When the designers behind He-Man first pitched the concept to Mattel’s upper management, their idea was that the main character would be put in different outfits and fit different eras. This was a common idea at the time, and one the designers would most likely have been familiar with from their own childhoods – the original G.I. Joe figures had different outfits for different situations, and Mattel’s own “Big Jim” concept from the 1970s made heavy use of the concept as well. While I haven’t actually seen or heard this confirmed anywhere, it’s my theory that the name “He-Man” was intended to be used as the name for this whole line, not necessarily the main character. If Mattel had decided to follow the same route Hasbro did in the 1980s with G.I. Joe, what we now know as the Heroic Warriors (or, as Mattel insists on calling them, the “Masters”) would have been called the He-Men.
But I digress. There were three figures in that original pitch: a bizarre half-man, half-tank character that I guess was supposed to show that He-Man could work in some sort of military environment; a barbaric warrior (eventually to become the He-Man we know and love); and a Boba Fett rip-off proving that the immense popularity of Boba Fett’s action figure was clearly evident as early as 1980.
To honor He-Man’s thirtieth anniversary, the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con Masters of the Universe Classics exclusive was a figure they called “Vykron” (a name culled – Kulled? – from some early design documents). It included one “body” and three snap-on “outfits.” Mattel now referred to the barbarian as the “Ultimate Eternian Champion” (who I’ll refer to as “the Champion”), the Boba Fett as “Space Ace” and the half-man, half-tank as “Tank Top.”
Many fans were disappointed by the snap-on nature of the armor when the figure was revealed. But what’s it like in-hand?
Packaging: Vykron’s packaging had three variants, each showing the figure dressed in one of the respective outfits. It’s a window box, so diehard MOC completists could get one of each and display them all.
Design & Sculpt: Let’s start with the Champion. This set was clearly designed to pay tribute primarily to him, as the gauntlets and greaves of the figure are specifically sculpted for him and aren’t snap-on. The “hat” is removable (the hair is attached to it) and can be swapped with the Space Ace helmet, whereas the Tank Top head is a separate piece that swaps onto the neck peg.
Vykron’s face is interesting. It doesn’t appear to be based on the face of the prototype figure (which has more of a Native American look), but rather on the vintage He-Man figure’s face, with its prominent Schwarzeneggerrian cheekbones and very strong chin. I wish there were some way of putting this head onto a regular He-Man.
The sculpting of the Champion’s armor is accurate to the concept design, with a little bit of added detail to “Classicize” it. I’m glad they didn’t try to make the cape out of actual fur or even flock it. Of course, the helmet, while accurate to the concept, does look rather silly – as if the Champion removed the shade from one of his granny’s antique lamps and wore the base as a helmet. I suppose it’s somewhat reminiscent of a Mongolian helmet but it still looks a bit goofy. That’s not the fault of the sculptors, the Four Horsemen (4H), however. In any event, the Champion will fit in fine among the more barbaric characters like Vikor and Battleground Teela.
From a design standpoint, Tank Top is just flat-out goofy. The white sections on his chest look like the eyes of V.I.N.C.E.N.T. from The Black Hole, and once you see it you’ll never be able to un-see it. Bow down before Tank Top’s robo-nipple-eyes! Goofiness aside, I think the Four Horsemen did the best they could with the design. It’s notable that they took some liberties here – for example, making the front of the head more face-like, which admittedly makes it a bit less disturbing. There’s also some nice scratches and other “battle damage” on the armor pieces.
Finally, there’s Space Ace. I not only like Space Ace, it’s actually how I generally display Vykron. I put him alongside the New Adventures figures. Again, some liberties were taken here; the helmet lacks the small peaks at the top (which is kind of odd to me, since removing the peaks actually make the figure look even more like Boba Fett) andchanging the color of the gauntlets from white to red. Given that accuracy to the concept isn’t all that important to me, I like the overall look of Space Ace, as I’ve always like the more science fiction elements of MOTU along with the barbaric ones. Again, there’s some “battle damage” here and there that gives the armor character.
The last thing to discuss is the clip-on nature of the arm and leg armor. It reminds me a bit of the very first Toy Biz Iron Man in 1991, but I liked that figure so for me, that’s not a negative connotation. I thought I would hate Vykron’s snap-on armor, but I quickly forgot about it and just enjoyed the figure.
Plastic & Paint: The Tank Top and Space Ace parts are molded in green and red, respectively. What little paint work there is on them is sharp, and they both have some nice subdued washes on the leg armor.
The Champion’s armor has a bit more detail, but again, it’s all executed well except for a few stray paint marks here and there.
Articulation: Vykron features the standard MOTUC articulation. None of it is hindered by the armor.
Accessories: The Champion comes with an axe, Tank Top with a rifle and Space Ace with a blaster. The axe is probably the best piece; its haft is long, designed to be held in both hands like the concept art. It’s a great weapon for both the Champion and any other MOTUC figure.
I like the rifle and the blaster too, but they’re admittedly a bit boring, since they’re just molded in black plastic. Also, their designs, while accurate to the concept designs, just don’t seem like something you’d see on Eternia (but then again, neither is a character inspired by an American Sherman tank…oh what am I saying, Eternia had cowboys for heaven’s sake).
Quality Control: The Champion’s axe was a little warped when I took it out of the package, but I was able to work it back into shape. I didn’t have any other issues with the figure.
Overall: I suspect many fans approach this figure as I did: the Champion probably looks like he belongs in the MOTU universe, Space Ace less so but not out of the question, while Tank Top is clearly a novelty. I can understand anyone who wants to write off the whole set as well, although I think the Champion is actually a great figure (my fondness for Space Ace, I will admit, is based wholly on a love for his 1930s sf, Buck Rogers-y look, not because I think it’s a good design).
The Vykron set is something of a novelty, and it’s probably not a must-own item for those many MOTUC collectors. But I’m glad I got it, and I appreciate the option of displaying him with the different outfits. It adds “finger food” to the character, and gives me a reason to change up my displays occasionally.