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Masters of the Universe
by yo go re

He-Man villains were already a screwed-up bunch of misfits before Hordak showed up, but his cronies raised the goofnut quotient by about a thousand. Okay, so Grizzlor was like the "made in Taiwan" version of Beast Man, but guys like Leech or Modulok? They're insane! A personal favorite, though, was always Mantenna, the evil spy with the pop-out eyes.

Mantenna None of the foul Hordak's techno-magic creations are more gruesome or frightening than the spindley spy/strategist known as Mantenna! Equipped with eye stalks capable of seeing great distances, this multi-legged monster is often sent ahead of Horde armies to scout for potential victims! The mere sight of this Horde harbinger has led entire villages to vacate in an instant, for the prescence of his telescoping eyes mean the Horde is not far behind!

Though Grizzlor shared Beast Man's fur, it was Mantenna who filled his role in the Evil Horde. He was the one who Hordak constantly picked on and blamed for his own failures. The poor guy even developed a stutter. Of course, since it's hard to make a guy with crab eyes a truly menacing threat, there was nothing else the writers could have done to give him a role in the show - it's not like he was any kind of fighter.

Even ignoring his eyes for the moment, Mantenna is one screwed-up beast. Let's try to piece together an origin of his species, based on visual cues.

He's got a circular mouth filled with sharp teeth, and mandibular fangs to move his food in, almost like a caterpillar. That suggests that he doesn't have a moving jaw, or at least not one that works very quickly - the fangs could hold his prey in place while he ate. His ears are large and flat, like an elephant's, which suggests that he lives in a desert or other hot, dry climate: the large surface area and extreme thinness would allow body heat to dissipate rapidly.

Those veiny yellow eyes are a problem, though. A surprise party! For me?! They don't look like they'd fare too well in a sandy environment, since they bulge out of his skull to the point that he wouldn't even be able to blink properly. If Mantenna had made it to actual action figure form, some changes would have to be made, because there's no clear way that his eye-popping action feature would have fit in this head. Most likely, he would have ended up with a thicker neck, to conceal the mechanism.

stylin' The fact that he's wearing black leather armor doesn't tell us anything - if it wasn't standard Evil Horde gear, we might be able to surmise that he had weak skin of some sort, possibly painfully photosensitive like an albino's. But no, the black clothes with the silver rivets and the red Horde symbol on the chest are a standard feature. The orange across his shoulders and the bright yellow belt accentuate the colors, but also don't give us any clues.

Mantenna's skin is two different colors, which paints a clearer picture, no pun intended. Color, in nature, serves two different purposes: if an animal is mostly a single muted color, with an irregular pattern all over, it's for camouflage; if the colors are vibrant and purposeful, it's for display - attracting a mate, scaring predators, something like that. With a solid blue body and a solid red head, Mantenna is meant to be seen.

Old Mantenna Looking at the sculpt, Manty's skin seems thick and sturdy, despite his thin frame. There are cracks in it that seem to run quite deep, so you might be thinking "surface creature," but then his fingers and toes are webbed, which suggests a swimmer. The fins on his arms and legs back that one up. Mantenna actually has four legs (and always has, though it was nearly impossible to tell on the original figure). There are no six-limbed mammals, so Mantenna must come from an egg-laying species - we're looking at either aquatic or insectoid. Maybe both.

The figure has no articulation, stealthy! sadly, but he does have a big, honkin' crossbow! It's the same basic shape as Hordak and Grizzlor's, since all the old figures had the same weapon in different colors, but it's still a unique piece. The body is bright yellow, to match his belt and eyes, and has black accentuating it. There are two blue spheres by the bolt, mimicking his eyes, and the gray hooks on the side manage to suggest both his ears and his mouth. The crossbow can be held in either hand, but it fits best in his left.

Each of the Masters of the Universe Horde base figure-scale statues comes with a hexagonal display base. Actually, they all come with the same display base: a generic technological thing that's color-coded to the character's allegience. The Evil Horde poses on a maroon base - the same general color as Hordak's symbol. Neat!

Now comes the fun part: let's piece it all together! Imagine a species of insects bred in some primordial Eternian bog. To deal with the larger predators that want to eat them, they first become poisonous, and develop a bright color scheme to broadcast that fact. Since color warns their enemies, the water they live in is clear enough to see through, which is why they evolved sight organs. However, it's in a dark section of the world, which is why the eyes grew so big. As the species grew larger, they developed a thicker exoskeleton to support their weight - but since they lived mainly in water, it was still softer than land-based insects' shells. Their new size required a lot of oxygen, so they developed ever-larger gills that eventually changed into thin, semi-permiable membranes that extended away from their necks, filtering water as they swam.

They also outgrew their food supply, and had to turn elsewhere for sustenance: they began feeding on land. But the creatures on the land were a threat, something the species had lost as it dominated its ponds, so they needed to be creative; they'd just raise their eyes above water level to scout for food. But this exposed their heads, which made targets for their new predators, so they learned to stretch their eyes up above their heads. When they spotted prey, they'd quickly scuttle up onto land, grab it and drag it back under water, where they'd hold it with their fangs and slowly eat as it drowned. A single catch could last weeks, at the rate they ate. Eventually their front limbs joined in the grasping and holding, evolving into arms at the same rate they became more upright creatures.

Then, after a thousand eons of evolution, came sentience and speech and civilization. And then slavery, when the Evil Horde found them. They're still giant water bugs, but they've spent untold ages becoming much more than that.

Or maybe he's just some guy with his eyes on a stick and a silly name. Either way.

Who is, hands-down, the weirdest member of the He-Man cast? Tell us on our message board, The Loafing Lounge.


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