Review > Eternian Palace Guards (Masters of the Universe Classics)

So, I came home last week to discover a rather large box from Mattel on my doorstep. And what was inside? Toys, of course! Wonderful, wonderful toys! Including the 12″ Christopher Reeves Superman, the Gentleman Ghost/Hawkgirl and Superman/Parasite 2-packs, several of the Retro Action DC and Ghostbusters figures, and perhaps best of all, the Eternian Palace Guards!

Which means that, for the first time ever, you get an official PGPoA review of a MOTUC product before you can actually buy it. I have no idea whether this is a one-time deal or will become an ongoing thing. In any event, I’ll be reviewing everything over the next few weeks, starting with the Guards today.

“Army builder” action figures are figures of generic characters, often in uniform, who can be bought in bulk without making it look like you have a dozen of the same exact person. The classic example is the Star Wars Stormtrooper, and good lord there are collectors out there with a lot of Stormtroopers. In the vintage Masters of the Universe line, the only real army builder figure was the Horde Trooper. But after a big year of firsts for MOTUC–Battle Cat, Tytus, and 200X-created characters like Chief Carnivus, Mattel wraps it up with their first Army Builder 2-Pack. The set was scheduled to go on sale in December, but it’s been delayed to January. It will sell for $40.

Packaging: The set features the two Guards side by side, one with an open helmet, the other with the faceplate attached. The shields (which we’ll eventually see on Stinkor) are featured prominently, as is the revised mace and the new Grayskull halberd.

If I were a MOC collector–and I’m very much not–I would have liked to have the other two heads and chest plates featured in the packaging itself.

Design & Sculpt: As one might expect, the Guards bear a strong resemblance to Man-At-Arms, with the significant difference that they have armor on both their left and right arms and legs. I love the symmetrical armor, and one of the first things I did was put it on my MAA figure to create a Filmation Man-At-Arms (see pic on the bottom right). I think it looks great, and when I removed the extra armor, Duncan looked kind of weird–half-naked, as it were. One wonders why the vintage figure didn’t have matching armor–budget issues, I suspect, rather than a design choice.

But getting back to the Guards: the body sculpts are the standard human male body, with Keldor boots. The Guards were actually delayed so that Mattel could rework the bodies with the Keldor boots rather than the standard He-Man-style leather boots, which is a bit odd, since Man-At-Arms wears the leather boots. Furthermore, due to the tall, projecting, pointed peaks on the shins of the Keldor boots, the shin guards ride a little high and are difficult to strap on. That said, one advantage of the Keldor boots is that even without the shin guards, the Guards’ feet look armored.

While the arm and leg armor is identical to Man-At-Arms’s, the chest armor is a brand-new sculpt. The armor features removable chest plates, much like Battle Armor He-Man, and two clips on the back to hold weapons. There are four plates: an “eagle” plate (is this a reference to something?), a plain lined plate, and two damaged plates–one with a single slash, one with two slashes. One thing to mention is that the chest armor is a real pain to take off, particularly since the tabs feel a bit brittle and should be handled with care.

While the portrait on the bio is from the 200X cartoon, the heads of the figures themselves have been properly “Classics-ized.” There are four heads:

  • A human head that I think is supposed to be Clamp Champ;
  • A feline humanoid head, presumably a Qadian on loan from Chief Carnivus;
  • A reptilian head, which may or may not be a reference to a proposed 200X cartoon storyline in which Man-At-Arms becomes a Snake Man permanently (and looks a hell of a lot like Grig from The Last Starfighter)
  • And a second human head, with a sculpt based on Mattel’s MOTUC brand manager, Scott Neitlich.

I love the idea of the guards being from different races. I’m especially fond of the reptile man, but the sculpts for all four heads are great. The removable faceplates are a great touch too, and have just the right Classics touch when compared to the 200X version in the portrait.

Plastic & Paint: The figures are molded primarily in green paint, and there are minimal paint applications on the bodies, since there’s really not much to paint aside from the loincloths and belts. The armor has some shiny touches here and there that help to bring out the detail in the sculpt.

I really like the color and texture of the plastic used for the armor–a kind of matte yellow tinged with orange. But as with Man-At-Arms, I noticed that the plastic used for the chest armor isn’t all that durable, which means that when you place the weapons on the clips in the back, they bend a bit and you can see a white line where the plastic has bent. So far it doesn’t seem to be a major problem, even after repeated replacement of the weapons.

The most paint work on the figures can be found on the heads, and as you can see from the pics, it’s pretty well done this time around. The reptilian head, with its multi-hued green skin and gleaming red eyes, looks the best.

Articulation: These boys get the standard MOTUC articulation: a ball jointed head; ball joints at the shoulders and hips; swivels at the biceps, wrists, top of the thighs, waist, and top of the boots; and hinges at the elbows, knees, abdomen, and ankles, with a pretty decent rocker motion on the ankles as well, although it may prove problematic for some (see the Quality Control section below).

Accessories: The Guards come armed to the teeth with two halberds, two shields, a mace, and an axe. The halberds are from the Grayskull weapons set; the mace is similar to Moss Man’s but a brand-new sculpt; the shields are the “basic shield” seen in the vintage Weapons Pack and Stinkor; the axe will be seen again this month with Buzz-Off.

While this bounty of weapons is more than welcome and adds a lot of value to the set, the sculpts themselves look a bit “soft,” for lack of a better term, in person. I’m not sure if this is due to the production process or if the silver paint is rather thick. It’s not a big problem, but it’s worth nothing. Also, the shields are a bit difficult to fit on the Guards’ arms due to the yellow forearm armor.

Quality Control: I got the first big QC issue of my MOTUC collecting career with this set. One of the figures’ feet was stuck solid, and when I tried to move it, it snapped right off. I glued the foot back on, and the other figure’s feet are fine. Still, for a perfectionist like me, it’s a bummer.

Overall: So let’s summarize what you get with this $40 set: two figures with full armor, four heads with removable faceplates, four interchangeable armor plates, and six weapons. When compared to other MOTUC figures, I think that’s a standard-to-pretty-good value. It certainly offers plenty of incentive to buy a second set or even a third and fourth set, as the four heads and four faceplates offer 16 unique looks.

If not for the broken foot, I’d have given this set five ravens, but that–and MOTUC’s general ongoing QC issues–do cost them that half-raven. The good news is that those of you who buy these off Mattycollector can send them back and get a replacement.

As for whether I’m officially recommending getting them? Put it this way–I’m thinking of buying a second set myself.

11111/2

Comments now closed (48)

  • Very good review, and congrats for finally getting samples – it's great to have another great reviewer being able to tell about these figures before they are available, and your reviews are top notch!

    The one thing I don't like are the orange feet. If those were colored brown, the figure would be perfect.

  • I'm not sure, but I think Man-at-Arms only having armor on one side WAS a design choice. It was Filmation that gave him armor on both sides. They did it so they could switch the animation cells left or right, to save money.

  • @De-Man: Well I know the reason Filmation gave him both was so they could switch the direction of the animation–no doubt about that.

    But why did the original MAA had only one side of armor? I can't think of a historical analogue for it.

  • Pixel Dan mentioned that the color of the Guards armor doesn't quite match Man-at-Arms. How does it look to you? It does appear a bit lighter and more on the yellow side in your pics but its hard to say for sure.

  • I'm really excited for these guys. I think they look terrific! There's no way I can afford two sets at one time, so I really hope as army builders they get a reissue at some point as I'd like to display all four head options.

  • That's pretty cool to be getting early product for review. I like your figure breakdowns, good quality still photos with nice lighting, and now early product. Nice!

    This set looks great with all the accessories and the extra heads are awesome, but I'm still only getting one.

  • @Poe: I think your MAA will be more Filmation-accurate if you put MAA's head and chest armor on one of the guards, then lose the leg armor. You can see that Filmation MAA's shin armor look a lot more like Keldor's shin armor than the removable type, or the He-Man boots.

    Personally, I prefer the asymmetrical look that MAA sports. It makes it seem as though he has a very intentional reason for only wearing half–like maybe he doesn't want to encumber the dominant side of his body with the extra weight. Or maybe MAA is the type to forgo the armor all together (like some nfl players won't wear hip, shin, thigh, or other pads), but now he has to wear them on one side due to an injury he sustained.

    Anyways, I'm glad someone else likes the idea of different races being guards. A bunch of people don't like the idea of a Quadian guard, and nearly everyone is up in arms about the Snakeman. I swear some of these guys on the org have virtually no imagination, and are content to perpetually suck at the Filmation-teat that dried up 25 years ago.

    I like the idea that a few Snakemen-of-conscience defected to the goods guys' cause. Though it would be nice to swap out the two beast/men's hands and feet with the appropriate versions.

  • @Mysterious Stranger: I guess they're a tad lighter, but it's not something I noticed until you mentioned it. It's not like when I was taking photos I thought, "Wow, they're a really different shade of yellow."

    @Mountain-man: Thanks for the comment on the photos. I often fret that my photos aren't very good, that the lighting is bad, that they're too bright or too dull. Drives me crazy sometimes. Good to know that at least part of it may just be in my head 🙂

  • PS I wonder how many people will use Lt. Spector to take out their Matty-fueled rage on. He's definitely getting the two slashes armor in my collection, but that's about the extent of it.

  • Congrats on the advance items!What ,no Matty head?Starting my Motuc collection today also.

  • Congratulations on the free review figures. It is about time.

    I am surprised with your level of honesty toward Mattel policies, practices, and quality that they dared send you samples.

    With that said, however, please do not become a Matty shill like many of the other sites that receive samples.

    I like my review sites objective, and have stopped frequenting some great sites because they provide advertising for various companies under the guise of "reviewing" free samples.

    If one gets hundreds to thousands of dollars in free product every year from any one company, one is no longer an objective observer but a paid employee of said company.

    Before anyone jumps all over me for the aforementioned statements…I am not accusing Poe of being a shill at this point…I am politely asking him not to become one in the future, and providing a reason why I am cautiously against review samples.

    I know it is only plastic, but integrity applies to all areas of life…even toys.

  • @Poe–>

    excellent review!

    man i envy you..getting a royal guard two pack early at your doorstep…have you been extra good off late??

  • I honestly have no idea why I got samples all of a sudden. This came out of nowhere. As I said, it seems to me a few sites that don't usually get samples got them, and from what I've heard, some sites that do get samples got even more samples than usual in December, so it seems possible that Mattel's marketing department was in a particularly seasonal mood this month.

    As for compromising my integrity, I will do my best not to let that happen. I was upfront about the QC issue with the foot, but the truth is that I really do think this is a great set, even at $40, and I would have given this same review even if I'd had to pay for it (I might even have given it five ravens, since I could have returned the set to get an unbroken one).

    But I won't necessarily be giving the rest of the items a positive review. I'll review them as if I bought them myself. That may cost me future samples, but I still have a hunch this is a one-time thing anyway. As always, the onus is on the company to create quality products at reasonable prices.

    That said, if they send me a set of DCUC16, I might be a bit more tempted… 😉

  • Pretty sure Duncan only has armor on one side for the same reason you only hold a shield in one hand– you defend with one side, and attack with the other.

  • Also, you do know that you don't have to send figures back to get a replacement, right? Mattel is very forgiving in that respect– just email or call to tell them what's wrong with the figure, and they'll send a new one free of charge, no proof needed or questions asked.

  • Y'know… If you want help reviewing the Retro Action DC figures, I'd be happy to help out… 😉

    Seriously though, you deserve to get review samples as much as any site out there. I'm looking forward to a review of the Reeves Supes.

  • Congrats, Poe!
    Long overdue. I'm jealous since I'm not into a $30 Parasite as I play catch up. I did explicably find the single Hawkgirl at my Target this week.

    Good review as usual! I'm thinking Man-at-Arms' one sided armor is similar to that of some gladiators where you've got your defensive side all covered while your striking limbs don't have any restrictions on reach or flexibility. That's what I've always assumed.

    I find it odd that there are reviews of this delayes set available while most Buzz-Off impressions are coming from current sub arrivals.

  • @Reilly:

    Yeah that makes it now what, 8 sites that get review figures? And this one and maybe one other are the only ones who give good reviews. Go figure. 🙂

  • @Poe: For the record, there is lots of historical precedence for limb protection on only one side of the body.

    Since it was common, especially in the Classical era, to face an enemy with your shield-side forward, aligning your body sideways behind the shield, it became common for greaves to be worn only on the shield-side leg (typically – left), since only that leg was directly exposed to the enemy.

    Romans were known for wearing a sort of scale-armour 'sleeve' on the sword arm, to protect it while attacking, but didn't bother to wear one on the arm that would hold the shield, since that was more than heavily protected already.

    Coincidentally, if Duncan follows this type of battle-dress, that would make him left-handed (as his left arm is protected, implying his right arm will hold a shield — unless his arm protection serves -as- a shield, in which case he's following a more Greek/Iberian tradition of armouring his 'shield side' more heavily.

    I love the guards. Every picture I see makes me want them more — and makes me wish I could afford to buy more of them than I can.

  • Great review, as usual, but I am surprised you rated them so highly, given the few little nits you picked. Maybe another half-raven for the MOC point, soft weapons, boots leaving shin guards high, and especially the busted foot? Just sayin'. I know your integrity as a reviewer won't be busted by freebies.

    As for historical references for one-sided armor details, one sees examples of that in Greek and Roman troops, but that's only due to the group tactics of phalanx battle, not something I think Duncan was doing, given the now-bilateral detail of his comrades' armor.

    Most examples of armor for soldiers expecting 1v1 duels, in European and Asian medieval eras, featured bilateral detail (European jousting and Japanese archers aside). One can't rely on his enemy to stay politely at his front left side where his defensive armor might be, and nor can he trust the other men fighting around him to politely wait their turns to attack or avoid his weaknesses.

    Though I can see the cost-cutting benefits of the vintage MAA's single side armor, I really think it was a stylized choice not meant to stand up to the scrutiny of us adult-collectors. MAA was and is still my favorite toy besides his goofy green tights and one-sided armor.

  • i took it to be an implication of a fighting style that he alone has mastered… for everyone else, they get fully armor, cuz they need it… but like a boxer or high level MMA striker takes a lead and masters their techniques from that lead, so does MAA…

    but i'm sure in the "real world" it was a budgetary thing.

    either way, the set looks very nice. congrats on scoring this early poe!

  • @Poe:

    I trust your integrity as a reviewer, and that’s one reason your site is among the first USA toy related ones I check on any given day.

    Matty is the devil in a red-striped shirt. 🙂 Lesser reviewers have fallen under his charms, but you won't.

    I read reviews to get the reviewer's honest assessment of the toy. It is a big pet peeve of mine when that assessment is compromised and beholden to the manufacturer's gravy train. You haven't taken the first step to reaching that point. I was venting over the current direction of toy reviews in general, and maybe sending a gentle remainder to those who are guilty and happen upon this thread. Thank goodness for this site and OAFE.

    On a lighter note, free DCUC Wave 16 might make me question my integrity as well. 😉

  • I assume MAA needs the armor on one side to block attacks and such, but he still needs to be able to move swiftly in battle, thus his other side is for fighting.

    One side for protection, the other side for movement. It makes sense when you consider most these MOTU guys are fighting with swords and axes and stuff. Of course, once you get to the guys with laser guns, it's a moot point.

  • Once again, congrats on the free figures.

    I'd buy another Guards Pack too if I got a free one. It is a nice looking pack with lots of extras.

    I want to pick one up, but I must buy the piss outta Conan…err…Vikor (10 limit…oh yeah!). Daddy gonna make him some sweet Conan/indiscriminate barbarian customs. I gotta go pillage the next village over to afford it.

    CROM!

  • @Novelty: I was thinking of ToyNewsI and Figures.com, but I know Pixel Dan got more than usual, and I think VeeBee at the Fwoosh did too.

    @misterbigbo: As I've said before, my raven reviews tend to be pretty subjective–for instance, if I'm a really big fan of a character, or have strong nostalgia for them, they'll often get a higher score, though I always mention this in the "Overall" section.

    I guess you could say, in some ways these were even better than five-raven figures, but ended up being below five due to the problems. And as I mentioned, I tried not to count the busted foot as much because Mattel would have replaced it had I actually bought these.

  • This was a very nice surprise. Congratulations Poe. I hope it continues. Excellent review as always. I always look forward to your pictures. You're lighting is always great and helps to show off the figures.

    Is there anyway you can take a pic of one of the guards without the shin armor and shoulder armor? Maybe leave on the wrist armor. I'm curious how if you can create a sleeker foot soldierly look to help maintain Man-At-Arms uniqueness and to differentiate the fully armored lieutenant look even more.

  • @Poe: That's interesting, and now puts your past reviews in better perspective for me; toys could get a better than five rating. I'm more pessimistic and grumpy than you, and consider my own toy ratings by the grade scale I already use as a teacher. A "satisfactory" toy for me would get a "C", or three-and-a-half ravens. And that toy would be just fine for me. I prefer more honest reviews and appreciate the details you put in to the straight fan-boy nerdgasms I often see.

    As for the armor, and again I'm coming at this from a historical perspective, warriors wore it to protect them when their defenses failed, not as a front-line measure. After all, European sword technique developed specifically to strike the incredibly tough-looking and expensive plate armor because the body parts beneath it were vulnerable. When a warrior expected the armor to be that front-line defense, as in the case of a jousting set, it was so prohibitively obtrusive that he couldn't move in it. If MAA was originally designed to use his armor as a shield, the designer misunderstood the concept of armor and failed to protect a character who might routinely be bashed on the arm by mystically-powerful warriors.

    But I don’t expect my fantasy kids' toys to be that realistic, so I still love his one-sided look.

  • @dean: Don’t worry, Dean. Chances are if you didn’t bring it up then chances are someone else would have.

    I will say however that the score is fairly high given the nitpicks and the fact a foot broke off. However as Poe said Mattel is fairly good with replacing broken figures it shouldn’t be held against the score

  • To be honest, I don't really like the raven/star system and I've considered getting rid of it from time to time. I keep it for people who are looking for a quick at-a-glance assessment, but you get a more accurate, honest assessment by reading the entire review. There are obvious difficulties in breaking an entire opinion down to a percentage.

    That said, I do consider an "average" toy two and a half ravens. But stuff like extra heads, armor and accessories make for better-than-average figures, in my opinion, and this set is loaded with 'em.

    Anyway, I realize I'm coming off a bit defensive here. If you guys ever do think I'm selling out, call me on it. But I feel fairly confident I would have given this same score had I paid for it. It would be better to blame my MOTU fanboy-ness more than the free sample.

  • Wow! These guardsmen really do look great and offer a huge opportunity for army-building in MOTUC. Just imagine if SpyMonkey Creations does start creating new custom heads to fit the MOTUC buck how many guardsmen your army could grow to? I for one am psyched to start seeing the custom soldiers that start to emerge from this pair.

  • @misterbigbo: actually, when plate armor came into vogue, hammers and maces became chic, cuz they could more reliably counter that advantage (that curved, surface hardened armor could turn aside sword and axe blades).. and then the english longbow got popular, and armor went the way of the dodo.

    but personally, given the weapons and tactics the eternians use, i think it's folly to try to compare MAA's armor paradigm to medieval armor. it's much more akin to modern tactical body armor, which covers certain large targets, like the center mass, that are the usual tactics of ranged weaponeers, despite the fact that most of the eternians wield hand to hand weapons primarily… it's almost like there wasn't a cohesive, overarching plan 🙂

    but the bottom line is, it's FANTASY armor homes. i know you acknowledged that, but this analysis attempting to make an informed comparison to medieval plate mail is just kind of silly. no jouster ever rode a dragon walker, nor could any knight knock you a quarter mile through the nearest escarpment and you get up to walk away. it's kind of like comparing the enterprise to the spruce goose.

  • I'm still confused. I've got a 2011 subscription but now I hear that this set won't be included in that subscription. I was looking over emails and see mention of "oversized figures and army builders" but isn't this a set the first army builder?

    Does anybody know what exactly is included with the 2011 sub?

  • @dayraven:

    I had actually written a long response about your errors in the armor time line and dismissing my analysis, but just erased it because I'd rather not get into a an internet fight on a friend's site. I'll leave it by lamenting that I shouldn't have made an intellectual observation on a website for toys. 🙁

  • @Josh:

    Included:

    -Monthly figures

    -Quarterly variant figures

    -Oversized figures

    -Army Builder 2 paks (except Palace Guards)

    Not included:

    -Palace Guards

    -SDCC exclusives

    -stands

    -dioramas

    -weapons rack

    -vehicle

    I think this is about it. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

    The guards were suppose to be sold in 2010 but got pushed back due to problems and becuse the 2011 sub was sold in the summer they "can't" add it for some reason.

  • man-at-arms only has armor on one side because his forearm guard has a laser gun, and those are expensive. who can afford two? we're in a recession.

  • poe-

    GREAT review and keep the ravens. I do like the quick glance and wish more reviewers would give an overall number like that. Plus the ravens are unique to your reviews.

    I really do appreciate your reviews and view and come here everyday to check stuff out so don't change a thing.

    I think it is great you got free stuff to review but I don;t think you could ever turn into a shill if you tried. I do aggree with others that, there ARE other sites that do reviews that are nothing more than glorified commercials though which is sad.

    Either way keep it up and can't wait to see more reviews.

  • I do agree with other that filmation had a symetrical look for all of their characters so the could flip the animation and use it again.

    I also agree as to why the toy only had armor on part of the body like gladiators.

  • the whole maa armor thing from filmation should be moot. if u LOOK at a clip of filmation, not only does he not have leg armor on, hes wearing brown shoes with the keldor calf boot part. so arguing over whether or not he should have armor on both sides (especially the legs) falls apart, as he didnt even have leg armor on imho in the cartoon. but this would have to come down to a mini comic quesiton, did he have armor on both sides in the mini comic?

    or just the one, because that i feel is where you will find your answer poe

  • I'm not generally a MotU collector, but I have been picking up choice figures from the line. I would really like to add this set, if it only came with a working battle damage mechanism. But I continue to maintain that Mattel dropped the ball on this one by making the chest armour removable rather than spinny. Since I skipped the He-Man figure because of this (and I singularly love that He-Man figure) I don't know how I can justify two new figures that feature, to me, the same problem. Which is a shame.

  • I always thought that MAA wore bracers for a bad arm/leg(old age?battle injury?) for support and only has the protection as a bonus.

  • @fairplaythings: I think in this case the removable armor pieces is a FAR better choice. You'd be limited by the action feature in figures that are clearly meant to be customized. The non-spinning on the he-man was lame, but on these characters its much better to have freedom of choice.

  • i was actually happy with BA not having spinning armor like the old one since I have two original BA He-men sitting at home that don't work anymore.

    However, I DO wish that they would have made ALL the plates between he-man, skeletor and the guards. I am actually surprised with the parts sharing this line does that they would sculpt uniquely shaped plates with the detail in the plates sculpted on and not just painted on.

  • Great review Poe and indeed like others pointed out great photos too 🙂 I do hope this "package gift" was not a one time deal and that you will continue getting them in the future. Can't wait for other toys you got to also be reviewed, post them soon! 🙂

  • Congrats on the sample figs and awesome review! I will definitely be picking up this set(2 if I can afford it but January on Matty is gonna be expensive). I didn't know it was possible but MAA looks even more awesome in the photos with the Guards! And the pic with King Randor is perfect! Great review!

  • Two things:

    1: As has been mentioned already, the “half armor” look was used historically. More specifically, there is an interview with one of the designers of the original MOTU figures which specifies that MAA was designed to look like he had “patchwork techno-armor like a futuristic gladiator”. So yes, the assymetrical armor was definently a design choice, not a budget concern.

    2: The eagle emblem for the chest plate comes from the Golden Books series of MOTU books for kids, where higher ranking guards had that chestplate to designate their rank.

    Good review!