In May of 2000, I wrote a small tribute to one of my all-time favorite toys. It's on here somewhere -- not explicitly linked, because I didn't learn to string together statements of coherence until late 2001. Point is, I've always wanted to go back and give this particular toy the treatment it so richly deserved. Made in 1985 by Mattel for the "Masters of the Universe" collection, it's a super special action figure named Modulok.
Where do I start? Okay, the story of Modulok and I began during 1985 in my family's old living room, then decorated with a phony fireplace and, if I remember correctly, like 800 really ugly blue vases. I hadn't seen Modulok on the cartoon (he more frequently appeared on "Princess of Power," and as the boys at school told me, I wasn't allowed to watch She-Ra), but he was all over the commercials. For several weeks, I gazed in awe at this brand new action figure, the likes of which had never before been seen. Modulok was a He-Man figure, no doubt, but there'd never been one quite like him. In fact, there wasn't a single toy on the planet quite like Modulok. With twenty-two body parts that could be interchanged and mixed up in any which way, Modulok provided countless hours of playtime -- a plus mark outmatched only by the fact that he looked like such a cool little evil demon guy.
But, in 1985, I was still a wee lad. Hadn't quite hit the age when I was big and loud enough to irk Mommy into submission. Casual trips to Toys 'R' Us were a much rarer occasion. When I saw these commercials, the only thing I could do was hope and pray for an off-season present, and I'm not kidding when I say that this was exactly what I did. I can't remember going to these lengths for many other toys, but with Modulok, it was common practice for me to hurl and lunge myself in an almost sacrificial way, begging all sorts of higher powers for salvation. When you're a kid, you liken the whole "praying to God" bit to a genie's lamp. You were certain that, if you only could pray hard enough, God would deliver your action figure.
Well, one morning, I began the usual lunges and personal tosses of frustration after my 750th viewing of Modulok's commercial. Something I hadn't noticed before threw me over the edge. In the commercial, as usual, the new villain figure eventually matched up against a He-Man figure. In every ad spot of this type, the He-Man figure ultimately kicks the shit out of his foe -- every ad spot except Modulok's. He-Man never hits the guy. He's there, and he looks like he's winding up and stuff, but they end it off ambiguously: no winner announced. Modulok was that special. Special enough not to actually beat He-Man, but to not get his asses (there's two of them included) handed to him by He-Man. After seeing this, I lost my mind. Denting the walls with my skull and screaming in a way that'd put most kids on fire to shame, I prayed and prayed and begged for Modulok. Later that day, I got him. My mother bought him for me as a payoff for the long car drive and evening spent meeting my brother's fiance's family that would all start in just a few hours. Terrible party, if memory serves. Lots of paper dinnerware. But at least I got my Modulok, and he was even better than I'd imagined. Whether this story is proof of God or of our own ability to make things happen with our minds, I can't tell you. Plus I'm not even sure if this story was true. It sounds like it could've happened.
"The evil beast of a thousand bodies!" "The ultimate transforming creature!" Bravado wasn't lost on Mattel, and either were the trends: if we're talking about 1985, we're talking about a newly crowned sales leader known as "Transformers." Hasbro's competitors scrambled to take their slice of the transforming toy market, never quite getting there but doing some really amusing things in their attempts. The Masters of the Universe collection was inarguably starting to dwindle down by that point, and Mattel responded by trying out all sorts of weird, wacky things. When He-Man found himself in the company of a new ally -- "Snout Spout," the robotic elephant fireman -- he knew it was time to call it quits. He'd return, someday, but the elephant would stay dead.
As mentioned, Modulok was more of a "Princess of Power" villain. Pretty smooth move. The "Evil Horde" -- a subgroup of MOTU villain toys -- were all primarily seen on the She-Ra show, which had its own line of girly dolls with swords and combs and sugar. In that, Mattel had a cartoon that promoted two completely separate lines of toys. There was stuff for boys to buy, for girls to buy -- nobody could watch "Princess of Power" without buying something. Even for the kids who just tuned in for the daily Lokee Lookout, shit, they had an action figure for him too.
And thar is thy back story. From this point forth, we're all about Modulok. I will burn his name into your brain. I will burn it so hard you'll have smoke sifting out of your ass. And then I will collect my commission.
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There's the beast, the wonderful beast. Amazingly, Modulok only cost a single dollar more than his lackluster Masters of the Universe comrades -- or as the clever figurehead of a successful dollar store chain would say, "just a buck!" Six bucks! That's all he cost! Such deals were usually reserved for the shitty toys nobody wanted, like Vultureman from "Thundercats" or a Cloud Car Pilot. Granted, Modulok didn't have any tangible sort of cartoon star power, but this was a grrrreat toy.
Strangely, the figure hasn't appreciated much in value over the years. Even sealed versions sell as low as fifteen bucks on occasion. Meanwhile, the leggy Sorceress figure fetches seven thousand dollars. I assume that Modulok's price hasn't skyrocketed because a comparatively low number of people have ever even heard of the character -- he's the hidden gem for toy hunters who just mash the keyboard with their hands on eBay's search page. aklejajlkasjkla. aopsowiq0owi. podopopasisa. modulok.
Of his many parts, the most important tools of Modulok were his two heads -- one green and insect-like, the other much like any typical space alien, only a lot redder. I always preferred the alien head, I guess because the other one looked so passive and downtrodden. His side of the body always seemed to slump. Shown above is only one of the more "presentable" ways to build your Modulok. You could make him look like just about anything you wanted, or even divvy up the pieces to create several smaller monsters. You had crazy options. Even the dude's gun came in pieces. Take a look...
Twenty-two parts. Almost two dozen parts. Three pairs of legs, three pairs of arms. Two tails, two heads. Innumerable other parts that have no formal name. One chest. One man. One love. Modulok. Probably the sixth or seventh most important villain on a show featuring blue-haired girls having slumber parties and teaching ponies how to dress.
The box claimed that you could create over 1,000 different monsters using the pieces. I don't think I got above 30 or 40, and that was more than enough to make Modulok my new hero. Sure, the pieces came and went. Kids lose everything. Time flew by, and before you knew it, Modulok only had one head and a couple of legs left. My argument: that's still more than what most figures had. As an added bonus, it was always great finding Modulok's arms and heads under couch cushions six months after losing 'em. Reuniting the lost part with its body was a joyous experience, especially if you were eating candy at the same time.
So much potential, it's a shame they let it go to waste. Had they made Modulok one of the more prominent characters, his amazing toy would've surely broken box office records. Cursed by obscurity and Grizzlor, Modulok vents the terrible frustrations by covering one of his heads with a bucket and boasting to friends that he can still see them. Not the easiest lot in life, but could your favorite He-Man villain do this?
Children who owned Modulok likely had the sense that their creations were entirely unique. You'd sit there pushing together and prying apart the pieces for hours, not stopping until you were thoroughly convinced that your Modulok could not be duplicated by any other child. You owned a one-of-a-kinder. A real winner, a visionary. Plus, if you weren't feeling particularly creative, Mattel helpfully illustrated dozens of potential character mockups right on the package.
You'll notice that some of these interpretations are a bit of a stretch, most notably the instances where Modulok has no head. Others were more on the mark -- popular renditions included the "Spider Modulok," a slender but lengthy beast, and "Giant Modulok," who couldn't really stand under his own power, but boy was he tall!!! As interesting as these combinations were, most kids chose to follow their own lead. We wanted to create our own vision of Modulok. The only prerequisite seemed to be using every single one of his parts. I have no idea why, but we were adamant about using every damn Modulok body part. If we couldn't, it was a huge failure and we hated the toy. This thing played so many mind games with you.
Using what's left of my Modulok figure, I've created and photographed a few character possibilities. We'll see 'em in a bit -- first, let's figure out who this two-headed wonder with extra arms really was.
The above scan, taken from an old Masters of the Universe Marvel comic, displays Modulok's unfortunate adherence to the stupid stereotype surrounding any two-headed character: they must argue with themselves. Nope, you can't just have a two-headed character who uses its abnormality for a greater good -- it's always gotta argue with itself. Pretty shitty. Of course, in the end of this particular battle, Modulok takes too long deciding which head to use for the attack, enabling He-Man to sneak behind and smash them both with a giant boulder than wasn't seen in any previous panel.
The action figure also came with one of those "mini-comics," where the figure's origin is summed up in 100 words or less spread across ill-defined drawings of He-Man battling green and purple guys. In the mini-comic, Modulok is more like a little troll, endlessly scurrying about with a "you can't see me cuz I'm so small" smile on its face. Finally, we had the cartoon character. In his appearances on "Masters of the Universe" and "Princess of Power," Modulok was kind of a mad scientist -- the official goto guy whenever one of the villains needed a special gun that'd turn trees into man-eating tigers or a stick that was really a spaceship. Actually, of the secondary bad guys, Modulok was one of the most well-defined. I guess the writers knew that all eyes were gonna be on the two-headed red devil demon guy, so he had to have a personality. Modulok walked with personality.
More entertaining than Modulok's mini-comic was his two-color instruction sheet, which more or less reiterated that the figure was a gift from Heaven and should be treated accordingly. In this panel, Modulok fends off the combined forces of Man-At-Arms and Moss Man by attacking from two completely different angles. Better yet, this panel features Modulok snaking through plastic tubing looking all "I can't believe I can do this!" Finally, we've got Modulok battling against the landmark duo of He-Man and Skeletor. Remember, the Horde knew no allies. They'd kick the crap out of anyone.
There was an even bigger coup for the true Modulok enthusiast, illustrated here. If a kid bought several Modulok figures, they could create a gigantic and totally unstoppable Super Modulok standing four stories tall with twice as many heads. I'm so pissed that I never got to try this. Better start up that prayer scheme again.
If you wanted to have the ultimate, ultimate action figure, all ya had to do was combine Modulok with another of the Horde's deluxe figures, "Multi-Bot." The premise was the same and the parts were similar in scope, but Multi-Bot was even stranger. Instead of having a concurrent scheme throughout his body parts, Multi-Bot seemed to be a combination of a hundred different creatures. He appeared on the cartoon as well, though he didn't really look anything like the toy. Now I'm rambling. I have a point. Modulok and Multi-Bot's parts were of the same scale, so if you had both toys -- perhaps even a few sets of each -- check out what you could make...
If He-Man ever beat that thing up, we definitely know the writers played favoritism.
I've still got my original Modulok from way back when. Well, some of him. I've lost one of his heads, and the chest, and some other stuff, and the gun too, and an arm, and -- he's like 60% gone by this point. Even with that strike against me, I could still fashion a zillion creatures. Here's a few examples...
Now you know the legend of Modulok. The toy that redefined the word. The red guy with two heads. Koludom spelled backwards. Your new favorite thing in the whole wide world. Get 'em while they're hot, and if you're still not sold, check out the commercial that made me carve "Modulok 4 Eva" on my chest and get miffed when Marky Mark ripped it off in "Fear." So. LEMMEINTHAFUGGINHOUSE.
UGO and Columbia Pictures are doing a pretty cool contest for Hellboy -- Click here if you're into it. Grand prize is a vacation, a shitload of electronics and more Hellboy swag than should possibly be allowed to exist. These contests are legit and you don't get spammed or frigged with, so I've got no problem sending traffic its way. Will you be a lucky winner? Modulok won't guarantee it.