As we roll into the fourth quarter of 2015, the realization that we are, in fact, going to be headed into 2016 with all of the vintage Masters of the Universe figures updated in the Classics style has really set in.
Sure, we knew this was coming as we were promised that would be the case a long time ago, but as characters like Saurod and Dragstor find their way onto our shelves, the reality of these plans coming to fruition is pretty exciting. Nothing is guaranteed, so I think a lot of us were still on pins and needles about this actually happening, but by the time you are ready to welcome Baby New Year, your vintage collection is going to be complete, at least in terms of figures themselves. So, while Dragstor will ice the cake for the unique characters, the vintage variants are a part of this scheme as well, and October will bring us the penultimate set in the Flying Fists He-Man vs Terror Claws Skeletor two-pack.
The vintage line was certainly not without its share of character variations, especially those featuring He-Man and Skeletor, and each year a newly refreshed take on the two main Masters supported a barrage of new characters in the line. Classics has gradually rolled out these variations starting with Battle Armor He-Man, but it has been three years since Dragon Blaster Skeletor was released, and that was the last time we got a vintage He-Man/Skeletor variation in the Classics line. That puts us pretty overdue, and the fact that the lineup for completion has fluctuated, that leaves us with a couple of variant two-packs coming right here at the end.
I realize that getting all of these variations is not everyone’s bag. Heck, I will ALWAYS be a “new character first” collector, but I am glad these figures are being included in Classics because it really does drive home the fact that, at the end of the year, the line will have gotten to everything in terms of figures. Honestly, I don’t think there is anyone out there that would have thought that when we started this run way back in 2008, but we have certainly come a long way since then. If you haven’t noticed, Mattel has actually released all of these He-Man and Skeletor (and Hordak) vintage variants in chronological order, and as far as I can tell, that is only instance where Classics has mirrored the vintage release pattern. Not that it has any bearing whatsoever, but since the Laser figures will close out the year, that theme has been carried through the life of the line, so enjoy a useless fact.
Thus, I think the reception of variant figures is even more dependent on an individual’s opinion of the variation, especially more so than unique characters. Let’s face it, even if you don’t have a penchant for a certain character, if you are completing a universe, they are all pretty much required, but variants are often not afforded that same luxury. Also, as bad luck would have it, anecdotal evidence out there on the dot coms suggest that, of all of the vintage variants, these two consistently rank at the bottom in terms of most collector preference. So, right out of the gate, I think this set is already handicapped, and even though I really like the concept of Terror Claws Skeletor, I will admit that there are a few facets of these concepts that certainly feel very “end of the line-ish,” but even still, it is good to have this representation.
So what is the final verdict on this set? Well, like 95 percent of all action figure releases, it is a bit of a mixed bag, at least for me. There are some things I definitely like with these two figures, but there are also some things that are not as strong, and some curious production choices exist as well. In terms of comparison to the other variants in the Classics line (since making comparisons is human nature), overall, I would put these behind the Battle Armor and Thunder Punch/Dragon Blaster variations in terms of my personal preference, but the issues with some of those figures might mean more to you (Thunder-Punch He-Man skin tone, the black plastic on Dragon-Blaster Skeletor), so I do not believe that there will be universal ranking for these, especially if the Flying Fist and Terror Claws figures were your favorites back in the 1980s.
I am going to start with Skeletor because I am a bad guy supporter in MOTU, and, frankly, Skeletor is always cooler than He-Man. Like I said, I have always liked the concept of Terror Claws Skeletor, and as a kid, I had no issues with the design either. Thanks to the Internet, I can now not un-see the whole “sports bra” top style that the figure wears, but that still does not kill the entire figure for me. It has been faithfully recreated here, and I actually really like the metallic purple paint used to simulate the armor. There is a large red clip on the back to hold the dinosaur skull chomper thing when not use, and it snaps in and out of place easily and allows you to display it on Skeletor’s back “just like you remember.” Skeletor is also adorned with a black and red version of the standard Skeletor Roman-esque shorts. This would be fine, only the vintage Terror Claws Skeletor had a black and red version of the standard furry shorts, not the Skeletor originals.
Additionally, this Skeletor has gone back to having the original card back oil painting shins/feet and forearms of the original Classics Skeletor. That figure was obviously based on the painting, more so than the vintage figure, but once the toy-accurate forearms and shins were created, they were used for Dragon Blaster Skeletor. I don’t suppose the choice to use these is wrong, but I was definitely expecting the other parts for this figure. The paint on Skeletor’s face is also more monochromatic than any other Skeletor face we have seen, save for the comic two-pack version. Personally, I like the variation from each release, but I could see how that could be an annoyance to some. Finally, this Skeletor also has a marked change in skin tone from the other figures. The blue used in this version is duller and darker than the standard Skeletor complexion. While the color is definitely different, it is much closer to the Skeletor coloring than Webstor, and the contrast between Skeletors is less apparent to my eye than that of Thunder Punch He-Man to the standard He-Man. Now, this might be an homage to the card back painting of the vintage Terror Claws Skeletor because, as you can see, it is looks closer to that color.
The main draw for this Skeletor is, of course, the titular Terror Claws, and he is able to brandish them well. They fit over Skeletor’s forearms (maybe that is why those particular pieces were chosen), and I like that they actually snap on and he doesn’t have to hold them. They look enough like the vintage, but I thought they might be a bit more detailed, or even accented with some metallic paint. As it is, though, they left kind of plain. The entire underside is also left open with no additional detailing. I understand the need for that on the arms, but I figured the “palms” would be solid. The dinosaur thing is definitely cool, though, and it has a lot of technical details and paint accents. It folds and the jaw opens as you would expect, and I actually really like the look of it. I never knew what to do with it as a kid, but now that it looks so nice it presents a problem because Terror Claws Skeletor really needs to be displayed with said claws, but I actually like this thing better. Hmm… maybe someone like Fang Man can use it so it doesn’t go waste just hanging on Skelly’s back.
I find Flying Fists He-Man to be a more faithful adaptation of the vintage figure, if not too terribly exciting. Overall, he is a good figure, but the most eye-catching part of his outfit is the spot where the figure actually has the most issues. The vintage Flying Fists He-Man had a shiny vac-metal armor top, and while the details have been brought over nicely, the vac-metal is gone, and that is kind of a shame to me. I get that it is more fragile and more expensive, but the sheen in Skeletor’s armor is even more apparent than the matte take here, so I wish it would have been more like that. I have always been a fan of the “H” symbol on this armor, so I am glad to see it here, but, unfortunately, this armor is fitted pretty loosely, so it looks a bit puffy on He-Man. It overlays the standard He-Man torso, but, like the Seahawk shirt before, it is a bit “fat” for the build. Oh, and strangely, this figure does NOT have the red clip on the back like the vintage.
The rest of the figure is a basic He-Man with the standard cuff on the left arm. Those cuffs are red to match the belt, but they are all one solid color instead of accented like we are used to getting. I do really like the white/cream at the top the boots, so I am glad that is recreated here, and looking at them, I believe I prefer this coloration more than the standard. I was kind of hoping we would get a repaint of the vintage toy He-Man head that was included with Oo-Larr, but it was not to be, and we have the standard Classics He-Man head again. It is fine, but the eyes seem to be painted smaller there than before, almost like he is squinting.
Included with He-Man are, of course, the Flying Fists weapon, as well as the shield and a bonus Power Sword. The latter is a standard reissue of the Classics sword, but it is cast in grey plastic and does not have any paint accents. The two signature weapons are both well done, and I have always been a fan of the shield. The Flying Fists weapon is BIG and it spins just as it did before; it also fits over He-Man’s arm and he can hold it with a peg on the underside. Again, the weapons (and the shield) are missing the vac-metal paint applications and instead match the color of the armor. The shield is definitely cool, if not a bit smaller proportionally to the size of the vintage. If you give the middle piece a nice flick it will turn well, so that action feature is retained as well.
As of October 16, we will only have three figures remaining from the vintage MOTU line to be made in Classics. This two-pack puts us another step closer to fulfilling the promise made to subscribers, and while there are some things about Terror Claws Skeletor and Flying Fists He-Man that don’t care for, overall, I think this is a fine set. There are some changes from the vintage, and I don’t find the gimmicks to be as fun as, say, Dragon Blaster Skeletor or Thunder Punch He-Man, but it is an essential set for Classics. I have a feeling that it will be overshadowed by some of the more exciting releases coming in these final few months, even amongst the variants. This set will ship to subbers automatically and will be available for day-of sale on October 15.
*Thanks for checking this out, and thanks again to Mattel for providing the set for a look. You want more? Be back tomorrow!