I’m pretty excited about this review as it’s officially Rad Toy Review’s first non-ThreeA toy review. When I started this site, I never set out with the goal to review or discuss every toy under the sun. There are plenty of other sites that strive to do that and do it really well. Our goal here may seem a little bit selfish and self-indulgent. We look for toys and toy companies that feed into our nostalgia and resonate with us on a personal level. There’s no label associated with it, no brand loyalty. It basically just comes down to whether or not we think it’s cool and believe you might think it’s cool too. So as we attempt to slowly branch out, don’t be surprised if things feel random from time to time. Selfish, self-indulgent or not, we do truly hope you enjoy what we’re trying to put together here and I thank you for reading week after week!
Warning: Long backstory/introduction ahead. If you don’t want to take a trip down memory lane with me, feel free to skip forward a few paragraphs.
Growing up I had more GI Joe figures than any other kid at my school. I had shoeboxes filled to the brim with them. My friends and I would take all our collective Joes and spend hours setting up elaborate battle scenes, carefully posing each and every figure on the brink of an epic world ending war. Usually the set up time far outlasted the actual war time as parentally sanctioned “reasonable” bedtimes still applied to my friends and I. We’d usually leave the battleground as it lay with plans to continue the chaos the next day but more often than not we’d just end up picking them up and starting all over again. The joy of toys and part of what I loved so much about GI Joes, was posing them and positioning them in ways that made them look “cool”.. to fit whatever story I had going on in my 8 – 13 year old brain.
Meanwhile, on the outskirts of Wintergarden, FL my cousins were amassing a huge army of their own. I’d visit them about 2 times a year during the Christmas Holiday and summer break. Each visit, it never failed. I’d find myself just staring in awe at the insane amount of toys they had jammed in their tiny room. Shelves, bookcases, the closet and under the bed, all just packed. Thing is they didn’t care about GI Joe, Transformers, Voltron, Star Wars, Teddy Ruxpin, etc.. nor did they have any. We’d all watch the cartoons/marketing material on Saturday morning of course, but their interest and their collection was 100% set on something all together else.
Masters of the Universe.
Endless battles were fought. We didn’t bother setting things up like I did with my GI Joe’s. My cousins weren’t in to that and frankly there wasn’t all that much to pose as limited in articulation He-Man and his lot were back then. Instead our battles were fast paced and a little like dodge ball. We’d one by one pick our teams, take an armload outside and just go at it. Toys were killing toys before all of us could even get outside. More often than not my cousin Nate would target his little brother’s favorite fig and do something that would result in both his arms being chopped off. This was one of our favorite “battle wound” for classic MotU figs. Living in a rural area of FL also gave us plenty awesome places to play with these guys. I’m sure more than a few of them can still be found stuck in the mud somewhere in the Florida wetlands.
Thanks to those trips, my parents were suddenly “forced” to offset my GI Joe and Transformer hoarding and pepper in some Masters of the Universe. I loved the characters and did all my chores and homework to the best of my ability anytime there was a even a chance my folks would consider buying me one the next time we were at the local shop. My MotU collection never reached my GI Joe’s level, but it was respectable. I just loved the characters and couldn’t get enough of them!
Fast forward twenty-some odd years to today. I’m a little baffled that as long as I’ve been collecting toys that this is the first NEW Masters of the Universe figure I’ve had since probably ’88 or ’89. Despite the long delay in feeding the habit, I believe the waits been well worth it.
To the review!
I ordered He-Man together with a few other items (reviews coming soon) from mattycollector.com. They arrived safely packed together in a single large brown shipping box. Ripping it open I found a very plain white box with the MotU and Mattel logos and the words “Adult Collector” on it. Given it’s un-flashiness I assume it’s just meant as another layer of protection for your goodies. I can understand wanting to preserve your collectibles and that some of you like to keep your stuff minty mint on the card so I get it. But if I was one of those kind of collectors, I might have been a tad miffed. Despite both shipping boxes being perfect with no noticeable damage, the actual card was slightly bowed, bent and dinged… I guess it’s a good thing I’m not one of those collectors!
The card itself is pretty cool with some nods to the MotU figures of old with the OG logo and lightning graphics. On the back you can see a few other characters “available”, a snippit of classic art from the old school pack-in comics accompanied by a little backstory on He-Man, “the most redundantly named man in the universe!” (said in echo-y cool cartoon voice)
He-Man comes with the sword of power, a half of the sword of power, a battle axe and shield. For some reason I failed to grab the half sword when I was taking my photos. If I’m remembering correctly, the original He-Man didn’t come with the full sword at all and only the half sword. I believe Skeletor had the other half. It was a cool bit of story, but even as a little kid I thought it was lame that half of He-Man’s sword was flat with little pegs sticking out of it. So I’m really happy that Mattel included the full sword of power with this set. I always really liked having He-Man carry his shield and ax more than his sword for some reason, (probably the flat/pegs thing) though I don’t recall ever seeing He-Man use anything BUT his sword in the cartoons. Anyway, the variety is nice.
He-Man, from the Masters of the Universe Classics collection came out a couple years ago but Mattycollector.com recently rereleased him and made him readily available on their site. According to the the description a few small improvements were made on the rerelease over the original. From their sales page, “The figure has the shoulders corrected (reversed), the red around the eyes removed, and his overall body gloss is toned down.” Having never owned the other version of him I can’t really comment on these adjustments short of “Yay for refinement!”
The first thing that struck when I popped our spray tanned hero out of the bubble wrap was how great the sculpt is. The Four Horsemen have done some really fine work here. It’s all very clean and detailed. They did a great job of incorporating the joints into the sculpt so that the lines and gaps flow as nicely as possible. Pretty important for a figure who is mostly naked save some fuzzy underwear. He Man also feels substantial. He’s not heavy, but you don’t feel like he’ll break into a million pieces if he takes a tumble or two. In fact I’ve tested this theory as the poor man fell several times off the stone wall onto the concrete floor during the photo shoot, none the worse for wear. What a trooper!
You can kit him up in a bunch of different ways. Single sword, sword and shield, axe and shield, dual wielding.. whatever you like. There are quite a few options to play around with. Again, variety is nice.
A cool detail is the strap on the back of his “X” chest piece that’ll hold a spare accessory. Even works with his shield.
The chest piece is also removable via some small snaps in the back if you fancy He-Man showing a little more nip.
The paint on his body is pretty subtle. It’s hues of light orange and tan to give some nice shading support to the sculpt underneath. The same can be said for the paint details on his clothing and weapons. Each piece is purposely painted and gives the overall figure a real look of quality. There were a few spots of random black paint that I couldn’t clean off as well as some strange scuffs on the inside of his right leg. After looking down the barrel of Mattel’s dreadfully long, drawn out exchange/return policy.. I decided to subscribe to the “these guys are mass produced, a few glitches are expected” school of thought and just live with them.
I remember thinking how weird the originals He-Mans face was when compared to the cartoon. The toy had a much more “mature” and frankly, ugly look to it’s face than the younger, handsomer cartoon version. As a kid, I never quite came around to it.. it always bothered me. It just didn’t look like the same guy. The current sculpt is a million times better. While He-Man’s face is still stuck in a sorta frustrated gritted teeth wince, it’s much more natural and fits the character perfectly. His chiseled jaw and blunt nose give him the appropriate “strongest man in the universe” appearance without making him too gnarly. I’m sure Teela or whoever (wasn’t Teela his sister?) would think he’s a hotty. The paint on eyes while nice and sharp, looks a smidge off.. at least on my figure. I can’t quite get him to look as though he’s focused on anything. Is he slightly wall-eyed? Lazy-eyed? I can’t tell. Another thing is that I wish there was a little more detail in the hair. While the sculpt is fine, the paint is pretty much just flat yellow. Would have been nice if they took the time to do a little darker wash to get into the recesses and make the details pop a bit more.
Something I was really happy about is that there are quite a few points of articulation scattered all about. The old MotU figs only had a tiny handful of joints. This really didn’t give them a huge range of movement. Of course back then, articulation wasn’t near as common place or considered “important” as it is today. I think most kids just grabbed their hero, flew him around the room and slammed him into the badguys face first.. I don’t know, that’s how we did it anyway. Now days, practically every action figure in the toy isle sports 30 gazillion points of articulation so you can bend the action figure into a McFarlane style Spider-man pretzel. Saying that, I find it a little ironic that most McFarlane toys have little to no articulation at all.. but I digress.
I think the real art form of articulation in toys comes from how well it’s implemented. It’s finding that balance of letting you move the little guys/gals/turtles about as much as possible and maintaining the overall cohesive look of the figure. If the toys neck has a triple sliding ball joint… cool. But if that joint gives Han Solo something akin to a giraffe neck, it’s not quite so great. Exceptions and trade offs have to made somewhere.
As I said before, I think the placement of the joints and sculpt of the figure work brilliantly together, aesthetically speaking. Thanks to that you’ll be able to squeeze a decent handful of poses out of him while he still maintains a fairly natural look.
BUT as with most toys it won’t take you long to find there are a few limitations as well.
Most of what I came across I consider pretty minor and are obvious aesthetic/articulation trade-offs, but I thought I’d mention the few that bugged me the most.
The first joint I’m not a huge fan of is the stomach hinge. To me, it feels completely unnecessary. It’s the most obtrusive visually but it’s also the most limited articulation wise. It won’t give him the ability to touch his toes or the opposite extreme of that. It merely gives him a small degree of freedom in pivoting his chest up or down. I guess I’m glad it’s there as it gives some limited flexibility, I just didn’t find it being incredibly useful. I’m not sure the visual trade-off warrants it.
If I could add an additional joint, I think it’d be ball joints at the wrist. Having a more evolved type of wrist joint would open up the MotU characters to a ton of other poses that you can’t get with the simple swivel joint that exists. Most high-end articulated toys have these. Besides as is, you really cannot 100% achieve his classic “I have the POWER!!” stance. As iconic as that is, I have to wonder if it was at all considered during the development process.
I think the one thing that bothered me the most was that the fact that He-Man is incapable of touching his hands together. This is kind a big deal for a barbarian-sword swinging-Conan warrior-type of character. It makes any sort of two handed sword or axe posing impossible. Let alone, getting in a quick game of single player thumb war. This is only maginfied when you realize that his elbow joints won’t allow for a 90 degree bend thanks to his massive bicepts being in the way. It’s actually kinda comical and makes him look like he’s been hitting the steroids a little to heavily. While I’m sure this had more to do with keeping the model appearance clean than anything else, it has that “so close, yet so far” feeling to it that may endlessly frustrate me.
I might be a little star struck since this is my first figure from the line, but I can say with complete confidence that this will not be my last Masters of the Universe Classics figure. The overall execution of this toy is top notch from the impeccable sculpt to the details of the armor/clothes and weapons. I’m a fan. While there’s a few things I hope Mattel will improve on in the future, maybe some R&D into further articulation and joint types, what’s here is pretty darn impressive, especially for a $20 toy.
Most importantly and something I haven’t mentioned yet, he’s FUN. The plain white box says clearly on the front “adult collectors”, but if I had children I’d be buying these guys left and right for them. Amass them an army of muscle bound colorful warriors. As much fun as I had playing with my cousins and their ridiculously massive original MotU collection back in the day, I can’t imagine how much fun I would have had with this updated version. Take one part GI Joe articulation and combine it with all the things that made the original Masters of the Universe so wonderful and you have yourself some fantastic toys for adults and kids alike!
So yes, He Man certainly won’t be my last MotU figure and I really can’t wait to get a few more on my shelf. After all, once Mattel finally gets off it’s rump and releases an updated Castle Grayskull, I can’t just have it sitting about all empty and vacant now can I?