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Masters of the Universe Classics
by Poe Ghostal

In 1986, Mattel was riding high on the massive success of Masters of the Universe. But by 1987, Mattel reported an incredible $127 million drop in domestic sales, mostly blamed on the decline of MOTU. There were probably a few reasons for this, ranging from tough competition from the Transformers and GI Joe to the lack of any media support - there hadn't been a new episode of the cartoon in two years, and the comics were sparse and mediocre at best, unlike those of the Transformers or GI Joe. But perhaps the biggest problem, as Jerry Oppenheimer suggests in his tell-all history of Mattel, Toy Monster, was that Mattel had become "too confident and too aggressive and too greedy in pushing the product to retailers to increase profits and impress Wall Street." As Roger Sweet noted in his book, the product was "way oversold, and in 1987 it collapsed [...] There was just too much product put in the stores for the amount of demand for it. It swamped the shelves." (Perhaps the memory of this disaster, looming large in the minds of Mattel execs, is part of the reason for the constant under-production of MOTUC? Probably not, but there's a tempting correlation to be made there.) One can assume the much-maligned 1987 feature film that August was the final nail in the coffin.

It's a shame that MOTU died when it did, because in some ways 1987 was the most creative period in MOTU since its inception. With the end of the cartoon and its somewhat limited storytelling scope, Mattel's designers were able to return to MOTU's "anything goes" roots and create a new storyline. Called "The Powers of Grayskull," this sub-brand offered a new, prehistoric setting, a new cast of characters led by He-Ro, "the Most Powerful Wizard in the Universe," and featured that perennial kids' favorite, dinosaurs. Sadly, only the dinosaurs - Bionatops, Turbodactyl and my personal favorite, Tyrantisaurus - ever made it to U.S. stores. The rest of the line, including an immense sauropod called Gigantisaur and two "giants," Tytus and Megator, never appeared here in the States. Curiously, however, both Tytus and Megator did appear in stores in Italy, making them two of the most valuable MOTU collectibles in existence.

Tytus the giant fought for peace alongside King Grayskull and He-Ro in the Great Wars. Originally from the mountains of Perpetua, he was forced to leave his home after his herd of dinosaurs began developing strange techno parts. He traveled across Eternia to seek help from the village of Grayskull. There he joined the King in battle against the Snake Men and Horde. Tytus helped construct one of the Three Towers during a temporary truce with his enemies. After the death of He-Ro, Tytus used his great strength to build King Grayskull a mighty fortress, incorporating the symbol of the Cosmic Warriors into the entrance as a tribute to his fallen comrade. In the end, Tytus fell during the first Ultimate Battle Ground, heroically sacrificing his life to stop the rampaging giant Megator!

Like He-Ro - who never existed except in a few obscure catalogs - Tytus and Megator have grown to legendary proportions among MOTU fans over the years. And so, when Mattel announced that Tytus would be appearing in the immensely popular, collector-oriented Masters of the Universe Classics line, fans rejoiced. Then they complained. Are these complaints justified or the usual grumbling that surrounds any popular toy line?

Due to his height, Tytus comes in a large window box rather than a blister pack. The window is large and wide, and should satisfy MOTU collectors. The angled top is pleasing to the eye, reminiscent of the oddly-shaped packaging for such figures in the old days - if you saw this guy wrapped under the Christmas tree you'd recognize it immediately. Tytus's bio is working hard to get him involved in the MOTUC canon they're developing here, but for me the most important aspect is the reference to dinosaurs - the only thing that could top Gygor would be a Four Horsemen-sculpted Tyrantisaurus.

Tytus's sculpt is interesting. Of course, it's clearly the Four Horsemen's work, which means it's quality. The face looks less like the original toy (probably a good thing - woof!) and more like the packaging art by William George, seen above. Details have been added to the headband, belt, gauntlets and boots.

However, the overall body sculpt and aesthetic isn't quite as super-muscled and cartoonish as the regular MOTU Classics figures, which makes Tytus curiously almost as at-home among the 2002 figures as among MOTU Classics. The detailing on the boots and bracelets in particular add to the effect (as does the oversized weapon). I think he still looks fine alongside MOTU Classics figures, it's just interesting that he has what seems to be a sort of hybrid style. The Four Horsemen went this way becaue the typical stumpy MOTUC proportions didn't really work at Tytus' increased size: it made him feel smaller than he actually was. Plus, by not using the MOTUC style, this body can be re-used later, for DC Universe or some other line.

The original Tytus was a true giant - he's immense. I'm not sure what his actual height was, but it has to be between 15"-18". MOTUC Tytus stands just over a foot tall. Am I disappointed Tytus isn't as large as the original one? No. I own NECA's gigantic Balrog figure - one of the greatest action figures ever made, in terms of sculpting and paint. But it also takes up four square feet of space. I live in a small apartment, and I just have no place for something that big - it becomes less the highlight of a collection so much as a pain in the ass. I think an 18" Tytus would be the same - and that's not even taking the inevitable Megator into consideration. I'm perfectly fine with a 12" Tytus.

Tytus is made from rotocast plastic, meaning he's hollow inside. This results in reduced articulation and a softer feel to the plastic. As someone who likes the look and texture of rotocast toys, this doesn't bother me, but the matte texture will reflect light differently than the shinier injection-molded 7" figures in the line. One annoying note, however, is that the plastic of the lower back slightly overhangs the belt. It's not that noticeable, but it's a flaw.

The paintwork is great. The silver boots have a nice wash, giving them a very strong sword-and-sorcery-planet look, as do the bracelets. There's a nice wash on the loincloth as well - better than most of the 7" figures - and some sharp detailing around the belt. The silver details on the headband are a bit sloppy, but nothing too egregious for a mass market toy.

The articulation is where Tytus suffers the most. Tytus has swivel joints at the neck, shoulders, wrists, waist, hips, and the top of his boots, and hinges at the elbows and knees. Mattel has claimed that because Tytus is rotocast he can't take any balljoints, but that's not true, as Mezco's Goon and Kriegaffe figures show. It's probably expensive, but not impossible. To be honest, I'm fine with all of this articulation except the shoulders. I can live with a T-crotch - I wasn't planning to put Tytus through any serious posing paces with his legs. And as much as I love balljointed necks, with long hair like that Tytus's neck would have been really limited anyway. But the lack of shoulder balljoints is just a bummer. I will give them points for at least sculpting the shoulders so that it looks like they're balljointed, so as to preserve the stylistic unity with the rest of MOTUC.

The original figure's weapon was called a "Body-Snatcher"; Mattel has renamed it to a "Warrior Smasher," perhaps because it's no longer capable of "snatching" figures. There are two reasons for this: first, the edges underneath the weapon are made from tough ABS plastic, meaning they can't slide over a figure's shoulders. For this to work, they would have had to use a more pliable PVC material (as I believe the original toy's did). Second, Tytus's articulation isn't tight enough for him to lift a figure even if the Warrior Smasher could do it.

As for the Warrior Smasher itself: the fact that you can't even put the thing over a figure's head is disappointing, especially since the Horsemen corrected for Tytus's reduced size by making it very large. I think it would have been cooler to downplay the "body snatching" part, reduce the head size and make it more of a high-tech Mjolnir.

The sculpting and paint applications are great on this figure. The articulation, accessory, and price are less satisfying. To be clear: yes, I am happy we got a Tytus at all, and that's playing into this review. I don't feel an urge to be indignant that I wasn't offered one that was larger or more articulated or cost less. Call it some cow-like complacency of character on my part if it makes you feel better, but while the $40 ($50 with shipping) I dropped on this was expensive, but I don't feel like I was severely ripped off. Slightly ripped off? Sure. But not severely. This figure was produced at a small fraction of the numbers of a Marvel Legends Icon figure or a 12" movie Hulk, and when you factor in economy of scale the price makes more sense. Your mileage may vary greatly, but personally, I like Tytus, and I'm glad to have him in my collection.

-- 10/11/10

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