Wednesday, August 31, 2016

And All of HISS Men

Way back in 1984, as part of the 3rd wave of He-Man action figures, we were introduced to a new villain, the evil master of snakes, Kobra Khan. As part of a group that consisted of a crab-man, a spider-man and an alligator-man, a snake –man didn’t seem all that special. Little did anyone know that this little snake man would be the key to opening a door to a whole new world of trouble for He-Man and his heroic warriors.

Two years after Kobra Kahn’s debut in the line, Mattel sought to spice up the franchise by giving He-Man a whole new faction of evil warriors to deal with. Enter King Hiss and his army of Snake men. While originally Kobra Khan was meant to be just another one of Skeletor’s evil warriors, his backstory was eventually re-written to tie in more with his fellow scaly cold-blooded brethren.

Although he is technically a “snake man” ….Kobra Khan wasn’t actually a part of King Hiss’ original army. King Hiss and his army actually existed centuries earlier in a time called Preternia where he battled He-Man’s ancestor King Grayskull. King Hiss and his army were eventually beaten and banished into an inter-dimensional prison called the Void where they remained imprisoned up to the present day.

Kobra Khan was actually a modern day descendant of the snake-men who joined Skeletor’s ranks with the ulterior motive of ultimately freeing King Hiss and his army from the Void, whose entrance was conveniently located in the depths of Skeletor’s headquarters, Snake Mountain. With the help of Evil-Lyn, Kobra Khan was eventually successful in freeing King Hiss and the snake men and unleashing their destructive forces upon present day Eternia.

Now aside from the fact that all King Hiss’ warriors were all “snake-men”, there were a select few more gifted individuals that formed his inner circle. While most of these snake men didn’t have too much of a backstory or unique personalities as compared to Kobra Khan, I have always loved their individual designs and their collective group especially when they were re-imagined for the 2002 series reboot where the snake men took over Skeletor’s place as the main baddie in the 2nd season.

First we have General Rattlor. Despite his lofty position as King Hiss’ second-in-command, he actually was one of the most ordinary looking of the snake men. He had the special ability of extending his neck using his head as a sort of battering ram….sort of like an evil Mekanek….oh and well….he had a tale that rattled.

Next we have Tung Lashor whose original toy actually looked more like a salamander…but that’s beside the point. As his name suggests, he had a really really long…tongue…that he used as his main weapon, stunning his foes with a “venomous” lick.

Sssqueeze represented the constrictor portion of the snake family. What he lacked in venom, he more than made up for with his two powerful and massive arms, which he could elongate to snatch up, trap and basically crush his foes.

Then we have Snake Face….who basically had a face that only his mother could love. If you don’t count the green scaly skin and the fangs, one would say that Snake Face possessed the most human looking mug compared to his fellow warriors…that is until he unleashes his true power….which consists of sprouting little red serpents from his eyes mouth and head and hitting you with his evil gaze which like the legendary gorgon Medusa would cause any enemy unlucky enough to meet his gaze to turn into stone.

Finally, although not really Snake men per se…I feel that there are two more characters worth mentioning as honorary snake men.

First is the evil android Blast-Attak who although was introduced as another of Skeletor’s minions, was actually created by King Hiss (at least according to the mini comic that came packaged with his toy) and is sometimes lumped into the Snake army. He basically had the power explode at will and later reform to explode another day. He was never featured in the original Filmation cartoon nor the rebooted series or toyline in 2002. It was speculated that he was left off the later because in today’s world where suicide bombers are a reality, having a character that basically blew himself up would be in very bad taste.

And secondly we have Snake Man-at-Arms (get it?). Man-at-Arms, or Duncan was one of the original heroic masters and closest ally of He-Man. Now in order to raise the stakes or at least illustrate just how formidable a foe King Hiss really was, the writers of the cartoon reboot had him turn some of He’Man’s allies, including Duncan into snake men using an ancient artifact called the Serpent Crown. While the effects for most turned out to be temporary, the writers of the show actually explained that they intended to make Duncan’s transformation permanent and would carry into the planned but never materialized 3rd season. In fact despite the show’s cancellation, Duncan’s transformation into a snake man was pretty much made into canon in other He-Man media including an official action figure of Snake Man-at-Arms.

With snake related villains like Cobra and V.E.N.O.M. being commonplace in 80’s cartoons, King Hiss and the Snake Men don’t really get any points for originality. However, for me they do shine in execution and the way they were portrayed. They have a rather fleshed out story in the Masters of The Universe world and have rightfully earned their place as one of He-Man’s deadliest foes.