Do you follow the Chinese zodiac? If so, I am sure you are aware that 2012 is the Year of the Dragon. It is also the 30th anniversary of Masters of the Universe. If you are familiar with the latter (and since you are reading this, you probably are) I don’t think I need to take any time explaining the kind of potential amazing synergy those two 2012 facts can create. However, even if you might think that those things don’t have anything in common, the Four Horsemen would gladly disagree with you. Dragons be invading Eternia! Sure, we have the yet-to-be-seen Granamyr coming this fall, and if we are lucky we might also see Dragon Blaster Skeletor at SDCC, but first up is the second figure in the MOTU 30th Anniversary subscription, the Four Horsemen-created Draego-Man. This new character seems to have moved even the most stalwart nostalgia collectors to welcoming new blood into Masters (something I feel it most certainly needs in order to thrive many years into the future) and with good cause – this guy is a doozy, and doozy is not a made-up word I throw around lightly. I have been waiting with bated fire breath for this guy since last summer and even though he goes up on Matty Collector next Monday, I can assure you, the following information is not going to make the short wait any easier. This dragon man is the real deal.
One of my favorite things about going to the San Diego Comic Con each year is that I get the chance to sit down and catch-up with the Four Horsemen. Last year, only half the crew was able to make it out to the show and while Jim was very busy manning the booth, chatting with fans and selling exclusive OSM and Gothitropolis figures, I was able to steal sculptor-extraordinaire Eric Treadaway from his duties to talk about all things plastic-y as related to the Fab Four. Obviously, one of the big topics of conversation was Draego-Man. If you have read the interviews here on the site, I think it is easy to tell that Eric’s enthusiasm is hard to contain. Just talking about the character and the process of creating Draego-Man was a fun experience because the conversation caught the perfect mix Eric’s artist, designer, professional and fan boy qualities all wrapped up into one. I am sure there is not a soul left on Earth that doubts the Four Horsemen’s devotion and respect for the MOTU property, but Draego-Man is the defining achievement in making that love and reverence a piece of plastic reality. It is funny looking back on it now – after the recorder was turned off we talked Game of Thrones for quite awhile, make you wonder what permeates those creative brains while they are designing new characters. All I know is that if Daenerys Targaryen were to show up in Westeros with Draego-Man, everybody and their dead father would be running for the North Wall. Anyways.
Can you believe that the 4H have been synonymous with MOTU for well over a decade now? Where does the time go? In that time they have been integral in the decision to revamp the property after a 20-year drought; they have spearheaded the design and direction of two toy lines; they carried on with the property in “station” form even after the 200x toy line died at retail and have really been the co-caretakers for the entire mythos and characters for all of our “adult collector” lives. Not once, not ONCE have they flinched or even gone tongue-in-cheek with any of these responsibilities. That last point is the mark of not only being consummate professionals, but respecting fans. Up until last year, they had done it all, with the exception of being given the task to create an all-new character from the ground up. Now, it is a completely different ballgame and Draego-Man embodies all of the details that make MOTU great. For the first time since the 1980s, Classics (as a toy line) is expanding beyond the characters that have been here before and Draego-Man is quite the introduction to making MOTU bigger. In more ways than one.
So how do you make your mark with an original character when you have already done so much for the MOTU brand? I can assure you, talking with Eric Treadaway last summer, it was no easy task. As said above, his respect and love for the brand is absolute. When you can share stories about backyard adventures in Eternia as kids with one of the primary sculptors of the Classics line, you know that the affection is undeniable. But that same love and respect rightfully makes the responsibility of creating an all-new character pretty daunting. When your character has to go toe to toe with the likes of Trap Jaw, Mer-Man and Beastman (not to mention Skeletor himself), choosing a concept that will stand out amongst such a diverse pantheon can be difficult to say the least. Eric spoke of his thought process and how it turned from trying to create a character based off of a gimmick name (like Clawful or Two Bad) or an “action feature” to filling a space that has not yet been occupied by a MOTU character before. I can certainly see how, when tasked with creating a new persona, one could easily get swept away in trying to leave an impression that blow back even the most fickle fan. Talking with Eric though, his approach became one that was to serve the MOTU property as whole and I can tell you that the humble nature of his motivations when it came to creating Draego-Man gave me an even deeper respect for the guy, and I did not think that was possible.
Filling a need for MOTU can be a hard look, but if you think back to when you were young, the fact that Skeletor did not have a “flying guy” on his team seems so rudimentary now, but no less important. I mean, how could that happen? How could he be so out-matched from an aerial perspective? Now, I am not going sit here and speculate that was Eric’s ultimate motivation in creating Draego-Man, but man, having a character in hand now that will send Buzz-Off and Stratos flying for the hills is a realization decades in the making. And come on, was there ever any doubt that he would want to bolster the ranks of the Evil Warriors? When it comes down to the foundations of what I like about MOTU, sharing that same love for the bad guys makes me smile when I can add to their forces. So as far as I am concerned, Draego-Man fit a need for MOTU and he can now happily (or angrily if wants) fly above Snake Mountain making sure that everyone knows the Dark Hemisphere is shored up now – by land, by sea and finally, air.
So after all of the design and creation of countless MOTU characters, taking on the great responsibility was something that was not taken lightly by the Horsemen and it shows through and through with this figure. He fits a need but was not created with such a grandiose story that he was ever meant to overshadow characters. That is respect, pure and simple and when you have a design that is so strong, it can just speak for itself. Speak softly and carry a big gullet full of fire. Teddy Roosevelt had it right. Almost. Draego-Man does have it right though. Completely.
I know the most recent topic of conversation vis-à-vis Draego-Man has been that several of his cool accessories had to go by the wayside due to cost. Even though I really miss not getting that shield yet(Scott has said they are looking for other avenues), the presence of this figure will pretty much make you forget anything that “should have been” in relation to the Draego. I know the periodic dance of Matty claiming things are too expensive and collectors thumbing their noses at that assertion has become pretty passé, but if any figure done thus far was going to break the bank in terms of size and design, it is this one. That being said though, the smart reuse that has become a hallmark of all successful MOTU lines is really ratcheted up here and I still cannot believe that he is a Frankenstein of King Hsss, Whiplash, He-Ro and Hordak. With all successful MOTU designs though, the sum is most certainly greater than the parts.
I am looking and the figure right now and I still cannot believe that they were able to get him into a standard MOTUC card and bubble. What is new on this figure (mainly the head, hands, armor and wings) are not only impressive in terms of design, but also in scale. He will look great just standing amongst the rest of your collection, but he really looks, ahem, hot, in flying poses. It’s the wings, man.