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!

Masters of the Universe Classics: Night Stalker by Mattel

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’m doing MOTUC features sparingly these days because I know it’s all coming to an end soon. I’m also starting to get worried about the collapse over there at “The House That Matty Built,” as I just got an email telling me that all four of my November subscription figures (two Masters and two ThunderCats) are now not expected to ship until January. Keep in mind, I got a notice they would be shipping back in early November and I was supposed to have received them about a week ago. In short, there are shenanigans going on over there and telling me I’m going to receive figures that I already paid for some time after your operation is supposed to close down makes me a little queasy, Matty!

So, today I’m going to dial the wheel to a happier time when the toy shipments were more or less running on time, and I didn’t have to worry about whether or not I was ever going to see them. Besides, I’ve been chomping at the bit (Horse Humor! HA!) to open Night Stalker for a while now and after a lot of long hours and hard work over the last couple of weeks, I’ve decided to treat myself by doing just that!

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The packaging is pretty damn big, and should look readily familiar to anyone collecting the line. Matty has been using something similar to this angled window box for previous beasts, steeds, and two-packs all along. You get that wonderful Grayskull-themed stonework on the outside as well as the illustrated cardboard tray inside. There are no longer any bios on the boxes, but you get pictures of a bunch of previous releases on the back. All in all, this box shows off the toy splendidly and is also technically collector friendly, but that later point really depends on how patient and careful you are getting your mecha-horse out of the stable. There’s a torturous combination of transparent rubber bands and black string holding this guy in place. It’s worth mentioning that Night Stalker is most associated with Jitsu, one of the few MOTUC figures I don’t own, but that’s OK, because any of my Eternian baddies are free to ride him into battle. For the purposes of this Feature, I’ll be using Tri-Klops, because… I love Tri-Klops.

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Holy hell, the design here is pure bad ass and just oozes toy perfection. It’s got that wonderful look of retro-tech that tends to flourish on Eternia with just a little hint of steampunk. I’d like to think this thing sounds like a hundred lawnmowers as it stalks the countryside looking for those blasted Masters Do-Gooders. Besides being a great design, there’s so much loving detail packed into this mold! I really dig the bulky and boxy body, complete with sculpted bolts, vents, hoses, plates and all sorts of other bits and bobs. Even the rather low-profile area behind the seat has sculpted hoses and machinery.

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As great as the sculpt is, I think it’s the coloring here that really makes this a prize winning cyber-stag. The bulk of the body features a gorgeous metallic gold finish with black used for the neck, the inner areas where the legs attach, hooves, and the recessed leg panels. This lovely deco is rounded out with some purple for the tail, guns, and the back of the seat and you get some copper paint on a few of the sculpted details. Egads, this is a gorgeous toy!

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The head is the most organic looking thing about this robo-stallion. If it weren’t for the segmented sections on the sides of the head, I’d almost believe the intent here was that some Eternian mad scientist transplanted a real horse head onto this thing and created an unholy abomination. As things are, I’m still inclined to believe the ears came off a real horse. And just look at those soul-less Funko Pop! styled eyes. They’re like black wells of despair… creepy!

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Night Stalker also includes a purple mask that fits perfectly over the head. It gives him a little extra armor, but mostly just makes him look cooler. The sculpt includes scale-type armor plates and cut-outs for the ears, nostrils and eyes. The way the eye holes are cut make Night Stalker look a lot meaner with the mask on. The mask also adds a single horn.

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Articulation includes rotation in the upper legs and hinges in the “knees” and “ankles” for lack of a better term. Sorry, if my horse anatomy is lacking. The tail is ball jointed, but it really seems only designed to rotate and lift up ever so slightly, probably useful for when he is pooping out batteries. The neck is built on a clever string of segmented ball jointed plates, giving it a lot of movement. While I believe the original vintage beasts were mostly static, this modern update is tons of fun to play with. The weapons on this beast are also articulated. The two front guns and raise and lower and the tail gun rotates left and right. Unfortunately, in a mis-guided attempt to secure the toy in the box, the rubber bands have warped the front guns, so they curve inward a bit. Not a big deal, but it was a stupid thing to do when packing him.

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Obviously, Night Stalker is designed to seat a figure. There’s some detailed sculpting inside the compartment and you get a sticker for the dash board, which includes some buttons, gauges, and a video screen showing Night Stalker targeting Castle Grayskull. Yeah, one of the things that really impressed me about the Wind Raider was that all the controls were actually sculpted and here they’re not. I’m not going to hold that against Night Stalker. This late in the game, I’m amazed we even got something as big and cool as this toy.

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I actually had to look up how much Night Stalker cost me, because as a subscriber, they just take my monies and ship me stuff and I don’t tend to think about it a lot. I was surprised to find that he was only $40, which seems like a decent enough value for a toy this big, detailed, and well painted. He’s actually still available on Matty Collector, but the non-subber price is $54. That’s quite a price hike for the purpose of punishing the disloyal. Still, not an outrageous sum for what is a very cool toy.

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As many of you probably know by now, I didn’t have any Masters toys as a kid, but I admired the line through TV commercials and Wish Book pages, and I can remember the endearing appeal of the two robot horses, Stridor and Night Stalker, quite vividly. I got to play with the He-Mans over my best friends house, but he never got either of these steeds so I was looking forward to the possibility of getting both of them in the Classics line. Alas, Matty was only able to make half that wish come true. Stridor didn’t happen, and considering how good this one is that’s a shame. But at least we got this one and he’s quite spectacular! He also throws a little more balance on the side of Skeletor, as the vehicles so far have all been for the heroes.

Masters of the Universe Classics: General Sundar by Mattel

I think in my mind I’ve already detached myself from MOTUC, because I keep forgetting that I have new figures to look at. Not to mention a Castle Greyskull and Battle Ram and a sizable robotic horse to open. No, I haven’t lost my love for this line, but I think I’m just beginning to make peace with the fact that it’s almost done. So, maybe it’s not an issue of forgetting them, but wanting to take my time and savor the final releases because soon there will be no more. That having been said, I was really looking forward to today’s release, which arrived on my doorstep several weeks back and today’s the day I felt like finally opening him up.

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There’s nothing to be said here about the packaging that hasn’t already been said these past many years. Fans of the Filmation She-Ra series will note that the spelling of this guy’s name has changed from Sunder to Sundar because, copyright lapse? Probably. Anyway, the bios on the back of the cards are gone, but I remember a good deal about the two episodes that Sundar appeared in and how unlikely Sundar’s character arc was. Yup, he’s a Horde General with honor, which makes little sense, who all the sudden decides that Hordak and his taxes are unreasonable… shortly after he’s thrown a poor old farmer and his wife into prison for not paying their taxes after they were arbitrarily doubled that morning. Yeah, I see what they were going for here, and I appreciate that kind of depth in a kid’s show that was basically a toy commercial, but it’s still pretty weak.

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This figure, on the other hand, is amazing. There’s something about the Horde Trooper aesthetic that I just adore and that’s on full display here. Sundar wears a modified version of the Horde Trooper armor, which features the same pale gray plates with exposed black ribbing at the joints. His chest plate is missing the sculpted Horde emblem, but he makes up for it with a dashing red cape that “secures” to the front of his shoulders with two bronze clasps, which also match his belt buckle. There’s some wonderful detail sculpted into the armor itself, particularly on the legs and forearms. One o fmy many weaknesses is sci-fi/fantasy armor and this is just a great example of that.

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The head sculpt features a helmet sculpted onto the underlying head to give it some depth and credibility. It’s a relatively simple helmet design with the nose and mouth exposed and large holes for the eyes. The top is adorned with a Grecco-Roman style brush crest. It’s worth pointing out here that my figure has a few nagging little QC issues, like a chip of gray paint near his right eyebrow and some glue residue on the helmet in front of the crest. There’s also some rubbing on the front of his chest plate, but that last bit I’ll just write off as some battle scuffing. I hate to say it, but it really does feel like some of these final figures aren’t getting as much QC as the bulk of MOTUC releases. There’s nothing here that ruins the figure for me, but keep in mind, this guy was around $38 shipped, so even the little flubs can be annoying.

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The articulation here is a bit of a departure from what I’m used to seeing in the MOTUC line, but then this guy does look like he’s comprised of mostly new tooling. The big change here is the use of rotating hinges in the elbows and knees, as opposed to just regular hinges. In fact, this guy is all about the rotating hinges, as he also has them in the shoulders and hips as well. There are swivels in the biceps, wrists, and at the hips and chest. You get the usual ab crunch hinge hidden under the chest plate and the neck is ball jointed. The ankles have hinges and possibly lateral rockers, but I really can’t get much movement out of them.

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Sundar comes with his pair of stun pistols, each housed snugly in his twin holsters. These are cool little designs and he looks great dual wielding them. Oddly, the trigger finger on his right hand doesn’t seem like it was designed with the gun in mind, so he tends to hold it on a bit of an angle.

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You also get this Horde axe. I don’t recall him having this in the series, but it’s been forever since I’ve seen his episodes. Whatever the case, it looks wonderful when matched with one of the Horde Troopers’ shields. It’s pretty cool that Mattel threw in the axe when you consider that Sundar also comes with a trio of extra heads…

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Yup, these bonus noggins are actually for the Horde Troopers so you can spice up your ranks with a little variety. As I understand it the one in the middle is a Naval Trooper and the one on the left is the design helmet from the Horde’s earlier days. I have no clue as to the purple monster face helmet, but it’s a damn fine sculpt.

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Will I get much use out of these? Probably not. I only have two Horde Troopers and I plan on keeping them with their stock heads. There was a rumor that Mattel was going to be re-releasing the Horde Trooper sometime in November, but with things at Matty Collector winding down in just two short months, I’m not finding that likely. If I can get another Trooper, I’ll definitely display him with the Navy Head.

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Sundar is definitely one of my favorite MOTUC figures this year, and that’s saying a lot because there have been quite a few excellent releases. It also shows once again that I don’t need any special affinity for a character to love the figures in this line. The front of the card may say Former Horde General, but I’ll likely keep Sundar displayed with my Horde army because he looks so amazing standing beside Hordak and flanked by a pair of Troopers. The extra heads were also a fantastic bonus and continues to show that Matty is trying to get as much extras into the hands of the collectors before the curtain drops on this wonderful line.

Masters of the Universe Classics: Crita by Mattel

The news has been out for a while now that Matty Collector’s days are numbered. The site as we know it will close up shop at the end of the year and the rest of their stock is now up for grabs. Sadly, it’s mostly the late-game figures that don’t garner a lot of interest. That reminds me, I do need to get me a new Flogg, since the crotch on mine inexplicably exploded while it was sitting bagged in a tote. And in all this turmoil, I completely forgot that I still have a Masters Classics figure from last month waiting to be opened. I better open this one up now, because September is going to be a big month with quite a few figures rolling in.

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Her name is Crita and she dances on the sand… no, wait… that’s Rio from Duran Duran. Let’s try that again. Her name is Crita and she hails from the New Adventures cartoon series. I have no idea who she is, other than one of the evil Space Mutants, and since there are no bios on the backs of the packages anymore, I’m no more the wiser. But not knowing a particular character has never stopped me from enjoying any figure in this line before. I just have to do some research. Thanks to the magic of The Yootoobs, I’m off to watch an episode of the cartoon that she appeared in called “Escape from Gaolotia.” BRB!

…And NOPE! I couldn’t get through it, but I saw enough to know that Crita and Skeletor might have had a little sumthin-sumthin going on and she talks like she smokes 30 packs of Marlboros a day.

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And here she is in all her glory. I don’t get what they were going for with her design. Most of the Space Mutants each had their own crazy thing going on, but I can’t figure out what that is supposed to be with Crita. She’s a lavender skinned lady in a purple dress, purple boots, and a blue half cape kind of thing that is permanently attached to her arm bracers. At the risk of dropping two 80’s music references in one MOTUC review, this looks like Space Stevie Nicks. Holy shit, now I can’t unsee it. Some of the finer details of her ensemble include a gold belt, a gold amulet around her neck, a sculpted ring on her right hand, and what appears to be a bone necklace. Seriously, what’s going on with this chick?

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Have I mentioned this cape thing? Yeah, I did, but it begs further study. Never sacrifice agility for fashion, especially if you’re in a career that demands you fight people for a living. I would have been a whole lot more forgiving of this thing if you could un-peg it from the arms, but you can’t. It’s like some kind of bizarre fashion bondage accessory designed to inhibit her arm movement. Apparently Space Stevie Nicks is a little kinky!

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Crita may be a product of the 90’s, but she’s got hair straight out of the 80’s. Forget Space Stevie Nicks, she looks like she should be a backup vocalist for Jem and the Holograms. Or maybe The Misfits, since she’s a bad girl. My point is she’s got a whole lot of hair. The portrait is pretty standard stuff for this line. She’s pretty, but nobody ever sat her down and told her that too much eye makeup makes her look like a whore. The gold tiara is a nice touch.

By now we all know the standard articulation for the MOTUC female bucks, but I’ve only got so many of these figures left, so let’s run it down for old time’s sake. The arms feature rotating hinges in the shoulders, swivels in the biceps and wrists, and hinges in the elbows. Of course, the range of motion is limited, so if you want one arm out the other arm needs to be close to her side, and even then, you don’t get a lot of range of motion here. The legs feature ball joints and swivels in the hips, and hinges in the knees and ankles. Here too, Crita suffers some limitation, this time because of her skirt. Finally, you get a swivel in the waist and a ball joint in the neck.

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Crita comes with three accessories. First, you have her gold wand with a rose-colored opaque stone embedded in it. I didn’t watch enough of the episode to figure out what her powers are, but I presume she’s some kind of spell-slinger. Either that or she just hits people with this wand. Actually, it does have a more conventional use…

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It transforms into a whip. No, it doesn’t really transform, this is a second accessory presenting the wand in whip form. I kind of like it. It’s different. I mean, rocker chicks from space with magic whips? I can dig that.

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And lastly, she comes with what I believe is a fear gas gun. I hate this thing. It looks like somebody 3D-printed it. Seriously, not a single lick of paint on an accessory this big is inexcusable when you consider the price of these figures and getting her to hold it in any convincing manner is all but impossible. Also, I kind of hate that it’s not a keytar.

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And that’s Crita, folks. Contrary to how it may sound, I don’t really dislike this figure at all. I kind of hate that I paid about $35 for her when you factor in shipping, but whatever. The rest of this Collectors Choice Sub has been rock solid, and if Crita’s the worst of the bunch, that’s still not too bad. I know quite a few folks were complaining about the QC on this one, like maybe it’s getting worse as the line gets closer to the end, but I don’t have any issues with mine, other than a stray spot of paint or two. Really, in the end my main gripe here is that her outfit is restricting, and she’s just not a lot of fun to play with. But in the end, it’s just nice to have a chick on hand to spruce up my Space Mutant shelf.

Masters of the Universe Classics: Despara by Mattel

In case you haven’t heard, there’s been big doings over at Matty’s Castle. Matty Collector is officially closing down at the end of this year and the Adult Collector lines are being handed over to Super7. Right now it seems like Masters Classics will certainly continue under the new stewardship in some form, while the future of lines like ThunderCats, which haven’t even started shipping yet, are a bit more questionable. Either way, as we ponder the future of these lines, it seems only appropriate to be looking at one of my most anticipated figures from the Collectors’ Choice Sub. Let’s check out Despara!

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Will Super7 carry over this style of packaging? I hope so! These packages have become so iconic to me over the last handful of years. No more bios on the back, but we do get Despara’s tag line on the front, “Powerful Force Captain of the Evil Horde” and a Horde sticker on the bubble. An explosion on the side panel declares this figure is part of the Collectors’ Choice Subscription. I think there are still two more figures coming in this Sub and I still have one other waiting on deck to review. As I understand it, Despara is the name used by Adora in the DC Comic, when she was a Force Captain for The Horde. I’ve never read it, but I do remember her being affiliated with The Horde in the beginning of the She-Ra Filmation cartoon, although I seem to recall that she was just called Force Captain Adora and that she wore her regular clothes. I think I like the DC version better, because…

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Well, damn… just check her out! I don’t know about you, but being told that Force Captain Adora is coming to lay down some Horde law wouldn’t instill fear in me. Nor would I be trembling when some wholesome looking blonde shows up in a tunic and skirt. Now, you tell me Despara is coming to set fire to the village and this bitch turns up? I’m gonna get out my Bank of Etheria checkbook to pay my taxes right quick. This design is just so bad ass. Yeah, it’s basically just She-Hordak, but oh man, do I love it! You get that same sinister black and gray deco on her outfit and a little bit of red. Why no Horde emblem? I’m sure there must be a reason, no?

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The stepped shoulder armor is part of the cape, which just lays on her shoulders. If you pop the head you can lose the cape to give her a little more agility for battle. The cape also features a pair of loops for her twin swords, which I’ll get to in a bit. The paint on this figure isn’t quite as tight as what I’m used to seeing on most of my MOTUC figures. It’s by no means terrible, but some of the lines could be a little sharper. Also, it’s just my personal preference, but I wish the outside of the cape was black. But who am I to nitpick the Horde Queen’s color choices?

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The masked head is patterned after Hordak’s and it is every bit as ugly as it should be. Actually, it’s a wee bit uglier. The teeth look kind of sloppy in both sculpt and paint. Same goes for the cowl that frames the face. The truth is, we’ve seen better in this line. Just compare this portrait to any of the Hordaks and I think it comes up a little short. Again, not terrible, but I think Matty could have done better.

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As we saw in the packaged shot, Despara comes with an unmasked head. It’s basically Adora with a buzz cut and some war paint under her eyes. The portrait looks a little too friendly, but I guess that’s why she has the mask. The paint here is fairly solid. I like the gloss they used on her lips and the bright white for her teeth. There is some unfortunate and annoying mold flashing around the edges of her chin and her ears. I love that we got this extra portrait, but will I be displaying it on the figure a lot? Probably not.

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Articulation features the standard for MOTUC female bucks. That includes rotating hinges in the shoulders, swivels in the biceps and wrists, and hinged elbows. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, have hinges in the knees, swivels at the boots, and the ankles feature both hinges and lateral rockers. There’s a swivel in the waist, no ab-crunch, and a ball joint in the neck.

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In addition to the extra head, Despara comes with her own Horde staff, which features an array of silver painted blades and a red tip. I like this thing. It’s a pretty cool mix of ceremonial piece and weapon.

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Despara also comes with her twin swords and here’s where we run into some problems. The swords themselves are fine. They have silver painted blades and the hilts are black and red to accessorize with her outfit. They look great! No, the problem here is that her hands are clearly not made to hold them very well. The grip is just a little too big and the swords wind up falling out of her mitts. I can squeeze the grips to close them and that works for about a minute or so before they go back to normal and drop her swords. Now is a good time to go digging through the trash and find those clear plastic rubber bands they used to hold them in her hands while she was in the package!

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If it sounds like I nitpicked Despara more than I do most Masters Classics figures, you have to understand that I was really looking forward to this one. And what I got is in no way a bad figure. There are, however, a few things about her that didn’t live up to my expectations and I feel some of that has to do with her coming at the end of Matty’s run. I could be totally off base on this conclusion, but the little nitpicks about this figure point to her being rushed. Just stand her next to the original Hordak and the difference in care and craftsmanship feel like night and day. I think the paint could have been a little tighter, the head sculpt a little better, and those sword-dropping hands really are a nuisance. Disappointed is way too strong a word for how I feel. I dig this figure a lot, but I can’t help but believe that had she been released a year or so ago, she would have turned out a little better for it.

Masters of the Universe Classics: Darius by Mattel

Yes, folks, I continue to cling to the Masters Classics line through the tenuous link of the Collectors’ Choice subscription. I want to say this is the third release in this Sub, with another four or five still coming, but the constant delays are throwing off my count. It’s gotten to the point where I’m just surprised to see one of these show up at my door. Today I’m opening up Darius, and this is a figure that sat around for a little while because I honestly had very little interest in him and, mostly because he was not a Mythic Legions figure and right now anything that’s not a Mythic Legions figure can pretty much go to hell.

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Of course, you get the same great packaging as always. Maybe not as snazzy and collector friendly as those Club Grayskull boxes, but I still dig it. You get a “Galactic Protectors” sticker on the bubble and his tagline is “Leader of the Galactic Protectors.” Yup, Darius is one of the good guys from the New Adventures of He-Man. To clarify, he is based off the prototype of an unreleased New Adventures figure and was going to be He-Man’s intergalactic mentor in the cartoon, but they ended up not using him. Do I care? Nah, I’m just in this line for the cool and wacky designs. Note how messed up the top of my card is? Despite charging like $12 for ground shipping, Matty continues to rely on just one sheet of crumpled brown paper as packing. Thanks, guys!

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So, one of the things I like most about the New Adventures characters is that they allow for a lot more detail than a lot of the MOTU figures, and Darius here is a great example of that. The paint and sculpt on this dude is just totally off the charts for a line where we’re used to just getting a repainted muscular buck. Just look at all the gizmos sculpted into his vest and thigh armor and the straps holding them on. Even the coloring on this figure is outrageously good, with metallic copper and gold armor against a red and blue costume. Many of the sculpted details are highlighted with additional silver paint. Darius is a techno-infused feast for the eyes!

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The blue cape is rather bloated and cumbersome. I think the use of plastic for capes on figures in this scale needs to go away. It looks OK from the front, but from the back it’s just a big hunk of plastic. It cries out for some sculpted stitching, or rumples and wrinkles. There’s even an unsightly seam running down the right hand side. Fortunately it is removable by pulling it out of the shoulder tabs.

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The result not only frees the figure from a lot of unwanted bulk, but also lets you get a good look at all the beautiful detail on the back of the figure. Look at the individually painted straps and buckles on his leg armor. Check out all the work that went into the back of his vest. Why hide all that great stuff with an ugly blob of a cape?

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The head sculpt here is absolutely fantastic. The facial features are very pronounced and he has a slight snarl that gives him loads of personality. The detail work in the beard and hair is great as well. Yeah, my figure has a few stray marks of the brown paint they used for the hair, but I just consider it dirt from the battlefield, or whatever. This is undoubtedly one of my favorite portraits in the entire line.

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To protect that wonderful noggin, Darius comes with a removable helmet, something we haven’t seen a lot of the line. In fact, this may be a first, unless you count Flogg. It fits beautifully on the figure.

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I wish I could tell you that Darius comes with some suitably amazing accessories, but the sad truth is that his shield and weapon are both disappointing. The shield is just a weird shape with virtually no detail. And the weapon is… well, I guess it’s some kind of flail, but it just looks ridiculous. It reminds me of an Aspergillum, which is a word I only know because I was raised Catholic and it’s a kind of mace that was used to spritz holy water on crowds of people. And a warm welcome, to all you bewildered folks who find themselves reading a Masters of the Universe action figure review because you googled Aspergillum and it brought you here! Anyway, I presume Darius’ ball is designed more for bashing in heads than it is blessing people. Either way, I just don’t like it at all.

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It’s a shame to end this Feature on a downer due to some shitty accessories, because Darius really is a great figure. I was not looking forward to this guy, and even when he arrived, I had little interest and tossed him aside. Once I got him open and in hand, however, I found a lot to appreciate.  I won’t lie, though. I’m really getting to the point with this line where I’m saying, “Wow, I paid like $37 for this guy if you factor in the shipping.” My conception of any kind of value in this line is beginning to wear thin, and I find myself becoming more comfortable with the fact that the end is drawing near. At the same time, I know there are some amazing figures yet to come!

Masters of the Universe Classics: PowerCon Exclusive Granamyr by Mattel

Sometimes collecting MOTUC Exclusives can be a real ball buster. In the case of this year’s PowerCon Exclusives, you didn’t have to go to the Con, you just had to be willing to pony up big money on a pre-order at one of those well known online scalpers, oops… I mean toy retailers. One of those was a re-release of the large dragon, Granamyr in his green Mini-Comic colors. The price? $140 for a repaint of a toy that was originally $85 back in 2012. Hey, don’t judge me… it’s already selling for a lot more than that on Ebay and it’s still cheaper than what the original red Granamyr is going for these days. Besides, my idea of self-control was not buying the other two PowerCon Exclusives. So hey, let’s take a look at this big-ass dragon…

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The box looks very similar to the one used for the original release with his color being appropriately changed from red to green. I absolutely adore the artwork here. It’s very reminiscent of the stuff we used to get back in the vintage days. His tag line on the front reads, “Great Dragon Lord of Darksmoke” and it points out that as big as this box is, he does indeed come unassembled. The box is collector friendly, but it has that weird shape that Matty loves to do on these things, meaning that there’s actually multiple flaps on the side panels, the tape on each of which need to be carefully cut in order to preserve the box while opening him.

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The back features a picture of the toy and a full bio. You also get a little headshot from the Mini-Comic, which inspired this new deco for the character. I was really on the fence over picking up the original release of this guy, but I had a lot of other irons in the fire and my resolve actually held out for once. When I saw how great this re-deco looked in green, I just couldn’t resist. Time to open him up!

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Dragon parts!!! Inside the box you get two trays of parts, plus the torso wrapped in a plastic bag, and a simple, folded instruction sheet. There are a total of ten parts used to build him: Two legs, two arms, torso, neck, head, two wings, and a tail. If you’ve ever put together a Hasbro Build-A-Figure or a Mattel Collect-And-Connect, than putting this beast together should feel familiar, only on a much larger scale. I was surprised that it looks like he’s capable of being disassembled and returned to the box, which isn’t always the case with these kinds of assembly jobs. I can’t imagine any time when I won’t want this guy on display, but it’s always nice to have options to return a toy to the box, especially when it’s an exclusive release like this one.

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Dear God, this thing is gorgeous! GORGEOUS!!! If you already have the original release, most of what I’ve got to say will be common knowledge, but this is my first experience with the figure, so please forgive me, because I’m going to have to do a lot of gushing. Granamyr measures about 14-inches tall in his seated position, and make no mistake, this is a figure that is designed to be sitting. His spindly little dragon legs can indeed be stretched out for him to stand on, making him monstrously tall, but he really looks goofy when standing. He does, however, look right at home seated with his knees drawn up on either side of his chest. Regardless, he’s still fully articulated in his arms and legs, with rotating hips and shoulders and rotating hinges in the elbows, knees, wrists, and ankles. He has additional swivels at his chest and the base of his tail, there are rotating hinges in his wings, and his neck is ball jointed.

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The sculpt here is quite extravagant. The body is indeed rotocast, and that sometimes results in softer and mushier sculpts, but that’s certainly not the case here. Every part of his body is covered with sculpted scales, which feature some beautiful definition, making him look ancient. You also get crosscuts in his chest and the bottom ridges of his tail, some nice barbs coming off of his forearms, and a row of beefy spikes running down his spine. You can even make out the muscle definition in his upper legs and the tendons running from his fingers to the backs of his hands. The detail on display here feels worthy of a higher end statue, and it’s really something special to see it on an action figure, albeit a rather pricey one.

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Like a great piece of art, the quality and composure of the paint compliments this sculpt brilliantly. That’s not to say the original red version wasn’t stunning, this one is just… different. The multiple shades of green are applied to get the most out of picking out the detail in the scales and muscles and other bits of dragon anatomy, with a lighter lime green used for his belly and some glossy gray paint for his claws.

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And then there’s the head sculpt, which is a total knock-out. Sure it helps that they had a great design to begin with, but the quality of this sculpt just elevates it through the roof. The wrinkles, the jagged teeth, those lizard-like creases around the corners of his mouth. The cavernous nostrils and the prominent, imposing brow framing those mystical pupil-less white eyes. Everything here is just so masterfully done giving Granamyr a ton of personality and an ancient and wizened look.

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The paintwork on the face is also stellar and arguably even better than the body. It emphasizes every little crease and crevice. The teeth are painted to match his claws, the eyes are now white, instead of the yellow used for the first release, and his helmet is finished to look like worn, cold steel. The horns on the helmet have a realistic ivory finish.

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I already walked through the articulation here, and pointed out that this figure is designed with a very singular display option, however, that doesn’t mean the articulation is wasted. Not at all. You can still get some wonderfully expressive poses out of him and he’s still a lot of fun to play with.

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I pre-ordered this beauty the day it went up, and I’ll be real honest and admit that when the pre-order finally dropped, I found myself hit with a pang of regret. My list of want-to-buy toys right now is pretty long and I’m already making some painful compromises to accommodate my budget. I needed a $140 dragon hitting my checkbook like I needed a hole in the head. Checking completed listings on Ebay, I had every intention of putting him on the block when he arrived and making a little extra cash on the deal too. But then I opened him and put him together and sat this majestic creature on my desk beside me. It was then I instantly knew that I had made the right decision buying him and that there was no way I could give him up. This is quite simply a work of art and I absolutely love him. What’s more, he’s such a versatile figure, and I can see using him in a whole bunch of different displays besides MOTUC, from Mythic Legions to my LJN Advanced Dungeons & Dragons figures. He’s going to be welcome among many different lines.