REVIEW: MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS RATTLOR
Most people aren't terribly fond of snakes. I'll readily admit I'm one of them. And, living where I do, I have had to deal with them once in a while -- usually by finding out just how fast I can run in the opposite direction.
Even in pop culture, snakes don't tend to fare very well. The bad guys in the G.I. Joe universe are known as Cobra. There's any number of serpentine characters in both DC and Marvel Comics, and I can't think of any of them that are good guys offhand. And then in Masters of the Universe, you have the SNAKE-MEN.
And for this review, we have one of their more notable members, by the name of RATTLOR. Obviously, the character is based at least somewhat on a rattlesnake. We have rattlesnakes around here. I've had several unpleasant encountered with them, none of them, thankfully, involving direct contact. The closest I ever came was a rattlesnake that was blending in very nicely with the desert right along the edge of a walking path in my apartment complex. I was less than a foot away from it when I realized what was there. I hauled up the stairs to my apartment so fast I pulled a hamstring, and called the fire department, and the snake was big enough so that when that guy showed up, even HE didn't want to deal with it. Fortunately, he did.
So, rattlesnakes are real close to the top of my list of critters that I will keep a distance from.
Rattlor, hopefully, will be less trouble than his real-life cousins. Let's consider briefly the history of the Snake-Men within the Masters of the Universe concept, and then Rattlor in particular.
Released later in the original franchise's run, there was considerable retconning to work the Snake Men into the existing Masters of the Universe mythos.
In the distant past the Snake Men were a vast, ruthless army that conquered numerous worlds, and served an evil ruler named King Hiss. Hiss and the Snake Men tried to conquer Eternia, and created Snake Mountain as their base of operations. However, the Elders of Eternia proved too powerful for the Snake Men and used their magic to cast Hiss and his army into a limbo-like dimension. This caused the empire of the Snake Men to collapse, although a small number of them remained on Eternia. Eventually, Hiss is set free by Skeletor, who had made Snake Mountain his base.
Hiss and Skeletor form an uneasy alliance against He-Man, the greatest opposition to their mutual dreams of conquest. Skeletor's Snake Man minion, Kobra Khan, serves as his ambassador to King Hiss. Together the two villains are able to trap He-Man. They attempt to use their combined magic to pull the entire Snake Man army back into Eternia, but even their combined magical abilities united are only strong enough to return two snake soldiers: Tung Lashor and Rattlor, who had been on Etheria in the employ of the Horde. Realizing that they need more potent magic to resurrect the entire army, Hiss and Skeletor take He-Man's Power Sword, and attempt to use it to summon forth all the Snake Men. However, He-Man is able to free himself and recover his sword, foiling the return of the reptilian hordes.
Despite their initial failure, King Hiss and Skeletor move forward with their plans of conquest. The two villains once again combine their magic to raise three great towers that had been buried eons ago by the Elders of Eternia. The Elders had sunk the towers below the earth to ensure that they would never fall into the hands of the Snake Men or any other evil forces. The three towers were Grayskull Tower, which possesses the power of good, Viper Tower, possessing the power of evil and Central Tower which possesses the power of both. Hiss and Skeletor both secretly plan to betray each other once they have taken control of the towers. Though Skeletor is unable conquer Central Tower, a feat which would have given him the power of all three towers, King Hiss is able to seize Viper Tower. Using the magic of Viper Tower he is able to transport two more Snake Men from limbo, Snake Face and Sssqueeze.
Not long after, in a battle in Viper Tower, He-Man turns all the Snake Men into stone, by reflecting Snake Face's power of petrifaction back at them. Snake Face and Sssqueeze appear in the later minicomic "Energy Zoids".
Later He-Man and the Sorceress venture into Eternia's past, to the time when the Snake Men originally invaded Eternia. Witnessing the Snake Men terrorizing a village He-Man wants to step in, however the Sorceress prevents him, as his interference could alter history. However, unbeknownst to the Sorceress, Skeletor had followed them through the time stream. Upon arriving he joins forces with King Hiss, saying that he wishes to help them and that his magic powers could help destroy the Elders. King Hiss accepts Skeletor offer and thinking to himself "Perhaps this is an emissary from the Unnamed One whom we serve". The full meaning of this statement is never disclosed. The Snake Men rode into battle on the backs of mechanically augmented dinosaurs.
Seeing that Skeletor had entered the past, the Sorceress decides that it is necessary for He-Man to become involved, disguising him with her magic, she sends He-Man into battle against Skeletor, King Hiss and the Snake Man army. However, before the battle can conclude a shadowy figure, He-Ro, intervens. Using magic he hurls Skeletor, the Sorceress and He-Man back to the future. The final fate of the Snake Men is never revealed, as the Masters of Universe toyline and its accompanying mini comics came to end.
None of the Snake Men are featured on Filmation's animated series, with the exception of Kobra Khan, a snake figure in Skeletor's service introduced earlier in the franchise's run. When the Snake Men were introduced, Kobra Khan was said to be a go-between, working for both Skeletor and King Hiss. The cartoon series had ceased production before the Snake Men could be introduced. Two Snake Men, Rattlor and Tung Lashor, were adapted to appear in the spin-off She-Ra: Princess of Power series, where they worked for Hordak as members of the Evil Horde, portrayed as generic warriors with no nod to their Snake Men origins.
The Snake Men play a large role in the second season of the 2002-era cartoon series. They are a diverse group led by King Hiss, who prove to be as much a danger as Skeletor, who only makes three appearances through the entire story arc. Similar to the old story, the Snake Men are an ancient threat that plagued Eternia in the distant past until they were locked away in the void by the power of the Elders. The threat of the Snake Men was so ancient that in a way it predated the creation of the Elders themselves during the time of King Grayskull who fought against this menace. However, in this new version, they are presented as a very strong army, who, as well as taking on He-Man, are also at war with Skeletor instead of forging an alliance with him.
As for Rattlor in particular, as indicated, he missed out on the classic animated series, turning up only as one of Hordak's minions in the She-Ra series, no doubt wedged in to allow for a handful of late-released Masters characters to see some amount of screen time. He fared much better in the 2002 animated series, where he is presented as the head of the Snake Men army trying to release their leader, King Hiss, and working if somewhat grudgingly with Kobra Khan and Evil-Lyn to bring this about.
So, how's the figure? Extremely impressive, not to mention highly distinctive. About the worst thing I can say about it is that it is far more colorful than an actual rattlesnake. I haven't seen any rattlesnakes that are a dark brick red-brown with yellow and blue striping on their bodies. They tend to have much more muted, desert-like color schemes. Trust me, I know this from experience. However, a desert-colored Rattlor would probably have been a rather dull figure in any of the lines he's turned up in, so we'll just assume that Rattlor comes from a race of more colorful snake-like individuals.
Rattlor is one of those characters that not only made it into the original Masters of the Universe line, but the 2002-era series, as well, even though his figure, naturally being part of the later "Snake-Men" line, was not easily found. The original Rattlor figure, of course, adhered to the rather peculiar bodily proportions of the original line. The 2002-era Rattlor was a large, muscular, even stocky individual, which struck me as unusual just in principle for a race of snake-men. At the same time, it seemed to enhance his authority to be as big as he was, and you certainly didn't want to mess with him.
The Classics Rattor manages to combine the two to a certain degree. The slightly odd proportions of the original line are a thing of the past, and yet Rattlor isn't the overly-massive powerhouse as presented in the 2002-era line. He's certainly muscular, as are all of the figures in the line, but he's more in proportion with the average.
Rattlor is unusual in that hos body is entirely unique. He doesn't use any body parts from any other figures. He has the same musculature, but his body doesn't use any previously established parts. This had to be a fairly costly endeavor for Mattel as such. No great surprise, they managed to get a second use out of Rattlor's body by using a less ornately-painted version of the same molds as the basis for one of the generic "Snake-Men Warriors" that was a special two-pack offered, somewhat oddly, the month before Rattlor actually came out.
Rattlor's body has a look of being both scaled and armored. The scales are very distinct and quite large, and could certainly have protective capabilities. Some portions of his body, including the center of his torso, the top and back of his head, and down his back through his tail, have a more ridged look than scaled, although the ridges seem to overlap much like scales, and here is where the armored look tends to come into play.
Rattlor's head definitely resembles a somewhat humanoid version of a rattlesnake. It's certainly more snake than human, for that matter. It bears a slightly closer resemblance to the classic head design, which isn't terribly surprising. The 2002-era head was much more stylized, probably one of the most stylized heads in the entire collection, and likely wouldn't have worked well for the modern Classics line. Rattlor's mouth is open, revealing a snake-like tongue and two fangs. His eyes are yellow, with very odd sideways red pupils. I'm not sure what the objective was here, but it's a very peculiar look.
Most of Rattlor's body is a dark brick red. However, his chest and abdomen are a light yellow-orange, and he has dark blue stripes running down the sides of his arms and the fronts of his legs, all the way to his hands and feet, which are outlined in the same light yellow-orange on either side. There is also yellow-orange on the underside of Rattlor's tail. This gives the figure a surprisingly colorful appearance, more than most of the Snake-Men, for that matter.
And Rattlor definitely has a tail. This is part of a large back piece which was not included on the generic Snake-Man soldier that otherwise used Rattlor's body molds. This tail-like structure actually starts at the top of the back, and starts to separate before the waist. Good thing, too, or Rattlor would have a heck of a time keeping his loincloth up. The tail then extends down almost to his feet, and curves back up. It has a single articulation point slightly below the waist. The curved tail section is not flexible, but its tip does have a little rattle sound-effect in it. I recall that the 2002-era Rattlor figure had this feature, and I assume that the original, which I never owned, also did.
Rattlor is wearing a brown furry loincloth, with a wide gold belt that has the Snake-Men emblem, a bright green somewhat coiled snake, sculpted and painted onto it.
Overall, Rattlor's paint work is excellent, and it can't have been easy painting those stripes across such a rough surface as those scales and armor. Or, for that matter, the inside of his mouth. But it's all been done most effectively.
The original Rattlor figure, and for that matter the 2002 version, had a certain action feature. Unlike a significant percentage of original Masters of the Universe figures, which had a spring-loaded waist to make it look as through they were winding up and throwing a punch, Rattlor had a spring-action extending neck, that could shoot out some distance, allowing Rattlor to strike at an opponent.
If this seems unlikely in the real world, while a real rattlesnake cannot actually stretch itself, once it is coiled and poised to strike, it can launch its head and upper body somewhere between a third and a half of its total length. That's a good reason to give the things a wide berth if you see them. Don't think for one second it can't get you just because it's all coiled up. If it starts to rattle -- get out of there, very far and very fast.
The modern Masters of the Universe Classics figures do not incorporate action features. No big loss as far as I'm concerned. I've always considered that sort of thing a bit annoying, especially if it had an adverse effect on the overall articulation of the figure. The only exceptions have been figures whose action feature was a crucial part of the character's identity, and where it could be worked in without having to completely redesign the figure. Tri-Klops with his visor, and Man-E-Faces with his huge helmet and the hidden faces, are good examples of this.
Obviously, Rattlor doesn't have a spring-action neck. However, much in the same spirit as another recently released character, Mekaneck, Rattlor does come with an extended neck section. You can pop his head off, snap the neck section in place, and then reattach the head to the elongated neck. The snap-on neck gives Rattlor about another two inches of striking distance.
Rattlor also comes with a staff, and while the staff itself is relatively plain, gold in color with a spherical top, looking not unlike a short flagpole as much as anything, attached to the staff is a rattlesnake, coiled down the length of the staff, and painted the same dark brick red as Rattlor himself. That lends a certain sinister impressiveness to it.
Also in the box was a little bonus -- a set of stickers. The vast majority of them read "The Great Rebellion", referring to the forces on Etheria led by She-Ra that sought to overthrow the Evil Horde. The color and type choices for the emblem definitely are reminiscent of a She-Ra type color scheme. There's fourteen of these stickers on the sheet, thirteen of them in the same basic size, and a larger one.
But there's a fifteenth sticker on the package, an entirely different logo, that reads, "Time Agents". It's a cool logo, and not inappropriate, since the figure releases for the Classics line and the need to try to work all of their stories together have been all over the map, timewise. Somebody's got to be keeping some track of it. It's not hard to imagine Mighty Spector fitting into this category, and perhaps also the Sorceress and Zodac.
Rattlor's scroll-like bio card on the back of the package reads as follows:
A loyal leader in King Hssss' army, Rattlor was the first of the Snake-Men to escape their imprisonment in the Void. He worked with the Snake Men descendant Kobra Khan to liberate the entire serpent army. Once freed, Hssss quickly began a three-way war against the Masters of the Universe and Skeletor's Evil Warriors, with Rattlor leading the attack. Eventually, Khan manipulated Hssss into demoting Rattlor, and he defected to the evil Horde army. Under Hordak, Rattlor became known as "The General" for his keen insight into enemy strategy. After sounding his sinister battle rattle, Rattlor lashes out at victims with his terrible quick-strike head!
Okay -- "battle rattle"?! Really? "Battle rattle"?!? Guys, don't try to be alliterative if it's going to sound that silly...
Anyway, the bio card does manage to address two significant points. First off is Rattlor's appearance in the She-Ra animated series as a member of the Horde. Okay, the obvious reason for this was to allow characters like Rattlor a certain amount of cartoon time. But here we have a means of explaining why one of the Snake-Men would be part of the Horde. Interestingly, Rattlor has one additional accessory -- a Horde armband, just in case you'd rather have him side with them.
Then there's that remark about him being named "The General". For doubtless legal reasons the details of which I do not have, when Rattlor was released as a figure in the 2002-era action figure line, Mattel was not able to use the name "Rattlor". Since he was clearly a general, a commander of troops, in the animated series, he was often referred to as "General Rattlor" there, and the figure was simply named "The General" in order to at least produce the figure, and fans could call him by his proper name. Nice way of explaining that, even if as "The General", he was not a member of the Horde.
So, what's my final word? I may not like snakes all that much, but I am impressed with the Snake-Men figures that Mattel has been producing for the Masters of the Universe Classics line. To date, we have King Hssss, Kobra Khan, the Snake-Men two-pack, and now Rattlor, and he's certainly a very impressive addition to the group, and to the line as a whole. I'm glad to have him, he's certainly very impressively made on all counts, and I believe that any fan of the Masters of the Universe will be pleased to add him to their collection.
The MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of RATTLOR from the SNAKE-MEN definitely has my highest recommendation!