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Masters of the Universe Designs – Classic vs 200x vs New 52


What is it that drives the hate with He-Man redesigns?

Without a doubt, collectors and lovers of He-Man always fall back to the original 1982 designs as canon and untouchable. This is supported by sales and sales and more sales that prove those designs hold and stick. Any attempt to change, modify, or improve them results in massive fan outcry and hatred from the masses. What is it that drives this?

I recently wrote about Battle Lion and how joyed I was that I’ll be getting the armor pieces to upgrade my MOTUC Battle Cat to a 200x version. Fwoosh Staffers and followers then chastised me, calling me a fool and an idiot, almost banishing from the clubhouse (I saved myself by proclaiming that Toy Biz Marvel Legends are the best and that Hasbro sucks (although there are a pair of eyes glaring at me…)). OK, OK, I admit there are some aspects to the 200x line that were failures. To be honest, the anime style of the characters for the cartoon were a bit ahead of their time, but if we look at Justice League, JLA, most of DC’s cartoons, Avengers, and current Marvel stuff, that “anime” style runs rampant. And let’s be honest, the 200x storyline in the cartoon is 100 times more watchable than the drivel of ’80s (anyone that says otherwise really needs to watch them again and then have a good look in the mirror).

But are the designs that different that there should be so much hatred? Not really. In most areas 200x is almost canon. There are changes in costumes, vehicles, and equipment, but most of them are minor. Some of them did not work, like He-Man’s crotch pack. I get the need to carry one’s wallet around, but this could have been done differently. And Man-At-Arms had a rather large change, but the basic elements were there. Character designs really didn’t change that much from the ’80s to the ’00s. And if I go back to the Four Horsemen designs that 200x were based on, the designs are grittier, modern-comic and fantasy relevant, but still “the same.” Why the hate?

I looked at the cartoons. It must be something in the story telling. And, yes, there are some changes, but none of them so redonkulous that they warrant people’s outright hatred of the designs. After all, it’s not like someone went and redesigned He-Man and gave him some sort of late ’80s or early ’90s costume and put him in new adventures in outer space. Yeah, they gave Battle Cat some updated armor, and they made the stupid power sword, and the Four Horsemen own that was maybe not the best design. But even that sword found its way into MOTUC.

Which is the interesting part.

Many of the 200x designs did find themselves in MOTUC, a sign that these designs were good. The updated Whiplash head is a prime example. In fact, most of the updated monster heads are light years better than the original ’80s designs. With that, 200x does what its goal should have been: improve on designs from 20 years ago. Sure, there were some minor flaws, but the update to He-Man’s chest strap in 200x saw its way into MOTUC along with many other design changes. And let’s face it, more designs needed to sneak their way in; has anyone seen some of the weapons from MOTUC? Talk about plastic-toy looking.

Where does that leave the New 52? Right now my first impression and comment is what a load of crap, and no, I haven’t read the series. I’m certain Keith Giffen and Axel Gimenez are doing the story justice and there is a logical explanation for the designs. But I’ve seen a few pics and my initial thoughts are that these new designs are less than great. He-Man in full armor? And it’s brown? What the hell is that? And I’ve seen another He-man drawing with a silver harness. And then I have to wrap my head around it. Brown He-Man is wearing King Randor-like armor and the traditional He-Man design (that I’ve seen) isn’t great but it still holds the aesthetic of the original costume. As do most of the characters. The question is, are they an improvement?

And I think this is where the great divide is. Do the 200x or the New 52 represent an improvement over the original designs? I’ll argue that the 200x designs do. They stick to the original designs, giving them a modern facelift, adding character and details to otherwise very bland designs. Sure, it’s small things like more mechanics and wiring to armor or battle damage, but they give the designs that “wow” factor. When I look at New 52 designs, I find myself asking, what is the point? It’s a redesign for the sake of redesign.

200x doesn’t fail in the design. In fact, it succeeds tremendously! The control art that the Four Horsemen produced is simply fantastic, and makes an excellent update of traditional iconic costumes. The cartoon even remained true to those designs. The failure, the failure was in the toys, and while they captured the look of the designs, the “all over the place” scale and crappy articulation and difficulty in finding them doomed them. leaving a huge bitter taste of spunk in collectors’ mouths when it came to the line.  These failures were corrected in MOTUC, except MOTUC decided not to take the next step and update the base figure’s sculpts, only articulation, and the costumes were not given modern design that they could benefit from.

In all of this we start to touch on the real issue at hand: deviation from the iconic look. When a decision is made to deviate from the original design and it is a radical change, the collector or “customer” feels like someone is taking a crap on their nostalgia. It’s like Mattel became personified, walked into said person’s home, got on the kitchen table, and took a huge dump during the middle of the family dinner. This is upsetting. As a toy collector I’ve been there. As a comic collector I’ve been there. And I often find that modern drawing techniques and modern sculpting will give us a 100 percent better product than that we grew up with — when done properly.

MOTU wins. Those classic ’80s designs will continue to drive the success of the property, making it successful time and time again. Any new toys or product will always have to be produced with those aesthetics in mind. Should there be a deviation, it should be subtle and always with respect to the original designs. Otherwise, the designs will find themselves spending time in a cold dark corner of toy-collector hell.

19 thoughts on “Masters of the Universe Designs – Classic vs 200x vs New 52

  1. Teela new 52 Barbaric fantasy look was better, before they changed her into Woman-At-Arms?

  2. I want an excellent change from Adam to He-Man. The original “By the power of Gray Skull, I have the power” power words were satisfying, as well as the background music. It felt heroic and you knew some ass kicking was about to take place. You got pumped up for it. Now that may be the 12 year old boy in me, but when I watch the 2002 version the Adam / He-man change is uninspiring, and a big let down. Even worse to me, is when I watch the new He-Man, all I see is a bunch of jumping in the air for 10 seconds, while they talk, and you have to wonder why the other guy doesn’t just move. I hate, hate, hate the anime feel and movement.

  3. You got crap for the Battle Lion article ?
    Bah! Let them whine. The 200X designs were way rad. Those toys, despite their flaws, are way more cool looking than the originals or MOTUC.
    Like what you like, you have excellent taste. And don’t let anybody tell you different.

  4. HAHAHA!! Love how seriously some he-types take this jazz! Here we are, veritable ‘captains of industry’, academics and honest soil-types inclusive, all grown up chewing the nostalgic fat.. I think everyone has a valid point, including spunkpoop and aesthetic predilections.

    In my humble opinion, keep it close to heart that all things ‘He’ are intensely personal and it is unlikely that one person’s rendition of Eternia will be the same as another. So what if the armour ‘x’ is too spikey or the new Skeletor is too rapey etc.

    The legend continues which is the main thing. Take or leave the new additions/interpretations. Personally, I get a toygasm from the fact these guys are still cutting a heroic swathe for both new and old fans..

  5. I couldn’t get more than a few issues into the new comic before I had to quit. It was just awful. I’d hoped Giffen would clean up some of the early stuff, but I wasn’t thrilled with what I read from him, and I’m already a fan of that writer. The costumes are a completely different beast, and I agree that they look simply uninspired. I get that they wanted a more rugged, armored look, but not everything in this world has to be hardcore or violent to succeed. The simplicity of the original designs was fantastic, the uniqueness of the 200x designs added a modern layer to it that I love tremendously, not to mention the stories getting a much-needed writing lift.

    So far, I’ve been deisappointed in both the writing AND design for the comic series. It just doesn’t feel like MOTU to me. Maybe it’s something that would have fit in better in Heavy Metal or Frank Frazetta Fantasy Illustrated, but it sure doesn’t feel like the magical world of He-Man.

  6. Despite a few anime or action feature-based missteps, 200X gave the characters UNIQUE designs, a huge step up from the parts-reuse from the 80’s. No longer were characters wearing the exact same leotards, loincloths, boots, bracers and greaves. The races were physiolgically different; Mer-Man, Stinkor, Webstor and Skeletor were now four different beings from the neck down.

    As for the DC designs, I didn’t have problem with the initial chainmail-wearing batch from the first mini-series. But when the series progressed and characters started armoring up, the designs didn’t feel right. They were losing their barbaric fantasy-world charm in favor of the “batsuit” body armor feel that New 52 tries for almost all of it’s superheroes. It almost seems to be an answer to the criticism about pants-less superheroes.

    Although MOTU fans take alot of flack for not liking new things (in actuality, the fans want GOOD changes like Draego-Man), fans did seem to embrace the concept of Despara.

  7. i liked some of the 200x redesigns, but others i was not so big on. my big criteria for a successful visual design is, does it makes me interested in the story of why it’s there. if there’s no intrigue from the design, it failed. so for example, randor’s armored look from 200x, instantly struck a chord, and it seems like it did with most other motu fans, and randor became a character we were more interested in… conversely, i don’t think mekanek’s design added a damned thing to him, neither did man-e-faces. i think the jury is still out on man at arms, as while some people liked the busier design, some people, myself included, couldn’t help but notice that it’s a lot of sound and fury, but signifies nothing.

    as for the new 52 designs… i don’t see a purpose to these changes, in that, they don’t make me interested in why they are there. pab’s reluctance to actually read the comics tell me all i need to know about what a fail they are… if they aren’t drawing readers in, they’re failed designs. if they don’t advance the story, they’re failed designs. there’s an element of separatism that has been lost in motu, that only some people had magic, and only some had technology, and only some had barbaric strength… now, like a bad video game, every one gets equal access to all forms of power, so there’s really nothing to compete over any more. competition is bred on the idea that someone has a resource you don’t… what does randor have that skeletor doesn’t? skeletor controls a bloody hemisphere, and while he doesn’t have THE magic castle, he has A magic castle. it’s worth note that if you take into acct the three towers, there has never been a viable reason offered as to why grayskull castle is so important. everything that gets hinted that it contains has been had elsewhere. if the castle was really the exclusive avenue for some world shaking power, the good guys would live there, rather than commute to work.

  8. The only 200x redesign I wasn’t fond of was the powersword!
    Honestly I can’t stand the new comic look of He-Man. And the dialog in the new comics is horrible! Teela talks like a trendy earth girl and don’t get me started on Marlena in the MOTU vs DC. She looks like she’s 20 and talks like it to!

  9. Article reduced to one line…’I like 200x and everyone who doesn’t agree with me is stupid and pathetic’.

    Trashing other factions (you have no real knowledge of) to try and make your own preferences seem superior, never works.

    Please can thefwoosh refer all articles regarding Masters to VEEBEE.

    VEEBEE’s articles are always worth a read.

  10. Thanks for writing this as I loved the 200x line. Spidey Classics brought me back to toy collecting, but there was a long break between Series 1 and 2 and MOTU really got me going in between. The line was exciting and it’s a shame people are too married to older designs in general. Nothing wrong with ‘classic’ but that attitude impedes any real progress. I like to keep moving.

    As for DC, the designs are fine where I’m concerned, even exciting in some cases. It’s actually the storyline changes that make it difficult to get into for me. Marvel on the other hand updated their looks while retaining their stories and I think it’s very satisfying. Just my $.02

  11. I loved the 200x redesigns and part of my annoyance with Mattel is their coy attitude about it. Sure they’ve snuck some elements in (Fisto, Power Sword, Snake Man At Arms in 200x armor) but they really missed a sure fire sale by sticking to the classic style. I would love to see redos of figs done in the 200x style and it wouldn’t take much. People like the classics for nostalgia reasons but pound for pound the 200x line really bought the figures to their peak (compare the Staction Hordak, Jitsu, or Snout Spout to their 80s or classics versions). As far as the New52 version….the comic is great and the costume is great. I would love Mattel to take a crack at it (and Despera/Adora as well). Sometimes “old schoolers” come across as arrogant and close minded in how a fig should look. I was never a fan of the 80s He-man but I LOVED the 200x version. It is okay to move forward and not get stuck in the past.

  12. The 200X era was both a great and a frustrating time for me. Great, because I really did love the re-designs and the cartoon, and frustrating, because the line was a bitch to collect, as I’m sure you all remember. Some of you probably still have nightmares about Smash Blade He-Man.

    I think I agree with benty up there in that in hindsight, the 200X stuff seems overdesigned. It’s got that 90s McFarlane feel where everything is sorta asymmetrical and sculpted like a statue – look at Teela’s differently-sized boots, for example. Even at the time I missed the modularity and regularity of the classic figures, which MOTUC has resurrected.

  13. While I do like the original Horsemen drawings, my vision of MotU as a whole is one of simplicity. It’s not our world, it’s a different world with very utilitarian ideals. We (on Earth) bling stuff out, so it’s natural to gravitate toward the need to ramp up what some perceive as bland design, because we want the perceived cool toy, because we see it as a showpiece, something to put on the shelf. But it’s the very stripped down function-over-form aspect of the original unmodernized designs, where simplicity is paramount over “looking cool,” that really grabs me, and has always grabbed me. If I try to imagine 200x designs drawn in the style of Alcala it just doesn’t work. It’s not “real” as I see MotU. 200x stuff always seems like something intentionally “designed,” where the original MotU stuff–the armor, the weaponry–feels “forged.” There’s a stark reality and elegance to the simplicity of the original designs. That’s where I am with it.

    But yes, these new new redesigns suck spunkpoop.

  14. You’ve “seen a few pics”, and you proudly proclaim that you haven’t otherwise bothered to inform yourself about one side of the subject you’re discussing?

    Come on.

  15. I did peter out, or maybe better I wussed out.

    However, one doesn’t need to read the stories to make a decision about the designs. The story might put that them into context but the draw of the comic is still the art, designs. And the designs aren’t traditional He-Man, hence putting one off from wanting to pick up the comic.

    If I get to reading the first 6 issues I’ll do a separate write-up with my thoughts, focusing on the art and the story. Sadly the designs, well they aren’t classic ’80s and as such… not acceptable He-Man.

  16. I feel like you were on your way to a good point and then you petered out, ending up on spunk and poop.

    The new 52 design of He-Man uses a lot of original elements. The battle armor insignia and the shape of th harness over the armor for example. So I really disagree that it’s as if someone peed in my cornflakes. It’s just a different kind of cornflakes.

    Admitting that you haven’t seen the material outside of the solicitation images also kneecaps your own point.

    I think you should spend a few bucks on these comics, take them in as a new telling of MOTU, and then rewrite the second half of this article from an informed position.

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