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Masters of the Universe
by Poe Ghostal

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was a kids' cartoon aimed at the 4-8 age range. While the maturity of the show's plots were significantly lower than, say, Transformers or Voltron, He-Man's producers nonetheless felt it necessary to insert a humorous, clumsy character for kids to, presumably, identify with. That character was Orko.

Orko is arguably the Jar-Jar Binks of the He-Man universe. He's the annoying, sometimes cloying comic relief. Of course, Orko isn't one tenth as irritating as Jar-Jar, but he's still a divisive figure, generally either loved or hated by He-Fans.

I guess I fall into the former category. I still remember getting the original Orko figure and playing with him at my grandmother's house, winding him up with the little ripcord and watching him dance across the coffee table. He was particularly cool because, like Prince Adam, he was a character from the cartoon, rather than a toy that was made into a character. I fondly recall Orko's appearances before the commercial break, informing me that they'd be right back.

Orko also represents the whole of the so-called Masters' sorcerous might (excluding the Sorceress herself, of course, who can't leave Castle Grayskull). Skeletor has not only his own magical powers but those of Evil-Lyn, whereas the Masters have to rely on an overgrown floating Smurf who can't even do a parlor trick right. The only thing he has in common with a real wizard like Gandalf is a pointy hat.

Like many of the MotU figures, Orko has one heck of a bizarre design. He's a small floating wizard in a red robe with no face to speak of (other than a pair of bright yellow eyes), a scarf around his face, the usual pointy wizard hat and blue hands. As they've done with the rest of the Masters of the Universe line, sculptors the Four Horsemen have updated Orko for 21st century, post-McFarlane sensibilities. The ears and hat are a single piece, so don't think you'll be able to take his hat off to see his face like you could on the original toy.

Orko was a character who floated through the air, and thus he has no legs. However, his robe does seem to give the impression of his having legs, billowing out as if there's a knee pressing on the front. But there is no leg, just a clear blue, non-removable stand jutting out from beneath his robe. I'll forego the obvious jokes and simply ask why a clear stand wasn't viable? On the upside, a trail of the "smoke" lifts up where the faux-knee is, giving the impression of invisible legs affecting the environment around him.

The stand matches the colors of Orko's horrific accessory, a device that launches a huge orange orb that our own yo go re insists is one of the Thing's testicles. Testicular or not, the orb does seem a rather extravagant accessory. Most of these first-series MotU figures have some wrong-headed variant, and Orko's sees the colors of his ball-launcher reversed: blue orb, orange stand. I suppose at that point it becomes Beast's gonad, yo?

Apparently it was felt that Orko, being a small figure, needed to have his blister padded out somehow. He also has a wand, which he apparently lost long ago on the cartoon show so one never sees it. He has an amulet permanently attached to his chest, taking the place of the "O" the 1980's version wore on his sweater.

The only real problem I have with this figure is its scale. Whereas Trapjaw is too short, Orko is too tall. He's maybe two feet tall on the show, but he's at least three and a half to four (in scale) in his figural form. I assume this was done simply to maximize the amount of figure the consumer gets. Really, thy should have made Orko a pack-in extra with some other figure. Man-At-Arms, perhaps, or an Orko/Cringer two-pack? The paint applications are excellent - the gold trim is especially appealing - but the color seems a bit off to me. It should be a deeper red, not this maroon.

He-Fans had to wait several years to get an Orko the first time around. This time, we got one before the cartoon had even started. It's a testament to fans' adoration of this goofy, beloved character.

-- 05/27/03

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