Masters of the Universe Classics: Fang-Or by Super7

My sincerest apologies for calling out sick on Tuesday, but I’ve had a bad case of the crud since the weekend and it’s only now starting to lift. Five days at work with this shit didn’t leave me enough strength to do anything when I got home, other than try to sleep and I couldn’t do much of that either. So I spent a great deal of time mired on the sofa with the fever sweats and bingeing on anime blu-rays. Anywho… Since I planned on opening another one of Super7’s Masters Classics figures on Tuesday, I figured I’d just roll that review over to today. And so, while the Cold & Flu meds are still pumping through my veins and buoying me to action, lets open up Fang-Or! And then it’s back to bed for me!

Once again we see that Super7 is preserving every drop of wholesome goodness that was Matty’s MOTUC packaging. As one of the Snake Men, Fang-Or was probably the one figure that was most influential in getting me to pre-order this wave. I just cannot resist me some Snake Men! And according to his tagline, Fang-Or is a “Freakishly Fanged Snake Men Warrior!” Lets ponder on that one for a moment. Fang-Or’s snake features are so extreme that even the Snake Men consider him a freak. That’s hardcore! There’s a bio on the back, but more and more these things are reading like Mad Libs to me, as they just seem to drop a lot of names and places and events, many of which don’t mean anything to me anyway. But that’s cool. I don’t need a backstory to make me appreciate this guy…

Because just look at him! In fact, you might say this is a case of love at first bite! Sorry, that pun was the Nyquil-Sudafed-Jameson-Unisom cocktail talking. It won’t happen again. Sure, Fang-Or’s gimmick, just having really long fangs, might not be all that original, but when it comes down to pure aesthetics, I love every bit of this figure’s design. Fang-Or’s body makes use of the segmented arms and legs we saw with King Hsss, and uses a rather pleasing olive green plastic for his skin color. I dig the decision to use these parts because it sets him apart from the rest of the Snake Men Warriors, giving him a rather distinctive look.

Fang-Or also sports a great looking set of brown and gold armor, consisting of a vest, belt, arm bracers, and grieves. The arm and leg armor features ornately sculpted gold fixtures reinforcing what I imagine is intended as leather. The grieves even have the detailed hinges and clasps that are supposed to be holding them in place. The vest has gold trim around the edges and sculpted rivets, each neatly painted gold, and a pair of green snakes running around the arm holes, over the shoulders and meeting under the neck. But the real showpiece here is the wide belt, which includes a huge ouroboros medallion in the center with a snake icon in the center. The belt has a leather-like texture, gold-painted studs, and it’s worn over the traditional Eternian furry diaper. The brown and gold and olive green deco blend together really well on this figure, and there’s even some coppery colored paint on the armor to spice things up. Overall, the quality of the paint application is pretty good. My figure has a stray gold fleck on his vest, and there’s a little bit of brown on his right thigh, but nothing I’m going to want to call the QC police over.

Fang-Or features the standard articulation that we’ve seen in Matty’s MOTUC figures, and that’s actually a little disappointing. The other two figures in this wave added hinges to the wrists, but Fang-Or here missed out on that little upgrade. I guess it’s not a deal-breaker for me, since 99.9% of my Masters Classics collection doesn’t have them either, but it would have been nice to know that all the Super7 figures were going to include the hinged wrists and not just some. Another thing about Fang-Or that disappoints is how loose his ab crunch hinge is. It’ll hold itself upright just fine, but it still feels like a figure that’s been played with a lot, even though it came straight from the package. Hawke had similar issues, and I’m hoping that Super7 gets some of these wrinkles ironed out by the time the next wave hits.

Fang=Or includes two heads and comes packaged showcasing his elongated fangs. The sculpted scaled noggin features a distinctively saurian shape with some pupiless yellow eyes and a wide stretched mouth. There’s some great detail inside the mouth and around the tongue, and the giant hangs are impressive indeed.

The alternative head has the shorter fangs. According to the bio, Fang-Or can “project” his fangs like knives and then grow new ones. I hope that means he shoots them out of his mouth, because I’d hate to think he snaps them off and throws them, because that just gives me the willies. Either way, this head features all the same great sculpting as the other, but it’s a little less awkward because of the normal sized fangs. I really like both heads a lot, but chances are I’m going to display this guy with the big ones, since that’s what he’s all about. At least, that’s the head I chose to use for the pictures throughout most of this review.

Fang-Or comes with a nice collection of accessories, although I’ll note here that I found his lack of serpent staff like a big omission. It’s become a tradition to get some kind of snake-related staff with these guys and I was surprised they didn’t work something up for Fang-Or as well. But that’s not to say what’s here isn’t great. For starters, he has this rather exotic and totally bitchin’ sword. This thing looks like it’s part falchion, part sickle, and all business. It’s got a silver painted blade with a black guard and pommel, and a brown ribbed grip. There’s even a saw-back sculpted on the back near the hilt. I don’t know how practical this design is, but it looks wicked and unique and I really dig it.

How about a set of tools? Fang-Or’s bio mentions that he’s fascinated by technology and that he learned all about tinkering on machines from Snake Man-At-Arms. As such, he comes with three of his favorite tools: A screwdriver, a hammer, and a pipe-wrench. Naturally, each of these tools is snake-themed, with snake head style implements (well, except for the screwdriver) and rattler-style handles. The gold paint on these looks especially nice. Pity they didn’t give him a toolbelt or something to tuck them into. These tools are not only super swanky, but it’s probably pretty convenient to have tools personalized like this, so that if someone tries to borrow them and not return them Fang-Or can always prove that they’re his.

Finally, Fang-Or comes with this adorable little winged serpent. It’s a simple static plastic figure, but the paint and sculpting are both nice. I have no idea if this is pulled from some particular piece of the MOTU fiction, but I’m very happy to have it. In fact, I can think of several different toy lines in my collection that would love to borrow it.

Fang-Or is a fantastic figure who definitely ranks way up there as one of my new favorites in the entire collection. I love the coloring, I love the personality in his head, and I particularly love all the fine detail work in his armor. He’s definitely my favorite figure in this assortment so far, and he may even be in the running as my favorite Snake Man, and that’s saying a lot, because I love each and every one of these loony bastards quite a bit. Yes, the lose hinge in the chest is troubling, and probably something we should not have to be dealing with at this stage of the game, but everything else about this figure is so good, it’s hard for me to get too upset over it. And that’s three down and one to go… Next week I’ll open up the final figure in this wave and add to the ranks of my Evil Space Mutants!

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Masters of the Universe Classics: Hawke by Super7

As promised, Tuesdays in March are going to be all about Masters of the Universe Classics, as Super7 shipped out their first Collector’s Choice Wave a couple of weeks back and I am pretty excited to keep tearing into these. Last week I opened up evil slaver bastard, Lodar. This week I’m checking out the only one of the Heroic Masters in the wave, Hawke, the “Heroic Feathered Fighter!” Um, really? Did you even watch that episode?

Ah, it feels so good to be seeing this packaging again! Super7 may be running the show now, but they’ve kept the packaging 100% faithful to the Matty Collector style. I still get a warm and fuzzy feeling every time I get ready to open one of these. I know some folks were miffed that Super7 didn’t move to a collector friendly package, but I’ve been ripping these things open for years now, and I’m not about to worry about that now! They also brought back the bios on the backs of the cards, which I certainly appreciate, because I know next to nothing about some of the characters in this wave. Of course, you don’t need to be a He-Manologist to recognize that Hawke is an Avionian. Oh yeah, and the bio declares that she’s also Stratos’ sister. And supposedly, she was under some kind of spell when she did all that betrayal shit, so I guess it doesn’t count.

While Hawke is part of the Collector’s Choice assortment, she would also fit right in with the Filmation figures. She appeared in the episode “Betrayal of Stratos” and oh, boy did I hate her voice. She was also a pretty horrible person. The figure adopts a simple sculpt to match the Filmation design and does a great job of it. Just like her animated counterpart, her costume features a sleeveless gray bodysuit with blue birdy-panties and maroon thigh-high boots. The only real sculpted detail on the whole outfit are the cut lines radiating down from her neck to her chest. Like I said, she’s simple, but she looks good and I do dig the combination of colors.

As an Avionian, Hawke features wings on her arms with sculpted feathers. These are attached to the bracelets on her wrists, and she has matching bands around her biceps. Much has been said about Super7’s female figures and how their hips are awkward. I haven’t been following HipGate too closely, but I’m pretty sure it involved this figure and the Filmation Teela. I also recall them saying they fixed it. Well, I’m not sure if it’s the same issue or not, but Hawke has a pretty wide thigh gap. I’m told that there are women out there who would kill for that kind of thigh gap, but in this case, I think it makes the figure look a little strange when standing. On the other hand, it’s not so much a problem when she’s in an action pose, so it didn’t take me too long to get over it.

I like the head sculpt a lot, as it’s basically a female version of Stratos, thankfully without the weird Amish-birdman beard. She has the very iconic Avionian goggles, a helmet with three crests running down the top, perfectly painted lips, and a short coif of reddish-orange hair spilling out the back of the helmet. There’s a little paint rubbed on my figure’s goggles just above her right cheek, but I really didn’t even notice it until getting in close with the camera. The head does sit pretty low on the neck and this obscures the neck entirely when viewing the figure from the front. Still, all in all it’s not a bad head. But wait… there’s more!

Hawke also comes with an extra head, which I believe is supposed to be Stratos’ wife, Delora. It’s pretty much the same head sculpt, but with longer blonde hair spilling out the back of the helmet. I think I may actually display the figure as Delora, because Hawke was such a lying, scheming, traitorous bitch in the cartoon. Maybe if she came with a cage, I’d keep the Hawke head on and put her in it. I hear the bird people have a thing about cages.

The articulation is similar to what we’ve been seeing in the Matty MOTUC figures, but with one huge difference that I neglected to mention in my Lodar review, and that’s the hinged wrists. Otherwise, she has rotating hinges in her shoulders, bicep swivels, and hinged elbows. The legs are ball jointes at the hips, have swivels at the tops of the boots, hinges in the knees, and both hinges and rockers in the ankles. There’s no waist swivel, but she does have a ball joint under her chest and the neck is ball jointed. But don’t expect to get much movement out of the neck joint. Between the sculpted hair and how low the head sits, it’s not much use. Also, my figure feels a bit more loosey-goosey than most of the other MOTUC figures in my collection. I didn’t have a problem with Lodar, so maybe this is just an isolated problem. She can stand and pose well, but it still feels like there’s too much play in some of the joints.

In addition to the extra head, Hawke comes two weapons. The first is her sword, which is a really cool and classic design. The hilt features a detailed sculpt with a ribbed grip that almost looks like it’s made to extend and contract for single or two-handed fighting. It has a short crossguard and a rather stout blade. It’s a pity there’s nowhere that she can wear it.

The other weapon is a gun, some kind of smokescreen gun, I think, which I’m not crazy about at all. It’s a weird and awkward design and she can’t really hold it all that convincingly. It does have a leather-like carry strap, which seems like it might be a first for Masters Classics. I think I’ll stick with the sword.

I think I was looking forward to Hawke the least out of this assortment, so I can’t really say she disappointed me. She’s not a bad figure, but there’s nothing about her that really blows me away either. Super7 did a nice job recreating the Filmation look and the extra head is a nice bonus, but there’s just a few too many little nagging things about this figure that keep her from being a homerun. I’m still happy to add her to my collection, and I’m pretty confident that she’s going to be the only underwhelming figure in the wave. But I guess we’ll test that theory next Tuesday as I open another figure in the assortment.

Hawke: “But why, Skeletor? I got you the Egg of Avion!”

Skeletor: “Myeahhh! Yes, and I’m rewarding your betrayal with more betrayal. It’s called irony, Birdbrain. Look it up!”

Masters of the Universe Classics: Quakke by Super7

The last Tuesday of the month is not usually something to get upset about, but in this case it means I’m opening up the last figure in my “Collector’s Choice” wave of Masters Classics from Super7. Yeah, I’ve got the next wave pre-ordered, but who the hell knows when they’ll ship, so if I want any MOTUC love in the interim, I may have to dig into my stash and open some old Matty ones. In case you hadn’t noticed, Super7 packed some nice variety into this wave. We got a character from the Mini-Comic, we got a Filmation style character from the cartoon, we got a member of the Evil Snake Men, and now we’re getting an Evil Space Mutant. Let’s take a look at Quakke!

New company, same old packaging. Super7 wisely kept the presentation intact after they took over the reigns. I’m sure this was a huge deal for collectors who do the Mint On Card thing and didn’t want anything to change. Super7 even restored the bios to the backs of the cards. I don’t have a lot of appreciation for the New Adventures of He-Man cartoon, or even the toys for that matter, but I do love me some Evil Space Mutants. These guys are fun, colorful, and creative, and I think the designs really carried the torch for what the vintage toy line was all about. I also like the idea of Skeletor getting into space and having to find a whole new collection of buffoons to order about. I was really excited about getting this one, so let’s see if he lives up to those expectations.

And just when I thought these Space Mutants couldn’t get any crazier looking Quakke shows up and drops the mic! For starters, this is a crazy complex sculpt and his ramshackle techno-suit is just brimming with detail. The torso is covered with a soft plastic vest, which also attaches to the shoulder armor, and even the right shoulder has a hose attached to it that runs down the arm and connects just below the elbow.

His armor is a mix of copper and silver colored plates, with sections of a black, ribbed under-suit showing through here and there. I love all the hoses and rivets, and vents, and mismatched plates. He also has a big screen on his chest that looks like the read-out on an oscilloscope. Beyond the copper and silver armor, he sports some blue segmented pants, and the bare sections of his arms reveal his red skin.

Quakke’s got a crazy looking red mug with a pair of bugged out eyes and a snarling mouth, displaying a whole wall of teeth. His ugly face is framed by his copper colored helmet, which looks as haphazard as the rest of his suit, and also appears to have taken a direct hit at the top, because there’s a nasty crack running down it.

Quakke comes with his signature weapon, which also happens to have one of the best weapon names ever: The Grabatron Meteormace! It’s actually a large three-fingered grabbing claw on the end of a stick designed to hold some meteor chunk he found. “Hey, look! It’s a rare space rock! I’m going to invent something to grab it with so I can hit people with it!” If that doesn’t perfectly sum up the Space Mutants, I don’t know what does. The claw isn’t articulated, but it does hold the meteor surprisingly well thanks to three little notches in it. The meteor also splits apart like the one with the original toy. I seem to remember the original just having rock textures inside, but this one houses some kind of crazy electronic instruments. I’m not sure what that’s all about, but it looks cool.

Quakke was a great figure to end this wave on and he does not disappoint! Super7 took the original toy design and ran with it, adding so much more detail and personality to what was already a pretty unique looking figure. Plus, his weapon is crazy and adds a lot of value to the overall package. He also looks great lined up with my Matty Evil Space Mutants. I’d say he’s easily tied with Fang-Or as my favorite in this assortment and he has definitely left me wanting more.

Masters of the Universe Classics: Lodar by Super7

Holy shit, it sure was weird to type that title, and yes the first time I did it, I typed “by Mattel” out of sheer mucle memory. Nonetheless, when Mattel decided to shut down Matty Collector it didn’t mean the end for Masters Classics. Nope, instead they turned over the reigns to Super7, a company that I knew only as the ones that gave birth to the ReAction figure line before they gave that away to Funko. Although they still do ReAction style figures, so I’m not sure what all happened there. Anyway, Super7 have actually tested the waters and turned out a couple of “Ultimate Editions” of previously released MOTUC figures, but the ones that arrived at my doorstep last week are the first Super7 Masters for me. It’s been a long wait. Indeed, it’s been so long that I couldn’t even tell you when I pre-ordered these. Needless to say I’m really excited to start opening these up!

This is a case of the “Collector’s Choice” assortment, which consists of four all new characters from various corners of Masters lore. Super7 also simultaneously released a “Club Grayskull” assortment, which is a wave of four Filmation-style versions of previously released characters. As much as I’d like to collect the Filmation style, I exercised some rare self control and told myself I wasn’t about to buy a second version of each figure I already own. But four new figures based on characters that haven’t been done yet? I signed up for that in a heartbeat. And then I signed up for it again when the pre-order dropped for the second assortment. The figures were $35 each with the caveat that you had to buy them by the wave, so that meant $139 per assortment and no cherry-picking. I’ll admit that all-or-nothing clause kind of pissed me off at first, until I realized I was going to buy all four anyway. Also, I think if you buy one of the two waves you can cherry-pick figures from the other? I’m not to clear on that point. At least they didn’t make us buy all eight, because if they did I probably would have. Anyway, that’s enough of a preamble, let’s dig into the first figure and he is Lodar!

Well, that sure looks familiar! The packaging is pretty much identical to what we’ve been getting all along from Matty Collector. Each carded figure even comes in the same style mailer box. Now, I do tear these open, so it wouldn’t have bothered me much if they had changed the packaging. Hell, if they shipped them in baggies and knocked some dollars off, I probably would have been fine with that too. But, it’s still nice to get that clear continuity in terms of the presentation. I’ve always loved this package design and if I were a rich man with a lot of space, I’d have doubles of all of these figures to keep sealed. One key difference on the card is that Super7 brought back the bios on the back. Some of you may remember these were dropped from the final figures in the Matty Collector line. I’m happy to see them return, because without it, I would have no idea who Lodar is. His tagline calls him the “Evil Master of Celestial Magic” but he looks more like a thug, and his bio kind of supports that. Apparently he’s from one of the mini-comics and he’s some asshole who captured a city called Targa and enslaved the population. Magic comes into the picture somewhere, but I think, “Evil Slaver Bastard” would have been a better tagline.

Out of the package, Lodar looks like someone who just stepped out of a Road Warrior movie. Only purple. This is a really simple figure, but I have to say I dig him a lot. From the waist down he’s got a typical Masters-style belt but eschews the classic furry diaper for a pair of slick black trousers with a purple, segmented V drawing attention to his groinular region. He’s also got some wicked spikes on the soles of his boots. Above the waist, he’s showing off a lot of that flashy purple skin and the plastic they used is fantastically vibrant. He’s got a pair of spiked wrist bracers, a strap on his right bicep, a half-vest, which is tied at the front with a giant cross-stitch, and a pair of spiked shoulders that he may or may not have borrowed from Beast Man’s wardrobe.

Just about everything about Lodar feels like the same old Masters Classics line.  I know some people were reporting some issues with their figures, but I don’t have any with Lodar. In fact, Matty was getting a little sloppy with the QC on the last batches of figures, and it’s nice to not see any of that evident here. The hands feel a little softer than most of my other MOTUC figures, but that just makes it easier for me to get the weapon in his hand, and he holds onto it quite firmly. The buck seems more or less standard MOTUC fare and I’m not going to break down the articulation because I’ve reviewed over a hundred figures in this line and it’s all been the same. I suppose you could argue that the level of articulation here is getting a bit dated, but I wouldn’t want to see them change things up this late in the game. Oh yeah, he does have ankle rockers, which hasn’t always been the case.

The head sculpt continues to drive home the Road Warrior-y vibe that I get off of Lodar. It’s a tight-fitting helmet with spiked mohawk and a face mask with breather slits. The only aspect of Lodar’s face that’s showing are his eyes. The closer shots show off the hammered metal pattern on his shoulder armor, as well as the sculpted rivets. If this were still part of the actual Masters toyline, it would have been cool for them to give Lodar a post-apocalyptic dune buggy with a skull on the front. Yup, you can probably tell I don’t know anything about this character.

Lodar comes with a nasty looking spiked mace as his weapon of choice. It’s a simple weapon, mostly black with purple spikes and matches his own color palate rahter well, proving that even evil slaver bastards know how to accessorize.

Lodar also comes with this set of manacles and chains attached to a disc, which I presume is supposed to be bolted down to a dungeon floor. This is a fun accessory, especially if you’re into some weird bondage shit with your action figures. The cuffs are made of soft plastic and clip easily around most of the MOTUC figures’ wrists. Ironically, it’s kind of hard to get them on Lodar because of his spiked bracers. The plate their attached to doesn’t actually secure to anything, but a little blue-tack would probably work wonders getting it to stick to the floor or even to a ceiling.

As I think I mentioned earlier, I pre-ordered these figures so long ago that I forgot about them for quite a while. It wasn’t until pre-orders for the second wave came up and Super7 started talking about these shipping out that I started to get really excited. And when they finally arrived I realized how much I’ve been missing this line. After getting at least one MOTUC figure a month for I don’t know how many years, I was really sorry to see the line wind down, although my bank account was probably relieved. There have been some rocky roads between then and now, but I’m delighted to see that Super7 is taking up the reigns and if Lodar is any indication, it looks like Masters Classics is in good hands, I just wish Super7 could have done the same for ThunderCats. Anyway, I’ve got three more of these figures to look at, and I’ll be clearing Tuesdays for the rest of the month to do just that!

Masters of the Universe Classics: Hover Robots by Mattel

My Christmas excursion into Masters Classics last month got me good and fired up about picking up some of the figures missing from my collection, and finally opening up some of the stuff I’ve been waiting on. Hell, I still have a unopened Battle Ram lying around here somewhere. Suffice it to say, I still have some unfinished business with MOTUC. Take these Hover Robots for example. Missing out on these the first time broke my heart. And then just as I was getting over that heartache, I missed out on them again. Luckily, I peruse Mattel’s Ebay page every now and then, and they just so happened to turn up there over the Holidays… and on sale too! It was like a Christmas Miracle!

Despite being a three-pack, these figures come in the same size and style card-and-bubble that we’ve been seeing throughout the Masters Classics run. If you’re unfamiliar, these tin cans are from the Filmation cartoon, and occasionally served as Skeletor’s soldiers as well as enemies for He-Man to beat up without having to depict him actually inflicting violence on living beings. It’s sort of like the Battle Android Troopers in GI Joe. Acceptable cannon fodder. I seem to remember one of He-Man’s signature moves was to grab one robot and toss it into a group of others, resulting in them all explode. Even the delightful tagline, “Evil Mindless Robot Goons” stresses that they have no sense or feelings. Some of you may know that I have a “love to hate” relationship with the Filmation cartoon, but I always loved these robot designs.

The three-pack does indeed consist of three of the same figure. I’m a little surprised Matty didn’t do something to distinguish them apart like they did with the Horde Trooper two-pack. Maybe scorch marks on one? But don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they didn’t. The robots come with clear plastic stands that plug and unplug easily into the socket at the bottom of their little hover tube. These are similar to the stands used for Orko and The Unnamed One. They balance quite well and certainly serve their purpose, but it would have been cool if Matty could have given them a ball joint or some kind of articulation. Maybe it could have been something put into one of the accessory packs, if these were released earlier in the line’s lifespan. But I didn’t come here to complain, I came here to praise these adorable little death machines.

Each of the robots are very simple figures, but that’s not a criticism, but rather what the design demands. The sculpts feature minimal details and minimal paint, but both of which works to maintain the Filmation animated style. You do get a little bit of metallic blue paint on some of the panels, as well as silver paint on the hover tube and the arms. The dome at the top features bright yellow paint for the eyes and black for the “V” shaped area that houses them. It helps to give them a rather sinister look, despite their somewhat dumpy design.

The coolest detail on these guys is the lenticular sticker used for their “mouths.” By viewing it at different angles, it changes the pattern of the oscilloscope-like wave that would react when the robots spoke. It was a great idea and it works really well. Other than the animated mouths, the articulation on these fellas is pretty simple, but all the necessary points are there. The arms are ball jointed at the shoulders and elbows, and they hands can rotate at the wrists. The dome with the eyes can also swivel from side to side.

The pack includes an extra set of propeller hands for each of the robots, and swapping them in and out is really easy. I seem to remember the robots in the cartoon using the propeller hands as weapons by spinning them really fast to chop up their foes. I suppose they could really do some damage with those if they got up close and personal. Good thing for The Masters of the Universe that these guys were pretty useless.

And really, that’s all I have to say about the Hover Robots, but don’t be fooled by the brevity of this review. These are fantastic little figures and I’m so happy that I was finally able to snag a set without paying crazy money for them. They look great, they capture that Filmation design perfectly, they’re fun to play with, and even though I never owned any He-Man figures as a kid, I still would have loved to have a set of these. They’re still available on Matty’s Ebay Store, although since I picked mine up the price has gone back up to $35. But that includes shipping and is certainly less then they would have cost if they were included in my Club Eternia Subscription back in the day. Either way, I’m in love with these dopey tin cans and I do believe I’m going to try to grab another set before they’re gone.

Masters of the Universe Classics: Point Dread and the Talon Fighter by Mattel

Merry Christmas, friends! Well, it’s actually Christmas Eve for me as I’m writing this, and yes I’m bumping Marvel Monday this week for some special Christmas content. Last year I attempted to recreate the magic of Christmas past by opening up a truly epic playset, Castle Grayskull, and it was a wonderful experiment in recapturing my youth. It brought me back to those Christmas mornings as a kid sitting under the tree and unwrapping that giant toy that I begged for all year long like the insufferable little shit that I was. This year, I’m doing it again with the only playset that could possibly match Castle Grayskull… Yes, it’s the MOTUC version of SNAKE MOUNTAIN!!! Oh, wait… that never came out. Bummer. OK, so I don’t have anything quite as grandiose as Grayskull, but once again, I have been saving an MOTUC toy all year for this occasion. And if you know me, then you know that it took every scrap of my nearly non-existent willpower to let this thing sit unopened for a year. Keep in mind, I have to really stretch the limits of my little photo staging area for these bigger toys, so I’ll apologize in advance for the quality of the pictures. Now… Let’s check out The Talon Fighter and Point Dread!

The long and fully enclosed box is none the worse for wear after having spent an entire year unopened in my closet. Despite it’s lack of height, it’s still an impressively sized box measuring just a bit longer across than the Grayskull box. You get that same amazing vintage-style artwork that I’ve come to know and love from the Masters Classics boxed toys. He-Man and Teela are cruising along while Duncan looks like he’s chasing after them and yelling, “Have my daughter home at a reasonable hour!!!” There’s also some trouble rising in the background as Skeletor and his goons approach to ruin He-Man and Teela’s date. I originally abstained from buying the Talon Fighter because I knew I had nowhere to put it. Naturally when Matty put it up on clearance, I decided I would somehow make it work. The collector part of my brain told me that cheaper things take up less room, and Collector Brain would never lie to me!

The reverse side of the box has a panel of line drawings showing all sorts of figures and other goodies from the MOTUC series. If you grew up in the 80’s these monochrome panels were on most big playsets. It’s all an effort to recreate that vintage charm, and it succeeds brilliantly. Opening the box reveals lots of parts and cardboard, telling me that there is some assembly required here. Point Dread comes in two parts, with one stacking on the other. There’s also a beam that attaches to the top for the Talon Fighter to rest on. The Talon Fighter itself requires you to attach the wings, the radar dish, and the four guns. You also get to choose a sticker for the viewscreen inside the ship. There’s nothing too complex here, but unfortunately the wings aren’t meant to come off again, so unless you’re willing to risk some damage to the clips, this baby isn’t going back into the box.

And here’s what you get when everything is all set up. While it’s no Grayskull, the combined size of the Talon Fighter and Point Dread is still pretty impressive. Just look at how the whole thing towers above Teela. Oh, did I mention the set also includes a Filmation version of Teela? You know that one annoying relative that shows up every Christmas and almost ruins everything? Well, let’s just call her Teela.

So, this version of Teela has become infamous from the scorn that she has attracted, so I was really curious as to whether she could really be that bad. And yes… she really is that bad. With something like 125 Masters Classic figures in my collection, I’d only consider a few to be sub par, and this one is easily in the runner up for the worst of them all. I don’t know what happened here, but it’s like a perfect storm of bad design. From the bulky top to the granny panties on the bottom, the outfit just doesn’t work. There’s even hideous mold lines running down the arms. About the only thing that I can give a pass to here are the boots, they look fine. That’s probably because they borrow from the original figure.

And the head! The nose and mouth are so weirdly shaped and the paint is so basic and flat. Maybe if this figure was released at the beginning of the line, I could understand, but Matty and The Four Horsemen had something like a hundred figures under their belt by the time this Teela came out.

It doesn’t help that the original Teela is such a great figure and easily one of my favorite in the entire line. And yes, I realize that this Teela is supposed to look simpler because she’s based on the animation model, but that doesn’t help excuse any of this. If I had to say something nice about this new Teela, it would be that the paint is overall pretty good. They used the usual gold leaf for her armor and it really pops next to all that white.

Teela does come with some accessories to help assuage the suck. One of them is an alternate helmeted head, but unfortunately it’s built off the same sculpt, so it really doesn’t improve anything. The blue helmet is similar to the kind her father and the Eternian Royal Guard wear. It also has a removable visor. I want to love that they included this for when she’s piloting the Talon Fighter, but this figure is so ugly, she won’t be allowed in the Talon Fighter. Well, maybe just today… but only because it’s Christmas.

The other accessories are a sword and a shield, both of which are new sculpts and they both look great. OK, that’s enough about Teela. She’s the turd in our holiday punch bowl and it’s best to just ignore her and move on to the main event… Point Dread! We’ll start at the bottom and work our way up.

Point Dread is not only the resting place and remote outpost for the Talon Fighter, but depending on which fiction you happen to follow, it can be a surprisingly weird place. Sometimes it was depicted as magically appearing under the Talon Fighter when it landed, other times it was a fixed location that only appeared every twenty years. It’s also the place Skeletor cooked up Teela by magically cloning The Sorceress in an attempt to make an Evil Sorceress. HOLY SHIT! For the purposes of this review, let’s just say that Point Dread is a small fortified outpost that gives the Talon Fighter a place to rest its weary bird feet. The little playset is comprised of two pieces, the top of which can be attached to Castle Grayskull, and I’ll circle back to that at the end.

From the outside, it shares all the iconic charm of Grayskull’s green stonework architecture. It uses the same eerie colored plastic with a nice wash and some dry brushing to bring out the look of the stones. It’s sculpted out of proportion, with the size of the stairs getting smaller toward the top to make it look bigger. The stairs do, however, give you a cool place to give your figures some action poses. You also get a little window near the base with a sculpted wooden shudder over it. Let’s turn it around and have a look inside.

As a playset, there’s not a lot going on in here. There’s a sculpted wooden floor, which features some really nice woodgrain detail as well as sculpted nails. There’s a window that the occupant can look out of, and there’s a computer system with a sticker on the screen showing a Saturn-like planet. The computer features that lovely retro-tech styling that I love so much in my swords-and-sorcery-and-tech fantasies. It not only has all sorts of sculpted controls, buttons, and dials, but it features some wonderful paint applications that really bring the whole thing to life. On the downside, it’s scaled way too small for the MOTUC figures to really work with it. Maybe if it came with a chair it would work better, but as it is, even Teela has to bend way over to get to the controls. In all honesty, as a standalone playset, Point Dread doesn’t offer much other than a little cubby for your Masters figures to check their emails, tweet a little, and maybe engage in some naughty net surfing. Or they can just look at a picture of space.

But what Point Dread lacks as a compelling playset it easily makes up for as a posh way to display your Talon Fighter, thanks to the rotating crossbeam that rests on top of the structure. This platform has foot pegs for the fighter’s birdy feet and they lock into place securely so there’s no worries about it falling off and crashing. When you’re ready for the Talon Fighter to take off, you just press a switch on the bottom of the platform, and it releases the craft for flight operations.

And what a great looking fighter this is! Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s clunky and it’s clearly designed by someone who was more concerned with satisfying their bird fetish than applying actual aerodynamics. But this is Eternia, where a vehicle can be all those things as well as be downright awesome. And when I first had this thing in hand, I was indeed in awe of it. Sure, there are some companies out there experimenting with 6-inch scale vehicles. Diamond Select has done some for Batman, NECA did one for their Predators, and even Hasbro has delivered some for Star Wars Black. But it’s still a new and rare enough experience that it’s hard to approximate just how big a 6-inch scale vehicle is until I’m holding it my hand and trying to find somewhere to display the damn thing. And let’s keep in mind, the Talon Fighter is designed to hold two figures!

And besides being big, this thing is a work of art. From the chunky, back-swept feathered wings and taloned claw landing gear, to the sweeping curves of the bird’s hooked beak as the nose of the vehicle, this is a sculpt that celebrates the very weird and wonderful spirit of Masters of the Universe. And the coloring… oh, the coloring. I love the way the sumptuous golden yellow of the bird’s beak gradually gives way to the fiery orange on the top. Couple that with the maroon wings and the brilliant metallic blue that makes up the guns, canopy, and radar dish, and you’ve got a deco that is as appropriately flamboyant as the design.

The back portion of the craft beautifully blends the glory of Eternian tech with the fighter’s avian art deco design. You get two large thrusters and two smaller ones in the middle. The sculpt includes vents, tubes, cables, what appear to be some rotating handles for shut-off valves, and even the individual bolts are part of the sculpt. Applications of red, black, and silver paint all help pick out some of the details.

The cockpit canopy features clear plastic windows all around and the framework includes sculpted rivets and a sculpted non-functioning escape hatch at the top. There are also highlights of a deeper and more metallic blue paint used to pick out some of the details as well as some beautiful silver paint used on the triangular vent sections on the sides. Finally, there’s a beefy radar dish on the top of the canopy, which can rotate 360-degrees.

Inside, the cockpit displays more of that great Eternian tech design. The main console features an array of buttons and switches in all different colors as well as a dual-handled flight stick protruding out from under it. The central viewscreen on the console is a sticker. You get three choices to customize your Talon Fighter, including a goofy shot of Orko. I went with the generic radar display graphic. The left and right of the pilot seat is flanked by more consoles and still more colored buttons and switches. There are also some gauges to the right. I love that Mattel went with actual sculpted instruments for the bulk of the controls here, rather than cop out with just stickers.

That’s not to say there aren’t some stickered panels. The back seat features two stickered consoles to the left and right, showing all sorts of gauges and readouts, and even what appears to be an intercom system.

On the back of the rear seat there’s more sculpted and painted details, which include some tools and emergency equipment. Included here is a medical kit, a fire extinguisher, an axe and some wrenches.

What’s really impressive about this vehicle is how roomy it is. Lately I’ve found myself having to squeeze some 3 3/4-inch figures into their vehicles from one of those other toy lines from that other big company, but this big fella can accommodate two Masters Classics figures and still give them plenty of room to move around. That’s no small feat for figures as big, buff, and bulky as these guys, but just look at He-Man in the back seat. He’s got room to spread out, stretch his legs and enjoy a first class flying experience. Teela has so much room, I’d bet you could squeeze two chicks in the back as long as they weren’t opposed to things getting cozy. The pilot seat is just as spacious and your average MOTUC figure can sit and hold the control sticks perfectly. And now that we’ve looked at this big bird inside and out, how about joining it with Castle Grayskull.

Just when I thought Castle Grayskull couldn’t get any more impressive, I go and add this to it. And boy was this a lot of fun to shoot in my tiny studio. I had to reposition my overhead light all the way to the ceiling, and it was still bumping the top of the Talon Fighter. Next I had to switch out the table I shoot on for something a lot lower. Needless to say, this set up is freaking huge!

The top part of Point Dread fits over the right tower and while the union isn’t exactly seamless, I think it looks pretty natural. The connection is extremely solid and you hear a big scary snap when it’s locked into place. What’s scarier is separating the two again. In fact, it’s so scary, I don’t know that I’m going to be doing this too many times for fear of cracking the castle wall. Granted, the Talon Fighter looks pretty awkward sitting up there. It either looks way too big or makes Grayskull look a lot smaller. But I really don’t care. I just think it’s awesome that they were able to make this work so well with the castle.

And this is what Christmas used to be all about: Waiting all year for that one special big toy and experiencing the joy of opening it up on Christmas morning. Of course it’s getting harder and harder to do, because they don’t make big and satisfying toys like this much anymore. But Point Dread and the Talon Fighter did not disappoint, even if the Teela figure was a little like getting coal in the stocking. And for all the shit everyone used to give Matty, I’m grateful to them for allowing me to celebrate two Christmases in a row now with some truly amazing Masters of the Universe Classics. I still have some pretty cool toys and figures to open from this line, but I doubt I’ll be waiting until next Christmas to do it. But fear not, I have some other ideas for Christmas 2018.

And that’s a wrap for me this Christmas. I’m going to be taking a couple days off from bloggery and I hope to be back with new content on Thursday and Friday and by then I should have sorted out what next week is going to look like. For now, I’m off to have dinner with my folks, exchange some gifts, and come home and watch Doctor Who. But before heading out I want to offer my sincerest and most heartfelt wishes to you all. I hope your holiday is restful and full of joy. Cherish your families, don’t sweat the small stuff, and I hope you get to enjoy some toys! 

Masters of the Universe Classics: Clamp Champ by Mattel

Yes, folks, I still have Masters Classics figures sitting around and waiting to be opened. I’m actually rationing these out as a way to get my MOTUC fix until Super7 can get their thing up and running. Today, I’m opening up Clamp Champ! Poor Clamp Champ missed out on being in both the Filmation series and the 200x reboot. His figure was released too late in the vintage line to make an appearance in the former, and the later series was cancelled before he could swoop in and take over for the doomed Man-At-Arms. On the flip-side, as far as I know he’s the only character of color to get a vintage toy release, and as such he’s certainly worthy our respect and attention.

After all this time, there’s not much more that can be said about this iconic packaging. Clamp Champ is an older release, so he does have a bio on the back of the card. His tag line on the bubble insert proclaims him the “Heroic Master of Capture!” I think they missed the opportunity to call him “Heroic Champ of the Clamp!” Give me a minute to rip open this package and we’ll see what he’s all about.

Clampy gets by with a buck that’s a straight up re-use of He-Man’s body only with a fresh coat of paint. Apart from the dark skin tone, his furry diaper and boot fringe have been recolored red, his boots are black, and his belt and bracers are silver. Nonetheless, he still manages to look rather distinctive thanks to his cool chest armor, which packs a lot of sculpted detail and a two-tone blue and silver deco. I’m a big fan of the whole techno-meets-fantasy vibe that I get off of this figure and I’ve got to say, Matty did a beautiful job recreating that armor.

The back of the armor also sports a black backpack. What is it? Maybe a power generator for his weapon? I don’t know. I think it would have been a good idea to put a hole there so he could wear his accessory on his back, but Matty decided to remain true to the vintage figure and I can respect that.

I dig the head sculpt on this guy a lot. Even though Champ didn’t appear in the Filmation cartoon, I think this head fits that style pretty well. But where does this guy get his name from?

From this big-ass clamp! I should note that Clampy feels like a bit of a cheat, because most of Eternia’s heroes and villains get their names from some kind of horrific defect or mutation. As such, you would expect Clamp Champ to have this thing grafted onto his arm, or just have a giant mutated claw. Nope, it’s just something he carries around with him and refers to as “The Techno Clamp”® The bio exclaims that Clamp Champ “surprises his enemies with his clamping action,” but that would have to be a pretty good trick, because how could they not see this giant clamp coming their way? Even Skeletor’s minions aren’t that clueless!

And to be fair, this big accessory is really more of a claw than a clamp, but Claw Champ isn’t quite as catchy. The original toy had a lever-control gimmick, and while this new version has a faux-lever sculpted on it, you have to pull out the claws manually. It’s still capable of grabbing enemies and I really like the little detailed paint apps that Matty did on its instrumentation.

Now this piece looks more like a clamp, but I have no idea what practical purpose it can serve, as he just holds it. Obviously, he can make a living with these ridiculous tools, otherwise he’d be unemployed and they’d call him Clamp Tramp. They’d probably also call him that if he slept around a lot.

In the end, I find myself in the odd position of not really digging Clamp Champ’s weapon all that much, but liking the figure quite a bit. The armor and the deco really works for me, but the clamp itself just reminds me of the goofy over-sized accessories that Hasbro is packing with Star Wars figures these days. It’s not terribly practical, but I suppose I’ll let him keep it. Otherwise it’ll be too hard to explain to people why he’s called Clamp Champ.

Masters of the Universe Classics: Horde Wraith by Mattel

So, two things: First, there’s obviously no Transformers Thursday this week. Next week is looking good, though. Second, I’m crazy pressed for time today, so my apologies if today feels a little abbreviated. Today, I’m going back to the waning days of Matty Collector, with what I’m pretty sure was the last MOTUC figure they released: The Horde Wraith! With so many delays toward the end, I just got a big box of figures all at once, so it’s hard for me to tell what order they were intended. Granted, I still have plenty of older figures and other goodies from Masters Classics to open, but after sitting around since last year, I thought it was time to open this guy up. So let’s do it!

I’m fairly well versed on my Horde lore, but I actually have no memory of this fellow at all. My sources tell me he’s from the 200x reboot and I think it’s long past time I pulled out my DVD’s and gave that series a re-watch, because so much of it has slipped my mind. Here’s one time when I really miss the bios that used to be on the backs of the cards, but his tag-line on the front, “Sorcerer for The Evil Horde,” is all I need (I’d like to believe it says that on his business cards). Besides, do I really need an official backstory to enjoy a figure like this? No, sir. I do not.

Especially when the figure looks like this guy! The Horde Wraith could easily be Shadow Weaver’s more evil-er granddaddy. He’s a foreboding, cloaked slab of wickedness that floats around thanks to a translucent stand provided in the package. His gray robes don’t sport a lot of sculpted detail, and that gives him something of an animated feel. They do, however have some really nice ragged edges on the bottom and on the sleeves. He also has some arm bands with sculpted sickle-like patterns, cool wrist bracers with diamonds, and blue claw-like hands, which makes me think that Horde Wraith may be an evil Trollan on steroids. Dammit, that should have been the tag-line on the package, “Evil Trollan on Steroids.” Damn, my lack of customizing skills!

The true star of this outfit is the black cape and shoulder piece. The front features a sash that drops down with a sculpted Horde emblem at the top. The shoulders themselves are textured and the whole ensemble has a red border. The lapse in QC that has touched some of these final figures rears its ugly head with a few tiny paint flubs, but nothing too bad. On the back, a tattered cape cascades down, almost to the end of his robes.

The portrait, for lack of a better term, is just a hood with a dark, featureless face buried in it and two yellow eyes peering out. Here the paint work is pretty spot on, right down to the subtle red outline around those eyes. The hood is sculpted as part of the head.

The articulation here is more limited than usual, only because Horde Wraith does not have any legs. Everything else is close to what we normally get in our MOTUC figures. The arms have rotating hinges in the shoulder and elbows, and swivels in the wrists and biceps. There’s a swivel in the waist and an ab crunch hinge in the chest. The neck is ball jointed. The stand works really well to support him, but it gave me a hell of a time getting it in there. I had to use so much force, I was afraid I would snap it. I don’t believe that I will risk pulling it out again.

In addition to the stand, Horde Wraith comes with a staff with what looks like a Horde crossbow stuck on the end. I’m not sure whether its intended to be functional or not, but maybe he can shoot some kind of magic missiles from that baby. The staff is a very nice sculpt, but it’s very thin and prone to warping. Also, he has a hell of a time holding it properly. It looks like the cut-outs in the small axe blade are meant to loop his fingers through. That helps a bit, but it doesn’t take much to knock it out of his hands.

The Horde Wraith is a great design and I think he’s an excellent way to end the MOTUC line. I don’t know if a lot of collectors were jonesing after this dude, but if so I’m hoping he lived up to their expectations. As for me? I absolutely love this figure, even though I know nothing about the character. Hell, I don’t even know if he is a single character or if The Horde has a whole army of these spooky spell-slingers. I do know that he’s exactly the sort of thing that I would have doodled on my Trapper Keeper back in school, while dreaming up AD&D campaigns during math class, and that he’s very welcome in my Evil Horde display.

Masters of the Universe Classics: Castle Grayskull by Mattel, Part 2

Merry Christmas, everyone! I’m spending this morning on the living room floor, under the tree, in my footie pajamas with a cup of cocoa! Not really. I don’t have a Christmas tree, I’m actually wearing sweatpants and an old T-shirt from a Journey concert, and I’m having an Irish Coffee with extra Jameson to infuse myself with good cheer for the day ahead. But, I might as well be a kid again, because it’s Christmas morning and I’m opening up one of the coolest playsets ever. OK, technically I opened the box a few days ago and checked out the exterior yesterday, but Christmas Eve is all about peaking, right? And today’s the day I get to open up Castle Grayskull and really start playing with it.

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When you first open this sucker up, you’re met with a massive interior and a lot of parts. Parts in bags, parts in cardboard, parts in other bags stuffed in cardboard. There’s a lot here to process, and a giant sheet of instructions to tell you where everything goes and how everything works. The first thing to do is put the three floor pieces down, which locks the playset in this open position and gives you a place for figures to stand, and maybe even a place to park a vehicle, but I’ll come back to that later. There’s so many things to look at here, I’m just going to start on the ground floor and work my way up. But first…

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These are pieces that I’m not using. One is a decorative point for the top of the castle and the other is a carry handle, just like the original playset had. I like these, but word is once you put them on, they can be really hard to get off again and I don’t want to risk breaking anything trying to take them off. Why would I want to take them off again? Because Grayskull won’t fit back in the box with these in place and I want to hang onto that option at least until I can find some place to actually display this thing. That may be never, so for now these pieces are being set aside. Now, back to the ground floor…

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Naturally, you have the inside of the jawbridge, which can be opened by sticking a sword in a slot and triggering the mechanism. Next to it, there are a couple of places where you can clip shields to hang them on the wall. The set even comes with one to get you started. There’s another, similar set up on the other wall. This one has a sword behind it. The shields look really good on the wall, but if you’ve had them clipped onto your figures’ wrists for a while, it may stretch them out too much for them to stay put here. Also, to the right here you can see that backdoor we saw yesterday from the outside. It’s sculpted to look like it’s reinforced on the inside with a plate of steel.

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Also down here is this horrible little dungeon with a sticker showing more horrible things locked away under it. For a bunch of good guys, the Masters don’t seem to be very humane to their prisoners. Sure, you can argue that they’re all monsters down there. But let’s face it, this is Eternia, and that sticker might as well be a picture of any Eternian’s family album. The cell door opens and closes and you also get some chains for the prisoners. One of these sets of chains is designed to peg into somewhere… anyone happen to know where that might be, cause I sure don’t!

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Also down here is this nifty training device. I love the sculpted detail on this thing, especially the ornamental head and the giant hand that’s designed to smack you when you’re trying to hit it. Also check out some of those hack marks in the wood. This is such a beautiful piece!

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You also get a handful of weapons, including an axe, a mace, and two laser pistols. Now would be a good time to dig out that weapons rack, because it looks fantastic in the corner, and you shouldn’t just leave weapons lying around.

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You can climb to the second floor via the ladder or just take the elevator. The lift features pegs for a figures’ feet and it holds strong enough to carry the weight of a figure without sliding back down. At least for now. The second level features more of those lovely sculpted floors.

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A little further on is this spiffy computer bank with a scanner screen. One of my favorite things about MOTU has always been the melding of fantasy and science fiction, so there’s just something about seeing high tech stuff like this in a medieval style castle really does it for me.

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Speaking of which, the next point of interest on our tour is this crazy space armor. It’s a static piece that just pegs into the floor and makes for quite the conversation piece. It’s also positioned next to another hi-tech computer bank. Or that might be Grayskull’s central AC unit. Moving on…

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Behold… The Throne of Grayskull. This is a regal chair, indeed. I love the gold paint used on it and the two blue orbs. The starburst on the back looks great too. There’s a lot going on in this picture, so let me break it all down. First off, that sword on the wall up there is removable and you can replace it with most other swords. There are two battle standards that hang down on either side of the throne, and if you look to the right you can see the secret door that leads out to the ledge on the exterior. That’s clearly the “Oh, shit!” door, used to bugger off when the rest of Grayskull’s defenses fail. Oh, yeah… and speaking of defenses, you see that horribly garish rug beside the throne?

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Turn the throne and it activates the trap door. I used Tri-Klops to demonstrate, but only now am I realizing that I should have put Trap Jaw down the Trap Door. It would have been poetic. Anyway, I love this thing! It’s very design counts on your enemy besting all your defenses, finding his way into an impenetrable fortress, fighting his way through all your Men-At-Arms, confronting you as you sit on the throne, and then standing there and monologueing like an idiot for long enough for you to activate the trap. How unlikely is that to work? Oh, wait, we’re talking about Skeletor here. Never mind, it’ll work. Unfortunately, when it does work all it does is drop him down a floor and makes him ride the elevator back up again. That’s probably what the “Oh, shit!” door is for.

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The rooftop level is accessible by the elevator. Here you can admire the flag or open up that little door to reveal whatever the hell this thing is. Seriously, what is it? Anyone know? The instructions are failing me on this one.

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Finally, our last stop on the tour is a mounted laser gun for fending off attacks from Snake Mountain. And if all that isn’t cool enough, back on the ground floor, there’s room to park the Wind Raider!

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Well, sort of. The circular slot is designed to take the Wind Raider’s stand. And while this beautiful craft does technically fit, it’s a tight squeeze and it eats up a lot of real estate. It also kind of looks like a big albatross and probably cooks anyone locked in the dungeon when it takes off. To be honest, I’d probably be more likely to park it a little further out and off the floor pieces.

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The Sky Sled, on the other hand, is compatible with the same stand and it fits a lot better. hell, even if you want to do away with the stand, there’s plenty of room to tuck this vehicle in here without compromising all your play room. And speaking of playing… this set really starts to shine when you load it up with figures.

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In case you haven’t guessed by now, I am absolutely in love with Castle Grayskull. In fact, I love it so much that I almost feel bad that I waited until it was on clearance to buy it. Grayskull originally debuted at $300, which in itself is a huge chunk of change, but that sum inflated even more when you added tax and Matty’s crazy idea of a reasonable shipping rate. When all was said and done, I think it cost around $360 to get this thing shipped out. Back then I couldn’t fit it into the budget, and I cried myself to sleep many a nights (when I was drinking) over the fact that I would never own it. Then last year, Matty blew this beauty out at $150 with free shipping and that made it practically an impulse buy. No regrets!

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And thus ends the chronicling of my magical Christmas morning with Castle Grayskull. I really did feel like a kid again while I was setting this up and getting out all my figures to put in it, and hopefully I was able to convey some of that in my ramblings. To me, this is a big part of what Christmas is all about. Remembering happy times of Christmas Past and feeling young at heart again. As to the other part, I’m about to head out to spend the rest of Christmas with my family, eat a lot of great food, come home get drunk and watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special. And that, my friends, is my formula for a perfect Christmas.

Whatever constitutes your Perfect Christmas, I hope you all get it. Have a happy and safe holiday and I’ll see you on tomorrow for Marvel Monday!

Masters of the Universe Classics: Castle Grayskull by Mattel, Part 1

It’s finally Christmas… well, almost! As a kid, this was always the one chance of getting that huge playset from my favorite toy line. The one that I had no chance of coaxing out of my parents any other time of the year. Asking for such a grail would always elicit the same response, “Put it on your Christmas list!” It was a good strategy on my parents’ part, because if it was still on my list six or seven months later, chances are I really wanted it! I can remember a lot of examples of these from Christmases past. Whether it was the Micronauts Mega-City, the Star Wars Death Star Playset, the GI JOE HQ Command Center, or The AD&D Fortress of Fangs. These were the big guns that I begged for all year, and I was a lucky little shit, because Santa always delivered. This Christmas, I wanted to relive some of that glory from my youth by opening up and featuring something comparable. Something special. I wanted to feel like a kid on Christmas again. And so I’ve been saving Grayskull all year for just this occasion.

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And here it is. The ginormous box that’s been sitting in the corner of my closet since last December, building my anticipation to the bursting point. Gosh, has it really been that long? Yes, I’ve been gazing longingly at this glorious artwork and anticipating the day that I would finally slice that tape and open her up. While a lot of those old playsets from my youth would probably seem pretty small to me now as a grown up, MOTUC’s Grayskull is appropriately inflated to account for my adulthood. This has quite simply got to be the largest boxed toy I have ever owned. And that’s saying something, because I have owned a shit ton of toys. Hell, the box dwarfs He-Man so much, he looks like a 3 3/4-inch figure in this shot. All I have to say about the artwork on the front is that if I ever do get rid of this box, I’m going to frame that panel and hang it over my fireplace. Oh wait, I live in Florida… I don’t have a fireplace. DAMMIT! What am I going to do with all these chestnuts I bought?

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But besides just being a huge playset, this Castle Grayskull is kind of special to me. Masters of the Universe was one of those few major 80’s toy-lines that I wanted to get into as a kid, but I never owned any of the toys. Oooh, poor me! Don’t feel bad… I had plenty, and my parents had to draw the line somewhere! Well, for the past few years, I’ve been living that missed opportunity of my youth through the Masters Classics line. The feeling of getting to open up a gigantic updated Grayskull like this when I already have a huge collection of figures to go with it is as close as I can get to going back in time and experiencing Christmas again as a child as I’m ever likely to get. Plus, now I’m drinking a lovely Jameson when I open it, so even better. Grayskull comes packed in the box surrounded with some cardboard padding and wrapped in a huge plastic bag. Surprisingly, it comes out all in one piece and that’s it! There’s nothing else rattling around in that huge box. All the extra pieces are conveniently stowed inside it’s green plastic walls.

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Look at the sculpting and color on this thing! The jagged, unfinished rocky base gives way to the smoother, worked stones of the massive castle walls. It’s so goddamn iconic. I love the subtle variations of gray and green and the wash that picks out all the details. Just taking this massive playset in from the front suggests it may very well be toy perfection. I am literally in awe of this thing and I simply can’t compliment the guys who worked on this enough.

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The massive fanged skull that dominates the front facade is just amazing. It’s also one of the things that confused me the most about the He-Man continuity. I mean, let’s say I was a third party arbiter brought in to mediate the ownership dispute between He-Man and Skeletor over Castle Grayskull. All I would need to do is meet those two and I’m going to have a pretty good idea who’s castle it really is. I mean, am I going to give it to the tanned dude with the Prince Valiant haircut, or side with THE GUY WHO’S FACE BEARS A PRETTY STRONG RESEMBLANCE TO THE DESIGN OF THE CASTLE?

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The drawbridge door is one of my favorite aspects of the exterior. The coloring and ancient wood texturing on the planks looks incredibly realistic, as does the hammered finish on the “iron” hinges, the cross bar, and handle. The whole thing is topped off with a beautifully sculpted coat of arms. I could picture Skeletor battering on this thing forever and it never giving way to his attempts to gain entry. It looks virtually impenetrable.

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As we turn the mighty fortress to the right, we can see the two catches that hold the castle together on its left side. There’s a ledge that winds its way around the left tower and toward the front. It also looks like there’s some kind of hidden panel above it. What could that be?

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Coming around to the back shows more of that amazing stone detailing, as well as some truly spectacular coloring, as well as what appears to be a hidden back door, complete with a tiny keyhole in the stone.

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The little details here, like the wooden ledges under the windows, really give the castle an authentic medieval feel. I particularly love the sculpted thatch roofing and the wooden support beams on the turret. All the windows here are actual windows, teasing me with the dark and mysterious interior of this structure. What amazing features await us, as we flip over to the castle’s right side?

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Eh, nothing really. Just a hinge.

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Finally, I love how the top of the castle offers this walkway to put figures on even when the castle is all closed up. While the inside of the tower is just the unfinished reverse of the sculpted stone, I can let that slide because look at the sculpted detail in the wood floor on the battlements. You also get a smaller, sculpted wood door leading into the depths of the castle. I have to be honest, wherever I wind up displaying this beauty, space limitations will probably demand it remain closed up. So, it’s nice to know I’ll still be able to put some figures on the battlements.

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And did I mention it was big? Yeah, I did. Probably several times. But it is! I seem to remember a big controversy when the prototype was shown about how He-Man could barely fit through the front door. Well, they sure changed that. He looks properly scaled standing right in front of the mystical fortress. Even if this thing didn’t open up, it would be worth owning just to be able to stand He-Man in front of it, looking all majestic. It reminds me of just how much I adore this toy line and how, even despite the bumps along the way, I’m very grateful to Matty for delivering it to us these past few years. You see, opening up this beautiful castle on Christmas, wasn’t just about getting to experience being a kid on Christmas again, but it was also an opportunity to celebrate the ending of Matty’s run on this fantastic line of toys.

And unfortunately, that’s all I can show you today. Because it’s only Christmas Eve and I can’t open my present until Christmas morning. So come on back tomorrow and we’ll open her up check out all the amazing goodies on the inside of this marvelous playset!