REVIEW: THUNDERCATS CLASSICS 6" SCALE MUMM-RA
If you asked most people to name the top pop-culture concepts of the 1980's, that best manifested themselves in the form of animated series, comic books, and/or action figures, the top three would likely be G.I. Joe, Transformers, and Masters of the Universe. The first two had massively successful action figure lines, comic books, and animated series. Masters, although not quite as long-lasting on the toy aisles, is still extremely well-known, and boasted a hugely impressive, long-running animated series with a sequel featuring She-Ra: Princess of Power.
And then there's ThunderCats. Although boasting an extremely impressive, multi-season animated series, whose animation was easily on a par with the others, if not surpassing it at times, a wealth of interesting characters, and a popularity that endures to this day -- it just never seems to quite get mentioned in the same sentence as the others. And I think the main reason for that is -- the original toys, from the long-defunct LJN, although enjoying a healthy run in the stores, just weren't all that impressive relative to other products on the market at the time.
The only real resurgence in ThunderCats, until recently was a relatively short-lived series of comic books from DC Comics' WildStorm imprint several years ago.
Then recently, Warner Brothers decided to bring back the ThunderCats. They maintained the character names and, to some degree, the basic concepts, but this was still a considerable reboot and overhaul, of that there could be no question. Airing on Cartoon Network, the series has been treated like far too many shows are on Cartoon Network -- airing sporadically and with the same sort of schedule consistency that you could get with a blindfold and a dartboard.
Toywise, with LJN long in the past, Bandai acquired the toy license, and has turned out a very agreeable series of figures based not only on the new ThunderCats, but they've also produced a line of figures called THUNDERCATS CLASSICS. The initial figures were eight inches in height, and featured Lion-O and Tygra. Then, for reasons known only to Bandai, they scaled the line down to 6" -- perhaps to make it slightly more agreeable to fans of similarly-scaled figures such as Marvel Legends, DC Universe Classics, or Masters of the Universe.
The first two figures in this revised ThunderCats Classics are Lion-O, whom I have reviewed separately, and the main adversary of the ThunderCats himself -- MUMM-RA, who is the focus of this review. Let's consider Mumm-Ra's classic history:
Mumm-Ra, the chief villain and antagonist of the ThunderCats, the demon-priest Mumm-Ra is the self-proclaimed "ever-living source of evil" on Third Earth, having powers of sorcery and an apparently unlimited lifespan. He is, in fact, a servant to the Ancient Spirits of Evil (represented by four anthropomorphic statues of a boar, crocodile, vulture, and ox - thus resembling oversized, twisted mockeries of Egyptian canopic jars, within the burial chamber of his pyramid), who provide him with increased power and virtual immortality to further his pursuit of spreading their dark influence throughout Third Earth.
Residing within the Black Pyramid amid the ruins of what appears to be an ancient Egyptian civilization, Mumm-Ra exists in a decayed, weakened form that must return to a stone sarcophagus to replenish his energy. He can summon the power to transform himself into a more vigorous and muscular form - Mumm-Ra, the Ever-Living - by reciting the incantation: "Ancient Spirits of Evil...transform this decayed form--to Mumm-Ra, the Ever-Living!" (This invariably dissolves into maniacal laughter once the transformation is completed.) While in this form, Mumm-Ra possesses fortification of his mystical might — casting spells, throwing energy bolts, etc. — to battle his foes. He can also alter his physical form into a variety of alter-egos to deceive his enemies.
Seemingly invincible in whatever form he chooses, Mumm-Ra appears to have a singular weakness: seeing his own hideous reflection neutralizes his ability to remain outside the Black Pyramid and forces him to withdraw there in his emaciated mummy form. However, at the beginning of the second season, the Ancient Spirits of Evil revoked this shortcoming. Mumm-Ra is a master of deception, and will use whatever means necessary to fight against the forces of good. In later episodes, while endowing Mumm-Ra with his powers, the statues of the Ancient Spirits of Evil came down from their perches to extend their arms over him.
He uses his magic to create disguises and deceive the ThunderCats on various occasions. Among these are: Diamondfly (in the episode "Queen of Eight Legs"), Gregory Gregion ("All That Glitters"), Silky ("The Garden of Delights"), The Netherwitch ("The Astral Prison"), and Pumm-Ra (in the episode "Pumm-Ra"). He once took the form of King Arthur to acquire the legendary magic sword Excalibur, using it against the Sword of Omens.
In a few episodes, Mumm-Ra has an even more powerful form beyond "Mumm-Ra the Ever-Living" called "Mumm-Ra the All-Powerful". In this manifestation, Mumm-Ra absorbs the entire power of the Ancient Spirits of Evil to become grander in size and strength, and the design pattern on his loin cloth changes, as does his voice. This form is only presented in the series three times. In another incarnation, invoking "the Ancient Spirits of the Dream World" to transform himself into "Mumm-Ra the Dream Master," he is able to enter dreams to subliminally influence the ThunderCats in their sleep as a form of mind control.
Mumm-Ra is regarded as immortal, and when defeated, he simply returns to his sarcophagus. Mumm-Ra cannot be truly killed; even in cases where his body is destroyed, he will eventually be restored, as he often states: "Wherever evil exists, Mumm-Ra lives!"
Later, Mumm-Ra is shown to have a blue bulldog-like companion named Ma-Mutt, capable of flight and supernatural feats of strength and speed. He is generally evil, though some episodes depict him as having sympathetic qualities.
In later episodes, when the Ancient Spirits of Evil were increasingly disappointed with Mumm-Ra's repeated failures, they demanded he destroy the ThunderCats or else he, the Mutants, and the Lunataks would be forcefully removed. They make Ma-Mutt disappear as an example. When Mumm-Ra fails, the Ancient Spirits of Evil trap him in a crystal with his transport pyramid and cast him away from Third Earth. When the ThunderCats decide to colonize New Thundera to rebuild it, the Ancient Spirits of Evil free Mumm-Ra and rebuild his cauldron on Third Earth.
In one episode, it was said that Mumm-Ra once owned the Sphere of Setti which increased his power. When he managed to recover it after it was found by Char, he planned to use it to increase his power. Unfortunately, the Ancient Spirits of Evil would not allow this.
An absolute master of magic, Mumm-Ra possesses nearly unlimited knowledge of, and experience with, numerous mystical arts from all corners of the universe. He has such mystic talents as flight by self-levitation, necromancy, alchemy, transmogrification, temporal manipulation, teleportation, psychokinesis, mind control, astral projection, scrying, and energy blasts.
While in the form of Mumm-Ra the Ever-Living, he becomes a conduit for the Ancient Spirits of Evil; such that he can amplify his aforementioned abilities to a nearly cosmic scale, gain super-human strength, as well as retain his undead status despite the passage of time or any injuries sustained. The price of this power, however, is extremely limited stamina: once Mumm-Ra the Ever-Living has surpassed a given threshold, he must revert back to his mummified form and enter his sarcophagus to rejuvenate himself. Also, Mumm-Ra's power in his Ever-Living form is directly linked to the condition of both his sarcophagus and the Ancient Spirits' four statues within his pyramid. Should any of them be harmed or destroyed, his power weakens immediately and considerably.
Although his origin was never recounted in the animated series, according to the first chapter on Wildstorm's comic Thundercats Origins: Heroes and Villains, Mumm-Ra's origin is set in ancient Egypt. He was once Wahankh, a member of the pharaoh's council and his most loyal adviser. We can also see Wahankh's dog, Ma-Tep (supposedly the future Ma-Mutt). The friendship made with the pharaoh was so close and enduring that the sovereign actually considered him as part of his family.
However, Wahankh's real aim was to overthrow the royal power of his pharaoh in a coup d'état, and become the ruler of the land. To achieve his goal, he invoked the presence of the Ancient Spirits of Evil for the first time by using four magical runes, representing each one the four evil beings. Once the spirits appeared, he requested a small part of their power in order to defeat the powerful pharaoh's army. In exchange, he would rule all Egypt in their name as a humble servant. The Ancient Spirits agreed to help him and Wahankh was invested with evil powers, becoming an immortal sorcerer and demon-priest in their service, while his entire body mutated into a cadaverous grey form. Finally, a new name was given to him: Mumm-Ra.
Knowing about this betrayal, the pharaoh immediately faced the monstrous and grotesque being. Trusting his new powers, Mumm-Ra ordered the pharaoh to bow down and proclaimed himself the new master of the realm. Nonetheless, the pharaoh's son confronted him and quickly managed to outmaneuver Mumm-Ra in battle, defeating him.
Without being aware that Mumm-Ra was actually immortal, the pharaoh spared him the fate of dying at the stake for his treachery. Considering all his years of service, the pharaoh instead granted him a merciful, religious death being locked as a mummy in an onyx pyramid's giant burial chamber. The pharaoh's son, knowing about Mumm-Ra's never-ending life, took joy in imprisoning him for (seemingly) all eternity.
In the darkness, Mumm-Ra begged for the help of the Ancient Spirits once again, but they denied it due to his incompetence in using those powers they had previously granted him. Instead, they ordered him to build four large statues on the chamber to praise them, a task that would take at least 600 years to be accomplished. Only then they would grant him the power to break free by turning into an eternal and overwhelming warrior, capable of defeating any pharaoh. Before the animated series storyline, at some point he fulfilled the work, receiving the ability to become Mumm-Ra, the Ever-Living.
So, how's the figure? Extremely impressive. I might have preferred one of the other ThunderCats, but I can't really argue with getting the main bad guy, either.
Obviously, this is Mumm-Ra in his "Ever-Living" form, not the withered little mummy version. I find it interesting that his origin indicates that at some point in his past, he was actually human. I've never thought that either version of Mumm-Ra looked especially human. Then again, I'm really not sure what else either version of Mumm-Ra could readily be compared to. The ThunderCats, obviously, are humanoids with various feline characteristics. The Mutants of Plun-darr, the ThunderCats' primary adversaries other than Mumm-Ra, were humanoids with strong characteristics of other animals. It doesn't take much to figure out who characters named Vultureman, Monkian, and Jackalman looked like. But Mumm-Ra? He was a tough call in my opinion.
In the form presented by the figure. Mumm-Ra is a large, very muscular, and rather stockily-built being. He is clearly humanoid, but his torso is distinctly wider than normal, even though it has solid muscle definition, and his arms and legs are bulkier than, by comparison, Lion-O's. If the Lion-O figure represents the physical build of a well-muscled but otherwise average-proportioned humanoid male, then Mumm-Ra is definitely more extreme in his appearance.
The torso is especially unusual. The chest is huge, but then several rows of his rib cage are visible, and his abdominal muscles are relatively small compared to his overall width at his waist. One wonders where, anatomically speaking, the additional muscles on the sides come from. A little gift from the "Ancient Spirits", perhaps?
Mumm-Ra's arms, although larger than Lion-O's, have a more traditional look to them, as far as overall musculature is concerned. They end in four-fingered hands with rather long fingers and clawed fingernails.
Mumm-Ra's legs are actually a little short, relative to the rest of his body. Part of this is a result of the cloth he has wrapped around his waist, but his legs still look just a little short relative to his overall proportions. Nevertheless, they are as powerfully muscled as the rest of his body. His feet are bare, and have five long toes with clawed toenails on them, but his lower legs have gold, footless boots on them, with gold fur covering the tops of his feet. One would assume that Mumm-Ra is not especially ticklish.
Mumm-Ra also has dark gold wristbands, with curved spikes on them, and another narrow armband around his upper right arm.
On Mumm-Ra's chest is an emblem. Think of it as the opposite number to the ThunderCats emblem, the red circle with the black cat head profile in it. Mumm-Ra's emblem is also a red circle, but it has a black snake-like emblem in it, two cobras in profile, joined as one in the middle, and forming a sort of figure "8".
Mumm-Ra's headsculpt is interesting. Mumm-Ra has red eyes, with strange, ridged white trim around them. I have no idea what this is supposed to represent, but it does manage to look menacing. Mumm-Ra's relatively small nose is covered by part of his helmet. His mouth is open, revealing fanged teeth. Studying the face, I suppose it could be called human, or something that was once human. It certainly doesn't look like anything else.
Mumm-Ra's overall skin color is a rather sickly greenish-gray. The cloth around his waist is part red, and part dark blue, with gold fringe, and a white belt. The helmet is mostly dark gold, with a multi-spiked piece rising from the center above the nose, a dark gray flap in the back, two black snakes on either side of the top, and red and dark gray -- streamers (for lack of a better word) flying out to the sides and back. At a guess, I'd have to say the helmet was the most difficult sculpted piece of the entire figure.
Mumm-Ra stands slightly taller than Lion-O, which is to be expected. Lion-O is 6-1/2" in height. Mumm-Ra is more like 7" -- 7-1/2" if you count the helmet decorations (what the heck, I'm counting Lion-O's mane...)
As one would expect, Mumm-Ra is very well articulated. He is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.
A few notes about the articulation. The waist movement is considerable. Forward, backward, side to side, even a sort of angled turn. Impressive design. The leg movement is somewhat hindered by the waistcloth. You're not going to get Mumm-Ra in a seated position. The knees lack the double-articulation that Lion-O has. No big loss, really. The ankles are almost as versatile as the waist. The foot can move up and down, rotate around, and move from side to side.
Mumm-Ra's accessories include an extra pair of hands, that are somewhat more clenched than the ones he is "wearing" in the box, and a set of mummy wrappings that can be attached to him, to give him that, "just changed from that scrawny little guy" look.
Overall, the paint work is excellent. The red eyes are a little off, but not severely. Really, the figure doesn't have all that much painted detail on him, but what there is, has been very well done.
I'd like to address the future of this superb action figure line for a moment, if I may. Or rather, my present concern that it probably doesn't have one. Cartoon Network stopped running new episodes of the new ThunderCats series in November 2011, and only brought it back in late March 2012. I realize that I am reviewing a Classic ThunderCats figure here, but that was several months there ThunderCats in general didn't get much attention. The toys don't exactly seem to be flying out of the stores, in any of their sizes, really -- 4" or 6". And grimmest of all is the fact that at the 2012 International Toy Fair in New York City, Bandai had no new ThunderCats material to show, and no comment about it, either. They had plenty of new Power Rangers, lots of new Ben 10 -- but no new ThunderCats. That's really not a good sign.
I doubt we'll see any more ThunderCats Classics. I would love to be proven wrong, but I don't think I will be. And that's a real shame. ThunderCats -- the original -- is a cool concept, that deserved a good toy line when it first aired, and didn't particularly get one. Now it's got one, and it's not going to get a sufficient run. I'd love to see Tygra done in this 6" scale. I'd like to see Cheetara, Panthro, WilyKit, WilyKat, Lynx-O, Ben-Gali, and Pumyra. Heck, I'd take Snarf.
But I don't see it happening. One store has already started to clearance the line. So I suppose all I can say at this point is -- I'm grateful for what we got. Two really nice 8" figures of Lion-O and Tygra, and two really nice 6" scale figures of Lion-O and Mumm-Ra. Those who put an emphasis on the new ThunderCats fared a good bit better, as the 4" line did get the new versions of the entire core cast out in figure form. But there was still some potential there, as well.
Maybe someday, some toy company, Bandai, Mattel, who knows? -- will come out with a complete ThunderCats Classics line, and find a way to make it last long enough. I hope so. The concept deserves it, and the characters deserve it. It was as good a concept, as cool a world, as any of the major hits from the 1980's.
For now, however, I suppose we have to enjoy what we can. And that includes this ThunderCats Classics figure of Mumm-Ra. And Bandai really did an excellent job with him. I believe that any longtime ThunderCats fan will be pleased with him, and I'm glad he's part of my collection. If you're a ThunderCats fan, make him part of yours!
The THUNDERCATS CLASSICS 6" scale figure of MUMM-RA definitely has my highest recommendation!