REVIEW: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS SLUSH HEAD
Easily one of the strengths of the Masters of the Universe Classics line is the fact that it can derive its characters and figures from any branch of the Masters' entire universe. Not only are all characters from the original Masters of the Universe line fair game, but so are those from the Filmation animation, the 2002 series, She-Ra: Princess of Power, and even the New Adventures of He-Man.
Now, it can be fairly said that likely the least well-thought-of entry in that line would be the New Adventures of He-Man. I'll readily admit that I never thought all that highly of it. The basic designs of He-Man and Skeletor were adequate, allowing for the new concept and entirely different figure design, but I had always been of the opinion that most of the other characters, both heroes and villains, were -- to put it charitably -- uninspired.
Whereas the original Masters of the Universe concept gave us a universe populated with a wide range of incredible beings, both heroic and villainous, in the New Adventures concept, most of the good guys seemed to be fairly straightforward humans whose unusual attributes were achieved technologically, whereas most of the bad guys seemed to be rather nondescript individuals whose specialty seemed to be first and foremost felony ugliness. I mean, really, when your name is "Butthead" and you actually live up to it...
The bottom line was, the dynamic designs of the original Masters just seemed to be in short supply in the New Adventures. So when Mattel announced that the characters from that particular toy line were fair game for the Masters of the Universe Classics line, my reaction was one of -- well, call it "surprised indifference". I really couldn't think of that many characters in that line that would make interesting action figures. In point of fact, I could only think of one character that was distinctive enough that would make an interesting addition to the Classics line, and fit in well, and that was the first one from that series that was added to the Classics line -- Optikk, one of very few really distinctive characters who had a massive eyeball in place of his head, and an otherwise extensively armored humanoid body. Optikk made the transition to the Classics line extremely well. Anybody else, I wasn't so certain about.
Then Mattel added Icarius, formerly known as Flipshot, to the line, and he made an impressive addition, as well, even if the headsculpt was more than a little reminiscent of Val Kilmer from his "Top Gun" days. And if that was a coincidence, then I can pass for Tom Cruise. Which, need it be said, I can't.
As such, my initial skepticism about bringing in characters from the "New Adventures" concept has lessened, and these days, is more along the lines of, "Okay, let's see what they can do with him."
We now have the third addition from those ranks joining the Masters of the Universe Classics line, a villain by the name of Slush Head. Trust me, the names get worse. Mattel might be able to class up the figure likenesses of these characters, but some of the names -- whoof.
For those unfamiliar with this particular chapter of He-Man's history, allow me to present a basic summary of the New Adventures of He-Man, courtesy of a little online research.
The New Adventures of He-Man was an animated series which ran in syndication in the fall of 1990 while Mattel released the toy line He-Man, an update of their successful Masters of the Universe line. The cartoon series was intended to be a continuation of Filmation's He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series.
He-Man, legendary defender of the planet Eternia, has been summoned to the future planet of Primus to defend the planet from the evil Mutants of the neighboring planet of Denebria. But his old adversary, Skeletor, has followed him, and allied himself with the Mutants in his fight to conquer the whole universe. Together with a team of Galactic Guardians, He-Man fights to defend Primus and all its power resources from the continuous attacks by Skeletor and the Mutants.
In the New Adventures mini-comics packaged with the toys, the story is slightly different: when Prince Adam and Skeletor travel to Primus, Adam becomes He-Man in front of Skeletor, revealing his secret identity and giving up the identity of Prince Adam to remain permanently as He-Man. The "explosion" from the transformation damages Skeletor, and he has to become a cyborg in order to survive. Also, in the comics Skeletor does not fake allegiance to Flogg, but takes command of the Mutants.
The element of the transformation from Adam to He-Man is retained from the first cartoon series, as the makers felt it would be unwise to abandon it given that the transformation sequence had been one of the most popular elements of the original series. However, in this series, one word in the transformation line is different - instead of "By the power of Grayskull...I have the power!", he says "By the power of Eternia...I have the power!"
Offhand, I'd say the degree to which the animated series was a continuation of the original is somewhat debatable. The series was produced by a completely different animation company, and while a few story components were carried over -- at least as far as they needed to be -- the style was radically different, and since the series took place on an entirely different planet, with the only holdover characters of any duration being He-Man and Skeletor, I don't really regard it as that much of a continuation.
As for Slush Head? Well, he was also marketed under the name of Kalamarr, which has since become his "real" name, according to his bio card. Interestingly enough, he was also offered in the original "He-Man" line in a two-pack with the new "He-Man", as a "Buy one, Get one Free" offer, where he was simply listed as "Evil Mutant". Much like most secondary characters and lackeys, he doesn't have much of a history. As far as that goes, his own package in the Classics line describes him as "Scaly Goon Squad Thug."
The package is distinctive for bearing the emblem of the "Space Mutants", the official name given to any of the villains from the "New Adventures" concept that make their way into the Masters of the Universe Classics line.
So, how's the figure? Surprisingly impressive. I have found it interesting to observe the transition of any of these "New Adventures" characters from their original toy counterparts into the Classics line. Unlike most of the other Masters figures we've seen, the New Adventures characters have a somewhat different road to travel.
It could be fairly stated, I believe, that the Masters of the Universe Classics line takes the original Masters of the Universe figures, and brings them closer to their original Filmation animated counterparts. Frankly, it's an improvement. As popular as the original Masters of the Universe line was, physical accuracy wasn't exactly a priority. The original figures were certainly muscular, but they also tended to have rather short, squat, bow legs.
Filmation tended to use a technique called "rotoscoping". Masters was hardly the only animated series this was used on. The technique involved filming live actors performing various functions -- walking, running, jumping, whatever -- and then the animated characters would be based on these movements. Although this resulted in a great deal of stock footage -- an economic necessity as well -- the end result was also animated character with considerable physical accuracy to the human form.
As such, the animated Masters characters actually looked more physically accurate than the original toys upon which they were based. This, along with, obviously, a great deal more articulation, has certainly been corrected in the Classics line.
Contrast that with the New Adventures of He-Man. The animation did not use rotoscoping. It was decent-enough animation for the time, however. Then there were the figures. Interestingly enough, their overall bodily proportions were actually more agreeable than the original Masters of the Universe line. However, they weren't quite the muscular physical powerhouses that the originals had been. They had impressive physiques, but just not quite to the same level.
So, while there is something of an established basis for the original Masters of the Universe characters to sort of "grow into" the Classics line, those reference points being the Filmation animated series, there is no real concurrent basis for the "New Adventures" characters to do the same thing. And yet in one sense, they have more of an advantage from a toy standpoint, since the original toys were somewhat better proportioned in the first place.
If anything, it comes down to putting a little more muscle on them, and in some respects, finding which existing parts might be good choices to transition a given character into the Classics line. This actually has the added benefit of making them a better fit with the other Masters characters.
In the case of Slush Head, he seems to borrow from quite a few people. His head is certainly distinctive to the character. Sealed underneath a transparent dome, Slush Head's olive green face is a case study in almost comical ugliness. He is hairless, and has a rather prominent brow scowling over two huge eyes with tiny pupils. The eyes are so big that one suspects he has to be able to see rather well in the dark, but could probably be disabled by a beam to his face with a decently intense flashlight.
His nose is rather broad and flat, and his mouth is an angry sneer. He has two rather pointed ears on either side of his head. If there's anything akin to a neck or a chin, it's hidden by the collar to which the clear dome is secured. There's a bony ridge over the top of his head, but the rest of his head has a certain almost unformed look to it, probably how he got his nickname in the first place.
His shoulders are torso are very scaly. I've seen the shoulders before on several figures, but I didn't entirely recognize the torso. Slush Head has enough other distinctive parts that I couldn't quite imagine that Mattel crafted an entirely new torso for him, and after a little research, I determined that it has seen use before, at the very least on Whiplash and Buzz-Off.
The lower arms have a great many spiked protrusions on them. Again, this is an arm that has been used before, notably once again on characters such as Whiplash, among others. The hands, three-fingered and webbed, come straight from Mer-Man, and as far as I know, this is their only other use to date.
The trunks are not the usual loincloth design, something the New Adventures concept didn't use much. Rather, they are ridged trunks with a distinctive belt. No great surprise here, they're identical in form, but not color, to the ones worn by Icarius, another New Adventures character.
Slush Head's upper legs have a series of protrusions on their sides. Once again, we can look to characters such as Whiplash and Buzz-Off to see previous uses of these. The lower legs, showing the boots, once again are recolored from Icarius. I'm not sure if "boots" is the right term, since Slush Head is really barefoot, and his feet are the three-clawed-toes design that any number of bad guys in the Masters of the Universe line, including Skeletor himself, possess.
Overall, Slush Head is quite the jigsaw puzzle. His skin color is a fairly straightforward olive green, while his clothing, or armor, is a dark blue-green. This includes a distinctive chestplate and backplate that is a nice upgrade, retaining all the pertinent design details, of course, of the original figure. The end result is really most effective.
Slush Head has some painted details. The buckle on the belt is red. And there is some silver detailing on the chest and back armor. His eyes and teeth, thankfully, are very neatly painted, because there would be no way to access them to do touch-ups if they weren't. There's a bit of metallic turquoise trim on the chestplate, and there's quite a lot of silver on the backplate. Additionally, Slush Head is wearing silver armbands, with ridged piping that connects to silver wristbands.
The figure comes with two long, ridged, plastic tentacles. This was a feature of the original figure. One has a claw at the tip, and the other has a sort of backwards claw with a moveable appendage. These can be attached to two small sockets at the base of the backplate. However, I would recommend caution in doing so. The tentacles are not made from flexible plastic, and are fairly narrow, which is probably why they don't contain wire armatures. They're actually rather rigid, and while I'm sure they're sturdy enough, one has to consider the possibility of breakage. This is entirely your choice, of course, but my choice has been to display the figure without them.
As for other accessories, Slush Head also comes with a very odd but interesting-looking silver blaster that can be flipped around and used as an axe. Versatile, if nothing else.
Slush Head also has an interesting additional feature. There is a small plug at the base of the clear dome on the back. This can be removed, and the dome can be filled with liquid. There's even an illustration on the side of the package with the declaration, "Fill helmet with water... it's fun!" One assumes that Slush Head is amphibious.
I was surprised to see something like this, and I'm assuming it's some sort of carryover feature from the original figure, which admittedly I never owned. But it does surprise me that something like this was included with the Classics figure. Not all such "action features" are carried over. Long gone are the spring-loaded waists that allowed the figures to look as though they were throwing fast punches (and good riddance). The Battle Armor figures do not have spring-loaded rotating armor. There's been something of a policy whereby only figures whose special features were absolutely crucial to the character, such as Tri-Klops' visor, or Man-E-Faces shifting faces, would be included. So this "fill the helmet" feature is something of a surprise.
And no, I didn't try it out. It looks workable and sound enough, but just in case, I don't need Slush Head leaking on my keyboard...
This does mean that Slush Head's head is not poseable, but he has all the rest of the considerable range of articulation that one expects from the Masters of the Universe Classics line, and he is as such fully poseable at the arms, upper arm swivels, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, boot tops, and ankles.
Here's Slush-Head's bio card:
This grotesque, scaly, web-footed creature from Denebria's stinking Quagmire Swamp had his head permanently encased in a plateelium dome full of the swamp's foul waters. He carries a trident spear gun and a saber axe as well as two huge mechanical tentacles for grabbing and crushing his foes. As a petty thug and pickpocket, Kalamarr bounced in and out of Prison Starr throughout his youth. Just when he began getting his life in order, Skeletor arrived on his quest to overthrow the Horde Empire. The promise of riches and power were enough to sway this mutant moron and goon squad member to Skeletor's evil ways.
Wow. Okay, it's an informative background, but talk about insulting. Grotesque, from a stinking swamp, petty thug, mutant moron -- almost makes me want to find a therapist for him. Anybody would have self-esteem issues after reading this.
I've found it interesting that, for the most part, none of the bio cards for the figures based on "New Adventures" characters have gone to any great length to connect the characters either to Eternia or to "current events" taking place there. Skeletor's "quest to overthrow the Horde Empire" seem somewhat vague relative to existing storyline elements, although it seems like something he would want to do at some point. And yet that's really the only reference on the entire bio card for Slush Head that connects the character to the rest of the Masters' universe. I'm not saying that this makes the character or the figure any less legitimate, but it is an interesting observation. I would suspect that the continuity is a little tough to work in.
So, what's my final word? Well, after Optikk, Icarius, and now Slush Head, I think I can fairly say that my original belief that the "New Adventures" characters would be a poor addition to the Masters of the Universe Classics line was incorrect. They've all been most impressive figures. I'll be interested to see who else they can effectively work into the line.
Slush Head is a very well-designed and detailed figure, and I believe he is an excellent addition to any Masters of the Universe Classics collection. I'm glad he's part of mine, and he's not someone you want to pass up for yours.
The MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of SLUSH HEAD definitely has my highest recommendation!