Review > King Hssss (Masters of the Universe Classics)

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.”

[raven 4]

¹ On a side note, the texture on King Hssss’s head always makes me hungry for a (now sadly discontinued) Hostess Choco Bliss.

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19 Comments

  1. Lay Ze-Man

    Dang, if that isn't the nicest-detailed, most elegant, but most non-threatening snake sculpt I've ever seen.

    Human form is awesome (aside from the tired reuse of the Skelly greaves as noted) but the snake form underwhelms as much as it did when it was revealed.

    And for the record, I prefer the "heroic disguise" angle myself.

    Pretty much no one is gonna live to tell the tale anyway, so I don't buy the "you can only use that trick once" argument.

    Dude is thousands of years old, if not older, and he's been suckering people longer than Mattel has been retconning.

  2. dlia

    Waiting for the day the 200X "refresh" could hit. Sadly don't this day will ever arrive.

  3. Reverend Ender

    Isn't anyone else bothered by how utterly little sense Hssss's "gimmick" makes? I mean, HOW can he be a mass of snakes inside? Are they all part of one organism? Are they a collective, like the Borg? How does he reassemble? WHY does he make this transformation? Wouldn't ONE BIG snake make WAY more sense? Thought? Comments?

  4. dean

    @Mark: Thundercats Ho!

  5. Mark

    Lion-O didn't need no crappy secret identity.

  6. Poe

    @Paul:

    I enjoy the arguing if people would fall for the pretending to be a hero trick, when you’re dealing in a universe where Prince Adam turns into He-Man and nobody notices.

    WORD.

    And before anyone chimes in with, "But in 200X, Adam and He-Man looked completely different!" may I remind you that even in 200X, no one ever seemed to wonder why He-Man just vanished at the end of every battle. No one ever tried to follow him, or convince him to come have a beer at the post-battle celebration where Adam's presence would be missed. At least Superman had the excuse of being able to fly away.

  7. I enjoy the arguing if people would fall for the pretending to be a hero trick, when you're dealing in a universe where Prince Adam turns into He-Man and nobody notices.

    I'm guessing over the centuries this guy was around, people would forget about the fact the green guy was really evil in a world full of circus freaks.

    I think its crazy when people try to make MOTU super seriously. It's probably the most crazy of all the toy universes out there. Relax a little. The guy is a snake man with a nifty gimmick.

  8. dayraven

    @Kevin: because he's supposed to be in disguise as a good guy.

    kind of there w/ mark too, in that, the body looks too thick. but the arm thing i might be able to mod a fix for that. but it's kind of rough when king hsss reminds you of baloo.

  9. Mark

    The more I look at this the more ugly it is. The body is so wide, and the way the arms can't go down…it reminds me of a green Stay Puff Marshmallow Man…..and not i a good way.

    Definitely prefer the 200X figure.

  10. DRAGONBLASTER

    Nice Review Poe, but do you have

    a shot of the waist connection of the snake body? Also I'd really love to see some of the snakes' back. I'm planning a custom so I really need to know what we're dealing with…

    Greetings

    DB

  11. Kevin

    Definite pass on this one. Not a fan of the vintage look, love his 200x design.

    Might have picked this one up though just in case they never make the other, but cannot get past that dumb smile he has going. Why would they make one of the biggest bads on Eternia look happy…

  12. dean

    I love this figure. Loved the vintage one. As children, we got tons o' play outta him. My child and I are going to have a blast with the new one. The first three months of this year have been awesome.

    Great review, Poe!

  13. Poe

    The more I look at Hssss, the more I like him. It's funny how some figures just really strike you more than others.

    I should have my Bow and Shadow Beast on Friday, and I hope to get to the reviews over the weekend.

    @Baena: Someone agrees with me? *joyful sob* Vindication!

  14. Totally agree on the Disguised Hiss vs. the 200X Hssss.

    I also prefer him to appear heroic at first. 🙂

  15. Valo487

    I can't wait for this figure. I hope you're right about 200X Hsss, as I like both versions very much.

  16. americanhyena

    @Poe: @Dead Man Walking:

    See, I disagree about the belly button torso. I think in this case it makes perfect sense and is in line with the look of the rest of the armor.

    This isn't like Hordak, He-Ro or Battle Armor He-Man where the look of the armor is lots of flat, non-descript surface plating.

    Hsss's armor is very obviously meant to replicate human musculature. It has sculpted abs and sculpted pecs. Leaving a sculpted belly button only makes sense.

    My two cents anyway. 🙂

  17. Thrawn

    Poe you magnificent son of a gun! This was a real treat! My most anticipated figure of the year with a sneak peak on my favorite toy website.

    A few points:

    1. I completely disagree with you on preferring the vintage to the 200x Hsss. I the the pharaoh/Egyptian theme fits the snakemen. Ancient race and all that.

    This is a wonderful sculpt of the vintage version though. He doesn't look goofy like the Hamburgerler. I love the subtle evil smirk.

    2. The snake torso still completely sucks. I still can't get over how wimpy and skinny the snakes look. Horribly disappointment right there.

    Hopefully now that the tooling costs have been invested the next version of King Hsss can get a properly done snake torso.

    I actually like the snake men slightly more than the Horde and I can't wait to get some more of them.

    3. I also agree with you on the Keldor boots reuse. I'm getting a little sick of seeing them. Once again, maybe the next release of King Hsss can spend some money on new shin parts.

    All in all a wonderful looking figure. I love his sculpt and colors. He will look so good next to the rest of his buddies in the toy shelf.

  18. misterbigbo

    .@dayraven: @Poe:

    I don't have any interest in this character, but do want to go on the record as an MOCer and vintage fan, and if I liked this dude I'd be pissed that I can't see his snake torso in the package. The same way I'm ticked that Adam languishes in obscurity, looking up at Orko's junk all day.

  19. I'm glad that the snake torso isn't the rubbery nightmare I was afraid of. It does look kind of funny with the buck teeth though I find it too hilarious to truly dislike.

    I'm thinking that a 200X Hiss… I mean HSSSS, is in the cards as well. Maybe when we start getting figures from after Skeletor's takeover? The Carnivus loincloth is just too obvious a reuse.

    I do love the Snakemen and it's awesome to FINALLY get one. I'm hoping for Squeeeeze or Khan next.

    That comment about using the smooth Hordak torso actually got me to thinking… I always assumed the human body was covered in armor, like a shell and those pieces fell off in snake mode. Never thought of the green as being his skin even if the change was 'magic'.

    Either way, he turned out pretty great. I haven't seen any Bow reviews yet but Vikor was an amazing QC miracle that has me really excited for this year.

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