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Masters of the Universe
by Poe Ghostal

Most of the Masters of the Universe relied on brute strength to get the job done, but there was one who always used his head.

This bullet-headed, armor-plated fighter can smash his way through most objects that get in his way. Although a bit of a klutz, Ram-Man often stumbles unaware over solutions, helping He-Man solve some of Eternia's enigmatic mysteries in order to defeat Skeletor and his evil companions. Ram-Man has a heart of gold and gives new definition to the term loyalty. His chief weapon is his metal-plated head. From time to time he carries a battle-axe.

Ram-Man was always one of my favorite He-Man figures, as I suspect he was for many children. Part of it has to be the odd design. Until the last year or two of the line, every single Masters of the Universe action figure was made from the same small assortment of torso, leg and arm molds. Sometimes they would vary which torsos went with which arms and what colors they were, but the cheap money-saving production values were obvious (and it's a process Mattel continues to this day; remember the He-Man playset called the Slime Pit?)

The earliest exception to all this equity-building was Ram-Man. Many have suspected that Ram-Man wasn't necessarily intended as a part of the MotU line but had originally been intended for another. This wouldn't have been unusual for MotU; after its initial success, the line quickly became a dumping ground for all the leftover concepts Mattel had lying around. But Ram-Man overcame his bizarre origins with an endearing, goofy design. He was made from hollow plastic, and featured exactly three points of articulation: shoulder-biceps and collapsing legs. The accordion-shaped legs could be pushed into the body, locking in just above the feet. When a button on his heel was pushed, the body popped up again - voila! Ramming action!

The sculpt was, to put it mildly, uninspired. Even against the fairly simple sculpts of the other He-Man figures he was unimpressive. Yet there was something special about Ram-Man. He defied the usual Eternian standards. He rejected the godlike Eternian physique in favor of a more pear-like shape. He wore a skirt, something even Teela didn't do. Yes, Ram-Man was one in a dozen.

The Four Horsemen, Mattel's main designers on the new MotU line, have translated Ram-Man to the new millennium in fairly - actually, very - faithful fashion. He retains the thick, broad shape, as well as the collapsing legs. The basic design is the same, but it features the world-class Horsemen sculpting, meaning Rammy looks good. Real good. Unlike the original line, RM fits right in. The expression on his face, one of grim determination (or is that really hard concentration?) is great, even if he does look like a pissed-off John Candy. Everything is well done, from the thick, pulpy-looking fists to the little dents in his helmet. Even the straps of his Roman-style skirt look good.

Articulation-wise, Ram-Man 2002 makes out a little better than his predecessor. He features swivel joints at the neck, waist and wrists and ball-jointed shoulders. His legs, unfortunately, are a solid piece so as to facilitate the ramming action (mouse over the picture or that link to see it). It's a shame we couldn't have articulated legs this time, but the tradeoff was clearly made so Ram-Man could retain the action feature. For some reason that I can't even express, I like this action feature, so therefore I won't complain.

RM's accessories consist of a battle-axe and... nothing else. Just a battle-axe, exactly like the original figure. He's got quite a grip on that axe. It can clip to RM's back, something the old one could not do. Not much else to say about it - it's an axe.

Overall, Rammy's a great addition to a great line. He's just hitting stores now (mostly Wal*Mart and Toys Я Us) so keep an eye out (or be weak and head to eBay like I did).

-- 09/14/02

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