Fans love a mystery. You create a character with an unknown or conflicted background, and you've just created a star. Marvel has Wolverine, Star Wars has Boba Fett and Masters of the Universe has Zodak.
When the original figure was released, his card described him as an "Evil Cosmic Enforcer." He didn't appear in any of the minicomics included with the line, so no one knew wht his personality or powers were like. In DC's comics, he was more neutral, and in the cartoon series he leaned toward good. In the various MotU storybooks, he was either yet another servant of Skeletor or one of He-Man's best allies. So depending on what source you were using, the guy was all over the board. The new cartoon series adapted all this contradictory information to create a character who was so far removed from the power struggle on Eternia that he could aid either side at any time, depending on what was best for his own personal goals. It wasn't the most popular update in the series, but it made sense.
If the cartoon's characterization was controversial, then the Four Horsemen's design was a full-on scandal. Their original concept was to play up the "Cosmic Enforcer" angle, turning him into a decidely alien creation. But when Mattel decided to inject some ethnicity into the otherwise whitebread world of He-Man, the choice came down to Stratos or Zodak. Sensitive enough to realize that it would be inappropriate at best to make the flying monkey black, Mattel and the Horsemen went with the crazy spaceman.
Zodak still looks a great deal like his '80s counterpart. The biggest change is that he's now got human feet instead of three-toed claws and has light blue tribal patterns on his skin. Otherwise, it's a grand re-creation. There's much more detail in the figure now, of course, but it's inspired by the original. His red armor has the same shapes running up the front, his boots and loin cloth are still grey, but instead of bare hands, he's got technological gloves.
The helmet is quite blatantly a nod to the old version: the big black eyes, the metal across the bridge of the nose, the big weird ears... it's barely been updated at all, and that's great. What is new, however, is that the helmet is removable. Zodak is bald beneath, but his neck and jaw are metal, to meet up with the mask. When the helmet is on, it makes Zodak look like he's looking down, since it rides high on the back of his head.
That does allow us to tilt it back, however, revealing Zodak's face while leaving the helmet on. In that case, though, Mattel could have put some pegs or something so the piece actually did rotate back.
Zodak comes with two accessories,
neither of which is really related to the original figure. He's got a battle staff that (vaguely) resembles the original figure's gun barrel, and a very odd under-slung spacegun of some sort. He can't hold both at once, since only one hand is molded for an accessory - his right hand is posed with the first two fingers pointed straight out, in some sort of nerve strike or something.
The figure is 6" tall and moves at the hips, waist, shoulders, gloves and neck. The waist is spring-loaded, like a lot of the MotU figures, so it's worthless for posing. Shame, too, since when you remove his armor you see that he's obviously supposed to be twisted slightly to the side. Though the shoulders are balljoints, Zodak's action feature kills the use of the right arm. He's got a simply huge button on his back: push it, and he swings his arm down. It's supposed to be a chop of some sort, but it's just dumb.
Zodak was one of the figures released at the very end of the new MotU run, which means most people never even saw him. It's a good figure, but not one you really need to hunt down to complete your collection. You know, maybe NECA will turn the original alien concept into one of their mini-statues - he'd be a great addition to this version, and they could be mysterious together.
Who's the better black, bald, villain-turned-good guy played by Christopher Judge: Zodak or Teal'c? Tell us on our message board, The Loafing Lounge.