Thursday, March 28, 2019

Whip It Good!

As a kid, I didn’t have that many He-Man figures. Like Transformers, they were bigger and therefore more expensive. So to satisfy my Masters of the Universe cravings, I had to live vicariously through my friend, who seemed to always have all the latest He-Man figures in his possession. I remember specifically one time he called me up on the phone just to tell me he had this brand new figure that he wanted to show to me. The next day he came over proudly holding up his new toy...and all I could think of….that’s one really ugly dude.

Coming off as a cross between a humanoid and a crocodile, the “evil tail thrashing warrior” Whiplash would definitely not win any beauty contests. But I’m sure that’s not what Mattel had in mind when they designed him. They went through the trouble of sculpting a completely new body for him with even more exaggerated beastly features and gave him a unique and massive reptilian tail that worked perfectly with the toy line's universal “power punch” gimmick. Unfortunately, they topped off this monstrosity with a face that only a mother would love. They gave him an oddly shaped bulbous head with round eyes and some bushy eyebrows with a massive overbite which ended up making him look more comical than ferocious.

Even though they kinda misfired on his design, Mattel did seem to want to build up Whiplash into this really tough and dangerous warrior. He was heavily featured in the mini comic “A Clash of Arms” wherein the heroic warrior Fisto is kidnapped by Skeletor and is forced to fight in an arena against his evil henchmen.

One by one, Fisto overpowers each of his adversaries until he has to face the last one, Whiplash who proves to be too much for him. Whiplash basically kicks Fisto’s ass all over the arena and would’ve probably finished him off if it wasn’t for the timely intervention of He-Man who cheaps out and blasts him with a laser blaster!

In the original Filmation cartoon, Whiplash is portrayed as one of Skeletor’s more competent warriors. In fact, the writers even attempt to flesh his character out more by referring to him as Skeletor’s “ally” rather than a mere henchman.

In one episode, it is revealed that he comes from an underground place called the Demon Zone and actually serves another master, a demon named Kraal. In another episode, Whiplash even shows some initiative by trying to learn more about magic by tricking a trollan (like Orko) to teach him.

And here’s an interesting bit of trivia, Whiplash’s voice actor, John Erwin, was also the voice of He-Man.

Anyway, in the later cartoon reboot in 2002, like the rest of Masters of the Universe, Whiplash was given a much needed redesign, making him look even more fearsome. Unfortunately, he was also relegated back into a simple henchman for Skeletor. He was given a new background though….although it was less unique than serving a demon lord. In the new series, Whiplash is part of an underground reptilian race called the Caligars. Despite their fearsome appearance, the Caligars were generally a peaceful race, with Whiplash actually being branded an outcast and traitor for choosing to serve Skeletor. He also gets some recognition for recruiting the bounty hunters Tuvar and Badra to serve Skeletor. These two would eventually be merged together against their will as punishment into Whiplash’s fellow evil warrior Two-Bad.

On the toy front, despite having that rather goofy head, even I had to admit that his original figure with his huge swinging tail was kinda cool. Fortunately, the tail swinging gimmick was preserved in is next toy based on his updated 2002 design. Unfortunately, as beautifully sculpted as it was, it was rather undersized. Considering that he was a hulking brute on the show, it was kinda hard to overlook his toy’s obvious lack of height.

Finally, in 2010, the best version of Whiplash to date was released as part of the Masters of the Universe Classics line. While MOTU Classics aimed to give us straight up updated versions of the vintage figures with more detail and articulation, his release was early enough in the line where Mattel was still being generous with additional accessories. Since this classic version leaned more towards the vintage version, complete with his goofy looking head, he also came packed with a second head that was based off the 2002 series, which thankfully looked more intimidating.

Anyway, after years of trying to ignore the entire 2002 aesthetic (Whiplash’s extra head was one of the very few exceptions), Mattel finally said “F” it and fully embraced the 2002 cartoon releasing characters that were unique only to that series. In 2015 they released another Caligar into the Classics line, their king Ceratus who is apparently Whiplash’s brother (which makes Whiplash’s life choices all that more interesting….sadly this is never explored in the series). Despite being “brothers”, Whiplash and Ceratus look almost completely different, they don’t even share the same shade of green! But I don’t mind.

Even if he was built up to be one of the more badass warriors of Skeletor in most mediums of the Masters franchise, for some reason, Whiplash was never really one of my favorite characters. I think this is because when I was first introduced to the character, it felt like my friend was just showing him off to make with envy. So I just downplayed it by telling myself he didn’t look all that great. Anyway, the last laugh belonged to me when my friend eventually lost interest in him and left Whiplash in my house one day...for good :)