Review > Battle Armor He-Man (Masters of the Universe Classics)

Almost as long as there have been action figures, there have been variations of action figure characters. But it was Star Wars–with its Tatooine Luke, Dagobah Luke, Luke in X-Wing Outfit, Bespin Luke, Jedi Luke etc.–that proved kids and collectors were willing to buy the same character over and over again. Unfortunately, while the various Lukes made perfect sense, toy companies decided to create completely ridiculous variations of main characters in hopes that kids would still bite. This tendency would reach its nadir in the mid-1990s with the rise of Arctic Batman and so forth, but it still happens today.

But sometimes there’s an exception that proves the rule. Even I can’t deny Battle Armor He-Man had one of the coolest gimmicks ever seen.

It was functional, the designs looked great, and the result was a He-Man figure many kids preferred over the standard version. Mattel even imported the feature into their other famous boys’ brand, Hot Wheels.

When the time came to introduce Battle Armor He-Man (BAHM) into their adult collector-oriented Masters of the Universe Classics line, Mattel had to find a way to replicate the action feature without having to go through an expensive retool process. Their solution was to make three removable breastplates. Some fans were pleased, others not so much.

So the question, then, is this: Is Battle Armor He-Man still cool without his iconic action feature?

Packaging: The usual. I like that they chose the “one-damage” chest plate for MOC display, splitting the difference.

I also like the way they worked the battle armor into the growing body of MOTUC lore. Seriously, think about that–Mattel is really going out of its way to make a kind of unified history for MOTUC, tying together threads from all the various incarnations of the franchise. They don’t have to–I’m willing to bet that sales would be almost identical without these bios. So while not all fans are going to love every bio, I think it’s commendable they’re even doing them.

Design & Sculpt: Since the original figure’s charm was largely based on its action feature, it’s the design that makes or breaks this figure. And I’m happy to say I think it works. I was already sold on the design from the first prototype images. The truth is that the battle armor just looks good. In fact, I think there are plenty of fans who prefer the battle armor over the standard He-Man harness, and I understand that completely.

In terms of the actual sculpting, the Four Horsemen have done their usual trick of updating the original look to the MOTUC style. That means sharper edges and a bit more detail here and there. Nothing too fancy, but that’s what is to be expected from this line. To allow for the battle armor, the figure has the somewhat controversial “flat abs” lower torso section. His entire chest (beneath the armor) is silver.

To replicate the results of the original action feature, the armor features three interchangeable breastplates. The battle armor has snaps at the shoulders and ribs, and each breastplate snaps into the armor nice and tight. I have some concerns that the shoulder and rib snaps could get worn or break over repeated switches, but I suspect I’ll probably display him with the undamaged breastplate most of the time.

Plastic & Paint: Aside from the battle armor, the figure is the same as the regular He-Man, so I’ll refer you to that review if you’re curious about that. The one thing I’ll mention is that the face paint apps seems a bit sharper here than on the reissue.

The battle armor is made from a dark silver plastic that resembles galvanized steel in its look and texture. Very cool. But the paint applications on the “H” of the breastplates leaves something to be desired. It’s very uneven along the edges of the H and the border.

Articulation: See the fourth photo down for a list of articulation. Due to the size of the armor, the figure can’t bring his arms in as close to the body as the regular version. With the regular He-Man, if you squeezed his left hand around the section just below the head of the axe, you could get him to hold it in both hands; not so with BAHM. His mighty pythons just won’t let you.

There’s also something odd about the way the head works. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but the head seems to be able to float a bit higher on the neck, making the unarmored He-Man look a bit giraffe-like unless you deliberately push the head down further onto the neck. I’m assuming this was done because the battle armor is so big; it preserves the ball jointed neck articulation even when the armor’s on. So they go out of their way to fix this–which I appreciate, don’t get me wrong–but most DCUC figures lose this joint entirely?

Unlike the reissue He-Man, BAHM’s ankles are nice and tight. This must have something to do with the way they’re packaged–the regular He-Man’s in-package “battle squat” must be what causes those loose ankles.

Accessories: The interchangeable breastplates are arguably an accessory, but the only true accessory is the axe. Given that the original BAHM also came with a sword, and that an extra sword wasn’t included with the Goddess, it would have been a nice touch here, and helped make the $20 for a He-Man variation a bit easier to swallow.

Quality Control: No problems.

Overall: My three favorite He-Man figures are as thus: the classic He-Man, Ice Armor He-Man, and Battle Armor He-Man. I now own two of those three in MOTUC style (and have my fingers crossed for Ice Armor–though he has to include a blue translucent Ice Axe). BAHM is already destined to ride Battle Cat in my display.

So personally, my answer to the question I posed at the beginning of this review is yes, Battle Armor He-Man is still pretty damned awesome even without his action feature. Whether you agree is entirely up to you.


Comments now closed (44)

  • I was going to display the one scar, but after awhile I had to go with the clean one too. It showcases the look best! But I'm glad I have the option even if it's not built-in.

    Oh, and I loved those old Hot Wheels! Those were the best cars I had. I probably chipped half the paint off 'em crashing them so much.

  • I vaguely remember by brother having the Battle Armor Skeletor and we also had a few of those Hot Wheels (which were beyond awesome).

    You'd think a guy going into battle would wear more than a chest plate though.

    Question though: without the chest plate, is he just a regular He-Man figure without the harness?

  • just to further exacerbate the whole "why do they pose them in the box, it stretches the articulation" argument, my BAHM has the looest joints overall of any figure i've yet recieved… and yet, is in the most vanilla in-box pose. seriously, his ankles are soft, both biceps are soft, and his shoulders are soft, and they weren't stretched or distended in the box.

    i bought this for a custom, and truthfully, he'll work fine for that. yup, i'm an old schooler who doesn't think "the most powerful man in the universe" needs armor that only covers his torso. and as mrs dayraven pointed out, they could have sold us just the armor & plates for like 5 bucks and saved me some time and money… but i hold out hope that investments like this make that two bad or king hsss more likely this year.

    personally i think that dave willis dude that does shortpacked is about half as funny as he thinks he is… and that BAHM cartoon is one of my "proofs" that i'm not far off. i don't see anything wrong w/ the interchangable plates to replicate an action feature that was so easy to break. i've had lots of collectors recently tellign me they still have vintage BAHM w/ plates that work just fine… and that's great for them, but i can't help but think they're pulling one over, either on me or themselves… over the course of my years and my travels, i've personally laid hands on well over 100 BAHM in my day… and not ONE that i've seen that actually was a child's toy still works properly. it's purely anecdotal, but's it's my experience that that mechanism wasn't nearly as "awesome" as childhood memories would paint it. it was a cool idea, but the execution fell short of the idea.

  • @NoisyDvL5: i'm curious about something… if everyone thinks this BA is such a cool idea, why is everyone displaying their fig w/ the undamaged plate? wouldn't the loyal BAHM fans want to differentiate their guy by having his armor in a state of disrepair? that WAS the point of the mechanism, wasn't it? isn't anyone playing per the suggested play pattern? 😉

  • That Hard Armor with vintage Style Abs is the only thing that worries me about BA He-Man… Other than that he seems a pretty cool fig. (I'll see that when mine arrives sometime after Battle Cat day…)

  • If we're to go displaying our BAHM in a way that resembles our childhood then he must be squatting and with the 2 slashes on the armor. (since that's the way EVERY BA fig I've seen ends up when the spring breaks.)

  • I agree with you guys that think willis completely missed the mark on that cartoon. My overiding memory of BA He-Man figure is that the damn thing never looked right – what with the roller caught between damage modes. Nice pics, btw.

  • Anyone know the engineering behind the original mechanism? I've a notion to try to create it again and install it into Moder BAHM here, and decided against using an original as I hear they are often broken, or about to break. (ahem. Dayraven. Ahem.)

  • I didn't care much for Battle Armor as a kid and still don't find much interest in it. I'm not completely against variants, but need something a bit more wild (Ice Armor perhaps) to get me excited. I may have bit if he had the old action feature.

    Normal He-Man and normal Skeletor will ride Panthor and Battle Cat for me barring crazy different variants.

  • @Reverend Ender: i don't know how the original cylinder worked precisely, but clearly the spring mechanism has catch gears that were easy to wear down… but you can improve on that, more power to you rev.

    i don't have anything against the original toy, nor the new toy… i just don't get the extreme nostalgia that accepts no improvement over a mechanism that to my observations, didn't work nearly so well as some folks remember.

  • @dayraven: Personally, I plan to display him on Battle Cat without the damaged plates because that's how he looked in all the art, like this great piece.

    That's odd about your figure's ankles, though. Mine are nice and tight.

  • As ever a great review Poe.

    I like him – BA He-Man was always "my" version as a kid and this version – when he finally crawls through the transatlantic mail – will be the version that gets to ride Battlecat – always assuming I can actually get one. Somehow the extra bulk of the armour lends itself to the "riding off to battle…." motif.

  • Nice review! I never had a BA He-Man as a kid, though I did have BA Skeletor, and I thought it was just mine, but boy, did that thing cause a LOT of frusteration!

    Like Poe and I'm sure many others, I intend to display him on Battle Cat. More than likely it will be with the undammaged plate, however its nice to have the option to switch them out though.

    I forget exactly when I started reading Shortpacked, but I do follow Willis' blog on LiveJournal. Shortpacked is usually at the very least amusing, and once in a while hits the nail on the head, but in a case like that it's just annoying.

  • I had BA He-Man in my youth and the mechanism did work well initially. Dayraven is correct, though, it eventually didn't work at all. I remember pretty soon he was always in double-damage mode, unless you could wedge it into the undamaged look.

    It worked so that when you pressed it in a bit, it flipped to the next stage. I assume it is a spring-loaded cylinder with gears like Dayraven described. I believe the gears wore down over time and wouldn't latch anymore.

  • I will say, I like Shortpacked and David Willis. This particular strip seems uncharacteristically mean-spirited and a tad unfair.

  • Poe, love the addition of the articulation chart, it really showcases what the figure is capable of, in my opinion. But you missed his wrists!

  • I think I agree with the Shortpacked cartoon that the cool part about the original was the action feature and that this is just not quite as cool. I had him as a kid as well as battle armor skeletor, and having them fight was epic. That being said this is night "my He-Man", which was probably Thunder-punch He-Man since I didn't have the regular version, and Thunder-punch looked more like the cartoon. Plus he had a fun cap action feature. I also liked the orange armor.

  • I'm not familiar with Shortpacked, but I've got to say this hits the nail on the head.

    Its all well and good now people complaining the original broke(originals broke if you were to damn rough with them)…but you won't be saying that when they release a Man-E-Faces with 3 face plates.

  • My vintage Battle Armor still works fine. It holds the undamaged "plate" position great.

  • @Mark: Actually I'd be fine with a Man-E-Faces with different face plates, particularly if it allows for a bit more detail in the sculpt.

    I'm really curious how they'll execute it, though.

  • I wonder if he'll have a 100% unique sculpt, or if they'll just mould armor off of the existing male buck. Then his head will fit inside the armor which rotates via the little knob. Then they'd just have to take Optikk's groin, Trap Jaw's legs, and Cronis' arms, and you've got Man-E-Faces.

  • As far as the neck is concerned…

    BA He-Man has a slightly longer "barbell" between his neck and head, that is all. The only purpose it serves is to get the keep his head from dragging on the armor.

    It seems a little odd that Poe's has some up/down play, but a couple of my other figures have that with the regular-sized barbell, so I'd chalk it up to manufacturing variation.

    Lastly, it vexes me to the point of distraction that he didn't come with a power sword…I wouldn't even care which version…

    Excellent review, Mr. Ghostal. Keep up the good work.

  • I didn't notice that about the ball joint with my BA He-Man. I'll have to check again. If anything, the one thing I did notice was that his head articulation was cut down while wearing the armor, really only being able to move it side-to-side.

  • Now I know why you were looking for that dumb Joe variant the other day on Twitter.

    As an aside, I loved Artic Batman. There was a yellow SCUBA Batman, that I thought was particularly stupid and I believe I pink Batman as well?

    Artic Batman was awesome though (As were most of the Dark Knight Kenner figures actually) because that was an outfit I could see Batman putting on to face Mr. Freeze. Which is exactly what he did when I was a kid.

    Oh, and He-Man! He looks cool. Maybe someday I'll get mine out of the box.

  • Pink Batman? WTF?

    Several years ago, over at OAFE, someone posted a really nice custom pink "Tranny" Batman to be auctioned off at the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

  • @Mark: actually, i'd be fine w/ that provided it looked as good as these plates do set in place (& they've have to anchor securely.) i would think the nature of the head armor would make plates trickier than they were head, but again, if they looked good, i'd take plates for man-e quite happily.

  • Just curious, does the armor fit various motucs body types? I know, except females. Thanks.

  • Maybe I should have picked this guy up, from your photos I like him more than I thought I would. Although BA He-man was my favorite as a kid, this one looked like the armor was too big on his body, but now it just looks great. It looks like his hair is sitting a little too high on his head, giving him a big forehead. My regular He-man arrived like that too, but his was pretty easy to peel off and then superglue back into place.

  • @clark: Mine has the big forehead thing too! I totally thought it was just me, and some kind of illusion causes by the armor! Now I need to take a second look.

  • I think that Shortpacked strip is either far more tongue in cheek than any of you give it credit for, or far more representative of what all of you are actually thinking than you're comfortable with (see: Mark agreeing with it completely).

    My re-issue He-Man has tight ankle articulation (my Hordak has a real loose ankle and in comparison with my other figures in the line, the re-issue's just as tight as the tightest ankles on any other). I guess I lucked out.

  • @Poe:
    i’d assume they will go with a tri-sided head on a regular body. the armor would go over the torso and head.

    seems pretty easy to execute as far as MOTU action features go. MEF could actually have his feature intact since it is really just a point of articulation and not something that would need a tooling overhaul like a spring loaded chest.

  • I'M still undecided on BA He-Man. I'm kinda disappointed that they didn't use the prototype's belt colors for the final figure. And while I ain't missing the sword (he's gonna get the 200X sword anyway), I know am the not-so-proud owner of three He-Man axes, all looking exactly the same. (Yeah, I still can't get over Mattel missing the chance to pack bluish minicomic-esque accessoires with The Goddess).

    I was surprised when I saw that this figure got vintage-esque 2-part armor. I guess the softer armor material (as used on Man-At-Arms and Randor) wouldn't have held the breast plates in place well enough. Or whoever designed the figure always wanted his BA He-Man to have clip-on armor in childhood.

    I still totally dislike the smooth belly. It looks better on He-Man than on Hordak, but I still prefer how they executed He-Ros' and King Randor's armors.

    Concerning the Shortpacked! strip, I think that Willis completely ignored that the actionfeature would've been worth nothing if the figure's design wasn't so good.

  • Willis was deffinently right about the Transformers, surely even all the Mattel/ MOTUC/ 4H fanboys could at least admit that.

  • If you were to look at actual play, I think Transformers are worse. Yes, half the fun of Transformers was actually changing them from robot mode to vehicle mode and back again. That said, during play in the midst of a giant battle or raid it certainly would hinder the story to have to sit there and Transform a dozen or so robots and then continue.

    Shellformers are annoying, but some are a necessary evil, and when incorporated into the design, almost cool/fun.

  • @tornado: sorry it took a bit to get back to this tornado, but yes, all the male armors are swappable across all the male bodies. this is MOTUC after all… despite the naysayers, it does preserve most of the old play patterns.

    @mark: i guess i missed what's he said on transformers… what statement should i be in agreement w/?

  • I was tempted to get this He-Man to have someone to ride Battle Cat. But I'm going to just try to get one of the overpriced regular flavor He-Man figures off ebay.

    I'm in the minority I'm sure but I never did like the action feature on Battle Armor He-Man. It would never stay in the undamaged side and that bugged me. So he got relegated to the toy box while topless He-Man got all the play.

  • "My He-Man" would be Thunder Punch.

    As far as Shortpacked goes,I haven't really thought it was funny the handful of times I've seen it,but this one hit the nail on the head.

    I have a free Burger King Starscream toy that incorporated the same "battle damage" rotating drum feature.

  • @dayraven: Having a Robot and an Alt mode, having both forms not meding a transforming feature in Transformers…..Hasbro/ Takara did this…it didn't go well, Action Masters and SCF anyone LOL.

    @PrfktTear: Totally agree except lets be honest, it would be a lot worse if back then we were playing with Alternators and Masterpieces 😉

  • I really liked BA He-man, but I miss the action feature. That figure would be perfect with an updated version of that old trick.