We've talked before about variations, repacks, and the need for companies to keep the main stars of their toyline on store shelves. Of course, there are smart ways to do it, and then there are completely idiotic ways. Recently, it's seemed Mattel has favored the fools' path, with insipid abominations that have caused line after line to fail both economically and intellectually. But that wasn't always the case: in the '80s, the Masters of the Universe line managed to be hugely successful with only a few select variations.
When Skeletor appears on the battlefields of Eternia wearing enchanted armor and wielding a mystical axe capable of cleaving stone, He-Man knows he needs an edge. The Sorceress leads him deep within the dark halls of Castle Greyskull, to a room pulsing with magical energies - the armory of King Grayskull himself! Ignoring the elaborately crafted and intricately inlaid pieces, He-Man chooses a dusty breastplate, marked with an ancient heraldic symbol of Grayskull's line, and promises to return it as soon as the battle is over. As he leaves to join the fight, the richly crafted weapons shimmer and fade, revealing a smaller, more humble collection: the true weapons of Grayskull's armory.
For their final series of MotU ministatues, NECA and the Four Horsemen gave us a new version of He-Man. Yes, the real toyline gave us a plain version and several alternate costumes, both good and bad, but this one is still welcome.
This is obviously an update of 1984's Battle Armor He-Man, the figure that introduced the "rolling drum in the chest" feature: you'd hit the chest once, and a slash would appear in the armor; hit it again, and a second would roll around. Then you'd reset it and start again. Of course, this is a solid statue - it doesn't have the action feature, which means the design has to stand on its own. Can it?
This statue's head and legs
are shared with the 2007 exclusive "Classic Colors He-Man" statue, which is a good choice. The head features wind-blown hair, and a face that's slightly different than the one seen on the action figures. The jaw is broader and less angular, and the eyes set differently. It may not look like the old toys, but it does bear more than a superficial resemblence to the Horsemen's version of King Randor, keeping it all in the family. The blowing hair helps make He-Man look more savage, as well.
The sculpt on the furry loincloth is quite different than the one used on the regular figure,
actually looking more animated and stylized. That's unexpected. The plates of the armor match the '84 original, front and back - what would have been the "battle damage drum" is even recessed, which was originally a necessity of the action feature, but has been turned into a physical design choice. The H symbol on his chest is a raised element, with a sculpted interior edge.
With painted shadows, this figure is already looking better than the normal He-Toys. His underwear (which is actually sculpted all the way beneath, since there's no worry about room for articulation) has highlights, shadows and multiple tones. Not only does his sporran get its own paint app (a leathery brown), the straps holding it on his belt get painted, as well. His wristbands,
bootwraps and the symbol on his chest are clean, but his neck - which should be flesh colored - is the same silver as the rest of his armor.
He-Man is armed with his standard over-technical sword and axe. The axe is the same sculpt as the real toys', but the Sword of Power is slightly different: it's molded as a single, solid piece, rather than having the articulated flap at the hilt. The blade is warped, though whether that's a problem with the mold or the production process, I couldn't say. The axe is painted with bronze detailing, rather than gold, and the apps on the sword are slightly different, as well.
Each of the Masters of the Universe figure-scale statues comes with a hexagonal display base. Actually, they all come with the same display base: a generic technological thing that's color-coded to the character's allegiance. Battle Armor He-Man poses on the same dark blue base as the rest of his pals.
Yes, Battle Armor He-Man is a good variation, but we're not saying that because it's an update of an old toy, rather than a new design. The difference is it's clean, simple, and looks like somthing a barbarian warrior might actually wear. There are no samurai stilts, no whirling doodads, nothing that says "designed to be a toy." It's not variations that ruin a toyline, but stupid ones, and this is anything but.