Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Blade figure

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Stinkor figure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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