Friday 12 August 2016

Quick Crappy Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Collector's Choice Despera & Crita*

So Masters of the Universe Classics then, Mattycollector is shutting down at the end of this year, they’re selling off all their remaining stock and the He-Man and She-Ra licence is going to Super7. Super7 have announced their plans to continue with both Masters of the Universe Classics Collector’s Choice and He-Man & The Masters of the Universe as well as create some new figures in the style of the 1980’s vintage Masters of the Universe line (in fact they’ve already done this, they’re just going to do more), for 2017. I’ll believe it when I see prototypes with a release date less than a year away, until then our last guaranteed MOTUC figure is coming in December. Classics was very much my gateway back into the world of ‘adult collector’s figures’ (a term I still dislike) and it’s easily my favourite adult collector’s line but my enthusiasm has been waning and although there are still characters I’d like to have figures of this review marks the last of the essential characters as far as I’m concerned, well except for the Twiggets, who totally should have been the SDCC item this year, so I’m not as sad to see the line (potentially) go as I would have been a year or two ago. Also please note it was murderously hot in my loft today so the photographs aren't of my usual 'quality'. 

Today we have the July 2016 releases for Masters of the Universe Classics Collector’s Choice, the alliterative continuation of Masters of the Universe Classics sold only via, the collector’s wing of Mattel, or at least the collector’s wing of Mattel until December this year. Crita is the regular July figure and Despera the subscription figure, meaning only subscribers will be receiving her, it’s funny how that works, if you subscribe you get the exclusive chance to give Mattel more money, but damn it if I don’t appreciate it every time. 

We’ll start with Despera because she requires more words. Despera is the first action figure to be based off of DC Comics’ relaunched Masters of the Universe comic books, which I hate – to me they combine everything that’s wrong with the Nu52 with everything that’s wrong about how people like to reinterpret He-Man and I’m shocked and appalled such junk could come from Keith Giffen - but I’m actually ok with Despera. She isn’t a new character as such, but rather who Adora thought she was when she was when she was still with the Evil Horde. For those of you who don’t have a good knowledge of 80’s girls’ cartoons (feel bad!), She-Ra (whose real name is Adora) is He-Man’s twin sister, but was taken and raised by Hordak on Etheria where she became a ‘Force Commander’ for his Horde, in the comic books he raised her under the name Despera and this is the outfit she wore as Force Commander. The reason I’m ok with Despera is because it’s a change for the better, though I never noticed it as a kid as an adult, well a teen actually, I came to wonder very quickly why a) Hordak raised the child under her real name, and a real name as sappy as Adora as well and b) why Adora chose to continue wearing her Horde uniform after switching sides, the answers to these are a) FILMation wasn’t nearly as creative as Lou Scheimer liked to tell you it was and didn’t think kids were as clever as Lou Scheimer liked to say they did b) to reuse animation cells because this was cheaper. Despera solves both of these issues neatly and gives her a pretty badass Horde-style costume to go with it, though like everything in DC’s comic it’s a bit over-designed. Despera debuted in issue one of the second volume of He-Man & The Maters of the Universe (which is technically volume four but let’s not get into that) and fans took to her almost instantly, asking for a Classics figure immediately.

So here it is, and it kicks major arse, I have a complaint here or there that of course I’m going to tell you about but overall she is firmly ‘kick’ and ‘ass’. The biggest deal really is how many new parts have been used to get her just right, well the art on the comic is utterly terrible at staying consistent so as just right as you can get when working from something like that, only her shoulders, biceps and feet are re-used as far as I can tell, her hands might be but we’ll get into them in a minute; that’s a hell of a lot of new tooling for a line that was being downsized and even more for a fucking subscription item (though this isn’t without it’s precedent in MOTUC, both Shadow Weaver and the Unknown One were almost all new tools while being subscription items, as was the Head Pack). Everything is great, the details are sculpted sharp and painted crisp, at least on mine, and her mask is absolutely terrifying, the Four Horseman do make excellent creatures. Complaints then: well she has those shitty new ankles but her all-black boots help hide their ugliness and my figure has pretty stiff joints so they’re not causing her to fall over yet, to balance out that upside is her hands, which are really wide and her left hand is very thin around the knuckle area, I damaged it slightly while struggling to pull her from the plastic bubble because Mattel still do stupid things like package figures with their capes and half the weapons they have in their hands through the other side of it and meaning freeing them is akin to pulling something out from behind the radiator with a barbeque fork. She drops her staff pretty often and I’ve only had her out the packaging a day. The main complaint is her cape and armour piece, it looks great but it’s not actually attached in any way, relying on gravity to keep it down and flush to her body and gravity, while thankfully very reliable, isn’t really into detail, so it sits wonky fairly often and the weight of the cape pulls it down at the back, making the front stick up a little when she’s just standing, it could have done with a little peg somewhere.

Both girls are absolutely loaded down with accessories for MOTUC figures but Despera comes out just ahead of her fellow female second-in-command: she comes with both her swords and her staff and all three have all the necessary paint apps, she looks awesome with either weapons but I’m more partial to the staff, just makes her look more of her father’s child, plus while both swords can be stored on the figure, the staff cannot. She doesn’t have her own unique Horde Crossbow, which is a little bit of a shame, but as she has so much stuff it seems a bit arseholey to moan about that. Her other accessory is her unmasked head, although as she comes packaged with it I guess her masked head is the accessory but I don’t to display her with her mask off so, oh whatever – she has two interchangeable heads, one masked and one unmasked. The masked head is fantastic as I’ve already said, the unmasked head is… I dunno, it’s accurate but it’s very cute and she look really kind of happy; I know a lot of fans prefer these ‘neutral’ heads but this really isn’t that neutral, she looks like you’ve just got her drinks order right without asking and she’s a Force Commander for the Horde, I think that should allow for a less neutral, more nasty face sculpt – Christ, Catra looked like she was about to stamp on your nuts just for daring to look at her and Entrapta (who should look cute and mildly pleased) looked downright terrifying. I suppose it’s not really relevant to me as I’m wasn’t going to use it anyway and it’s an accessory she ‘should’ have come with so I suppose it’s good anyway…?

Crita is way too important to have been relegated to maybe coming out in a continuation if we got it, If you weren’t imaginary you’d probably think this was all a bit of a strange thing to say as there’s a good 70% chance you have no idea who the fuck Crita is or even how to pronounce her name (it’s pronounced like ‘critter’) but trust me, I’m a nerd. Crita is the ‘Evil-Lyn’ of The New Adventures of He-Man – the space He-Man show you probably didn’t like – and was the most prominent villain in the show after Skeletor, her rivalry with Mara only increasing her importance and screen time as the show went on to the point that she and Skeletor made up the final battle in the series finale. She didn’t get an action figure in He-Man, the toyline that New Adventures tied into but was more prominent than all of the Evil Mutants that did, even Flogg. Leaving her out is akin to leaving out Baroness or Starscream or Goldar or Bebop & Rocksteady, only slightly less so because half the fanbase hates New Adventures. I rarely pick on Scott ‘Toyguru’ Neitlich (the Brand Manager who was responsible) or Son of He-Man (because I actually quite like it) but this time Scott I’m with the haters, Dare shouldn’t have got Evilseed’s slot when we had Skeletor’s second in command for a major incarnation of (and a four year period of) the franchise still unmade1.

BUT now we have her and so it all doesn’t matter anymore, and it matters even less because she’s fucking fantastic, even if mine does have slightly dodgy paint-apps. There’s a little bit less new on Crita but then she didn’t really require as much to get her accurate, she has new forearms, hands and shins and wonderfully a new upper torso, I say wonderfully because the torso piece is a big and expensive bit of tooling and it’s been done just to allow her to have her necklace, something that they could have done with an ugly additional piece (like they did with Eternian Palace Randor, maybe that’s why they didn’t do it his time, that was rubbish) and that’s a lot of expenditure for such a small detail on a New Adventures figure – still there was a lot of fan demand for her, maybe Mattel didn’t want to risk pissing off the most easily annoyed fan base on the internet for once hmm? In that case let me say that I greatly appreciate this Mattel. I was a little unimpressed with her headsculpt when I only had pictures to go on but in hand I can see this was wrong and where I went wrong to boot – front on shots really don’t do her massive amount of hair justice, maybe that’s why they didn’t mind tooling up a new upper torso, compared to her Jem & The Holograms ‘do that piece was relatively cheap. She does have a little bit of a flat face but the bigass barnet covers it up from most angles. Oh and no shitty new ankles. There’s some limited articulation because of her design, her legs and head are a little blocked but her arms are limited the most thanks to her shawl, she can’t really spread her arms or raise her hands too far forward (you won’t be able to get her elbow above her breasts) and that shawl is glued in there so if you want her pointing her staff you’ll have to get her shawl in front of her body, she’s a toy and doesn’t have shoulders to dislocate so that’s actually pretty easily to do, if not a little odd looking. I’m really glad of the shawl but they could have not glued it in, still they glued that meteorite that Strobo came with to its stand, so maybe whatever factory Mattel uses just REALLY like glue. Oh yeah if I don’t mention it someone will only notice, this is Crita in her first outfit, she had two, the latter ‘warrior’ style outfit made her look like a barbarian aerobics instructor. This look is my preferred look for the character (and that seems to be the consensus) so I’d rather this costume but this actually makes her the complete opposite of nemesis Mara.

Accessories then, because this Quick Crappy Review is taking far too long to both read and write. The quantity’s there again but this time the quality’s a little big lower – she comes with her regular wand, her wand in its whip form and a Space Mutant blaster, none of which have even been shown a paint brush. I’m pretty forgiving of accessories loosing paint apps, because I’d much rather the accessories than the figure itself and as both of her whips have a transparent gem glued in (though I think this makes them look a bit like a Super Soaker) I’m even more forgiving but it is a legitimate flaw so a review really does need to bring it up, the back of the card shows they’d intended to paint the rope of the whip and the strap of the gun, the former being show-accurate that way (it looked more like the head of the staff was on a rope stored in the handle, this accessory looks more like the handle has become a rope ala She-Ra’s sword). The blaster is awesome, I didn’t know she was coming with this so it as a nice surprise, it does look a little plain with no paint apps but it’s a cool sculpt and a cool design, and allows me to fantasise about Crita and Vasquez teaming up to blast Xenomorphs, though I think sadly it won’t get used on display.

Finished! That went on a bit, maybe I should retitle it ‘Normal Length Crappy Review’, nah, don’t wanna mess with the brand identity. Conclusion? These two rock and make me sad the future of the line is completely uncertain but they’re also really the last of the characters with their level of importance, or I guess the last of the regular price point figures of their level of importance (Twiggets and Sagitar please Super7) so really I guess that the line could never reach this ‘high’ again and that these are kind of the final word on Masters of the Universe Classics feeling from like it did in it’s heyday – wow that got depressing, especially as we’ve still got Tuskador to come.  

1 the final year of Masters of the Universe Classics was due to include the 200X version of Evilseed in its line-up, but when Mattel okayed the 200X Mini-Sub that figure was shifted over to be a big selling point for it, so the slot left over was given to Dare from He-Ro: Son of He-Man, a selection of unproduced shows intended to be what New Adventures at first then became a different show that would have come out between New Adventures and 200X. Neitlich really had a thing for this era but fans weren’t –and still aren’t - so hot on it and only got more lukewarm to the concept the more they felt Scott was ‘pushing’ it onto them. This moving of Evilseed is apparently why when Scott promised that Dare wouldn’t be in the 2015 line-up he wasn’t lying, as when he said that Dare wasn’t going to be, you can be sceptical of this if you wish. I like the ‘SOH’ concept and many of the characters who were intended for it (especially Kay-La and Evermean) but up until Dare was revealed Masters of the Universe Classics had contained one Son of He-Man era figure, a He-Man variant called King He-Man that was left over from a scuttled multi-media Son of He-Man project that would have worked similar to Star Wars’ Shadow of the Empire project. I like Dare’s figure and he made a good ‘bookend’ – He-Man’s ancestor (King Grayskull) beginning the line and his descendant (Dare) ending it but pretty much starting a new faction before you’ve completed all the major players in the other factions – major players like Crita – means you kind of suck at prioritising. Neitlich for his part said fan demand for Crita got too loud too late, i.e. if he knew she was demanded earlier he would have put her in but frankly he shouldn’t need us to make a loud noise for this one, she should have been prioritised just on Neitlich’s own knowledge of what he was working on.   

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