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Masters of the Universe Classics
by yo go re

That's using your head!

The powerhouse Ram-Man uses his head in battle, bowling down enemies and destroying weapons.

The first series of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe figures debuted in 1981; to commemorate the brand's 40th anniversary, Mattel has started a new line called MotU Origins. Taking a cue from Super7, the line is done in the vintage '80s style - but where Super7 was just re-creating the old style, Mattel is pushing it forward: the characters blend with the ancient 5½" figures, but they have more modern articulation. Nice! Now why can't they be that smart all the time?

While you can find He-Man and Skeletor (plus their respective big cats) pretty easily at Walmart and Target, it turns out there are allegedly other characters who have been released! You wouldn't know it by looking at the heavily laden pegs in stores, because Mattel can't stop shooting itself in the dick, but it's true! Tirelessly keeping an eye on online stores can net you figures at regular retail price ($14.99 for the basic figures, $19.99 for a "deluxe" one like this), and that's why you get to read this review today.

Ram-Man was one of the first action figures baby yo go re was ever given, so it only makes sense he'd be the first Origins figure I'd go for. And at a glance, he really does look like the 1983 original: small, tubby body, red centurian skirt, springy green legs, silver armor, all that. It's a new sculpt with more details - four decades ago, the torso and armor were a single mold, while today they're separate. He's also got a bit more muscle tone and his legs are parted, instead of joined. The sculpt isn't as crisp as MotU Classics, of course, because that wouldn't blend in with the old toys. They really are aiming to make a line that can be integrated with the figures from back then.

One oddity is the head. What I always took to be a typical bucket-shaped helmet that tucked inside a raised collar, Mattel always seems to interpret as a short piece with long cheek flares that match up with notches on the chest. Heck, the MotU Mini version has done a better job depicting it than this does.

Perhaps it's because this head needed to be removable? Mattel needed a reason to sell this as a Deluxe figure, and part of that as giving him an alternate head. The face inside is the same (like Juggernaut, he's got a weird head hidden by a glued-on helmet) and both versions have the big scar in the metal on the top, but the alternate adds further protection by giving him a faceplate that only leaves his eyes exposed. Huh, nifty!

The old Ram-Man was the most unarticulated figure in the line, moving only at the shoulders and the nothing else. Well, the legs would collapse into the body for tte action feature, but they didn't turn or anything. The new one has a balljointed head, then swivel/hinges in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, and knees. That's not the best selection of articulation possible, but it is a huge step up! The knees don't mean much when you can't move the hips or the ankles, but the legs do still need to accommodate an action feature.

As before, you can push Ram-Man's body down, locking it into place, then make him launch like a heroic human battering ram. Instead of activating with a small button on his heel, however, this one works like a retractable pen: press him down to lock him in place, then press down again to release him. He will jump up a good couple inches, if you're starting on a solid surface, and the sound of him clicking is loud and impressive. Make it part of his story! No fiction - comic, cartoon, magazine, toy bio, anything - has ever explained how his ramming works. Is it mystical? Is it mechanical? No one's said. So make it up for yourself, and use the click as part of it. Audible inspiration, if you will.

The paint is as improved as the rest of him. On the vintage figure, the wristbands weren't fully painted, and the belt was solid silver; today the bracers get all the apps they should, and the belt is black leather with a big silver buckle. One thing that did take a step back, though? The little slot between his shoulders used to be painted red, but now it's bare silver plastic. Maybe the PVC couldn't take paint well enough? His skin is paler, too.

Ram-Man comes with the same simple, single-bladed axe as he always has, plus a double-sided axe that looks like He-Man's. The two axes can plug together to form one larger weapon, and the left fist can be removed and replaced with a second "holding" hand if you prefer them split. For some reason, the arms can also be removed. Why would you want to do that? What benefit does it provide?

The goal of Masters of the Universe: Origins is to modernize and celebrate the original '80s action figures, and Ram-Man definitely does that. He doesn't make me want to be a MotUO completist (a good thing, considering the toys' regular unavailability), but he's a fine homage to an old favorite.

-- 06/21/21

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