May is now (un)officially Swamp Month! There has been a lot of getting down to the dirty in conversations around the Internet about the May 2012 Masters of the Universe Classics releases. Stinkor was pushed back from April and is in the hot seat over a forearm design choice; The Mighty Spector has to be the most popularly-discussed figure since his debut last fall (for better or for worse); and the Snake Mountain Stands are mired in discourse over proper colorization, be it black or purple. There is never a shortage of opinions, theories, and heated debates on the Internet and trudging through all of the May talk can most certainly equate to navigating through a swamp–we need one of those boats with the big fan on the back! However, the character most suited to be caught in the muck and mire of a swamp, specifically the QUAGMI swamp, is the other May MOTUC figure, Slush Head. In a scathing twist of Primusian(?) irony, the scaly-goon squad thug actually comes out of this mid-spring race cleaner than all the rest. That must be why he has the least amount of conversation going on right now–which is a crying shame! Even though he has to keep his head immersed in a dome of stinky swamp water, the rest of this guy has all the makings to be the very best offering from this go ‘round of MOTUC releases.
What is it about the New Adventures releases in Classics that make for such striking offerings? Sure, Slush Head is only the third figure we have seen so far in this criminally-underrepresented sect, but as he joins Optikk and Icarius, I can confidently say that NA is the strongest corner of Classics when it comes to overall awesomeness of all things toyetic. I mean, just look at this group–don’t your eyeballs want to melt from the cool factor? I know it is easy to say that the NA figures and designs had the most room to improve and that expectations for them have been low due to that fact, but I really think that is selling these figures short. Even though I was one of those who originally needed some hard evidence to be convinced that NA designs could coalesce with the overall MOTU Classics aesthetic, Optikk quickly gave me a hard slap in the face with a reminder that the Four Horsemen know what they are doing. Do they work extra hard on NA as a self-imposed challenge? I don’t know–that will be a good question for them at our sit-down at SDCC. Have the strong design elements always been present and they just needed skillful hands and minds to bring them out? Hmm… maybe, but, to be honest, I am not really overly concerned with diving in to get technical here. At this point in my collecting hobby, I am willing to leave some things with a little mystique about them. I am very happy to just be a complete convert to the world of all things New Adventures.
It’s funny, back when Classics was just getting rolling there was an interview with Toy Guru and the Four Horsemen in an issue of [the now deceased] Toy Fare magazine. One of the sidebar points was a list from each member of the Four Horsemen about who they would like to see indoctrinated into the Classics line. While it is amazing to see how many of those character choices are now present in the line (I am sure Chris Dahlberg is still waiting anxiously to get to Gwildor…), Horseman Jim Preziosi mentioned Slush Head as the figure he really wanted them to take a crack at Classicizing. That little blurb actually struck me because it was the first time I realized that the quest to “get to everything” really meant getting to everything. I immediately went on a course to refresh myself with NA-verse and wouldn’t you know it–I was absolutely in the same boat as Mr. Preziosi. Slush Head was far and away my most anticipated New Adventures figure.
Well, it has been a long four years (give or take) but the scaly scum also known as Kalamarr has become the second member of the Space Mutants to come to our display shelves. The wait to this point has been softened with great figures of Optikk and Icarius, but I did not really have any set expectations for them. Those guys just kind of “happened” for me, but their action-figure awesomeness did set the stage for me being okay with having a bar set for what I wanted in Slush Head. While it is often hard to be patient for figures of your favorite characters, it usually pays off in the long run because the line and its creators have time to really sharpen their craft and build an impressive library of base body parts. I know that I was not the only MOTU fan out there who thought that last point was moot due to the very unique build and design of Slush Head, but this, once again, is the case with Classics. I marvel at the parts almost as much as the sum when it comes to the building of a new figure. You would think I would have learned that lesson by now.
I realize that we have gotten some very unique part combinations when it comes to building various Classics figures. The upcoming Griffin comes to mind, Snake Man-at-Arms too, as does other NA-er, Optikk. I mean, essentially taking Trap Jaw to make Optikk is really impressive. However, I think that Slush Head now sits at the top of the creative reuse mountain, especially when it comes to ingenuity. In a collection populated by a la carte figure builds, it is hard to stand out based on construction alone, but Slushy has now become the ultimate Masters Frankenstein. He might not have the highest count when it comes to previous figure pulls, but he certainly has some of the most creative use. Also, if you dissect what is there, he does not have as many brand new parts as you might expect.
So what is the rundown? Let me see if I can get them all right, and I am sure I will be corrected if not. Slush Head has an all-new head/armor, wrist/biceps bracer thingees, techno-tentacles, and gun. That is it for the new category. The rest of him is made up of Whiplash’s torso, shoulders, and thighs; Mer-Man’s hands and feet; Kobra Khan’s forearms; Icarius’ shins and shorts; and the standard biceps and lower knees. Did I get all of that? I am pretty sure that is correct. Now, I know I cannot be alone in counting that as some creative construction, especially since all of the parts come together so seamlessly to look as though they were made for Slush Head. The fact is, we just got those new forearms a couple of months ago, so when you count for things like that it is easy to see that patience is rewarded in making good on some designs you might not even think possible.
But you know what you are getting with the reused parts. I can confirm that there are not any floppy joints to report or gummy plastic in these pieces. The shorts are just soft enough so that if you ever feel the need to have Kalamarr sit, he can certainly do so. But what of the new pieces introduced with this figure? I think one of the things that sets the original NA figure line apart (and there are many things) is that while I don’t think the figures were as good as the original line, they did have a lot of unique tooling. We are getting that worked out for the body pieces so far, but for the armor and weaponry, there are not existing parts that can really foot those bills. So, lucky for us and Slushy, his budget is given to making his new pieces right on-model. That creative reuse in the figure construction gives way to being able to subsidize the complex armor pieces, and they take up a lot of plastic.
Now, you might have heard that Slush Head is the first figure in the line since the original SDCC 2008 King Grayskull to NOT feature a removable head. Well, that is both correct and kind of incorrect when you get down to it. The head is actually built into the armor/dome rig and while the entire portion is actually removable from the body, the head itself is not accessible on its own. This choice was made so that the dome would be fully sealed so that water (or another liquid of your choice, I won’t ask) can be added to create the vintage figure effect. It’s fun! I mean, it says right there in the bio that his head is permanently encased in the nasty water from the Quagmi Swamp, so you would not want it to be leaking all over the place. A guy’s swamp water is his own business. Personally, I will not be keeping water in the dome for the sake of display, but I do support the choice to make the dome water-tight, even if it meant losing the removable head. If you do want to pose him in any position other than straight on, it does limit the possibilities because he is always looking forward. Since he does not have an alternate head or look, it is pretty much a non-issue for me and if a customizer wants to use the head for something else, it can be gotten to fairly easily. The good news is that the sacrificed removability was not in vain and the water stays in the swamp dome just fine. The back of the dome has a little spot where you can fill it with water and as you can imagine, it doesn’t take much. I played around with the amount a little bit and I think about three-quarters of the way full looks the best. You can choose your own adventure on that though.
The rest of the armor covers up a good deal of the torso and while the bulk sits upon the shoulders, it does come around to connect in the back at the waist. The back is mostly silver and has an offset tank so it looks like there is more to keeping this scaly thug healthy outside of the swamp than just a bucket of water. This part appears to be very true in translation from the vintage figure (I never owned it) so while it is acceptable to take some of the changes in the actual construction of the body with reused parts for translation into Classics, the armor really helps to set him apart from the vintage sect. I think that is something interesting that we are a starting to see, especially with the NA figures. Yes, Optikk, Icarius, and Slush Head have now been brought right into the common aesthetic of the Classics line, so they look right at home next to guys like Mer-Man and Fisto, but they also remain very distinctly “New Adventures,” and I like that they remain true in the homage to their roots. Again, you can credit the Horsemen (and the more unique nature of the vintage NA line) for that.
Of course, one of the most recognizable features of Slush Head’s design is the mechanical tentacles that are attached to his back. As we have been told, the tentacles themselves are NOT made of a bendy material. It was revealed that, from a design perspective, Mattel did not want to use different materials due to recent issues with quality (like Snout Spout’s trunk). I think the impact of this choice will vary depending on how much you pose and play with the figure, but the positioning of the tentacles harkens back to the vintage cross-sell art. They attach at the back and have a swivel so they can move up and down and that adds to the “playability” of the figure because you can have those bad boys attack an unsuspecting hero. I will note that you need to really apply pressure to get the tentacles to insert into the back pack all the way. Both of the tentacles have the unique claws that have a swivel end at the attachment to the tubing; the crab claw is static in sculpt but the other has a hinge so it can open and close–better to strangle you with, my dear. I am not sure if I would have preferred the bendy tentacles at this point, but I have to say that due to the sculpting, the static positioning of them is well done.
Finally, my favorite part of the figure–by far–is the head sculpt. Yeah, the head is not removable, but man, there is a ton of personality in the sculpt. It says right on the package that he is a goon-squad thug and he has got the sour mug to prove it. I love how in one position he can look as though he is about to rage on the battle field, but in the next he looks as though he is sniffing out some kind of stink (probably the swamp water or his release mate, Stinkor). While I previously mentioned that I will not be keeping water in the dome, I might be rethinking that; I really do love how much the head is magnified under the water, it almost gives the feel of the figure having completely different proportions. I would not have it any other way for the figures to match the vintage expressions in Classics, but sometimes a character is really brought out in the sculpt, and having the very expressive Slush Head standing next to the expressionless Optikk on the shelf is just another reason why this mythos is so much fun. I mean, how the heck do they pull off the fact that EVERYONE is a misfit? It works.
All right, I realize that I have been expressing my excitement for the inclusion of more FilMation and PoP characters in this line, but I am running out of release slots in any given year because I want more NA too! Two figures a month! Who is with me? I am sure that some people are going to disagree, but I think NA Classics is currently batting a thousand. I am hoping that we might see another NA figure in 2012, but since Mosquitor has been pretty much confirmed for September, there are only a few slots left. I think at this point, Hydron is the most needed (Icarius is getting lonely) but I would personally like to see Flogg or Lizorr. The bad guys are always cooler–remember that. In a year dominated by vintage line offerings (it is the 30th anniversary after all), Slush Head stands toe-to-toe with anything released thus far. I knew that when he was unveiled at Power Con last year, even though he was shown alongside Stinkor (one of my favorites), Slushy was my most anticipated for the spring. He does not disappoint for me and I think he will continue to build the already-rising cred that has been fostered to NA via Classics. He will be on his way to you very soon if you do not have Spector or Jay Garrick as part of your order; otherwise, you are still looking at a few more weeks. He is worth it, though.
*Thanks for trudging through the murky mire of the Quagmi Swamp to check this out, and thanks to Toy Guru and crew for getting him over to us. Speaking of Toy Guru… stay tuned!