< Part 1
I can't think of a pithy intro so let's just get on with things, AFB's Top 12 Masters of the Universe Classics figures form the 'Mattel Era' (2008-2016) as that era is now done with - Go!:
12. Lord Dactys
Masters of the Universe Classics, October 2013, Club Eternia
Who? Leader of the Spaleens, a race bat people from underground Subternia and good friend of King Randor, from the Mike Young Productions early 2000s cartoon series He-Man & The Masters of the Universe (‘200X’).
Why? I banged on a little bit about how clever Lord Dactys’ construction in my very first QuickCrappy Review, ah days gone by, and I’m still impressed by this now. This could be a sure sign I need to get laid more but I don’t think there’s anything too wrong in being impressed by a job well done and Dactys is the pinnacle of the line’s smart part reuse, using minimal extra pieces to produce a towering monster with a completely different lower body shape to what those pieces should naturally provide, they made a huge bat-man out of He-Man and bee man parts and the odd dragon man bits, it’s impressive. Plus Dactys just looks so fucking cool – that head and chest armour mate - he stands out on the shelf like few other regular price figures and I’m just impressed all ‘round with him, I like his sword too.
11. Light Hope
Masters of the Universe Classics, October 2014, Club Eternia Subscription Exclusive
Who? She-Ra’s guide from FILMation’s She-Ra: Princess of Power cartoon, this is the first time his true form as been shown.
Why? I think Light Hope was overall the biggest (positive) surprise the line had under Mattel and certainly under Scott ‘Toyguru’ Neitlich9. This figure received near universal acclaim and from a fanbase as angry and moany as He-Man’s that’s some feat and it’s a feat that really didn’t really need to be made. Absolutely some people wanted a Light Hope toy and I’m sure there are Princess of Power fans who’ve wanted to see his ‘true form’ since his debut just like with Horde Prime but the team could have easily have made Starburst She-Ra or something the sub exclusive and no one would have felt cheated, instead they took a risk and it paid off. I’m sure Neitlich wishes the Unnamed One had got the same reaction but while that figure was neat it didn’t meet expectations, Light Hope did, and that’s a major part of why I rate him so high: he looks as powerful and regal as I want Light Hope to look (and he looks cool regardless) - that weird colour plastic that makes him genuinely look like he’s made up of unearthly energy, his detailed and regal armour and staff incorporating elements of the Crystal Castle (well I say ‘incorporating’ he’s pretty much Crystal Castle Man), a beard, everything about him is just right for how powerful and wise Light Hope was supposed to be.
Before we do the Top 10, some honourable mentions, because I am ashamed of some of the figures that got left out, so I’m like to apologise to: Draego-Man, Mer-Man, Fang Man, Zodak, He-Ro, Sy-Klone, Goat-Man, Buzz-Off, Man-E-Faces, Gwildor, Scareglow, Demo-Man, Batros, Procrustus, 200X Evilseed, Battleground Teela, Catra and Kobra Khan at the very least.
He-Man & The Masters of the Universe, August 2016, Club Grayskull Subscription Exclusive
Who? A mysterious plant controlling villain from FILMation’s He-Man & The Masters of the Universe cartoon’s episode ‘Evilseed’, he was so powerful He-Man and Skeletor had to team up to defeat him. He was later brought back in 200X with a different design and fought Orko.
Why? Total personal preference, I love this version of this character like it was a pet. I can accept an argument that this figure isn’t as perfect execution-wise as those around it, what with ‘Seed having no lower body articulation but well he doesn’t call for any so while I’ll concede that giving him some would be going above and beyond and be a definite reason for praise I’ll argue that sculpting anything under those robes, let alone all of it, is doing that already and point you to Shadow Weaver and Horde Wraith to prove my point nicely. Evilseed looks like he just stepped of the screen, he’s perfectly realised in 3D form and his effects piece works utterly well. I’ve done a very positive Quick Crappy Review of this figure so I’ll just clear up that while total personal preference is why he’s so high, it’s also why he’s relatively so low, I like Evilseed a LOT but I like these other characters more and they’ve been realised as good if not better (oh that means then it’s not total personal preference, cool).
Masters of the Universe Classics, April 2010, Club Eternia
Who? Skeletor’s semi-official second-in-command in the Evil Warriors and a powerful witch, she appears in most He-Man media but this version is based on her figure from the 2nd wave of the vintage Masters of the Universe toyline.
Why? Evil-Lyn’s one of my favourite villains ever, yet this figure isn’t the top villain figure on the list, why? Well because this figure is a pretty simple buck figure, it didn’t need to be anything else, Evil-Lyn was originally just Teela with a different head so this is spot on, but being perfect is one thing, having the wow factor the other villains on this list above Evil-Lyn have it another. I decided recently that I honestly like her yellow and blue look here equally as much as her pale skin and purple and black look but this figure is just better done than the cheap repaint her 200X look was or the poor painted but pretty decent figure her FILMation look got last year. I love the face on this, she looks so intimidating, I would not tell her how much I fancied her, or even speak to her, or meet her gaze (for He-Man’s chauvinistic ranking she’s probably number 3, below the more obscure Shezar and Drissi). Actually my only complaint is that I’ve lost Screeech and that’s not really fair is it?
Masters of the Universe Classics, October 201310
Who? The Orko of FILMation’s She-Ra: Princess of Power cartoon because FILMation, he was pals with Bow and thought he knew more than he did, this is how the know-it-owl looked in the first wave of Princess of Power toys.
Why? A nice story for you: while sorting out some boxes in the loft in 2013 I found my vintage Kowl, who was one of my favourite toys when I was a kid (and the only vintage She-Ra toy I owned), he was like my little mate. Sadly something weird had happened to his flocking, it had gone funny and he was all sticky and gross, so I threw him away and it made me really quite depressed, I have Depression anyway so it doesn’t take a lot to set me off but I can still understand why you might think it was a bit over the top to be sad about throwing away a small toy, but fuck it, we all get attached to things and I was attached. Very shortly after I did this however, Mattel announced Kowl in his toy colours for Masters of the Universe Classics, he looked perfect and he was coming out fairly soon after. This made everything a lot better and I have in fact not bothered to replace my vintage Kowl (nothing could replace him) because I have this great little Classics version, who’s been realised in 3D so well even the synonyms function can’t find me a fitting word. I’m even more pleased with this after seeing how Imp and Loo-Kee weren’t quite so well realised.
Masters of the Universe Classics, February 2014, Club Eternia
Who? A scientist called Galen Nycroft who turned himself into that thing, one of the 5 original Evil Horde who debuted in the 4th wave of the vintage Masters of the Universe toyline and a regular antagonist in the She-Ra: Princess of Power cartoon11
Why? They did it, they actually made a Modulok that I think is as cool as the original Modulok and on inspection I think this is kind of why I don’t rate him as high as maybe he deserves – Modulok was already awesome, so all Classics did was translate that awesomeness, of course Modulok was already so fucking awesome that just by doing that the figure ends up in my top ten, am I making sense? I fear I am not. Actually Modulok has a tiny flaw, Mattel deign had to extend his (first) crotch for structural reasons, you probably wouldn’t notice it if it wasn’t pointed out to you (and then you probably wouldn’t care) but there are these smooth bits of red either side, I bring it up because a) I needed anything to order these and b) if I didn’t I’m sure someone would say I was overlooking it despite marking down figures like Sssqueeze for almost pointless things because I’m clearly a Modulok fanboy (I so am). So to summarize – Modulok’s amazing but his original figure was awesome so it makes him seem slightly less impressive and he has a little flaw that’s mostly made up for by being so bloody great everywhere else but is enough to keep him at the number 7 slot.
Masters of the Universe Classics, August 2013, Club Eternia
Who? The rightful ruler of a kingdom of Eternia conquered by The Evil Horde, she was freed and joined the Great Rebellion as their resident (competent) sorceress.
Why? The prettiest character in Masters of the Universe becomes prettiest action figure in Masers of the Universe Classics, The Four Horsemen and Mattycollector are good at many things, but female faces a not guaranteed to be one of them – they often turn out a little scary (Entrapta!) or a little too sexy, characters like Perfuma, Peekablue and Sweet Bea called for soft delicate faces (Frosta does not) and they didn’t really get them, Castaspella got the perfect face sculpt, combined with the perfect hair sculpt, basically I think she came out perfect. Funnily enough I hear that she’s Neitlich’s favourite Princess of Power character, isn’t that odd? The POP character who seems to have had the most care and attention given to her to the point of giving her an extra effects piece despite virtually no other figure in the line having one happens to be the brand manager’s fave? Suspicious, but in this case I don’t care because Castaspella’s my favourite POP girl too and number 1 on the chauvinistic pig ranking (not that I’d ever do that). So yes, executed brilliantly, my favourite, high ranking, sorted.
Masters of the Universe Classics, February 2010, Club Eternia
Who? A cyborg Evil Warrior who was once called Cronis, until he tried to usurp Keldor’s (Skeletor’s) leadership and Keldor removed his jaw and arm for his insolence, at least that’s one origin for him. He debuted in the 2nd wave of the vintage Masters of the Universe toyline.
Why? So from Castaspella to number 1 the figures are pretty much perfect in my opinion, really numbers six through two could have all shared the number 2 slot but I thought that might be pushing it a bit so the ordering may seem a little arbitrary. Trap-Jaw is one of those ‘going above and beyond’ figures, Trap-Jaw’s a popular guy, his figure was always going to sell and just by sticking to his toy design you’d end up with a cool looking toy with a very appealing colour scheme and the final figure, thanks to Four Horseman magic, ended up looking utterly perfect, they even put that gross little flesh bit in his mouth (love that). They didn’t need to do anything else to make this figure awesome – but they did, they included an arm and head to allow him to become Cronis, his pre-cyborg form, just pushing it over the ridge into a different category of awesome.
Masters of the Universe Classics, July 2009
Who? An aid to the royal family who acts as adviser, royal inventor and handyman, this is Duncan, King Randor’s Man-At-Arms, adopted father of Teela and he debuted in the very first wave of Masters of the Universe figures in 1982
Why? I read an Itsalltrue.net review that theorised that everyone has a favourite out of the main characters of every show, it’s not a new theory but it’s a good one. For He-Man mine’s Man-At-Arms, I particularly like this sort of character – the older, wiser, fatherly badass – and Duncan’s a good example of it, he was generally competent at all times and frankly he deserves your respect for the amount of shit Orko did to him over the years. Simply Man-At-Arms figure is perfect, as far as I’m concerned it’s as good as a Man-At-Arms figure can be, built around lovely buck pieces with wonderfully sculpted new pieces and coming with not only both his moustached and clean shaven heads12 and his signature mace but he enters ‘above and beyond’ territory by including a sword, blaster and the 200X Power Sword and he can store all of his weapons (so not the Power Sword) on his body, something that the vintage figure (nor the 200X figure) could do. I think a lot of people feel this way about Mer-Man and I’ll admit that unbiased Merman is really as good as Duncan, but this is not an unbiased list, I am trying to give good reasons other than ‘I like this one more than the last one’ and no doubt stating a load of opinions as facts but it’s a biased-as-fuck list and I never liked Mer-Man and still don’t.
Masters of the Universe Classics, February 2012
Who? A very manly warrior with a huge metal fist, sometimes he’s Man-At-Arms brother, he debuted in the 3rd wave of the vintage Masters of the Universe toys in 1984
Why? Here he is, my favourite heroic warrior and I am so pleased that he has a figure that’s good enough that no one will question me putting him this high. I’ve been banging on about figures being well executed for this entire list and I’m sure you’re sick of it but Fisto is really well executed. Having an ugly, over-muscle-definition or just wonky sculpts, weird part choices, incorrect colour choices, bad proportions, blocked articulation, there’s a lot of ways to poorly execute a figure and Marvel Legends have done all of them, I respect that it’s a very broad term and covers some subjective shit but it does the job nicely of saying why I like these more than others, because Classics had a lot of little reoccurring things that just blemished the figure – swapped forearms, ‘granny panties’, half armour, fat armour – so there was no guarantee of how well executed the characters you liked, or characters you thought would look awesome, would actually be so when a figure was as well executed as Castaspella or Man-At-Arms, without any of the little issues that plagued the line, it’s a big plus for the toy, at least in my mind. TL;DR: it’s me finding a slightly more intelligent sounding way to ‘they didn’t fuck anything up, in fact they did the opposite’. In this case ‘doing the opposite’ is giving us swappable parts to make 200X Fisto including his HUGE 200X sword and giving him a really expressive, really manly, head sculpt.
2. Hover Robots
Masters of the Universe Classics, 2015 Travelling Convention Item
Who? Skeletor’s cannon fodder in FILMation’s He-Man & The Masters of the Universe cartoon (when they remembered them/needed them).
Why? Because everyone who sees them likes them, that is why I consider them to be so good, people who don’t like action figures, toys, He-Man or even robots loved these things on sight. They sat on my table for about three weeks so just about everyone the family is in regular contact with saw them, couldn’t resist having a little play with them and thought they were wonderful. And they are, they’re so expressive, so cute, customizable, they can be used for just about any picture or set-up from menacing to funny to adorable, they came out perfectly, they’re so round with such sharp edges and Brandon Sopinsky13 gave them their wonderful lenticular sticker mouths to make them fun to just look at (so long as you’re twiddling them a little).
Masters of the Universe Classics, October 2013, Club Eternia
Who? The spy for the Evil Horde, one of the five original Horde figures from the 1984 wave of Masters of the Universe
Why? There was no contest here, Mantenna is just the best update from vintage figure to collector’s figure (IMO and all that, but also probably unbiased too) and he just looks so cool. I like part reuse, it adds a uniformity to a line and it can be pretty clever, it’s also a bit of fun for someone like me – who’s a Where’s Wally nut and also cripplingly sad – to pick out where each part is from but sometimes it’s not appropriate and the benefit of having a unique sculpt is, well, uniqueness as well allowing the sculptors to be completely uninhibited, I’m talking about this because Mantenna is almost all unique tooling and it’s part of why he’s so damn impressive. He needed to be almost all unique tooling and Matty wisely chose to do this regardless of cost; those unique pieces are superb, allowing for Four Horsemen to show off their forte with gruesome fantasy monsters - Mantenna’s as good, sculpting wise, as Granamyr despite being a fraction of the size and a regular priced figure. But this isn’t the end of why he’s so good, I mean Horde Wraith, Gwildor and Shadow Weaver all almost all unique tooling and they’re not on the list (and Gwildor has some good sculpting going on), the rest of the reasons in no particular order: I had all the original Horde as a kid and loved playing with them, they got a LOT of play, the Horde remain my favourite faction in the franchise so there’s a big heaping of nostalgia and personal preference; Mantenna was given his four legs as four separate fully articulated limbs and, yes that word again, they were executed perfectly, they work in any pose, support him in most poses and even have an extra joint at the foot to allow for better stability; he has a clever and very well integrated method for swapping out his eyeballs (for ones on stalks) AND he’s a lovely colour scheme, well I think he is but then I paint my bedroom black and purple wherever I live.
There you have it, I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube Commentaries and trying to make my countdown lists better so hopefully I’ve given better reasons this time with an attempt to give some unbiased reasons why my choice is a good ‘un as well as just why I like them, if I failed at this I failed, I’ll try again, if I succeeded then you should have had a slightly better read. Regardless, thanks for reading.
9 brand manager and overlord of Masters of the Universe Classics and Mattycollector from 2008 to mid-2015, a polarising figure (though granted opinions of him has risen significantly since the utter balls up that Matty became without him) .
10 as part of the End of Wars Weapon Pak
11 the development of Princes of Power is a little complicated, seemingly not very well documented and hard for me to understand – it was co-developed by FILMation and Mattel, with designs going back and forth and being worked on simultaneously. If someone does stumble on this and can give me a good overview of the development then please comment/link me up, I’d really appreciate it.
12 Man-At-Arms’ vintage toy was clean shaven, I didn’t know this as a child because my MAA came from a bootsale and some bugger had drawn the moustache on with indelible marker, a common practice from what I can tell.
13 the bloke who replaced Rueben Martinez on design, he was a much more creative and much more personable fellow who seemed to actually care.