Review > Zodac (Masters of the Universe Classics)

Since first reading about the idea (I can’t remember where) that the Masters of the Universe premise was similar to Jack Kirby’s New Gods, it’s become fun to try and equate various characters. Darkseid is Skeletor, of course; Kalibak is Beast Man; He-Man is Orion; Teela is Big Barda; the Sorceress and King Randor share the duties of the Highfather; Stratos is Lightray; Man-at-Arms is Himon; Granny Goodness is Evil-lyn, and so on. Obviously some of the comparisons work better than others, but none are quite so similar as Zodac and Metron. Both were depicted as cosmic observers who followed the battles between good and evil and occasionally interceded (usually on the side of good). And they both were fond of flying space chairs.

While his original packaging described him as an “Evil Cosmic Enforcer,” most of the 1980s MOTU fiction established Zodac as a “neutral” character, someone who observed the battle between good and evil from a cosmic perspective. What exactly Zodac’s role in these events was a lot less clear. There seem to be a few different types of “neutral cosmic observers.” There’s Metron himself, who seems content to observe from afar but occasionally interferes–usually by helping the good guys. Then there’s Marvel’s Watcher, who’s actually sworn not to interfere but does so anyway, all the time, always by helping the good guys.

Zodac’s a bit more complicated, since he is usually described as a Cosmic Enforcer, suggesting it’s his job to make sure good and evil–or perhaps more logically, order and chaos–are in balance, helping whichever side seems to be losing. By this logic, Zodac should spend a lot of time helping Skeletor, but I can’t think of a specific instance in which he interceded on Skeletor’s behalf. At most, he might not help He-Man as much as he could have. And since Zodac often delivered the moral at the end of cartoon episodes, he was more or less understood by kids to be a “good” character. Personally, however, I would have liked to see a MOTU story in which it turns out the mastermind behind a plot against He-Man was actually Zodac, not Skeletor…a kind of He-Man R.I.P.

The biographies on the packaging of Masters of the Universe Classics seem to be trying to meld the more popular and interesting elements of the various MOTU mythologies, and Zodac is no exception.

I do like the way the bio gives Zodac a bit more of a background and explains why a “neutral” cosmic enforcer gets drawn back to Eternia so much. I’m not as fond of the idea that the Cosmic Enforcers are selected and supervised by the Overlords of Trolla (Orko’s race)–seems an awful lot like a certain group of emerald lamp enthusiasts and their short, blue-skinned bosses. However, this does seem to indicate it’s likely we’ll get an Orko down the line.

Packaging: Since I’m not a mint-on-card collector, I often have a hard time stopping and thinking about how well a figure is presented to someone who is. MisterBigBo recently pointed out to me that the current MOTUC packaging partly blocks the character’s face.

While I love the aesthetic design of the packaging–the old-school artwork, the bios, the cross-sell, and the lightning bolts on the blister–I have to admit that if I were a MOC collector, the fact that the face is obscured would be maddening. Mattel should definitely consider shrinking the MOTUC logo so as to make the face visible.

Sculpt: For a line with as many bizarre character designs as MOTU, Zodac has always looked a bit out-of-place. Even when I was a kid, something about the character struck me as haphazard–as if he’d been mostly tossed together from existing MOTU parts and given a new head, rather than being designed as a character from the ground up. He has the hairy Beast Man torso and the clawed hands, feet, greaves, and spiked forearms of Skeletor/Mer-Man. His only unique parts are his head, armor, and laser pistol.

I like what the Four Horsemen did with the armor, jazzing it up a bit and adding some “bullets” along the lower strap and a kind of futuristic backpack. But I find the head sculpt a little disappointing. It’s rather soft, especially around the exposed mouth, and it lacks a certain stylistic punch. I know it’s not really any more or less faithful to the original design than, say, He-Man or Stratos, but I can’t help but wish there had just been a little something more here–perhaps some more Kirby-esque detail on the helmet.

Plastic & Paint: Zodac is molded primarily in flesh color. There’s some very subtle wash work to bring out the musculature, and while it’s so light you almost can’t see it, there seems to be a very light reddish-orange was on his torso (perhaps Zodac is a redhead under that helmet?).

The gray on the boots, with the darker gray trim, is nicely applied, and the paint apps on the head are clean, though there’s a spot at the top of his head where the red paint has rubbed off a bit, revealing gray underneath (probably due to the packaging, as usual). The gray of the loincloth looks good and the lighter drybrush is sharp. However, the white belt is messy, with some significant slop and spotting, and this seems to be a common complaint. While I’m not the type to rant and say this sort of thing is worth quitting the line for, for $20 plus $10 shipping, it’s definitely fair to call Mattel on this. I appreciate the effort to make the belt more interesting (rather than just making it plain white), but maybe something like casting it in a metallic light gray would have worked better.

Articulation: Zodac has a ball jointed head with a decent range of movement, slightly limited by the nature of the helmet. He also has peg-and-post ball jointed shoulders and hips, swivels at the biceps, wrists, waist, and top of the calves, and hinges at the elbows, knees, ankles and abdomen. Like the other claw-toed characters, he also has excellent “rocker” (side-to-side) range on his ankles, allowing for good wide stances. While there’s nothing new here, the range and tightness of all the joints are as good as we’ve seen in this line.

Accessories: Last month’s figure, Mer-Man, came with two heads, a sword, and a trident. Next month’s figure, Hordak, comes with a staff, a crossbow, and a bat. July’s Man-at-Arms comes with a dagger, a blaster, a mace, and the 2002 Power Sword.

Zodac? He’s got his laser pistol. It’s almost identical to the blaster of the original figure. It does have a nice metallic luster and some minor paint apps, but it’s still just a pistol. Call me crazy, but I think it would have made more sense for Zodac to come with the 2002 Power Sword…

Quality Control: Aside from the aforementioned paint issue on the belt and the rub on his head, no major issues.

Overall:

111/200

I’ll be honest–my own fondness for Zodac’s character and design is giving him an extra half-raven he probably doesn’t quite deserve. He’s a thoroughly average figure in terms of design, heavy on the re-use, and he only comes with one small accessory. I’m not surprised he took quite a bit longer to sell out than his predecessors, and frankly, I can’t really imagine another character who could be this unpopular (at least until we get to the lesser She-Ra characters).

All that said, I’m happy to have Zodac in my MOTUC line-up.

Comments now closed (33)

  • I find it really frustrating that Metron got his first figure (that I can recall, anyway) and Zodac got this update, but NEITHER OF THEM COME WITH THE SPACE CHAIRS. Granted, it would have made both figures more expensive, but I would have easily paid $15 more for a Metron with a Mobius Chair. He doesn't look right standing.

  • I hate Zodac's status as a keeper of the balance between good and evil, while simultaneously being "neutral." It's absurd to think that you can assist evil without being implicated in that evil, yet still be neutral. One can't say help the police solve a murder on Wednesday, then help a serial killer murder a child on Friday, and consider themselves neutral.

  • John Byrne referenced the New Gods when describing the MOTU 1987 movie saying that it could be a great New Gods movie.

  • @DMW: Why not? I think that's the essence of being neutral–that you can do those two things and not consider them mutually exclusive. If he helps solve a murder, or even prevent a murder, why isn't he implicated in the "good"?

    The thing about being truly "neutral" is that most humans aren't capable of doing so, or perhaps even of conceiving it (not without being a sociopath, anyway).

  • @Poe: Neutrality denotes not taking a side. Each action on the behalf of good or evil is a defacto declaration of support. Therefore he is more of a flip-flopper than a neutral entity.

    In regards to whether his actions to assist good are a positive reflection on him: perhaps, though his motivation cast some doubt on how "good" his actions are. Regardless, one cannot absolve themselves of the consequences of evil action simply by doing a good action. E.g. in our hypothetical situation, the law would still seek justice from the man who assisted the child killer, even if he helped solve another murder. Perhaps if the man pledged to never again be an accomplice to such an evil act AND did a good act, he would be allowed free. However, Zodac is a "keeper of balance," so that is unlikely in his case.

    Also, I don't buy into the whole "Zodac is above our morals" argument. What makes Zodac any different from He-Man? He-Man is sentient, and can relate to Zodac on a personal level. For that matter, what makes Galactus any more valuable as an individual than Reed Richards? He's smarter, older, and more powerful, but he has never displayed anything that separates him from a human psyche other than cold-indifference, which psychopaths are known for anyways.

  • Are you a mass murderer when you walk over an anthill, despite helping an old lady across the street earlier? LOL! Zodac is above our trivial definitions of good and evil. He's a cosmic being.

  • I've enjoyed the MOTUC figures I've bought, but I don't regret skipping out on Zodac. A character that I have little nostalgia for and who isn't that visually interesting. I'll continue collecting MOTUC, but I'm going to stick to the characters I remember most fondly from my youth.

  • What does being cosmic have anything to do with being above morality? If aliens exist, is it ok if they come to earth an eradicate us?

    And again, what makes him any different than He-Man? The gulf between a human and an ant is enormous. Ants lack sentience, or even the ability to feel pain. They are completely instinctual creatures. Zodac and He-Man are both sentient, they both relate in the same manner, they are capable of physical and emotional pain. Hell, He-Man is probably even more powerful than Zodac.

    You realize you are using a 100% fictional character to explain a nonsensical philosophical standpoint, right?

  • Seriously, he's right about neutral being the wrong description for what Zodac is supposed to be, but how do you get that idea across to kids? Neutral doesn't imply "Taking sides is pointless when you view things from my perspective." Or else Switzerland is a cosmic being.

    Way off the mark on Galactus, tho. I still think Byrne had the best take on the world devourer, and it's a shame they never got to do the "final" Galactus story.

  • @DMW: I suppose I always looked at Zodac's "neutral" status not so much as a moral or ethical position he'd chosen, but as a glib description of his cosmic role: to maintain balance between good and evil, or–in a formulation more to my liking–"order" and "chaos."

    While it's common to equate chaos with evil (especially in fantasy fiction), too much order can have negative consequences too–such as authoritarian suppression of free will. I think it's fair to wonder whether in King Randor's ideal Eternia, malcontents would be free to organize and loudly proclaim their resistance to his policies.

    It's an idea that's come up many times in Superman comics, most notably in Superman: Red Son.

    On a side note: you realize philosophers LOVE to examine issues using bizarre thought experiments, right? Heck, Umberto Eco wrote a <a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=KlJNp_hUmEIC&pg=PA107&lpg=PA107&dq=%22myth+of+superman%22+eco&source=bl&ots=LeBYzYhUNm&sig=dwo7477zRJcL0StPyIOLySD-o8c&hl=en&ei=E10lSpWkAeHelQfbkZnoBw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&quot; rel="nofollow">whole paper on Superman.

    But hey, I was just having fun discussing it, man. I'm not actually basing my philosophical, ethical or moral beliefs on fictional characters (among whose number, if I really wanted to get myself in trouble, I might include God).

  • "What does being cosmic have anything to do with being above morality? If aliens exist, is it ok if they come to earth an eradicate us?"

    Maybe, if it made sense to them. The real question is whose perception of "ok" we're dealing with and why. I'd recommend Rautavaara's Case by Philip K. Dick. He presents a case for an alien morality at odds with our own, and how both are viewed by their respective species as "good," despite the gulf between the viewpoints. (And it involves Jesus eating people. Huge fan of PKD)

    It's dangerous to assume your point of view is absolute.

  • @Poe: At this point, where MOTUC is an adult collector line, I don't see the point of Mattel continuing to use the term "neutral" which is inherently a false characterization of Zodac's role or intent.

    I don't see chaos and order being synonymous with evil and good. I think the concepts are quite different and neither mutually inclusive nor exclusive. My desk is chaotic, but there is no moral component to it.

    I agree that too much order could lead to repression. However, that just points out how woefully misguided Zodac would have to be, to back Skeletor as his agent of chaose. Skeletor believes in a very strong order (authoritarian) where-in all would bow to him. Skeletor is not, say an anarchist.

    I'll have to check out Eco's work at some point. However, one cannot defend a moral position based purely on characters known to be fictional and possessing key attributes no real individual has.

    Saying that because a person has cosmic origins he is unbound by morality is just as absurd as saying that if there is anyone living in the center of the earth, he can come up here and kill us all without mark on his conscience and free from our judgement.

  • @DMW: I think there's a degree to which the use of the word "cosmic" in comics is a sort of stand-in for "divine," particularly when Jack Kirby is concerned (cf: the New Gods). So, given divine origins (for example, God), can one be "above" human morality? According to some interpretations, that's the meaning of the story of Job.

    I'll admit, though, that Zodac does not think or act like the sort of deities we're talking about here. At most, he's a Roman god, and therefore subject to mortal flaws.

    Eco's paper is interesting, because it discusses whether Superman is arguably immoral because he only operates in a reactionary manner (stopping bank robberies and supervillains trying to destroy the city) when he could be using his immense powers to sow deserts with crops to cure famine or some such (Grant Morrison somewhat addresses this issue in the first volume of JLA, actually).

    While obviously none of us are as powerful as Superman, I certainly don't think we should simply dismiss the implications of Eco's argument. It's just a matter of degrees, really. The argument can be applied individually (I know I could probably do more in the way of helping my fellow man, given my circumstances) or on the level of the nation-state (should the U.S. be so focused on its own economic prosperity when it–or its citizens–could be using some of those resources to, say, aid poorer nations, deal with global-impacting environmental issues, intervene in genocide, and so forth).

  • Anyway, before I end up digressing way too far, I think my view of Zodac–"neutrality" aside–is as a kind of cosmic policeman who tries to get everyone (He-Man and Skeletor alike) to play nice. But generally, he ends up helping He-Man, because Skeletor never plays nice.

    However, in my conception of the character, Zodac would also not hesitate to come down on He-Man, or Randor, or the Sorceress if they ever went "too far"–perhaps by, say, executing Skeletor and his henchmen after they had been defeated and had surrendered.

  • Was the ad in Toyfare a Futurama line? "What makes a man turn neutral?" And neutral doesn't explain the feet, either.

  • Excellent review Poe.

    As cool as these figures are, I love them and think they are excellent……I still think they are too expensive.

    Living in the UK puts an even bigger damper on it as its costing me £30+ pounds for one figure.

    I will probably get the odd figure but no way I am going to try and collect every figure. If they were a standard toy pice then yeah I would but at the price they are no way.

    Maybe my opinion will change but thats the way it is at the minute.

    In fact I am really bored of the collecting scene in general…this is the only collectors website I have saved that I check anymore.

    I am back doing art work and loving it spending all day out in good weather painting and drawing.

  • @googum: Every time the topic of Zodac's "neutrality" comes up, Dr. Mrs. Ghostal quotes the president of the Neutral Planet from Futurama: "If I die, tell my wife I said 'hello.'"

  • @Poe:

    The main problem it seems we're dealing with is the fact that it's a pretty heady philosophical point to consider when our moral compasses are He-Man and Skeletor. Subtleties were never "Masters of the Universe"'s strong point.

    Of course, the argument could be made that Zodac was simply shepherding events along until Skeletor could save the puppy and the spirit of Christmas from Horde Prime. Had He-Man defeated him once and for all before the Christmas special, who would have saved the Manchines' puppy? WHO?!?

  • you'd think neutrality would imply a character that does nothing and in no way interferes. in which case the toymakers would be very happy. they'd give you an empty package of an "invisible" character and charge 20 bucks. πŸ™‚

    i'm not a collector, but i still enjoy your reviews, Poe. thanks.

  • @Poe

    Great review and very insightful comments aside from my own. πŸ˜‰ I agree with you and also think the 200x power sword should have come with Zodac. I gave him one of the extra 200x since he needs something else in his hand. Too bad he didn't get a chair or staff. It's either feast or famine when it comes to accessories in these releases;ie Stratos vs Hordak.

  • "Eco’s paper is interesting, because it discusses whether Superman is arguably immoral because he only operates in a reactionary manner (stopping bank robberies and supervillains trying to destroy the city) when he could be using his immense powers to sow deserts with crops to cure famine or some such (Grant Morrison somewhat addresses this issue in the first volume of JLA, actually)."

    Over at Marvel, there's an interesting mega-arc of Thor written by Dan Jurgens. After Thor first inherited the Odin-Power, he did get proactive. Thor restored a depleted lobster fishery (which is ironic, considering he failed a test set to him by the other pantheon heads where the 'correct' answer was to teach starving mortals to farm for themselves), and intervened to prevent an ethnic cleansing (ironic because then-good guy Iron Man stepped in and fought Thor with the Thorbuster Armor to stop Thor from interceding on behalf of those about to be ethnically cleansed). He even goes on to create what is essentially a utopia – there's a resistance movement . . . but all they resist is Thor making a world where everyone is materially stable enough to pursue their dreams: it's explicitly stated no poor geniuses would go uneducated because they couldn't afford tuition, and no artists would have to starve or work flipping burgers instead of creating.

    Of course, since status quo is all, Thor's reign was presented as wrong, because suffering and struggle was ultimately what allowed humans to improve themselves. Without challenges, humans would just languish and idle.

    "(should the U.S. be so focused on its own economic prosperity when it–or its citizens–could be using some of those resources to, say, aid poorer nations, deal with global-impacting environmental issues, intervene in genocide, and so forth)."

    Er . . . doesn't the US do both? Even Bush II: Electric Buggaloo made massive contributions to help fight AIDS in Africa.

  • I hope no one has said it yet, BUT…

    What if Zodac was only neutral in his stance of waiting it out to see which side would win, be it He-Man, or Skeletor, and then to claim the power of Eternia for himself?

    Perhaps he must maintain the flow of good versus evil, or else Eternia would succumb to it's own version of ragnarok?

    What if Zodac is a time-traveler, who travelled to the future after Grayskull's demise? Maybe he knows the eventual outcome, and presides over everyone, not daring to change things for fear of a paradox.

    In the end, I think he makes a better villain. Neutral is for Canadians.

  • and because he's ultimately sadistic…I consider him evil.

    Zodac, Master of Sadism

  • Another great review Poe, and thanks for sticking up for the MOnCs! Aside from all this neutrality debate, I just think the character design, the head primarily, and the color scheme were brilliant and I’m glad to see them again in this repro.

  • I think neutrality is not doing ANYTHING.

    If he helps BOTH sides…he’s just a Sadistic Bastard that wants the war between good and evil to be at a stalemate so the battle will last FOREVER.

    lol

  • Meh…I WANT to like him…and I may wind up getting him to be a completist; but as Poe pointed out…no other figure has looked quite so obviously kitbashed together from reused parts at this one.

  • I love Zodac, much as with his original counterpart there are no new parts except the head, armor, and gun, however, I think he’s one of the best figures to date. I think the subtle wash really gives the molds a lot of definition and you can appreciate them more, rather than the all gray chest/torso of Stratos, and the fingers and arms of Skeletor.

    I for once disagree with Poe! I actually really like his head sculpt.

  • americanhyena… those are exactly the qualities that make zodac the ULTIMATE masters of the universe figure… sketchy background, nonsensical slapdash parts reuse and seemingly arbitrary weapon choice. i mean for cryin out loud what more does this line offer? he's even got a cop-out name… zodac… yet he has nothing to do w/ horoscopes. sure, he comes from the stars, but he could just as easily been celest-ar or stell-ar or mete-ore.

    that, and i think the look borrows heavily from the rocketeer.

    but i love this figure, i enjoy that he's now apparently a ginger, and that he has his nails done by mrs swan.

  • americanhyena

    Meh…I WANT to like him…and I may wind up getting him to be a completist; but as Poe pointed out…no other figure has looked quite so obviously kitbashed together from reused parts at this one.

    Unfortunately, the MOTUC figures are only going to be as good as their source material, so any inherent flaws their predecessors may have they are bound to inherit as well. I don't think there are too many more that are so obviously re-using parts though. Unless you want to count Stinkor/Mossman, which are just repaints of Mer-Man/Beastman.