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Masters of the Universe
by Poe Ghostal

Ah, Mekaneck. Despite having hit stores back in September, ol' Mek remains the Holy Grail of Mo2K collectors (aside from the SDCC He-Man Exclusive, of course). Unlike his compatriots Teela and Orko, Mekaneck is still hard to find. Even Trapjaw has been spotted as a pegwarmer in the Targets and Wals*Mart of the world; but the Man with the Silver Neck remains elusive.

Mekaneck is a longtime friend of Randor and Man-at-Arms. In fact, Man-at-Arms saved Mekaneck's life years ago when Mekaneck's neck was badly damaged in a storm. With the aid of Duncan's technology, Mekaneck's neck can now extend straight up or around bends. When in battle, Mekaneck wields a club.

Despite his absurdity, I have a soft spot in my heart for Mekaneck. He is one of the few Masters of the Universe figures I can recall opening as a tyke on Christmas morn. It is quite possible that, when I received the new Mekaneck this past Christmas, I was opening him exactly 20 years after opening the last one.

Mekaneck also gets an edge on his fellow MotU figures by being blue. I seem to have a soft spot for blue He-Man figures - Skeletor, Trapjaw and Faker, for instance. Like Trapjaw, Mekaneck is dark blue. And like Trapjaw, Mekaneck is a freak.

Matt from X-Entertainment put it best when he wrote:

The guys in Masters of the Universe don't have superpowers... they have deformities. Think about it... Fisto's got elephantitis of the hand... Trapjaw's got no arm at all... Beast Man's a retard... it just goes on and on. The show's a lesson in overcoming adversity more than anything else. If these guys can get over the fact that there's something wrong with all of them, so can you.

Mekaneck, Procrustus love 'im, is a perfectly example of this. According to the official site for the new cartoon, at some point in his life (presumably before he was called Mekaneck; if not, then I'd have to say destiny had it in for him), the man who would become Mekaneck's neck was badly damaged in a storm. I just have to ask, how'd he pull that off? Did a bolt of lightning hit his neck? Was he wearing an iron collar in a large meadow? In any event, he was "saved" by Man-At-Arms, who kindly gave Mekaneck the freakish ability to extend his neck to ridiculous length.

At this point, let me pause and quote something from Michael J. Nelson's seminal work Mind Over Matters, in reference to the '70s television drama The $6 Million Man and its sequel, The Bionic Woman:

One point that should be made: as with the $6 Million Man, the operation to the Bionic Woman was done without the patient's consent. And because of the high cost of bionics, both were shanghaied into the service of the top-secret agency OSI to pay back the cost. That is like having your mechanic put a small-block 328, bored out, with dual quads and an Edelbrock tunnel ram into your Chevy Lumina when you bring it in for an oil change, and then force you to sweep the garage floor for the rest of your life as repayment. Now granted...[OSI] could argue that both patients would have died without their respective operations... but giving them artificial limbs with Frankensteinian strength was an option that neither patient asked for.

I think the implication is clear: Man-at-Arms is a dangerous lunatic who uses his friends and colleagues as guinea pigs for his insane, twisted experiments. He must be stopped, at all costs. But until ol' Duncan is safely locked away in an Eternian madhouse, we will have to deal with the results of his bizarre mind.

Like all the revamped MotU figures, Mekaneck is a masterpiece of sculpting. He is a product of the now-legendary Four Horsemen, former sculptors for McFarlane Toys who turned renegade and struck out on their own when Todd decided he liked sports and statues better than fun and articulation. Now ensconced in a warehouse about five minutes away from their former McFarlane digs, the Horsemen spend their days chiseling out glorious, loving tributes to their childhood heroes.

Mekaneck is no exception. From his Easter Island-like armor to his huge golden mace, every aspect of the original Mekaneck has been retained while the figure itself has been updated with 21st-century style and sensibilities. As always, god is in the details: I love the bionic circuitry in M's neck, and the odd little mechanical flourishes on his gauntlets. He's got robotic vertebrae, and supports on his ankles. Is it to help him maintain his balance when his neck is extended? The character, perhaps; the figure falls over fairly easily.

As before, the figure's neck-extending ability is activated by twisting his waist. This little nod to nostalgia is a bit disappointing; occasionally it may behoove the toymakers to improve upon the earlier line, and this particular action feature is limiting to play. The neck isn't particularly long, and it's irritating that Mekaneck can only extend his neck when he's turned sideways. A neck that could turn, and was able to shoot out with the push of a button, would have been cooler. But to be fair, there is one functional improvement over the original incarnation: the new Mekaneck can turn his head upon the extended neck.

And then there are the "improvements" that aren't really improvements at all - such as the odd decision to hollow out Mekaneck's head and give him a clear visor, thus allowing kids to "see" through his head. If the visor magnified at all, this might make sense; but since it doesn't, I wish they'd just left Mekaneck his stylish mirror glasses (yes, Mek wore them long before Morpheus). Mekaneck can also "swing" his mace via the awkward, spring-loaded left elbow - again, not particularly creative, but hey, kids like to bash things, right?

(On a side note: what's with all the left-handed Eternians? Tri-Klops, like Mekaneck, can only hold his weapon in his left hand; and He-Man, with the holster that juts his sword's handle out over his left shoulder, seems to be in the same situation. It's funny to watch the cartoon He-Man reach across his whole torso to draw his weapon. I suspect some of the Horsemen are sinister lefty sympathizers.)

Before I sat down to write this review, I probably would have said Mekaneck was my least favorite of the new figures. But given the pure pleasure I've had in reviewing this lovable, ridiculous figure, and the nostalgic affection I feel for the original, Mekaneck has now officially moved up from the bottom spot. So, sorry, Stratos: you still suck.

-- 03/07/03

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