Poe’s Point > Perspectives on the King Hssss Shouldergate

There is a lot of anger among fans about King Hssss’s reversed shoulders. I was part of a Roast Gooble podcast the other day in which this topic was discussed at length (it’ll be posted later this week), but I think it was Val “JVS3” Staples who most accurately described my own feeling on the matter: fatigue. I just can’t muster the indignation this time. Part of it is because I managed to correct the problem, but part of it is just being tired of the drama surrounding this line of toys.

I’m tired of the QC mistakes, of course.

I’m also tired of the discussions about the mistakes, the price, the subscription, the Mattycollector website, the character selection, and the 200X/MOTUC arguments, all of which have been so negative in tone (on He-Man.org, here, and elsewhere) that it’s made me consider quitting PGPoA so I can enjoy my hobby in peace. Or at least dropping the news and figure reviews and focusing on articles about vintage lines, childhood memories, interviews and so forth.

Finally, I’m tired of Mattel’s responses; this one was OK, but they should have just left it at that, perhaps with a later check-in to say they were taking steps to make sure this truly never happened again. But this is just bad public relations. I think Scott Neitlich may be burnt out himself by all this, and I won’t hold it against him if he’s feeling a bit defensive, but I’ll often write a reply like that–to a comment or a post–and then just delete or edit it, having expended my frustration in the writing of the note.

It’s incumbent upon Neitlich and Bill Benecke to make clear to the higher-ups that QC needs to be a priority on this line. Bring the Four Horsemen in, too, since they’re the foolproof check on the design. Had the Horsemen been allowed to check figures before they went to production, we would have been spared the first He-Man’s reversed shoulders, Roboto’s reversed shoulders, Hssss’s reversed shoulders, and we would have gotten Prince Adam’s sword sheath.


While collectors are handling the outrage side of things for this round of Shouldergate, I’ve been more interested in finding out exactly how this is happening. My questions include:

  • At what stage of development are the “L” and “R” stamped on the shoulders?
  • Who does it? Not the specific person by name, but rather, what their role/job is.
  • Is it done by a Mattel employee, or someone in an overseas factory?
  • Is it done by someone familiar with the product?
  • Is there time between the stamping of the “L” and “R” to review a sample for quality control and make corrections if necessary?

To gain some insight on these questions, I contacted Joe Amaro, Director of Product Development for Jazwares. (Check out Joe’s awesome customs here.) Of course, Joe can’t speak for Mattel and can only speak for his own experiences. I want to thank Joe for taking the time to answer my questions.

So many people are involved at various stages that sometimes it is difficult to control the entire process.  We see only one figure, where the production people and the factories see thousands!

Any figure that has multiple joints you run the risk of flipping the parts. It’s an easy mistake that happens all the time to all toy companies. Especially with parts that look very similar. This is usually with biceps, shoulders, calves, knees and sometimes feet. It usually does not make the product defective, it’s more of a cosmetic thing. It usually happens during production/assembly of the figures, but it can happen at various stages of pre-production as well.

When a sculpt is completed and approved, the next step is to make what is called a tooling model or tooling pattern. This is the sculpt with all the joints separated from where the metal tools are made from. Tools are the steel molds from which the various plastic parts are made from. Sometimes if the parts are not labeled correctly at this stage you can end up with “reversed” parts. Even before that, sometimes when a cast of the sculpt is made, to make the the tooling model, the parts can get switched around.

If the parts are reversed during production/assembly it is a very easy fix, because the parts are not meant to fit this way. However, if the “switch” happens early on in the process, in pre-production, then the fix becomes more difficult. Mainly because the parts are engineered to fit together, even if they are reversed.  In order to fix this you will need to retool certain parts.

I didn’t think Scott’s response was bad, he told the truth. He said they made a mistake internally and unfortunately they can’t easily fix it like they have other stuff. The April figures are already made and shipped. He fights for the fans all the time, as he is fan. I can tell you that being a fan in the toy industry is a double-edged sword. It is a constant battle over what we want as a fan and what we can be done for the better of the company. We’re trying to make two sets of people happy, both with two very different concerns. I bet you if it was up to him he would fix it right away, but it’s not that easy.

One thing is for sure, they do listen to the fans. Particularity Scott, he’s a big nerd too. I think involving the 4H more would help a ton. No one knows these figures and this line better than them!



MOTUC Bio Discussion #39 > Bow


Pic of the Day > Along came a spider… by fengschwing


  1. Winter Soldier

    @ Russ:

    I agree with Scott's take on this. I have to wonder how much higher the sales of reissues would inevitably be if the frustrating ordering process didn't piss off so many of their customers who tried to buy them the first time around. And that's not even counting the number who have already dropped the line or those who never even bothered to start due to so many years of bad history with Mattel.

    I also have to wonder how much easier it would have been to get this line onto shelves at mainstream retailers(rather than going the TRU exclusive route) if Mattel had done a better job of managing the 200X line; especially in regards to the over-abundance of He-Man/Skeletor variations.

    I must concede your last point though. When it comes to enticing fans to engage in a cumbersome ordering process for the opportunity to fight over a small number of poorly manufactured units while being charged an astonishing amount to do so, I can't think of any other company that even approaches such an appalling level of cynicism.

  2. Russ

    @ scott metzger:

    Scott, I must partially disagree with you, and for one reason alone:

    Major Matt Mason didn't last that long; if Mattel were what you suggest they were even back then, I think MMM would be a household name now.

    I think the problem Toyguru deals with is along these lines: he loves MOTU more than the company that owns it, and he wants it to be the ultimate that it can be.

    Regrettably, Mattel doesn't see it that way anymore, but if ToyGuru wants the line to exist, he has to go by their guidelines, and whatever resources they put into it…even if it isn't much.

    On top of that, he has to toe the line on message boards between telling fans he's on their side, and avoiding royally pissing off his bosses. My guess is it's a lot harder than we all would like to believe.

    I'm really under the belief that Mattel sees themselves pretty much as all but doing this as a favor to Toyguru.

    To be partially fair though, I can't entirely blame them. Look how long reissues take to sell out. That right there tells them the numbers this line sells in, and while I guess they're impressed enough to let it continue, I don't think they're impressed enough to say "ok, let's greenlight everything for it".

    Give Mattel this in the least though: name one other company–and a big one, no less– who'd be willing to make the effort to put out a line with such minimal quantities and customer base. Go ahead. I'll wait.

  3. scott metzger

    I know sometimes the atmosphere seems negative whenever collectors are talking Mattel and Matty, but you have to put it in perspective. Hiss’ shoulders are the latest in a decade long line of Mattel muck-ups, and TG and Matty’s less than stellar responses to legitimate fans concerns (“This is your Hiss” or “Moss Man is not a bath toy”) are likewise only the tip of the iceberg. Mattel’s poor quality control pales in comparison to its long running distribution problems and inability to actually deliver product to retailers. And the bile isn’t limited to collectors; check out sites devoted to the Monster High dolls to see parents ranting with the best of us about Mattel’s shoddy workmanship.

    It’s not just that Hiss’ shoulders are reversed, or that it’s the third time it’s happened, along with floppy joints and the myriad other QC issues I’m hearing about. It’s that on top of a decade of foul-ups, bad relations with the fans, and a running attitude that the fault lies with us, not Mattel, that brings out the negativity. There’s a whole history behind the anger that can’t be summed up in a single post, and Mattel still hasn’t found a way to stem that. Instead ,they seem intent on continuing to fan it.

    Yes, some fan reactions have gone way over the top (what else is new?). But fans aren’t responsible for lousy QC. Or bad case assortments. Or not being able to deliver product retailers have ordered. Or creating a website that still isn’t even basically functional after more than two years. Those and other problems have definitely taken some of the fun out of collecting for me and many others, but everyone needs to place the blame where it belongs: Mattel.

    It’s a shame, especially for fans like me who have followed Mattel’s action figures since they began making them. My first action figure line, back when I was a wee boy, was Matt Mason, a line I still hold up as one of the most imaginative and innovative lines ever made. I feel the same about the original MOTU, which I collected vigorously in college. But the Mattel of today is an entirely different entity than the one I grew up with, and not in a good way. TG , the Horsemen and their crew are designing some of the best action figures ever, and I’d love nothing more than to simply gush over the new line, the MOTU figures I wished for for 20 years. But Mattel is actually producing something far less than what’s being designed. It’s like seeing a boyhood friend turning to the dark side, and it makes it frustrating knowing what the line COULD be.

  4. Benzie

    I live in South Africa and MOTUC figures come at a very high premium for us as we have to import them via Ebay or by them on Amazon. We pay between $45 and $55 a figure… Yet as a huge fan, I cannot be bothered by the minor issues such as the Roboto and Hssss shoulder issue. I am sitting with Roboto in my hands and overall this is an amazing figure! I am so glad that the line is continuing and each month I cannot wait for my new figures to arrive. I think we as fans should be thankful that the line is ongoing, that a true fan is heading the development process at Mattel and that we can look forward to new figures and vehicles coming out each month! Let’s stop the nit-picking and look at the bigger picture! In time I am sure the 200X fans will receive their alternate head sculpts and Roboto will be re-issued with 'corrected' shoulders! Overall I will happily pay double what is paid in America per figure because it brings back my favourite childhood memories and I will savour this hobby for as long as I can! Thanks for the great reviews Po! We get our figs 1 to 2 months late in South Africa (still waiting for Bow) and your reviews builds more excitement with every figure!

  5. RM

    After the multiple shoulder mistakes, and particularly the missing sword sheath on Adam, I find it baffling that it has taken this long for Mattel to consider bringing the Horsemen in on the design review process before manufacturing.

    They sculpted these things, and will spot errors instantly. Why would you not have them a part of the review process? Trying to understand this is mind-boggling…

  6. @ ero:

    Hey thanks for the Toybender shout out. I'm trying to include more toy stuff on Robot's PJs as I can. I think if I ever attempted to do all toys all the time like I used to, I'd be burned out in a week.

  7. Ben

    Seeing as how I don't collect MOTUC anymore, I'm not sure what I can contribute here.

    What I will say is this: There is much more to life than toys. Toys are meant to make us happy. When I fell very ill at the end of my high school days, hunting for new toys was one of those things that kept me happy. Were there quality control issues and distribution issues and pricing issues back in the early 2000s with lines like Star Wars, Simpsons WOS, and MOTU 200X? You betcha! But the satisfaction that came along with finding them, owning them, and appreciating them, even if they were slightly less than perfect in some fashion, was something that literally kept me going from day to day. And it was during that time that I made some of my strongest friendships through collecting (IN-PERSON friendships, not just online friendships).

    There's nothing wrong with a bit of criticism here and there. But I feel like a lot of collectors might have trouble putting things in perspective. When I get frustrated with collecting (usually because I can't find anything I want or I can't afford something rare), I read, I play video games, I hang out with friends, and, if it was warmer, I would take a trip to a park or a bird sanctuary or something. I feel like any time a fan gets passionate about anything and then gets frustrated when it doesn't go EXACTLY their way, they take it out on others. I see this frequently with local sports fans. I've heard stories where people will completely withdraw themselves for an entire week if their team loses…even though they had absolutely nothing personally to do with how the game went. It's important to have other passions in life so that when something doesn't go your way, you can find something else that is going right in your life and the lives of others.

    And we do seem like we're into bashing things needlessly lately. Rebecca Black might be a marginally untalented 13-year-old, but it seemed like there was so much HATRED directed to her for no reason…almost because everyone else was doing it.

    Anyway, the point I'm making is that we all need a break from this. If fans are getting upset with MOTUC, they need to take a deep breath and find something else in their lives to enjoy, if only for the time until the next MOTUC figure gets released.

  8. MldMnrdReporter

    To be completely honest I'm very happy I quit MOTUC when I did.

  9. Mark

    I only quit the line because it wasn't fun anymore. I liked the figures well enough but it was so much hassle getting them and having to pay stupid prices like £30+ for one figure. I just couldn't afford to be spending that a month on toys tha are put together wrong and with QC issues. This is ony my personal point of view, I am not a massive MOTU fan, prefer Thundercats, Transformers, G.I. Joe, Bravestarr and other toylines more so there was little point in keeping buying them, especially whe I ave a full set of MOTU 200X 😀

  10. Poe wrote:

    @ misterbigbo: It’s the overall tone of the online collector community. Which can be substituted for any fan community, really.

    I'm right there with you, Poe. But I think that it is a component of "everyone has a voice" that you are going to get more negatives, in general, in forums. Part of criticism is being "critical". And it requires a certain level of drive to share your opinions. Are people going to be driven to a messageboard to say how much they love something? Certainly. But it is much easier to find a legion of people driven by complaints.

    And in the dissatisfied grouping, there is a subset of extreme people with extreme opinions – my favorite of all-time being "this toy is an abortion", a comparison only a jackass with limited worldview would make.

    The extremists feel the need to "win" a discussion, so they overwhelm everyone else with their hatred and opinions. In fact, many times when I get the feeling you described in your opening paragraph, I can usually name the EXACT people that make me not want to go to certain blogs and messageboards? WHY?

    I found out the answer years ago, when I first jumped from newsgroups to messageboards. It is because everyone has an agenda. They may not even realize it…but they do.

    I come to this site every day because I like reading your opinions on things, and I want to see the news stories that you post. When I remember a commenter's name, it is because I identify them as an ally, or see someone I want to stay away from. But you have to realize that some people are only here to be the voice of dissension. Or even more extreme, they have invested so much life-energy into these toys/characters/films that when the newest versions do not match some idealized vision, it becomes a slight against those people (in their minds).

    What I did to get out of the loop of thinking about this stuff was to ignore the true jackasses.

    I see my favorite top ten opinion-mongers over at the .org, and even though many times I could help them with information, I just watch them flail around in madness and move on, while laughing at the unfortunate bastards who try to fight them and will never, ever win.

    My agenda is to have fun, which is why I post approximately five places on the internet and ignore the rest.

  11. dean

    Thanks for summing up many of my feelings, Poe. Also thanks for providing a place to voice our concerns as consumers.

    Collecting Mattel's lines has lost its joy for me. I continue because of a love of the characters and the 4H's designs, but honestly I've been burnt out for well over a year.

    Gleek-gate started the spiral downwards into the muck of apathy toward Mattel. Lump that in with a host of other Matty created challenges and corporate indifference, and you get a collector looking for a way out of this tedium.

    Plus, I feel bad for thinking poorly of another human being, but Scott strikes me as a wee-bit dishonest and arrogant; and hell, he's the first to throw others under the bus (even going so far as to do so to the 4H on more than one occasion). He may be the great guy some say he is in person, but his web presence need improvement

    It has been great to share DCUC and MOTUC with my child. We have had some great adventures with these characters; however, I foresee a day very soon when we abandon Mattel product in favor of Transformers and Thundercats. We are already buying more G1 inspired TFs than we were this time last year.

    Thanks for the good-times Matty, but dang it, this collector is whooped but good. I'm considering saying good-bye to your product and taking the next generation with me.

    What is the lifetime value of a customer and his kin? Matty, do you even care?

  12. I think it's easy to get caught up in all the "boo" drama… But truth be told, Mattel has just as many people who blindly worship everything they do as well. Every new figure that comes out is the greatest thing ever (At least until they find the latest Matty QC issue) and that too, for me is fatiguing.

    I think the King Hss thing isn't a big issue (though I don't have the figure so I can't say) but I understand the complaints there. Conversely, I think the drama over Catra's bio is overblown. To me that's needless drama.

    Ranting and raving over actual errors that Mattel has made? Those bother me much less.

    I kind of feel like there's a huge movement to silence anyone who complains about anything these days. The fact of the matter is, no matter how much I think the King Hss thing isn't a big deal… Mattel did actually force a lot of people to buy a flawed figure. They locked people into contracts and then sold them a toy with a QC issue that many folks would find unsightly.

    So I guess I see both sides of this. I think Scott has little to say in this. Bill Benecke went on and on in a recent interview where he said he hates QC errors and constantly goes over things and with his crew to ensure stuff like that doesn't happen… But with MOTUC, it does seem to happen a lot.

    It happens a lot at Mattel in general. Retro-Action actually had a piece in place on the figure be REMOVED for two waves… For no reason. It made the figures basically worthless as a result. But the mind boggling thing is that the piece was there in the beginning and then, they just stopped putting it in.

    QC issues and Mattel may seem tiresome but that's because they have a tiresome amount of QC issues. You just don't see these complaints in GI Joe, as an example. The ratio is higher, because the issues are more obvious and recurring.

  13. americanhyena

    Also? Count me in as a HUGE proponent of more retrospective stuff. I love that stuff.

  14. americanhyena

    @ Poe:

    Sounds like it's vacation time, PG!

    You should grab the pretty lady and come visit sunny SoCal for a week!

    We got more toy stores than you can shake a stick at and three amusement parks within an hour of L.A.!

    You know you wanna. :-p

  15. toyman2581

    All the constant bitching does get tiresome and old. I'll admit that I'm not innocent of it myself, but being slightly miffed about a QC issue isn't the same in my eyes as the usual complaining. Not enough 200X style, not enough articulation, too pricey, not enough sub options, not sculpted by the 4H, blah blah blah.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion of course and that's exactly what these boards and sites are for, but I think most collectors are way too picky. It's like they aren't even enjoying the hobby anymore.

  16. FakeEyes22

    Fatigue ia a good word. I just couldn't bring myself to care much this time. Even if QC didn't quite learn from the last shoulder mistake, I've learned not to be so frustrated with it.

    It helps that King Hssss is such a deluxe package overall. There a couple little construction issues that bug me more than the shoulders, but he's got so much going on that there's some balance at least. On the brightside, the flaws keep him from making the rest of the collection look pale by comparison, right? Right?

    I've wondered if stuff like this may actually be part of the fun for people. Humans tend to feed on drama. I've gotten pretty irritated with some things, so I can't judge too harshly, but I've noticed that the avalanche of rage over the words printed on Catra's package seem to outweigh the reaction to the fact that Faceless One has been improved.

  17. dlia

    Me angry at NFL lockout.

    Pat Angerer is actually a good linebacker too.

  18. Busterhighman

    If things seem overly negative, it's probably because there is nothing really positive to say about a QC issue that shoudnt have happened. Just by the nature of the topic being discussed, the opportunity for positive comments is eliminated. Of course the line between negative comments and outright whining and bitching may vary based on perception.

  19. Plippy Ploppy Cheese

    Your news and figure reviews are excellent – I for one really appreciate your viewpoint and the entertaining quality of your writing. I really hope you do keep it up, as despite the fact there are a whole host of other places I could find this information, there is nowhere I have found it so enjoyable to read.

  20. I just try to keep things in perspective and remember that collecting is something I do for fun, try not to take it too seriously, and just enjoy it.

    I'd like to echo that sentiment about the New England weather. Last Thursday was so gorgeous, but it was just a tease. Now we're right back into the snow and gloomy weather. Barring another April Fool's Day storm, I think once we make it to April 1st we'll be in the clear!

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