THE FOUR HORSEMEN
Masters Of The Universe fans will probably be aware of the Four Horsemen as the designers have been involved with the creation of MOTU figures since the 2002 relaunch. The 2002 line was notable for the intricate detail of its figures. Although the line did not appeal to all fans - I have written about the manga style and exaggerated proportions elsewhere on this site - it nonetheless gathered a very supportive following. Many fans wish the Classics line had more 2002 influence, but Mattel directed that the Classics should be reminiscent of the vintage line. The Four Horsemen have taken up the challenge to redesign the characters in this way, and you can see the results of their work on this site.
I decided to try to find out something about the designers who have helped bring back the Masters, so I had a look on the Internet and gathered some facts and pictures which would reveal a little about the individuals who call themselves the Four Horsemen. So although this site is, of course, about the Masters Of The Universe, this page takes a look at some of the other aspects of the Four Horsemen's work. The Four Horsemen are Chris Dahlberg, Jim Preziosi, Eric Treadaway and H. Eric 'Cornboy' Mayse. Together they formed the Four Horsemen Design Studios in 1999.
Chris Dahlberg is a designer and sculptor. He creates the 3D figures from 2D artwork. Jim Preziosi is a designer, fabricator and mouldmaker. He makes the moulds from the sculpts. Eric Treadaway is also a designer and sculptor, and sometimes paints the figures during the design stages. H. Eric 'Cornboy' Mayse is a designer and fabricator. He describes fabrication as 'the art of taking a pre-existing material and shaping it into something else. Kind of like sculpting with a material other than clay.' The Horsemen ended up working together designing figures for McFarlane Toys, and discussed how there was no reason for collectible toys not to have articulation. They joked how they would eventually ride off like four horsemen into the sunset and set up their own company.
They designed many figures for McFarlane Toys, some of which are shown on this page, but eventually they did decide to set up on their own. The Four Horsemen Design Studios began life when a friend with connections in the toy industry brought them some intriguing news. They learned that the world's largest toy company, Mattel, was considering bringing in an outside design group to help redesign some of their lines. The quartet had a meeting with Mattel in Los Angeles and shared ideas. Before long, work had begun on the He-Man and Skeletor prototypes for the 2002 MOTU line.
Mattel and the Four Horsemen have been closely linked since then, working not
only on the Masters Of The Universe, but a variety of other projects too.
The fact the quartet designed the entire 2002 MOTU line is what brought them
to the attention of MOTU fans, and although I do not consider the 2002 figures
to be the best of the Horsemen's work, they clearly put a lot of effort and
imagination into their updates of the 1980s toys. Perhaps the best quality they
brought to the line was their love of the characters. The Horsemen are MOTU
fans, and that is evident in their work. The Classics line recreates the
vintage themes, and allows itself a little 2002 indulgence as well.
As well as their work with Mattel, the Four Horsemen have also produced their own collection of figures since setting up their own company. The Seventh Kingdom line is an imaginative exploration of a fantasy world with some beautifully designed characters. The Horsemen did encounter some problems with their factory though, and the figures are not of the quality they ought to be. The first series of Seventh Kingdom figures was a range of minotaur characters known as the Mynothecean Seven. The second set was the Anitherian Nine - a collection of animal humanoids. The most recent set was the Queen's Council - a range of female warrior figures, some of whom are feline humanoids. These characters were released in limited numbers through selected toy stockists.
Most Seventh Kingdom figures are no longer available. The designers
sell some of their characters on
Store Horsemen website. The Anitherian Nine characters look great but
they were not made particularly well, and their packaging was poor. I bought
a small number of the Ramathorr figures and found that their leg joints were
far too loose to allow them to stand upright unless in a low crouching
position. One was missing a tail, and the weapons were broken in another box.
Nonetheless, Ramathorr is a fantastic character. He is the principle
character of the Anitherian Nine. By coincidence, his giant sword is a much
better weapon for Classics Tytus than the absurd vacuum-cleaner
Somehow the Four Horsemen find time for their own projects (there should be some new characters released soon), but they obviously have plenty of work with Mattel to keep them busy at present. The most recent news regarding the Classics is that the line should continue to 2017. That could mean around one hundred and sixty Horsemen-designed Classics figures. I should add that this figure is a rough approximation based on yearly averages so far, and is not an official total. This is a huge project, and it is great that the Four Horsemen are the designers for it. I have my suspicions that the Masters Of The Universe may get a general release in toy stores, even if a MOTU movie never gets produced, and that might mean even more Horsemen designs.
The Classics are not the only Horsemen / Mattel project. The team has also
designed the DC Universe line, which, like the Classics is available
on the Matty Collector website. This is a superheroes line, so it has a different
character to the Classics, but the Horsemen's influence is nonetheless
apparent. The DC Universe figures are also proving popular and sell out
quickly. Comic-inspired characters have always been a good choice for toy producers,
and Mattel have been keen to release some great Horsemen designs on Matty Collector.
Some of my favourite Four Horsemen designs are the three skull-headed Gothitropolis Timekeepers: Baraeth, Nybbaz and Aestorath. These characters sit really well alongside the Classics, although they are not Mattel figures - they are Four Horsemen Design Studios exclusives. They are small and delicate figures with intricate styling. Despite their small size (approximately three inches high), they have some limited articulation, including moving jaws. They have some loose parts which need a tiny dab of superglue to hold in place, but these are display pieces rather than toys to be played with. I can imagine these malevolent characters whispering strategies to Hordak and Skeletor.
The Four Horsemen have the jobs which many toy fans would love to have, but it
is their collective design talent which puts them above the rest. They are already
some of the most influential and successful toy designers, and their involvement
with projects like the Classics is most welcome. While there is a lot of
debate over which characters should end up in the line, all of them have the
Horsemen's design skills in every detail, and they are destined to be popular
until the line reaches its end. I hope we also see lots more independent Four
Horsemen designs. Keep an eye on
Fantastic Exclusive and
Four Horsemen websites. They aren't updated very often, but you will find
information about the designers' work there.