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Superman/He-Man & Lex Luthor/Skeletor

DC Universe vs. Masters of the Universe Classics
by Poe Ghostal

One of the biggest toy-related surprises of the new year was the announcement of Mattel's DC vs. Masters of the Universe 2-packs, sold not through MattyCollector.com but exclusively through Toys Я Us stores. The first pack, Superman vs. He-Man, recreates their famous first meeting in DC Comics Presents #47 and includes a full-sized copy of that comic. The second pack features Skeletor and a reissue of the DC Superheroes Lex Luthor in his iconic purple-and-green armor, and includes a copy of the second Supes/He-Man meeting, which was a one-shot included in a few different DC comics in 1982 as a preview of DC's three-issue MOTU miniseries (one of my personal favorite depictions of the MOTUverse).

Luthor doesn't appear in either comic (both of which are drawn by legendary Golden Age Superman artist Curt Swan), but it was a shrewd move to include the DCSH Luthor, who's still scarce enough that the set will entice both DCU and MOTU Classics fans.

To make the pack attractive to fans who already own He-Man and Skeletor from MattyCollector - and also to ensure the versions of He-Man and Skeletor sold on Mattycollector retain their value - both figures are repaints, and He-Man even has a slight sculptural difference.

Rocketed to Earth from the doomed planet Krypton, the infant Kal-El was adopted by the kindly Kent family of Smallville, Kansas. Young Clark kent grew strong and powerful under the rays of Earth's yellow sun, developing a phenomenal array of super powers. In adulthood, Clark would use these abilities as Superman, championing the virtues of Truth, Justice and the American Way while keeping secret his true identity as a crusading reporter for a great Metropolitan newspaper.

A direct descendant of the legendary King Grayskull, Prince Adam of Eternia was chosen to protect his ancestor's Power Sword from evil. At first, he used a techno vest with a built-in force field to fight evil, but Adam has since learned to combine both halves of the Power Sword, using it to channel the energy of the Elders to become He-Man - the Most Powerful Man In The Universe! He guards the safety of all Eternia alongside the heroic Masters of the Universe.

The Superman and Lex Luthor figures are nearly identical to their previous releases, so I refer you to their respective reviews. The only major difference I've noted (aside from Luthor's lack of a pistol and extra Kryptonite pieces) is that Superman's hair has more blue in it than usual, presumably to reflect the more "comicbook" style of the sets.

As a super-intelligent teenager, Lex Luthor idolized Superboy. While working on a cure for Superboy's weakness to kryptonite, one of Luthor's lab experiments went awry. This caused irreparable damage to his psyche as well as the permanent loss of his hair. Luthor blames Superman for this accident and has tried many times to destroy him, concocting numerous schemes and weapons. Superman overcame all of Luthor's plots and Luthor's failures only served to magnify his hatred of Superman.

Mortally wounded in battle with his half-brother Captain Randor, Keldor turned to his dark-arts master Hordak to save his life. Merging Keldor with the extra-dimensional being Demo-Man from Despondos, Keldor was forever changed into Skeletor, Overlord of Evil! He gathered together the greatest outcasts and evil warriors of Eternia in his quest to gain entry into Castle Grayskull and obtain what he believes is the universe's ultimate power source.

While Mattel seems to be sticking closely with what works on their DC Universe and Masters of the Universe Classics packaging, these sets really stand out. The Superman vs. He-Man set has a bright yellow scheme, based on the iconic cover of DC Comics Presents #47. The vibrant high-constrast colors and bright Curt Swan cover are eye-catching and fun.

The Luthor/Skeletor set has a bright purple scheme, giving these sets a decidedly vernal, Easter-y feel. On the back of both packages are more graphics depicting the characters, as well as bios recycled from their respective individual releases. The cardboard insert in the lower area of the front of the blister utilizes the same graphics as the DCU and MOTUC packaging design, just split down the center.

Skeletor's sculpt is the same as the reissue (meaning it has the "tight-grip" left hand, as opposed to the open hand of the first release, as seen in the comparison photos). He-Man's sculpt is nearly identical to the regular release as well, with one slight difference: on the left forearm there's only a simple bracelet to match the one on the right arm, rather than the larger, leather-strapped one found on the regular release. This was done to match the He-Man as drawn in DCCP #47.

Paint is where these figure differ the most from the regular releases. The paint scheme of both figures is meant to evoke the look of the comics, with brighter, higher-contrast colors and color choices that reflect their depiction in DCCP #47. The results are similar to Hasbro's early comic-themed Star Wars sets.

He-Man's harness, for example, is molded in a brighter shade of gray than the regular release. [Note: the first-release He-Man in the comparison photos is wearing the harness that came with the Goddess, which is fairly similar to the one that comes with the two-pack; the one that comes with the actual first release He-Man is a darker gray. --ed.] The red on the cross and straps is brighter and more intense than the one used on the regular figure.

The DCCP He-Man's hair has a dark wash that arguably looks better than the regular release (though it also resembles a comic-like texture of inked pencils, if that makes sense). The bracelets are bright yellow, while the belt is painted in metallic orange with pink "gems" along the sides. There's some slop around the edges of the bracelets, which is particularly noticeable since the rest of the paint apps are fairly sharp. The loincloth is a ruddier shade of brown than the first release, and the boots are reddish as well.

The result is a He-Man figure that differs significantly from the standard release. The dark wash on the hair and the metallic orange paint apps on the belt are arguably superior to the standard release (though the pink gems negate most of the effect on the belt). Some fans have said they prefer the two-pack He-Man and are using him as their "default" He-Man - possibly because he resembles the Filmation He-Man more than the standard release. I wouldn't go that far myself, but he's definitely different enough to be worth the purchase for diehard MOTUC collectors while "normal" enough to satisfy more casual MOTU fans who just want the one He-Man figure.

Then there's Skeletor. The paint differences here aren't quite as noticeable from the regular version, but they're there. The armor has been molded in a slightly different shade of purple; it's brighter, more intense, and a bit closer to the red part of the spectrum than the armor of the first release. The bones on the center of the armor are now a shiny purple, while the face is a solid yellow, without the touches of green of the standard edition. Again, some fans have really taken to this Skeletor, seeing it as resembling the Filmation incarnation more than the regular release. However, the differing shades of purple means this head won't match up quite right if swapped to the original.

Both the DCU and the MOTUC figures have the standard articulation for their brand. All four figures have balljointed heads (though as usual, the DCU figures are somewhat limited here - they can look down but not up), ball-and-hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, swivel wrists, hinged abdomens, swivel waists, hinged knees, and hinged ankles. The DCU figures feature the H-hinges at the hips, while the MOTUC figures have ball-and-hinge joints combined with an upper thigh swivel. The MOTUC figures also have a swivel at the top of the boots, and He-Man and Skeletor all have "rocker" ankles (I suppose Superman is supposed to have them as well, but they're not functional). There are reports of loose joints on some of the figures, but I had no problems with mine.

Superman has no accessories. What? He's Superman. He-Man comes with the same axe that's been included with every He-Man release so far, a nice two-toned piece. But his shield is a repaint, featuring a silver finish and black rivets. It's not from the comic (he doesn't carry a shield in DCCP #47, and in the one-shot he's carrying his gray-and-red shield), but I'm not going to complain about getting a "new" shield.

Lex Luthor comes with four, count 'em, four pieces of kryptonite - gold, blue, red, and the usual green. The gold kryptonite in Lex Luthor's hands is particularly alarming, since it can permanently (Pre-Crisis) or temporarily (Post-Crisis) rob Superman of all his powers.

Skeletor comes with a Power Sword. Molded in clear plastic with flat gold paint trim, it's meant to represent a "glowing" Power Sword, which makes sense since Skeletor spends all of DCCP #47 blasting everything in sight with it. And while I know some fans - particularly casual fans who just want a Skeletor - are disappointed with the lack of a Havoc Staff, Skeletor doesn't carry it in either comic. On the other hand, Lex Luthor doesn't even appear in either comic...

Finally, both packs come with the aforementioned comics. They've been reprinted on magazine paper with brighter, more saturated colors.

These sets run from $30 to $35, depending on your TRU, though $30 seems to be more common. Since $35 is just the combined cost of a MOTUC figure and a DCU figure, $30 is somewhat of a deal. The price hasn't stopped fans from buying entire cases of these things, so the price-haters are out of luck for now - Mattel has zero incentive to lower the prices on MOTUC items, particularly when I suspect these sets would still be selling out at $40.

I bought these sets because I wanted to have a He-Man and Skeletor to take to work without fear of them being stolen (I do not want to be in a position where I need to get another He-Man off eBay, or wait for another re-release). But I didn't want to buy a second "regular" figure of each; that seemed like a waste of money. Fortunately, these attractive repaints are perfect for that role, and perfect for the casual fan who's not willing to commit to the MattyCollector madness.

-- 03/28/10

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