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Thundercats Ultimates
by yo go re

Carrion, my wayward son.

The cunning and ambitious Vultureman is the resident inventor of Castle Plun-Darr and the most intelligent of the wicked Mutants of Third-Earth. Although he's a longtime associate of Mutant leader Slithe, and an enemy of Lion-O's father, Claudius, his treacherous nature has led him to work with others like General Ratar-O, the Lunataks, and even the Thundercats themselves when it best suits his always self-serving agenda.

Vultureman wasn't in the first 12 episodes of Thundercats. He appeared out of nowhere with no explanation, just the other Mutants wondering how they'd get to some remote location and Slithe saying they could take Vultureman's flying machine. He wasn't treated like one of the Third-Earth natives, with the implication he'd been part of the group all along. Maybe he was busy building that sky scooter in another room the whole time.

For his first four appearances, Vultureman was voiced by Bob McFadden, the same guy who did Snarf. And many other voices too, like Slithe and Grune, it was just that Vultureman sounded almost exactly like Snarf, so it was easy to identify. That may be why, starting with the episode "Sixth Sense," Earl Hammond, the voice of Mumm-Ra and Jaga, among others, took over the role.

Vultureman does a decent job of turning an avian form into a semi-human one. His skin is smooth, but he still has a big ruff of feathers around his shoulders, accentuating the bald lumpiness of his head. To simulate a bird's talons, his feet only have two toes each, but there's a spike on the back of the leg just above the ankle, suggesting the way a bird would have one toe pointing backwards, like millions of years of evolution have meant the extra toe has become un-detatched. A subtle move, but it's nice. His only clothing is a belt and a skirt, making him the nudest villain yet. The blue skirt contrasts with his tan skin well, too.

There are slits in the shoulder-feathers so they can flex out of the way when you raise the arms, the same way action figure skirts will have slits on the side so legs can move. In fact, just like the skirt Vultureman is wearing. The figure moves at the ankles, knees, thighs, hips, waist, chest, wrists, elbows, biceps, shoulders, and head. The chest is a balljoint, which seems like it should render the swivel waist superfluous, but the very shape of his torso means it's easier for the chest joint to move front-to-back and side-to-side than to turn, so the waist picks up that slack. The same can't be said for the swivels in the knees, which are already taken care of by the swivel at the top of the thigh.

The Super7 Ultimates all have alternate bodyparts. There are hands in different shapes, sure, but also an alternate head: while the normal head is plain and dour, the second head looks a bit more dangerous because the beak is open in a yell. Or squawk? Whichever. The same thing could have been achieved by just giving him a point of articulation there, but maybe this worked better from a creation standpoint?

We get lots of accessories, beginning with the big claw weapon the 1986 LJN toy wielded, basically a big bent stick with three sharp prongs at the end like a bird's talons. Then we've got the Shifter, a fancy-looking gun that can bodyswap two people from apparently any distance. (Fun fact: "The Shifter" is the infamous "samoflange" episode.) The white thing that looks like a fat megaphone is the Voice Imitator from "Divide and Conquer," and the other blue pistol is just identified in the marketing copy as a "Mutant gun," suggesting it's just a generic armament from Castle Plun-Darr. The bottle of Superpower Potion briefly gives Vultreman vast magical abilities, but wears off and Mumm-Ra refuses to give him another dose, and that's the only reason they lose in that episode. Then, because he's the team's inventor, he also gets a wrench, screwdriver, pliers, and a pair of goggles.

As the last Mutant introduced on the show, Vultreman didn't get a whole race of beings behind him: all the Lizard Men, all the Jackal Men, all the Monkians... and then just one Vultreman. In fact, none of those races even appeared in any episodes with Vultureman! While there are definitely some other notable baddies who can still be made as toys, this figure completes the "core" villain side, which is a pretty exciting benchmark.

-- 01/12/23

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