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Fighting Foe Men

Masters of the Universe Classics
by yo go re

Hey, we were just talking about how no toylines include random original characters, and here are three of them! Sort of.

After the Great Wars ended and Eternia was left without a king, a group of renegade pirates known as the Fighting Foe Men took over the Valley of Gnarl and all of the surrounding territories. Spreading fear throughout the land, they built great war machines like the Roton and Talon Fighter to terrorize the populace. Challenged and eventually defeated by a champion from the north, the Fighting Foe Men were cast into a glacier and magically frozen for over five thousand years. Eventually, they were discovered by Hordak who returned to Eternia and set them free in return for serving in his army during the Second Ultimate Battleground.

The name "Fighting Foe Men" was a placeholder before Mattel settled on "Masters of the Universe," so in some alternate world, this line is FFMC instead of MOTUC. Anyway, these three characters never appeared in the classic toyline, or in the cartoon, or in the comics - they're much more obscure than that!

In 1968, Mattel bought a company that made model kits, Monogram. Monogram had started out making military ships and airplanes, but eventually expanded into cars as well. When Mattel bought them, it was not unusual for crazy car designs to show up first as Hot Wheels, then later get turned into model kits. So clearly, the company was not above using all its assets for multiple imprints (which is something we'd like to see them start again). As part of that "let's milk this for all it's worth" mindset, Mattel also had Monogram produce some MotU model kits, re-creating vehicles that had already been in the real line.

Anyway, when Monogram sold their kits, they didn't just reuse the existing Mattel packaging art - they commissioned renowned fantasy artist Larry Elmore to do the work. In order to avoid brand confusion, Elmore was told he wasn't allowed to show any existing MotU characters; but because driverless vehicles would look weird, he painted people at the controls. These three figures are based on those paintings!

Orphaned after her parents were killed by bandits, Sherrilyn became a street urchin and quickly befriended fellow orphan Dawg-O-Tor. The two children dreamt of adventur even as they relied on their wits to survive. Their lives changed for the worse when they met the malevolent Ditztroyer, who charmed the orphans by promising them glory and riches beyond their wildest imaginings. Initially distrustful, Sherilyn [sic] fell under the charismatic benefactor's influence when he showed her the underground location of ancient Gar war machines. Fascinated by the Attak Trak, she restored the vehicle and eventually became known as the notorious pirate warrior Shield Maiden Sherrilyn. Although Ditztroyer and his proteges were defeated and magically frozen by Vikor, Sherrilyn and Dawg-O-Tor continued to follow Ditzroyer's lead when they were freed eons later. However, they did not suspect the heinous act of betrayal he'd conceived millennia earlier. Gravely injured when Ditztroyer attempted to sacrifice them to the Demon from the Beginning of Time, Shield Maiden Sherrilyn and Dawg-O-Tor were saved from the rubble of Thamalia Tower by King Randor himself. Grateful, Sherrilyn became fiercely loyal to him.

We start with Shield Maiden Sherrilyn, because she's farthest to the left in the box. All the pilots were obscured by the canopies of their respective vehicles, so all we ever saw of the person driving the Attak Trak Battle Machine was a technological silver helmet with a golden visor, red chest armor with a green leaf or feather design on the shoulders, and brown trunks - all features this figure shares. One feature she doesn't share? Her gender. The pilot in the artwork was clearly intended to be male, but the Four Horsemen have chosen to make her female. The original was concealed enough that this switch seems prefectly fine.

The new pieces look quite nice, suiting the Classics style nicely. The breastplate has a raised edge, just like the bracers, belt, and the bands on the upper arms, and the feathers are emphatically a design element and not something biological. She's got a short brown ponytail falling out from under her helmet, which itself is sculpted with techy details that run over the top and meet the visor. There are large bumps over her ears, and since the visor is solid, you can't see her eyes.

To help tie each of these characters more closely to the vehicles they're identified with, the Horsemen have incorporated design elements from the rides into the figures. In Sherrilyn's case, that means a winged blue symbol on her breastplate, with yellow lightning bolts that reference stickers on the original. She's armed with a double-gun patterned after weapons that were only ever on the side of the model, not the real toy, and protects herself with a shield that looks like one of the Attak Trak's tank treads.

The half-Gar pirate Dittroyer never told orphaned street urchins Dawg-O-Tor and Sherrilyn about his own childhood. He hid the fact that his parents once worshiped the dark witch Shokoti. He never spoke of the night when he was forced to drink from the ebon pool which turned his eyes black and showed him the end of all things, nor did he speak of the brave Gar wizards who rescued him. While the roguish Dawg-O-Tor and Sherrilyn grew to crave fame and adventure, they did not suspect their mentor's growing obsession with the blasphemous thing sealed beneath Thamalia Tower - the thing that spoke to him in phantasmagoric dreams. Taken by Ditztroyer's charisma, Dawg-O-Tor and Shield Maiden Sherrilyn listened intently as he taught them the secrets of long-forgotten Gar machines. Millennia later, Ditztroyer charmed Hordak himself, convincing him that the Fighting Foe Men would stand by his side, all while secretly allying himself with the Evil Warriors of fellow half-Gar outcast, Skeletor. Ditztroyer's madness was finally revealed when he attempted to sacrifice Sherrilyn and Dawg-O-Tor to the imprisoned Demon from the Beginning of Time.

Next we have Ditztroyer, pilot of the Roton. Of the three characters, he was the most visible in his original artwork - we could make out that he was a blue-skinned man, wearing a darker blue hooded robe, an orange tunic, and green belt, boots and gloves. This figure did make a few changes from that design, but nothing too major: for instance, as we can tell by the fact that Mattel has chosen to give him a torso with nipples, that orange is technically his chest; they should have used one of the smoother bodies, so it would look like armor. To accurately match the gloves and boots he wore in the painting would have required new molds, but these reused pieces are close enough. He's also got fur manties, which the painted version didn't seem to have. That's a classic MotU feature, though, so we can accept it.

Since he's wearing a hood, it really feels like Ditztroyer could have gotten away with reusing Preternian Disguise He-Man's head, but nope! This is new! He's painted with solid black eyes, which is a little creepy, but not in an evil way - more of a "dispassionate ghost" way. Considering Eternia has a race of blue people, we were (half) right to predict that Ditztroyer would be a Gar.

One of the other design changes is the addition of a big black piece of armor on his chest (the art was just orange) - it's actually one of the features designed to reference the Roton. That goofy-ass vehicle had a goofy-ass face on the front of it, and that face is re-created as armor here, complete with painted eyes and molded fangs. He carries a large gun that takes its design from the model kit, rather than the original toy, but he can't actually hold it very well because of the design of his hands. The best accessory, though, is the big battle staff that can slot into a loop in his cape - the weapon at the end of it is a black disc with red spikes sticking out, perfectly homaging the Roton!

Reared by Ditztroyer, the boastful street urchin Dawg-O-Tor, along with fellow orphan Shield Maiden Sherrilyn, grew to become the piratical Fighting Foe Men. Obsessed with Ditztroyer's tales of the Talon Fighter, a "machine of the Ancients" spoken of only [in] legends, Dawg-O-Tor drew up blueprints and used hidden Gar technology to build his own replica of the fabled vehicle. Eons later, Ditztroyer betrayed his allies when he attempted to sacrifice Dawg-O-Tor and Shield Maiden Sherrilyn to a horrific entity. Close to death, Dawg-O-Tor and Sherrilyn were rescued by King Randor and rushed to the palace's Room of Recuperation where their wounds were healed by Mendor. Realizing their folly, the two warriors were humbled by Randor's efforts to save them and expressed great remorse for their past crimes. They served their prison sentence even as they assisted Clamp Champ in the palace's vehicle bay. There, Sherrilyn and Dawg-O-Tor were delighted to see brigades of Talon Fighters and Attak Traks inspired by their own ancient vehicles. The former villains went on to become the most loyal members of Randor's army, forming a close friendship with fellow pilot, Sky High.

Our final figure is Dawg-O-Tor, and we should probably talk about these names, huh? You'd expect that, just as the characters' armor and weapons is based on their vehicles, their names might be too, correct? Taktra and Tonro and Falon Tighter or something? Well, they might have been, but remember that "Four Horsemen Studios" isn't just the guys themselves: they also employ Sherri Lynn Cook, Shane Dittsworth, and Owen "O-Dawg" Oertling. They've been Tuckerized!

All that was visible of the Talon Fighter pilot was the area above the waist but below the eyes. He wore a green shirt with ultra-short grey sleeves, and seemed to have long hair. In 2010, when Emiliano Santalucia tried his hand at designing these guys, he gave the Talon Fighter pilot gloves and ribbed boots, while the Horsemen have chosen to go with fur boots and metal wristbands. The chest armor has little grey bits poking out over the shoulders, though it's smoother here than in the art. He's wearing a grey helmet with translucent yellow goggles and golden wings molded on the sides. His long brown hair has a single white stripe running through it.

The design on Snoop-Dippity-Dog's breastplate is can best be described as "a blue and yellow crossbow with red wings," because it needs to call to mind the Talon Fighter. It's much more subtle than his shield, which shares the same colors, but is basically just a reproduction of the Talon Fighter as seen from above. I'm not sure if that's more or less inventive than just carrying around a wheel, like Sherrilyn did. His weapon is a big blue club, designed to look like one of the guns from the model kit. There's no using it as a gun, because it doesn't have any handles that would allow him to point it like one.

If you find the symbols on the characters' chests to be too "on the nose," Mattel has you covered: they're separate pieces that merely plug into the armor. You can remove them and replace them with Horde symbols, which is why the bio randomly assigned them to that group. Though in all honesty, they do look slightly too colorful to be part of Hordak's army - he tends to prefer the dark tones.

The Fighting Foe Men were apparently unpopular with MotU Classics collectors, which is stupid: they have legit roots in the property, but have never been made into toys before; plus, they're a ton better than other "new" characters we've seen. But hey, that just means good news for you and me - you can pick this three-pack up for not significantly more than a single figure costs new, and they're worth that.

-- 02/15/16

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