Friday, February 24, 2017

Beast in Show

When it comes to almost every major toy or cartoon story, there are a number of uniting traits similar to most of them. One of which is that for every evil super villain, there is always at least one prominent henchman behind him either following him with blind loyalty or endlessly scheming to take over the top spot. And in the world of the Masters of the Universe, there is no other character that defines the role more of a “henchman” then Beast Man.

Beast Man was one of the first eight Masters of the Universe characters released by Mattel way back in 1982. While pretty much each of the original characters were visually unique and interesting in their own way, there was no denying that Beast Man, with his orange fur, spiked armor, white face and primitive savage looking appearance was an easy standout.

While he will be forever identified as Skeletor’s #1 henchman, interestingly enough in the really early development stages of the toyline, Beast Man, then simply known as “Red Beast” was slated to be the main villain of the series. He also sported a more hulking a bear like appearance that was ultimately ditched by Mattel because they felt he looked too much like Chewbacca.

Anyway, like many Masters of the Universe characters, Beast Man had a good number of different looks and backstories depending on the type of media he was portrayed in. His first prominent appearances were in the mini comics that came with the action figures. While the mini comics weren’t that big on character back stories…or personalities, it’s interesting to note that at least for the earlier issues, Beast Man’s appearance was quite different from his traditional look. Instead of his orange fur and white face, we got a completely red Beast Man, more in line with his original concept of the “Red Beast”. If you ask me personally, this is my favorite look for the guy as it makes him look more intimidating. So much so that when an overpriced Red Beast repaint of the Classics version of Beast Man was released as a convention exclusive, I just had to get him.

Mini comics aside, I think it’s safe to say that most people’s recollection of Beast Man stem from the Filmation cartoon where his general appearance was basically softened and cleaned up for the kids and his oafish and henchman role really shines. He is introduced in the very first episode as the only other villain residing with Skeletor in Snake Mountain as they summon all the other evil warriors to join them. Despite his loyalty to Skeletor though he is oftentimes the target of Skeletor’s insults and rage. Despite all this, he stays on as his loyal right hand man, rarely scheming against him. While his back story in the cartoon is never told, the series bible has a quite interesting origin for him that was thankfully never used. According to the bible, Beast Man was actually from the planet Earth. His real name was Biff Beastman (no….really) and he owned a farm where he constantly abused his animals. He then was recruited into the spaceship crew of Marlena Glenn (the future Queen Marlena, mother of Prince Adam/He-Man) as a mechanic. The ship eventually ended up crashing on Eternia where Biff was discovered by Skeletor and mutated into Beast Man.

In 1987, Beast Man was one of only two of Skeletor’s evil warriors from the toyline that was brought to life on the movie screen for the Masters of the Universe film. The rest of Skeletor’s evil warriors were composed of nameless Stormtrooper rip offs and new characters created specifically for the movie. Unfortunately, aside from the name itself, the live action Beast Man didn’t really have anything else in common with the Beast Man from the toyline or cartoon. He definitely looked different, but as far as personalities went….he really didn’t have any. He was just a furry henchman with no speaking lines at all.

He fared better in the 200X cartoon reboot where Beast Man’s design was brought back to his more savage roots, amping up his original figure design with a bigger more hunched back body. His special ability, that of controlling other animals was also featured more often in this series where he’s oftentimes depicted riding on a griffin beast. While once again his back story is not shown in the cartoon, it is depicted in a comic series set in the same universe as the show. Thankfully this time around they ditched the whole evil human farmer bit and went for the more straight forward savage beast man from the Berserker Islands who came across a man named Keldor (who would eventually become Skeletor) who saved his life thus winning his lifelong loyalty.

His latest toy incarnation comes in the Classic line. He was the second official figure released in 2008 after He-Man and was basically a faithful update to the original toy. The bio that came with the figure expanded on this backstory started in the 200X series by giving Beast Man an actual name…. Raqquill Rqazz…which at the very least is better than “Biff”. It also states that he belongs to a race of “beast men” but was exiled (I’m assuming for excessive violence…or stupidity) from their home in the Vine Jungle.

So there you go, Beast Man in a nutshell. In a universe populated by the most colorful and interestingly unique characters imaginable, a “beast” man may seem the most ordinary of the bunch. But despite that, there is no taking away from Mr. Bif….I mean Raqquill Rqazz, the top spot as Skeletor’s original and number one henchman.