I’m fairly certain King Hssss (then known as harder-to-trademark King Hiss) was the last Masters of the Universe action figure I owned as a child. I have a distinct memory of playing with him at my family’s first house, which we moved to a year or so after I’d mostly lost interest in MOTU. Somehow, King Hiss had an appeal beyond being part of the MOTU universe; I think it was the sheer awesomeness of the three-snake inner body. I was also quite fond of the green color scheme and the generally reptilian looks.
I know this is blasphemy to some, but I was never all that fond of the 200X King Hiss. From a design standpoint, they turned him into the standard D&D mummy-lich creature, a tenth-generation photocopy of Xaltotun from Robert E. Howard’s Hour of the Dragon (200X Hiss also has quite a bit of Mumm-Ra in there, though obviously Mumm-Ra has quite a bit of Xaltotun as well). As the brief comic strip on the original card art shows, the play pattern of the original King Hiss figure was that he was an evil snake-creature masquerading as a heroic-looking character (note the similarity of his mask to another famous master of disguise). Even the first minicomic to feature King Hiss played on this idea, and his packaging referred to him as the “dreadful disguised leader of the Snake Men.” 200X King Hiss, though? You see him coming, you reach for your sword hilt.
Again, I know many of you are going to disagree with me on this, but I actually prefer this look for Hiss. Er, Hssss.
Packaging: King Hssss is packaged with his “heroic” torso, and the snake body is tucked in down below the namecard. So unfortunately, MOC collectors will not be able to see the snake body at all.
The package also features the very cool Snake Men logo.
Design & Sculpt: Almost every part of this figure is new. The head sculpt is fantastic, capturing a semi-heroic expression that still has a touch of an evil smirk underneath.¹ The torso sculpt is also excellent, featuring some great, scaly details. The torso is actually a separate, armor-like piece that is glued over what I believe is the MOTUC standard torso; the armor is not removable, unless you’re prepared to glue it back in place afterward. I do find it odd that they used the standard “belly button” lower torso, though, and not the blank Hordak stomach.
If you look at the prototype, it seems the sharpness of some of the details, particularly on the pelvis, were lost in the transition to the production figure. I also disagree with the boot choice; the vintage figure‘s boots were more plain, and frankly, I’m getting a little tired of the Skeletor greaves. It would have been more interesting to have a new boot type with a more plain, flat top, rather than the sharp peaks.
Finally, there’s the sculpting on the snake body. The details on the snakes’ scales and the two small snake heads is excellent; the scales aren’t “soft” as they are on the pelvis. But while I like the main head, I have to admit that the thick, rounded teeth aren’t exactly threatening. Their lack of sharpness may be an inevitable side effect of using the rubbery plastic for the body.
The bodies are easily swapped using a plug, and the waist will still swivel for either torso.
[Update 3/17/11] While once again, it took a laughably long time for anyone to notice, but it seems King Hssss’s shoulders are reversed. I can’t say I care that much, especially because, as I said, I didn’t even notice, but it should be pointed out.
Plastic & Paint: Some collectors said they thought Vikor felt different and somehow “cheaper” than previous MOTUC figures. I didn’t feel it then, but I do, a bit, with King Hssss. The plastic used for his pelvis and torso feels lighter, and it may be the reason the details seem a bit too soft. On the other hand, for all I know, this plastic was necessary to facilitate the snake-body swap.
The paint apps on the human body, particularly the head, are well executed, with one exception: the belt. The belt itself has no separate paint color from the rest of the pelvis,unlike the vintage figure where it was darker. And the silver buckle has a lot of slop around the edges.
The snake body, paint-wise, is a study in contrasts. The backs of the snakes have a very nice orange-like wash over the mustard yellow skin. But the bright yellow used for the undersides of the snakes is thick, gloppy, and sloppily applied, especially beneath the jaws.
Articulation: The human Hssss features the standard MOTUC articulation: ball joints at the neck, shoulders, and hips; swivels at the waist, wrists, biceps, top of the thighs, and top of the boots; and hinges at the abdomen, elbows, knees, and ankles. With the exception of the ab joint, which is a bit floppy, all the joints are very tight–Mattel seems to have largely fixed this issue. His “rocker” ankle motion works very well, too.
The “bendy” snakes work well and look good, but be careful with the big snake’s articulated jaw. The paint on mine had sealed the jaw tight, and I had to carefully work it loose. It felt like the jaw could easily have torn right off the rubbery hinges, so be careful.
Accessories: Hssss comes with his familiar shield and staff. The staff is actually two separate pieces, a first, and has its own paint apps, also a first. The shield has some paint on the snake as well. Neither accessory is particularly interesting, but the snake body is arguably an accessory and the real highlight here.
Quality Control: The Keldor foot has problems. Specifically, I’ve received many figures with warped feet, so that the foot curls a bit around the bottom middle of the sole, as if the character were curling his toes. It drives me crazy because the plastic of the foot is so thick, heating and re-bending the foot doesn’t work very well. Either the feet are getting pulled from the molds too fast or the figures are being put into the tray too soon (perhaps a little of both). My Hssss has only very slightly warping–this was a much bigger problem with the Eternian Guards–but Mattel has to start checking for this.
Overall: King Hssss is my favorite of the Snake Men, and I’m glad he’s the first one we got in this line. While the Classics version has some flaws (the soft details, the boots, the underside paint on the snake), he’s still a great action figure, and the swappable bodies adds a lot of value.
I’ll be curious to see which figures, if any, Hssss’s body parts can be re-used for. Given their limited re-usability, I have a hunch 200X fans may get their evil mummy sorcerer yet–perhaps as “Ultimate Battleground King Hssss.”
¹ On a side note, the texture on King Hssss’s head always makes me hungry for a (now sadly discontinued) Hostess Choco Bliss.