No, I’m not running for a school board in Kansas. But like the rest of you action figure biologists I’ve enjoyed observing the emergence of newly created figures based on characters that had action figures back when little plastic life on Earth was in its infancy. The last few years in particular have seen a punctuated equilibrium in the field as many toy brands are marking significant anniversaries. So let’s spend a few minutes studying the fossil record and then focus on one character that is due for a genetic mutation.
I’ve pulled a few examples from the Action Figure Observer’s Field Manual to illustrate how certain character’s action figural representations have changed over the years.
fig 1. smuggilochus piratopoda, "Han Solo"
fig 2. marinebrum joephilus, "Gung Ho"
fig 3. muppithecus mayhemata, "Animal"
fig 4. purpledieae pantagus, "Hulk"
For some lines that have had a long run we can observe examples of microevolution. Take, for instance, the modern Star Wars line that began 14 years ago. Figures that sprung to life shortly after this lines big bang are a far cry from their character’s more recent releases. In fact, the early POTF2 figures demonstrated clear signs of weak DNA. Even their vintage ancestors were superior in many ways. But this modern Star Wars species quickly gained traction. In my personal Star Wars display case I will remove an older, more inferior figure when a new, superior one is released. This is a classic example of "survival of the fittest."
fig 5. clonesetum badaimces, "Stormtrooper"
Even as a child I knew there was something wrong with Ram Man. For the vintage Masters of the Universe figure line he was the "one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other." It wasn’t just that the vintage Ram Man figure shared no common DNA with all the other figures in the line. The vintage Ram Man figure was just plain bad. Don’t ask me to explain why I had affection for it.
2002 rolled around and I started seeing a newly evolved breed of Masters of the Universe figures in the savanna. I held off from personally cataloging them until I saw the new Ram Man. Yes, it shared common descent with its vintage counterpart but some serious genetic drift had occurred! This thing was amazing. Ram Man single handedly sucked me into the line. Unfortunately, the "200x" MOTU species suffered an early extinction.
Then at the 2007 San Diego Comic Con observers caught a glimpse of a never before seen He-Man figure. Its anatomical structure was more reminiscent of the vintage species. A year later we were able to purchase the first offering in this chain of newly evolved Masters of the Universe action figures. This species is now commonly referred to as Masters of the Universe Classics or MOTUC. New subspecies in this line are slow in coming, only being discovered about once per month. I wait in suspenseful anticipation for the day a new Ram Man is revealed.
fig 5. ovis eternillata, "Ram Man"
Its not like there wasn’t a precedent set in Ram Man’s genetic blueprint to explain the tremendous leap between his vintage and modern figural representations. Let’s set aside the most glaring anomaly: his mini comic incarnation. The way Ram Man appeared in the Masters of the Universe cartoon in the early 80′s is more similar to the vintage figure. Most obvious was the fact that he was rather squat.
The 2002/2003 Masters of the Universe cartoon and comic books unveiled an evolved Ram Man. The basic ornamentations remained the same but the subjects height and bulk were seriously increased. This seems a predictable adaptation for a breed that survives being a "human battering ram."
I am left wondering: if a MOTUC Ram Man is ever spotted will it resemble more its vintage organism or the 200x incarnation?
A more basic inquiry: will Matty and the Four Horsemen get their proteins together and create a Ram Man for the MOTUC line? Seems like a natural selection.