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First Looks – Masters of the Universe Classics He-Man

mattel.gifThe countdown began at SDCC 2008. Masters of the Universe Classics, the latest evolution of the 1980’s juggernaut toy line, is now almost here. Starting December 1, Mattel will unleash an updated version of your favorite furry-shorted heroes and villains once a month in a quest to rebuild Eternia. Well, we were fortunate enough to receive an early figure of the biggest star of the line, He-Man for your viewing pleasure. Read on for a breakdown of the hulking Prince Adam and some pictures that are sure to whet your appetite and make the next week and half or so feel like torture- well, even more so than it already does.

We will start with the objective, giving you the stats on packaging, articulation and paint and then end with a bit of my personal thoughts on this figure and the start of the Masters of the Universe Classics line as a whole. Oh, and we will have pictures too, because let’s face it, that is the real reason you are here!

Packaging

Already a topic of hot contention, the thin plastic and cardboard that most will only toss in the garbage anyway has been debated for it’s aesthetic worth since the first pictures were unveiled at MattyCollector.com.

I have to say that it works. I know a lot of people were hoping for a straight update of the original packaging, but it does fit well with the green stone walls of Castle Greyskull theme started with the SDCC exclusive King Greyskull figure. It is compact and shows off the figure nicely. I do, however, worry for those zany mint on card collectors as the top two corners of the card are left a bit vulnerable to dings and creases as they do not have the protection and reinforcement of the plastic bubble.

The back of the card is where the nostalgia will start to set in though, and I really like it. At the top it displays pictures of the first few releases from the line (save for the late March substitute figure Faker) complete with the same descriptions of the original figures (He-Man is boasted as the "Most Powerful Man in the Universe"). A nice touch is that the good guys and bad guys are differentiated by font colors, heroes in red and villains in blue, but I am sure most of you already have a clear grasp on who is on what side. Finally, printed on a parchment scroll decoration is a biography of the character and a picture of He-Man taken (if I am not mistaken) from one of the original mini-comics. My one beef is that the biography is not printed in a "clip and save" fashion to cut out and collect. No biggie though.

Sculpt

Let’s face it, this designs and sculpt for this line are being handled by the toy-maker all star team of the Four Horsemen, and unless you are new to action figures, you know they are the best at what they do.

The basic body sculpt is solid and is proportioned just right for our barbarian hero. The good part is that this basic "buck" (as you kids are currently discussing) will translate well to many of the other figures that will be coming in the line. There are nice little details here and there, the lines and textures in the boots and the semblance of the original design in the harness (removable) are highlights. The most important part though, the sculpt is a natural update to the style and build of the original 1980’s design. He is, of course muscular, but the muscle tone is highly exaggerated and bulbous, with his upper body being top heavy, again, in compliment to the original. The good part is, the figure is not stuck in the "squat-leg" position and can stand up tall. This body is going to get a lot of mileage in this line, and it will work quite well.

Then there is the head sculpt. I will save some thoughts about it toward the end, but as it is, it is representative of an updated version of the classic He-Man look. I am going to go ahead and say it now- I think He-Man is the most difficult to capture, appearance-wise of any character in the Masters lore. I think that He-Man himself was the weakest figure of the 200x line in his redesign. Here too, while his face is sculpted to capture the look and expression of the 80s version, it falls just a little out of place. Now, the paint has something to do with this as well, and I will get to that in a minute, but He-Man’s face has always been a little non-descript. Sure, the gritting teeth and pageboy hairdo are memorable, but his face itself has never been as interesting as 95% of the other Masters characters. So that provides a challenge. If anything, the head is going to be a topic of conversation around the ‘nets, and will be pretty polarizing. A lot of people will dig it, some will not, I will leave that up to you.

Paint

Well, I have to say that I don’t have a whole lot to say about most of the paint on the figure except that it is REALLY nice. There aren’t a ton of paint applications, but the shading on the muscles is nicely done. The lines on the boots and shorts are also clean and mostly match the original while adding some more color to the details. One of the biggest departures in the paint scheme from the original is that his gauntlets are painted on this figure where as they were simply let the color of the plastic of the arms before. I feel that is a wise choice and a vast improvement.

My one beef with the paint is the shading around the eyes. He-man here looks a bit like either is feeling under the weather, or that he has been up for about four days. The reddish-pink around the eyes is not particularly bright, but it is hard not to notice. It gives me a dull feeling that something is just a little off about about the figure and I think you need to have him in hand to really see what I mean. It is certainly nowhere near a deal-breaker, but it is something I hope Mattel focuses on improving in later figures. I took several different pictures under several different lighting set ups and I have to say that this figure is extremely hard to photograph. The paint/plastic is not as shiny in person as it might seem in the pictures, but catching the subtle shades of the paint was a bit difficult. As I said, come early December, see for yourself.

Articulation

If you have the King Greyskull figure, you already know what to expect. For a count he clocks in at around 25 points and most of them borrow from the DC Universe Classics scheme. He has a ball-joint head, ball shoulders, biceps twist, elbow hinges, wrists twists, abdominal crunch, waist twist, ball hips, knee hinge, boot twists and side to side and back and forth ankles. Whew. The best points are the ball hips that have a great range of motion and are nicely hidden under the furry shorts (I have come to strongly dislike the aesthetic of ball hips when they are not obscured by shorts or skirts or something) but the range is not obstructed by them, unlike with Greyskull. The ab crunch is there, but does not have a great range of motion, nor do the side to side ankles, though, I am happy to say, there is more range there than most of the DCUC figures. All of the joints are nice and tight but move freely when posed. He-Man strikes the perfect balance of form and function with articulation, and if it will be the standard scheme for the line, color me happy.

Accessories

He-Man comes with five accessories if you count the removable harness that can hold his sword or axe. Along with that he has a fully-sculpted Power Sword, a half-sculpted Power Sword (which I am sure will match up with on that will be coming with Skeletor), his battle axe (no, not Teela) and shield. All of these match the feel of the original figure’s accessories while adding more detail and paint here and there. The accessories are pretty much exactly what you would expect to be included, and the two swords are much appreciated.

Final Thoughts

It is hard to divorce yourself of personal opinions in a First Look, but I have tried to save most of them for here, if you are still reading. Overall, I am extremely pleased with this He-Man figure. That being said, I think he will actually be one of my least favorite figures in the line. Not because he is a weak figure, he certainly is very nice (save for the paint around the eyes), but in a universe of full of crazy heroes and monstrous villains, He-Man is going to end up looking a little plain. That is not the fault of the figure so to speak, I have just felt that He-Man has always been one of the least interesting characters in the MOTU lore. I recognize his importance as the central character and he serves that well, but I have always been partial to the villains. Personally, I cannot wait until April when Mer-Man, my favorite Masters character, will go on sale, but Beast Man isn’t far off and I think he looks stellar. I know He-Man kind of has to be the first figure out of the gate, and you MUST have him for your collection, but I say bring on the bad guys!

I really have to give Mattel, and more specifically, Toy Guru and the Horsemen credit for taking the chance on bringing these figures to us. I very much enjoyed the fresh take on the MOTU-verse in the redesigned 200x line, but these detailed updates of the classic figures are more my cup of tea. Towards that end, that is exactly what these figures are- updates of the classic designs. I think if you are married to the 200x you are not going to be getting a lot of influence from that line, and I am completely fine with that.

In conclusion, He-Man is a must-have figure to add to your collection. He is a very solid figure and has a high quality that warrants a $20 price point for a premium, limited, online-exclusive figure. More so though, this figure excites me for what he represents- a new foray into a universe of characters that I love so much. It is good to have MOTU back and I like that I will be able to count on getting a new figure every month. I will be looking forward to the baddies the most, so bring on Beast Man, Mer-Man and hopefully Trap-Jaw, Webstor and Spikor, but I will be on MattyCollector.com on the upcoming fifteens to get my heroes too.

These are exciting times to be a MOTU collector. I think that the Mattel online store will bring a lot to us, and the more MOTU the merrier! Thanks for reading, enjoy the pictures and be online with me on December 1 to get your He-Man and Beast Man figures.

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*A special thanks to Matty and Toy Guru for sending along this great figure for our First Look. Keep up the good work, fellas!


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