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Masters of the Universe Classics
by Poe Ghostal

The original Whiplash figure owns a unique distinction in the annals of my lifelong toy collecting: he was one of only a precious few toys to somehow avoid being lost in all the house moves, toy trades, hand-me-downs sessions and various other instances where he might have been lost forever. But there's more to the story than that: for whatever reason, Whiplash seemed to retain a certain level of quality that other MOTU figures didn't. His green plastic never faded, he never got the greasy feel and shine from decaying plastic that occurred to many figures (particularly Tri-Klops), and even his rubbery tail never got ripped or torn. Moreover, I loved his monstrous look so much that Whiplash continued working long after young Poe had moved on from MOTU; he later battled the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the X-Men, among others.

Following their father's untimely death, Torrant grew up bitter under the rule of his older brother Ceratus. After years of brooding in Sub-Ternia, he struck a deal with a surface dweller named Keldor and helped lead his forces in a raid against Randor's army during the Great Unrest. Although Keldor's plan failed, Torrant was banished from Sub-Ternia for betraying his people. He was taken in by his former employer and quickly rose up through the ranks, staying with Keldor even after his transformation into Skeletor, serving as his chief brute squad enforcer. His thick hide and stubborn intellect have made him more than a match for the Masters of the Universe, often leaving only He-Man to defeat him. Whiplash uses his thrashing tail for doom and destruction.

Somewhat sadly, I'd forgotten all that touching personal backstory when I sold off my vintage MOTU collection a few years ago. Most of the toys had been re-bought on eBay between 1999-2003, but that Whiplash was in the mix as well. I can only hope he's now given a place of honor on someone's display shelf, rather than being relegated to my parents' attic. The fact is, I love Whiplash. He's one of my favorite MOTU characters, so it's important to realize that the nostalgia factor is pretty high on this one for me. While I really liked his Mo2K update, I tend to think of that figure and character not so much as an "improved" Whiplash so much as a different character entirely.

Right off the bat, Whiplash has a huge leg up on previous figures in that he gets brand-new forearms. The "spiny" forearms we've seen since Skeletor have all been based on Skeletor's vintage cardart, which did not match the action figure; the art was smoother and looked less organic - it was more like a gauntlet. Whiplash's forearms are based much more closely on the toy arms, and it's a welcome change that automatically makes this figure cooler.

But Whiplash gets a lot more than just new arms. He also gets a brand-new torso (which is fully sculpted with scaly bumps beneath the chest armor - expect to see this used for some Snake Men), new scaly shoulders, and entirely new legs with the four-toed lizard-like design familiar from the original figure. While the biceps do not feature scales, the shoulder scales are designed so as to look like they're getting bigger and fading away as they approach the biceps - a smart touch by the Four Horsemen. There's also a ton of scaly detail on Whiplash's "boots." It looks great, and yet it's not so much detail that it looks incongruous alongside the less-detailed figures.

The front of the chest is covered by an armor piece that is glued on - at the very least, I'm not going to try prying it off. You can if you want to. The back section, which includes the back armor and the tail together, actually comes separate in the package and has to be attached via a pair of large pegs. The sculpt on the tail section is excellent; the bumps and edges have been made a bit more detailed and sharpened from the vintage figure. It looks like an alligator's back.

Then there are the heads. Both of them are well-sculpted, the vintage head doing justice to the original, while the modern head has been properly Classics-ized - in terms of sculpt. However, you can put me down in the camp that thinks the '00s-styled head is just a bit too large. I'm not sure if it's the big jaw or what, but it just doesn't look right on the body.

However, a big part of why the head doesn't look right to a lot of people is that the vintage and modern versions of Whiplash are just so separately distinctive, when you put one head on the other body, it's just not going to look right. You look at MOTUC Whiplash with the modern head and that's exactly what you see: a modern head plopped on a vintage-looking body. It doesn't look organic. There's no stylistic flow from the neck to the head the way there is with the vintage head, which has the same round scales around the lower part of the head and jaw.

Not that it particularly matters - I was never going to display Whiplash with the '02 head. I'm too fond of the vintage version, Abe Vigoda resemblance and all. On a final design note, it's good that Mattel and the Horsemen went with the solid plastic and articulated tail, rather than a rubbery and/or bendy one. The tail swivel isn't perfect - it basically cuts right across the sculpt and doesn't look good from the back when turned - but it looks fine from the front, and is a welcome touch. The ab crunch is very slightly hindered by the chest armor and tail, but it still works.

When it comes to paint, Whiplash again proves to be a better example than usual. The figure's legs and arms are molded from a pale green plastic that closely matches the vintage colors. Whiplash also gets something we haven't really seen much (if at all) in MOTUC: paint apps that aren't just solid colors. Whiplash has a very light "fade" of dark green on the inside of both his shoulders, to represent the way his darker torso turns into his lighter arms (giving him an almost turtle-like look). The same goes for his neck, which fades from the dark green of his torso to the light green of the head. It's a nice effect that puts Whiplash a bit ahead of his fellow Classics figures.

The paint work on the heads is also fairly sharp, though there's a bit of uneven-ness around the teeth and on the vintage head's "mohawk." My vintage head also has a dark green splotch right between his eyes. Looks like Whiplash needs some Proactiv.

Whiplash comes with the interchangable heads, his vintage spear, and his modern axe/sword-thing. Seriously, what's the best word for it? We'll call it an axe for convenience's sake. The spear is very simple, befitting its vintage origins, and fits snugly in the right hand. It has a minor paint application around the "blade" of the spearhead. The axe is a bit more complex. It's a great Classics-ized version of his modern weapon. The entire thing is painted, with silver on the blade portions, teal highlights and orange throughout. The orange and teal paints are applied a bit sloppily, which was disappointing; why wasn't this molded in orange plastic?

The biggest problem, though, is Whiplash's inability to hold onto the axe. Unlike Skeletor and other characters with the open clawed hand, Whiplash's hand is made from a fairly soft plastic that refuses to hold the axe tightly. While the texture of the plastic is good, it's a bit soft, which means his left hand won't hold his (axe? sword? what is that thing?) very tightly if your display location is anywhere above 60°. He'll hold it tight initially, but eventually it'll loosen up around the handle until the slightest jostle will make it drop. You might be able to fix the problem a bit by warming the hand with a hair dryer, tightening the grip and then dipping it in ice water, but given how soft the plastic is this probably won't work as a long-term solution. It's not a huge disappointment - with enough finagling, you can still get him to hold the axe - but given the fact that the axe was specifically designed to be held by the large hand, it's a shame Mattel didn't work to ensure the hand was made from firmer plastic.

Whiplash has gotten a so-so reception from fans, and I have to admit I'm kind of surprised. With a surprising amount of new tooling, two weapons, an alternate modern head, and an articulated tail, Whiplash is one of the best regular-scale MOTUC figures. My interest in MOTU has been in a bit of low cycle lately - fear not, I'm not anywhere close to even considering dropping the line, I've just been focusing on some other interests - and while Orko, Prince Adam and Mo-Larr didn't do a whole lot to revive that interest, Whiplash did. He's a great, classic MOTU character, and now an excellent MOTU Classics figure. His only flaws are the oversized head, the loose left hand and some paint issues.

-- 11/15/10

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