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Masters of the Universe Classics
by Poe Ghostal

Skeletor: Origins. "Skeletorigins."

Realizing his pupil Keldor had no intention of releasing him from Despondos, Hordak merged him with an extra-dimensional being called Demo-Man. While this saved Keldor's life, it also drove him temporarily insane and convinced him to open a portal to Despondos and lead what he thought were "his people" to Eternia. Hordak intended to use this ruse as a means to escape once the portal was opened, but the new merged being "Skeletor" was quickly defeated by Oo-larr, the Jungle He-Man, and Hordak remained trapped. Soon after, with the help of Evil-Lyn, Skeletor gained control of the powerful spirit inside of him, increasing his abilities ten-fold. He was now the true Overlord of Evil and one of the most dangerous men on Eternia!

The first thing we need to discuss about Demo-Man is his name. "Demo-Man" was not attached to the sketch this figure is based on; the sketch was nameless. Rather, "Demo-Man" was the working title for Skeletor for much of the early development of the Masters of the Universe line in the 1980s. The "Demo" was obviously meant to invoke the word "demon." I've long suspected the name might originally have been "De-Man," a demonic counterpart to "He-Man," but somewhere down the line someone decided to make it more obvious by adding the "mo."

The sketch this figure is based on was drawn by Mark Taylor very early in the development of MOTU; its heroic counterpart has already been immortalized as Vikor. Like Vikor, Demo-Man is the MOTUC equivalent of a Star Wars "Concept Collection" figure. Also like Vikor, Demo-Man has now been shoehorned into the MotU mythos.

Like Vikor, a lot of effort went into making Demo-Man look as close to his concept sketch as possible, which means there's a lot of new tooling. By my count, that's the head, forearms, hands, wrist cuffs, elbow armor, feet, shoulder armor, tunic, and loincloth. The Four Horsemen's sculpting here is very good. The forearms, wrists and feet have a lot of detail like veins and muscle tone that we haven't seen on earlier figures (I'd love to get a new Skeletor with a 2002-style paint job, this one's head - painted white to match the cartoon - and Demo-Man's feet). There's a lot of texturing on the figure too, especially in the metal of the armor, which has a dented, weathered look.

I can imagine some collectors might find Demo-Man's extra details to be at odds with the general MOTUC style, and I agree that both he and Vikor look a little "off" next to some of the figures, but it's worth noting that the same thing happened in the '80s - the later figures, such as the Horde, had a lot more new tooling and detail than the initial MOTU figures.

The "elbow armor" is made from a pliable plastic and seems like it will hold up over repeated use. However, it's not removable (though I imagine you could heat it up and slip it over the wrist spikes if you really wanted to). The metal armor and the tunic look fine; the metal armor has a metallic finish, and the bronzed details on the "snaps" and the spikes on the wrist cuffs are fairly sharp. The paint is a little messy on the medallions behind the beard, but it's not too noticeable.

There are two problems, however. First is the screaming bright green the figure is primarily molded in. The original sketch was black and white; it seems evident the reason Mattel decided to make him green was so that their "Demo-Man becomes Skeletor" plot twist makes any sense; it "explains" why Skeletor's face is greenish-yellow. Given that we had no knowledge of what color the character would be, I'm not going to take them to task for choosing green. The problem is it's such a bright, cartoony green. Even with the darker wash - which is fairly well done - the figure looks very toyish. Then there's the face. The paintwork on the beard, teeth, nose and eyes is awkward - it's too thick and sloppy, and he ends up looking like a ghost from a Scooby-Doo cartoon.

Demo-Man has most of the usual MOTU Classics articulation: a balljointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, swivel wrists, hinged abdomen, swivel waist, swivel/hinge hips, swivel thighs, and hinged knees and ankles. The ankles are tight, but the "rocker" motion is there. Obviously, without a boot, he doesn't have the swivel in the shin that many figures have.

Demo-Man almost makes up for his paint and plastic deficiencies with his accessories. He comes with a sword, a flail, a brand-new Skeletor head, and a skull. They're all brand-new sculpts. The sword and flail are closely based on the concept art, and as such they're a lot more detailed than most MOTUC weapons. The flail is made from a tough enough plastic that it will stay in the air when the arm is raised.

The helmeted skull is, again, just from the sketch, and - as part of a pair with Vikor - it raises the disturbing question of whether that might be Vikor's skull. Though it would be a neat accessory on its own, Mattel went the extra step and gave it a hole so it can be fit on Demo-Man's neck, though the result looks bizarre.

Finally there's the Skeletor head, based on the artwork of Alfredo Alcala. Alcala drew some of the earliest minicomics ("He-Man and the Power Sword," "The Vengeance of Skeletor," "Battle in the Clouds," and "King of Castle Grayskull"). An accomplished fantasy artist, Alcala drew what many fans considered the most creepy depiction of Skeletor in any media, with shades of Gustave Doré; an Alcala-style head has been in demand since the line began. Kudos to Mattel for finding a way to work this head into the line, and all praise to the Four Horsemen for capturing Alcala's style so well (while working in small touches of their Demo-Man sculpt, connecting Skeletor and Demo-Man better than any bio ever could). The head actually sits a little low on the Skeletor figure in comparison to the original Skeletor head, and it doesn't have as much of a range of motion. But it's worth is just to have such a fantastic-looking head.

Mattel closed out 2011 the way they started it: with a concept figure featuring a ton of new tooling and great accessories. Demo-Man does suffer from too much bright green plastic and lackluster paint apps on the face, but he's still one of my favorite figures in the line.

-- 04/09/12

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