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Beast Man

Masters of the Universe Classics
by Poe Ghostal

Every supervillain in the 1980s had a member of his entourage who served a special purpose: whipping boy. For Megatron, it was Starscream. For Darkseid on Super Friends, it was Kalibak. For Shredder, it was Bebop and Rocksteady (though Shredder was arguably the whipping boy for Krang). For Darth Vader, it was the Imperial Admiralty.

But arguably the most-whipped whipping boy was Beast Man, the orange-furred, half-ape henchman of Skeletor. Like Mer-Man, in the early days of Masters of the Universe, Beast Man was one of an entire race of similar creatures, whom he led. But when the Filmation cartoon came around, Beast Man was dumbed down and demoted to being both Larry and Curly to Skeletor's Moe.

After being banished from his home in the Vine Jungle, the Beast Man named Raqquill Rqazz joined up with a young alchemist named Keldor during a skirmish in the Berserker Islands. Like others of his race, Rqazz has the ability to control beasts and monsters. He currently uses this particular talent as chief henchmen to Skeletor, the Overlord of Evil.

Despite his lowly status, Beast Man (I refuse to refer to him as "BM") is the second figure (not counting the exclusive King Grayskull) in the new Masters of the Universe Classics. I suspect Beast Man was produced this early in the line to show fans and collectors there will be some unique, significantly detailed sculpting in MOTU Classics.

MOTU Classics is aimed at fans of the original Masters of the Universe line, and that's very evident in the packaging. However, rather than draw on the "red explosion" style of packaging from the original single-carded figures (as the 2002 figures did), the packaging art seems to be more inspired by the boxes of the vehicles and playsets, which featured painted scenes of battle and tended to be more gray and brown in tone. The image of Beast Man in the bio is from the early mini-comic "The Vengeance of Skeletor." As the Horsemen have stated in interviews, there's definitely a desire here to evoke the style and art of the pre-cartoon era of Masters of the Universe.

While action figure packaging is usually just a brief annoyance between me and the opened figure, I like what Mattel has done here. The packaging is small (which makes for less trash) and well done, with lightning blasts painted down the blister. And while He-Man's pose left something to be desired, Beast Man is posed in mid-whipping (how ironic!) and should look good hanging on the well for you MOCers. For the first time, Beast Man is also given a name: Raqquill Rqazz. I can see why he actually prefers "Beast Man."

The Four Horsemen used the early packaging art and other renderings of MOTU as their primary inspiration for the MOTU Classics sculpts. While the 2002 Beast Man re-imagined Beast Man as a hunched, hulking, gorilla-like monster, the MOTUC version is based much more closely on the art from the original figures' card backs.

There is still a hint of a hunched pose, thanks to Beast Man's large "mane" armor and the way it bunches over his shoulders. But since most of this body will be re-used for other figures (such as Stratos), this isn't the massively hunched Beast Man of MOTU2K - and I know that's going to disappoint a lot of you.

Setting aside the fact that it will be re-used, the sculpt is, of course, superb. The fur on the limbs and chest is well-defined, with a nice shaggy look to it. I've always thought Beast Man's original design was loosely based on a mandrill - he's got the bluish-white facial highlights and a blue loincloth, which is evocative of the mandrill's famous blue butt.

Beast Man's chest armor and bicep plates are removable, so they could be considered accessories, but they might as well be part of the body sculpt. The Horsemen make good use of these parts to make Beast Man look unique, giving him a monstrous, spiky look that will distinguish him when standing next to other figures using the same sculpt. In fact, other than the legs, I suspect the similarities will be hardly noticeable.

There is some excellent detail work on the bicep plates and armor. The spikes have a rough texture that mimics actual keratin - I can imagine Beast Man having won these in an epic struggle with some Eternian dragon. Even the straps holding the bicep plates look and feel like leather.

Beast Man's body is molded mostly in orange plastic, and as this is a mass-market figure, it's not hard to tell that. To me, that toyish feel is part of the appeal of MOTU Classics; but that said, since this is an online exclusive with what I presume is relatively smaller production runs, it's possible Mattel could have sprung for the sort of paint applications you see on NECA or McFarlane figures, though I wonder whether the price would have been higher. Still, the plastic takes the detailing well, and between that and the light but well-applied wash, the toyish feel is minimized.

The most complicated paint applications are on the armor, and I'm impressed by how good it is - these is on par with the best we've seen from Mattel recently, including DCU and Movie Masters. The wash on the fur of the chest armor looks just right, while the browns used on the spikes compliment their keratinous texture.

Beast Man is articulated has a balljointed neck, balljointed shoulders, swivels at the biceps, wrists, waist and the top of his boots, and hinges at the elbows, knees, ankles and torso. Unlike DCU, however, the hips are more traditional balljoints (or rather, swivel and hinge joints) with a swivel at the top of the thigh; but the loincloth, which is fairly stiff plastic, limits the range of motion a bit. The chest armor, which bunches around Beast Man's neck, also limits how much you can move his head. He can cock his head to either side and look up and down easily, but has a harder time looking left or right. A number of collectors have complained about loose joints on their Beast Man figures, particularly the legs. My figure's legs are a tad loose, but it hasn't interfered with his ability to stand or pose.

Beast Man's only accessory is his signature whip. Where the original figure's whip was a bit of black string, the new figure gets an actual soft plastic whip. It's strong enough that it will actually hang in the air when turned horizontally, allowing for some great mid-whip poses (but making it more difficult to have the whip lie coiled on the ground).

Unlike the MOTU2K Beast Man's whip, which had a more traditional whip handle, the Horsemen have simply updated the original handle - which is kind of funny, since the original handle wasn't designed for Masters of the Universe but rather Mattel's 1970s toy line Big Jim (which also provided the original MOTU with Battle Cat and Zoar). The accessory was recycled from a Big Jim figure named (drumroll please) The Whip. The Horsemen have added a leathery texture to the whip and handle, making it more interesting than the black plastic cone and string of the original.

Since you can only get these online - and thus, have to have them shipped - the minimum price you're going to pay is about $28. That's about a third what you'd pay for a high-end Sideshow 12" figure, and more than twice what you would pay for DCU figure at retail. Assuming you can find a DCU figure at retail. These are not $20 figures. Mattel should be selling these for $15 at most, with a better deal on shipping.

-- 02/01/10


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