Friday, 2 October 2015

Countdown to Halloween: Quick Crappy Review: King Chooblah & Saurod

One's a lizard man, the other's a Yeti, these count. 

I’m feeling very negative about Masters of the Universe Classics at the moment, since last month’s figures arrived buyers have been disappointed by the anticipated Point Dread & Talon Fighter set and the horrendous job that’s been made of its pack-in figure Teela and then hints that European subscribers may not the receiving one of the subscription items this year – the ‘Holiday Item’ two pack of Laser Power He-Man and Laser Light Skeletor1. Coming as these do, hot on the heels of subscriber being denied an exclusive sale day they were told in writing they’d receive and ‘Hiss-teria’, an ongoing mini-scandal surrounding an alternate Snake Torso for the recent Battle Armor King Hiss or rather the New Team at Mattycollector’s inability to allow us to own it2, it seems like the line has become one long line of depressing decisions, fan outrage and poor communication, but then King Chooblah arrived – and now I have snow blindness so I couldn’t look at that ridiculous Teela sculpt even if I wanted to.

So yeah there’s a bit of unfair pressure on these two to reaffirm that it really is all worthwhile when it comes to MOTUC, which is a bit unfortunate as one’s a glorified background character and the other’s from the live action Movie (yes, that one). They’re this month’s figures from this year’s two subscriptions from Mattycollector– Saurod is the September figure for the all-purpose Club Eternia and King Chooblah is the September figure for Club 200X, a ‘mini-sub’ focussing on never-before-made-as-toys characters from the early 2000s He-Man revamp you probably hated. Let's see if they can cheer me up, are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin:

Saurod, who is not a Star Wars Black figure I promise you, comes from the 1987 live-action Masters of the Universe movie - yes, the one with Dolph Longren, and Courtney Cox, and the principal from Back to the Future – where he was one of three new villains (alongside Blade and Karg) created especially for the film, apparently so someone could be killed off without it being a pre-existing character – oh yeah, spoilers, he died in the film. There is no point in me even attempting to argue for the live-action movie, it’s a shit film, a shit film with a shit script and a shit lead actor and a pink Cadillac that doesn’t begin to do the franchise justice but it did have a habit of looking cool (and Frank Langella played Skeletor – so good) and Saurod is easily the coolest looking thing in the film. Mattel gave Saurod, Blade and Gwildor (the stand-ins for Tri-Klops and Orko) action figures back during the tail end (pun?) of the original MOTU figure line which further helped cement him in the affections of fans – not only was he a cool character who died, he was a cool character who died that you had as a kid. Then having a toy got him an appearance in the mini-comics that came packed with them, and he showed up in a couple of the Marvel Comics, so really he’s racked up quite a lot of appearances for a character created just to be killed. However he is also very expensive to tool, the only shared parts on this figure is are his upper and lower torso and his tail (and his hip-joints), so he got pushed back to a time when he ‘costed out’ and could be made, which turned out to be the right arse end of the line as a whole.

I am delighted we have Saurod, he was the last Evil Warrior (Skeletor’s mob) from the vintage toyline that hadn’t been made in ‘Classics, he has a wonderfully detailed and accurate sculpt3 and he feels really nice – like chocolate just out of the fridge - but I’m gonna moan: firstly he’s ginormous – a fact made even more noticeable by coming with King Chooblah, who he dwarfs despite being a sneaky lizard marksman and Chooblah being a big-ass Yetti; secondly after complaining about how hard the characters hands had become this last 12 months Saurod, just to be contrary, has very softy, gummy hands, this was probably done as a safety feature4 due to his talons and does work well with his blaster hand, but his open hand has warped (and was stuck together with paint), it wasn’t enough for me to send him back but it does look like he’s always saying “live long and prosper”; thirdly they didn’t bother to continue the chain-mail detailing onto the blue parts of his forearms, how hard would it have been to just have made those bits bumpy, really? And fourthly, let’s talk about his crotch. The ‘Classics hip articulation is fucking ugly but to make up for that their overlay system is brilliant, a soft rubbery overlay over the whole crotch area covers everything up and tidies everything up, making for the nicest looking crotch articulation out there and something that should be adopted by all collectors lines, especially the superhero lines BUT it only works if the overlay piece is long enough to cover the whole thing, neither Saurod’s nor Chooblahs are. Chooblah’s is easier to miss because he’s all one colour, Saurod’s ball joints for his leg are in the completely wrong colour and stick out like bollocks on a bulldog. He was already doomed to have an awkward, Superhero figure style crotch due to the design of his outfit (he has sort of soft fabric around his hips) but it seems the Horseman and Mattel Design did everything possible to make it look as bad as possible. Now of course it won’t notice hardly at all on the shelf – mostly because there’s bound to be someone standing in front of him, but it’s annoying is all, primarily because the rest of his artic. is so well integrated (I didn’t even notice he HAD bicep articulation until I got him out and fiddled with him). I knew all the Club Eternia figures for this half of the year were going to be flawed; the line really isn’t ending on a high note, but I still needed to get all that, thank you for being so patient (or skipping ahead to the next paragraph).

Saurod only come with one accessory, his blaster, mine warped in the package and now looks like a flaccid penis so let’s move on - to Chooblah! Chooblah didn’t even have a name until this figure was announced, fans just referred to him as ‘Kulatak Elder’ he had a fairly prominent role in the episode ‘Trust’ and re-appeared sporadically thereafter, mostly as part of King Randor’s ‘council’ that was formed to combat the Snake Men, a Kultak Warrior was also planned for the accompanying early 2000s toyline but was never made. That’s about it, he’s about as C-list as you can get, but he is fucking toyetic – a mix of Yetti and Wolf-Man with a real wise old warrior vibe throughout it’s very hard not to want a toy of something with Chooblah’s design and so while I do still think that his slot should have gone to more important characters like King Miro or the Sorceress I am 100% in love with this figure.

Warning, I’m going to talk about part sharing again. Last Quick Crappy MOTUC review I waffled about part sharing and how when done properly it can actually enhance a toyline rather than hamper it, clever part sharing can allow us to get characters that a company would never be able to afford to produce and give a cohesive look, sometimes a subliminally cohesive look, even when the line features designs as wildly different as He-Man does. I’m still not done with this topic, because Chooblah is a perfect example of what I was talking about then, even more so than Evilseed as the King does more with less. Were you not into these things you would never assume that Chooby’s pieces weren’t made especially for him, and yet most of them weren’t, in fact most of them are over 7 years old and were made for a character with a completely different posture who was designed over 15 years earlier in a completely different art style. Chooblah boasts new forearms, hands and feet, plus a unique crotch and ‘armour’ overlay (all that fur on his top half) and head, less pieces than Evilseed (who also had new shoulders and shins), the rest of his parts all come from Beast Man, who was the third figure released in the line way back in 2008. He’s helped by his colours, he’s all one colour which helps the new and old pieces blend together but a lot of it comes from the clever application of new parts from sculpting team the Four Horsemen, again he has no more than a standard amount of new pieces allowed for a figure but the Horsemen has used this ‘parts budget’ to completely change the look of the Beast Man body and achieve the look of King Chooblah, his feet budget are used keep his knees bent, the ‘amour’ budget is used to give him additional bulk, give him a hunched over posture and bring his neck further down the torso (his head actually has a really good range of movement, way more than I expected), the forearm or bracers budget elongates his arms and makes him appear bigger, and the hand budget gives him huge bear claws, adding to his size, it’s all simple, logical but very clever.

Chooblah is a little small, but I think he looks smaller just because he’s stood next Saurod who in Masters of the Universe Classics is being played by a basketball player, but this is a common thing with 200X-born characters and designs, they’ve lost some of their ‘animesque’ over-sized parts to better fit with the 1980s toyline inspired aesthetic and I’m ok with that. A couple of fans also made a good point that they would have liked his necklace to have been removable (though god knows how) or for him to have come with a second torso overlay so they could make him into a generic Kulatak Warrior, that’s a nice idea and would have fit in with the intended 200X figure, but I’m guessing it was too expensive, especially as Chooblah also includes only one accessory – his staff – which is great but with no paint apps it looks like it’s made out of Twizzlers, I was also under the impression that it was going to be transparent plastic, but it isn’t *sad face* - there’s no reason why it should be, I just thought it was going to be c-thru, something to do with ice, instead it’s made of liquorice bootlace, and it makes me hungry.

So to conclude, Club 200X pisses all over Club Eternia again, and to add insult to injury it does it with a nobody made up of mostly recycled parts over a fan favourite vintage figure who’s nearly all new tooling. The fact that Saurod is flawed  unfortunately fails to take my mind off the whole mess with the line at the moment, but the fact that Chooblah's so damn awesome does go a  long way to making it all worthwhile and maybe I will stand Saurod with the Star Wars Black bounty hunters, he’d fit in nicely between Bossk and Green Greedo.

You are a sad, strange, little man -
and you have my pity.
1 The toys feature electronics, the first in the line to do so (and in fact one of the very few to carry over their vintage action feature) even though Mattel design knew full well they couldn’t ship electronics to Europe, a continent that includes Germany – home to one of the largest and noisiest MOTU fanbases - they are, as of this post ‘working on it’.
2 *takes a deep breath* King Hiss – the character – transforms his upper torso into one made of snakes, his original toy was based around this concept, and his original Masters of the Universe Classics figure came with a swappable snake torso as an accessory despite him requiring lots of new tooling.  Fans and then-Brand Manager Scott ‘Toyguru’ Neitlich were unhappy with both the original figure and the original snake torso. This year the first extra quarterly item in the subscription was a 2pack of Snake Amor He-Man and Battle Armor King Hsss (their 200X looks) but the new Snake Torso (designed after the artwork of the late, great Earl Norem) didn’t ‘cost out’ and along with He-man’s shield was cut BUT it was shown last year at San Diego Comic Con alongside the two-pack and we were told by Neitlich that subscribers would receive it with another figure, we were then told this again in an official MattyCollector video on their site. Come this year’s SDCC and the Snake Torso was not on show or even mentioned despite the rest of this year’s subscription items being revealed, when asked about it the New Team who’ve taken over from Neitlich were confused and then said they had plans, but did not reveal them. Later (after SDCC) they revealed that they were now going to be selling the torso with new lower legs and accessories as a full price out-of-sub extra figure (it was originally been planned to come with Buzzsaw Hordak). So the item went from a something that was free and in-subscription to something that would be full price and out-of-subscription. Fans were not happy, fans were incredibly not happy, in fact some fans have been contacting Better Business Bureau and have been taken seriously by them, and Mattel, who issued at least one gift voucher (for $45 I believe). For a short time it seemed the old new plan (new full price figure) seemed to be off and a new one is being formulated, but the New Team are not conversing with fans very much, in fact they seem to be what can only be described as sulking, now complainers have been given the option to cancel their subscriptions, which some are doing.
3 some fans continue to complain that the detail on the Movie figures (and some of the vintage figure/200X inspired toys) make them stand out when placed alongside the simpler vintage inspired figures and those taken from the Mattel style guides and the FILMation cartoons but I have my Gwildor (easily the most detailed Classics figure) standing right behind my Rotar and Zodac (easily not some of the most detailed Classics figures) and none looks out of place or from a different line to me. 
4 Mattel are particularly INSANE about pointy parts, even on a toy sold clearly marked as for adults only

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