I realize that of late I have been going on about how neat it is that we are getting figures of characters that were never before offered in the Masters of the Universe Classics line. Getting guys from the Filmation shows and even the PoP ladies in their style-guide looks are some of the things that I absolutely love about this line, and I really hope that we will see that continue if we make the subscription goal for 2014; however, there is something to be said for the excitement that takes over when you are treated to a vintage-toy character that is updated in the Classics line. Getting cool updates to standards like Ram Man and Jitsu this year has been a lot of fun, but, by now, they were just the appetizers. Really? I am saying that about RAM MAN? One of the most highly requested figures ever in this line? Yes, I am saying that and the reason is simple: Mantenna has arrived and he might just be the best figure in the line, period.
Oh, but perhaps you think I am speaking in hyperbole? Fair enough, I know it is easy to get caught up in the hype of the new “flavor of the month,” especially when it comes to this line; however, I am not going to beat around the bush on this one. While Mer-Man has remained my overall favorite figure in the line since his release so long ago, I recognize that there have been a lot of really great figures in the Classics line. There is no denying the likes of guys like Trap Jaw, Fisto, Draego-Man, Shadow Weaver, Man-at-Arms, and a host of others. That said, Mantenna steps into this line on four legs and is instantly in a class all his own. I have loved so many figures over the life of this line, but I have not had a new favorite in over four years. Until yesterday, that is.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that while Mer-Man was also my favorite vintage figure, Mantenna was also in my top five. Now, that might make it seem like I would have a forgiving soft spot for a favorite character, but the exact opposite is true. I want all of my favorites to be the best figures in the line, and I must admit, I have had a pretty good run. So while I am very happy with Mer-Man and Fisto and Whiplash and Spikor and Mossman and others, I am actually taken aback a little bit by Mantenna. I mean, I have always known his design has potential for great things, but he really is quite something.
Getting the Horde in the vintage line is one of my fondest toy-related memories from childhood. I described that story in the Leech First Look a couple of years ago, but if I would have not gotten the original four guys all together, I would have wanted Mantenna no matter what. There was just something about him and his pop-up eyes, different physique, and grotesque nature that really appealed to me. I really loved all aspects of his vintage figure, and that was without even knowing that he was meant to have four legs and not just two. So when I saw him for the first time in the Princess of Power cartoon, my mind was kind of blown. It made sense that he would be a four-legged bug-creature, but it would also be over 25 years before we would get an actual action figure representing this.
What is there to say? A lot, actually, but I would imagine that you are probably taking in a lot with the pictures because, well, there is a lot to take in. There are no Classics figures like Mantenna. His design, execution, and final figure make for (probably) the most unique entry into the line so far, and all of that is supported by the fact that he has excellent execution at just about every level. From an aesthetic design aspect, Mantenna is the very definition of “the Four Horsemen being the Four Horsemen.” He is a monstrous character with lots of little hideous details that the 4H crew run wild with when they update them; however, he does come with some functional challenges unlike any other figure we have seen so far.
As a general rule, most figures in the MOTUC line make strong use of the part-sharing logic that defined the vintage line. Again, this pits Mantenna against the grain as I struggle to find ANYTHING that has been reused from a previous figure. Now, I do not mean that a figure can only be great if it is all-new, quite the opposite actually, but that is part of what makes Mantenna so impressive. A new design and all-new parts open all kinds of potential production pitfalls, and if even one thing were to fall short, it would detract from the overall figure, and probably in a significant way. So while feats of the Horsemen and budgeting for this figure are impressive, the journey from sculpt to production figure is what is really of note here.
From his head to his four feet, everything (I think) is new and perfectly suited for Mantenna. The vintage figure did not share parts with other figures and so too is this the case in Classics. Mantenna’s torso is not the jacked and bubbly muscled body of most of the rest. He is a bit thinner up top, but his arms and large head help keep him in line with the other figures, and he is actually quite brutish. There is a lot of detail in his chest and it integrates with the standard Horde logo well; of all the translated aspects of design, I would say that his torso most closely resembles the vintage figure.
His arms and legs are very unique to him as well and are probably more impressive still, especially the legs. Mantenna has the arm and leg “fins” of the old figure, and, because of this, he does not get a Horde arm band. If I had any quibble at all, it would be this, but it seems so minor in the grand scheme of things that are going on with this figure. They are cast in the base blue of his skin tone, and I really like the color – it pops while staying true to the original palette. His right hand is sculpted to carry his standard-issue Horde crossbow (unique from the others we have gotten, and matching the vintage), while the left keeps a wider grip — also just like the old figure.
I think I could probably write an entire article devoted to the execution and functional aspects of Mantenna’s four legs, but I am going to try to keep it to one paragraph. In short, they are probably the figure’s most impressive feature, and they accomplish this in a rather humble fashion. That is to say, I don’t think they were designed for the sake of being impressive; they just serve the needs that were required for the figure, but they do so very, very well. It all starts with the crotch. A funny thing to say aside, his unique hip system accommodates four ball-jointed legs in fantastic fashion. I was really worried about how well they would actually work for the production figure, but I am quite pleased with the end result. You can get a full range of motion out of all four legs and the ball joints give the ability to turn and position forward, backward and side to side. All of this is done within a hip section that, while expectedly larger than a standard figure, stays streamlined and looks natural. Oh, and the hip overlay piece is made of a very flexible plastic so there is no inhibiting movement there. There is a lot going on here, and I want to give credit to the Horsemen as well as Mattel design and engineering for seeing this all the way through. I know we are quick to beat up on them when something goes wrong (especially the latter two), but they also deserve credit when it is due, and it is really due here.
Okay, maybe I will need two paragraphs for the legs because the impressive design does not end at the hips. Mantenna has four thighs that are sculpted to have all of their disgusting bumpy detail and they meet their respected knees with an unexpected twist. No — literally a twist. The knees twist a full 360 degrees so that his shins and feet can move independently from the tops of his legs. This is crucial in ensuring that all four legs can look natural in both vanilla and action poses, so I appreciate the forethought in getting that done. His shins are different from front to back, and I really like the Horde guards on the front and the blue metallic paint used to break up the base color. It is probably my favorite color on the entire figure. His shins meet his feet at all four points with glorious rocker ankles. Yep, even though Mattel has not been a shining example of well-executed rocker ankles of late (most do not move side to side), Mantenna’s ankles have the most side-to-side movement of any figure in Classics and that includes the original female boot point. So, as funny as it is to say it, Mantenna’s legs might just be the most impressive execution of anything so far in the MOTUC line.
But that should not detract from the fact that he also has one of the coolest and most detailed head sculpts so far too. I mean, look at this guy! He is hideous in the most beautiful way possible. His giant dome is detailed with lines and folds throughout and some of the most impressive work is at the base of skull where it meets the neck. Since most people display their figures facing forward, this will largely be lost in the day to day, but it speaks of the detail here. His ears are giant and flat, just like vintage figure, and the width that they provide helps in balancing out his wide base so that his head remains proportional.
Then you have the eyes, all four of them. I mean, the figure has four legs, so why break up a good theme, right? Mantenna has his standard eyes as well as his pop-out bug eyes. They are actually separate pieces since there is no action feature and they can pop out of his head and interchanged easily. This requires his entire mouth to be removable as well, but they were accommodating. It is easy to figure out how to do it, but just in case, Mattel included instructions on his outer white mailing box just to be safe. The biggest challenge is to get his pupils to align with each other so he doesn’t look cross-eyed, but then again, that might be a desired effect too.
The eyes are a direct departure from the vintage figure, but in both action feature and style. Now, the four legs are doing what could not be done back in the 1980s, but they eyes take their style cues more from the Filmation design (and carried over into the MYP era). Overall, I am happy with this, but man, it would have been cool to get two more sets of eyes that match the vintage deco and “pop-up” (instead of “pop-out”) effect from the old figure. That being said, I think they broke the budget already and I am sure we will see some cool customizations come late October. I can already feel the stun beams coming.
Mantenna also includes his requisite Horde Crossbow. It is uniquely styled to match the vintage version and to be different from those carried by Hordak, Leech, and Grizzlor (and now Horde Prime, Octavia, and the Troopers too). It is grey in color and has some subtle but cool metallic-paint details throughout. So, not only is Mantenna the most impressive Hordesman by far, he is also greedy and takes the best crossbow too. Some guys (or bug creatures, or whatever) have all the luck.
Finally, and I don’t usually make much mention of these, but I actually like his characterization in his bio. Make no mistake, I make my own MOTU mythology (like so many others) by taking ideas from all eras and mixing them with my own, but I like that he is NOT some mind-wiped guy like his contemporaries, and he is pretty much in stark contrast to his characterization on the Filmation show. I love so many parts of Filmation, but I have always hated their treatment of my favorite Horde member. Finally, Mantenna is the bad-ass Horde member!
Okay, I think I have gone on long enough. This is a very positive preview. It is meant to be that way because, all hyperbole aside, I find Mantenna to be the best Classics figure released so far. I have done a lot of “talking” here, but in the end, the figure will speak for itself. Make no mistake, I want MOTUC to continue for many years, so I am glad we had a chance to preview Mantenna during the crucial time. Call that a conspiracy of timing if you want, but he is a genuinely outstanding figure, and he is not only the best Horde figure and overall MOTU Classics figure so far, he is easily a candidate for figure of the year. So remember the possibilities of the great execution he represents when considering the future of the Classics line, and hold to that when you remember that there are guys like Modulok, Squeeeze, Extendar, and even Rio Blast still left to be done. Mantenna is shipping in October, and while that might seem like a torturous amount of time to wait, he is well worth it.
*Thanks for reading and thanks to Toy Guru for sending along this beast for a First Look. We have more to bring you, so stay tuned!