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Chief Carnivus

Masters of the Universe Classics
by yo go re

King Grayskull, Scareglow, Count Marzo... you might notice a pattern to the MotU Classics figures I've bought: they're all ones we should have gotten in the superior 2002 line, but didn't. Now we're adding another to that list, Chief Carnivus.

Leader of a race of Eternian cat warriors called Qadians, Carnivus keeps his people safe high in the village of Felis Qadi. For many years, the Qadians kept a neutral stance, preferring not to get involved in the affairs of other tribes. But with the rise of Skeletor and the subsequent release of the Snake Men and the Horde from their interdimensional prisons, Carnivus agreed to re-evaluate his core principles and joined the struggle for freedom, allying himself and his people with King Randor's new Eternian Council. Carnivus uses his feline agility and great courage to fight against evil.

The overwhelming response when Chief Carnivus was revealed was a resounding "who?" To which we respond, "if you haven't watched the '02 Mike Young Productions cartoon, what the hell is wrong with you?" Seriously, it's one of the best cartoons of the last decade. Sure, Carny only appeared in, like, four episodes, but it's kind of hard to miss the king of all lions. Word that he was coming was reason enough to immediately run to your calendar and start counting down the days.

Re-use is the name of the game with MotU Classics, so all Carnivus's furry parts originally belonged to Beast Man. It works very well since, unlike Beast Man, Carnivus had fairly humanoid proportions. As is typical with anthropomorphic creatures, the fur gets thicker the farther it is from center mass. The sculpt gets really heavy below the elbows, for instance, but the entire body has a fine, downy coat. The figure gets a new right hand (since Beast Man's was fully open, not capable of holding anything) as well as new feet: his toes are shorter and more bulbous than BM's, because they need to look leonid rather than simian.

The head has a great design, at once regal and fierce. It's not an exact match to the cartoon design, but let's be honest here: there are a few mitigating factors. First of all, none of the '00s figures looked exactly like the cartoon designs, because the animators simplified the Four Horsemen designs they were given. Secondly, this isn't meant to look like the cartoon: rather, the 4H's task is to imagine what Carnivus would have looked like had a toy of him been made in the '80s, then create an updated version of that. The fact that it looks as much like the cartoon as it does is a victory.

His hair (mane?) has the same thick "anime" styling as the '02 MotU figures had, with two big "spikes" forming the bangs in the front, and a thick strand falling down each side of his face with a band tied around them to keep them separate. He has sculpted earrings, but they don't seem to be painted. His thin crown has the same design seen on the show, and his eyes are the appropriate shade of green.

Carnivus gets his shins from He-Ro, but the rest of his armor is new. Rather than the traditional furry panties most of the guys wear, Carnivus gets a real (sculpted) loincloth, and his belt has a stylized cat head in the center. He's wearing a red cape that can be removed if you pop his head off, and the chest armor can be slipped off that way too. The pauldrons capture the look of the cartoon perfectly, with a gold-rimmed red disc in a field of purple, but he is missing the purple sash that should run over his left shoulder and under his right arm. There should be bands around his biceps, as well, and thicker bracelets, but we can look past those minor things.

The figure comes with two accessories, the Sword of Saz and his ancestral shield. The sword has a slight curve at the tip, making it more of a scimitar - something which would have made sense for the Middle Eastern-flavored Marzo, but looks great with Carnivus, as well. There's just something about a guy who looks like a lion wielding a sword with a prominent crossguard with hook quillons and a red gem in the center, you know? Actually, there was a rumor that before the cartoon ended, Mattel had quietly picked up the Thundercats license and wanted to tie them in with MotU, and would have used Chief Carnivus to open that door. After all, it's not like there had ever been cat-people in He-Man before. Still, while there's no way of knowing if there's any truth to the rumors, we lean toward "no," and the Sword of Saz's superficial similarities to the Sword of Omens are probably just coincidence.

The "ancestral" shield is particularly intriguing, however. It's a gold and purple shield, designed to clip onto his left wrist, and it has an image of a cat's face in the center. It's not just any cat's face, though: it's clearly the guardian lion from the middle of The Three Towers. We know the Three Towers exist in the Classics continuity, because they've been mentioned before, but connecting them to the Qadians is a new wrinkle on the ever-evolving storyline these figures are crafting.

Something interesting to note: scroll way back up and read the back-of-the-card bio again. See how it mentions the Snake Men and the Horde being released from their interdimensional prisons? That's a reference to the cartoon - more specifically, to the cartoon's unproduced third season. We saw the Snake Men released, but not the Horde; the third season was going to see Hordak returned to Eternia and ruling the planet. King Randor would have been banished to Despondos, and He-Man and the Masters would have been fighting as renegades, rather than heroes. Dark stuff, and though Mattel pulled the plug on the show before it happened, they're including it in the official continuity, which is pretty awesome.

Chief Carnivus had the slowest sell-out of any MotU Classic figure yet, lasting an entire 28½ hours. Doesn't mean it was any less of a pain in the ass to fight through Mattel's site, though. Some people point to this as evidence that the 2002 line doesn't sell well, but you have to stop thinking about it in terms of Mattel's head-up-the-ass marketing and look at it from the real world: every single Carnivus they produced sold out in one day. In what world is that a failure? Not even the SDCC exclusives sell that fast, and no one's ever called those a failure (from a "demand" point of view, at least). Our motto here is "buy the toys, not the hype," so forget the "it needs to sell out in three minutes or else" lies that Mattel feeds you in their Q+A sessions. Chief Carnivus is a great figure, and it's very exciting that we got him in this line. If the nostalgia-fans don't want him, that just means you won't have to pay a 200% markup to get one now.

-- 10/04/10

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