Friday, February 17, 2012

Figure Friday: The Ten Best MOTUCs

Masters of the Universe Classics is the only contemporary toy line I'm collecting. There are good reasons for this. I still pick up the occasional Lego set, and random modern Star Wars figures. I'm likely to get some of the new G.I. Joes, and the new line of TMNT coming this fall is very interesting.
But with MOTUC I try to get every figure they make. I find myself liking every figure to a certain extent. Some I like better than others, naturally. But all in all, these are just toys that give me so much. They look great on the shelf, they are fun to play with, display and take pictures of, and it's the very apparent nostalgia thing, as I had many of these characters as a kid.
Sure, the toy line has its issues, with quality control and customer service, but I still think the toys are worth it.
Last week, during the New York Toy Fair, we got an idea of how the rest of the year will be, and besides a few weird characters and unfinished designs, 2012 looks to be incredibly strong for this toy line. Fisto and Sorceress are arriving soon - two figures that look to be excellent, Stinkor looks amazing, Slush Head too. Thunder Punch He-Man is quite possibly my favorite variant of the main hero, and the announce two-pack featured two incredible unnamed snake men. I wasn't sold right away by Frosta and Spikor, but these were both prototypes, and may still see changes.
All in all, I suspect 2012 may be a great year for Masters of the Universe Classics, if we just focus on the figures that are being made.

So with that, I felt the time was ready to take a retrospective look at the figures. And what better way to do that than with a top 10 list?

Read on for the ten best figures in the Masters of the Universe Classics toy line!

I actually set out to make a top 5 list, but I soon found out I needed to expand. There were far too many figures I wanted on the list. And it's safe to say that this list not nearly covers all the excellent toys we've seen in this line since it began a few years ago.

What criteria am I using? Well, nothing but subjectivity. Some figures may have a rather ordinary design, but I have a strong emotional connection because I had the characters as a kid. Some figures may have cool accessories that lets them make the list. It's really a personal list, and I bet few of us would have the exact same ten figures on the list.

Take a look here for instance. Man-at-Arms is a monumental toy, updated version, with tons of details, great paint job, lots of accessories, and he even came with an alternate head - so you could either display him mustache-less like the vintage toy, or with his formidable mustache, like in the cartoon. I love this toy, and he was very close to making the list. But I had only ten spots. That doesn't really mean I dislike MAA, far from it.

Then there's the lion dude. I honestly don't know this character, but I can easily admit it's an excellent action figure. Great details, delicious paint scheme, cool accessories, fits in the general theme of MOTUC. I have no relation to this character, which is why he doesn't make the list, but I certainly don't mind this action figure either.

And there are many other examples of this. Like these guys. Great action figures. Great character designs, and great updates of the vintage toys.
Both Beast Man and Webstor impressed me, the last one in particular. A character that was rather bland and uninteresting in the vintage line. But the deliciously dark skin tone and the striking red details. It just works. I'd wished for an additional accessory to him though Same with Beast Man.

Tri-Klops and Roboto could very well have reached my list if I extended it to the 15 best. Both had their action feature sort of intact, and they came with a decent amount of accessories, Tri-Klops in particular had some cool gadgets in addition to his weapon.

I'd also like to take the time and remind people how the colors of MOTU characters are important. Take Roboto for instance. He's not just red and blue. That would be boring. He's red, blue and silver. With an additional purple detail. That's what makes the best MOTU characters. They have that third, or even fourth color to make a great design. I'm not trying to be disrespectful towards Toyguru and Geoff Johns (they both made a bland character to be introduced into the line), but there's a reason these characters are classics!

Like I've said, it's extremely subjective.  At the same time I also suspect some of these figures are universally considered good toys. Either way, I'll try to come with explanations to why I like these ten figures the best. If  I had an honorable mention, it would include the six characters pictured above and maybe the likes of Orko, Icarius, Trap Jaw and Adora. And just in case you wondered, this is just figures, not beasts and large sized creatures. If I included those, I'd probably have Battle Cat for the top spot. MOTUC Battle Cat is in my opinion one of the best toys ever made, up there with G.I.Joe RAH B.A.T, G1 Optimus Prime and Jetfire.
But ok, enough chit chat, on with the list!

10: Buzz-Off
This one took me by surprise. I found the character strange back in the day, and I had decided I didn't like his MOTUC version. How I love to be wrong on stuff like this. Buzz-Off is great!
Obviously the first thing to notice is his translucent wings. What makes his wings so cool isn't just that they are visually impressive, but that they are fully articulated. This makes for some really cool poses.
And Buzz-Off is massive. He comes with the bulky feet used for Clawful, and stands very firmly in place in any pose I'd want. With the wings, the small appendixes and the removable helmet, you have really a lot of possibilities to pose this buzzing hero.
He has a great sculpt with lots of details on his arms, feet and wrist. The paint job is crisp and the paint theme is memorable. He also came with a really cool poleaxe, unlike the vintage version - who only came with a small axe.

9: Grizzlor
I'll admit, Grizzlor was never a favorite back in the day. He was there as a lackey of Hordak, nothing more. He had fur, but that was not nearly as impressive to me as a kid than many of the other action features in the MOTU line. But MOTUC Grizzlor hits all the right buttons for me today. He maintains his eh.. "unique" feature in the fur, and is heavily updated in other areas. For instance: he comes packed with weapons. Three bladed weapons and one cross bow. And even better, his backpack can hold them all at the same time. He even comes with an additional belt which I believe to be from the 200x cartoon.
A really fun toy that makes the best out of the original idea of the character.

8: Mer-Man
This may be weird to many, because there's nothing out of the ordinary with Mer-Man. But that's on the surface... I want to go a bit deeper.

Ok jokes aside, He doesn't come with a lot of accessories, but he has enough. He comes with two heads, like Man-at-Arms, so he can be either vintage toy or vintage. He also comes with his vintage-styled sword and the trident that came with with the 200x version.
For me, Mer-Man is everything that's good about MOTUC. Many different styles blended together in a great mixture. It also helps that he has a delicious wash to his skin tone, a dark green color with lots of contrast.
I really like Mer-Man, there's something simple and clean about the design. He's an important villain in the stories, he's one of the original 8 characters, and he was with good reason one of the first to make it to the Classic line.

7: Moss Man
This guy caused some controversy when he was made, as one batch of the production came with flocked ears, while a second batch had the ears shaved. I didn't really care at the time, if he had fuzzy ears or not, he looked good either way. But, this controversy is contributing to a more layered and interesting story for the toy, and that I really like. It may sound silly, but it's almost as if I bought a cool toy, and got a neat story included with the figure.

And about the "cool figure" thing. Look at this guy! Moss-Man also came with a vintage-styled head, but there's no question this new head is my preferred version. He looks calm, dangerous and ancient. I like the fact that they used the long loincloth for him, and he also came with a new accessory: a small bone knife. Very fitting for the character, but just looking at him, he doesn't really need a knife to mess you up. The knife is for shaving his ears.
Easily one of the MOTUCs I appreciate the most, regardless how I felt about the vintage figure. It's just a great toy! It doesn't hurt that he also has the "action feature" of the original toy: the pine smell.

6: Hordak
When I first set out to make this list, I kinda expected Hordak to be there. He was one of my favorites as a kid, mostly based on his appearance in the Star Comics. I also loved his toy, even though it should have been scary to a seven year old kid - it almost felt as if Hordak was a good guy.
In recent years, I've seen the She-Ra cartoon (which is surprisingly good), where Hordak is the main villain. He has a slightly different appearance and character features than he had in the MOTUC comics - and he's certainly different from how I visioned him. I think it's cool how Hordak is bridging a gap between the two toy lines. I guess you could say the same about several characters, including He-Man, but it was definitely not hurting my opinion of Hordak to watch the Princess of Power cartoon.
Truth be told Hordak would probably reach my top 10 regardless of how good the toy was, but safe to say it's an excellent figure. The paint on his armor is particularly good, with brushed silver details.
He came with a staff to reinforce the image I have of Hordak as a sorcerer. Of course, I prefer to display him with Spy Monkey Creations' Blade of Destruction.
Hordak was the first MOTUC I got, and it felt like a natural start. Of course, I had to get the earlier figures in the after market, but I'm kind of glad I started with him, as this is my favorite character in this toy universe.

5: King Randor
I will admit, my nostalgia is particularly intense towards King Randor, and that may be the biggest reason he's on this list. In fact, I've even written about King Randor in a previous blog post.
Like it says, I really wanted Randor as a kid, but he avoided me. So naturally, MOTUC King Randor feels a bit like finally getting a figure I wanted.
But when I finally got Randor, I noticed something else: I noticed that this is a magnificent figure, even if the feeling towards him was increased by nostalgia. And more importantly, I see that the 7 year old me had good taste.
I love the design of this character. He looks royal, yet battle ready. He has extremely colorful, yet elegant costume. The color combinations I mentioned earlier is going full force on the design of Randor. Blue, red, orange and gold. Notice the white trim on his boots and the different blue hues of the cape and the gem in his armor/sword. All these colors shouldn't work, but they do! Great stuff!
Randor came with his staff-scepter, but he also came with a totally bad ass sword! With the inclusion of Marlena last summer, we finally have a completed royal family. It's indeed good to be king.

I really liked the figures from the last wave in the original toy line, which Randor was a part of. I still find them very interesting, but very few of them have made it to the MOTUC stage. I'm not the only one waiting for the movie characters, the ridiculously awesome Mosquitor, the delightfully insane Blast-Attack, or my favorite heroic warrior Clamp Champ. It's no surprise that the few 1987 characters we've seen in MOTUC have made it to my list.

4: Teela
The first woman in this toy line is still the best, and even though she's sadly somewhat flawed, she's still a really fun toy. I suspect the appeal of Teela has faded a bit for many collectors, as this mold has been used far too many times. The costume is cool, but it felt cheap to use it four times (Teela, Goddess, Evil-Lyn, 200x Evil-Lyn). And after Teela, the next characters didn't feel as unique as they should have. I guess it's was a budget thing.
Still, the costume is cool, and works perfect for Teela. The white color contrasts excellent with her skin tone, and the gold and brown highlights the excellent sculpting.

What was a bit surprising with MOTUC Teela was the incredible amount of stuff we got with her. A sword, a spear, shield, two heads and a bird. I guess that's why they had to reuse the mold many times.
Teela is also great because she's very flexible and easy to pose in cool stances. She can hold her staff or sword with both hands, which separates her from the guys in this line.
I also need to point out that I absolutely love female toys. I always found it annoying that there was such a lack of women in the toy lines I collected as a kid. I wouldn't call Teela a first crush, but I definitely appreciated her for slightly different reasons than I appreciated He-Man and Skeletor.

3: Conan/Vikor
I'm a bit unfair, because this guy has two things going for him - at least how I look at it. Not only is he an incredible toy, he's also the first time I have a toy of my favorite barbarian. I've talked about this toy before, and I don't really care what name he came with.
He's Conan to me.
But regardless of this, he'd make the list. He's a monumental toy. Probably the best toy of 2011, and most definitely the best MOTUC of last year, which honestly was a bit of a let down. Both for the intense history connected to the development of the He-Man character, and for the fact that he's very well made.
There are the obvious things, like the great details in the design. You have an amazing head sculpt and great sculpted details in his cape and loincloth. The paint on the weapons is mind-blowing. And the details of the chains on his wrists really takes me back to the Conan The Barbarian movie from 82.
But there is also the less obvious things. Vikor is the first figure to come with the updated and improved ankles. He does indeed have a face sculpt very similar to He-Man. And the fact that Mattel made this toy in the first place.
I really love this toy, and there's a reason he's the only MOTUC I've given its very own Figure Friday article.

2: Scare Glow
Yet another 1987 figure. I had Scare Glow as a kid, and obviously I found him a fun toy. Anything that glows in the dark is more fun.
But there's something else about Scare Glow. Unlike Skeletor, he appears to be a skeleton. He appears to be dead. And that made him scarier, more evil.

Scare Glow is very well made. The details  put into this toy may be small, but they are just as important. For instance, the slightly translucent cape is tattered in the bottom end. The shiny color of the gem in the belt. The tiny yellow dots in the eyes. A simple design made incredibly effective through the details.
All credit to Mattel for giving Scare Glow a bio I actually liked, with him being a thief trying to break into Castle Grayskull. And all credit to the Four Horsemen for making the coolest new accessory in the line. The totem shaped like the castle holds a key. Scare Glow is for ever damned to be walking around with the key to the very castle he tried to break into.
Scare Glow naturally has the play feature of his vintage counter part. And what a a play feature!!

1: Skeletor
It's hard for me to describe why Skeletor is the best figure made so far in the Masters of the Universe Classics toy line. I mean, I had Skeletor as a kid - in fact, it's the only vintage MOTU toy I still have in my possession. And I don't mind the way Skeletor is in the various media. But he was never a favorite character.

But the MOTUC version just works. It's Skeletor.
Where He-Man first came with tiny, allergy infected eyes, Skeletor was perfect the first time around. I know many wanted the yellow and green on his skull to be toned down, but I find it absolutely flawless. It's the essence of Skeletor, it's how I picture him. That yellow skull sticks out like death itself, and it's absolutely brilliant.

There's not a lot going down on his costume, and the Classics version doesn't really bring anything new to the character design, neither in terms of accessories or in combining the various incarnations of the character. It's just a modern day of the first Skeletor toy.
And it's perfect.
Sure, there are a few painted details on his armor, and a few things to point out on his sculpt, like nails. But this is very much just the standard buck. All that doesn't matter! There's no need for more details.
This is how Skeletor looks like!

Have a good weekend, people! And enjoy 2012 Masters of the Universe Classics!

1 comment:

Jonny said...

Skeletor is probably a good choice for #1, but Beast Man is also a favorite of mine and would make my top 10 for sure.