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Masters of the Universe Classics
by Poe Ghostal

One of the last and most mysterious of the original He-Man minicomics was "The Search for Keldor." The story strongly hinted that Keldor was none other than Skeletor himself, and while this was never confirmed in any other 1980s media, it became a much-discussed topic with the rise of online He-Fandom in the 1990s. By the advent of the 2003 Mike Young Productions cartoon, it was practically common knowledge that Skeletor was in fact Keldor. The MYP series cemented this by depicting Keldor himself and showing his assault upon the Elders; however, no mention of a filial relationship with Randor was ever mentioned. Until now.

Banished from the royal palace, in part due to distrust for the rare blue-skinned Gar race, Prince Keldor became an outcast. He traveled Eternia seeking knowledge and guidance, eventually discovering the ancient spirit of Hordak. From him, Keldor learned of the dark arts, and came to realize that to truly unite Eternia, he would need to take command of the planet himself. He gathered an army of fellow outcasts and led them in battle against his brother, Captain Randor. Eventually defeated, and near death, Keldor once again turned to Hordak who, in exchange for his own freedom, agreed to save Keldor's life by merging him with Demo-Man, twisting Keldor into Skeletor - Lord of Destruction!

Keldor was made into an action figure as an SDCC exclusive in 2003. This was the only SDCC I've ever attended, and yes, I got myself a Keldor. The 2003 exclusive was a mixed bag; while the interchangeable "melting skull" head was of course incredibly awesome, the black was was way overdone. Obtaining a 2003 Keldor was a nightmare at the convention, a tradition Mattel has made progressively worse ever since. While the latest version of Keldor wasn't a convention exclusive, it was even harder to get.

Keldor is primarily Skeletor with a few new parts: his head, his boots, and his cape. I don't know who designed Keldor's face, but I can't decide whether the stereotypical mustache-twirling, hipster-goatee-bearing look is cliched or genius. The Four Horsemen did tone down the dour expression of the 2003 figure, making Keldor a bit more handsome and giving him a roguish grin that hints at the charm that netted him Evil-Lyn and a legion of adherents. In short, I really like the head sculpt.

Is the cape part of the sculpt or an accessory? I'm not sure, but I'm going to discuss it here. [a cape is, by definition, an accessory --ed.] The cape is made from relatively pliable plastic, and can be easily removed by popping the head off. Some fans have expressed disappointment that the cape falls open so far down the back, but I think this was done to accommodate the sword holster. The holster still works with the cape on, though the sword might get a bit warped if left there over time.

But the real question you're dying to know: how does it look on Skeletor? The initial pics didn't make the cape look very good on either the original or the two-pack Skeletor. However, once you get it on the two-pack Skeletor (whose colors match much better), it looks great. Oddly, it's not something that comes across very well in photos; you have to see it in person to get the proper effect.

Keldor is bright blue. Brighter even than Faker. This means you won't be doing much limb-swapping between your Skeletor and Keldor figures, unless you're willing to repaint them. It's disconcerting really, and one wonders whether it was a decision of Mattel and the Horsemen or simply a factory thing - or both, if it was just about saving money (perhaps there was a sale on bright blue plastic). On the other hand, maybe living Gar have a bright blue shade while undead Gar are a bit paler.

The purple parts of the outfit are closer in shade to the two-pack Skeletor than to the original. Basically, the purple of the original Skeletor leans toward the blue side of the color, whereas the two-pack and Keldor are more to the red side. Keldor's armor is much darker than either of them, though. His loincloth and the leather strips on his shoulders are black, not purple. The studs on the leather armor are clean-edged, while the bones on the chest armor are gray with a nice silver drybrush, giving it a metallic appearance. The only negative is the black "fur" of the loincloth, which is a bit glossy and gloppy, but also barely visible. His legs were covered with mold grease when I opened him.

Keldor comes with the infamous vial of acid that will eventually lead to his transformation into Skeletor, and his split swords. Here's a shock, though - the twin swords came out perfectly straight. Not the slightest warping by the bubble, nor from the production process. For the record, these are two of the best split swords we've seen yet, and they snap together perfectly and will even stay together indefinitely when played around with. It's almost scary.

However, the split swords have been the source of much controversy, with many fans wondering why Keldor didn't come with a "Classics-ized" version of his Millenium swords (as Man-At-Arms came with a Classics-ized version of the Millenium Power Sword). The short answer is "it was too expensive to tool new swords," but rather than give this annoying and unfortunate but relatively honest-sounding answer, they've stuck to a convoluted explanation about how the Four Horsemen originally designed the twin swords as the two halves of the actual Power Sword, which Skeletor had managed to obtain and unite. In the Horsemen's vision, the techno-sword was a stopgap measure made by Man-At-Arms and enchanted by the Sorceress to allow Adam to still change into He-Man.

When the MYP cartoon came along, it abandoned these ideas and just made the techno-sword the official Power Sword, while giving Keldor the cool-looking but unexplained twin swords (which were unceremoniously destroyed late in the pilot episode). So what Mattel has been saying is: since those were supposed to be the two halves of the Power Sword - even though it was never depicted as such - we've given Keldor two halves of the MOTUC Power Sword. To which you might say, OK, then shouldn't one be gray? No, says Mattel, because they're not the real Power Sword halves, they just look like the Power Sword halves. What?

Look, even if this bizarre train of logic is the actual reasoning behind why they didn't give Keldor the Millennium swords, I'd almost rather they just said it was a cost issue and left it at that. Why get bogged down in an argument with fan geeks - the most notoriously pedantic form of community known to man?

At the end of the day, the whole thing doesn't bother me that much, because I never liked the Millennium twin swords - the way they connected at an angle bugged me, as opposed to connecting flat against one another like the vintage MOTU swords or split down the center like the Starsword from Blackstar. But I'm sure with a little creative engineering and a willingness to spend money on new tooling, Mattel and the Horsemen could have come up with something like this.

It's funny how Mattel has twice managed to make a Skeletor figure with the head of a casino magician not only desirable, but a fun toy to own. Once I got my Keldor I opened him, fiddled around with him, posed him on the coffee table, and said to Dr. Mrs. The Ghostal, "Y'know, I really like him." There are definitely MOTUC figures I didn't feel that way about (no offense, your Majesty), but Keldor is not one of them.

-- 10/25/10

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