Wednesday 2 September 2015

Quick Crappy Review: Evilseed & Mara of Primus

I have the power?

It takes at least 3 weeks for things to get from America to the UK, it takes even longer if you’re Digital River and send it via the whole of Europe and some of the former USSR as well so I questioned the point of doing anything review-wise for Masters of the Universe Classics, in fact I question the point of doing any kind of reviews period – dedicated review sites exist and they are written by people far better than me who can be arsed to take far more photos than me and in this case they get the items long before me – hell Pixeldan and The Fwoosh (at least) get them early but I've got an hour to kill and I’m bored so I’m writing a Quick Crappy Review of what’s nearest, and that’s these two.

So these are the two regular August figures for the two subscriptions currently being offered by Mattycollector (Mattel’s half-dead collectors wing) for Masters of the Universe Classics, Mara is the August figure for the main subscription (Club Eternia) and Evilseed is the August figure for the ‘mini-sub’ Club 200X, which is focusing on making characters from the 2003 Masters of the Universe revamp (the anime-looking one that you probably hated for not being like the 80’s cartoon) which was dubbed ‘200X’ by fans at some point1. And they’re exactly what I like about Classics:  it’s staunch adherence to being as inclusive as possible. Both are fairly important characters in their respective incarnations but neither of those incarnations come from the 1980s and in He-Man terms that’s like starting your career in Neighbours, some fans will never respect you no matter what and will be very vocal about how much you suck even if you’re Kylie Minogue (or Dani, who face it, is far hotter).

Evilseed has his roots (ha!) in the 80’s cartoon by FILMation, and he’s easily one of the biggest badasses to come out of it – even if he did have a head like an asparagus. He was so powerful He-man and Skeletor had to actually team-up to take him down (though he probably still turned all their pee a funny colour). This isn’t that version though2, this is the version from the 2000s cartoon, in that he suffered from Badass Decay somewhat, he looked cooler and was still a notable stand-alone villain but just far less of a top-tier threat and more a nemesis for Moss Man and to a lesser extent Orko and frankly if you’ve gone from so powerful you need both Skeletor and He-man’s power to defeat you to being Orko’s nemesis you’ve taken a seriously downgraded role. Evilseed was one of the few disappointing elements of that incarnation of He-Man for me (I generally loved the series, and the toys) but a) this toy is awesome and b) we’re getting the original Evilseed, ‘My Evilseed’ if you will, next year anyway.

These 200X figures derive most of their awesomeness from their construction – so if you want a typically dumbed down glib comment about why he’s good, here “he looks badass, like a serial killer plant, and that’s been captured perfectly”, now skip to Mara’s part. Visually the designs from the 2000s show aren’t that compatible with the vintage 1980s figures that Classics draws its primary inspiration from in terms of style, proportions and detail and thus the already tooled3 parts sculptors The Four Horsemen and Mattycollector’s design team have to use for most of the figure; they’re exaggerated, highly detailed and very unique from character to character, compare that to the original toyline, that used only three bodies for the first few waves. Thus that they can produce such unique looking figures as Evilseed here with a standard amount of new pieces is what makes him so damned impressive for sad bastards like myself, he’s not quite as impressive as say Lord Dactys or King Chooblah – who do more with less – maybe, but damned impressive nonetheless.  ‘Seed has a new head and amour piece (in this case an overlay acting to make his upper body look like its covered in vines, and have a disco collar) which is pretty much the bare minimum for non-variants in the line, then he uses new shins, shoulders, forearms, hands, feet and ‘loincloth’ (in this case just bare ‘flesh’ with vines, yeah I’m pretty sure Evilseed’s nude here) which seem to be the maximum amount of new pieces the 200X figures are allowed. That seems like a lot when listed out but that also means that his torso, upper legs and biceps (all big, thick, expensive items to tool) are from He-Man, does he look like He-Man to you? I actually love part sharing, especially when it’s done as cleverly as this – it’s an easy way to add an overall feel to the line and in the right hands, like these, doesn’t hamper anything. Evilseed’s unique looking thighs for instance are made by adding looping soft plastic vines to the loincloth/crotch piece (thus on the same tool), negating the need for new thighs completely while still cheating the eye into thinking they’re unique, likewise his whole torso (which is two pieces to allow for the ‘ab crunch’ articulation) is made unique via one ‘armour piece’ of soft plastic, and colouring both pieces the same, thus the whole upper body looks unique but the only tooling and thus money spent was for the (much cheaper) overlay which is seemingly budgeted into every figure automatically – that is it didn’t really cost any ‘extra’ to make that whole upper body look like it’s covered in vines – and it’s worked out in such a way that it doesn’t hinder the ab-crunch. Again Dactys was, and Chooblah and Certaus will be, better examples of this but I’m not reviewing them am I?

Evilseed comes with an attack vine and a massive compensating-for-something sceptre I don’t recognise (it's from the FILMation cartoon apparently, specifically it belongs to King Randor - He-Man's daddy). The attack vine has a little mouth and looks rather adorable, like Audrey II’s backing singers from ‘Mean Green Mother From Outer Space’ and wraps around his arm but doesn’t really fit into his hand, you could force it but it’s a bit too thick and the hands have been much harder plastic this last 12 months or so, making putting anything into them difficult at best (the worst was Eldor, who’s soft, thin, brittle, made-out-of-warm-Cadbury’s-Flake staff took a battering just getting him to hold it, I gave up in the end, others didn’t and ended up with broken staffs and women using it as a metaphor for the old boy’s manhood), it stays in place pretty good on its own if you wrap it around the bicep though.

I’m completely satisfied with Evilseed, a couple of points of articulation being troubled by some of his lumps and bumps aside (and they’re not stopping poses I want him in). Mara I’m a little less happy with. The box calls her Mara of Primus almost certainly for copyright reasons4 and I’ve called her that in the title and intro but I’m not doing it anymore cos it’s more bloody words, so Mara is the main female protagonist of The New Adventures of He-Man; the space He-Man from the early 90’s that you probably hated because it was so different from the 80’s cartoon. She was the ‘Teela’ of the show and frankly this should have gotten her a figure about two years ago, the fact that she had to wait to the last year of the line, and win a fan vote5, is ridiculous for someone so important in a show and who was also a well-known prototype figure for its toyline He-man, a line that ran for four years. But a lot of people have a big ol’ hate on for NA, Classics has actually gone a good way to soothing a portion of ‘em with nearly all of the figures being unmitigated successes (Hydron and Skeletor being the exceptions) but they still sell the worst of all figures and are still considered the overall schmoes of the franchise – more people were happy to see Goat Man, who appeared in one kid’s book, than major characters like Icarus and Mara – so it took a while to get Mara and we still haven’t got Master Sebrian or Crita – the equivalents of Man-at-Arms and Evil-Lyn, though Crita is coming.

So if I’m so keen to have her, what don’t I like. well I can nit-pick the outfit for a sentence of two; her outfit is her second costume, her more toyetic ‘warrior’ outfit, which I’m ok with, I like it best, but it’s also had a bit of the unproduced toy’s costume added – a costume that can be best summed up as ‘aerobics instructor themed stripper’ – it was likely they would do it, they’ve been doing ‘hybrid’ designs for the She-Ra cast too - mixing in little details from their toys while making what is basically their cartoon/style guide costumes, and I get why they did it, it’s a nice compromise and she has awesome shoes because of it, but the bare mid-drift just seems really unnecessary to me. Mostly though it’s her face that bugs me, frankly it’s too hard; Mara has a delicate, young, soft face in the show while her figure here has a harder, older, frankly sluttier face –with way bigger eyes. I’ve gotten used to it, it isn’t a huge jump, and it doesn’t seem nearly as bad in hand as it did at SDCC but it’s still wrong and kind of reminds me of those pornos that use obviously 30 something tarts to play cute young schoolgirls. Actually this year’s not been a good one for female faces in MOTUC: Angella’s was sculpted lovely but had a shit-ton of quality control issues leaving some buyers getting Picassos; Peekablue’s looks like a 1970’s mum, more specifically my nan; and Perfuma looks about 60 in her SDCC shots. Maybe it’s all part of the general average-ness the second half of the main line is suffering from this year, it’s like there was only so much give-a-shit juice going around at Four Horseman HQ this year and they used  so much of it up on first six months of figures they only had enough left for either the main line or the extra items and chose the latter; it’s probably for the best as that includes six 200X figures, the Talon Fighter, a new Teela and Rotar & Twistoid while the main line has a bunch of variants and the dregs of the Masters and Princess of Power 80’s toylines but it does leave Mara, Perfuma and Dragstor – three figures I wanted pretty badly –a little flawed, boo.

Not to harp on it, but Mara’s also a good counterpoint to Evilseed when it comes to his (and all the Club 200X figures’) clever construction and proves my point about how clever the part reuse is over there– she actually has more new parts than him, having a new torso and a new left thigh and yet if I told you it was Teela wearing a different outfit you’d probably believe me… providing you knew who Teela was… if I told you it was ‘He-man’s butch ginger girlfriend with the nice arse, remember her?’ in a different outfit you’d believe me. Actually that’s a good point – Mara’s arse is seriously sculpted:
Someone put a lot of effort into that. What was I saying? Ah whatever, accessories: Mara comes with both weapons her early 90’s figure would have come with had it been released, which is exactly the sort of thing I love and fully endorse. Little nods to unproduced figures make me warm inside (I need far more frequent sex) and it just makes so much sense, she needs accessories, she was supposed to have accessories once so give her the accessories she was going to get – there is logic in little nods to unproduced figures, I will prove it with graphs if I have to. It’s a shield and a staff…thing…that weapon is sweet, it has a blade on one end and a mace on the other, I might even work in real combat if you think about it, with the weighted end allowing for a better swing, hmm I shall have to ask one of my weapons enthusiast friends. Other than the shield looking like it’s partially made of pomegranate insides I have no complaints. She also has her ponytail – which is kinda an accessory – though it’s not poseable (like a Bend ‘Em) it’s a nice soft plastic and it can be shortened, you can take out the second chunk of hair (below the bangle) and then take the mace out of that and attach it to the bangle-thing. I can’t quite remember why this was something fans would want (it’s to make a more accurate look for one her designs I think) but it’s a cool little extra and as her action feature would have involved her mace-hair it’s fitting.

All in all I’m pleased, especially with Evilseed. I’m quite hard to please with collector’s figures because, frankly, I’m not fully fond of them – my teenage years and streams of twisted superhero and McFarlane figures with too much muscle definition and either too few or too many ugly articulation points put me right off until I discovered Classics here,  they’ve helped, as have NECA and a few others (I’m subscribing to Mondo’s gorgeous TMNT 1/6th scale figures) and I’m warming to them but I’m still VERY critical and VERY harsh to a lot of them – especially the Superhero stuff (but that’s mostly because they’re normally shit, though the new DC Icons and Mattel’s Batman: The Animated Series have a few winners). So with that in mind me saying I'm pleased with two collectors figures, even if one is flawed, is a big vote of confidence for you imaginary readers. I will probably write more of these Quick Crappy Reviews, in fact I have two I want to do pretty soon, you have been warned.   

1 two other figures were released for August and included in the subscription – the Heads of Eternia Accessory Pack that included six heads for already released figures and was the subscription exclusive item for Club 200X and Buzzsaw Hordak which was one of four bonus ‘quarterly’ items for Club Eternia, I have already sold both on eBay and used the money to buy a Ram Man.
2 Honestly there wasn’t much question which version of Evilseed we were more likely to get - through some legal loophole (I think they used him in some print media – a comic maybe?) Evilseed was one of the few characters created by FILMation that Mattel owned the rights to (Orko, Count Marzo, a few others) hence being able to use him in the 200X cartoon – yeah Mattel doesn’t own any characters from the 80’s cartoon or movie unless they'd used them in a product of their own (toys, comics etc.)  - and as for a while they didn’t have the FILMation rights, and with this Evilseed being physically closer to the standard Classics ‘buck’ (standard parts most of the figures are built on/around), from the very start of the line it was generally accepted that we’d get this version.     
3 For each part of a figure a steel tool – a mould – is made, they are expensive and a major prohibitive cost when making toys, thus part reuse is essential and enforced for low-budget lines like Masters of the Universe Classics here.  
4 I’m guessing it’s because it’s a stronger copyright, but it might be because someone else already has it – like Ninjor and Strongarm – so if so it was probably Skylanders' or Nerf’s faults – those pair of pricks are always up to that.

5 but good news, the two characters who lost that fan vote – Darius and Tuskador – are coming in next year’s Collector’s Choice line, which made 175% of the goal Mattycollector set for it (as in it got 175% of the subscribers Mattel wanted it to get to go ahead with it). 

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