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Vikor

Masters of the Universe Classics
by yo go re

It's been several years since we debunked the "He-Man is a reworked Conan toy" myth, but there's at least a small grain of truth there. He-Man may not be based on Arnold Schwarzenegger's movie, but if you look at the early design work, there is absolutely no denying that Mattel's artists were drawing inspiration (no pun intended) from the idea of the character.

Shortly after King Grayskull's death, Vikor, a great warrior from the north was chosen by the Goddess to help protect the Sword of He while all of Eternia waited for a true heir to be born. Already a master of the battleaxe, Vikor's legend soon spread across Eternia as he quested to vanquish evil - battling the remaining renegade Snake Men and defending the Valley of Gnarl from the Fighting Foe Men. Although his time as a He-Man was relatively short, his contribution to the legend will never be forgotten in the great archives of Eternia.

In the middle of 1981, Mattel did sign a license with Conan Properties, Inc., to make figures based on the film, but judging by how long it takes to get an action figure from concept to execution, it seems likely that Mattel already had their "unnamed barbarian toyline" in the works and was merely interested in shifting it in a Conan-ly direction. When they decided that wouldn't work, they asked to terminate the contract, and CPI agreed one month to the day before the movie opened.

Vikor is based on Mark Taylor's early concept art, and there's no mistaking the fact that this basically is Conan. The original art looks like something straight out of a Barry Windsor Smith drawing, though this toy obviously uses the standard MotU Classics bodyparts - with a healthy dose of new sculpts, as well. He's got the usual bare torso, but gets new forearms (for the chains), a new right upper arm (for the brown band you can barely even see) and at long last, a loincloth that doesn't look like fur panties.

Those manacles are an interesting feature. Was Vikor a former slave? Is he an escaped prisoner, like Samson? Does he not have any friends who could help him get those off, or are they somehow enchanted? The chains are real metal, so they rattle around nicely when you move him. The links that actually connect to the plastic on the wrists are larger than the rest, and don't actually close fully.

The head is entirely new, as well - this isn't just a He-Man in a black wig, to borrow a phrase - and it's even closer to comicbook Conan than the old art was! He's stern and squinty and has very defined cheeks. It's easy to see a bit of Arnie in that face, if you want to. His viking helmet has a simple design, but it's carried off well. His long hair poses a bit of a problem, though.

For the most part, Vikor's articulation is as good as any other MotU Classics offering. The head, though, seems to be lacking. It's not just that the length of the hair and the thickness of the cape prevent the head from turning, but the joint is very stiff and there's something about the construction that prevents the poor guy from looking up or down. So basically, his head is going to be in one position and never move. If you tuck his hair under the edge of the cape it's better, but only slightly.

Vikor's accessories include his battleaxe, warrior shield, and what Mattel calls the "Sword of Gaz." We don't know who Gaz is, but it's probably not who you're thinking of. The axe is rather plain, but more refined and polished than you'd expect a barbarian's weapon to be. The shield is nice, with an off-center wrist clip and an unexpectedly Persian design. The sword, like the axe, is smooth and retro-futuristic. There's a notch on the back of the loincloth to keep the sword when it's not in use.

His cape and necklace are a single, separate piece, but don't think you're going to get them off: in theory you should be able to pop off Vikor's head, but in practice it's just not happening. Hell, to even get him out of the packaging you'll probably have to cut him out of the tray, because the cape is too stiff to bend and fit through the opening. That's poor planning, and it's very frustrating.

After He-Man came out, Conan Properties Inc. sued Mattel. CPI claimed that He-Man was just a copy of Conan, and honestly, you can't blame them. But the result of the case found that not only were He-Man's similarities to Conan superficial at best, but that Conan himself was in the public domain (a fact which CPI continues to vehemently dispute to this day). So as long as Mattel had steered clear of the few elements that are copyrighted, they could have done whatever they wanted with the character. And now they have. Name aside, Vikor is a Four Horsemen-designed Conan. He's not as good as ToyBiz's version, but he's tons better than any of McFarlane's. And he's a Conan you can make fight He-Man and Skeletor, and that's gotta be worth something.

-- 02/07/11


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