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Masters of the Universe Classics
by yo go re

In his "I HAD THE POWER!!!" Point of Articulation, Rustin gave a good overview of Mattel's new Masters of the Universe Classics line, and the problems inherent therein. And honestly, everything he had to say was 100% right. But still, just because the toys look like halfassed lumps of wasted plastic, that doesn't mean they necessarily are, so they deserve a chance. That's why I had a friend grab the New York Comic Con exclusive Faker.

Originally built by Man-At-Arms to cover for He-Man when Prince Adam is needed, Faker was abandoned in the royal junkyard after his first mission and salvaged by the evil warrior Tri-Klops. At the request of Skeletor, Faker was reprogrammed to replace He-Man and convince the people of Eternia that He-Man had betrayed King Randor and turned evil.

Holy crap, that may be more background info than we've ever gotten about Faker before. He's always just been "evil robot of Skeletor," with no further explanation. Of course, this particular bio does seem to have a lot in common with the 2002 He-Man episode "The Courage of Adam," where a holographic He-Man robot built by Man-At-Arms flashes in shades of blue as it's deactivated - a story seed for the unproduced third season. But Mattel would probably be wise to avoid reminding fans at all of the early '00s line, to minimize the disappointment these new toys will cause.

Size is a key factor in any toyline - Mattel's DC figures aren't great because of themselves, they're great because they fit with Marvel Legends (unlike DC Direct, which has never realy fit). The new 3¾" Marvel toys aren't highly anticipated because they're small, but because we'll finally be able to have Wolverine fight Snake-Eyes, Darth Vader, Hellboy and more. A toy that fits with other releases doesn't have to sell itself, because every other toy in its scale helps to sell it. Faker stands 6¾" tall, nearly an inch too big to fit with the previous MotU toys - a disappointing failure of design.

One of the absolute beauties of the 2002 toyline was the way the Four Horsemen were given free rein to take the characters' existing design elements and update them, make them unique. The example we always use are Trapjaw and Man-E-Faces' legs: a shared mold on the '80s toys, they were similar yet distinct on the new versions. The MotU Classics dump that kind of brilliant innovation in the trash, opting for a small pool of re-used parts. It works in Faker's case, since he is specifically intended to look like He-Man wearing Skeletor's shirt, but that's an exception - it shouldn't be the rule.

Faker's proportions are generally fatter and stubbier than you would expect: it's an effort to duplicate the shape of the 1980s toys, but why? Those toys were popular in their day, but we were idiots back then; nostalgia isn't an excuse for bad design. Faker's arms are comically short, and he has no neck. The details in the sculpt are soft, which suggests they're trying to make these figures look like the 1980s cartoon, rather than any of the previous toys. However, that particular design choice would have been fine, if the Classics weren't so grossly oversized.

One of the few things Mattel did get right with this line is the articulation: Faker moves at the neck, shoulders, bicpes, elbows, wrists, torso, waist, hips, thighs, knees, boots and ankles, and none of the joints are stuck or broken. In that regard, Faker is a good toy, which is always kind of a crapshoot with a Mattel product. And the paint is absolutely superior to anything except the NECA ministatues; Faker's body is a wonderful shade of blue, and there are darker shadows painted subtly in the creases of the musculature. There's a light wash over the dark purple base of his fur trim, and his orange armor is a mix of metallic and flat sections, with a drybrushing to make it look weathered. There are a few random spots of paint scattered around his body - particularly bad on his upper left arm - but it's not like you can really check these out before buying them.

Because of the watermelon-like size of Faker's head, you can't take the chest armor off - normally that wouldn't be a real disappointment at all (see, for instance, Hellboy's coat), but on Faker, it means we can't really appreciate the hard work that went into the technological panel on his chest. There are tiny dots in the color, which suggest this is a screen-printed decal, but if it is, it's applied seamlessly and the edges don't stick up at all. Very nice! His accessories include an orange Power Sword; two, actually. One that's complete, full on both sides, and a second that's just a half-sword, like the old toys came with. He can hold the sword(s) in either hand, but the hilt sticks up over the left shoulder. Of course, that was the case with all the Horsemen's previous MotU figures, as well, so don't take it as an indication that he's meant to be left-handed.

Faker is sold in packaging that suggests the green stones of Castle Grayskull. It's a 9" x 6½" card with a trapezoidal blister and the MotU Classics logo on the top. The figure is posed in a rather silly squat, and he's raising the full Power Sowrd over his head - which means his armor is warped by the time you open him. There's an inexplicable dimple in the center of the bubble; what's that supposed to accomplish? It's about the size of the tip of your pinky finger. It also shows a kind of wishful thinking that Mattel has printed "Adult Collector" on the front of the paper insert: do they realy think anyone is going to mistakenly buy $30 action figures - available only online and only at one site - for a child? Cute, but no. And why is Faker's info on the back done in the red used for the Masters, rather than the blue of Skeletor and his minions?

There was a Faker available in the 2002 line, but it was a ToyFare exclusive, which meant it sold out fast (and was available for a huge and immediate markup at ToyWiz, for obvious reasons), so offering their new version as a NYCC exclusive is a slightly better choice. All of the flaws that were hinted at by King Grayskull have been borne out by the subsequent figures. You may still want to add Faker to your collection, though: after all, if there's any one character who's meant to look malformed, screwed up and just generally wrong it's this bungled clone. In that regard, he's a huge success.

-- 02/23/09

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