I'm buyin teh lien!!!1!!1!
January 14, 2009

Quick story about Masters of the Universe and I.

It was 1981 and I was six.  My mother took me to this new toy castle, this oasis, called Toys R Us, built not ten minutes from us.  Huge into Star Wars and the associated action figures, I was excited to see what I could find. 

My father suggested I get a microscope.

 

All thoughts of looking at my own hair roots at 60X power vanished when I saw a set of strange new figures at Toys R Us.  They were big, and they were like….monsters…and warriors and stuff.  One of these bizarre creatures in particular caught my eye and, though she said they were ugly and thought I should follow my father’s advice and get a microscope, my mother bought the big monster warrior guy and I went home with Skeletor that day.  Enjoy it, my mother said; she wasn’t going to buy any more of "those ugly things."

She bought many more.

A year later I landed in the hospital with acute appendicitis.  After one surgery and a three-stay, I was wheeled out of Bronxville Lawrence to the parking lot where I eased into the family car and we headed, not home, but to Toys R Us where Man-At-Arms, Battle Cat, and the Battle Ram eased my suffering.

What?  I was a good boy.

2002.

After a brief series of re-releases, Mattel makes a full commitment and returns He-Man and the Masters of the Universe to action figure pegs everywhere.  Like many of my geek brethren, I dutifully collected all the new He-Man figures, despite some internal misgivings about some of the choices in style, wherever I could find them.

Find.  That’s become a key word in the relationship between Mattel and collectors.

I’ve been extremely critical of Mattel in other places, but I understand and respect the relationship Daniel and Jason have with the company and some of its personnel, so I keep my Mattel thoughts to myself when I’m here.  Collectors are well aware of Mattel’s problems, be it with distribution or quality control, and since this is Men of Action and not a flame forum, I’m not here to attack, but I would like to mention one thing because I think it’s illustrative of why the romance between Mattel and nerdom is often so rocky.

 

That is Scott "ToyGuru" Neitlich, Mattel brand manager and liaison between the company and geeks for Masters of the Universe and the DC lines.  This picture was taken at last year’s San Diego Comic Con in support of the launch of Mattel’s new on-line store, MattyCollector.com, and Masters of the Universe Classics, a high-end return to the roots of Eternia’s Heroics and Evils.

I don’t know Scott at all; I’ve never spoken to him.  After seeing this picture, I learned the shirt was created by He-Man.org as a fundraiser.  So, with that in mind, I can only imagine Scott thought it would be funny, and would show solidarity with the fans and with He-Man.org, to wear this shirt at one of the biggest toy events of Nerdvana ’08.

However, when I first saw this picture, my first thought was this: Fuck you.

Because, yeah, the line did die, but the "their" what done it wasn’t collectors.

Spin.

Smash.

That’s all I’ll say.

And that’s the problem.  Since the failure of the 2002 He-Man line, I think collectors have felt Mattel A) doesn’t learn from their mistakes and, perhaps worse, B) sometimes like to stick it to the fanbase because they know kids and Hot Wheels Guys pay their salaries.

Cut to today and I think, while A is changing, B may have been born more of naivete regarding how sensitive and angry nerds can be than of any actual disregard or, certainly, malice.

But, for now, back to me.

Couple my frustration with Mattel’s perfect storm of calamity with what I saw as a direct slap in my face from Mr. Mattel himself, and I resigned myself to abandon my lifelong love of Masters of the Universe just when it seemed the definitive versions of these ugly big monster warriors were headed to fruition. 

Sure, I told people I liked the 2002 figures better.  You may have seen me say it.  I was lying.

Still, it would be no Masters of the Universe Classics for me, I said.  And that was that.

Effin’ SpyMagician…

AFI Blogger Jeremy "SpyMagician" Sung is one of my very favorite people on the Internet.  He and I have had a great many action figure lines on common over the years and, generally, we see eye-to-eye on all things toy.  Shortly before the release of the first two Masters of the Universe Classics figures, He-Man and Beast Man, Spy got hold of a set and reviewed them for us here on Men of Action.  It wasn’t just the pics, which made the figures look great, it was Jeremy’s tone in reviewing them.  He’s always so damned positive.  It was clear he loved the new figures, and he definitely loved they what meant to him. 

I began to crack.

Then, He-Man and Beast Man were released to resounding…confusion, frustration, canceled orders, lost tracking numbers, delayed shipping, and smashed packages.

Yep, I thought.  That’s about right.

No MOTUC for me.

Then Mattel showed pics of the upcoming Mer-Man.  Interchangeable heads, huh?  Then He-Man.org posted a video review of Skeletor (my first love, remember).  Then Mattel announced Faker for March 2009.

Fine.  Mattel gets one chance from me.  Just one.  I’ll order He-Man and Beast Man.  But, if MattyCollector screws it up or if the figures arrive with paint splashed all over them or an ass where their heads should be, that’s it.

I placed the order on 20 December.

I got a shipping confirmation on 23 December.

The figures arrived on 10 January.

They were immaculately packed.

I opened them.

They are glorious. 

 

There were three big unlicensed properties when I was a kid: G.I. Joe, Transformers, and Masters of the Universe.  I loved them all, I collected them all as a child, and as an adult but, for me, there’s always been an added bit of magic surrounding He-Man.  That combination of monsters, magic, swords, sorcery, lasers, technology, and a bit of silliness has always made "Masters", as my mother would grow to call it, very fun, very toy, and that’s always meant more to me than real world accuracy or hyper-detail.  I’m in, Mattel, don’t make me regret it.  Let’s get on King Randor and Trap Jaw ASAP and leave Man-E-Faces and Sy Klone for the 15th of whenthehellever.

By the way, I eventually did get a microscope.  Meh.

-JJJ

Jason "JJJason" Chirevas
Jason Chirevas is a toy collector whether he likes it or not (and he often doesn't). This former Would've-Been Action Hero is as interested in the humanity, psychology, and psychosis of collecting as he is in the action figures themselves. Fun guy.
Read other articles by Jason "JJJason" Chirevas.

 

 

 

15 Comments »

  • h-balm says:

    That was a nice article. I learned much about the history, thanks.
    :)

  • spirothegreek says:

    What’s wrong with man-E-faces???

  • Chip Cataldo says:

    Hey Jason, just wanted to say I really enjoyed this blog. Great stuff, man!

    Peace,

    Chip

  • OddJob says:

    The MOTUC stuff is great. Thus far it’s not like DCUC and falling apart if you even look at it, which is a bonus as well.

  • David says:

    Hey, I LIKE Man-E-Faces! Great article though.

  • Jeremy SpyMagician says:

    HELL YEAH!

    Welcome back Bro!

    LOL! Yeah, MOTUC is great. Mattel has driven me crazy over the years, as far as boycotting them for a time. And they’re not pleasing me now with this DCUC quality fiasco.

    But when they do right, I gotta give them credit, and thus far MOTUC has been FABULOUS.

    And you really summed up a key point in your GREAT blog entry: That Mattel’s gaffes with fans is “born more of naivete regarding how sensitive and angry nerds can be than of any actual disregard or, certainly, malice.”

    I used to think of Mattel as “the evil empire”, the faceless toy corporation that only cared about $$$ and spat in the face of fans for fun.

    Now, I realize they are a huge corporation but one that is at times both shockingly incompetant and brilliant, and that there are hard working, well meaning folks there doing their best as well as corporate drones.

    I’ll call them on their mistakes every time, but I will also give credit where credit is due.

    So here’s hoping that the Skeletor and Adam Strange & Starfire I order tomorrow are a reason for praise and not frustration!

    Spy

  • CantinaDan says:

    Great blog, Jason. Appreciate your candor. I like the photos, too! He-Man and the Masters of the Universe were a special line, just like you described.

  • Stewbacca says:

    Give me Spikor

  • Thatman says:

    Great blog. It’s easy to get fed up with Mattel, but I have to say I’m absolutely in love with MOTUC (and DCUC and JLU as well). These new figures really capture a lot of the magic of the original MOTU, so I’m on board!

  • Poe Ghostal says:

    Great piece, fellow Jason!

  • Jason JJJason says:

    Thank you all very much for the kind words. I really appreciate them.

    MattyCollector.com and I got on well at noon today, so Skeletor should be here Tuesday.

    In theory.

    -JJJ

  • jzachery says:

    Great blog!
    I collected these as a kid (Ram Man was my first, and still a favorite) Since childhood, the only lines I’ve decided to collect are Super Powers and JLU. I thought this line was cool when I saw it, but now it’s totally sucked me in. I’m a little sad that I missed King Grayskull. But one of the deciding factors was everyone’s love for the new figures.
    I know we are getting Zodak, but I’m really stoked for Man-At-Arms, Trap Jaw, and Ram Man.

    PS I like Man-E-Faces! :)

  • darkknight30 says:

    I loved the line as a kid. I was almost sucked back into the early relaunch in 02, but I resisted temptation and stuck to my DCAU. These figures are so damned well done, it’s getting harder and harder to resist them…….

  • BumblebeeZ3 says:

    It was nice reading about your history with MOTU and to see the special memories certain figures are tied to. While I like Man-E-Faces, I understand the desire for a Randor, and Trap Jaw is nifty too.
    Personally I really want Rio Blast(who I loved as a kid) and Scare Glow.(who I never got, but wanted as a kid)

  • Giggity says:

    Just wait til they start shipping with two left legs or the arms fall off at a touch like their DCUC line and the bloom will quickly fall off of this rose.

Leave a Comment

(required)

(required)

What is the sum of six + seven ? (required)
Important: type in your answer for "Verification" as numerals, not letters.

 

ARCHIVES

 

SPONSORS