I wasss once a maaaaaan!

Previous Article - X-Entertainment - Next Article --- By Matt - 8.06/'02

Castle Grayskull isn't just some green pile of bricks shaped like a demon, and it's not just where the Sorceress takes showers. It's a magical place. The mythical castle where He-Man draws his strength from may seem pretty mundane and ugly at first glance, but truly, Grayskull's a house of unknown wonders that's kept fans curious for decades. Or at least a decade-and-a-half. Would that constitute 'decades'? Ah who cares.

In fact, without Castle Grayskull, the cartoon would've been downright boring. 99.3% of the episodes featured Skeletor trying to get inside the place to unmask it's secrets, so if there wasn't a Grayskull, the only thing the bad guys could do to prove their villainy is beat up on Teela. And really, misogyny is only gonna take a show so far. We never quite understood what 'secrets' or 'powers' Skeletor was trying to lift from the castle - all glimpses of Castle Grayskull on the cartoon showed nothing more than a series of dank empty rooms which may or may not include walls that transform into interdimensional portals.

But if Skeletor wanted in the place so bad, you know there had to be something cool in there. Maybe the basement was full of gold bricks, or pinball machines. Maybe Grayskull's got the only kitchen in Eternia to stock fresh blackberries. Who knows? While you couldn't figure it out by watching the show, the Castle Grayskull action figure playset goes a lot further in proving just how great the place was.

Owning this beast was the child equivalent of driving a really cool car or having a really hot girlfriend. You made everyone jealous with it. I knew kids who didn't even like He-Man, yet still trotted the castle around like a cute little puppy, showing it off to every last enviable fool in a ten mile radius. Look at the kid up there - he knows the deal. If he had a shittier playset, do you think he'd look that smug? Hell no, he's on top of the world with Grayskull. That's why he took it to the beach.

Yes, the beach. The old commercial, which came complete with a 'rap' song touting the benefits of having a Castle Grayskull toy, featured a bunch of kids doing all sorts of He-Man stuff on the shore. Between the stupid rap and various degrees of 80s surf style gear, I was waiting for Spuds Mackenzie to wander out and piss on a stack of Nintendo Power magazines. It's pretty dated. Watching it now, I can't help feeling a little old and a little stupid - not because I still like He-Man, but because at some point in my childhood, I thought kids walking around the beach in jams to a background score made on a six-dollar Casio keyboard was totally radical.

One of the kids gets to play Skeletor, so by default, he's today's starring villain. We'll call him 'Surfin' Steve Satan. Skeletor was the first He-Man figure I ever got, from my brother early one Christmas Eve. I was very young, so I spent more time chewing his fingers rather than making him plot murders. I think I ate most of the figure by Christmas morning. My Christmas Miracle had little to do with a poor family getting a house or a faraway father returning to home against all odds - mine was that I didn't choke to death.

I could never see realism in Christmas television specials as a kid, because they didn't show plates of Masters of the Universe action figure arms with the dinner arrangements. They went well with pen caps, but I always preferred a side of fingernails. I'm surprised no one's ever figured out the caloric content of all the nonfoods we ate during our youth. I hope Vader's little lightsaber wasn't a starch, otherwise my sodium intake should've killed me. I couldn't go three days without eating one of those. I love comfort foods.

See? Look how impressed everyone is with Grayskull. Even the lifeguard, and he's like 35. I hope nobody's drowning or being attacked by rogue seals, this guy is just absolutely fixated on Grayskull and there's no way he's gonna look at anything else. And that's saying something, considering that he's standing next to the only girl in the world who's head is shaped precisely like a MoRich bowling ball. Even that can't divert his attention.

Time for Skeletor to once again seek passage into the halls of Grayskull. Will he succeed? Well, probably not. If precedent has taught us anything, it's that people who's life depend on getting something they're not supposed to have never achieve their goals. Take the Trix Rabbit, an animated hare who finds a way to exist in the real world, yet still can't get a damn box of cereal. Or how about Gargamel? Captured the Smurfs sixteen trillion times, but was never able to eat or make gold out of a single one of them. Skeletor isn't just fighting against He-Man, he's fighting against a time-honored tradition.

The castle's door could fly open to knock the bad guys down, which was nice since it added a poetic edge to He-Man's victories. The entire construction looked like some sort of demon, so it's only fitting that the door would be fashioned like a mouth, with a complete set of teeth and a tongue. It's kinda gross to think about, though. Whenever He-Man visited the Sorceress, he had to walk on a big green tongue. There were no doormats on the inside, so there must be slimy saliva footprints from the entrance to the top floor. I guess that's why they keep such dim lighting.

Spikor: Okay He-Man, no funny stuff! I'm coming in this time!

He-Man: Sure thing! All you gotta do is knock on the door. It'll open automatically.

Spikor: You're gonna make the door hit me again, aren't you?

He-Man: I'm the Lucy to your Charlie Brown. Fulfill your destiny and kick the football.

Spikor: Cannot...resist...must knock...on door...

He-Man: Look at the bright side - you're protected by hard spikes. When I do this to Beast Man, he's bedridden for weeks.

Spikor: Good point. Fire away!

One of the castle's towers was equipped with a lazer rifle weapon. Buzz-Off, He-Man's bee friend, was the only one able to handle the lookout from up there, since Castle Grayskull's architect forgot to include a stairwell.

There was also a weapons rack, chock full of accessories for use with the figures. Most action figure playsets were basic, but Grayskull didn't stinge with the fun stuff. One of the nice things about the MOTU line was that all the figures had exactly the same body size and type, so you could interchange their weapons and chest-armor. Hell, you could even switch their arms around. I used to stick one of Faker's arms on King Randor and pretend he got bit by spiders. I needed to justify his overall pointlessness with a debilitating disease. And since I'd now have an extra King Randor arm, I had something to snack on while playing. See how this all worked out? The most delicious snack in the universe. Thank God it was nontoxic, otherwise I'd have had to eat G.I. Joe figures, and they were a lot blander.

As a final line of defense against intruders, the throne room had a trap door. Course, it only led to the first floor. But remember - no staircase. It could take Skeletor hours to get back up there. And even if he did, what's he gonna do....steal the chair? Big deal. I think Grayskull's 'secrets' were more figurative, I don't think you could just waltz into the place and look for a manilla envelope marked 'secrets'. Skeletor needs a new evil motive. I suggest rigged golf games.

Hahaha, now he's coming back with a ladder. Good thing the bee-man's a pacifist, otherwise that whole laying-in-wait-with-a-big-gun thing might've worked against him. Unless that's just a statue of Buzz-Off with a lazer up in the tower, sort of like a scarecrow meant to ward off unwanted visitors. Skeletor's on to 'em, though. He knows no one would build a statue for Buzz-Off.

Uh oh, the kid who owns Castle Grayskull looks a little too confident. Skeletor's climbing up that ladder much faster than any inanimate toy should, and still - the kid looks like he has this one in the bag. What's up his sleeve? Are they going to debut a new figure by having him come out and beat up our skull-faced prodigy? Obviously, something's up. He-Man defeated Skeletor millions of times, but he always took him seriously. This kid isn't taking him seriously at all, and he doesn't even have Grayskull's alleged secrets or a cool sword going for him.

So what's he up to? What's his plan? How will he stop Skeletor from getting into the castle and ultimately taking over Eternia and the beach?

Simple. He'll flick him off with his index finger! Poor Skeletor...didn't he know this kid was 4,000 feet tall?

The battle is won. I've got no idea where my Castle Grayskull toy ended up, but I remember it fondly as one of the first 'big' toys I ever had. Boys needed their dollhouses, too. This was a great way to quench that desire without looking like a sissy playing with one of Barbie's ranches or tropical summer homes. Don't feel too bad for Skeletor, he had a castle too - Snake Mountain. The only real differences between the two were that Snake Mountain was purple and had a weird echoing microphone, so you could sound evil. To be honest, Skeletor's castle looked a whole lot cooler, so I've got no idea what his obsession with Grayskull was all about. Maybe he just wanted a giant tongue for a door and Snake Mountain wasn't sized correctly for it.

If you never owned one, you're in luck. Assuming of course, you want one. The new He-Man toys hitting the stores these days come with a great accompaniment - a new version of Castle Grayskull. It's even better than the original, too. It might lack the charm of yesteryear's entry, but at least you could buy it new without having to get it off the collector's market and wonder what the previous little kid who owned it did to it. The phrase 'bedside urinal' springs to mind. Click here to see what the new one's like. Me? I don't think I'll be purchasing it. I'm just gonna end up eating the thing anyway. Some habits are tough to kick.


- Matt
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