2008 MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS
Masters Of The Universe Classics is the name of an adult collector toy line which draws heavily from the original Masters Of The Universe toys of the 1980s, but also includes elements from later spin-offs such as the Princess Of Power line. The figures are designed by the Four Horsemen team, manufactured by Mattel, and sold online. The line released its first figures towards the end of 2008. Old favourites He-Man, Skeletor and Beast Man were the first releases, as well as a character called King Grayskull who had never previously been released as a toy.
The figures are produced in limited production runs (the actual numbers are a closely guarded secret), although demand has prompted Mattel to re-release figures. Although the Classics are a small line, it has been suggested that the line has already been profitable, and Mattel aims to continue producing Classics figures up to 2017. Approximately twenty figures are released each year. Collectors have the choice of buying figures on the day of release on the Matty Collector website, or by buying an annual subscription for almost all items released each year.
Fan reaction to the design of the figures is generally positive. Debate continues about whether more styles from other incarnations of the Masters Of The Universe should be included, but the briefing given to the design team was to create updated versions of the vintage line characters, or to use that style for those characters who were not part of the original set. Some elements from the 2002 Masters Of The Universe line have been included, although there is no intention to recreate a line that ended early, even though this was proposed to Mattel's management. Mattel probably made the right decision to refuse to revisit the 2002 (arguably discredited) style and to go for a more nostalgic look.
The line does not include minicomics, which were a fundamental part of the vintage line, although it does make use of many of the themes and artwork featured in those publications. Biographies have been written for all of the figures, intending to find a way of bringing together the diverse elements of the original toy lines. Fan reaction to the biographies is mixed. In truth, fans started choosing the story elements they enjoyed many years ago, and old loyalties to aspects of the Masters Of The Universe canons remain strong. This is shown in the willingness, or lack of it, to accept characters into the Classics which were not part of the vintage line.
While figure design has been broadly supported, fans are less happy about the production quality of some figures. Several figures have been released with shoulder parts reversed, and the paint applications on some figures has been of poor quality. While Mattel will replace damaged figures, errors in production runs are not compensated, and fans are asked to wait and purchase corrected releases later on. Fortunately problem figures are in the minority, but there have been many requests for an improvement in the quality assurance process, particularly as old problems occasionally resurface.
The choice to release exclusive versions of some figures only through Toys 'R' Us has provoked disappointment among fans, as these figures are based on important elements of the Masters Of The Universe canon, and would be widely sought after if made available on the Matty Collector website. At present they are only available in Toys 'R' Us stores and online in the USA and Canada. International fans feel particularly aggrieved by this restriction as the only way of purchasing figures is through the reseller market.
The figures released through the Matty Collector website are put up for sale on or near the fifteenth of each month. There is always one monthly figure, four additional quarterly figures, and four large item slots. The latter could be a giant figure, a pack of two regular sized figures, or a vehicle. Details of the releases are given some months in advance, but buyers of annual subscriptions do not know what the following year's figures will be when buying the subscription in the summer. A subscriber-only figure is sent to subscribers, but there are no financial incentives (as one might expect) for buying a subscription. No free figures or discounts are offered. Mattel also releases some items which are not included in the subscription.
There are several websites which have questions about the Classics answered by Mattel staff each month. Fan involvement, although extremely limited, has contributed to some aspects of the line's development. Suggestions and feedback have, on occasion, led to design changes. Collectors are generally happy to see what the Four Horsemen create, knowing that the team members are long-standing Masters Of The Universe fans themselves.
The line has included elements from many corners of the Masters Of The Universe world. Prototype figures, concept artwork and story elements have been featured. The result is that fans of the different canons, from the very first barbarian themes to the later outer space adventures, are seeing elements of their preferred aspects included in the Classics. The counter to this inclusivity is the revelation of old loyalties and a dislike for unfamiliar elements.
The line is generally very well supported and seems likely to continue until its anticipated end date. A factor which could influence the path this line takes is the possibility of a new Masters Of The Universe film, which would inevitably see a broader distribution of figures in toy shops. At this stage, however, there are no firm indications that a film will be made. Even if such a project were to be supported by Mattel management, it would depend entirely upon a film company and studio being prepared to take on the idea.
For the time being it seems that the Classics series is destined to be a
successful adult collector line. It has sparked great interest among fans who are
glad to see old favourites resurrected in an interesting and creative style.