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Masters of the Universe Classics: 2015 Year in Review


Happy New Year! And so we have arrived. After eight years, scores of figures, and emotional highs and lows, we have come to the culmination of the promise that was made to us long ago: Masters of the Universe Classics has completed the vintage series roster. While it may provide some sense of closure in the true definition that a goal has been completed, this line that we have known and loved for so long is very much at a point of transition. An age of Classics is passing, while a new one begins, but all along, things are also staying very much the same. So, while we anticipate what lies ahead, it is important to have a look back and take stock of what has come to lead us to where we are today. Considering everything that has transpired, when you look at your collection it all seems worth it. Indeed, it has been a very Good Journey.


I enjoy writing these “Year in Review” articles for a few reasons: I think it is important to consider all of the things that can happen over a year in an action figure line’s life, it gives me a chance to look at what I actually have, rather than always consider what is coming next, and it usually reinvigorates my passion for the line and property because they both mean a lot to me. As the same time though, these are usually difficult pieces to write because, generally, it often feels like a retread, as I monitor and write about this line a LOT over the course of any given year; there is also the tendency to want to write about the line as whole in some detail, and that is a daunting task. Finally, it takes a lot of time, effort, and often frustration to set up all of the photographs that are really required for a feature like this, but in the end, it is all very much worth it.

The Vintage Collection, by 1980s year of release

It seems like ages ago when we were presented with this piece of promotional art (by Eamon O’Donoghue) by the Matty Collector team at the 2014 San Diego Comic Con:


This year was touted as the “end of the line” and even though 2015 was planned as the natural completion of the vintage era MOTU line-up, uncertainty remained in the hearts and minds of collectors because we did not have any real idea of what 2016 would like. Well, there have been some pretty serious changes to the “behind the scenes” make-up of the line, Toy Guru has departed, other management changes have taken place, and even now, we are not exactly sure who the official/unofficial representative for the line is at this point. All that said, the foundation of the line, the Four Horsemen, are still very much in place, and the “Collector’s Choice” era continues to bring us new figures and characters in a fashion we are accustomed to seeing.


So really, at the end of the hype, 2015 was the end, but only the end of the requirements that were promised to fulfill the completion of that ever-important 1980s roster. While that seems almost quaint at this point, I cannot stress what a big deal that actually is, and for a lot of reasons. Several companies have attempted to recreate and update a nostalgia-driven line to varying degrees, but I cannot think of one that has successfully completed a full vintage line-up of new figures. Additionally, Classics was able to accomplish that while going far beyond anything the vintage series was able to do in terms of figures and character selection (some fans of the vintage PoP line might hiss at me for that). Thus, while being a line so entrenched in what had come before, it also gave us things that we have never seen in plastic, and at a startling rate.


Take, for instance, the bookend figures to this year of what was touted as “completing the vintage series:” January brought us Lizard Man, and December closed with Dare (He-Ro II). So, 2015 started with a never-before-produced character from the beloved Filmation cartoon, and ended with a character that (originally) never evolved past the concept stage. Oh, and we also got a whole six figure add-on subscription composed entirely of characters from the 200X MYP cartoon that have also never had action figures in any form. Finishing what we had before was nicely disguised in the form of getting a ton of stuff that has never been realized in plastic. Tell me – how many lines can boast even part of that? None that I can think of, for sure.


Yes, by my count, there were a full NINETEEN figures/variants released in the Classics line this year that had no connection to a corresponding figure in the old Masters line. If you are keeping score, that is the aforementioned Lizard Man, Huntara, Oo-Larr, Angella, Snake Armor He-Man, Battle Ground King Hssss, Peekablue, the Hover Bots, Spirit of King Grayskull, Callix, Mara, Evilseed, Chooblah, Pilot Teela, Ceretus, Queen Grayskull, Dare, and Prahvus. Sure, there are vintage Princess of Power figures in that list, but even they don’t have vintage figures in the form being a part of a cohesive MOTU line.


So really, looking back at 2015, it was actually a statement about the future. Sure, there were MOTU-proper vintage figures to help anchor the year, but Matty and Horsemen continued to show us that there is so much more MOTU to do, and a lot of different corners to fill in. 2015 proved that the mini comics still have a lot of untapped potential, as does Filmation, MYP, design concepts, and other media that helps to sew the fabric of this rich and diverse mythos. In a way, as it was hyped as being the end, 2015 was also very much the beginning.


However, even if you look at the theme of what 2015 was advertised to be in terms of concept, it was still incredibly successful, especially since there were still many in our ranks that believed, as late as the outset of the year, that the coveted vintage line-up would somehow fall short. Well, it did reach its mark, and just as He-Man himself started that vintage character release in 2008, in a fairly tongue-in-cheek bit of irony, Dragstor, a character built on the concept of being a race car man, was the last of the vintage characters to cross the finish line. The cherry was put on top when, just last month, the Laser figures were the true last vintage figures, even as they remain to this day the some of the most rare and sought-after 1980s releases.


We started the year needing Ninjor, Blast Attack, Sssqueeze, Multi-Bot, Saurod, Dragstor, Rotar, Twistoid, Buzz Saw Hordak, Flying Fists He-Man, Terror Claws Skeletor, Laser Power He-Man, and Laser Light Skeletor to finish that roster, and as much as we might take it for granted, we actually got just that. First think about that for a moment, and consider that those thirteen figures on their own would have made a fine 2015, but they shared the year with a ton of new stuff as well. Now think about how many modern update lines have failed to deliver anything near that accomplishment. It is staggering.


I was talking with some friends about how none of us really had a Classics figure lined up for the “best of the year” or “Top 10” title for 2015 and I started to get a little down because that has never been the case for me personally. Indeed, I would say that MOTUC occupied an inordinate amount of “best of” picks over the past several years, and even though figures like Saurod, Ninjor, and Multi-Bot were certainly awesome releases, the individual figures seemed to get a bit overshadowed this year. Was it a dip in the characters or quality, or cohesion? Not for me, in fact, everything continued to truck along just as it had been doing. But therein is the real trick, right? Have we gotten to the point where we are taking things for granted, or maybe many have been waiting out this year to step off the Masters train?


A case could certainly be made for both of those scenarios, and I am sure that one or both of them is true for many characters. However, for me, this year was a shining example of where my head space is with this line right now: the collection as a whole has become a lot more important and impressive than any one individual figure can be at this stage. Sure, I am still very much looking forward to getting guys like Evilseed and General Sunder in 2016, and I have deep anticipation for many characters that are as-of-yet unannounced for the future, but building the line as whole has become the true endeavor for me and when I step back and look at the entire collection, I am still left in awe. Awe of what was, what is, and what will be.

We have gotten so many figures, like north of 200 in terms of overall releases in the line. This was going to be the year that I finally took a picture of the entire line (not just the unique characters) and, well, I just couldn’t do it. It was not for lack of trying, it was purely that my large photo space is not large enough to accommodate everything. That is nuts. I love the color and the variety and the character selection and, and, well, everything that MOTUC has become. This line has made it so my favorite overall line as a kid has been fully realized to my favorite overall line as a big kid. It is just so damned cool and impressive, and it also elicits nostalgia like nothing else, something that I am not at all afraid to admit. That has become such a bad word lately, but I love it, and it would not be the same if the figures and characters could not support it. It’s awesome.

And so the book closes and opens all at the same time, and while I will have to say goodbye to things like completing the vintage Evil Warriors or making updates to the old William George paintings, I am restless with anticipation to not only continue on, but also see new doors opened. Will New Adventures be completed at some point? Will we get every meaningful Filmation character? Are the movie rights somewhere in our future? None of that seems out of the realm of possibility as long as the support is there. Oh, and for those of you looking to jump off now that the vintage figures are completed, I must remind  you that we are still staring down an impending release of that gorgeous Snake Mountain, and there are still vehicles and other things to get though. Plus, there is always room to improve on some things…

SDCC 2015 Snake Mountain_01

With that, I don’t know how else but to classify 2015, but a true success. Sure, there were the normal bumps and bruises along the way, and from a managerial standpoint I am sure we would feel more comfortable knowing there is stability, but as far as the toys themselves go, not only did we call it a wrap on the vintage, we continued to plow forward into the new. In that respect, the future is almost liberating because the line is now free from a lot of its “obligations” so more new things can come our way. Sure, it is easy to say that we have lost a main attractor in the vintage, but I have faith in the Four Horsemen that they will keep us engaged as ever, and we will still be having relevant conversations about the line and the property as a whole well into the future.

As always, I will leave you with the evolution of the character selection in the line. Here is every “Class of” picture from the start, updated every year with the new to show how we have grown. Oh, and if you want to check our our annual reviews from years past, you can see them here: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. The line has only gotten bigger, better, and more impressive. So, onward! Forward! Ahead! Because we have the Power!