Thursday, November 21, 2013

Along Came A Spider

By 1984, the Masters of the Universe toyline was on high gear and the new characters coming out were more varied. For most of the non-human characters, it became apparent that Mattel was employing a tried and true formula, take a human, cross with an animal and voila! Instant Master of the Universe. In this wave alone, we got a half man half lobster, a half man half crocodile, and snake man and well…what was supposed to be a half man half spider.

At first glance, there really wasn’t anything about Webstor that would make it obvious to an 8 year old that he was meant to be half spider….sure his name was WEB-stor…but other than that, he just looked like some random dark blue dude with an ugly tusked head who had a grappling hook as his main accessory. But I’ll cut Mattel some slack here. Back then, they weren’t really into sculpting that many unique parts for individual figures. And let’s face it, the most obvious physical characteristic of a spider would be its 8 legs, and that would be rather costly for the toy designers back then. His rather bland character design basically led to my initial bland opinion on the guy. I really didn’t care so much about him and would rather spend the day hanging out with Trap-Jaw or Clawful.

Thankfully, when the 2002 reboot series of He-Man came out, many of the original character designs were re-imagined for a new audience. And I have to say, while there were a LOT of great redesigns that were introduced, Webstor’s redesign was one of the best! With his slimmer more insect like body frame, his more defined spider head with multiple eyes (I’ll admit, the original toy also sported multiple eyes but they weren’t very obvious and could be easily mistaken for a bunch of pimples on his forehead) and 4 extra creepy appendages sprouting from his back, there was no mistaking what Webstor was truly meant to be. And almost instantly the guy shot up to one of my favourite bad guys in the series.

Now with more ambrosia!
His role in the cartoon was also quite unique as he actually didn’t start out as one of the original henchmen of Skeletor. In fact, throughout the series, although he would frequently ally himself with Skeletor, he operated more often on his own, which just added to his coolness factor. Unfortunately, Webstor also earned the distinction of being one of the only main Masters characters to actually die in the series. In the episode Web of Evil, Webstor sneaks into the kingdom of Buzz-Off (you know, the half man half bee dude and friend of He-Man) and feasts on ambrosia (the stuff that the bee people produce cuz they’re you know…bees). The ambrosia super charges him and further mutates him into a gigantic spider and he proceeds to lay thousands of spider eggs (eeeew). With his new army, he easily conquers the bee kingdom and sets his sights of bigger goals. But in a move to showcase just how bad ass Mattel’s NEWLY introduced villainous faction was, Webstor and his spider army are swiftly and savagely defeated by the newly risen Snake Men. And just like that, the new and improved Webstor was no more.

dyin Webstor....
While a proper action figure of the redesigned Webstor was never released due to the toyline’s abrupt cancellation, the designers did manage to make a toy sculpt which they were eventually able to release in staction form (static action figure….or mini statue) and it was a beauty and for me represents the definitive version of the guy.

But when the Classic Masters of the Universe line rolled along in 2008, Mattel made it known that all the cool redesigns of 2002 were to be “retired” and that all classic figures would more closely resemble their vintage counterparts.

So when Webstor was announced as one of the first figures to be released in the line I got worried. After being spoiled with such an awesome 2002 design, were we destined to go back to the bland original design? Thankfully my fears were unfounded. When the Classic Webstor was finally revealed online I let out a sigh of relief. While he sported the generic action figure body just like the vintage version (the original line shared many parts between figures to keep costs down) but Mattel thankfully chose to retain a few elements of his 2002 design, namely his extra appendages on his back. Sure they weren’t as pronounced as the 2002 one but they were there….and that made all the difference in the world. It’s quite amazing how a few simple details can easily turn one of the potentially blandest character in my collection into one of my favorites.