Where to start with the Mighty Spector?
As every MOTU fan’s long-suffering confidant knows, the Mighty Spector is the creation of Scott Neitlich, brand manager for Mattel’s Masters of the Universe Classics line. He’s t third release in the 30th Anniversary sub-line, which has already given us the somewhat controversial Fearless Photog by Nathan Bitner and the critically acclaimed Draego-Man by the Four Horsemen; Geoff Johns’ Sir Laser Lot will be arriving in August. Neitlich created the character when he was a kid, and once submitted it to Marvel Comics (for two in-depth interviews about Spector’s creation, go here and here).
It’s a bit difficult to untangle the fan dislike of Spector as a character and figure from fan dissatisfaction with Neitlich himself. Many fans believed Neitlich took advantage of his position to force his Mary Sue-like childhood fan character into the line (“Lieutenant Spector” has Neitlich’s own face).* But most of the criticism seems to focus on the idea that Spector’s design is lackluster and ill-fits the MOTU universe.
The design itself is strongly evocative of masked superheroes such as Spider-Man, Spawn, or Grendel, but particularly Deadshot, Deathstroke and, of course, Deadpool. While I might be willing to argue that maybe you could squeeze a superhero-like figure into MOTU, what I don’t like is the utterly incongruous playing card theme. The chest armor shows a spade, while the eyes are diamonds. Such a theme is fine for an Earth-based character living in modern times, but on a fantasy character from an alien world, it’s just wrong. Neitlich has tried to explain it, but I still think it was a bad decision that distracts from the overall look.**
Spector’s new sculpting include the left forearm, the head, and the armor. Everything else is re-used from previous figures. In fact, Spector seems to be one of the most cost-effective 30th Anniversary figures, which may not be by accident. One reason I’ve been somewhat easier on Spector than many is because I’ve wondered whether Scott’s figure was a sort of sacrificial lamb, purposely designed to use minimal new parts to keep costs down and allowing Mattel to spend more tooling on the likes of Draego-Man and Sir Laser Lot.
The newly-sculpted parts are all up to the Four Horsemen‘s standards. The face is almost a little too detailed, showing the contours of Spector’s eye sockets and mouth; maybe a Cobra Commander-like faceplate would have been cooler?
The yellow harness, on the other hand, is a bit uninspired and even features that oh-so-1990s thigh pouch.
Probably the neatest part of the figure is the interchangeable miniature “Cosmic Key” on the wrist. There’s a bare version and one with a translucent green “plasma blade” that looks a lot like a Green Lantern construct. He also comes with a blaster.
I think it was acceptable for Neitlich to design a figure for the 30th Anniversary line. Whatever fans may think of him, he’s done a lot for MOTU and MOTUC in particular. He’s helped keep the line in the good graces of the Mattel higher-ups and given us figures many of us never thought we’d see.
Putting all the controversy aside, the Mighty Spector has some neat accessories, and personally I think he looks okay alongside the other MOTUC characters (except for the playing card motif). But he’s just not an exciting action figure or character design.
*On an irrelevant side note, my own Mary Sue-like character from my teenaged Transformers fanfic-writing days was named “Spade,” the shape that adorns Mr. Spector’s chest armor.
** “The purple suit is because purple is my favorite color and the spade symbol was a symbol I always felt was very mysterious. How we are working this symbol into the MOTU lore will be revealed in time. Keep in mind that symbols mean different things to different cultures, so in the MOTU world this is not a ‘playing card symbol’ but rather the organization that Spector works for. (Much as He-Man has an Iron Cross but he not a member of the German army from WW2!)” —Scott Neitlich
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BONUS BIO DISCUSSION!
The Mighty Spector™ Bio
Real Name: John Spector
After Skeletor® banished King Randor® to Despondos™, he seized his rightful throne and dismantled the Eternian Palace Guards™. Loyal to Marlena and the Royal Household, Lt. Spector™ was cut off from the rest of the Masters of the Universe® when he was thrown into a time portal and flung into the future. In this new time, he served King He-Man® and was given a special suit reverse-engineered from the Cosmic Key™. Using its powers, Spector could travel into time, fighting for the Royal Family as their agent throughout Eternia’s history. Spector uses his Vortex Suit to turn the tide in battle, loyally serving the King and Queen of Eternia®.
So Johnny Spector just wanders off and ends up being thrown into a time portal into the future? Evidently he lived in the Filmation MOTUniverse, where that sort of thing happened every Tuesday.
And as soon as he could travel through time, couldn’t he go back and prevent whatever scheme allowed Skeletor to banish King Randor? Why didn’t he? Is he just a douchenozzle? I don’t know, it just seems to me the Mighty Spector’s abilities arguably make him the most powerful Master of the Universe of them all.
Also, He-Man becomes king, an idea that always makes me wonder whether Adam ever publicly “comes out” as He-Man, or if he’s still switching between the two. I imagine it would be useful once you’re king – switch into your Hamlet-like role of the sulky heir whose throne was stolen by an avuncular figure, then go drinking and wenching for a while before returning to your muscled-up form and royal duties.