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.