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First Look – SDCC 2014 Masters of the Universe Classics Hordak and Imp

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“Blast ’em, Chief!”

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Like every year, it seems like the San Diego Comic Con has snuck up on me and will be here before we know it. There is generally a lot of pre-Con hype that takes place starting about six weeks before the actual show, but if you are a Masters of the Universe fan, you know you have gotten an unusual amount of information this year, and I am sure you are already emotionally exhausted. Baby Skeletors caught everyone off guard, and a very ominous piece of advertising has all of us questioning where we will be at this time next year — could 2015 really be the forced end of the line?

I suppose we will not get any additional information on the latter until, at the very least, the Mattypalooza Panel on the Friday of SDCC, so all we have is time to mull over what might be as we head into the Subscription-selling season. In the meantime, though, SDCC would not be complete without a Masters of the Universe Classics exclusive, and the Ruthless Leader of the Evil Horde gets the nod this year, and he ain’t coming alone — his swine-like sycophant Imp is finally making his way into Classics. As you can imagine, this set has already started a stir and caused a commotion, so let’s take a look at what all of the fuss is about.

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Before we get started, I want to apologize for the delay with this feature. I know we are usually timely with our First Looks, but I was out of the country for work until a few days ago, so everything got delayed just a bit. So apologies on that front, but I can tell you that it gave me some extra time to consider this exclusive and some of the design choices that were made. Needless to say, the Internet has already provided its fair share of analysis, discussion, and, well, downright rage. Even though we predicted that this version of Hordak would be the SDCC exclusive, as usual, we were caught off guard at the reception when it was first revealed. You would think we would have learned our lesson by now.

Here is the thing about Hordak: online anecdotal evidence suggests that there are just as many fans of his vintage toy look as there are of his “Filmation” visage. In fact, I would say that the lines are as close to 50/50 as you can get, and that certainly puts him far ahead of any specific version of any other character out there. I think that speaks to the strengths of both versions, and I have to admit that I often find myself split over which one I prefer. Getting this version of Hordak is VERY important to a lot of the MOTU fandom (to say the least), so getting him right becomes absolutely essential to a lot of people. So how did the results pan out? Well, like most things Masters of the Universe-related, the opinions are mixed.

First, let me say that I am very happy with the willingness to produce this version of Hordak. We have already gotten three versions of him, and we are due for at least one more before the line folds, but of all the “variants” that have been possibilities for old Hector-Kur, I believe this to be the most important, so I can honestly say I am very much in love with the idea of this version, and, from the neck down, I think they pretty much nailed the execution. That should not come as a surprise, so at the end of the day, they got a lot right, even though that will be overshadowed by what has not been embraced by the fandom.

His color scheme and overall “presence” of appearance are well done. His skin tone (as explained in his bio) is spot-on, and the accent colors, consisting mostly of grey and red, match the Filmation style guide quite well. As you can see, that puts him at an instant departure from his vintage colorway, so this version will certainly stand out from the other versions on the shelf. As it stands, I think I like my Hordak figures without capes in this line, at least without the long, heavy cape from the initial version. It makes him more posable, and I find that the length of the original cloak does not match the vintage figures anyhow, so maybe the forthcoming Buzz-Saw Hordak will have a cape that gets the length right.

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My favorite part of the figure is most certainly the swappable arm feature, something that was very important to the character on the show. While the vintage figure line and MYP series focused on Hordak’s talents as a mage/warlock, Filmation pushed him in the opposite direction of the magic of Etheria and made him a denizen of technology and conquering machines. It makes for an interesting dynamic when you combine the two, and I like the more technological and blue-skinned version of Hordak, a result of his “death” at the hands of Skeletor and his resurrection as a “magical machine.” But, you know, whatever works in your canon.

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Hordak comes with a swappable left arm: he has a standard “flesh” arm that matches the right, and a cybernetic arm that gives him both a cannon and a robotic hand. These both match his cartoon incarnation, and one of the most memorable parts of the intro to the She-Ra show was Hordak raising his arm cannon and giving the viewer a blast. My preferred display option is with the cannon, but the robotic hand works really well too, so you have three very viable options for display. While that sounds like a lot, therein lies the rub: for the first time ever, for some reason, Mattel’s engineering team decided not to make the plug-in in the arm match those previously used with characters like Roboto, Trap Jaw, or even Hurricane Hordak. I have no idea why this was done, but it seems like a real missed opportunity because giving Hordak all kinds of weapon choices would have certainly been ideal. I know a question I will be asking at SDCC…

That brings us to the most controversial part of the whole figure — his head. I am sure I don’t need to explain how the vintage toy and Filmation Hordak had radically different designs when it came to the interpretation of the design of their facial features. The former was more like a tribal mask, and the other looked almost robotic in nature with the sharp lines and flat surfaces. So, for this version, you would have probably expected the latter, but alas, that would not come to be. This figure has a white repaint of the same head that has been used for all of the previous Classics figures, and while that might help keep a consistent aesthetic, the fan reaction has already illustrated that most people wanted the true Filmation interpretation. Not only for the head, but also the head piece with the bone motif.

Well, while I am sad by this choice, whether it was a pure design decision, budget consideration, or both, Mattel has heard the feedback and there is already talk of a possible Filmation-accurate head sometime in the future. I, for one, will be seeking out a talented customizer in the interim, and stalwarts like Zombihamma and Alessandra Fucarino are already on the case. Ah, what could have been… But perhaps it is more of a question of “what will be” if we ever get that true Filmation head.

As mentioned before, Hordak is not traveling to San Diego all by himself. His little sidekick Imp is joining him, and it is a good thing as no one else in the entire universe can stand him. What came from the vintage toy’s little bat creature, Imp took on a life of his own in the Filmation show. He is one of those rare characters that I find very little in terms of redeeming value, but I am glad he has been included. He is small (as he should be) and consists of articulation at the shoulders and neck. He is pretty faithfully rendered, even though he is a bit fish-eyed, but Hordak will defend him against anyone who dares make fun of him. If you are going to the actual show, you will be able to pick up a different Imp shape in the form of him as a treasure chest, so that will be the incentive that will not be offered on Matty Collector. It is fine, but I was hoping for a few different forms as he took on countless shapes on the show.

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Overall, I am bit torn on this version of Hordak. I am glad that it has been done, but the miss of the accurate head leaves me wanting more. I think it was a real missed opportunity, but I hold out hope that maybe they will make it up to us and offer a proper head somewhere down the road. As it stands, this will probably be my new primary display Hordak; it looks like I have become more attached to him over the years. Con-goers will be able to pick him up at the show, but everyone else will have to wait until early August on Matty Collector.

*Thanks to Toy Guru and crew for sending Hordak along for a First Look. We have more coming soon!

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