Monday, January 21, 2013

Duncan Donuts

When I got my first two Masters of the Universe figures, I did what every kid instinctively does when he gets a new toy, look at the back of the packaging to see what other figures were available in the line. Unsurprisingly, my eyes didn’t navigate to the scantily clad muscle man in furry briefs and instead focused on the guy next to him.

Upon first sight, Man-at-Arms instantly became my favorite Master. I mean what kid wouldn’t like a guy decked out in armor like a tank with his face mysteriously half covered up with a face grill. Was he knight? A robot? Whatever he was, all I knew was that hands down he really was more visually interesting than He-man, and I knew he had to be mine.

Unfortunately, He-Man figures weren’t something I could really afford on my own allowance nor do I recall them being readily available in local stores. So I really had to rely on my dad’s out of the country business trips to satisfy my He-Man fix. So long story short, I never got Man-at-Arms, or at least one that was really and truly mine. I did however manage to convice my friend to “share” his Man-at-Arms with me and leave it in my house for long periods of time..until he pretty much forgot about it.

When the Filmation cartoon came out, Man-at-Arms character was further fleshed out. Prior to this all I knew about Man-at-Arms was from the mini comics that came with the figues, and in there, he was depicted as a straight forward warrior. Unfortunately, the cartoon presented him as a much older man who wasn’t too much of a warrior and more of an advisor. They gave him a thick mustache and made him a daddy…well sort of. In the cartoon, Man-at-Arms was still one of He-Man’s closest allies, in fact he was one of the very few who actually knew that he was secretly Prince Adam.

He was also the adoptive father of Teela (who was entrusted to him to raise as his own by her real mother the Sorceress) and well he didn’t see that much action…in fact I seem to recall him spending more time being in trouble and waiting to be rescued than actually kicking ass. His character design was also softened with his armor simplified making him less imposing. One character design choice from the original character that I liked was that only his left arms & legs were armored. This made him look like an ancient roman gladiator. Unfortunately, in order to simplify the animation process non symetrical designs were ditched (like Clawful’s bigger right claw) whenever possible in order to allow animaters to simply flip an animation cell over should they want the character to face the other direction. As a result, Man-At-Arms gor his armor on both legs and arms. Sure it made more sense to have more armor…but it just didn’t LOOK as cool….Oh and he was also given a first name, Duncan, which to me made him sound like a guy who made and sold donuts rather than being an close ally of the most powerful man in the universe.

Love or hate it however, because the cartoon did really well and was on the air for some time, this version of Man-At-Arms basically became the default version for almost everybody.

Luckily in the 200X reboot, the MAA (because I got tired of typing out Man-at Arms) character was slightly tweaked for the better. He was still old(er), still Teela’s adoptive father, still had the mustache and was still called Duncan. The main difference was in his character and function. They put more emphasis on his role as inventor and weapons expert. The inventions he came up with ranged from straight forward battle vehicles & weapons to simply silly contraptions like a belt that would sap energy from Skeletor every time he would do or say something evil. His armor also got an upgrade. NO longer was it just plain simple armor but armor that housed dozens of weapons that he could activate at any time including a huge arm cannon that would transform him into a living weapon. Think of at like James Bond’s Q crossed with Iron Man.

Now when the Classic Masters line came out, MAA was obviously one of the first characters to be made. When he was announced, many wondered exactly what version of MAA would they go for. Since it was a classic line, many assumed it would be based on the original clean shaven figure. But the filmation version was unfortunately the most iconic, and although Mattel established from the get-go that the 200X character style was ‘retired’ they added that they would allow a few style elements based off it when they could. So…which Man-At-Arms would we get? 

 to be continued...