The following is a guest review. It does not necessarily represent the opinions of Poe Ghostal or the staff of PoeGhostal.com.
Clamp Champ came out too late in the vintage Masters of the Universe line to be any interest to me in 1987. It wasn’t until the 1990s and my high school and college years that I began collecting vintage He-Man toys via comic book store blowouts and garage sales. Vintage figures carded were easy to find and in some cases cost less than a can of Coca-Cola; the doubles were fun joke gifts to give to family and friends.
But one of the figures I had a huge amount of trouble getting on a sealed card was Clamp Champ, the only black character in the original vintage line. When Clamp Champ was announced for the 2013 Masters of the Universe Classics line-up, it was of special interest to me, as I had never had it as a child or as an adult, and those tend to catch my obsessions more than things I once owned.
Clamp Champ was released in July 2013 and was a Club Eternia Subscription-only exclusive figure. As Mattel warned in 2012, many figures in 2013 would not be made available for day of sale buyers, and one would have to subscribe to get everything released. Remarkably, Clamp Champ was not the secondary market mover many predicted, and as of this writing can be often be found for $50 or less- a big difference from past exclusives.
Clamp Champ is a must-own for Classics collectors who want all the vintage characters on their shelf. You may feel compelled to buy him, but will you enjoy him?
Packaging: The packaging is the standard style used in the Classics line, with a character bio on the back, as well as the sturdy white mailer box. I’ve noticed a minor issue with the plastic used for the bubble on figures since Fang Man that may be of note to carded collectors: it’s slightly thinner and more prone to damage. My Clamp Champ arrived fine, but a few others this year had damage to the bottom of the package. This might make it difficult for future carded collectors to find a perfect example.
Design & Sculpt: Clamp Champ features the standard male body with the improved Vikor boots. There are only two newly sculpted-parts to this figure, the head and vest, but they’re are so well done they outdo many of the other figures in the line, even some that have many more new parts. I’m incredibly impressed with the sculpt of this figure.
He has one of the best heads in the entire Classics line. The attention to detail is phenomenal, and his face strikes up a great mix of the original vintage figure, the card-back art, and the minicomics. Instantly recognizable, not too realistic, but also not too cartoonish, Clamp Champ’s head is exactly what I think most fans wanted from this much-demanded figure. The stern, serious expression has a hint of kindness, or playfulness; there is zero doubt that Raenius is a hero, and fights on the side of good.
I expected Mattel to cheap out on Clamp Champ’s armor, and simply reuse Fisto’s armor like the vintage figure did. Instead they did a new, unique armor for the figure, incorporating the 200x backpack onto the back, as well as the NECA Staction’s “microphone” and detail style. All of this makes the character stand out as not just a Fisto repaint when placed on display.
With all this good comes some bad. Remember how many fans online started asking Mattel to no longer do the smooth, colored ab sections on figures with armor like this? We see with Clamp Champ here why they did that in the first place. The armor is cut high on the back, and when you move him on the ab crunch pivot, it makes him look like he has a belly shirt on. It’s all about how he is positioned, and while minor at first, it’s an annoyance once you start to pose the toy.
Plastic & Paint: The plastic feels to be the same quality as most of the line to date. However, when compared to earlier figures in the line like Mer-Man, the lack of washes or paint detailing really hurt the figure overall. It feels like it could have used another paint application or two.
I would have easily traded the small clamp accessory for two more paint detailing passes, to really make the figure “pop,” as the kids say. It takes this figure from top ten to middle of the heap, and when you compare him to some of the figures from the first two years, he looks perhaps a little too “budget” paint-wise compared to the quality of sculpting. But on the positive, what’s there looks good, and is slop-free.
Articulation: The figure has the standard Classics male articulation that fans have come to love (ball-and-socket neck, post/disc ball jointed shoulders, post/disc ball joined hips, biceps swivel, wrists swivel, waist swivel, swivel at the top of the thighs, swivel wrists, hinged elbows, hinged knees, hinged abdomen, and -deep breath- hinged ankles.) The newer Vikor boots make a huge difference in how well he stands up on the shelf. All the joints felt nice and tight.
Accessories: Clamp Champ’s accessories were never a favorite of mine – the big clamp never did it for me. However, it is well represented here. It has just enough detail to bring it into 2013, but is clearly recognizable to fans of the original toy. The red pinchers (it’s not really a clamp, is it?) move in and out smoothly, and they, well, clamp.
The smaller clamp is from the Staction again, and while I think it’s a little unnecessary, it’s a nice addition. I probably would be more into the smaller clamp if it moved like the larger version, but since my Classics spend most of their time imprisoned in a glass case, standing still, asking for moving parts on an accessory I probably won’t ever use is probably a little much.
Quality Control: I had no problems beyond a little bit of slop on the belt buckle. Given that this sub exclusive figure is a must-buy for vintage fans and completists, that is great news. I recommended caution for MOC collectors, as the thinner bubble may make it difficult to see whether you have a “true mint” figure.
Overall: Clamp Champ is a great figure, another character to be checked off the want lists of many MOTU fans. In my mind it’s one paint application away from the greatness of past figures like Mer-Man – the sculpt is just that good. The “belly shirt” look of the new armor is annoying when casually handling the figure, but it’s still a nice, solid entry in the Masters of the Universe Classics line.
As the line winds down and begins the process of finishing up the rest of the vintage lineup, it’s great to see little “love letters” like this from the Four Horsemen to the fans. The sculptors obviously had fun, but kept it simple and iconic, and that vibe carries through to the end product.
There’s something for everyone in the amalgamation: minicomics, cross-sell, vintage toy, 200x- without feeling tied too hard to one style. It’s a perfect example of the Classics esthetic mentioned so many times by Mattel and the Four Horsemen. This type of thought and effort is what I think separates Classics from other similar lines, and why it holds such a special place in the hearts of fans worldwide.