Thursday, October 25, 2018

A Walking Fart Joke

No matter how successful a toy line gets, like almost anything in life, nothing really lasts forever. There are many reasons that toy lines end or get cancelled. Sometimes toy companies get complacent or focus their attention on a newer more lucrative property. Other times, media that the toy line is connected to doesn’t do well. And other times, they try to keep the ball rolling by introducing such outlandish new characters that literally well…..stink.

After three rather successful waves of toy releases, the first signs of wear and tear on the Masters of the Universe toyline began to show in their fourth wave of figures released in 1985. True they tried to breathe new life into the line by introducing a third faction into the mix, the Evil Horde, but they also released a pair of characters which were pretty much lazy repaints of previously released characters.

Mossman, The Heroic Spy & Master of Camouflage was basically a unarmored Beast Man covered in flock to simulate moss. And then we have Stinkor, his intended nemesis who was a recolored Mer-Man sporting some Mechaneck armor. Despite their rather lazy designs, to their credit, both new figures sported a rather unique action feature….they smelled. Mossman, a denizen of the great forests of Eternia had the scent of pine. And Stinkor, who was basically an anthropomorphic skunk was meant to smell offensive.

Instead of just spraying their toys with their intended scents, Mattel went the extra mile by mixing in scented oils into the plastics used to make the figures. To give Stinkor his stench, they mixed in some patchouli oil. I never had the original figure or know exactly what patchouli oil smells like, but I heard that it has a rather strong and distinctive scent that while not necessarily offensive, served its purpose of making Stinkor a rather memorable figure.

Since the Stinkor toy was introduced towards the end of the Filmation cartoon, he unfortunately didn’t make any appearances in the series. His counterpart Moss Man managed to come out in an episode or two, but when it came to Stinkor, the writers considered him to be a “walking fart joke” and refused to use him on any episodes.

Now I know it’s rather unfair to peg the end of the toy line on a single figure like Stinkor, seeing that the Mattel actually released three more waves after him. But for the longest time, Stinkor (and Moss Man) represented to me the first “chink” in the Masters of the Universe armor. In my opinion, they were the first “phoned in” characters in the line just to keep the character count up and save some money in the process.

Fortunately, the rebooted He-Man series in 2002 breathed new life into the franchise and gave us more fleshed out characterizations and origins for many Masters of the Universe characters, including Stinkor. And it definitely gave me a better appreciation for the Evil Master of Odors.

Stinkor’s original name was Odiphus, and he came from an Eternian race of creatures called the Paleezeans, who basically looked like a mix between a large fluffy house cat and a Mogwai. While the Paleezeans were generally a peaceful race who kept to themselves, Odiphus was to put it bluntly….an asshole. Unlike the rest of his village, he idolized evil warriors and warlords, so much so that he actually led one such warlord named Prahvus into his own village to raze it. Fortunately, the Paleezeans were saved by the Sorceress of Grayskull and Odiphus was rightfully expelled from his village for his treachery.

Out in the real world, Odiphus became a common thief and followed closely the exploits of Skeletor and his evil warriors with the hopes of one day joining their ranks. Eventually he made his way to Snake Mountain where he presented himself to Skeletor’s tech man, Tri-Klops who was busy putting together a new toxic instrument of destruction. Unimpressed with what he saw, Tri-Klops dismissed Odiphus leaving him alone in his lab as he departed to attend to other business.

Not taking “no” for an answer, Odiphus saw this rejection as a sort of test and sought to pass it by attempting to complete whatever contraption Tri-Klops was working on. The end result was what you would expect. We got a big explosion and Odiphus gets showered by noxious substances basically mutating him into a bigger more formidable warrior with an obnoxious stench permanently permeating from his body.

While even in his more formidable form he was still rejected and sent away from Snake Mountain, it didn’t take long for Skeletor to realize Stinkor’s destructive potential. And the writers of the new series didn’t waste time showing just how effective Stinkor’s powers could actually be in battle. It’s easily summed up in three words; toxic chemical warfare. See, while his stench was initially seen as a joke, the writers amplified his powers giving Stinkor not just the ability to produce giant clouds of noxious gases but forcefully redirect his fumes to wherever and whomever he pleased making him a rather dangerous adversary.

Things also looked up for Stinkor in later toy versions of the evil warrior. Toy designers wanted to give him a more unique look to make him more than just a Mer-Man repaint. First he got a really nice “staction figure” that was based off 2002 series redesign.

Then when it came to his figure for the Masters of the Universe Classics line, a toy line known for being slavishly faithful to the vintage line, Stinkor thankfully got a few extra design elements to further differentiate him from Mer-Man. Most notably, he finally got his own unique head sculpt. And while it was more subtle of a change, he also got a furry body as opposed to smooth skinned one used for Mer-Man. This made more sense since he was a skunk. And finally they added a few details used in his 2002 redesign which consisted of a gas mask and some oxygen tanks.

On face value, one could make the argument that a lot of the ideas for characters made for the Masters of the Universe line may sound kinda dumb, but I guess at the end of the day, it’s really how they are presented and portrayed in different media that will ultimately spell their failure or success. Thanks to writers who decided to look past the whole walking fart joke, we got a rather interesting and formidable villain in Stinkor….now let’s talk about Snout Spout.