Review > Man-At-Arms (Masters of the Universe Classics)

After He-Man and Skeletor, the most iconic Masters of the Universe characters is Man-At-Arms, King Randor’s faithful military advisor and friend to Prince Adam, a.k.a. He-Man. Man-At-Arms, whose “real name” is Duncan, was also the earliest example of the more science fiction-oriented aspect of the Masters’ universe. While He-Man and Skeletor would fit perfectly in any sword and sorcery setting (for example, both have counterparts in World of Warcraft), Duncan is clearly a character not of the past or even the present, but the future.

In his original 1980s incarnation, MAA came only with his distinctive asymmetrical armor and iconic mace. Many kids remember how Duncan had a distinctive mustache on the Filmation cartoon, but his figure was bare-lipped. MAA’s 2002 figure offered a much more detailed sculpt and added an oversized anime-style gun, as well as finally giving him the mustache he deserved.

Like the rest of the MOTU Classics figures, the new Man-At-Arms owes much more to his original look than his 2002 figure. However, there are some nice new touches, including two heads (one mustachioed, one bare) and more weapons, so that Duncan can finally boast of being a master-of-arms.

(On a side note, I’ve always wondered if Duncan, or at least his name, was inspired by Duncan Idaho, one of the main characters in Frank Herbert’s sf epic Dune, and also a master-of-arms).

Packaging: Mattel seems to be getting better about positioning the figures and the graphics so that you can see most of the figure, including the face. The alternate head is also easily visible. While the pose isn’t the most dynamic, I think being able to see most of the figure is more important.

The packaging itself continues to use the cool retro look that has worked quite well for this line.

Sculpt & Design: I was never that fond of the 2002 Man-At-Arms figure, who had a tiny head and oversized armor, particularly that ridiculous shoulder pad. This figure is a return to the more conservatively-styled Duncan of my youth.

We’ve seen this body sculpt plenty of times before, though one thing I’d like to mention that’s been bothering me: aren’t the hands on these figures a little small? They look a bit odd at the end of the huge arms, but maybe that’s just how body builders’ hands look…

In any event, the new sculpting comes primarily from the armor and head, so I’m going to count the armor as part of the sculpt, rather than an accessory. Unlike the 2002 armor, this time it looks somewhat functional, like something you might actually see on a real-life soldier in the near future. If you compare the armor to the original 1980s figure, you’ll see that most of the little touches, from the air(?) tank on the chest to the smallest little wire, have been reproduced and updated. There’s also a rolled-up sleeping bag attached to his lower back, another nice touch that reinforces the idea of Man-At-Arms as a self-reliant soldier. Perhaps my favorite touch, though, is the fact that there’s detailing on the inside of the rebreather/mouthplate, even though you’ll probably never see it when on display.

On the original figure, the fact that the armor on the left arm went all the way down to the wrist wasn’t a concern, since the figure didn’t have any elbow articulation. But the 2009 figure does, so to deal with that issue, the Horsemen cleverly designed the forearm piece to slide over the segmented end of the bicep piece, so that went the arm is bent, it looks like the segmented piece is “extended,” but when the arm is straight it’s hidden, as if it had collapsed like an accordion.

As you can see from the photos, all three of Duncan’s weapons can be attached to his backpack.

Both head sculpts are essentially identical except for the mustache. While the 2002 figure’s head very much resembled the cartoon version of Duncan, this figure’s head is clearly based on the original figure; they just slapped a mustache on it for the alternate head. Still, the mustache makes the character a lot more distinctive, and I imagine many fans will be displaying him this way.

All of the armor can be removed, and is attached with fairly strong pegs and straps.

Plastic & Paint: MAA is molded primarily in a fairly dark shade of green (almost pine). It almost looks a little too dark, considering how bright the colors of the original figure were.

I’ve read about some complaints regarding this figure, such as very dark red washes on the armor or paint slop all over, but my figure appears to suffer from few of these issues. I very much like the flat yellow plastic used for the armor, and the light red wash gives it a distinctive look.

The paint work is a bit uneven around the furry edging of the armor, and the red jewel on his belt isn’t quite filled in.

There is one odd thing. When I removed the chest armor, I discovered that the chest wasn’t smooth and pristine. It looks like the armor might have been glued on (why, I have no idea–the straps work fine). Fortunately, I have no plans to ever display this figure sans armor, but it’s yet another weird example of Mattel’s QC issues.

Articulation: Man-At-Arms features ball joints at the shoulders and hips, hinge joints at the elbows, knees, ankles and abdomen, and swivels at the biceps, wrists, waist and calves. The ankles also have “rocker” side-to-side motion. The ankles on my figure were very loose–see Quality Control.

Accessories: Duncan comes with his trademark mace, which is something of an amalgam between the original figure’s version and the larger, more complicated 2002 look. [Update: As one of the Horsemen, Cornboy himself, pointed out in the comments below, the mace is identical to the one on the original cross-sell art at the top of this review–my bad for not noticing that! The fur on either side of the armor is also from the cross-sell.] It’s made from a more rubbery material than the other two weapons (the same stuff Zodac’s gun is made from), and due to its weight, it might sag over time if held at an angle. However, if you just spin the weapon around the opposite way, it’ll correct itself.

He also comes with a pistol and a small sword. The sword is based on the one from the classic weapons pack, but I’m not sure about the pistol. It sure looks familiar, though.

Finally, there’s the 2002 Power Sword. It’s probably the best-looking incarnation of this sword yet, though I have to admit, I don’t think it works with the MOTUC story or aesthetic. Still, it’s a nice bonus, and a sop to 2002-era fans.

Quality Control: Aside from the glue on the chest–which is hidden, so I really don’t care about it–my figure had very loose ankles. So loose he wouldn’t stand on his own, necessitating using the Super Glue trick, which did work.

Overall:

11110

The great-looking armor, alternate head and extra accessories lift Duncan above an average score. I have a few nitpicks with him, from the loose ankles to the choice of green to the glue-frosted chest, but he’s still one of my favorite MOTUC figures thus far. And it sure is nice to finally get another good guy…He-Man was looking pretty sad with just Stratos on his side (I don’t count Zodac because he’s “neutral,” and I don’t count King Grayskull because he’s dead).

Comments now closed (26)

  • The Pistol is from the Grayskull weapon rack.

    Duncan has always been my favorite, and I think this is the best figure from the line (so far).

  • Thanks for the review Poe. Your's is a bit better looking than mine. Aside from the red wash on mine being a bit generous, the paint on the fur is half-assed at best. Literally. The paint ends in about the middle of the fur, so I've got half brown, half orange fur. Guess I've gotta get in there with some acrylic paint and fix it.

  • Great review, Poe. That's weird about the frosty glue chest, but I'm starting to think those loose ankles are common on MAA.

    I wanted to ask what you thought of the clips on the back of the armor. The outer c clips were snug, but seemed easily snapped on the ones I reviewed.

    And I gotta disagree on the 200x Man-At-Arms. I love that giant shoulder! :P

  • Great review as always – I'm really hoping mine gets to me before the turn of the decade.

  • sorry to hear you guys had QC issues w/ the ankles. my ankles are fine. my onlyQC issues w/ MAA was the fur didn't get painted all the way down (though not as noticably as some peoples) and the right shoulder of mine is so tight, i can BARELY get it to slide along the disc (so it moves up and down fine, but can't be pulled closer to or away from from the body… and i've already loosened the bicep swivel trying!) other that, all my joints are tight.

    and you know what? i had never noticed before on the box art for MAA… his original art up there has the nozzle tip at the wrist and the hose running down the outside edge of the forearm-or. if that was on the original armor, i never noticed it.

  • Great review, Poe! The mace is actually based more on the original Man-at-Arms cross-sell art on the back of the original packaging than anything else.

    -CB-

  • Hi CB!

    You're right, it is–that was right in front of me and I missed it. I also missed the fact that the fur on the armor sides also comes from the cross-sell, since it wasn't on the original figure.

  • That's what they call the photos or art on the back of a toy package showing other toys in the same line–the whole "collect 'em all!" thing.

  • I too had very loose ankles, though not so loose as to cause him to be unable to stand. He has fallen over a couple times though.

    I like Man-At-Arms quite a bit and am glad I picked him up. I'm slowly rounding up my "core" MOTUC figures which is nice. I'll be picking up the next figure, but will skip Webstor in September as he doesn't hold much nostalgic value to me.

  • Great review Poe. I really like my MAA, and guess I lucked out with the paint apps on both of mine. I've always thought the original MAA had some hair under the brim of his Flight of the Navigator helmet and was curious to see it in this toy, but no luck. The armor is brilliant, and you're so right about the hands; when you put him side by side with the original MAA their hands are almost the same size.

  • Man at Arms is a great figure! I have to agree that He-Man's a bit outnumbered and it looks like it's gonna be that way for a while. Nice Review!!

  • No new good guys until Teela in October!!! I don't count Zodac either because he's the "ambivalent" one. When we get Adora… will she be Force Captain Adora or Princess Adora… or I guess whatever you want her to be! ;-) I think for a while I'll be posing her with Hordak! ;-) But after Teela, no new regular heroic Masters until Moss Man!

    I bet now that we have the Trap-Jaw arms & legs we'll be getting either a Man-E-Faces or Roboto next year.

    Anyone think they'll re-use Randor's armor for Jitsu like they did with the original line? Or do you think he'll get his own unique armor?

  • "They look a bit odd at the end of the huge arms, but maybe that’s just how body builders’ hands look…"

    It is. There's no muscles in the hand and wrist to pump up.

    But, y'know, these aren't real people so there's not reason to adhere much to realism. It'd like some bigger hands.

  • Great review Poe. I just got me MAA today and I love it. The Horsemen put so much attention to detail on this line which is one of the reasons why I love it so much.

  • GREAT REVIEW BRO!!!

    KICK ASS MOTUC FIGURE, but my only problem is that mine has loose joints.

  • @RT: If and when I get one, sure. But my friend (who was at SDCC all five days) was unable to get even one, thanks to Mattel's excellent planning and execution of their exclusive sales. So it all comes down to Mattycollector now.

  • The eBay prices aren't really that bad currently. I'm thinking of going that route myself. I'll have it earlier AND have a fancy SDCC logo I'll never see.

  • Cool review, I came here cause I wanted to see if any one or Poe Ghostal him self had the same MAJOR quality problem I'm having with the Man at Arms that i was so damn lucky to buy in that 38 minute window it was for sale…(i really wanted to buy 3 or 4 and have a few eternian gaurds, but money's tight, recession style)…

    I'm glad i read through every ones comments cause I have the EXACT problem Dayraven has going on with his figure. The right shoulders drilled into the socket so damn tight that the joint only moves on the swivel, but his arm cant go up outwards from his body and if you try the bicep peg starts getting looser, and looser and feels like it's going to rip off DCU style…

    I WAS PISSED!! Damn pissed, MOTUC is like my new thing now, I only have 3 others, and believe it or not, my damn Zodac's left arm has this same exact problem, it can barely move outwards up and down or in towrads his body…..that is such a crucial point of articulation, and when its not working, its just plain depressing…

    I was so furious with my defected Man At Arms I even threw him across the room like a lil kid..thats when i realized once again that my life sucks even harder than i could ever imagine…

    aside from the defected/jammed right shoulder the figure is insanely detailed and rad to gander at…but man, I'm just the kind of person that cant get over defects, and wont settle until i get another one…

    eat sh*t Mattel, I love your toys to death, but I cant stand the way this MOTUC line is being handled….i mean really, i only own 4 of them, and 2 of them have f**ked shoulders….any one else havin this problem?

    -mr.oz

  • The right shoulder is tight on mine too, but not to that degree. The major problem with mine is that he has two right shoulders! Fortunately, the armor covers up the erroneous shoulder. There were a few paint issues I fixed– the half-painted fur, the belt that looked like it had been painted with a turkey baster– and he looks great. I think Man-at-Arms is the best figure in this line to date. Not my favorite from a character standpoint, but definitely the best figure.

    Now, I can't wait to get his counterpart in a couple of weeks!

  • @Mr. Oz & Drunken Fist: I can empathize with you. I opened my MAA last night, and lo-and-behold, the right shoulder was tight. I'll have to check it out to see if he has two right shoulders. Its exactly as Mr. Oz described. However, I did not throw mine across the room!

    Its not a huge issue, but definitely an annoyance. Otherwise he's fine, one of his ankles was a little loose, but no more than my Hordak's. Oddly he does not suffer from the frosty glued chest.

    QC issues aside, he's a great entry into the MOTUC line. I still haven't made up my mind yet, but I think I fancy the mustachioed head over the '80s toy accurate. This is the second time its happened, with Mer-Man, before I got him, I fancied the "cat" head, but when I opened him, the second "box art" head was the one I prefered. I still go back and forth so I'm sure I will do that with MAA also.

    I just can't wait to get Teela and Randor so we can have more "good guys" to pair He-Man up with! He's still out numbered!

  • haha, yeah, you know, ive totally gotten over my defected MAA right shoulder…its kind of a relief but sad to hear I'm not the only one who's figure has this problem…

    so believe it or not, i kind of fixed it…not exactly sure how, but it's worlds smoother and not all tight any more…..i dunked him in boiling water for a minute or two(until the steam burned the crap out of my hand) and first removed the bicep and arm..started investigating…used this flat prong thingy to try and remove the shoulder..apparently these things are built like trucks, the shoulder isnt removable what so ever…its like an encased dumbbell actually, and but what ever I did, i loosened up the friction that was was preventing the movement…

    I'm waaay happier with the figure now..and kind of proud of my freak fix…

    ordered He-Ro, and now I'm anxiously awaiting Tri-clops….and it was sooo nice to hear he-man and skeletor will be back in nov, and dec…..yessssss!!!

    I HAVE THE POWEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!

    -mr.oz

    p.s. also, no wierd crap on my figs chest when you remove the armor, although his moustache paint is a tad sloppy….

    cant wait to see a he-ro review!!

  • MisterBigBo pointed out to me that Man-At-Arms appears to have gloved hands–or at least on my figure, one of his hands is. My figure's right hand has what appears to be glove-like cloth ripples and no fingernails; however, his left hand does have fingernails and seems to be a bare-hand sculpt.

    MBB says both his figure's hands appear to be gloved. So check your Man-At-Arms and report back here…