MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE ULTIMATES
Super7 had produced licensed Masters of the Universe product before taking on the Classics, but picking up where Mattel left off with this collectors' line represented an undertaking on a new scale. The Classics figures weren't just cute novelty items; they were toys with an eight year history and a very passionate fan base. Credit must be given to Super7 owner Brian Flynn and his team for having the courage to take on an established line in the face of inevitable scrutiny and high expectations.
The first set of Classics figures from Super7 were reissues of five core characters. Because they included extra accessories and were packaged on vintage-style card, they were given the name Ultimates. It was a logical choice to go with familiar characters who hadn't been available from Mattel for a long time. He‑Man and Skeletor were essential to draw in collectors who were late to the line and missing the original hero and villain. Ram‑Man, Teela and Faker completed the set.
In the sense that these characters had been produced at least once during Mattel's reign, the Ultimates were reissues. But they weren't exact copies, and there are some significant differences between Mattel's and Super7's products. The differences made it worthwhile for owners of the originals to buy the new figures, or even multiples thereof. However, they remain Classics figures at heart and can be displayed alongside one's Mattel collection.
I'll write my thoughts about the individual figures below, but it has to be said that overall Super7 did a good job with the Ultimates. At the time of writing the indications are that the company doesn't intend to produce any more figures of this style – they'd rather focus on new product than repeat what has gone before. That's probably a sensible position, but there are some figures – such as Fisto – who are highly sought after because the Mattel product fell short in terms of availability and distribution.
There were some issues with the Ultimates, such as the choice to abort the plan for
resealable packaging because it would have added a delay to the production. Super7 also
had to retool Skeletor's Havoc Staff – it turned out that some of the original moulds
were no longer available. But, as I mentioned, the company did good work with the Ultimates,
and Brian's enthusiasm for the MOTU and his dialogue with the fans convey a sense of
trustworthiness that is reassuring. Now let's look at the figures.
FAKER. The original Classics Faker just came with a single sword, but the Ultimates version was well equipped with extra weapons. Both the full and half versions of He‑Man's sword were included, plus He‑Man's shield and He‑Ro II's sword. It's a shame that we didn't get the Toys 'R' Us battle armour that was issued to that rare figure – the majority of collectors never acquired Battle Armor Faker due to his very limited availability. The paint on the hair and armour is plain, unlike the original Classics Faker, which is a little disappointing in some ways but truer to the design of the vintage figure. The black paint on the belt and cuffs is effective if not as interesting as the silver and grey we saw before. An important bonus was the inclusion of an original toy head. The cyborg head, released as a pack‑in before, makes a reappearance.
HE-MAN. The Ultimates He‑Man included the three heads which we've now come to associate with this figure: the Classics original head, the Oo‑Larr head and the Vintage toy head. For the most part He‑Man is similar to his MOTUC version, but the dark shading on his hair is a really good touch and makes him a lot less blond than we've been used to, which has to be a Good Thing. He‑Man comes with the same collection of weapons as Faker. You may remember the first Classics He‑Man had excessive red paintwork around his eyes. Ultimates He‑Man has it as well, but it's much less severe and looks okay.
RAM-MAN. The colour scheme is all that distinguishes Ultimates Ram‑Man from Classics Ram‑Man. There are no additional accessories, and we're still stuck with the silly 200X tin hat head that we received the first time around. It wouldn't have been in keeping with the Ultimates concept, but I really wish Super7 had used the opportunity to give us a second helmeted head with open eyes, or, even better, the jovial expression that Ram‑Man gave us at the end of his minicomic. The colours are, however, loyal to the minicomic and early artwork, and I really like the look. Some fans expressed disappointment that the 'metal' parts were plain grey, but I actually think the matte finish is a good choice.
SKELETOR. The original villain has turned out rather well this time around. He's been given Keldor's cloak and Dragon Blaster Skeletor's forearms and boots. The Alcala – or minicomic – head is included, along with the regular Skeletor head and the Keldor head. Sticking Keldor's head on this figure doesn't really work though. The left hand has an open grip which is a little problematic when posing the Havoc Staff. I'm not keen on the pink blob in the centre of Skeletor's armour. Perhaps a better idea would have been to add the yellow decoration that we saw in the early minicomics. But overall this is a good version of Skeletor, because it captures all the menace and malevolence of the first MOTU evil warrior.
TEELA. Super7 included each version of Teela's head with this figure, including the Battleground Teela style which was seen in the early DC Comics stories. I'm glad to say that the figure doesn't suffer the wobbly head problem that occurred on the original release. The colour scheme is fairly traditional, but Classics Teela had darker brown armour and shield with shadowing. The colouring on Ultimates Teela's gear is slightly redder, making it sit halfway between the original and the Weapons Pak offering. The body sculpt is the same wildly unsymmetrical design as before, but that was never going to be corrected. I still think Teela has the best face sculpt of all the female figures, and Super7 did a nice job with the paintwork. The inclusion of the Goddess's staff ties the figure nicely to the origin story.