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Masters of the Universe Classics
by Poe Ghostal

Next to Beast Man (and maybe Trap-Jaw), Skeletor's most recognizable henchman is the creatively-named Mer-Man. The original figure was distinctive for his bizarre, vaguely cat-like head (which looked nothing like the packaging art) and the so-called "corn-sword," which was supposed to look like an aquatic weapon of the sea, made from a sawfish's rostrum, but instead came out looking like one of those things you use to hold corn-on-the-cob. On the 1980s cartoon, Mer-Man had a voice that sounded like Alan Oppenheimer gargled whenever he spoke a Mer-Man line.

While Mer-Man was little more than a simple henchman on the '80s cartoon, he got a lot more to do in the original mini-comics of the time and in the 2002 revamped cartoon. Both media went out of their way to portray him as the Ocean Warlord his packaging said he was, king of a city of mermen and a ruthless warrior. How he came to be Skeletor's thrall is a story in itself.

Mer-Man got a well-received update in the 2002 line - in my opinion, one of the best of the updates, since the Four Horsemen took the aquatic theme and went to town with it on that figure, incorporating a groin-guard made to look like fins and some great accessories. The Master of the Universe Classics version of Mer-Man isn't as detailed as the 2002 version, but it's still a great figure in its own right. Oh, and he gets a real name this time - "Squidish Rex." Uh... huh.

Ruler of the undersea realms of Eternia, Mer-Man was forced to serve in the armies of Skeletor after his kingdom was destroyed in a battle with rival ocean clans. His allegiance with Skeletor brings him to the surface world more often then he would like. Lurking deep beneath the Sea of Rakash, Mer-Man awaits the evil call to arms of Skeletor!

At least Mattel seems to be learning to minimize the dynamic posing that causes so many problems with their action figures, so Mer-Man has a fairly vanilla pose. However, as has been the case with most MOTU figures, the blister tray in a designed in a way that holds the accessories tightly. I had to be very careful removing the sword, and the spear's prongs were slightly bent upon removal (but quickly resumed their intended shape after 60 seconds beneath a hair dryer followed by a quick dip in cold water).

Moreso than any figure in the line thus far, Mer-Man has been sculpted to look almost identical to his original card art, as seen above. Everything from the unique head, not seen on the original figure, to the open left hand has been lovingly re-created by the Four Horsemen.

However, so as not to disappoint fans of the original Mer-Man head (later shared with Stinkor), the figure also includes an interchangeable cat-like noggin. While the art-based head looks almost exactly like the 2002 Mer-Man head, the original head almost looks as if it were molded from the original's figure's head.

It's a testament to the Four Horsemen's skill that they've somehow made Mer-Man's original head appealing. The art-based head, while better matching the figure's overall design and aquatic theme, has huge muppet-like eyes and what almost seems like a goofy grin. The original head looks a lot more monstrous. I can see myself switching between these heads frequently.

The rest of the sculpt incorporates as much detail and style as possible while still remaining true to the original card art. One important bit to note is the neck: there's an added rubbery piece to give it the look of gills and loose fish-flesh as seen in the artwork. As far as I can tell, it isn't removable. A nice touch and an example of the extra mile Mattel went with this figure.

Some collectors have been disappointed by the open left hand, which prevents Mer-Man from being able to hold both his weapons at the same time. While an interchangeable gripping hand would have been appreciated, if I had to choose one or the other I would've gone with the open hand for variety's sake.

Mer-Man is molded primarily in a green plastic that's of a darker, less bluish shade than the original figure - or at least the 2001 reproduction figure I had to take photos of. His forearms, shins, hands and heads are cast in yellow plastic. The loincloth is also cast in plastic, which is different from the original figure (which had an orange loincloth to match the orange highlights around the original head's eyes), but matches the card art. While the paintwork on most MOTU Classics figures so far has been fairly minimal (owing to the design and the generally dark colors), Mer-Man seems to have gotten the works.

For starters, he has a nice black wash that highlights his muscle tone and gives him a "from the depths" look that serves him well. There's some very nice work on the armor, which also has a light wash and some darker paint around the torso section, which perfectly matches the card art. In a deviation from the original figure, the jewels on his neck armor and belt are blue, which may be a nod to the 2002 figure.

Mer-Man features balljoints at the shoulders and hips, hinge joints at the elbows, knees, ankles and abdomen, and swivels at the biceps, wrists, waist and calves. He also has some excellent "rocker" ankle joints that allow him a wide stance.

The head articulation is a bit tricky. Owing to the large rubber neck piece, the range of motion is a bit more limited than we're used to. Thanks to the way the neck peg is set up, there's a decent amount of room to move the head up and down, but the side-to-side motion is limited - he has to twist his head up and to the side to look in either direction. Given Mer-Man's unusual physiognomy, I don't think this is that big a deal, though - who knows how well a fish-man would be able to look left and right?

Mer-Man comes loaded up with the best accessories we've seen on a MOTU Classics figure this far. He has the two interchangeable heads, removable armor, a trident, and his infamous sword. While it's sharper and looks more like an actual weapon than the original figure's corn-sword, MOTUC Mer-Man's sword is still fairly corn-like. Still, it has some great detail, and the teeth of the sawfish beak are actually visible. The sword can be sheathed in the back of the armor.

The trident fares even better, though. This traditional fisherman's weapon has a much more detailed look and texture than all the weapons we've seen in MOTU Classics so far. It has a rough texture, almost like bone, and the entire weapon itself seems to be made from bone (Dr. Mrs. the Ghostal pointed out that the prongs appear to be finger-bones ending in talons). There's a nice dark wash all over the weapon, giving it a grimy, mildewy look. The blue jewel is also quite sharp-looking - at first I thought it was a separate piece.

Aside from the aforementioned issue with the trident's prongs, my Mer-Man came in great shape. I'm very pleased with Mer-Man. While not my favorite MOTU Classics figure so far (that's Skeletor, who's likely only to be surpassed by Trap-Jaw), he's almost certainly the best to date. For those who prefer to cherry-pick this admittedly expensive line, the great sculpt, excellent accessories and interchangeable head make him a must-buy.

-- 02/15/10

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