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Masters of the Universe: New Eternia
by yo go re

For those who don't know (like me, until just now), the idea behind the "New Eternia" portion of Mattel's Masterverse line is to take the original character designs that were tweaked and refined to become the '80s Masters of the Universe toys the world is familiar with, and create modern figures based specifically on them. Kind of like Demo-Man and Vikor in the MotU Classics line, but without needing to reimagine them as someone new. They absolutely make for some cool-looking toys today, but I haven't purchased any before Ram-Man.

A one-man wrecking crew, the hard-headed warrior known as Ram Man can break down any door, crumble any tower, and even turn a mountain into rubble. For a price, of course. He is untrusting of anyone, but has a reputation as being a man of his word. The battlecharger and last of the Stoneskulls searches New Eternia for clues to his long lost lineage.

Although toy companies seem to be pathologically afraid of hyphens today, it may not be incorrect in Ram-Man's case: there are vintage samples of both "Ram-Man" or "Ram"-space-"Man" being printed at the top, so this may be a "Frenzy and Rumble" or "4-LOM and Zuckuss" situation. The minicomics called him "Ram-Man" though, and that just looks better, so it's what we're sticking with. Because we have class and taste.

The character who would eventually become Ram-Man was, like many early MotU figures, designed by Mark Taylor. It took many iterations and deviations to get us to the character we know, including one that's best described as "Renaissance Viking Conquistador Dwarf," but that might have been too far afield for this line - the figures are still supposed to be reocognizably themselves, after all, so Rammy is wearing his traditional red tunic, gladiator skirt, heavy boots, and solid metal yoke. The shirt not only has crossed stitches tying it shut, it's also fully covered in a fine texture that makes it look like leather. The armor looks like it was hand-hammered into shape, with random pits and dings to keep it from looking too perfect.

The figure includes three heads, but none of them really look much like Mark Tayor's old art. Right out of the box, he has a very vintage look, the simple bucket helmet with the cheek-flaps and the crenellation around the top. Thankfully, they didn't try to give him squinted eyes this time, just a normal, placid look that suits him nicely. So we're already doing better than Classics.

The second head is a more refined helmet, with a raised edge all the way around, a few small rivets for design purposes, and an extra ring circling the forehead. The top of this helmet is pointed, rather than flat, and an extra piece of armor comes down between the eyes, covering the nose and mouth extirely. If you turn this one around and look at the back, there's a key molded and painted on the surface; not sure what that's referencing, but I'm sure it's something.

The third head is more advanced still, with the raised edge now being painted flashy orange, the top of the helmet having evolved into spikes (that make him feel a bit like a meat tenderizer), and a pair of black goggles covering his eyes. Taylor's early concept did feature a head with goggles, but it was also wearing a small, round helmet, not anything like this. It looked like something Zodac or the Fighting Foe Men would wear, so this is only a reference in the most roundabout way.

Both alternate heads feature metallic blue elements (the circlet and mouthguard on Head 2, the entire body on Head 3) that match one of Ram-Man's accessories: a separate harness that covers his entire chest. What the huh? That is definitely not something any Ram-Man has worn before, even in the concept art. The spikes over the shoulders match those on the third helmet, and the big circle on the front of the chest features a demonic head in a pointy star; that being painted orange, combined with the blue around it, really calls to mind the missiles that came with the vintage Battle Ram. It's not a direct copy, but the vibe is right. What connection are we ment to draw there?

"New Eternia" Ram-Man does not have spring-loaded legs, although the sculpt of his boots does include a cute little reference to that old feature, in the form of a little metal stud on the back of his right heel, just where the vintage toy's trigger could be found. Smart!

Most of the articulation is fine, though there is one oddity worth discussing. When the Classics figure wanted to articulate Ram-Man's legs, it just articulated his legs; when Masterverse wants to do it, they give him normal legs with flexible rubber tubes around them? Why? That's, like, the worst possible way to do it. Whose decision was it, and why did they choose so wrong? That's just begging to decay over time and become ugly and worthless. It's particularly egregious since the rest of the joints are all so good. He's got a balljointed head, swivel/hinged shoulders, swivel biceps, double-hinged elbows, swivel/hinge wrists, a balljointed chest, swivel waist, swivel thighs, some kind of hinges in the kneess, swivel boots, and swivel/hinge ankles. It's annoying trying to make sure you have the knees pointed the right direction to allow them to bend, and the neck joint feels worryingly brittle when you go to swap his heads - even doing it a few times is enough to make the front and back halves of the torso start to stress apart.

He includes both fists and open hands, plus a version of his vintage axe. No labrys, this time. Guess that would have been too "new" for "New Eternia." The axe can be stored in clips on figure's back... as long as he's wearing the superfluous harness: they're only on there, not on the figure itself.

Ram-Man is one of the larger, "deluxe" sets in this line, but he turned up at Target right when they were offering 25% off any toy, plus a $5 bonus discount, so I got him for a really good price. And it's good I did, because at full price, the badly designed legs and the difficulty in switching the heads would be much more annoying than they are. This is a nice Ram-Man figure, but there's still room to make a better one.

-- 11/20/23

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