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Masters of the Universe Classics
by Shocka

I have a big, varied collection of toys, mostly action figures in the 6"-7" scale, mostly licenced characters. Part of the appeal of collecting is that I get to have all of my favorite characters in their own universe, a universe in which He-Man can fight the T-Rex from Jurassic Park with Gandalf, or Mulder and Scully can investigate aliens from the Star Wars cantina. Demand for beloved characters is one of the things that keeps collecting alive, and keeps companies producing different action figures from different properties; there will always be demand for action figures of characters never before immortalized in plastic as well as better versions of previously made characters. On the other side of the coin, there are plenty of amazing action figures that aren't licenced characters at all - Plan B's amazing figures of SWAT team members, for example, look great in display with plenty of other properties or by themselves. The Hero Project is another great example. And then there are toys that are both licenced and have broader appeal, and these are often some of the best.

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Griffins, great flying beasts originally brought to Eternia by Star Merchants, broke free and lived in a wild colony deep in the Vine Jungle. Here they were once again enslaved, becoming the steed of choice for the savage Beast Men living in their treetop villages. Raqquill Rqazz, a Beast Man serving Skeletor from Snake Mountain, often calls upon several Griffins to carry him and his master into battle. During the Second Ultimate Battleground, several hundred Griffins were commanded to attack Grayskull Tower, hoping to weaken the Masters' defense perimeter. Soaring high above Eternia, Griffins bring terror to those below!

Although the Griffin here is a "Masters of the Universe character," that term should be used in the most flimsy way possible: a Griffin was seen occasionally in the 2002 series but only as one of Beast Man's many beasties. Reworking the sculpt for Battle Cat/Panthor, the Four Horseman were able to create a brand new mount for Beast Man in the Masters of the Universe Classics, the Griffin, who stands out not only as an excellent MOTU toy but one that will appeal to other collectors as well, as a spectacular mythological creature brought to life in plastic.

The Griffin is featured in a nice big package that has become the standard for MOTUC mounts and other larger figures. The back features the new bio as well as other shots of various characters. Presentation in package is quite good: the Griffin is not assembled, instead displayed with wings unattached in such a way as to show off the excellent design and the immense size. Out of the package, the Griffin is a HUGE 13" long with an impressive 18" wingspan.

Combining the wings from Swiftwind with the body from the MOTUC cats, the Griffin impressively reuses parts from previous figures to create something new, and all of the new parts are amazing. The Griffin features talons instead of paws at the the back, along with a double-tailed... tail? The head is the most impressive part of the sculpt, combining the look of an eagle with a sort of lion's mane (featuring six well-placed feathers) and four creepy eyes to make for something really awesome. There's so much detail here and it looks great.

This excellent design is matched with great paint application: the brightly colored wings of Swiftwind are converted gorgeously into Griffin wings using browns, black and white, matching the color of the main body's fur. The shading here draws attention to details, making it look like the wings have feathers while the body is furred, as one expects from the mythical creature. There's no overspray or errors with mine, and it all looks excellent. The detail on the head is also superb, with the feathers individually painted, the eyes perfectly highlighted and there's even shading on the beak to make it look all the more real. You can't fault any of this - it is excellent.

Grif shares the articulation with the MOTU cats as well as the balljoints of the Swiftwind wings - he even has the hinged jaw (in this case a hinged beak), which is magnificent. The Griffin lacks accessories other than his saddle, which is removable - excellent, seriously excellent! This is where the lengthy intro comes into play: without his saddle, this becomes an amazing mythological creature toy who fits into anyone's collection, not just Masters collectors. But even with the saddle on he looks great, and MOTU characters like Beast Man look fantastic riding him.

When it comes to this toy, I can't find anything to complain about. The sculpt, articulation and design are all first-rate and he has appeal even for non-Masters fans. Even the usual Matty-mark-up doesn't seem so expensive here considering the impressive size - even having handled the MOTUC cats, and Swiftwind, doesn't really give you an idea of how massive this toy feels until you have him in front of you. That new headsculpt transforms the toy and makes one instantly forget any of the weirdness that comes with Mattel's non-stop reuse: it's threatening and intimidating and frankly I don't like looking at it too long. And that ROCKS! Like Photog before him, the Griffin is one of the best MOTUC toys and one of my favorite toys in recent memory.

-- 08/06/12

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