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Masters of the Universe Classics
by Poe Ghostal

I love gorillas. Like great white sharks, alligators, and Komodo dragons, gorillas are living monsters - but they're good monsters, the ones on us mammals' side (more or less). What's more, gorillas weren't really known to exist in the Western world until the mid-1800s, before which they were simply tales brought back by the occasional adventurer of large hairy man-like beasts roaming the Dark Continent. They were Victorian England's version of Bigfoot - except they were real. While we're discussing history, let's talk about Gygor's. Gygor was never actually produced for the original 1980s Masters of the Universe line. He only existed as a prototype. We first became aware of Gygor's existence when reading Roger Sweet's account of his time at Mattel, Mastering the Universe, and I instantly wished that young Poe had had the opportunity to play with a big yellow armored ape wielding a battle axe.

Shortly after the Great Unrest, Keldor was driven behind the Mystic Wall and Gygor, Lord of the Vine Jungle, led an army of beast men in a series of raids against the long forgotten Castle Grayskull, believing the many tales of its great and mysterious power. It was only through the combined powers of Oo-larr - the jungle He-Man - and The Goddess that Gygor was defeated and placed in a state of suspended animation. Eventually, Hordak returned to Eternia and the savage gorilla was freed by Evil-Lyn in her attempt to bolster Skeletor's forces against the new Horde army. Gygor uses his great strength to fight the Heroic Warriors.

Like Battle Cat, Gygor was a repainted animal from Mattel's 1970s Big Jim line. There were supposedly later revisions to the figure that featured a saddle for figures to ride on, but personally I think this version is preferable.

Gygor had gained some minor notoriety among He-Fans, but it would be wrong to say fans were clamoring for Gygor. I certainly was more than ready for one, but there were plenty of fans who were mystified by his appearance at Toy Fair in February. Of course, we now know (as many suspected) that Gygor was also a way to get at least two uses out of one mold - i.e., the Shadow Beast.

There has been much discussion as to whether any part of Gygor is a re-use from Gorilla Grodd. We don't care whether that's true or not, because it has no bearing on the quality of this figure. We'll only say that the Four Horsemen have sculpted gorillas before, and there are a lot of similarities between their sculpts for Cy-Gor II, Grodd and Gygor. Gorillas is gorillas.

In any event, the sculpting for Gygor is superb as always. Some MOTUC fans may find that the high amount of detail on Gygor makes him look a bit out-of-place next to other MOTUC figures, though that may be partly a result of the simplicity of the earliest MOTU designs. Put him alongside Whiplash, Count Marzo and Chief Carnivus, and I think he fits right in. He stands just under 10" tall, and is a couple inches shorter than Tytus.

Gygor's mouth is sculpted in an open, roaring fashion, and the detailing on the mouth and teeth is particularly good. Generally we hate open-mouth figures - it locks them into a single pose/expression, when a plain face can mean anything - but Grodd's closed mouth was almost a little too mellow for an action figure. The Horsemen were basing their sculpt on the original Gygor, so the roaring mouth was a given, and it definitely works.

The armor is all removable, though the arm and leg armor do not have buckles, so you have to slide them over the hands and feet, which will require some agonizing stretching of the straps, so you run the risk of the straps becoming too loose. I removed them once for this review and don't plan to ever do it again. The chest armor does have a buckle in the back, and Gygor's head pops off easily to aid removal. If you look at the prototype, the Horsemen have closely based the look of the armor on the photos, so this is truly a Classics-ized version of what a vintage Gygor might have looked like.

Gygor's torso is rotocast, and it seems his legs are too. But it's a very thick, strong rotocast, and the plastic was able to hold the detailed sculpting of the fur very well. The head, arms, and feet are injection-molded in yellow, and while it's a strong yellow, it's not too bright or cartoonish. The paint work on Gygor is very good - higher than we usually see on MOTUC figure. Just check out the work on the mouth - they even painted the pits of his molars! The parts where the green skin fades to yellow fur are fairly well executed, and there's some nice dry-brush work on his fur. The back of the cape features the odd "gorilla hand" symbol, which must represent Gygor's tribe. Or maybe he was trapped on a desert island for a while and all he had to talk to was his cape.

While the articulation on the first large figure, Tytus, was disappointing, Gygor comes with quite a bit more. He has a ball-and-socket head with a pretty good range of motion, the all-important swivel/hinge shoulders and ankles, hinged elbows, swivel thighs, and swivel biceps, and wrists. It originally seemed the ankles were swivels: turns out they're actually swivel/hinges, but the forward-back movement is negligible; for all intents and purposes, they're plain swivels.

A lot of collectors are disappointed with the thighs, but working in balljoints for the hips would have both ratcheted the price up to the $40 range and probably have ruined the sculpt quite a bit. While it would have been great to have an ape figure that can actually realistically walk on his knuckles, don't be disappointed by its lack here. The one joint we would have liked to see is balljoint wrists of some sort. It would have added just the right amount of posing possibilities, especially with the axe.

Since we're counting his armor as part of the design and sculpt, the only accessory is his axe - which is, of course, badass, and has the added bonus of fitting perfectly in Tytus's hand.

It's hard to understand an action figure collector who doesn't see the appeal of an armored, axe-wielding gorilla. Jack Kirby would have loved this guy. I know a lot of people are turned off by the yellow-and-green colors, but that just screams "MOTU" (it's the touch that makes this a Masters of the Universe toy, rather than just a murderous ape). And at $30, he's much better priced than either the regular figures - which have so much re-use - and Tytus, who had less articulation, was almost entirely rotocast, and had a far less cool weapon. You can see a figure like this selling at normal retail for about $25 in today's market, so we're basically just getting the usual $5 "designer" cost for a Mattel online item.

Still, between that and the lack of balljointed wrists, Gygor isn't quite the ToY-nominee sure many of you were expecting. Still, he's an incredible action figure, and choosing a favorite this year - a year with Battle Cat and Trap Jaw as well - is going to be tough.

-- 06/20/11

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