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Masters of the Universe Classics
by Poe Ghostal

It seems like every geek franchise has at least one mysterious, badass-looking character who gains a cult following despite having done hardly anything or had any characterization at all (at least at first). Star Wars' Boba Fett is the classic example, though the franchise also produced Darth Maul, who had even less screen time. In the world of GI Joe there was originally Snake-Eyes, but now he has more history than you can shake a stick at; fortunately, the likes of Wraith and Helix have filled that void. Meanwhile, Marvel Comics has gotten so much mileage out of this sort of character it's become something of a joke (it began with Wolverine in the 1980s, followed by Cable in the '90s and then a plethora of characters since).

But when it comes to toylines, the reason an obscure character becomes so popular is often because they have so little background. Henry Jenkins, a media scholar and a professor at the University of Southern California, has made a living examining the social trends of geeks (you'll recall what he said about Boba Fett). In Masters of the Universe, the role of the mysterious-yet-badass character is filled by Scareglow.

In life, Karak Nul was a shifty bounty hunter who spent years attempting to break into Castle Grayskull, obsessed with the countless legends that it contained the power to be Master of the Universe. In death, he was cursed and banished into the dimension of Infinita, forever chained to his past crimes. He was brought back to Eternia by a magical spell of light cast by Skeletor to locate the most evil warriors in the five dimensions. Provided with a Scythe of Doom, Nul agreed to join forces with Skeletor and quickly became known as Scareglow, thanks to his ability to burst forth and freeze his enemies with fright.

A late addition to MOTU as it lay dying in 1987, few fans ever owned Scareglow, having moved on to Transformers or GI Joe or some other fad by then. The "Evil Ghost of Skeletor" (and oh, what confusion that wording created!) was produced in smaller quantities than earlier MOTU figures, and so between that and the utter lack of characterization beyond a single minicomic appearance, Scareglow became somewhat legendary among MOTU fan circles.

There seems to be a contingent of fans out there who hold it against such characters that they're popular, considering them to be cheap fanboy sops undeserving of the attention. To those fans I say: lighten up - and maybe think about using your damned imagination, for a change.

But I digress. In what was arguably a crime against fanity, Scareglow never received an updated figure in the 2002 MOTU line - hell, he never even got a ministatue. His only claim was appearing in 2003's "Power of Fear" comic. And so the Masters of the Universe Classics Scareglow arrives amidst much anticipation.

Mattel has heard our requests and is now packaging the figures in non-dynamic poses, while keeping the logo high enough that MOC collectors can see the faces of the figures. For MOC display purposes, I think Scareglow is one of the best examples yet. I wonder if the bio, which makes him a bounty hunter, was intended as a deliberate reference to his Boba Fett-like status in the MOTUniverse.

As I've mentioned before, I hoped we'd get a Scareglow with clear plastic skin over an internal glow-in-the-dark skeleton, a la Blight from Hasbro's Batman Beyond line. But I knew that was incredibly unlikely outside of an SDCC exclusive (and even then it would probably be too expensive to do). The articulation alone would have made it too complicated.

So I'm not too disappointed that what we get instead is an updated version of the original figure. We've seen most of this body before - in fact, everything except the head and cape is identical to Skeletor. The left hand, it should be noted, is the looser-gripped hand of the first Skeletor release, not the tighter grip seen on Zodac and the Skeletor re-release; however, the looser grip works perfectly with the reliquary, so it's not a problem unless you want to put a weapon in his left hand.

The newly-sculpted head features a grittier, more gaunt skull than Skeletor's, with crueler features. Though the paint work doesn't show it, there are several smaller cracks and fissures in the skull. More intricate paint work (like the prototype) would have brought them out nicely. The cape also has some nice features, including stitch lines around the mantle and a frayed, holey edge at the bottom.

Given his relative lack of new tooling, Scareglow relies heavily on the plastic and paint applications. As you know, he's molded almost entirely in glow-in-the-dark plastic. The black detailing is intended to make it look like he's a skeleton, in the same way that those black bodysuit Halloween costumes are supposed to. That particular effect doesn't really work, but it does give Scareglow a kind of stark, two-tone appearance that is equally eye-catching. The cape is molded in a translucent material and painted a deep purple, matching his boots and loincloth. The purple fades away near the bottom in an effect similar to Gentleman Ghost.

I have mixed feelings about the paintwork on the head. On one hand, I like the deep-set glowing red eyes and the black etching around the teeth. On the other hand, I wish they'd given him at least a very light wash to bring out some of the little details of the sculpt, as seen on the prototype. I suspect they skipped the wash so as not to mute the glow-in-the-dark effect.

Scareglow features the usual MOTUC articulation: a balljointed head, balljointed shoulders and hips, hinges at the elbows, knees, ankles and abdomen, and swivels at the biceps, wrists, waist, upper thighs and the top of his boots. The head movement is somewhat limited by the cape, and the chain holding the cape together tends to slide up over the jaw in certain position because the cape is actually longer than Scareglow's body unless he's standing straight up.

Scareglow's weapon most closely resembles a Lochaber axe, though one could argue it was a voulge or just a simple halberd. It's not a scythe, despite that tool's association with the Angel of Death Grim Reaper, nor is it a staff like half the other MOTUC figures. The semi-translucent blade glows in the dark, while the shaft is molded in green. As usual, the weapon features more detail than the original version, including GITD spikes on the back and little knicks and scratches along the length of the haft.

More interesting is the "Grayskull reliquary." It's a grey tube attached to a chain, at the end of which is a removable handcuff with a real metal chain. The top of the reliquary is shaped like Castle Grayskull, and it can be popped off to reveal a skeleton key. The reliquary is painted grey and the key black, but if you look closely you can see some very light copper drybrushing - a nice touch that could have been emphasized more. The reliquary is by far the most interesting new accessory we've seen in MOTUC. I'm still not clear on what the deal is, but it's one of the most imaginative accessories I've seen on a figure that wasn't tied to a movie, comic or TV show.

There have been reports of Scareglows arriving without the key or even the entire reliquary, and some with two left legs or missing a painted black rib. My Scareglow is intact, so obviously these things vary.

Despite having relatively little new sculpting, Scareglow is easily one of the best-looking and interesting MOTUC figures so far. While the lack of a wash on the head is disappointing, it's offset by the awesomeness of the reliquary accessory. I'm not going to knock him for not being the Blight-style figure I wanted, because that's not fair - he should be judged against his MOTUC peers, not some personal ideal version.

Scareglow is one of my favorite MOTUC figures thus far, right up there with Skeletor, He-Man, He-Ro and Man-At-Arms. While the price point continues to be a burden and Matty Collector's comedy of errors continues, the figures themselves have yet to disappoint.

-- 05/03/10

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