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Heroic Warriors

MOTU Classics He-Man

The Masters of the Universe He-Man figure, released in December of 2008 (almost nine years ago!) is actually one of the least impressive of the early Classics figures, in my opinion. Compared to figures like Skeletor, Mer-Man and Man-At-Arms, this incarnation of He-Man looks pretty bland, although later figures would come with bonus accessories that could be used to spruce him up a bit.

Source Material

Most Classics figures based on the original eight 1982 figures draw their inspiration from vintage cross sell artwork. In the case of He-Man, his cross sell artwork was almost identical to the toy itself. But the Classics figure is actually less detailed than that source material in a few ways.

For reference, here are the vintage toy and cross sell artwork:

Let’s compare that source material to the Classics figure:

Second release MOTU Classics He-Man, with corrected shoulders and toned down paint around the eyes.

First release MOTU Classics He-Man, with reversed shoulders and red paint around the eyes.

The Classics figure takes many elements from the original toy design, including:

  • Gray armor with red cross
  • Orange belt with reddish trunks
  • Longer half-gauntlet on the left arm

The one unique element from the cross sell artwork – the distinctive power sword – is also replicated in the Classics toy. The figure is “plussed up” in several areas with new details, like rivets on the front of He-Man’s harness,  leather straps on his left gauntlet, additional paint details on his belt, and so forth. He’s given orange gauntlets, which the original vintage figure would have had if it hadn’t been for cost reductions.

MOTU Classics He-Man’s axe and shield actually lose some detail compared with their vintage source material. The axe is given a smooth handle, without the ridges of the original, and the center section on the shield is flattened and simplified. The orange of the original shield is also changed to dark red.

MOTU Classics’ He-Man’s head is perhaps the biggest departure from vintage source material. It’s a much more civilized and handsome-looking face compared to the rougher, gruffer vintage figure. The level of detail on the face and hair are toned down compared the vintage source material, which is a reversal of the general Classics ethos. Of course He-Man was originally sculpted before the line was even green-lit, so the “spirit” of the Classics line had not been solidly established.

Original Classics He-Man prototype. Notice the gray gauntlets, which echo the color on the 2002 He-Man figure. Image source: He-Man.org

The Classics head seems to split the difference between the vintage source material and the 2002 He-Man face, which had a younger, anime-inspired look. The Classics harness also has roughly square “buttons” on the straps, like the 2002 figure (the vintage figure’s “buttons” were rhombuses). The Classics figure also has quite dark red/brown boots and loin cloth compared to the vintage figure, which seem to tilt the figure in the direction of the 2002 figure’s dark brown color scheme.

 

I was somewhat dissatisfied with this figure until alternate heads from the Oo-Larr release became available – but more on that in another post.

Further reading: He-Man – Most powerful man in the universe! (1982)

Evil Warriors

MOTU Classics Mer-Man

Masters of the Universe Classics Mer-Man, released in April of 2009 and again as a blue variant in November of 2010, is still, for me, the best figure ever released in the Classics toyline. Part of that is certainly the painstakingly accurate reproduction of Mer-Man as he appeared in the vintage cross sell artwork, but part of it also is the shading and detail on the figure itself.

First release Classics Mer-Man in green

Source Material

The main source material for the Classics Mer-Man (green version) is explicitly the vintage cross sell artwork. It’s nearly a perfect reproduction of that depiction, and a passion project for Eric Treadaway of the Four Horsemen. The details reproduced from the artwork include

  • Color and shape of the gloves
  • Four-fingered hands, with open left hand
  • Bare feet with smooth, yellow shin guards
  • Yellow loin cloth
  • Yellow detail on face
  • Large eyes
  • Upward pointed fins on the head
  • Sculpted gills around the neck
  • Wide chest armor with enlarged spikes
  • More detailed sword (the Classics version is more detailed still than the source material)
Scanned by the author.

The figure was augmented beyond the source material with some colored gems on the armor and some additional shading throughout the figure. There are some nods to the vintage figure as well. The most obvious one of course, is the second head, sculpted after the vintage figure, but also the green belt, which was featured on early releases of the 1982 toy.

Vintage toy style head
First release 1982 made in Taiwan figure

It should be noted that in some respects the Classics vintage style head is somewhat less detailed compared to the original vintage head. The vintage head has fins that terminate in individual protuberances, while the fins on the Classics head are rounded at the ends, and more closely resemble ears.

There are two nods to the 2002 Mer-Man figure as well – the trident accessory, and the bare back on the character’s armor:

The blue version of Mer-Man that came packed with Aquaman is supposed to resemble Mer-Man as he appeared in the earliest minicomics illustrated by Alfredo Alcala. That version was based on early concept art by Mark Taylor and an early prototype sculpted by Tony Guerrero.

Alcala’s depiction of Mer-Man

 

Mark Taylor’s original Mer-Man B-sheet, published by Super7/The Power and the Honor Foundation. Image courtesy of Axel Giménez.
Tony Guerrero prototype Mer-Man. Image courtesy of Andy Youssi

The color scheme is similar to the minicomic version (blue skin, blue and yellow sword, full yellow boots), but it borrows wholesale the sculpt of the original green release of Mer-Man. It doesn’t have the unique boots, gloves, belt and other details of the minicomic/concept version, so it actually winds up looking like earlier versions of the cross sell artwork, which featured a blue-skinned Mer-Man:

Image courtesy of Tokyonever
Blue Mer-Man

This Mer-Man also has the green belt of the vintage toy. Note also that early concept art gave Mer-Man copper/gold/ accents on  parts of his costume, which didn’t end up in the minicomic artwork.

Further reading: Mer-Man – Ocean warlord! (1982)

Evil Warriors

MOTU Classics Skeletor

My cardinal rule since starting this blog back in 2015 has been simple: vintage only. Very occasionally I’ve veered away from that, when reviewing books that cover both vintage and modern He-Man toys, for instance. But even then it was really just in passing.

So why start now? It’s not because I’ve exhausted available material about the vintage line. I’ve covered just about everything that came out from 1982-1984, but there’s still a lot left from 1985-1988.

Frankly, I’m starting to feel a little burnt out, and I’d like a change of pace. The Masters of the Universe Classics line (2008-present) is actually what drew me back into the world of He-Man and helped me to develop a more discerning eye for the kinds of things I talk about in this blog. The Classics line is an interesting mix of influences, and fans have always hotly debated which influences they thought ought to go where.

Still, I’m not going to do a traditional action figure review – there are a ton of people who have been there, done that much better than I could (Pixel Dan, The Fwoosh, Poe Ghostal, etc.) Instead, I’ll briefly discuss specific design elements and their source material.

The first Classics Skeletor was released in January of 2009, and has been reissued a couple of times since. However, I’ll focus for now only on the 2009 Skeletor.

The Classics line is generally based on vintage source material (principally toys and cross sell artwork), but in a larger scale with modern articulation and more realistic proportions. These figures are sculpted by the artists at Four Horsemen Studios, who put a great deal of care, planning and artistry into their sculptures.

First issue Masters of the Universe Classics Skeletor

Source Material

The main piece of source material for the Classics Skeletor is very clearly the vintage cross sell artwork. Nearly all of the design elements are taken directly from that artwork, including:

  • Shape of the forearm fins
  • Bare, three-toed feet
  • Smooth shin guards
  • Simplified face paint (compared to the vintage toy). Note that this varies from figure to figure.
  • Sword shape
  • Wide baltea and large belt decoration

There is comparatively little influence on the Classics figure from the vintage toy, although of course neither design is radically different from the other. The main influences from the vintage toy include:

  • Larger bat on chest armor, compared to cross sell art
  • Black furry trunks instead of purple (from reissue versions of the vintage toy)
First issue vintage toy with purple trunks.
Reissue vintage toy with black trunks.

There are a few liberties taken in the Classics Skeletor figure, in regards to source material. They include:

  • Larger staff with different proportions on the handle
  • Enlarged arm “fins”
  • Smoother forearms
  • Additional boney detail on the face
  • Two-toned sword
  • Darker purple costume
  • Full sword as well as half sword
  • Additional color detail on the center of the chest armor, and throughout the costume
  • Dark blue toe claws

I do think the center of Skeletor’s belt is misinterpreted. It’s a stylized bird head in the cross sell artwork (and even more clearly a bird head in the original B-Sheet), but it seems to have lost any of that look in the Classics figure.

The Four Horsemen also sculpted the 2002 He-Man line, so there are often some subtle similarities to that line in the Classics. In Skeletor, that manifests as:

  • Darker colored baltea and shoulder covering
  • Shape of the armor around the back

 

2002 Skeletor

And that’s about it for now about MOTU Classics Skeletor. Let me know what you think. I’d like to know if there is interest in more articles like this one, or if you all think I’m crazy and should get back to purely vintage material.

Thanks to Dušan M. for informing me that Skeletor’s hanging “skirt” is called a baltea.

Further reading: Skeletor – Lord of Destruction! (1982)