Masters of the Universe:
While a memorable villain may stick with you far longer than that villain survives, it's the good guys who last. There are no series of movies based on the bad guy, and very few shows or books cover them exclusively, tending to cover the heroes that inspire and attract us. Masters of the Universe (MOTU) is no exception, with the true Master of the Universe (Skeletor's propaganda aside) - He-Man.
Mattel's re-launch for the venerable MOTU line initially started with equal parts good and bad. The first series of villains had Skeletor, Beast Man, Merman, Panthor and Battle Sound Skeletor to match the heroes of He-Man, Man-At-Arms, Stratos, Battle Cat and Battle Sound He-Man. The good guys are out-distancing their evil counterparts since the release of Jungle He-Man and Ram-Man (with the soon to be released Mekaneck), but until the newer figures get wider release they are roughly even. This Spotlight is going to cover the first release for the Heroes of MOTU, and the newer heroes will have to wait for a later date to get their turn.
The new animated MOTU show is now running on the Cartoon Network (check your local listings!), and the show uses the same characters as the toy line, partially based on the design work for the toy re-launch. The new toys work around a six inch scale and have been designed and sculpted by the Four Horsemen, who have been able to bring a fresh, modern look to the characters while staying true to their essence. A cast of thousands in China produces the toys. Fortune cookies not included.
The figures covered here are early releases in the series and some of the figures here (and covered in the villain Spotlight) were later released with video tapes of episodes of the original show attached. The three regular issue good guys (He-Man, Man-At-Arms and Stratos) were packaged with the episode Into the Abyss. The three regular evil characters (Skeletor, Mer-Man and Beast Man) were packed with To Save Skeletor. He-Man's amateur video 'Master of his own domain' was sold through very select retailers, and decorum prevents naming that chain.
Click on a picture below to see more pictures of that action figure.
He-Man is the leader of the heroes of Eternia even though his name may not inspire fear. He-Man may look like a strong he-man, but when the smack needs to be laid, he can either man handle his opponents or dig into the arsenal he carries around. He has a power sword that can slice, dice, cut open a tin can and still slice tomatoes. He also carries a shield to ward off errant projectiles, and a two handed battle axe which can split logs and beat down evil.
In truth, He-Man is really the king's son Prince Adam, who was given special powers by a Sorceress to help defend Eternia. You also have to figure that if the Sorceress can magically cause a man to become large and muscled, she probably likes to practice on others when she's in the mood. He-Man is the hero of the story, and whether you like it or not you'll be seeing him not only on the new animated show, but also in toy stores everywhere as he is shipping heavily in early assortments. If you can't find a He-Man figure, you just aren't looking.
He-Man's chest insignia of old was a cross, but the new version of the character has eschewed that look for a stylized 'H' that looks very much like an asterisk. Prototypes for He-Man had the cross, and the early production runs of the character were made with the cross insignia on the armor, but this has been changed to the 'H' symbol.
Likewise, the hilt of the sword was produced with both the cross and the 'H' symbol. Neither version seems to be more plentiful or rare than the other, though as the production continues the 'H' symbol will eventually be more numerous. Most of the figures have chest insignia that match the sword hilt (and once opened it is meaningless anyway) but there were some figures shipped with the cross hilt and the 'H' symbol on the chest. If you want to know which version would be best to save and pay for your kid's college education in the future, take your pick and keep in mind that kid'll get his degree by mail since neither will be rare or extremely valuable in the future based on the huge production runs of these figures.
He-Man is a guy who carries more weapons than clothes. He has on a loincloth, fur boots and removable armor and that's it. He's a nearly naked guy that can be made even more naked easily, has a small pouch on the front of his loincloth and he has nipples - kind of makes you wonder about those Four Horsemen, doesn't it?
The chest armor has a holder on the back that can hold either his sword or axe. In addition to the axe and sword, he carries a large shield and the sword can twist to make a more dramatic looking sword. He has ball-jointed shoulders and thighs, and twisting wrists, waist and neck. His waist is designed to snap back when it's twisted, for sword slashing or power punching action, depending on his mood. It's also his signature move for Abs of Steel.
Man-At-Arms is the head of the king's guards, and acts not only as a father figure to He-Man but also Teela. He shares secrets with the Sorceress and since she is the only single woman besides Teela who isn't overtly evil (notice the 'overtly') you have to figure he's got his eye on her. He knows that Adam is He-Man, and watches over him to help defend Eternia and make sure that Teela stays 'safe' since she's the only single woman on the show besides the Sorceress who isn't overtly evil. There goes that overtly again...
Man-At Arms has a few hobbies outside of fighting and keeping secrets with the Sorceress. He also likes to tinker around and invent weapons and other useful items to fight evil and make a tidy profit off consumer goods. He is one of the human characters on the show (his real name is Duncan, as in Donuts) and his mustache is a favorite around Castle Grayskull. He also wears heavy armor and in addition to a club he carries a gun. He has a funky hat, but we won't hold it against him.
Man-At-Arms is one of the most interesting figures visually because he truly embodies the mix of science and magic that pervade the world of Eternia. He has a furry boot and then one that looks very technological, and he has on a fur loincloth over his suit of armor, which would be a major faux pas were it done by anyone else. He has ball-jointed shoulders and thighs, a twisting neck, waist and wrists. He carries a battle club and a hand cannon, which fires a spring-loaded missile. The cannon has a peg on the side that fits into a peg hole on the back of his armor so he can stow it when he isn't fighting or holding up a 7-11.
Duncan has a built-in action feature that gives him smash-up action. When you press a button on his back his right shoulder twists to smash whatever is in his way, be it evil or a watermelon. He also has removable armor and his breastplate and back piece come off, though the huge shoulder pad doesn't.
Stratos fills the important roll of a hero who can fly and keep the skies of Eternia free from evil, pollution and CFC's. He can drop 'bombs' on his foes from the air, and he has a backpack that can launch missiles as well. The best thing to do is not stay under him after a large meal. Stratos is the only hero released so far that doesn't have shoes. Since all the villains go barefoot, it raises the specter of possible betrayal and athlete's foot.
Calling Stratos an action figure is true and false, in a Zen sort of way. On the one hand he has an action feature, but on the other he is sculpted and designed so he really can't do much besides that one action feature. He is both moving and not, grasshopper. Now you will know the sound of two arms flapping.
Stratos doesn't like to carry around lots of guns, clubs, axes, or swords, and he relies on his quick wings and missile launching backpack to get him out of trouble. The wings fold down and they actually look a little better if they are switched as the feathered side is on top when they are spread rather than the tech side. They come off very easily and can be switched to create whatever look you'd like. He has articulated elbows, twisting wrists, ball-jointed thighs and a twisting waist and neck.
The shoulder joints are tied in to his action feature, which flaps his arms when you press the middle button on his backpack. The shoulders really can't do anything else but the action feature, and the backpack has one spring-loaded missile. He's got a feathery loincloth (they love loincloths) and knee pads, which explains how he got into the first assortment of figures.
Cringer is the faithful companion of Prince Adam, and he also transforms into Battle Cat who is He-Man's faithful companion. Battle Cat is heavily armored, has big teeth and missile launchers on his saddle, which all combine to make evil his litter box. Before settling on Battle Cat he was going to use the moniker Mean Cringer or possibly Cringer the Ear Biter, but obviously made a wise choice.
Battle Cat is a proven warrior in his own right, but he also works part time as taxi that serves many areas of Eternia when not ferrying He-Man to and fro. No ride is too far, nor any fee too big for Battle Cat to make the trip. Just make sure if you get a ride you tip, because you wouldn't like him when he's angry.
Battle Cat is the same basic figure as Panthor, except without the flocking and with a different head. The base figures are identical, and this may explain why Panthor was flocked (since this makes it slightly less obvious) and Battle Cat has less trouble with hairballs. The lack of flocking makes it easier to see the sculpted details on the figure, unlike with Panthor where they are obscured. Battle Cat is covered with removable armor for the face, front paws and a removable saddle. The two claw pieces don't stay on too well, and these will probably be the first things you lose from this figure unless you are careful. The mask fits well and doesn't interfere with the action feature, and the saddle has mounts for missile launchers (which were included) to give this cat a ranged attack. A ranged attack towards the front that is.
The figure is designed with a button on the back that can be either pressed to cause the right front paw to lift in slashing action, and the mouth to open with hairball spitting or biting action. All four legs are articulated to swivel and the tail can twist. All the figures can fit on Battle Cat and ride him, but he only likes He-Man to climb on top because he likes briefs and not boxers.
Since He-Man is the main character of the line, and Skeletor (the main baddie) has a variant, it would be only natural for He-Man to have one. To match Battle Sound Skeletor there is Battle Sound He-Man, but his battle sounds are good sounds! The Battle Sound version of He-Man was only the first variant in the line, followed up with the San Diego Comic Con variant and then Jungle Attack He-Man in the second wave of good figures. This variant of He-Man has two versions, one with silver armor and one with gold armor.
Besides being He-Man with different armor and battle sounds, the figure includes a video tape of one of the classic episodes of the original series. The episode 'Dragon Invasion' comes with the gold version, while the silver is packed with 'Diamond Ray of Disappearance'. Dragon Invasion deals with (oddly enough) a dragon invasion of Eternia due to Skeletor stealing dragon eggs. The invasion is a diversion so he can sneak into Castle Grayskull to learn the secrets hidden there. The only thing he does learn is that he just can't beat He-Man after they fight. For Diamond Ray of Disappearance, He-Man must use the aforementioned ray to rescue some people that Skeletor has teleported away. Maybe there could be an episode where Skeletor and He-Man just sit down and discuss their differences coming to a compromise. Maybe not.
Since a silent battle sounds He-Man would be very silly, this figure can actually make two battle sounds. One is made when the waist is twisted and released, which causes it to swing back forward and make a slashing and attacking sound. He also has a small button on his side that makes him say 'I have the power!' and then make the same sword sound. His battle armor doesn't come off, but he does have a removable over-cape (for lack of a better term) that can hold either the sword or the axe.
He shares several things in common with the regular version of He-Man. He has the same articulation - ball-jointed shoulders and thighs, and twisting neck, waist and wrist. He also has the same weapons - the power sword, battle axe and battle shield, though they have a more metallic look for this version than the regular (which looks slightly translucent). He wears a crown, which the regular He-Man doesn't. And that pouch on the front of his loincloth is gone, with a new design. They have a lot of loincloths in Eternia. A lot.
The two versions of this figure have the same action features and sounds, and their sculpting is identical. The big difference is whether the figure has gold or silver armor, and the chain that holds the sword sheath around the neck of the figure has a chain of color opposite to that chest armor. In other words, the gold armor He-Man has a silver chain and the silver one has a gold chain. The gold version comes with the 'H' symbol sword while the silver one has the cross, which indicates that the gold version is the later version of the figure. There doesn't seem to be a strong bias towards either figure being the harder one to find, and it will vary depending on your area.
Pictures of He-Man
Pictures of Man-at-Arms
Pictures of Stratos
Pictures of Battle Cat
Pictures of Battle Sounds He-Man
|Where to buy Masters of the Universe: The regular Masters of the Universe action figures retail in the $9.99 USD price range, with the deluxe battle sounds figures retailing in the $12.99 price range and Battle Cat retailing for a bit more. All are available at major retailers such as Toys'R'Us (and through their Amazon.com presence), Target, Wal-Mart, and KB Toys, at specialty stores such as Tower Records and comic book stores, as well as various online toy retailers.
Several such online stores are RTM sponsors AisleSniper.com, Big Bad Toy Store, NHAtoys.com and The Outer Reaches. (Be sure to check the other RTM sponsors, listed on the Shop Center.)