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Masters of the Universe Classics
by yo go re

Last year's Ram-Man was the last MotU Classics figure we needed, but not the last one we wanted.

An evil scientist from the Tri-Solar system, Galen Nycoff was incarcerated in Prison Starr for scientific crimes against the galaxy. While awaiting execution, he constructed a device which allowed him to divide his body into pieces, with each part endowed with his own evil consciousness. Slipping out of prison in a series of crates, he was delivered to Horde World where he reassembled himself finding he could now mix and match his parts in a thousand different ways. His skills were observed by Horde leaders and Nycoff became chief technician for Commander Kur, traveling with him to Eternia on their quest to vanquish He-Ro. Nycoff was banished along with the rest of the invading Horde army to Despondos, serving his leader with his evil inventions.

Man, those "real" names never stop being stupid, do they? And yet this one, unlike Raqquill Rqazz or Scutes Ignis, actually has a real source. It comes from the cartoon, where he was a human(?) scientist imprisoned in the royal dungeons, who used a machine to turn himself into Modulok - not for the ability to split apart (because that would have broken Filmation's animation budget), but just for monstrous strength. Meanwhile, the "mailing pieces of himself in boxes" thing comes from the minicomic included with the toy, but there he had no origin: he was just a dwarfish escaped slave of Skeletor's with (apparently) magical powers. Oh, and Prison Star (one R) was mentioned in the series bible as a giant space ship holding prisoners too dangerous to leave on the surface of the planet, but was only ever used in the UK comics (where it was usually parsed "Prisonstar"), and finally, the Tri-Solar system is the setting of The New Adventures of He-Man. Whew!

The gimmick of Modulok was that he was built from 22 individual pieces. Considering how Mattel seems to feel about action features, everyone was understandably nervous about how well Modulok would work in the Classics line.

Turns out, he works very well. The set includes 21 individual bodyparts, though not in the same configuration as before: six legs, four arms, a single torso, a thorax, two tails, three "splitters" and two necks. Everything comes apart through the use of true ball-and-socket joints - well, everything except the upper and lower torso. The waist, rather than separating, is as permanently attached as any other action figure's waist; probably because there was no way to use the same kind of attachment point there, and still have it be sturdy.

The ball portion of the joints are made from stiff ABS plastic, while the sockets are more flexible PVC. This allows the combined pieces to "grip" nicely, not only keeping the limbs in place, but also holding poses well. It's a good solution to a difficult problem.

Modulok had a decidedly inhuman anatomy in his original incarnation, but the Four Horsemen have taken it even further. Perhaps inspired by the two overlapping "ribs" on the old one, they've made the entire body into something like an insect's carapace. There are hard edges sculpted around the pecs and shoulders, and then sections where a ribbed, flexible texture is visible. A slight pitting can be seen on the front of the body, while a rough pebbling exists on the back. Really, the only thing they needed to make this look like the old toy is "red skin," and everything after that is just a nice bonus for buyers.

As we said, Modulok has two heads, just like he used to. The first (the one that was used as his only head on the cartoon) has large white eyes with slit pupils, sharp fangs, and a bulbous cranium with veins sculpted over the surface. The second head (which did appear in an episode of the cartoon, but was never attached to his body) has bulbous green eyes with pin-prick pupils, sculpted black markings around his eyes, and two bumps on top of his head that look like antennae or ears. Both heads have flat noses and pointed ears, but different styles. If not for the shared color (and the shared neck), these could easily be two different species.

The limbs sort of come in sets: plain red arms and plain red legs (with green kneepads and stripes on top of the foot); red arms with claws and blue armor, and red legs with heel spikes and blue armor; and then an extra pair of lumpy monster legs with spines and scales on the outsides, fins on the calves, and four white claws instead of toes (if they'd given us three of those, instead of just two, we could recreate his tripod look from the cartoon). Though they all look different, there's enough similarity there that he won't look wrong when you start to mix and match. And you're going to want to mix and match.

Modulok's descriptor is "evil beast of a thousand bodies," and while that may be a slight exaggeration - unless you count "assembled creature #725" and "assembled creature #725 without an arm" and "assembled creature #725 without a different arm" as separate bodies - there are enough pieces here to (as the original '80s packaging claimed) "form 2 complete creatures!" They're not both the best looking creatures, but you can easily make two of them. Or more if "having a head" isn't a priority for you. And why should it be? Check your head privilege, hat-wearer; some people identify as differently skulled.

Modulok may have 21 bodyparts, but there are 23 pieces in the package. Just like with the vintage toy, he has a single-barreled gun, and a double-barreled gun. They each have their own style, but the fun really begins when you put them butt-to-butt. Stop giggling, back there! It's the name for the back end of a gun! Anyway, when you do, you can combine the two guns into a single rifle. The guns are molded from the same red PVC as the body, then painted black. The soft material makes the handles very bendy, unfortunately.

I actually had two Moduloks as a kid. I don't know how that happened - some kind of miscommunication between Santa and the Easter Bunny I guess - but trust me when I say that the packaging is as much of a retro reference as everything else. Rather than being put on a standard blister card, he's sold in a box. The box isn't taped shut, it's sealed with glue, just like the olden days of yore. You want inside there? Start ripping it open! Apparently this is part of Mattel's new "screw you, MOCers" initiative? The mailer box is also now unbleached brown cardboard, rather than bright glossy white.

Modulok is the only character to permanently make the jump from the He-Man to She-Ra cartoon. He had two appearances on Eternia (plus a quick cameo in a crowd scene), then teleported to Etheria and started making trouble over there. In most of the episodes he was working by himself, too - the packaging may say he's part of the Evil Horde, but there's nothing on the toy that says you have to follow suit. He never showed up in the 2002 series (though there were at least tentative plans), but by virtue of being an inhuman monster, he can still fit in with the Mo2K toys. Mattel did a great job with this one.

-- 03/03/14

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