Mattycollector, the online collector’s wing of Mattel and the people behind Masters of the Universe Classics, is a fucking mess at the moment; they can’t seem to keep employees for longer than a few months and just about everything is being delayed. The usually defeatist fan base is even more negative about the future of Classics and ThunderCats Classics (which hasn’t even started yet) and I’ll be honest all the doom and gloom and how much sense it makes, the longer time between figures, missing my chance to get Anti-He-Man and my general lack of enthusiasm for what turned out to be the first five months of figures (nothing wrong with them, they’re just not characters/versions of characters I’m particularly mad about, I haven’t actually kept a single Club Grayskull figure so far and won’t be keeping Skeletor either I don’t think) have really eaten away at my ability to give a shit. I tried to get it up for a quick crappy review of Vultak but it didn’t happen. Thankfully that’s come to an end, there’s only one figure in the latter half of the year I’m planning to unload (Filmation Beast Man) and in fact we’re getting a whole bunch of characters that are highly anticipated here in AFBland, and this upswing in enthusiasm begins with Darius.
Darius is the May figure for the ‘Collector’s Choice Sub’ on Mattycollector.com, which is for the 2016 releases for the line Masters of the Universe Classics: Collector’s Choice. While Darius was on sale in May as usual (around the 15th) he was shipped late due to…due to be shipped late, I actually have no idea why they delayed him, it was during my MOTUC Apathy Months so I didn’t really care. Why is Fisto dressed like he’s advertising Laser Tag and why do I keep calling him Darius? Darius was planned to be the Man-At-Arms for the new space-themed revamp of the Masters of the Universe toys called simply He-Man, but he never came out and due to an error he ended up not appearing in the story bible The New Adventures of He-Man used, so he didn’t appear in the cartoons OR the toys. The reason for scrapping him so late in production (he was shown in Mattel catalogues that retailers order from) was pretty simple; his action feature didn’t work properly. Like a lot of these ‘almost made it’ characters some fans latched onto Darius and that includes me, although for a slightly different reason – see Darius did appear in the European comics, including the ones that were published in the UK around the time I was four and five and very into old He-Man, so read that even if He-Man was in space and Beast Man, Mer-Man an Trap Jaw were nowhere to be found, and as children did (do?) I just assumed Darius had an action figure that just wasn’t in my local stores. I won’t say I wanted him since I was little because honestly I never really bothered either way about the ‘comic characters’ back then, I had Flogg, Skeletor, Hoove and a few others but I liked the older stuff better, I will say that I’ve wanted Darius ever since I got back into the world of toys and found out there wasn’t one to have, which I think says a lot about me. So I’ve been waiting for a Darius in Classics ever since I knew there was a Classics for Darius to come in and now he’s here and…I think he’s bloody marvellous, it’s so nice when something lives up to your expectations, especially when they’re so high. There’s a good reason for them being high though, with the exception of Karatti (who just looked awkward) ‘Classics sculptors The Four Horseman have done a marvellous job on any and all New Adventures characters, actually converting former ‘haters’ to that incarnation of the franchise. They did it again.
Masters of the Universe Classics relies heavily on part reuse, The Four Horsemen are very good at picking parts for this though so that’s rarely a problem, Darius has parts taken from all over the shop, from He-Man to Bow to Mosquitor but his new pieces are his head and helmet, cape and chest armour overlay, crotch and thighs which is actually quite a lot of tooling money for a concept character from the least popular faction of He-Man, and I appreciate every cent. The detailing on his new pieces are just top notch, sure we don’t expect anything else from the Four Horsemen but all the same, it’s here and it’s in good supply while never feeling too much (though this could be because I’m used to the design, if you want to argue that red, blue, gold, bronze and silver all on one man is ‘too much’ I will accept whatever argument you have), the armour’s not bulky and the head is fantastic, it mixes badass older man and fatherly figure (and Fisto) pretty much perfectly, it’s a little bit sterner than the downright friendly 1980s prototype but it fulfils the same task with the same aplomb, in fact I’d say it makes Darius look like an harder bastard (the old figure makes him look a bit like The Million Dollar Man, or John Virgo, or the bloke who helped out Tim Allen on Tool Time, who in retrospect may all be the same man). liberties with the design are few, his cape now attaches via cool metallic technological clip-things rather than just hanging around his neck and his boots and gauntlets are obviously a little off to allow for part-reuse but they’re great choices to approximate the look and like all part reuse help make him look more in-line with everyone else so I’m not complaining there. If I do have to complain (and let's face it, I have to) it's that the paint used on the face has a yellow-ish tint to it that doesn't match up with the neck and hands, it's only barely noticeable but now I've seen it I can't unsee it.
If you’re not counting his removable helmet (and as he’s packaged wearing it, I don’t) Darius has two accessories: his bola and a shield. Both are very welcome though I do slightly resent the bola for being party to the figure’s cancellation all those years ago, it was involved and I haven’t forgiven it for the part it played (Darius’ action feature they couldn’t get to work would have been to spin his bola, using a spinning action at the wrist). Also, as someone on heman.org noticed, they seem to have forgotten to paint them, I’m not especially bothered by lack of paint on these particular accessories but it is a legitimate criticism – I’m not bothered because a) he has a lot of paint apps on his body (and the ones on my figure’s right thigh don’t match up properly) so I can see why they didn’t have any left for the weapons, b) the design of neither really demands additional colours, the bola could maybe do with a second colour and c) I’d rather the weapons miss out than the figure itself, BUT yeah we pay a lot for these and for that price I can totally understand people wanting paint apps on the accessories. The only problem I really have with them is that the handle of the bola is very small, meaning it fits very loosely in Darius’ big mitts. The shield, incidentally, is an undamaged version of the shield that came with Battle Punch He-Man, I like it when they do stuff like this (Lord Masque came with Thunder Punch He-Man’s accessories for instance) I like continuity nods, I like when the team/company uses things like accessory ‘slots’ to give us extra and it makes the figure seem slightly better value for money.
This was going to be the conclusion paragraph but I have that most of important of things to discuss instead – ankle joints! This is the first Classics figure I’ve reviewed with the new ankle joints that are almost completely reviled by the entire customer base, or at least he entire customer base that posts online. The new joints are made up of two hinge joints, one for forwards and backwards and one for side-to-side movement and there is no redeeming quality to them, they look ugly, the make it harder to stand the figures and all they really make it do its make the figure look like they’ve broken their ankle. The figures do need new ankle (and wrist) joints but these poxy things are not the solution. They looked worst on Filmation He-Man and best on Filmation Trap-Jaw with Darius and Vultak sort of in the middle, Darius’ segmented boot design and overall highly detailed look help to disguise them a bit more (and Vultak’s wide feet helped offset the standing up issues) but he’s a heavy figure with a heavy weapon so he can and will fall over fairly easy thanks to the ‘clankles’, his cape helps though. However as far as I’m concerned this figure has lived up to a maximum of 27 years of expectations (25 in my case), so that can’t be can it?