Reviews

Barbarossa Custom Creations Laser Power He-Man

Earlier this year I acquired the Barbarossa Custom Creations Laser Light Skeletor. I had become somewhat obsessed with the figure, and it was my best shot at getting a complete, working and nice-looking example of the rare, European release figure at a price that wouldn’t require the sale of an internal organ. At the time I was only planning on getting the one figure, but I was so impressed with it, I had get Laser Light Skeletor’s heroic counterpart, Laser Power He-Man.

If you’ve ever purchased a custom or replica action figure from any customizer/builder, you know they’re not cheap. That’s just a factor of economies of scale. It’s considerably more difficult for one person to create one figure at a time than it is for a fully equipped factory (with steel molds, paint masks, etc.) to pump out one figure among tens of thousands. It’s even more difficult with a complex toy like Laser Power He-Man, with his internal electronics. But as the original laser figures were produced in low numbers and only released oversees, they go for quite a lot of money on the secondary market. In this case, the replica is something like a third of the cost of the original.

Barbarossa offers the figure in both of its vintage configurations – with either the unique head sculpt that came with the Italian version of the figure, or the 1982 style head which came with the Spanish version of the figure. The Italian version is often called the “Dolph” head for its resemblance to Dolph Lundgren. In my opinion, no He-Man head sculpt will ever surpass the original 1982 version. However, I opted for the Italian “Dolph” version, as this was my one chance to get a figure with that particular head, and I’ve already got the original head on my other vintage He-Man figures.

Vintage 1988 Italian LP He-Man vs 1988 Spanish LP He-Man

Barbarossa has actually done something really interesting with this figure that adds to its durability. Rather than casting the figure in one or two colors and painting in the details (as was done in the vintage figure), Barbarossa casts the trunks and boots in the same teal as the armor. The belt and gloves are cast separately in silver. These pieces are glued together for a seamless look, and the there is no possibility of paint wear on the gloves or boots (an issue that plagues many vintage figures). The only painted parts, in fact, are the head (hair, eyebrows, and eyes) and the silver accents on the armor. The figure retains all of his vintage points of articulation.

Another modification is that the belt lacks the “M” design of the original.

The plastic has a very realistic feel to it. I don’t know what the secret formula Barbarossa uses for his materials, but it feels very much like a factor figure. The cast is nice and crisp, with better paint details than many factory examples.  The figure also stands solidly without a tendency to fall over.

Barbarossa replica Laser Power He-Man

The light up action feature has been altered from the 1988 original. Instead of raising his arm to activate the sword, the light turns on with a switch hidden in the battery compartment. The light runs on a watch cell battery, rather than an AA battery as the original did.

If you happen to have a vintage LP He-Man without his accessories, Barbarossa also sells them separately for a reduced cost.

The sword glows quite brightly, especially in the dark. I took some shots with him next to the modern Masters of the Universe Classics Laser Power He-Man for comparison.

He looks great next to his arch nemesis, Laser Light Skeletor (also by Barbarossa):

Laser Power He-Man was quite a departure from the original He-Man design. In 1988 Mattel was heavily exploring different ideas for a more sci-fi take on He-Man. Laser Power He-Man represents an intermediate step in that direction, just before the “New Adventures” reboot:

Original 1982 He-Man and Barbarossa replica Laser Power He-Man
Left to right: 1992 Thunder Punch He-Man, 1990 Battle Punch He-Man, 1989 “New Adventures” He-Man, Barbarossa Laser Power He-Man.

You can see in the photos above that a big theme in Mattel’s sci-fi themed He-Man figures is translucent yellow swords. My understanding is that all of the above figures were designed by Martin Arriola, with the exception of Battle Punch He-Man, who originates from a design by Mark Taylor. Laser Power He-Man, to me, is much more recognizable as a He-Man figure than any of the New Adventures versions. I suspect if the rebooted line had been more in the style of the Laser figures, they might have had greater success.

I’ll explore the history of Laser Power He-Man in more depth in a future toy feature. In any case, I’ve been thoroughly pleased with Barbarossa’s customs so far, and would recommend his Laser figure replicas to anyone looking to add these hard to find figures to their collection.

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Reviews

Barbarossa Custom Creations Laser Light Skeletor

It’s often the case that when I write about a toy on my blog, I become much more interested in it the process of my research. That certainly happened when I covered Laser Light Skeletor (designed by David Wolfram). For several years I’d had some interest in the figure simmering in the back of my brain, but finally writing about it brought matters to a full boil.

The problem is, of course, that Laser Light Skeletor was only released in Europe, and in limited quantities. A vintage example, even a beat up one without accessories, is far outside of my price range. Enter Barbarossa Custom Creations.

If you’ve ever purchased a custom action figure from any customizer/builder, you know they’re not cheap. That’s just a factor of economies of scale. It’s considerably more difficult for one person to create one figure at a time than it is for a fully equipped factory (with steel molds, paint masks, etc.) to pump out one figure among tens of thousands. It’s even more difficult with a complex toy like Laser Light Skeletor, with its extensive paint applications, stitched cloth cape/hood, and internal electronics. Even accounting for all those factors, Barbarossa’s version still costs only a small fraction of the price of a vintage example, making it my best option for acquiring my own Laser Light figure without having to take out some kind of loan.

The Barbarossa version of the figure seems to be patterned after the Spanish release of Laser Light Skeletor, with its shorter cape and bolder colors. The figure comes standard with the original translucent havoc staff (in a slightly orangey shade, like the Spanish release), along with a somewhat simplified, translucent cast of Saurod’s gun:

A set of additional accessories are also available upon request, for $25 more:

Original Skeletor Havoc Staff, minus the ball the the bottom, in translucent red/orange:

A mashup of Laser Power He-Man’s sword with Spikor’s wrist cuff, with added handle, in translucent red/orange:

Skeletor power sword (with modified handle to allow him to hold it), in translucent red/orange:

He-Man battle axe, in translucent red/orange:

The plastic material has a good, realistic feel to it, and the figure stands without any issues. He retains his original ball and pivot joints in the legs. It probably would have been easier to have fashioned the legs with the older-style rubber connectors, and I appreciate the extra step here to keep the original joints.

The light-up mechanism has been modified. Instead of raising his right arm to activate it, there is a green push-button on/off switch on the figure’s backpack. The pack fits a bit loosely in its chamber – I’m not sure if that’s a result of the modification, or if the original was like that. As a result, it’s helpful to hold the pack steady while you push the button. The circuit runs on a button cell battery rather than the AA used in the vintage figure. I would imagine the reduced weight in the back also makes the figure easier to stand up.

The details on the body and head are nice and crisp – this is a good cast of the original figure, and the paint work is sharp too. The copper metallic paint has black base coat, which I think adds a bit of realism to the look.

Laser Light Skeletor is certainly a departure from the more traditional Skeletors produced by Mattel. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who love the design, Barbarossa’s offering is a great way to get your hands on a credible-looking replica at a price that makes it more realistically attainable for many (but certainly not all) collectors.

With the original release half boot Skeletor (Design by Mark Taylor), released in 1982.
With the Masters of the Universe Classics Laser Light Skeletor (2015)
With Battle Blade Skeletor (1992), also designed by David Wolfram
With “New Adventures” Skeletor, Disks of Doom Skeletor and Battle Blade Skeletor. All designed by David Wolfram or based off of designs by David Wolfram.

 

Reviews

Rudy Obrero & Errol McCarthy portfolios

I haven’t had as much time as I’d like for writing blog posts lately, so I’ve tried to focus more on toy features than reviews of current offerings related to the vintage toyline. However, I would like to give a quick review of two portfolios from two of my favorite artists – Rudy Obrero and Errol McCarthy.

Produced by The Power and the Honor Foundation in collaboration with Super7, the portfolios consist of large, high definition prints of the artwork used on the original packaging. In Errol McCarthy’s case, it was the artwork used on the back of carded figures, starting in 1983, when the cardbacks switched away from the “8-back” format. In Rudy Obrero’s case, it was packaging for playsets, vehicles and beasts, starting at the beginning of the the line in 1982.

The quality and presentation is very similar to the Mark Taylor portfolio that was released in the fall of 2016. On the back of both portfolios we get a nice photo and biography of each of the artists:

Rudy Obrero‘s portfolio comes with the following pieces:

Rudy is my favorite artist to work on the Masters of the Universe toyline, so this set is particularly dear to me. The chance to have nice crisp versions of Rudy’s Frazetta-like interpretation of these characters on one’s wall is not to be missed. The inclusion of the original charcoal artwork for Battle Cat (the first piece of box art done for the toyline) is the icing on the cake. The original is owned by Eamon O’Donoghue, so we have him to thank that this piece is included in this collection.

Note that in the charcoal drawing, He-Man’s pose is different from the final illustration in oils, and Castle Grayskull has the “pawn” piece on the top from the original prototype.

If you check out part one of my feature on MOTU box art, you might notice that there were some changes made to some of these pieces when they were printed on the actual packaging. The most obvious is Battle Ram – the image was reversed and lightened for the packaging. He-Man and Wind Raider, Castle Grayskull, and Battle Cat were also lightened and color shifted.

This particular portfolio does not include any of the illustrations Rudy did for toys that came out in 1983 – perhaps they will appear in a future collection.

Errol McCarthy’s portfolio is of a more uniform size – the cardback illustration dimensions were all equally proportioned, while the box packaging was not. The McCarthy portfolio, like Rudy Obrero’s portfolio, focuses on the first year of the toyline. However, it also includes two pieces that were produced for 1983 and 1987 (Evil-Lyn and Faker, respectively). Faker was actually released in 1983 (or perhaps early 1982), but his original release featured the 8-back card. His re-release in 1987 featured the artwork included in this portfolio. Perhaps Errol’s illustration was done earlier, but not used until 1987 – I’m not certain.

Update: Miguel Ángel in the comments confirms that the Faker artwork was indeed done much earlier than 1987. Thanks Miguel!

In Argentina, the 8-back blisters never came into use. The figure of Faker was always packed with the blister that had the illustration of Errol McCarthy in the reverse and went on sale between December of 1984 and January of 1985. Obviously, that illustration of McCarthy about Faker already existed in 1984 and I dare to say that it was created in the same stage that the artist made those others for the 8 initial characters and those that would join them in the second wave … With the intention to relaunch and / or re-pack Faker in 1983, as with the other 8 of 1982? I would say yes, although for some reason that would only take place in 1987. The illustration itself, however, was much earlier.

Errol McCarthy’s portfolio comes with the following pieces:

Errol McCarthy is another one of my favorite MOTU artists. His vision for Eternia, like Rudy Obrero’s includes plenty of rocky and volcanic looking landscapes. But he also has some cleaner, more familiar looking locations that speak to me as well. In fact, two of my favorite pieces are Teela and He-Man, which place the characters in a region with windswept, rolling hills.

Errol McCarthy was perhaps the most prolific Masters of the Universe artist. He not only did artwork for cardbacks through the life of the toyline, he also produced quite a lot of illustrations for merchandising and marketing purposes. I suspect if there was enough interest, there could be at least another 10-20 portfolios of his work.