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.
*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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