Review > Skeletor (Masters of the Universe Classics)

skeletor_2This will be my third review of a Skeletor action figure. I never reviewed the 1980s original, primarily because I barely knew how to read when I first owned him.

grandpa_hemanAnd I did own him. Need photographic proof? That’s me around age four, with my grandfather, who is about the same age my father is now and looks shockingly like him. I can make out Skeletor and Man-at-Arms in the photo, though I have no idea what’s in my grandpa’s left hand…perhaps an Attak Trak sans treads? I cropped out the chair on the left of the photo, but the Talon Fighter is on it. What I find most shocking about this photo is the lack of armor on Skeletor and Man-at-Arms. That seems so unlike me…did I actually lose accessories when I was a kid? Nowadays I wouldn’t be able to rest until I had a fully armored and armed Skeletor.

I’ve written about both the history of MOTU and MOTUC more than enough by now, so you can revisit those reviews if you need the background information. On to the review!

skeletor_bio

Packaging: Since the figures went into production, Mattel has actually updated the bio. On Mattycollector.com, the second sentence reads: “Merging Keldor with the extra-dimensional being Demo-Man from Despondos, Keldor was forever changed into Skeletor, Overlord of Evil!”

The odd name “Demo-Man” created a bit of a stir at He-Man.org, prompting this explanation from Mattel’s Web rep, Scott Neitlich:

Before this spins too much out of control. Demo-Man was one of the original names for Skeletor’s character in the early concept notes. Originally the line was He-Man vs. Demo-Man (i.e. Demon-Man, as reflected in the original mini comics that the character was a demon from another dimension).

Anyway, I’m personally glad they changed it to Skeletor instead.

But since Demo-man didn’t make the cut originally in the 1980s, it made sense to use this name as the spirit from Despondos who Hordak merged with Keldor to form Skeletor as a nod to Skeletor’s original name in the toy notes. Figured it would be a nice wink to the true uber fans.

And that’s the story. :-)

Oh and the reason Demo-Man was not in the printed bio was because the copyright had not cleared yet. As soon as it did clear we added it back in.

However, as the responses following Neitlich’s post show, even most “uber-fans” weren’t aware of the “Demo-man” story.

The reason I bring this up is so I actually have something to write about in regards to packaging, which otherwise I don’t care about at all. I do, however, like bio cards and cross-sells (even if my dream line wouldn’t have bio cards or even proper names). And while I do believe every collector and fan makes their own canon, I think the way Mattel is trying to tie all the various MOTU mythoi (motuthoi?) together is fun, and tying in the whole “Demo-Man” thing is interesting, even if the name is terrible (though something like “De-Mon” has a certain ring to it).

skeletor_8Sculpt: The sculpt of the 1980s Skeletor was relatively simple, as that’s all American toymaking technology of the time would allow for. The 2002 Skeletor, on the other hand, had an amount of detail that rivaled the works of a McFarlane Toys or a NECA.

By design, Masters of the Universe Classics (MOTUC) follows a middle road between those two extremes–it’s definitely more detailed than the original figures, but less complex and intricate than the 2002 line. Skeletor was one of the most beloved redesigns of the 2002 era, so many collectors are looking at this new version as a benchmark of the MOTUC style.

MOTUC Skeletor takes most of his design cues from the original 1980s figure, from his bare, skeletor_6spiked forearms to his shorter groin guard, from his three-toed feet to his bright green-and-yellow face. But sculptors the Four Horsemen have also made a number of small but effective improvements: the groin guard and epaulets have a leathery texture, the hood looks more like cloth, and his skull face is more detailed.

While I think this is a great sculpt, there’s no question it’s lacking in a lot of the traditional hallmarks of what is often considered great action figure sculpting, such as intricate details and textures. MOTUC Skeletor looks like a comic or cartoon version of the character than the 2002 version, which seemed to imagine Skeletor as he might appear in the real world.

Plastic & Paint: Like He-Man and Beast Man, Skeletor’s body is mostly molded in solid colors (light blue, in this case). However, a nice dark blue wash has been applied, making the musculature pop and giving the figure a more three-dimensional look. Click the following links for some close-up photos of the wash: [1] [2]

skeletor_1I really like the paint work on the face. As mentioned above, it’s done in the bright yellow-and-green look of the original figure, but with rougher texture and a decayed look reminiscent of an aquarium ornament–as if Skeletor’s skull spent some time at the bottom of a lake. Of course, he also has the red dots inside his eye sockets, hinting at his infernal evil.

The clawed toes are painted in gray, while the greaves are painted purple with black straps. The leather of the groin guard and epaulets is a sort of dark purple/black, while the studs are painted in a brighter purple.

Again, this is a case where MOTUC walks the line between the 1980s incarnation and the 2002 revamp. The armor hasn’t been molded solely in purple plastic like the 1980s figure, nor has it been intricately painted like the 2002 version. However, it’s just about perfect for the style of MOTUC.

skeletor_throneArticulation: Skeletor features a ball jointed neck, ball jointed shoulders and hips, swivels at the biceps, wrists, waist and the top of his greaves, and hinges at the elbows, knees, ankles and torso. The neck has a somewhat limited range of motion, possibly due to the way the folds of the hook spread out beneath Skeletor’s head. On a side note, one of the things that bugs me about the figure is the large amount of visible neck between the armor and the hood; I wish the Horsemen had found a way to cover it better, as it looks a bit too toy-ish as is.

(The throne, by the way, comes from the Marvel Select Mephisto, while the floor is from the Silent Screamers Golem.)

skeletor_5Accessories: Skeletor comes with a sword, his Havoc Staff, and a half-sword that can be snapped together with the half-sword that came with He-Man.

Some fans have lamented the fact that the Havoc Staff is monochromatic, unlike the 2002 version; and in this case, I have to agree. While the ram’s head is a little different from the rest of the staff–it has a silvery sheen to it–some more paint work would make it a lot better. Even the Filmation cartoon had a brighter skull at the end of the staff.

On the other hand, I’m pleased with the sword. The bright purple sheen on the blade contrasts nicely with the solid black molding of the hilt, and unlike He-Man’s Power Sword, the grip is actually painted black.

jandmI’m not so sure about the half-swords (click here for a pic). First off, I had a hard time getting them to snap together. It turned out I was squishing the peg at the top of the gray half-sword, and I ended up having to carve the peg off with a X-acto knife; so be careful to thread that peg in before snapping the hilts together.

More from that, though, I just don’t think the blended sword looks very good. It reminds me of the MOTU “dress-up” kid-size swords you could get in the ’80s, seen in this photo of me and my cousin Mike.

Quality Control: My Skeletor figure is great, but I’ve read some collectors have had trouble, including one instance where a reader received a Skeletor with two right legs. Mattel will replace the figure, but may charge you for shipping the figure back to them.

Value: As I’ve maintained in every MOTUC review so far, $20 is a little pricey for these figures. $15 would be much more reasonable, particularly given the resources of a company as large as Mattel, but I’ve heard it said that bigger companies actually have larger overhead than say, a NECA or a Mezco, and therefore a relatively small run of figures like this (presumably between 10,000-20,000) costs them more.

Overall:

11111/2

I took off a half-point for the unpainted Havoc Staff head and the price. But this is easily my favorite of every Skeletor I’ve ever owned.

Check out my Flickr page for even more photos!

Related links:

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Comments now closed (17)

  • Excellent review as always, totally agree with your comments on the face – it's one of the points where the 200X really outshines this version. But overall a great figure, really solidly built that looks wild posing with Beast Man on my shelf. Even with 2 right legs… (had to get that whine in somewhere!)

  • I wasn't around for the first wave of MOTU, but the old photos make me feel nostalgic anyway

  • I'm sorry, but the idea that it's more expensive for the world's largest toy companies to make figures than a small company like NECA is absurd. Economies of scale are clearly on the side of Mattel. Not to mention that Mattel benefits from diversification, by virtue of having a huge portfolio of toys, games, etc.

  • I'm most impressed in the pic of young Poe by the Admiral Ackbar T-shirt. It's a trap!

  • I was really impressed with the heft on that havoc staff, but I do wish they had painted the head a different color or two. I also think an articulated jaw on Skeletor would have been fantastic so I could have him cackle like on the cartoon.

  • Great review. I especially love the old photos.

    I wish my Skeletor would arrive. I ordered him the day he was released and so far, nothing.

  • he seems a little short on the skin tone wash that made he-man pop so well. it vageuly reminds me of miffs i've had recently w/ HML, casting a figure in color and then not retouching. which gets me back to the notion you've espoused here time and again poe, 20 bucks is just too much for what we're getting. 15 would make a lot more sense.

    that said, these ARE fun figs to play w/ and pose. and for a toy, that's a huge part of the value for me.

  • I love MOTUC Skeletor, and honestly, I would not change a thing. Of course, I say this without having held him or seen him up close, but I think the pictures say it all.

    Not to take away from He-Man, Beast Man or any of the other figures we've seen previews of, but I think Skeletor truly stands out as being the best example of what this line is all about!

  • Another great review! I can't wait to get my Skeletor. I'm still waiting for him to come in the mail.

    It seems there is a lot of bitching about Mattel. I read the comments on their facebook page daily. You can't please everybody. I have nothing to bitch about on MOTUC so far. DC Universe Classics is another story. I hope this Masters line makes it farther than the 2002 line!

  • I'll probably pass on this one. Looking forward to getting Faker in March. Never owned one before and the 2002 line exclusive is going for insane amounts of money.

  • I'm going to add a comment here, to try and get this in the "most popular posts" gadget…feel free to help out…

  • @Goam: How could anyone pass on Skeletor? :::Shivers::: I can't wait to get Faker too. I always liked him as a kid, with his blue skin, orange hair, and sticker always falling off… Its funny, as a kid I never thought, "oh this is just a re-paint" he was def one of my fave MOTU toys.

  • Well after getting my Skeletor I do have a complaint about him. I've had trouble with the half-swords as well. I messed a peg up myself and will have to carve it off. Not a big fan of the hal-sowrds anyway but it is very nostalgic.

  • I got my MOTUC Skelly today! I haven't taken him out of package yet cuz I have a few errands I have to run. However when I get back home, he's comin' out!

    Also, I recieved my 2nd MOTUC HE-MAN!!! So the shopping cart trick apparently works. I'm going to try again this month when I order Stratos to try and get a second Skelly.

  • I said on other posts of my difficulty getting He-Man and Beastman as Matty Collector did not accept my credit card so I had to pay extra through ebay.

    Sadly a lot of people on Matty Collector have ruined this line. Originaly this seemed a good idea, fans being able to buy the toys online without risk of it being canceled as it was aimed at adult collectors only.

    The Ebay scalpers have bought up all the Skeletors depriving a lot of real fans from getting this excellent figure by asking rediculous prices.

    Living in the UK puts the postage up automatically….but not including postage these figures are too expensive. Skeletor was in the top two I wanted. But I just can't afford or reason with myself to part with the cash for it. A seller in the UK is charging £50 not counting £7 postage. I won't even get into worldwide sellers.

    Collecting this line entirely would either bankrupt me or mean I would have to stop collecting all other action figures I like. And in all honesty I am not prepared to make that sacrafice.

    It probably would have been better had they just continued the 2002 series in the same style with a little more articulation. DO NOT GET ME WRONG, I Love the Classics.

    Even the NECA Stactions were easy yo get and affordable.

    Being realistic, as cool as Skeletor is, he is just one new 7" action figure and ther is no way I could justify paying these people £50+ for Skeletor. In one way I could say 'oh its only £50' but at the same time why should I and others have to when these people are getting them at a reasonable price from Mattel? It would not suprise me if some of the Ebay 'sellers' accounts belong Mattel/ Matty Collector workers.

  • I'd say Skeletor classic is pretty good but I'm passing on this as well.

    I'm happy with the 2002 version. I can't justify the cost if the 2002 version is a lot better for my collection.