Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Building a Better Man (At-Arms)

During the first official year of the Master of the Universe Classics toy line, a new Man-At-Arms figure was pretty much expected. The only question was exactly which version of Duncan would we end up getting.  Vintage?  Filmation? 2002? or something completely different?

The answer wasn't all that shocking and thankfully quite satisfying. Since it WAS called the “classics” line, pretty much the entire figure was directly based off the original toy. They did however manage to throw in something to appease fans of the Filmation cartoon. They included an extra switchable head that sported his familiar mustache. AND as if that wasn't enough, as a nod to the 2002 cartoon fans, they added even more extras.

First to emphasize he role as “master of weapons” they included well…more weapons. The original toy only came with his trusty mace. This new one came with an extra short sword & a gun that could be easily stored on his back. But the real gem of here was this:

Ok, allow me to go a little off course to explain this. During the very early planning stages of the 2002 cartoon, the writers proposed to Mattel the idea of starting the new series off with Skeletor finally being successful in capturing the original power sword. This was the sword that Prince Adam used to transform into He-Man. Soooooo…in order to allow Adam to continue transforming into He-Man, Duncan built a new power sword that with the help of some magic of the Sorceress, would mimic the original swords ability to transform Adam into He-Man. Mattel didn't go for this idea and scrapped it; however the design of the new sword, which looked more mechanical, was kept and became the default look of the power sword (much to the agony of many He-Man purists).

Anyway back to the main topic….as an added treat to the 2002 fans, this new Classics version came with the 2002 designed power sword! So how’s that for pleasing everybody? And for the next few years, Man-At-Arms stood out as one of the best figures the line ever came up with.

Last year however, Mattel released a new version of MAA. This new one wasn't meant to replace the old one though and was just a variant version. This one was called SNAKE Man-At-Arms… OK so allow me to explain again….

Towards the end of the 2002 series, the writers introduced a new enemy faction for He-Man, this was King Hsssss and his army of Snake Men. Now the idea was that King Hsssss had this really powerful artifact called the Serpent's Ring that could permanently transform any person into an evil snake man. So as the story was supposed to go…Using the ring, King Hsssss was supposed to successfully transform MAA into a snakeman….permanently. I say supposed to because the cartoon was actually cancelled before they could do all this.

In any case, in based on this aborted story line,  Mattel gave us a Snake Man-at-Arms figure, which was basically the original MAA figure with a new snake head and an additional serpent ring accessory, unfortunately they decided to remove all the cool extra weapons that came with the original version. When the original figure prototype made its debut online, many collectors cried foul as this seemed like a lazy and blatant cash grab for Mattel. Sooooo in an attempt to placate all the fans, they went back to the drawing board and gave him a few more new parts. Basically what they did was give him more robotic arms and legs to even further reflect the more technical & robotic version of MAA introduced in the 2002 series.

Can you spot the changes?
Now with these 2 MAA figures in hand, you had the option to display both as-is…or mix and match to come up with the ultimate MAA based on your preferences. I personally liked the 2002 version of MAA the best so I switched heads between the original and snake version so I would have a more accurate 2002 MAA as my default version. 

Have it your way.....
200X Cannon...
Luckily, Mattel didn’t stop there in trying pleasing us fans. As part of his upgraded arsenal, in the 2002 cartoon, MAA sported a really cool arm cannon that for many became just as iconic as his trusty mace.  

....Classic Style Cannon
So a few months back, as part of an add on weapons & accessory pack, Mattel recreated this arm cannon to fit the classic style. So with this final piece we get the chance to create whatever version of Man-At-Arms we like, be it original, cartoon (Filmation or 2002) or snake. As for me, I prefer 2002 all the way.

Final aside: For those who would care....in the revised Classics story line, Mattel revived the aborted 2002 Snake-Man-At-Arms plot (thus the new figure) so the once heroic Duncan was transformed into an evil snakeman.  And he only regained his humanity after he was mortally wounded in battle.  Well...better late than never....