REVIEW: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS "THE GODDESS"
One of the releases in the superb Masters of the Universe Classics line, available exclusively through the Web Site MattyCollector.Com, presents us with some interesting matters regarding continuity within the Masters of the Universe concept.
Her name is "The Goddess". I'll steer clear of the theological implications of that name. Interestingly enough, there is no "TM" or "(R)" symbol after her name on the package. The term is obviously vague enough so that Mattel could not legitimately trademark it. Her actual name, listed on the back of the card as "Sharella", although this in itself is a sticker neatly affixed to the card, is trademarked, but seems to be little more than a means of giving a trademarked name to the figure, since it is only mentioned this one time.
The character does have a rather limited history within the Masters of the Universe canon, but at the same time, she also presents, well, a possible resolution to a long-standing situation in the Masters of the Universe concept that has been in some need of resolution.
When the original Masters of the Universe toy line first came out, the character of Teela was originally referred to on her package as a "warrior goddess". She looked much as she would appear -- as much as any of the toys would -- in the Filmation animated series. However, she came with additional armor that resembled a snake-like headdress -- pretty much beating Serpentor from G.I. Joe to that look by about four years.
When the Filmation animated series came along, not long after the toy line emerged. Teela never wore the snake-like headdress, nor was she presented as any sort of goddess or any sort of higher being. She was captain of the Royal Guard, daughter of Man-At-Arms, and a more than capable fighter, but that was the extent of it. There was some mystery about her background. She didn't know her mother, and it wasn't a topic that Man-At-Arms was entirely comfortable discussing.
The animated series did introduce a new character to the mix, that would not receive an action figure of her own until several years later. She was known simply as "Sorceress". On the one hand, the name, and her abilities, were clearly evident of someone who had heightened powers. She was the longtime guardian of Castle Grayskull and its powers, and it was she who had imbued He-Man with his abilities.
However, she never once lay claim to the title of "goddess", and she didn't look especially like the more armored form of Teela. She did have a headdress, but it and her costume were more birdlike in design, and not at all snake-like. It would later be revealed that she was Teela's mother, but this still didn't explain the "goddess" label given to the original Teela figure, and the snake-like headdress was nowhere to be seen.
I honestly have no idea whether the near-simultaneous arrival of the G.I. Joe toy line, and their main adversary, had any sort of impact on the look of the characters in the Masters animated series, or the decision to not use the snake-like headdress. It DID look rather cobra-like in its appearance, but given the lead time necessary on both toys and animation, I'm inclined to write it off as coincidence.
As to the modern Masters of the Universe Classics toy line, the Teela figure did come with an alternate head that has the snake-like headdress. However, she also has a standard head, largely in keeping with her original figure and certainly in keeping with the established look of the character in the Filmation and, for that matter, the 2002-era Mike Young animated series.
Although the modern Teela figure does describe her on the package as "warrior goddess", this seems to be a traditional reference as much as anything, since her background card uses the animated backstory for the character, referencing her as the daughter of the Sorceress. The snake-like headdress and, more significantly, a distinctly reptilian staff she comes with are explained as once being used by the Snake Men in their battles against the Horde and King Grayskull.
To date, there has been no Sorceress figure added to the Masters of the Universe Classics collection, although one would hope that she's on their list of contenders. An article on MattyCollector.Com about the Masters of the Universe Classics figures states that Mattel has the line somewhat planned out well into the year 2016, so that's a pretty significant future. Hopefully the Sorceress is in there someplace.
All of which, in my opinion, leaves one whopping question unanswered. Since, at least in the context of the best-established canon of stories for the Masters of the Universe characters, which most would agree is the Filmation animated series, neither Teela nor the Sorceress are referred to by the term "goddess", and for that matter, neither would exactly qualify for it under conventional definitions (assuming you can define that term conventionally in the first place) -- how can the term be worked into the Masters concept in a way acceptable to continuity?
The answer, as it turns out, can be found in an even more obscure point of Masters history, and also explains where this green-skinned character wearing Teela's snake armor comes from. And that's certainly a valid point in and of itself, since neither Teela nor the Sorceress ever had green skin.
At least -- not in the animated series.
In the earliest days of the Masters of the Universe line, before the Filmation animated series, and before any major comic book company published any adventures of these characters (something both DC and Marvel would end up doing), many of the action figures came with "mini-comics", prepared specifically by Mattel for inclusion with the toys.
The books were decently written and superbly well illustrated. But -- given the subsequent continuity of the animated series and other matters, and the fact that some of them were likely prepared before the toys themselves were entirely finalized, there were occasional glitches, both with character identification and with character appearances.
Apparently Stratos, for example, was mostly flesh-toned in one such story. Try to imagine that mostly grey feather-armed furball in that color scheme.
And in one and only one story, there was a green-skinned goddess character. The story was titled, "He-Man and the Power Sword", it featured the Goddess, green skin and all.
No explanation was given for her green skin, and the character never appeared like that afterwards. The only assumption that can really be drawn is that the book was prepared, and colored, before the final colors of what was almost certainly the "warrior goddess" Teela figure were chosen -- to say nothing of her personality and background.
Now, in fairness, I never paid much attention to the original mini-comics. My original Masters of the Universe collection was somewhat limited in the 1980's. My emphasis at the time was distinctly on G.I. Joe, although I did watch the Masters of the Universe series, had some of the figures, and paid reasonable attention to the toy line. But at the time, I was simply more into and more impressed by G.I. Joe.
But continuity-wise, much as G.I. Joe fans tend to regard the Larry Hama comics from Marvel as the official backstory, and everything else, like the animated series, as enjoyable but not necessarily official canon, I -- and I suspect many if not most Masters fans -- saw the animated series as the official canon, and everything else, which included the mini-comics as well as the rather sporadic comics from DC and later Marvel, as enjoyable but not necessarily official continuity.
However, somewhere along the way I must have encountered that mini-comic, because the first time I saw the image of the planned Goddess figure, I knew exactly who she was.
Curiously, the first time I saw an image of the figure, she was referred to as the "Green Goddess". I figure that this was either a little embellishment by a non-official Web Site, or that Mattel either couldn't trademark the name.
Ultimately, the Goddess figure was a fairly simple way for Mattel to get an additional and interesting use out of the existing Teela molds, to offer a second Masters figure in a given month, but I have to say that the character does have some legitimacy in the Masters universe, and does, ultimately, clear up that little green-skinned discrepancy from that early mini-book.
And, I certainly have no problem with green-skinned characters. I have a number of them throughout my collection. I even have other green-skinned female characters. Goddess, meet She-Hulk, from Marvel Legends. Then there's Beast Boy from DC Universe Classics, Brainic 5 from the JLU's Legion of Super-Heroes set, Martian Manhunter, Blanka from Street Fighter -- can I count Hit & Run from G.I. Joe even though in his case it's supposed to be camouflage paint? No? Oh, well, there's still plenty of others, as you can see.
So, how is the figure? Really superb. Obviously, the figure is a repaint of Teela, but the overall color scheme is different enough so that she looks like an entirely different character, especially if you're NOT using the snake-headdress option with your Teela figure.
The head, arms, and legs -- in other words, the exposed parts of the body, are actually molded in a green translucent plastic! This was something that the early photos of this figure could not capture -- or more likely, they were pictures of a prototype which was probably a hand-repainted Teela, and could not showcase the transparent limbs.
They're not entirely transparent, though. I'd call it "frosted", as much as anything. You can tell it's supposed to be sort of transparent, but not entirely so. It's an interesting effect, works very well in the actual figure production, and does give the character a very distinctive and individual look, with a sort of ethereal cosmic sort of appearance, for lack of a better term and trying not to sound too 60's about it...
The figure shares a few common colors with Teela. Some of the armor on the uniform has the same trim color. Her gauntlets are white with gold trim, the same as Teela, and the main uniform has significant gold trim on the front.
There are significant differences, however. The belt on the Goddess' uniform is metallic blue, rather than gold. The main color of the uniform is dark green, rather than Teela's white. Although the boots are brown, as are Teela's, the fur around the tops has a green caste to it, rather than being the straight white of Teela's. Additionally, the armbands are dark green, rather than Teela's gold, and they have metallic blue trim.
Mattel found an interesting way to make the Goddess look different in the face than Teela, as well. Although the figure is wearing the snake-like headdress, the face is still technically the same as Teela's, even though it's frosted translucent green the same as the rest of her body. However, there's an old saying that the "eyes are the windows to the soul", and Mattel has managed to give this figure some eyes that are even more eerie than the translucent frosted skin. They are blue, with a white reflection dot on each and a black outline, but they lack pupils. Obviously, the implication is not that the Goddess is blind, it's just a little artistic license to make her look a little more cosmic or whatever. But it's amazing how different it makes her look from Teela as a result.
Of course, the figure is superbly articulated, as one has come to expect, and certainly appreciate, from this Masters of the Universe Classics line. The Goddess is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, legs, knees, and ankles. The figure does not have mid-torso or waist articulation, but nevertheless, she's very impressive.
The only real complaint I have is with the head. It's extremely loose. And I've heard this is a common complaint with this figure. I believe it to be a result of the headdress. It's large, and a bit on the cumbersome side. It hangs down in the front virtually to the waist, and fans out to the side, like a cobra, and doubtless adds a fair amount of weight to the entire head, possibly more than the ball-and-socket joint can readily accommodate.
I don't believe that the head is at risk of falling off, or the neck joint breaking, certainly. But she is a bit of a bobble-head. There MAY -- and I want to seriously emphasize that word MAY and state right now that you attempt the following at your own risk -- be a solution.
The Teela figure, which came with this same head, as well as a non-headdressed one, was designed to have those heads switched back and forth as the collector desired. ASSUMING that the Goddess' head is similarly removable with minimal effort -- and I'm not inclined to try it myself until I see if anyone else has and I want to stress that the Goddess does NOT come with a secondary head like Teela did -- then it should be possible to either build up the peg on the neck, or fill in the socket in the head, with your choice of appropriate modeling materials (I've had some success at this sort of thing in years past on other action figures with similar construction with Duco Cement) and strengthen the overall neck joint and head stability.
This would obviously achieve the desired goal of a less-loose head. To what degree this is a concern for you, to what degree you feel comfortable making any sort of attempt of this kind, and to what degree it would be successful on this particular figure, I'm not sure and you will have to decide for yourself.
I want to discuss accessories, but first of all, I think I need to relate the backstory for this character. Since, arguably, this character is an early amalgam of Teela, the Sorceress, and a coloring gaffe -- which doesn't exactly make for good copy -- Mattel had to come up with an entirely new background for this character and somehow fit it into the existing history. I think they did a pretty decent job. It reads as follows, on the impressive acroll-like backgrounds the characters are given on their packages:
THE GODDESS - Trainer of He-Man.
Okay, that's an interesting read. I wonder about that comment addressing this character as a "creature". That's a bit strange. However, the backstory does feature rather prominently another odd aspect of the history of the Masters, that of the split Power Sword, which was a factor early in the toy line -- with both He-Man and Skeletor having half a sword that could be snapped together -- but which was not at all a factor in the animated series.
The accessories are interesting. For starters, she comes with a spear. Although reasonably ornate at the tip, it's still just a spear. I guess since Teela got the snake staff, she had to settle for this. Personally, for display purposes, and again, assuming your Teela isn't wearing her snake-headdress, I'd be inclined to swap the spear and snake staff between the two of them.
The Goddess also comes with a small shield, identical to that of Teela's, but what's really interesting, and almost amusing, is that she also comes with the shield, axe, and chest harness worn by He-Man.
Actually, I'm seriously inclined to do a swap on He-Man. When I received that figure, in the earliest days of this line, I was a tad dismayed to discover that the chest harness had been molded in brown, and painted grey. And the paint had a tendency to flake off a bit. Fortunately, grey is not an especially difficult color to match, so I was able to fix it, but this harness, identical to that one, obviously, appears to have been MOLDED in grey. Thanks, Mattel! I can use this!
So, what's my final word here? Okay, in all honesty, what we have here is a figure that was designed to (a) get a second use out of doubtless an expensive set of molds that will likely have limited use, since the number of females in the Masters of the Universe concept is somewhat limited, it being a boys' toys line, and (b) take advantage of a rather obscure but still existent quirk in the continuity. Now, while those may seem like cheap excuses to do a figure, the overall Masters of the Universe Classics line is so well-done to begin with, that the end result is still extremely impressive.
And, I have to admit, I like the effect of the translucent frosted green skin. This is ultimately a very cool figure, and a very interesting addition to the collection.
The MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of "THE GODDESS" definitely has my highest recommendation!