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Orko (w/ Prince Adam)

Masters of the Universe Classics
by Poe Ghostal

There are a few toys I distinctly remember getting as a kid, and one of them was Orko. I don't remember where we found him, but I know we brought him back to my grandparents' house on Burton Terrace, where I revved up his ripcord on the coffee table and sent him spinning around. Even as a kid, I recognized the fact that most of the original MOTU figures didn't look a whole lot like their cartoon counterparts. He-Man was far more muscled, and his face didn't look anything like the friendly Filmation character. Orko, however, actually looked like his cartoon counterpart (no, not as much as the new one, but to a degree that was about standard for toys at the time). There was something really appealing about that.

It's interesting that Mattel chose to pair Orko with Prince Adam, because I've always felt the same way about both figures: they're interesting to me because they're "story" characters whose toys were inspired by the cartoon, rather than the other way around. Orko and Prince Adam made the cartoon more real in a way a lot of the other figures didn't. Some fans dislike Orko, some fans out-and-out hate him as representing the more childish aspects of their favorite franchise (which, just to remind you, is called "He-Man"). Others dislike Adam for similar reasons, preferring a more barbaric He-Man who never transmogrifies into the weak, Clark Kent-like Adam.

I love them both.

After the rise of the Horde Empire, evil again outweighed the forces of good in the five dimensions. So in every generation a Cosmic Warrior was recruited by the Overlords of Trolla to fight against evil. Each was given the Sword of He, a weapon infused with the Power of the Universe. They were also assigned a Trollan guide to watch over and advise them in their quests. On the planet of Eternia, after five centuries of being split in two, the Trollan Power Sword was at long last joined and bequeathed to an heir worthy of its power - Prince Adam of the royal household. Orko, a member of the Trollan magical elite, was assigned to watch over Adam. Although he was a powerful mage on Trolla, the hidden mystic properties of Eternia turned his magiks into little more than entertaining tricks, which he uses to entertain his friends and remain undercover.

As everyone knows by now, Orko and Prince Adam were this year's major MOTUC SDCC exclusive (alongside Mo-Larr). The Orko sold at the show had a "color change" feature, turning him clear when dipped in water. It was a nice gimmick, hurt only by the fact that Orko himself looked translucent when not dipped in water. I suspect most fans who got the color-change version still wanted the regular one. The set sold for $25, plus shipping from Mattycollector.

The packaging for Orko is in the same style as the rest of MOTUC boxes, but larger so as to accommodate Adam at the bottom of the box. He's hidden completely out of sight, confounding MOC collectors; this is because he's intended to be an "accessory." While the whole "accessory" conceit is cute, Mattel should have just put Adam front and center and made Orko the accessory. Adam was still the big statue at the Mattel booth at SDCC, not Orko.

The Horsemen's 2002 Orko was... a little weird. He was largely pre-posed, and he was very tall (which may not have been the Horsemen's fault - Mattel futzed with the scale on that entire line [all their boys' lines, really], what with the tiny Trap Jaw and small Beast Man and so forth). The big medallion on the MO2K Orko's chest, combined with his hunched pose, made him look a bit like a rapper in the middle of busting a rhyme.

The MOTUC Orko is much more classic in its look. However the rights issues were worked out, this is basically a Filmation Orko. He's finally in the right scale - about 2½ MOTUC heads tall. His sculpt isn't too complex, but it's another job well done for the Horsemen.

Orko's head is removable; the bandanna is a separate piece that fits beneath it. He plugs into a clear base with a ball-and-socket joint, allowing him a good variety of "floating" poses. And yes, you can swap his head with other MOTUC figures, to damned creepy effect.

Orko's robe is made from pliable plastic, which is just the right feel for the figure. There aren't a lot of paint applications on Orko. The eyes are okay, and the "O" is tampographed on well. The orange chosen for the hat is a bit brighter than I would have gone with. However, the ears are painted very unevenly where they meet the hat. This showed up on the preview samples and Mattel promised they'd be fixed on the production samples; obviously, this isn't the case. (What year is this again? 2010? What year did Mandarin Spawn come out? 1998?)

Orko has the aforementioned "balljoint" where he plugs into the stand, a balljointed head (which moves independently of the bandana), ball-and-hinge shoulders, hinged elbows that also swivel (to make up for the lack of a biceps swivel), and swivel wrists. It's all the articulation he needs, and allows for plenty of posing.

Orko comes with his wand (a Classics-ized version of his 2002 wand) and a spellbook. The wand fits pretty well in Orko's hand, though it's a little loose. But he can't really hold the spell book without bending the fingers back - he can tuck it under his arm, though. Of course, this little guy does come with one other accessory: Prince Adam.

Just like in the original line, there is no physical difference between Prince Adam and He-Man. His new parts include a pliable red vest and the "smirking" head. The vest is loose enough to allow Prince Adam's ab joint to work, and it's fantastic not to have to worry about keeping track of a little black belt or a yellow cloth buckle. The smirking head offers just the right touch of that "naughty playboy" look. Prince Adam features his stylish purple tights and dark purple boots, as well as silver gauntlets. The paint applications on him are fairly neat and clean, with little or no slop.

Prince Adam comes with the magenta sword and the magenta half-sword, as well as an extra "regular" He-Man head. Does anyone like all the extra half-swords? They're almost more like a collectible than an actual accessory at this point. I'm glad we got them with He-Man and Skeletor, but getting all these other half-swords just seems like a waste of plastic. I suppose Mattel felt they had to justify tooling the half-swords in the first place by reusing the mold over and over.

There's also no overlooking the glaring omission of a sword holster on Adam's back. Toyguru thought it was a design decision by the Four Horsemen, but when we went straight to the source and asked them about their reasons for it, they sent us this photo of the paint master, which definitely had the holster in place. Having seen that, I will say really I wish he had a holster on his back - at the very least, to provide some symmetry with Adora.

Adam has the standard MOTUC articulation: balljoints at the head and shoulders, ball-and-hinge joints at the hips, hinges at the elbows, knees, ankles and abdomen, swivels at the biceps, wrists, upper thighs and top of the boots, and "rocker" ankles. However, Adam ends my epic run of MOTUC figures with at least one tight ankle joint. Both my Adam's ankles are fairly loose, and one is very loose. The loose-ankle issue has become the (ahem) Achilles' heel of MOTUC, and some fans are calling for the joint to be removed altogether. Personally I think that's one of those "then the terrorists have won" sort of situations - there is no excuse for such an ongoing QC issue, and no reason we should have to sacrifice articulation just to resolve it. Unfortunately, we know from experience (see: DCUC) that Mattel is very, very slow to address QC problems in their factories.

Loose ankles on Adam and poorly painted ears on Orko? Not cool, Mattel.

Both of these figures were favorites of mine as a kid. I love Orko; I think he came out well, despite the ears issue, and the ball-jointed stand was a great idea. I'm not quite as enamored of Prince Adam, though his smirking head is a great bonus. When compared to the standard $20 for a MOTUC figure, this set is a fairly good deal; you get both a full figure and a good-sized, iconic character, plus five accessories. But the QC issues really annoyed me with this set. It's well past time for Mattel to deal with these issues and get their factories to produce runs of figures where loose ankles and sloppy paint are the exception, not the rule.

-- 08/23/10

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