THE FOUR HORSEMEN
Masters Of The Universe fans will probably be aware of the Four Horsemen because the designers have been involved with the creation of MOTU figures since the 2002 relaunch. The 2002 line was notable for the intricate detail of its figures. Although the line did not appeal to all fans - I have written about the manga style and exaggerated proportions elsewhere on this site - it nonetheless gathered a very supportive following. Many fans wish the Classics line had more 2002 influence, but Mattel directed that the Classics should be reminiscent of the vintage line. The Four Horsemen took up the challenge to redesign the characters in this way, and you can see the results of their work on this site.
I decided to try to find out something about the designers who have helped bring back the Masters, so I had a look on the Internet and gathered some facts and pictures which would reveal a little about the individuals who call themselves the Four Horsemen. So although this site is, of course, about the Masters Of The Universe, this page takes a look at some of the other aspects of the Four Horsemen's work. The original Four Horsemen were Chris Dahlberg, Jim Preziosi, Eric Treadaway and H. Eric 'Cornboy' Mayse. Together they formed the Four Horsemen Design Studios in 1999.
The Horsemen ended up working together designing figures for McFarlane Toys, and discussed how there was no reason for collectible toys not to have articulation. They joked how they would eventually ride off like four horsemen into the sunset and set up their own company.
They designed many figures for McFarlane Toys, some of which are shown on this page, but eventually they did decide to set up on their own. The Four Horsemen Design Studios began life when a friend with connections in the toy industry brought them some intriguing news. They learned that the world's largest toy company, Mattel, was considering bringing in an outside design group to help redesign some of their lines. The quartet had a meeting with Mattel in Los Angeles and shared ideas. Before long, work had begun on the He-Man and Skeletor prototypes for the 2002 MOTU line.
Mattel and the Four Horsemen have been closely linked since then, working not
only on the Masters Of The Universe, but a variety of other projects too.
The fact the quartet designed the entire 2002 MOTU line is what brought them
to the attention of MOTU fans, and although I do not consider the 2002 figures
to be the best of the Horsemen's work, they clearly put a lot of effort and
imagination into their updates of the 1980s toys. Perhaps the best quality they
brought to the line was their love of the characters. The Horsemen are MOTU
fans, and that is evident in their work. The Classics line recreated the
vintage themes, and allowed itself a little 2002 indulgence as well.
As well as their work with Mattel, the Four Horsemen have also produced their own collections of figures since setting up their own company. The Seventh Kingdom line was an imaginative exploration of a fantasy world with some beautifully designed characters. The Horsemen did encounter some problems with their factory though, and the figures were not of the quality they ought to have been. The first series of Seventh Kingdom figures was a range of minotaur characters known as the Mynothecean Seven. The second set was the Anitherian Nine - a collection of animal humanoids. The most recent set was the Queen's Council - a range of female warrior figures, some of whom were feline humanoids.
These characters were released in limited numbers through selected toy stockists. The short
runs meant products didn't stay on sale for very long. More recently the output seems to
have grown as the popularity of the figures has increased, making it easier to collect them.
keeping an eye on the
Store Horsemen webshop to see what the Horsemen are selling directly. Another
good source is Big
Bad Toy Store. The Horsemen have used crowd funding and preorders to encourage demand.
Perhaps their continued success may lead to ongoing production of some figures eventually.
Although Mattel scheduled the end of the MOTUC line for December 2016, a licensing arrangement with Super7 means the style will continue under the same name from 2017. Brian Flynn of Super7 has stated that the Four Horsemen will remain the designers for his incarnation of the line. That consistency is good news for Masters fans, because it's hard now to think of them not being involved in the MOTU world.
MOTUC was not the only Horsemen-Mattel project. The team also
designed the DC Universe line, which, like the Classics was available
on the Matty Collector website. This was a superheroes line, so it had a different
character to the Classics, but the Horsemen's influence was nonetheless
apparent. The DC Universe figures were popular and sold out
quickly. Comic-inspired characters have always been a good choice for toy producers,
and Mattel released some great Horsemen designs on Matty Collector.
Some of my favourite Four Horsemen designs are the three skull-headed Gothitropolis Timekeepers: Baraeth, Nybbaz and Aestorath. These characters sit really well alongside the Classics, although they are not Mattel figures - they are Four Horsemen Design Studios exclusives. They are small and delicate figures with intricate styling. Despite their small size (approximately three inches high), they have some limited articulation, including moving jaws. They have some loose parts which need a tiny dab of superglue to hold in place, but these are display pieces rather than toys to be played with. I can imagine these malevolent characters whispering strategies to Hordak and Skeletor. The current Mythic Legions figures are arguably the best Horsemen designs so far. Many have already sold out, but I think there is a promising future for the line and it looks like new figures will be released.
The Four Horsemen have the jobs which many toy fans would love to have, but it
is their collective design talent which puts them above the rest. They are already
some of the most influential and successful toy designers, and their involvement
with projects like the Classics is most welcome. While there is a lot of
debate over which characters should end up in the line, all of them have the
Horsemen's design skills in every detail, and they are destined to be popular
until the Super7 incarnation of the line reaches its end. I hope we also see lots more independent Four