I’ve lived a life in plastic. This guy is where it all began. The genesis. The ground zero. This is it. Just in a new and fancy guise. He-Man & The Masters of the Universe.
The amount of weekends I spent fixating on the premise of the show. How beautifully conceived this grand soap opera was – a brother and sister, separated at birth, later fulfilling their destinies, becoming the most powerful man and woman in the universe. I had coffee mugs, bed sheets, curtains, plates, soap dispensers and VHS tapes, all elaborating on the story. But nothing, absolutely nothing could come close to realising their world like the original action figure series by Mattel. A now paltry amount of R11 would be paid at Checkers or Pick ‘n Pay (arguably more convenient than going to your local comic book store) and you would start world-building with a mind blowing rosters of heroes and villains.
Sorcery met science-fiction, ninjas met pirates, barbarians met demons – everything was possible. My dad managed to negotiate a deal with my cousin when I was 5. He bought all my cousin’s MOTU figures AND a Castle Grayskull playset for the price of a BB gun. My cousin got his BB gun. I got the whole of Eternia. My incredibly patient parents would indulge me at every corner, even helping with the hunt for rare figures during a trip to Europe in the winter of 1989. We found a La Donna She-Ra figure (She-Ra in Italian) in a tiny bait shop in a tiny coastal village. Her brother is the focus of today’s piece. He was my first superhero, before Superman, before Batman, before anyone.
A few years ago, Mattel and Mattycollector decided to kick start the nostalgia engine once again and enlisted the highly talented Four Horsemen to design and sculpt a new line called Masters of the Universe Classics. The same kids who grew up with these heroes now spent their hard-earned salaries to be reintroduced to an already familiar line-up. With just enough tweaks and homages to not be completely detached from the original figure designs, we were blessed with figures made by fans for fans. The articulation was upped. The sculpts and paints were excellent. The accessories made it feel complete. The original and ubiquitous logo also got a refresh. Adults were clamouring and they also got introduced to a new generation of fans. He-Man was back.
This He-Man figure is a treasure in my collection. He just makes me happy on a level I can’t even describe. The sculpt harks back to the original line, with the design details on his harness, his boots and gauntlets perfectly captured. His fur loincloth and his hair are also incredibly on point.
The paint on the character also harkens back to the perfect-tea-looks-like-He-Man’s skin tone meme that floated around. It looks like the proper old-school skin tone, hair and fur colour. His weapons also have different shades of grey and silver, compensating for the monotone grey plastic the weapons of old had.
Speaking about weapons, he comes with his trusty shield, his battle-axe (his primary weapon in some of the mini-comics) and his Sword of Power. Now this sword has had quite a few iterations. You had the version in the Alcala comics. You had the version from the Filmation animated series. And then the classic version. This specific version is based on the look of the original, with a sharper edge and sharper tip (catering to the aesthetic mature collectors ask for).
His articulation has also really expanded considerably. We have gone from a head that turns sideways, rubber legs and up-and-down arms (with a swivel waist for his battle punch) to just pure insanity. Swivels everywhere. Complete head articulation. Beautiful joints in the arms and legs. A mid-waist cut. It really just takes you back and you wish you had this when you were living it up in your bedroom.
For me, the critical thing about this figure is not how collectable or rare he is. It isn’t about how perfect he is in terms of sculpt and design. It’s not about how this line has become the monster it has with its avid following. It’s all about how he makes me want to say “By the power of Grayskull” out loud as a 32-year old adult.
You can pre-order new Masters of the Universe figures from www.projectmayhem.co.za