easily her most recent opponent went down? Despite that, it's a good head sculpt, and looks just different enough from the standard Teela head that she can easily pass as a separate character.

Articulation is mostly the same as the standard females that preceded her, aside from the new hips. This means no ab hinge and no thigh cuts, unfortunately. I can understand eliminating the ab hinge for aesthetic reasons, but the lack of thigh cuts really hurts. It really limits the posing options, and it's not as if the standard hip articulation looks so terrible that it must be completely hidden or eliminated. It's a strange omission. I'll point out here that the hair is made with an extremely stiff plastic, severely limiting the range of motion. It's a shame that such a long-awaited and awesome looking figure is lacking some key points of articulation.

BG Teela only has a pair of accessories, but they are cool ones. She has a sword and a ray gun, both of which she uses in the source comic. They're well sculpted and true to the source material, but I find I prefer to outfit her with a pair of the swords that came with Point Dread Teela, so you'll see her with those in a few of the photos. I'm not sure what else would have been appropriate to include here, but it does feel like one more accessory could have really put her over the top. I've seen some griping about the lack of paint apps on the gun, but it's true to its appearance in the comic, so I can't fault them for that. They did add paint apps to the sword, though, so I can understand some feeling that they should have done so to the gun as well!

Overall, Battleground Teela is a very good figure that would have been great with just a couple of tweaks. That's being completely objective, however; personally, I love the figure! Despite its shortcomings, this is another figure representing the pre-Filmation era of MOTU that I love most, and it's executed pretty well. I imagine I'll have her paired up with Vikor (when I eventually get him!) on the shelf, but she's definitely going be on permanent display wherever she ends up.