Review > Dragon Blaster Skeletor (Masters of the Universe Classics, Mattel)

The photos for this review were taken by toy photographer extraordinaire Ed Speir IV. You can see more pics of many different toy lines at his Flickr page.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I didn’t actually own all that many vintage MOTU figures when I was a kid. In fact, off the top of my head, I believe they were limited to He-Man, Skeletor, Mer-Man, Teela, Ram Man, Trap Jaw, Tri-Klops, Buzz Off, Man-At-Arms, Man-E-Faces, King Hiss, Mekaneck, Hordak, and Leech. Long after I’d lost interest in MOTU, I did somehow end up with a Sorceress, Rio Blast, and Optikk. So at this point in MOTU Classics, we’ve gotten deep into the characters I never owned and perhaps never even saw.

Dragon Blaster Skeletor can definitely be counted among those figures I don’t remember. I did pick one up about ten years ago during the Millennium era when I decided to try and put together a vintage collection (which I eventually abandoned because the rubber bands holding most figures’ legs together were too weak, and they would never stand). So DB Skeletor is one of those figures that has to appeal to me in despite my lack of nostalgia. I realize I often am biased in this regard, so I’m going to try to evaluate him fairly as a MOTUC figure without that nostalgic connection.

Design & Sculpt: When I first started writing this part of the review, I spent several paragraphs on how I thought the Four Horsemen seemed to add more detail and taken greater artistic license with the earlier figures in the line, and have slowly been skewing closer and closer to the simplicity of the vintage figures as the line goes on. I was thinking of the dial on Hurricane Hordak‘s back or, well, Spikor. But the more I thought about it, the more I decided that I might be wrong. The earliest figures were a bit different because they were based on the vintage cross-sell art, not the vintage figures. But eventually, the only thing the 4H had to base the figure’s sculpts on was the vintage figure, because there was no unique cross-sell art (the line’s later cross-sell art was just paintings of the actual figures).

But I’ll get back to that in a moment. First, let’s talk about Skeletor’s body (woo!). This Skeletor is notable because it’s designed to be closer to the vintage figure than the cross-sell art; it features Whiplash‘s forearms and Kobra Khan‘s greaves. It actually leaves me a little torn as to which Skeletor I like better. I’m fond of the smoothness of the cross-sell art version, but the barbed forearms and feathery greaves makes him look a bit more monstrous.

But let’s talk about the Dragon Blaster armor. First, the basics: the dragon itself is removable, though it’s hooked to Skeletor through a real metal chain that goes through a clip on his chest and attaches to his wrist by a cuff. You can’t pull the cuff through the clip, so the dragon is permanently stuck to Skeletor.

From the moment I saw the press photos for DB Skeletor I was disappointed. Initially, DB Skeletor seemed like one of those lesser figures from MOTU that nonetheless had potential to be made into an amazing figure by the 4H. The vintage figure’s dragon was a rather silly-looking, cartoonish creature, and I expected the 4H to take that design and do something interesting with it, while remaining true to the vintage figure.

What we got was a dragon that was surprisingly similar to the vintage version. It is more detailed. It has separate toes and more defined limbs, and looks more like an actual dragon crouching on Skeletor’s shoulder. But for whatever reason, I look at this dragon and imagine what might have been. It could have had articulated arms and/or legs or jaws, or have been able to squat by Skeletor’s side like a dog on a chain. And I just can’t look at the head without thinking of Goal Eater.

I didn’t expect a wild Millennium-style sculpt, but I did expect a bit more creative license. But perhaps my expectations were unwarranted; maybe this is the same style that’s always been the norm in MOTU. I don’t want to criticize DB Skeletor solely because it doesn’t match my own personal expectations, especially if those expectations were unrealistic.

So I’m throwing this to you, readers. I’ll give the figure the raven rating I think it deserves, but what do you think? Is the dragon disappointing and out of sync with the line’s general style? Or is it exactly what I should have expected?

Plastic & Paint: There’s not a lot of detail work here on the paint. The best paint work is on the dragon, which has a very nice purple fade along its back. Most of the other paint apps are quite thick, with little or no wash to bring out detail.

The practice of molding the limbs in black plastic and then painting over them is really starting to bother me. This is partly because the paint they use is prone to problems – scratches leave permanent dark marks on your figure, and one fall to a non-carpeted floor can create a scratch or two.

It’s especially odd to see it with Skeletor, who we’ve seen molded in blue many, many times. In a recent Q&A Mattel claimed the practice was being done on a “figure by figure basis,” but it seems to be the standard for most figures…and no sir, I don’t like it. The plastic itself also seems to be softer (which may be why the elbows have that odd “ratcheting” effect). It makes me wonder if it’s regrind plastic, i.e., leftover plastic from the production process that’s re-used. Using regrind plastic is something I think was (is?) very common with DCUC, and partially responsible for all those weak and torn limbs.*

The whole thing bums me out. It works all right on some figures – see my upcoming Rattlor review – but on a smooth, solid, brightly-colored figure like Skeletor, it’s just asking for trouble.

Articulation: Skeletor has the standard MOTUC articulation. The dragon has a ball-jointed head, which is a nice touch.

Accessories: Just like the vintage figure, Skeletor comes with only one accessory, his sword.

Quality Control: The biggest problem these figures are having these days aren’t reversed shoulders, it’s the scratches on the black plastic. My figure didn’t come pre-installed with any at the factory, though.

Overall: The dragon is very well-sculpted – it’s just not the sculpt I was hoping for. But again, I’m just not sure how to grade this figure, because I’m not sure what I should be expecting from this line at this point. My instinct is that this figure seems too slavishly devoted to the vintage version, but my logic tells me I shouldn’t have expected anything different and therefore shouldn’t be disappointed.

That aside, this figure is pretty fun. I feel like I’m being too hard on it. It’s not my favorite Skeletor, but it’s a good variant that offers enough new aspects to be worthwhile.

11100

*I have very mixed feelings on regrind plastic. On the one hand, it tends to result in lower-quality action figures. On the other hand, it’s environmentally-friendly, because it’s basically recycling. I just wish I thought Mattel’s use of it was for environmental reasons and not purely as a cost-saving measure.

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Comments now closed (27)

  • I like this variant, but am really tired of the same Skeletor head … this would have been a great opportunity to either include a Filmation Smirking Skeletor head, or even a slightly recolored Alcala head because I'd love a few more of those.

    • i thought the same thing, the alcala head looks better on this fig anyways, and i also am amazed we keep getting the same power sword for skellie… since TP got the yellow energized version, it seems a no-brainer to cast this power sword in translucent purple.

      honestly though, i think they knew full well what they were doing, which is primarily, releasing a kitbash for vintage skeletor… and it works, i took my skelegear and the alcala head and swapped out this gear to the v1 skeletor and am happy w/ the results… and the dragon blaster gear is already in the storage bin. the dragon just isn't cool on his own, they missed a huge chance to do any number of things to make this a memorable upgrade to the vintage, and instead, they were enslaved by it.

      • I'm glad they put in the plain ol' sword. I like gearing up my vintage-style figures in their vintage gear.

        • right, but at this point, you would own the vintage sword twice over three if you're counting marzo's half-swords)… DB could have given the rest of us some display options. as, for instance, we have a power charged havok staff that came w/ faceless master

        • I still do not have a proper vintage weapons outfit for the entirety of my vintage-inspired collection. Maybe they should include that in the weapons packs? But I suspect you'd be bothered if they did that, too, so … can you just send me your extras?

  • The dragon is awesome and exactly as I expected it to be. No bells and whistles, just a more detailed update of the old figure's dragon. Anything more realistic and detailed wouldn't fit the "classic-ized" updating of the vintage figure. I've always seen MOTUC as a line that replicates, not upgrades, the vintage line.

    • That's the thing though. The MOTUC line is supposed to be MOTU as if it were designed and manufactured today, meaning the vintage designs done with today's articulation and sculpting advances. So the Dragon's head could have been a bit more realistic and sculpted better and still fit within the guidelines of what MOTUC is supposed to be.

      • The 4H approach to the dragon head remains the biggest mystery of the line to me. I just don't get it. It's like it worked in reverse: the MOTUC head is dopey enough to have been in the original line, while original dragon's head has more bite and looks like something the 4H WOULD have sculpted.

        • I have to agree with that. A lot of folk give the vintage Dragon sculpt flak, but to me, given the era, he has a much fiercer feel & look to him than this new one. This Dragon head is probably the only vintage iteration in the Classics line that I'm a tad put off with.

  • You are correct; the dragon’s design is flawed. I expect better from the four horsemen.

  • The black plastic is just BS at this point. As someone who is has been very passionately involved in recycling programs in my community for over 20 years, as you say Poe, regrind is great for the environment. However you need to use slightly more of it to get a stable product, like a posable figure, which would make each figure a few miligrams heavier than normal, making it more expensive to ship. We get that Mattel now has to pay a (somewhat) living wage to the factory workers in China now, but damn, maybe Scott and his bosses can tone down the golf trips and realize that not every product needs a 300% profit margin. Every time Scott says “hand made” as an excuse it makes me sick. Its a damn lie. Im not stupid dude. its greed that has not and will not be forgotten by the customers. Stop treating us like we’re idiots. We can count, we read the news, and can put the pieces together. These things cant cost more than $3-5 to make a piece… and we all know that most of the folks making this line have a very bad attitude historically towards the buyers.

  • Removable Dragon, but non-removable Chain….Red Flag #1
    Blue paint over Black Plastic on a figure that has METAL CHAINS… Red Flag #2
    Weird Head (at least it's not the open mouth, 4H Monster maws look like something out of HR Giger )
    Clear Purple Power Sword, or Purple Hilt and silver blade would have been nice.

  • My real gripe with the figure is the Dragon should be more articulated. If you could stand him next to Skelly sitting, or even in attack mode that would have improved the figure ten fold. The Dragon being permanently attached to the chain is really weird for this line, so that would also be a vast improvement. I see this dragon similar to Snake Eyes pet Timber, who can stand on his own. (It took 30 years to get some articulation in Snake Eyes trusty wolf, but no go for Skelly's baby dragon.) As crazy as MOTU concepts go this one for me needs a better explanation… Why would you strap a Dragon to your back? Seems like a bad idea no matter your level of magic over a fire breathing beast. If that were the case the Dragon should be willing to do Skelly's bidding and wouldn't bite what was left of your head. So to me while the chain is cool looking it makes me wonder.

  • I agree with you on the dragon. I was hoping for more articulation and also the ability to stand (or sit) next to Skeletor. It’s not bad, just less than I was hoping for.

  • I hate the dragon. It’s too cartoony even by the generously goofy standards of the MOTUC aesthetic.

    I want to combine a 200X Skeletor with a McFarlane dragon.

  • Don't beat yourself up over it Poe–a bad design is a bad design. even if it's well executed by the 4H. That dragon is a bad design.

  • nice review as usual . but i miss the kind of picture you were doing with no back ground. it was better as a review purpose . your are doing nice pictures but all this photoshop effects and the back ground is kind of of disturbing . anyway it's just my opinion though .

      • I would agree with Antoine. Not that these photos are bad — they're nice, actually. But I always appreciate the direct, informative approach of your plain background shots.

  • I might be alone with this, but I like the original Classics interpretation of Skeletor better than this updated one; I appreciated their first spin on the forearms and lower legs, though I understand the fan excitement over this one.

    That dragon head is a touch incongruous, but In The Four Horsemen We Trust.

    • Agreed on both counts, but the first release Skeletor is not an interpretation, but rather, a direct translation of the vintage cross sell art. Just check out any vintage "original" Skeletor & you'll see.

  • I'm definitely in the minority here, but I love this figure. I know it's nostalgia through and through, but I was like an excited six year old when this DB Skeletor was announced. To be fair, I don't put him with my other MOTUC figures, but I haven't really put him down since I got him.

  • "Is the dragon disappointing and out of sync with the line’s general style? Or is it exactly what I should have expected?"

    Personally, I'm very disappointed in the dragon. DB Skeletor was *my* Skeletor as a child and I was looking forward to adding DB Skeletor (and Flying Fists He-Man which was *my* He-Man) to my MOTUC collection. But, I find the head-sculpt on the dragon to be terrible. Far too cartoon-like and it clashes with the vast majority of MOTUC figures.

    Also, for a modern line, I expected the dragon to be able to be used by itself, not permanently attached to Skeletor. The ability for the dragon to look good when "standing" by itself seems pretty essential given that the only other accessory is a sword.

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