(I was going to start with the old Snakes, why'd it have to be snakes? quote, but I thought you'd find that pitiful.) The new MOTU Snakemen are getting ready to hit stores, and you best be on the look out. The success of the first wave of MOTU figures was their balance. The Four Horsemen perfectly balanced the old nostalgic likeness with a level of quality, detail and um, realism, we've grown to expect in action figures. The kids were happy with new action figures, the collectors were happy with their old favorites re imagined. The cartoon launches, and, well the kids aren't getting the figures. With holiday season approaching, the entire MOTU line needs to do impressively well with collectors and kids (and their parents) to keep going in the drier spell immediately following the holidays. So without further alienating their older audience, Mattel needed a new balance to impress both camps. Enter the Snakemen, where I feel they balance detail, the Horsemen signature sculpting, and nostalgia with a clear animated style of figures. King Hssss features some amazing detail, but he's clearly referencing an animated character. Also, as an added bonus, hopefully some new kids will be attracted to the fact that these figures simply look cool without knowing the story line in the cartoon. Kids like snakes. And these figures look much better than some recycled figure with a load of samurai crap glued to him.
Let's look at this new packaging. The whole look is still He-Man, but it's got a newness to it to help it stand out. It's close enough to know who the figures are related to, but not so close that you'll look them over while digging for that chase Whiplash. The new logo helps. I really like this theme as part of the whole that's being promoted. Kids are smart enough to get it and the collectors remember their favorites. One issue, the back of the packaging does not list the names of the figures. (It also doesn't have Two Bad in the line up) Kids and parents need to know the names, so they can shop easier. Can you imagine what happens when Mom says "I need the one that looks like a snake..." to a TRU employee? It'll be worse than the time I went to Victoria's Secret and asked the employee for the pink one for my girlfriend.
New Toy Smell
humminah humminah, humminah.
The Sculpt and Articulation
Very, very impressed. The articulation is nicely hidden within the scales and plates naturally occurring on the figures. The poses are dynamic. I'm going to take this opportunity to say how much I love the Four Horsemen' hands. The hands on their figures look like they are naturally holding a sword or blaster, but they also look fine when they're empty. As I said earlier, there is some fine detail worked into the figures, but the overall sculpt has the fluidity of an animated style figure. Ooh! I love hinged mouths. I think all action figures should be able to talk. That's why Trap Jaw and Roboto are so kick-ass. But both Khan and King Hssss have a hinged jaw. Sweet! [Ed note: Actually all snakes have a hinged jaw. They can disconnect their jaw to swallow prey larger than their head] Please pardon the editor, he's a nerd. [Ed note: Shut up] Skeletor's snakey arms are bendy, and they bend and keep their shape surprisingly well. He is difficult to keep standing though. I got a few poses here and there, but he'll stand.
The paint on these is fantastic. There isn't a whole lot of intricate paint apps, due to the design of the figures. But look at the ribs on Skeletor's snake arms, they are really clean. The vertebrae on top of his head are really clean, and I can't get over how cool his bony snake head hands look. True to the MOTU style, most of the figures have large solid areas of colors, but they're looking good, vibrant, and clean.
Ooh man, I've been waiting for the figures that spit. Khan can spit about 2 feet (or at least six inches past the edge of the sink I was aiming him at). King Hssss is spring loaded to pop his human skin off, but honestly, you need to add in a little wrist flip to get it completely up. (huh huh huh). It appears to be designed so that you leave the human shell on his back (towering upside down over his head) but I'm not buying it. You should pull it off. It's a good pop-on/pop-off hinge, so you can do this repeatedly without damaging the toy. It's cool to make his snake head pop up, and his two shoulder snakes spring up with him. His snake hands have hinged jaws too! Just like real snakes! [Ed note: Though the term hinged is true, the physics are very different... shutting up]
The detail is good. Khan's blaster shoots, King Hssss's staff shoots a smaller snake stick, both Two Bad and King Hssss come with shields. (Lemme mention here that Two Bad is a repaint, but welcomed). Skeletor didn't come with any separate accessories, but with his snake arms, he couldn't really hold anything anyway, and you're getting all the plastic there. (Does anyone else adhere to the theory that if you were to drop a figure and all it's accessories in a jar of water, the amount of displacement would be the same from character to character within a series? ie smaller figures come with bigger accessories? Used to be true, I guess its not always the norm... any one else find that they don't stay duct taped to a cat for the same amount of time? Maybe it's just me.)
I hope that these do well. I hope they do really well. We needSnake Mountain (screw the continuity Mattel, release it now as part of the Snakemen line). I'm anxious to play with Rattlor (I mean The General). Now here's one small complaint about the line on the whole. When I was a little kid, I liked having He-Man and Skeletor, but I wanted to keep getting the new figures to build up the universe. In my mind, you wouldn't be playing with Spin-Blade-Skeletor and Burrito-Eating-Skeletor at the same time. The entire line of Snakemen Heroes consists of re-issues, except for Fisto, my bad again, I mean Battle Fist. But if the cartoon's story line actually has the Heroes donning this special snake armor when fighting the Snakemen, I guess it makes sense.
Collectors, these are pretty sweet. The case assortment I got was 2 Skeletors, 2 Khans, 1 Two Bad, and 1 King Hssss. Does that help? Speaking of which, we are giving away Snake Armor Skeletor, MOC to November's e-mail list winner. Simply sign up for our spam free e-mail list, and we'll draw a name at random at the end of the month. If you signed up before for Castle Grayskull, you're already entered. (Good thinking on your part).
Here are all of the pics. Feel free to stop by our message board and discuss what you think of these guys and the MOTU line in general on our Snakemen thread. Also check out our complete Masters of the Universe Coverage (including Grayskull and Slime Pit) and for in depth MOTU news, hit He-Man.org.