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Count Marzo

Masters of the Universe Classics
by yo go re

As much as I loved the show as a kid, there's no shame in admitting that the '80s version of He-Man was universally terrible. The only reason it was popular at all was that it was the first show poised to take advantage of Reagan's 1983 loosening of television restrictions. The 2002 series took all of the characters and basically reinvented them from the ground up. Take, for instance, Count Marzo.

A fifth degree wizard raised by evil mystics in the Dunes of Doom, Marzo spent most of his early life learning of the many advantages of magic over technology. Seeing the suffering of warriors in the Dark Hemisphere, Marzo become convinced that Eternia would be better off with him as its leader. He staged a series of strategic uprisings across the planet and challenged King Miro for his crown. Unable to defeat the King's army, Marzo used his magical amulet to banish Miro into another dimension. In their father's absence, Miro's royal sons heroically joined together and defeated the wizard, trapping him in the form of a powerless old man.

In the original cartoon, Count Marzo was a prancing dandy whose every plot seemed to revolve around kidnapping and drugging smooth young boys. In retrospect, it's rather unsettling. Good thing he's entirely forgotten today. The modern incarnation of Marzo is much less like Herbert from Family Guy, and is instead more like an evil Siddhartha Gautama: he lived in isolation, and was moved to action the first time he saw the world. It just so happens that his action was bad, rather than good.

For better or worse, the MotU Classics take inspiration from the '80s toys: not just the chubby proportions, but in the way they re-used pieces between figures to create new characters. The greatest strength of the 2002 line was the way the Four Horsemen played with that old convention while still managing to avoid it, but hey, there you go. Marzo has the same body as King Grayskull, with a bracelet on his right arm and a bracer on his left, and he gets his boots (or shins, at least) from Skeletor. His skirt is new, as is his combination chestpiece/cape.

Marzo was substantially redesigned for the MYP cartoon: gone was the Elizabethan couture, with the puffy shirts, leggings and pageboy haircut; about the only thing that was the same was the fact that he wore a red cape. This figure cheats on the rings that circle his shoulders - they don't actually continue under the arms, instead tapering to dulled points as they come down his chest. It still gets the idea across, and that's what matters, right? Faking the loops not only allows the cape to be removable, it also means the accessory could be pulled from the mold in one piece, rather than having to be assembled.

The packaging gives the character's real name as Marzo Kalif - "Kalif" being an alternate spelling of "caliph," which ultimately comes from the Arabic خليفة (ḫalīfa, "successor") - you know, a political leader? Almost like, say, a count? His hair is sculpted as though it were blowing in the wind, which is appropriate since it was always in motion on the cartoon. His pointy goatee is merely okay - the mouth visible within it seems to sit too far above the "surface": it really needs to sink back a bit more to look like it actually lines up with the rest of his face.

All the MotU Classics figures share the same 28 joints: neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists, chest, waist, hips, thighs, knees, boots and ankles. If you take the chest armor off, Marzo's head is very loose, but how often are you going to do that? The ankles on mine are a little wobbly, but his cape is so close to the ground that the guy just won't fall over. The color scheme is very striking, at least for the MotU line - other than Hordak, nobody wears red and black. There's a healthy dose of grey breaking up the darkness, and individual silver apps on the skirt's studs. Those get sloppy, but not to an extent worth complaining about. The black pattern along the lower hem of his cape doesn't fully fill its intended area, despite the edges being sculpted. And if you really want to get technical, his eyes should be solid red, but maybe that didn't look right on the toy.

Count Marzo has two accessories: a sword, and an amulet. The sword, with its ornate cross guard and unusual tip come straight from the cartoon (with a few minor differences in both sculpt and paint), and there's a perfectly shaped bracket on the right hip to hold the weapon when not in use. The amulet is the source of Marzo's power, so it would have been ridiculous if Mattel hadn't included it. But rather than making it a molded part of the hand, it's a separate piece molded from translucent red plastic and painted with a silver rim. The figure even gets a newly designed hand to clutch the gem perfectly. Love it!

Count Marzo was the ensemble darkhorse of the update MOTU cartoon. Originally a forgotten throwaway from the '80s, he proved to be one of the biggest badasses on Eternia - made even moreso by the fact that he wasn't part of Skeletor's gang, but rather an unaffiliated third party with his own interests and goals. Ideally we would have gotten him in the 2002 toyline, or even as one of NECA's ministatues, but as a Classics figure, he's still pretty good. It took him nearly an hour to sell out on his release day, though, so Mattel will probably use him as evidence that there's no demand for the new characters.

Now, when do we get a pack-in of Marzo in his decrepit old man form?

-- 07/26/10


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