Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Fondness for Male Sheep

One of the main reasons why the original He-Man & The Masters of the Universe toy line was so successful was because of the relatively resourceful method they employed for making toys for all their numerous characters. Two words: Shared Parts. Look at almost every Masters figure and you will notice that almost 90% of them share the same crotch/furry underwear piece. Over 90% have the same body structure. And when it comes to arms, feet and so on, you will usually find only a few variations of each scattered amongst hundreds of figures. More often than not, the only unique items each character would have were their head sculpts, armor and weapons, and even a good number of those were used at least more than once!

same 'ol crotch n' body
same body, legs & feet
Because He-Man was so successful, Mattel also turned to another common practice in order to beef up their toy line. They used existing sculpts and toys from some of their older or lesser known brands, slapped new paintjobs and accessories and incorporated into the Masters mythos. And so using that method, from random animals from the older “Big Jim” line, we got iconic masters characters like Battle Cat & Zoar. And when it came to main characters, one specific guy stood out like a sore thumb.

While I’m not entirely sure what toyline he originated from, it’s quite obvious that the original Ram Man toy had nothing to do with He-Man. He was as unique as you could get, with not a single other character looking anything remotely like him. Just by looking at him you could make out the obvious differences. First of all he was much wider than your typical master. And secondly, he had only 2 real points of articulation, his arms could turn from side to side and that was it. His head was sculpted as one piece with the rest of his body and his 2 legs were fused together as well. He was practically a brick with arms.

But you see, there was a reason why that figure was constructed that way. He actually had an action feature that none of the other figures had. You could press down his legs into his body and then at the touch of a button (sorry…I never had the figure so I’m just assuming there was some sort of release mechanism…like a button) his upper half would spring forward to simulate a ramming action…..thus his name, Ram Man (no he did not get his name from having a fondness for male sheep).

a slightly more detailed brick....
When 2002 came along, a new He-Man toyline was launched to coincide with a new cartoon. Unlike the original line, most of the characters actually had nice unique sculpts which were very stylized and detailed. Not to be left out, Ram Man also sported a more modern sculpt as well. He also had the same action feature as the original figure which unfortunately meant similar articulation as well. While I believe the articulation of this newer version was slightly better, he could now turn his head and wrists and his arms were on swivel/ball-joints, he still had his legs sculpted as one piece to allow for the same “lame” springing feature.

no more sprimg loaded actions...
just pick your plate....
Finally, a few years later, Mattel launched the ultimate Masters “Classics” toyline meant for nostalgia driven collectors like me. I’m pretty sure I’ve touched on this before, but just to summarize, this line was meant to be more faithful to the original vintage toys, except that they would have more realistic and detailed sculpting as well as a ton more articulation. And just like the vintage line, they would be using the same “shared parts” system to keep costs down. In addition, from the very start of the line, Mattel also said that none of the new figures would sport any action features, even if their original counter parts did. Again this was meant to cut down on costs and keep things simple. So this meant that although beautifully sculpted & articulated, the new Kobra Khan would no longer spit water, Meckaneck would not extend his neck when you twisted his waist, and none of the new Battle Armors would sport that nifty spring loaded battle damage action. All of these features were simulated using additional exchangeable parts instead.

Of course, people immediately started speculating on Ram Man. From the start, Mattel already said that a new Ram Man would probably be a long shot considering it would entail sculpting a 100% unique new body that would have almost 0% reuse potential. But the fans remained faithful, and to their credit, the line was a major success and by late 2012, speculation was high that a new modern Ram Man would finally due to be released.

Finally, Mattel made their big reveal in Comic Con 2012, a new Ram Man would arrive in 2013. Because of their “no action feature” policy, they dropped Ram Man’s lame springing action altogether and instead gave us our first FULLY articulated Ram Man figure ever. And the detailing on this guy is amazing….down to the soles of his boots!

look! TWO separate legs that can bend! 
I got my Ram Man figure early this year and he totally didn't disappoint. And just for an added bonus, they included something new. This new Ram Man has an alternate un-helmeted head which is in reference to the 2002 cartoon where he would often take off his helmet. Truth be told, his face isn’t really much to look at and he really is better off WITH his signature helmet, but it was a nice touch.

So there you have it, with the addition of a modern Ram Man, the main iconic line up of Masters of the Universe good guys is pretty much complete….so that's enough talk about Ram Men....let’s just go and have some ramen….