Masters of the Universe was a sort of repressed memory for me. I never recalled how heavily I was into Skeletor and his ultra self-defeatist plots until I started writing about 'em on this site. In fact, when I was a kid (or more appropriately, a younger one) ...He-Man probably topped the Transformers for me. I make fun of it a lot, but it was a great little show that somehow taught us to be virtuous and good by showing us how devil skull monsters and fur-covered morons fail when they act morally deprived. The fact that a lot of us learned to face our problems from Teela and Orko isn't exactly a life lesson for the ages, but hey, it got the job done. And of course, those toys were pretty cool.
And as for those toys, there's recently been a big buzz going on...they're re-releasing the MOTU line! Yep, just as we dragged our parents through the aisles back in the mid-80s, we'll be able to walk through the aisles of any toy store and marvel at Skeletor's goat staff once again. A lot of old school fans balk at this kinda stuff, either saying how it depreciates the value of the old figures, or it kills the 'mythology' and memories of the whole deal. I couldn't disagree more. The more other people like the stuff we like, the better of a chance it'll stick around. I can deal with knowing my loose Spikor isn't worth as much as it used to be...a small price to pay to finally smell that awful plastic only a freshly-opened Skeletor could produce. Remember, good fans try to keep their obsessions alive...not to themselves.
But, new fans aren't gonna get the full taste. They're re-releasing the figures, but they're certainly not re-releasing all the figures. And with good reason - some of these guys didn't just defy logic...they blatantly insulted it. So while we can expect to get He-Man, Skeletor, Orko and the crew...there's a ton of old school toys out there that will only see the light of day on eBay auctions and estate sales. Today, we take a look at some of 'em, as I present the ten strangest Masters of the Universe figures of all time!
Two-Bad was one of Skeletor's favorite minions...a guy who had two heads for him to make fun of. I think that's how Skeletor judged his associates. If he could really establish a good, consistent volley of insults against them, he'd be more likely to keep them around. This explains Beast Man's prominence - a guy who gets made fun of by Skeletor at least 35 times per episode. On the flipside, Skeletor respected Batros...and Batros only appeared in one episode.
Two-Bad was an idiot, only it was worse since he had twice the anti-brain power of regular idiots. Case in point - his figure's arms are structured in such a way so that Two-Bad can only punch himself. While some of Eternia's heroes might be a little thrown off and afraid when a two-headed monster comes charging at them, all worries die off when he starts punching himself in the head. Notice the shield - this was the only villain in the MOTU universe who needed to protect himself from himself. Adding to Two-Bad's misery was the fact that his torso weighed about 4 times more than his lower regions, rendering his ability to stand almost null. This was the toy you set up to sit on the sidelines as the other ones battled and had volleyball competitions. Eternia's version of a Siamese Twin. Only Two-Bad was a little more fortunate, since neither side had any chance of scoring. At least there wouldn't be any awkward moments on the honeymoon.
Snout Spout might be the weirdest of all the characters we'll talk about in this article. Every aspect of this guy brings rounds of laughter. First and foremost, its an elephant. They can say its a mask, a robot, whatever they want...but pictures don't lie, and we're looking at an elephant. Now I know He-Man's seen a lot of strange stuff in his adventures, but don't tell me he could keep a straight face trying to explaining anything to this guy. I think even He-Man would break down and start laying in the nose jokes.
But that's only the surface of Snout Spout's army of inconsistencies...wanna hear his role in Eternia? He's their firefighter. Yes, that long spout is actually a hose...making SS the one true savior to Skeletor's random acts of arsen. I'd think that Eternia would be in real trouble if a fire ever started. Think about it...if your kitchen went on fire, would you try your best to put it out yourself, or give in and call the weird elephant over for help? I'd die in flames before attempting to explain the situation to a guy with a giant elephant head. Unfortunately for Snout Spout, Eternia's citizens weren't the only ones who avoided him. In a world of Mer-Men, Hordaks, and Teelas...ol' Spouty wasn't all that popular. Chinese calendars may have dedicated some off years to elephants, but rest assured, none of them fell between 1984-1989.
Scare Grow Spectror never should've made it past the board. I never grabbed this one as a child...a common lament since it really didn't look anything like a He-Man figure. This one looked more like those awful knock-off figures they sell in supermarkets. But a knock-off he ain't - believe it or not, this is supposed to be the ghost of Skeletor.
Hmmm. Now, I don't have the mini-comic in front of me to explain this guy's origin, so we'll use the logical sequence of events usually found in MOTU episodes. If this guy is Skeletor's ghost, wouldn't that mean Skeletor's dead? Or is he just a heavy meditator, able to seperate himself from his aura and force it to do evil deeds. After all, as the package clearly states, this isn't just Skeletor's ghost...its Skeletor's evil ghost. Scare Grow sought to please the masses by gaining the ability to glow in the dark, but nobody was fooled. He still sucked. Glowing in the dark won't help him in a world where every character has a totally ridiculous special trait. Seriously, this series really reached sometimes. If a character wasn't good enough on its own merit, it was granted a giant left hand, extending neck, grass skin, or some other asinine trait to make it look more important. In the end, the kiddies knew who was worth a shit. Was it Scare Grow? Well, according to how rare it is to find one nowadays...I don't think too many were sold back in the day. Course, it was a late issue and probably didn't see too much time on the shelves, but that's just lead to rumors that Skeletor's ghost sucked so bad he effectively killed the MOTU line altogether. But since we respect the dead, we'll leave the true reasons up to you and move on to the next figure...
Ahhh....Stinkor. One of my all time favorite action figures, ever. Everyone has things in their lives that they love for seemingly no reason. I know why I like soda, I know why I like water guns...but I have no idea why I like Skeletor's skunk warrior. I was going to say I felt somewhat of a kinship with him as a child, but that'd mean I really smelled as a kid. So let me try something else. Stinkor wasn't just a skunk in armor. He was a skunk in armor who really smelled!
Yes, Stinkor may very well be the first action figure who's special action feature was to smell bad. The package cited him as the 'evil master of odors', filling us in on the awful truth: Stinkor didn't use his power to stink like shit for the forces of good. His armor 'attached' to his mouth so Stinkor was protected from his own rank scent, but we weren't so lucky. While the smell wasn't nauseating, its definitely not a figure little kids rubbed on their necks before the hot babysitter came over. And since little kids don't have that logic circuit that says 'you really don't want to buy things that smell bad', Stinkor was a pretty popular toy. Unfortunately, if he ever appeared on the cartoon, I missed it. I would really love to see Skeletor try to explain how Stinkor's scent would help him unlock the secrets of Greyskull. He's managed to find ways to make stealing Eternia's books correlate to that...surely Stinkor would show the same promise.
Buzz-Off, He-Man's friendly bee comrade. Man, you think our world has trouble assimilating the races...take a look at Eternia. For total equality, skunks have to have sex with bees and have children that show a striking resemblence to two-headed elephants. Thank the Sorceress that place was so open-minded and unpredjudiced.
Buzz-Off, for all intents and purposes, was a giant bee. Nothing more, nothing less. It looks as though one of the original MOTU good guys, Stratos, just wasn't cutting it. If you've been with us through some of our episode reviews, its easy to see why. Stratos was more interested in hanging out with Ram-Man and showing up to tell He-Man that Man-At-Arms could help him than actually doing anything of note. Secondly, Stratos often lived under the assumption that he was a mute, and if there's anything He-Man hates, its a guy who doesn't turn his statements into a form of a question, letting him repeat himself as many times as possible.
To make up for that, we got Buzz-Off. The bee. He was the heroic spy in the sky, a totally inconspicuous 6' tall human bee who no villain would think twice about. Remember, the villains we're dealing with aren't the brightest bunch. They could easily find a way to negate how strange it was to see Buzz-Off flying around Snake Mountain with a notepad and a walkie talkie. 'Oh, just another one of those annoying, giant, eccentric bees. Pay him no mind. Now, listen to my plan to attack Castle Greyskull.' Playing poker with the blind isn't tough, and playing spy to a bunch of morons isn't all that hard either. Buzz-Off served his purpose well, despite creeping out half of Eternia by being a giant bee. Oh, and he came with a helmet, because Masters of the Universe implores you to indulge in all the proper safety procedures before flying!
Twistoid and Rotar were an experiment in toy-making gone horribly wrong. These 'Energy Zoids' made up for thier lack of legs by gaining the ability to spin around on any hard surface....theoretically. Imagine what would happen if you tried spinning a top that weighed 1 pound on the left side, 2 pounds on the right, and about 3 ounces at the bottom. Wouldn't spin very long, right? Twistoid and Rotar's ability to walk was better than their spinning skills...a trait that ultimately rendered them some of the worst toys the line ever made, and shunned by the general public. Because of that, they're now very rare and cost a ton nowadays. Funny how stupid we can be, right? If they ever cure cancer, I'm sure someday someone will pay millions for a liquid version of it. Hey, it'll be rare.
I've had the sheer displeasure of having these two jokers in my collection...and they really are bad. There's some toys that kids leave perpetually on their shelves or floor because they see a lot of playtime...and then there's others that sit in boxes and bins in our closets till we throw 'em away. Twistoid and Rotar establish a third distinction: toys that you burn out of sheer rage because you actually thought they'd be cool.
Sometimes, He-Man branched out to different types of figures. With a figure like Modulok, a two-headed alien with 50,000 removable body parts...the end results were cool. In Twistoid and Rotar's case, you'd be better off buying two extra Buzz-Off figures. An insect army of virtue.
Faker presented a clear cut case as to why some villain really needed to overthrow Skeletor and teach the other bad guys how to not suck so bad and with such persistence. Faker was an evil He-Man android clone created by Skeletor, not only to fight the good guys, but to trick 'em. Now, I've made fun of Man-At-Arms plenty of times, and he's deserved it each and every time for being so pitifully useless. But even he would second guess 'He-Man' if he suddenly turned bright blue and dyed his hair. What was Skeletor thinking? If he could create this android, surely he could produce a skin color remotely on par with Eternia's greatest hero. Faker does a pretty piss poor job of living up to his namesake.
I'm just at a loss for words. I'm speechless. Skeletor was never a major brain, but this painful lack of attention to details is unbelievable. Let's even go as far to say that they managed to trap He-Man in some cave in Eternia, an easy imprisonment considering that Eternia has 5,000 caves all equipped with chains nailed to the wall. Even with He-Man gone, how could anyone believe Faker was the real deal? He's blue for Christ's sake! Faker might be able to get away with saying he's a messy painter for a few hours, but I think someone would get a little suspicious when he starts trying to slice off Orko's head with his orange sword. I'll give Skeletor an A for effort, but as always, an F for implementation. By the way, ironically, Faker is one of the more highly-sought figures today. I guess people want to re-enact the classic exchange between him and Teela..
Faker: Hello, Teela.
Teela: Who are you?
Faker: He-Man, here to finally give in to our quasi-romantic relationship. Declothe immediately.
Teela: You're not He-Man. Your skin is blue.
Faker: Yes...its awfully chilly out today, Teela.
Teela: Your hair is orange.
Faker: I dyed it in a tribute to Halloween. Same with my sword.
Teela: You have robot buttons on your chest.
Faker: Its Darth Vader Day. Get with the spirit.
Teela: You don't sound the same as He-Man.
Faker: Well, I have a cold. I told you it was chilly.
Teela: And the purple underwear?
Faker: They have a cold too.
Sadly, knowing these guys and gals, Faker would probably end up convincing Teela that he is He-Man, and that he somehow forgot his way to the secret chamber of Eternia's royal secret scrolls.
Clawful, Snake Mountain's evil lobster. Is it any surprise why these guys turned to a life of crime? These are some pretty serious and pretty disenchanting birth defects. I imagine at one point, Clawful was a good guy. A straight A student, captain of some sports team, president of the school treasury, the whole nine yards. Poor guy probably flipped after the girl of his dreams turned him down for the prom, explaining how she likes men, not boys, and especially...not lobsters. In from there, it was all downhill for the once-promising Clawful.
The world of MOTU had a pretty disturbing chunk of people with giant, mutant hands, and Clawful completes that trio nicely. As a kid, I always wanted him, but he was never to be found in the stores. I remember a contest they were running where a kid could win an entire set of MOTU figures...I was drooling at the mouth. Not because I wanted all those toys...but because I had to have a Clawful. Oh jeez, now that I think about it, I spent the better part of 1985 looking for this guy. Someday I'm going to write a timeline of my life, and its gonna be the simplest process ever. 1979-1985: slept, played with toys. 1985-1986 - looked for Clawful. 1986-1987 - decided one of my friends who liked carrots was a 'rabbit', and influenced the neighborhood children to draw up and deliver mocking 'Daily Rabbit' newspapers to his front door. 1987-present: slept, played with toys.
All in all, for a wasted villain, at least Clawful looked pretty cool. He came with a mace and removable chest armor, because as evident by the shiek skin tone, Clawful liked to be evenly tanned.
King Hiss: At some point in time, Mattel decided that He-Man fans needed to see their hero in a state of peril that Skeletor and Hordak obviously couldn't produce. After soundly defeating everyone and everything thrown at him, nobody watched He-Man with any kind of intrigue. When a guy defeats his enemies by blowing on them, all the suspense is gone. So, in an effort to balance the power, we got the Snake Men, a name so clever it got a Mattel exec a 50,000 dollar bonus.
The Snake Men were all so characteristically odd that they deserve to be here, but for sake of diversity, we'll take the leader. Just know that other entries into the snake department included a water-spraying cobra, and another guy who had arms that were, literally, over a foot long in diameter. King Hiss was the driving force behind the reptilian menace, a seemingly unstoppable threat that sought to take over Eternia and turn it into a serpentine sanctuary of pure evil. More than anything else though, he had the silliest special feature I've ever seen.
When people first came face to face with King Hiss, they often laughed at him. He didn't look like much. Just a normal guy in a green suit. No extending neck, wings, battle-armor chest, giant fists, not even the ability to turn into a boulder. But! Push him one step too far, and what happens? His torso explodes off, revealing THE GOD SNAKE OF HELL underneath, a tiny skinny snake who would appear to have trouble defeating Orko, much less He-Man or anyone who can move their arms. Ultimately, for all the hype surrounding King Hiss, he was a shitty figure to have. Everyone who had him lost his human disguise, and all we had left was this pathetic half snake, half human hybrid that looked absolutely unimposing with virtually no redeeming play value. On top of all that, his head was positioned to only look straight up. King Hiss was worthless, but he wasn't short. The only people who could possibly lose to this guy are Stratos and Buzz-Off, since they're the only ones Hiss can see. The Snake Men were popular for a few minutes, but ultimately went into the trash bin of failed action figure special effects. Right alongside those pro-wrestling figures that could really sweat!
Terror Claws Skeletor! There was a time in my life where I really thought Skeletor was a badass. I'm not saying he's not evil, I'm just saying he was terrible at it. Skeletor couldn't get anything done, so really, he's no worse than those of us who've threatened to kill our bosses or who have thought about robbing banks. In between one failure to the next, Skeletor would sometimes resign himself to the Snake Mountain Workshop, which was located somewhere near that weird microphone that let you sound...somewhat different, on the second floor. This is where he prepared new inventions to defeat He-Man. Sometimes they'd be vehicles, sometimes robots, and other times, like this one, they'd be self-improvements.
Terror Claws Skeletor's new outfit gave him the ability to really scratch you. It also hindered every other ability he had. Skeletor could no longer fly a shuttle, no longer do his infamous zombie-walking impersonation without toppling over...a lot of things went down the drain. It amazes me...instead of, I dunno, installing lazer weapons into his gloves, or adding a special jetpack to his cape...Skeletor determines that the secret to beating He-Man is to grossly exaggerate the size of his hands. I guess the element of surprise was on his side when he debuted this, but even a Skeletor with giant hands is still a Skeletor. He-Man beat him soundly as usual. (mind you, around the same time He-Man started using 'Thunder Punch' weaponry, which made Skeletor's giant gloves look like fossils by comparison)
Skeletor has also been known to try out new methods of conquest by attaching water-squirting dragons to his back, installing red light bulbs in his staff, and adding three slashes to his chestplate. In every case, Skeletor eventually theorized that all his work in constructing new outfits was a complete and total waste of time.
Will we see figures like these re-released? Not likely. Maybe if the entire world decided that they love He-Man and bought every figure put out, we'd see some more. But 2 to 1 - few kids are going to be interested in a blonde guy wearing fuzzy underwear when right next to him, Action Man begs you with electronic swimming action and a huge gun. Most of these figures will be bought by collectors, nostalgia enthusiasts, and aunts who really don't know their nephews' tastes too well. So grab 'em while you can...the spirit of MOTU might live forever, but its shelf life is about as immortal as one of Skeletor's world-destruction ships. You know, the kind He-Man would destroy by glancing at with malintent.
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