REVIEW: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS NETOSSA
Action figures are for boys. Dolls are for girls. That may sound a bit politically-incorrect, but it's an axiom that's tended to prove itself accurate more often than not. The major frustration for action figure collectors who are more inclined to collect and display their figures rather than "play" with them, is that in any given media extension of a given action figure concept, the limited number of female characters within that concept tend to get a generous amount of "air time" just to maintain some amount of diversity in the show.
Look at G.I. Joe -- the most prominent females can readily be named by anyone with even limited knowledge of the concept -- Scarlett, Baroness, Lady Jaye, Zarana -- and some fans are still upset that there was never a figure of Pythona, the Cobra-La agent who certainly had enough time in the animated movie to warrant appearing in plastic. But, how short-packed were the figures of the four that did get that honor?
Or take Transformers. The animated movie and subsequent season of the daily series introduced a distinctly female Autobot named Arcee. And although there have been Arcee toys since then, it took a great many years for any of those to happen, and there still has never been a toy that really looked or transformed like the character as she appeared on the show.
Then we have Masters of the Universe. Within the concept itself, we had Teela and Evil-Lyn, who certainly saw plenty of air time. But within the expanded universe of the Masters, something unusual happened. Somehow, Mattel determined that girls were playing with their brothers' Masters of the Universe figures, although precisely what appeal Mer-Man or Stinkor would have to a little girl I don't really know. I mean, I can't really see them hanging around the jacuzzi in Barbie's Dream House, can you? Okay, we've got Barbie in her fashionable pink bikini, Ken hanging around in some sort of unmanly neon colors, some of Barbie's friends, and -- good heavens, what's that hideous black and white thing in the pool? And what's that awful smell? Somebody get a net! Call Animal Control!
Then again, a couple of Masters just might liven up an otherwise mundane afternoon in Barbie's backyard...
Mattel decided to try to take advantage of this apparent oddity, and created one of the very few lines of female-based action figures that has ever existed. Dubbed "Princess of Power", the line starred She-Ra, He-Man's long-lost sister, and her assorted friends and adversaries. The line was a lot more doll-like than the Masters. Most of the figures had real hair, and many of them had fabric components to their costumes. And the sort of freakshow characters that turned up in the Masters of the Universe line were distinctly absent.
This, honestly, created a slight problem for Filmation, which was producing the Masters of the Universe animated series. Certainly, there was potential for a series based on this new line, but there seemed to be a distinct shortage of serious adversarial threats. The most prominent villain seemed to be a character named Catra, who was only described as a "jealous beauty". The Princess of Power concept seemed to have the approximate menace level of a high school prom. Granted, there's a certain degree of menace to be had there, but it's not the usual sort of world-conquering threat that Skeletor presents.
There was a solution, one which would unite the two concepts in their animated forms far more than their toy lines would be. The Masters of the Universe line had recently introduced an entirely new enemy force known as the Evil Horde, under the command of Hordak. Along with not wanting to overwhelm He-Man with an entirely new group of enemies, Hordak and his Evil Horde made for a convenient, and far more threatening, enemy for She-Ra and her allies on their world of Etheria. "Native" adversarial types like Catra were pretty much just folded into the Horde along the way.
It was effective enough so that, just as Mattel had created the Princess of Power line to appeal to the girls who liked the Masters, the She-Ra animated series and its characters had a far broader appeal across genders than was expected. She-Ra was readily accepted by Masters fans as an extension of the Masters Universe.
Fast forward to 2002. During the course of the 2002-era Masters figures, there was a great outcry that She-Ra should finally be brought into the line more fully. Ultimately, she was, as a San Diego Comic-Con exclusive figure. She-Ra had finally made the transition.
Fast forward a few more years, and the arrival of the Masters of the Universe Classics collection. One of the first and most persistent questions to arise was -- would She-Ra be a part of this line, as well? Ultimately, Mattel revealed that she would be, although we actually got the first-ever figure of her "secret identity", Adora, first. But moreover, Mattel stated that ALL of the characters from She-Ra's side of the Masters Universe would be fair game for the Classics line -- and brother, have they ever. We've since gotten figures of Bow, Catra, Shadow Weaver, the Star Sisters (who didn't even make it the first time around), Frosta, and the newest arrival from Etheria into the Masters of the Universe Classics collection -- NETOSSA!
Whereas the Masters of the Universe line tended to rely on freakish appearances of their characters to convey their powers and abilities, which still might have been incorporated into some special function within the figure, the Princess of Power line kept everybody reasonably human-looking, preferring to make any unusual capabilities a little more understated, and generally a part of some wardrobe enhancement, such as wings, or a fish-tail in the case of a mermaid-like member of the group.
In Netossa's case, her distinctly fabric-made cape could become a large net to entrap adversaries.
I wasn't able to find out a lot about the character. Backstories in the original Masters of the Universe or Princess of Power toy lines weren't regarded as a priority, nor were they such in the animated series, except occasionally among the major players, and Netossa was, shall we say, more of a supporting character.
However, she did appear in the She-Ra animated series, and I was able to extract a few details as a result. Netossa is different from the rest of the members of the Great Rebellion as her ability appears to have no magical or mystical source. Her skill is shown to be the product of her own hard work and practice. She can skillfully throw nets that she keeps on her back. She is so accurate in her aim that she is able to capture a Horde Trooper by casting a net through the bars of her cell door. Netossa was voiced by Diane Pershing in the 80's series.
I believe at this point, we need to turn to the scroll-like bio card on the figure's package, for a more extensive character profile.
Hailing from the far reaches of Etheria, beyond the reach of the Horde, Vivian became an expert marksman, perfecting the art of net tossing to capture enemies and vandals. She is able to fool her adversaries by pretending not to notice that an evildoer is nearby. But if they get too close, she pulls back her cape's hidden drawstrings and the surprised culprit is captured inside the net! After learning of Hordak's oppression, her only desire became to free Etheria and its people from their evil stronghold. With her exotic accent and elegant fashions, Netossa can be so helpful in wrapping up any trouble!
Okay, I'm going to let "Captivating Beauty" slide, but "wrapping up any trouble", given the character's ability, is pushing the pun meter a bit much. I really have no idea where the name "Vivian Redretta" comes from.
So, how's the figure? Extremely impressive. The Four Horsemen sculpting and design team has crafted an excellent female action figure format that has served the Masters of the Universe Classics line abundantly well for quite a few individuals now, from both the Masters and She-Ra concepts.
One of the first things one tends to notice about Netossa is -- she's black. Now, I realize that the more "correct" term is "African-American", but I don't really think that's entirely accurate here, since Netossa is neither African nor American -- she's Etherian. I think the little bit of research information I turned up probably stated it best, saying that she had the features of an African-American woman. Fair enough.
Of course, then there's the long flowing blue hair. That's -- different. Admittedly, if I take a look at those Masters of the Universe Classics figures that have originated from the She-Ra concept, not many of them have what could be defined as normal hair colors. Here, perhaps, was the one bit of freakishness that Mattel could incorporate into the original toy line. Maybe it couldn't give these figures bionic parts or strange, animalistic features and appendages, but it could give them oddball hair colors. And Netossa ended up with rather intense bright blue hair.
Netossa's facial features are superb. She has a very distinct elegance to her face. It impresses me that the same group of individuals that can turn out wild stuff like Hordak and Draego-Man can turn around and produce something like this. Her face is as neatly painted as it is sculpted.
The hair is superb. The Masters of the Universe Classics figures do not have real hair. It's molded in plastic, in these instances usually as a separate part, and attached to the head during assembly. The Four Horsemen have shown time and again that sculpting amazingly detailed hair is one of their specialties, and that's certainly the case here.
Netossa's costume consists of a couple of light blue, fan-like shapes that seem to somehow be secured inexplicably to the sides of her head, which almost merge into the collar of her cape. Her top is dark blue, with feather-like flares at the top hear the shoulders, and a pearl-like white color in the center, a color which carries over to her wristbands and boots. She is wearing a rather short, light blue skirt with a length of much longer light blue "fabric" draped down the front. It's flexible enough so that it really isn't a hindrance to articulation. The torso, wristbands, and boot tops have silver and metallic blue highlights to them.
All of the painted detail is superb, and very intricate. You want intricate? Netossa has metallic blue nail polish on all ten fingers. There's even a bit of blue eye shadow over her eyes. That's some serious attention to detail!
Then we inevitably come to the cape. The Masters of the Universe Classics line doesn't do real hair, and it doesn't do real fabric parts, either. So where does that leave Netossa, whose main ability, and for that matter, claim to her name, involves using her cape as a net to entrap enemies?
It leaves her with one of the wildest capes I've ever seen turned out in the Masters of the Universe Classics line, the DC Universe Classics line, or much of anything else in recent memory.
The cape IS plastic. It has a high light blue collar that I believe is secured during assembly. As far as I can determine, it's not removable. And the entire border of the cape is painted in light blue. The interior of the cape is a darker blue -- and it's that interior that's the amazing part.
Not to malign the sculpting ability of anyone who crafts such superb action figures, but I have to believe this cape has some computer-aided drafting behind it. The entire cape, except for the outer border, is this very precise, net-like gridwork of plastic, with dozens of criss-crossed straight lines that are all of one-sixteenth -- that's 1/16, people -- of an inch wide. Can you imagine the manufacture of this cape? Picture what the mold must look like. Picture trying to pull these capes from the mold. None of this could have been easy. The cape is truly an amazing piece of work, and certainly honors the character's name, as well as its designers.
Unlike other capes that have turned up in the line, Netossa's cape isn't designed with built-in "drapes" or folds, nor does it do so of its own accord. I don't object to this in the least, as it makes the cape that much more prominent, as well it should be. And it was likely hard enough to design in the first place without trying to do that to it, anyway!
Of course, Netossa has a superb level of articulation. I haven't really said this in a while, but one of the things I really appreciate about the Masters of the Universe Classics line is the articulation. The original line from the 1980's just didn't have that much. Head, arms, legs, and a spring-loaded waist. The Princess of Power line wasn't any better in this regard. And the 2002-era line, by which time they should've known better, didn't really up the articulation all that much. The figures were certainly dynamically designed, but they still didn't move all that much. Finally, the Classics have gotten it right, and very effectively.
Netossa is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivels, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles -- and looks good doing so.
She comes with a small shield as an accessory. Size-wise, it doesn't look like much, but if her defensive aim is as good as her offensive, then it's probably more than sufficient. The shield is mostly silver, quite ornate, and has a dark blue faceted gemstone embedded in it.
Any complaints? Not really. There's a very slight mold crease on her chin, that seems to also appear on her nose. Now, it's very, very minimal. But these mold creases have been a problem from time to time, in this and in the DC Universe line, and it's something that Mattel needs to deal with. These figures are far too impressive -- and expensive -- to allow something like this to happen. Had it been moderately worse, it would've looked like a horrible scar down the front of her face.
So, what's my final word? Now, you may be a longtime Masters of the Universe fan, and you've been fairly selective with the Classics line, perhaps ignoring those figures from the She-Ra side of the Masters' Universe. Let me tell you -- you're cheating yourself out of some magnificent figures. Some of these characters may look like overly colorful, overly fashionable -- dare I use the word "dolls" -- but make no mistake, they're action figures, with the same impressive articulation and attention to detail that was given to Trapjaw and Clawful. Any of them are worthwhile additions to a Masters of the Universe Classics collection, and that certainly includes Netossa. I'm very pleased to have her in my collection, and I am certain that you will be as well.
The MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of NETOSSA definitely has my highest recommendation!