The Masters Of The Universe Classics toyline has been extremely successful in its first couple of years, although success is a relative term. The Classics are limited edition figures available through online ordering only, and every figure sells out rapidly. The MOTUCs' first giant, Tytus, was available for only eight minutes on the Matty Collector website when he was released in May 2010. The number of figures being produced is a closely-guarded secret.
We do know, however, that the Classics are not a large scale project. While I still suspect the line might see a general release, at present the success is the result of good designing and, more importantly, an incredibly loyal legion of adult fans who spend a lot of money indulging a hobby that takes us back to our childhoods. We appreciate the title adult collector, but we know we are just big kids who like toys.
As the Classics toys do not represent a major project for Mattel, without a general release the line's success will continue to depend upon the fans. And in truth, the fans' patience has been tested, but I don't intend to make this page about complaints. No, this page is about what it means to be a so-called adult collector, and some observations about the line. The history of the Masters Of The Universe goes back to the early 1980s, and many fans of the Classics were the children of that era. Now we are part of the community who collects Hornby trains, Dinky cars or whatever piece of the past entertains our imaginations.
Some curiosities have already arisen with the Classics, and one of the peculiarities of the line is the packaging difference between first and subsequent releases of the figures. With the exception of He-Man and Skeletor, all re-releases of the figures so far have been identical to the first. The packaging of each re-release has been marked with the words The Original in a starburst beside the figure's name. I find it rather amusing to think that figures shown as original are in fact not original releases, and those without the starburst are. To put it another way, you know you have a second or subsequent edition figure if its packaging says The Original.
He-Man and Skeletor were re-released with adjustments to their paintwork. He-Man's reversed shoulders were corrected and Skeletor's left hand was reshaped. In their case, therefore, the re-releases were most certainly not original, but the packaging states otherwise! Skeletor and He-Man have been released a third time, and although the packages still have the starburst, the He-Man figure has a small difference from his first two releases. This time the hair has been glued in a different position showing more of the forehead.
A possible future alteration to a figure might occur if and when Stratos is given a
third release. The second edition was identical to the first and did not change his
incorrect wing position. It has been suggested that an unglued version of Stratos may
be released. He has been given a re-release slot in 2011, and hopefully this will be
a corrected production run and not just a sale of old stock. We shall see!
Another factor in collecting the Classics is how well fans identify with the different characters. This line is a chimaera, or a beast of different body parts. There have been several influences making this line what it is. The primary influence (as reflected in the Classics logo) is the Masters Of The Universe toyline from the 1980s. The original toys were quickly influenced by the Filmation cartoon He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and this led to the She-Ra Princess of Power line.
The Classics merge the stories and characters from both of these toylines with the characters of the pre-Filmation minicomics (which accompanied the original figures) and the later He-Man line (commonly known as the New Adventures line). The Powers Of Grayskull line, which never really got going, is also part of the Classics. Additional stylistic influences and characters from the 2002 MOTU toyline are also present. So what exactly should fans collect?
Mattel would clearly like all fans to collect all of the figures, and the company is making it extremely obvious that the only way to be sure to receive any figures at all is to buy a subscription each year for the whole lot. But is it that simple? I have no interest in POP or NA figures, because they were nothing to do with the original line I followed as a child. But even the original line was 'corrupted' in my mind as soon as the Filmation cartoon arrived, because it rejected the barbarian themes I had enjoyed from the minicomics.
The combined influences amount to something that is both familiar and new. Stylistically, the original toyline wins through - every character (original or otherwise) is designed to be similar to the look of the 1980s toys. But when Optikk the one-eyed alien arrives and stands alongside barbarian characters, and She-Ra shows up with her girly glittery comb, how am I supposed to reconcile all of the changes? The blending of storylines means a new story is created. The Mattel writers have written a biography for every character with the intention of bringing all the Masters universes into one Classics universe.
So do I keep to the story I know, collect original characters only, and reject
the new canon? Well, I could, if I knew exactly what makes a character qualify
as an original. On the Photographs page I have
limited my selection to characters from the original toyline, plus characters
who appeared in the iconic first and second series minicomics. But is it
really that straightforward? The toyline was influenced by Filmation, and there
are some characters from that era who are definitely not compatible with the
pre-Filmation version of Eternia.
It isn't actually straightforward at all. The lines have been blurred. Is Wun-Dar original? He was a limited edition figure by a different name (Wonderbread He-Man) when released in the 1980s. And what of Keldor, the heroic yet unseen brother of King Randor mentioned in one minicomic? He became a limited edition figure in the 2002 line, but his background story was changed. Does that mean the Classics Keldor, with his greatly altered biography, is an original figure?
We will also be seeing some prototype characters who never made it into production during the original toyline. Do they deserve to be called original? Perhaps it is simplest to go down Mattel's suggested route and collect the whole lot. The obvious disadvantages are the cost (this line is going to average at least twenty characters per year until around 2017) and ending up with loads of characters which mean nothing to the collector.
Over seventy characters were released under the MOTU name, so I expect the estimate of twenty figures per year to increase. I do not know how many POP and NA characters there were, but Mattel certainly seems to have a plan to release as many as possible from all of the lines. I would be disappointed if favourite characters from my chosen era were pushed aside in favour of characters that mean nothing to me.
If you were hoping for guidance on what you ought to collect, I should mention at this stage that I am likely to disappoint you! I have an envious admiration for the collectors who openly state they intend to collect everything that comes out of the Classics line, but will they still be so unwaveringly dedicated when insignificant characters appear and cost them twenty dollars or more apiece?
Perhaps the only guidance I can offer on this page is to suggest that you simply
collect the characters you like, but that is also something of a Utopian ideal
when one considers how difficult ordering figures has been for some fans. Fortunately,
some popular characters are being re-released. This is usually a minimum of six
months after the character is originally sold. It does mean that there may be a
second chance to collect a figure if you miss him the first time around. Whatever
you choose, as a fellow MOTU fan, I wish you the best of luck and enjoyment
with the Classics.