Review > Vikor (Masters of the Universe Classics, Mattel)

“Know, O Prince, that between the years when the oceans drank the Valley of Gnarl and the founding of Eternos, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars. Hither came Vikor, the He-Man of the North, black-haired, sullen-eyed, axe in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of Eternia beneath his booted feet…”

–Tu-Tor, Royal Scholar

“Stop filling my little boy’s head with all that nonsense, Tu-Tor. He-Man’s just a myth.”

–King Randor

There’s a persistent, but untrue, legend that Masters of the Universe (MOTU) was originally developed as a toyline for the movie Conan the Barbarian starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, which came out in May 1982. This much is true: Mattel entered a licensing agreement with Conan Properties, Inc. (CPI) in July 1981 to produce toys based on the film, and in January 1982, Mattel backed out of the deal.* A month later, Mattel debuted their company-owned Masters of the Universe toyline at Toy Fair. CPI then sued Mattel for copyright infringement and, for reasons I’ll discuss in a later post, lost the case.

However, it appears that Conan and MOTU weren’t quite through with each other. Enter Vikor, a Classics figure based on an early piece of concept art by Mattel designer Mark Taylor. While I wouldn’t accuse Taylor of directly ripping off Conan, there’s clearly a resemblance between Vikor and Conan as he was depicted by Barry Windsor Smith in his Marvel comic (right down to his wearing a necklace, a detail absent from the original Robert E. Howard stories but a distinctive feature of the Marvel depiction).

Look, Vikor is Conan. It’s obvious. We should just count ourselves lucky that we got a Four Horsemen-sculpted Conan as part of the Masters of the Universe Classics line. For many of us, it’s a dream crossover. You might ask: how can Mattel get away with it, particularly given their notoriously fastidious legal department? Remember that court case they won? That’s why.** Mattel is apparently confident CPI won’t try to come after them again, given the results of the previous lawsuit. But had CPI made a better case back then, there might be no Vikor–and possibly no MOTUC–today.

Then there’s the question of the name “Vikor.” Where did it come from? I wasn’t sure, and my attempts at researching it came up empty, so I turned to former MOTU comic artist, Hasbro designer and noted He-Man historian Emiliano Santalucia for the story.

“What we know is [Vikor] was a name that appeared on some paperwork Mattel has, among other possible names for the main hero of the line. Another was Megaton Man,” Santalucia told me in an email. “We never knew if [Vikor] was ever attached to that specific illustration–personally, I believe it wasn’t. Interestingly enough, Roger Sweet says the name was Vykon–he may be remembering it wrong, or that could be just an alternate version of the name proposed.”


Packaging: I still think Mattel should reduce that big logo so that the heads can be seen fully. If you’re a MOC collector, you can’t see the horns on Vikor’s helmet. But it’s nice that the axe and shield are front and center.

But I do like the “Powers of Grayskull” sticker, which places Vikor alongside He-Ro, King Grayskull, and the upcoming Preternia Disguise He-Man.

I should mention, getting this figure out is a pain, thanks to the way the fur cape and sword (on his lower back) are threaded through the blister. Be careful you don’t bend the sword too much.

Design & Sculpt: Vikor features the best sculpting we’ve seen on a MOTUC figure so far. Period.

Look how much care was put into this figure. The headsculpt is entirely new. It’s worth noting the face actually looks even more like Conan’s traditional comics look than Taylor’s art does. The helmet features a fairly intricate ornament along the brow and even has tiny dents on it.

The right biceps is new, featuring a brown strap that I’m not even sure is visible on the original art, meaning Mattel spent money on something they easily could have skipped. Obviously the forearms are new, featuring wrist-cuffs complete with metal chains, a feature from the art that raises intriguing questions as to Vikor’s back story–when was he chained? Is he a freed slave a la Conan the Barbarian (bearing in mind the sketch predates the film)?

The loincloth is new, and man, is it nice to have something more natural-looking than furry underwear. And finally there’s the fur cape, also entirely new, which is held on to the body via the necklace. And lest we forget, the back of the loincloth is brand-new as well, and features a small sheath for his sword, to replicate the concept art.

From a design point of view, Vikor features two changes. First is the new ankle joint, which covers the round peg joint entirely. While this is clearly better from an aesthetic point of view, my understanding is that it also tightens the joint. I can say that my Vikor’s ankles were rock-solid (but did still have a decent amount of side-to-side motion).

The other change is the switch from the “barbell” style neck peg to one anchored on a crossbar in the torso (you can see a graphic illustrating the difference here). Supposedly this type of joint caused, by Mattel’s own admission, the infamous “bobblehead” problem on female figures like the Goddess and Teela; so why they’d bring it back on the male figures is beyond me.

That said, contrary to some reports I have not noticed a significant reduction in the range of motion on my Vikor’s neck. My bigger concern is for the long-term durability of the joint. Vikor’s head is very tight, and I worry the new peg is thinner and therefore weaker and more liable to snap. Suffice to say that having taken the photos for this review, I don’t intend to remove his head ever again.

Plastic & Paint: Again, sometimes Mattel really brings their A-game to this line, and Vikor is a great example of that.

The head has some of the best work, from the metallic sheen of the helmet, to the golden gleam of the ornament, to the naturalistic color and texture of the horns, which even have brown tips. The paint apps are clean, and the eyes are properly centered.

Looking at the pics, you’ll notice that the skin tone of the arms and legs is slightly lighter and more yellow-ish than that of the torso. It’s the sort of thing that looks noticeably worse in photos than it does in person. It isn’t something I care about much, but some of you do so I thought I’d mention it.

The loincloth is fairly pliable, though it does impede the articulation just a bit close to the thighs. The fur cape is fairly stiff, which is a bit disappointing, since it tends to hang a little oddly as a result.

My only complaint about the paint is that it’s unfinished around the edges of the wrist-cuffs and the biceps-strap, leaving flesh-tone.

Articulation: Vikor features the standard MOTUC articulation: ball joints at the neck, shoulders, and hips; swivel joints at the biceps, wrists, waist, top of the thighs, and top of the boots; and hinges at the abdomen, elbows, knees, and ankles, with some good side-to-side “rocker” motion in the ankles as well.

The fur cape somewhat limits with the articulation of Vikor’s head.

Accessories: Yet another thing I love about Vikor. Vikor’s sword, axe, and shield are based closely on the concept art, but what I love about them is their oddly “futuristic” look with their slender, banded handles. They don’t look like typical barbarian weaponry–they’re just a bit too smooth and slick, as if they’d been produced by mechanical means. They add an appropriately MOTU-esque science fiction touch to an otherwise very barbaric figure. Perhaps these were weapons left behind by He-Ro or Hordak during their war on Eternia.

The shield looks more traditional, with a certain Mongolian flair.

It needs to be noted that these weapons look great. In particular, they have a neat dry-brush that makes the weapons look used without being aged. It’s a bit unevenly spread, as it covers the entire shield while being centered on the haft of the axe and the hilt of the sword, but it’s still a nice touch.

Quality Control: I had no problems with my Vikor, but again, I’m a bit concerned about that neck peg.

Overall: I love this action figure. I love Conan, I love MOTU, and heck, I even love Vikor as a concept. The sculpting, the look, the weapons…let me put it this way. One of my friends is Jake, a diehard Conan fan who occasionally comments here on the blog, but nonetheless really only collects G.I. Joe. I showed Jake Vikor and asked if he wanted me to get him one, and he said yes. So even casual fans wanted this figure.

Vikor is the first figure out of the MOTUC gate for 2011, and already he’s in contention for my Favorite Toy of the Year. Well done, Four Horsemen & Mattel.

11111

* The oft-repeated but, to my knowledge, unverified story is that when Mattel executives were given a preview of the blood-drenched, R-rated Conan the Barbarian, they got cold feet and tried to terminate the licensing contract. I haven’t found any reliable accounts about this, however, so for now it remains hearsay. I will say it sounds plausible.

** For a less legal-ese filled and much more interesting review of the case, read Paul Herman’s “Another Thought #2.”

Comments now closed (41)

  • Great review with some interesting background info. So Poe, did you write the blurb at the beginning with the dialogue between Tu-Tor and Randor? I don't recognize it from anywhere.

  • Vikor is the first figure out of the MOTUC gate for 2011, and already he’s in contention for my Favorite Toy of the Year. Well done, Four Horsemen & Mattel.

    Agreed!

  • Best MOTUC yet, crazy good sculpting. He looks good on a shelf with the Goddess and a capeless King G. New ankles are super tight, one is stuck and immovable. I hope more figures get the full body paint application from now on, it looks so much better that shiny plastic finish.

  • Great review and great figure. My only (and very minor) gripe is how heavy his cape is; it makes mine fall over when stood straight up. Otherwise he's perfect!

    The hair on the left side of my Vikor's head was warped in a bit toward his face, and though I'm usually a fan of symmetry, this time it makes for a nice, wind-swept look.

  • @Poe: Ok. Vikor inspired me to order a few of the Conan books from Amazon/half.com, so I should see them this week. I'm interested in checking them out.

  • I finally opened him the other day and added him to the collection. I think the whole "he's Conan" thing really swayed me to keep him.

  • Another great review. Now I'm really anxious for mine to arrive. I missed the first sale, but was able to get him when he went back up.

  • Pro-tip: When taking Vikor out of the package, remove his head, slip his cape off and remove it from the back of the tray, then lift his body out of the front of the tray.

    I'm not that into Conan, but Vikor is one of the best MOTUC figures to date. I kinda wish he had ended up being the hero of MOTU, instead of He-Man.

    Also, his weapons are the best I've seen in MOTUC, and so much cooler looking than He-Man's.

    My only complaint: his ankles were stuck like a mofo, and I was terrified they would snap off with any force applied.

  • My first MOTUC! And a right fine figure, except for the price. The Marvel Toys Conan was cheaper, and came with a bigger accessory…

    And great intro, Poe! It was years before I read Howard's Conan novels, but I had seen most of them adapted in Marvel Comics' version by then. I like the Buscema/Chen Conan myself.

  • Excellent review. If it had a removable helmet it would be a great Conan figure. As far as Conan figures go though I still prefer the old Hasbro cartoon and Marvel figures.

  • My Vikor's loin cloth has an extra cut in it across from the hole in the top like a factory worker got a little crazy…haha didn't even realize it wasn't sposed to be there until i was looking at the review images! πŸ˜› I still think he is an amazing figure, though. πŸ˜€

  • I did the research and I found the documnetation on-line about the court case. Regarding the CONAN/HE-MAN connection.

    What exactly is the question anyway? Did Mattel and CONAN have a deal to manufacture figures? Yes they did.

    Did Mattel back out of the deal? Yes they did….

    Are the Masters of the Universe figures reworked sculpts of CONAN designs? Who can say…..No one can say for sure.

    Did the CONAN people sue and lose? Yes they did….nothing was ever proven that HE-MAN is a copyright infringement on CONAN. ( Remeber the old lawsuit between SUPER MAN and CAPTAIN MARVEL? ) Well SUPERMAN won that one.

    In this case MATTEL won….do we care? Nahhh…we like HE_MAN too.

    But nobody can or will admit to any of the HE-MAN MOLDS and designs being re-works or rev's of the CONAN line…because it was scrapped.

    But…c'mon…we know how industry works. They revise things all the time to save time and money.

    They started filming CONAN in 1977…long before the Toys came out…and yes the Toys beat the film.

    But these deals went on for years before either saw the light of day in public.

    So….as far as the LAW is concerned…NO. The HE-MAN designs were created specifically for the MOTU line and that is that.

    Did those other instances take place with the broken deal and the court case…yes they did.

    But Mattel ( once again ) won…so the point is moot.

    All hail CONAN!!! and " By the power of Grayskull…I have the power!" to one and all…-Mikey

  • Fantastic figure, and great review, Poe. The paint is what really makes this guy stand out, almost to the point where he doesn't fit in with the other figures. Seeing how well his helmet and weapons look make me sad that He-man's power sword just looks so…..plastic I guess.

    There was a story from the old Marvel days in which Conan has wrist shackles broken, leaving a long chain hanging off his wrist, which he then uses to pummel guys during a battle. When I saw the Vikor prototype I immediately thought of that, and was a little disappointed that Mattel split the chain links between the wrists. Otherwise I would have counted the chain to be a secondary weapon for Vikor.

  • one thing also worth mentioning, check out his back… it's' a new piece, sans the filled in king grayskull hole that's been on every other male fig thusfar… i suspect it's a tad thinner too, as i notice that, completely unladen, vikor feels a bit lighter than any of the other male figs. just a hair, but it's there… if i had a digital scale, i'd weigh him, but i don't.

  • Incase anyone wants to try this, I was very scared of how tight the head fit, because I was sure it would eventually break that little plastic wring on the neck peg. Also I thought the head sat a bit too low on the neck.

    I dropped Vikor's head into boiling water for a bit, then pushed it down onto the neck peg only some of the way. Now I can easily pop the head on and off without fear of anything breaking. Also, as a bonus, his head now has two distinct rounded areas. So I can pop his head on leaving him a longer neck and improving the range while the cape is on, or go ahead and push it all the way down.

  • Nice Review! I just wished they had given him blue eyes, a smirk and a removeable helm. Has any other MOTUC figure been given 5 ravens so far? But what the heck… some paint, some green stuff or even better: some gifted customizer…

    So, when is the sword of the ages coming back? πŸ˜‰

  • @ Poe – I actually posted a link to the documentation regarding the case in one of my comment posts on CROM…it's on one of the MOTU posts you can find there from a couple of years ago.

  • I guess I'm in the extreme minority here, but I don't really care for this figure.

    I'm a huge fan of vintage MOTU and have loved the vintage characters done in this line. The proportions of MOTUC figures works great with the over-muscled style of the vintage figures. That being said, if I wanted a Conan figure, I would prefer it not to be in this oddly-proportioned style and be more realistic.

    Another contributing factor to my disdain for Vikor and similar releases like Carnivus/Count Marzo is that there are dozens of vintage characters that actually appeared in the toyline waiting to be produced (Clawful, anyone?). I'm seriously worried that we won't see a third of them before the line is discontinued. Each month we get a "new" character or non-vintage MOTU character, we potentially miss out on getting a vintage character we need. I've seen this happen too often to not be afraid…

  • According to the released courtroom records…( Who knows how true that is as Internet junkies and hackers get kicks out of faking stuff )

    There is no evidence to prove or disprove the claims made by CPI.

    If you want to read the very long documentation…go here.

    ANOTHER THOUGHT #2

    That's a link…..what have we learned from all of this? Mattell won the case and that's that.

    But there was a case.

  • Great review! Now I really can't wait to have my Vikor!!!! Luckily I managed to get one from the second batch but since I'm in the Philippines I may get my figure in another week or so… but thats okay as this figure is worth it!!

  • Fantastic looking figure and one of the many reasons why MOTUC is just a fantastic action figure line. Hoping to get a hold of one of these sometime in the future if i can.

  • @Mike D. ( Mikeyboy ): CPI's lawsuit claimed He-Man was an infringement of their copyright. They didn't specifically claim the He-Man toys had been intended to be Conan figures, but that they were copies of Conan.

    To my knowledge, the only people that have suggested the idea that the MOTU toys were originally designed as Conan toys are speculating fans of Conan and He-Man. It's definitely an interesting and compelling idea, but I just haven't seen any non-circumstantial evidence to back it up, whereas there is evidence to the contrary.

  • @Zach: dude, that's poppy cock. there are plenty of folks drawn to motuc because from it's literal inception, it was about new characters. the line would quite likely already be dead without that infusion of new characters. spreading out the vintage guys keeps the vintage lovers interested, cuz they're waiting for the guys they want… while the new guys draw new customers that don't want to bog down a collection of cool toys with mindless 80's smooth and featureless re-hashes, but enjoy some of the new elements the line has to offer.

  • @dayraven: I have to agree with you dayraven, and have a feeling that I'm one of the guys you're talking about. I have been cherry picking this line due to the cost, but the new characters like Vikor and Carnivus are a treat for me because I've never had those toys before. Sure I have my He-man, Skeletor, Teela, MaA, and the such, but I love the oddball figures that are unique to this line only just as much if not more that the re-imagined versions of toys that I already have.

  • Vikor (IMHO)…

    Best MOTUC figure, period…

    Best barbarian figure ever (sorry Slaine, you've been dethroned)…

    Best Conan figure ever!

    Even with the new neck articulation, (don't like) I love this figure.

    Toy of the year, easy!

  • @ Poe…right. I can't wait to read your new article/review..keep us posted.

  • After reading some of these comments, it makes me wish even more that NECA had given their Conan movie figures some articulation. Neck, shoulders and hips would have been enough.

  • @dayraven Yeah, you're right. I understand that…just my own personal tastes lie with the vintage characters. I think I would appreciate the new characters more except for the fact that the line only produces 1 new figure a month. That makes it a little harder for me to take all these new characters while I'm waiting for the vintage guys. For example, I won't be buying a MOTUC until March & April (King Hisss & Sy-Klone), and then who knows how long after that. I'll just be pretty bummed if the line ends and we haven't gotten Clawful, Mekaneck, Rattlor, etc. More than anything, I'm just nervous about that.

    For fans of the new characters, I'm glad that you'll help keep the line alive.

    That being said, at least it's not like Ghostbusters…labcoat He-Man would be coming out next month. I can credit MOTUC with actually producing different characters monthly.

  • Nice review Poe! I was a bit on the not caring much for Vikor side of the fence… But my mind changed when I opened him. Awesome… No Crazy Awesome.

  • I really hope Vikor is waiting for me when I get home. All the raves and 'year's best' talk has me anxious to see it in person.

    Just yesterday I got another early contender for toy of the year: Marvel Select Juggernaut. I know they're apples and oranges, but I can't wait to have them both in hand.

  • @nerdbot: That Juggernaut is awesome. I'd have to give him the edge over Vikor, on account of how HUGE he is.

  • @Zach: dude, i'm telling you, i LOVE the vintage line. it was one of the very first lines i got as a kid, and i got damned near everything. and the vintage reduxes in the MOTUC line are nice… but do you remember, as a kid, that feeling of getting the new character? that's how the new characters feel for me in motuc, like they're something genuinely new, and i have to say, for me, nostalgia is nice… but NEW wins the day man. i will say this, try one of the NEW guys, like the upcoming faceless master, and see if that doesn't change your perspective some. i truly think to appreciate motuc as MOTUC, and not just as "better vintage line," you have to try at least a couple of the new characters. as motuc's expanded, i find myself on the side of the new guys more and more often, and less and less enthused w/ the relatively unimaginative vintage reduxes. but that's not to say i don't love those characters.

    besides man, even vintage fans are biased. i'm sure i'm not the only guy who was steamed when faker beat ram man out of the gate. my head knows why he did… but my gut said "YOU'RE KILLING TEH LEIN!"

  • Another MASTERPIECE by Mattel and the 4H.

    Hope they do more like him.

    An evil Socerer, more seductive women, chests of gold, army builders, and others.

    Whatever, this figure is one of the best.

    Nice review, Poe.

    He's certainly one of my most favorite action figures from this line.

  • Ya know….If this was originally supposed to be what HE-MAN looked like when the line was released. I have to believe Mattell would have lost the suit. For obvious reasons.

    But….they put out a He-man with Blonde hair and a battle harness.

    I think that's what saved them.

    Anyone can wear a fur speedo and laced up fur boots…but the axe and the helmet….he looks like BWS's rendition from the first few issues of CONAN the barbarian….indeed.