REVIEW: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS STAR SISTERS 3-PACK
You know, as I take a comprehensive look at my action figure collection, there's one fairly easy observation to make regarding color usage. There isn't a lot of pink here.
Pink isn't a color that's associated all that much with action figures. It's the traditional color to represent girls, just as blue generally represents boys. From a toy standpoint, pink is generally most closely associated with Barbie, an extremely popular fashion doll, certainly, but hardly an action figure.
That's not to say there isn't any pink in my collection. Certainly there is. I have quite a number of pink Power Rangers. Bandai has had little alternative but to make these in order to produce complete teams of these heroes. I've got a couple of pink Halo Spartans. That's pretty bizarre, but it's almost become a sort of gag within the Halo world. I have a couple of pink Gundams, and yeah, there's something a little odd about a pink robot, or robotic piloted suit, anyway. If you want a pink robot, I have an Arcee here from Transformers. Cosmic Boy from the Legion of Super-Heroes introduced pink into the color palette for the DC Universe Classics line, and Zarana, Zartan's sister from the world of G.I. Joe, is wearing a pink shirt.
Now all of that sounds like a fair bit of pink, but relative to the entirety of my collection, it really isn't all that much. Something else that can be said about the collection is there's not a lot of female characters in it. There's an unwritten rule, or a general philosophy, that female action figures simply don't sell that well. As such, they tend to be few and far between in the action figure world.
Most of the female characters in G.I. Joe have risen to prominence simply because of their scarcity, and subsequent greater usage in the respective comic books and animated series. Scarlett, Baroness, Lady Jaye, Zarana, even Cover Girl and Jinx, are quite well known. Pythona was one of the most prominent characters in the animated movie, even if she sadly never received a figure.
Looking back on Power Rangers again, Bandai has little choice but to turn out the female Rangers in any given year if they want to offer complete teams, but it's also obvious that the female Rangers tend to be short-packed, and de-emphasized outside of the basic team assortments.
Super-hero lines, such as DC Universe Classics and Marvel Universe, have been a little more fair in recent times to female characters. They're honestly not as uncommon as they used to be. But female characters still tend to be in the distinct minority in the action figure genre as a whole.
So one can only speculate as to what led to the latest multi-pack offering from Mattel's superb Masters of the Universe Classics action figure line, a threesome of ladies known as the STAR SISTERS, very colorful young women, one with a decided quantity of pink as part of her color palette.
Mattel does have the advantage of offering its Masters of the Universe Classics line exclusively through their own collectibles' Web Site - MattyCollector.Com -- and I seriously think in this instance that is a very good thing, because I doubt very much that you could've convinced an outside retailer to carry a set like this.
Although "girls' action figure line" would almost seem to be a contradiction in terms, there is one extremely notable exception to that apparent contradiction. In the 1980's, when Mattel's Masters of the Universe line was at its height, Mattel determined that, quite unusually, the Masters had a larger-than-usual female fan base than one would expect for a boys' toys line.
In order to take advantage of this, Mattel decided to develop a girls' action figure line that was in many respects based on the Masters of the Universe. This line became known as PRINCESS OF POWER, with its central character, She-Ra, being the sister of He-Man.
The two concepts were tied together much more closely in the animated world than they ever were in their respective original toy lines. She-Ra and her compatriots were introduced in an animated movie that was released to movie theaters. Titled "He-Man and She-Ra: The Secret of the Sword", the movie served as a major introduction of the characters of the Princess of Power line first and foremost, but the movie also served to build a bridge between the two concepts that would continue throughout the animation.
She-Ra was spun off into an animated series of her own, with He-Man occasionally guest-starring. However, he was hardly the only presence in the Princess of Power series that emanated first and foremost from the Masters. The Princess of Power toy line was far more doll-like than the Masters, which only makes sense. There was all of one male character in the entire line, She-Ra's friend Bow, and the figures tended to have rather "cute" faces, and doll-like features such as rooted hair, and accessories such as combs. The line was also distinctly lacking in the sort of bizarre semi-humanoid creatures that Masters of the Universe had become known for.
Even on a basic level, the two toy lines were not compatible. No one could plausibly slip Bow into the Masters of the Universe line and expect him to blend, and Teela and Evil-Lyn would have been poor fits in the Princess of Power line.
But the Princess of Power animated series was an entirely different matter. The main villain of the series was Hordak, accompanied by his Evil Horde, which certainly included no small amount of bizarre critters. Technically, Hordak and his Evil Horde were Masters of the Universe characters. They were made as toys for the Masters line, not the Princess of Power line. However, apparently someone at Filmation or Mattel (or both), decided that He-Man had his hands full enough as it was with Skeletor and his minions, and that the Princess of Power line lacked a really strong enough villain to carry an animated series -- although some of the villains from the line were worked into the Horde, Catra being the most prominent of them -- and so Hordak migrated from Eternia to She-Ra's homeworld of Etheria.
The animated series was able to get away with this more readily than the toys. Both the Masters of the Universe and Princess of Power animated series were produced by Filmation, and both used an animation technique called "rotoscoping", which meant taking the pre-filmed movements of a live actor performing some basic action -- walking, running, whatever -- and then basing the animation around those movements. While this tended to make for quite a bit of stock footage and a certain amount of repetition of movement, it also allowed for highly realistic illustrations -- within the confines of the character designs, of course -- that became a hallmark of Filmation's work around this time.
As such, the result was that the two animated series were stylistically identical, even though the planet Etheria tended to be a somewhat more colorful and vibrant place than Eternia in some respects. But it did allow for the characters from both toy lines to co-exist to a degree that the toys themselves could not.
Both toy lines ended in the late 1980's, but the fan base for the Masters continued. It was regarded as one of the top pop culture action figure concepts of the 1980's. And interestingly enough, most fans were willing to consider She-Ra and her friends as part of it, doubtless due to the popularity of the two animated series.
When the Masters of the Universe line returned in 2002, one of the most popular figures was a Convention Exclusive of none other than She-Ra, the first time she had appeared on Masters of the Universe packaging.
And when the Masters of the Universe Classics line started up through MattyCollector, one of the earliest questions asked was -- would She-Ra eventually become a part of it?
Indeed she did, but first, there would be the first-ever figure of Adora, her secret identity on Etheria. The figure was amazing, and looked like she'd stepped right out of the animated series. Next up was, indeed, She-Ra. But -- Mattel wasn't finished with the world of the Princess of Power!
Since that time, we have had a figure of Bow, whom one might suspect is not sorry to leave his relatively skinny original figure form behind, and to be rendered in the more physically imposing -- and more accurate to the cartoon -- version, again very close to his animated counterpart; and we have also had a figure of Catra, arguably She-Ra's greatest "in concept" adversary from the toy line, but once again altered somewhat to more closely resemble her animated counterpart, including the fact that she's part of Hordak's Evil Horde!
Which brings us to the Star Sisters. Who are they, you might ask? Well, from a toy line standpoint, they're a group that never quite made it. Almost any toy line has various figures or other elements that just don't quite make it to production. Either they're canceled along the way for one reason or another, retailers don't want them so they don't get produced, or in the proverbial worst-case scenario, the entire toy line gets scrapped before they can make it out to the stores.
Certainly this was the case with Masters of the Universe, and the Classics line is striving to make up for that, with figures of planned characters such as He-Ro and Photog. But it appears it was also the case with the Princess of Power line, and the Star Sisters, who now find themselves brought into the Masters of the Universe Classics line.
So, how are the figures? I'll certainly give them individual attention, but as a group -- hmm -- wow. Well, certainly, they're extremely impressive, and they certainly showcase the considerable talents of the Four Horsemen sculpting and design team, but visually -- well, now...
The original Princess of Power line was unquestionably a girls' toy line. It was, in essence a girls' action figure series. That's very unusual in and of itself. Mattel did an excellent job with the original line, somehow straddling a very narrow fence between "doll" and "action figure". These weren't Barbies. They weren't going to lounge around the pool with Ken, or go on a shopping excursion to the local mall in a pink Corvette. But they did have any number of girlish, or perhaps "dollish" would be a better term, characteristics, including rooted hair -- something the modern figures definitely do not have -- combs, mirrors, and let's say "unusual" action features, like "Bubble Power She-Ra." For the life of me, I can't quite imagine "Bubble Power Skeletor". At the same time, I'd just as soon not try to imagine, "Thunder Punch She-Ra."
The Masters of the Universe Classics line is unquestionably an action figure line. And it is, as far as I'm concerned, the finest incarnation of the Masters characters ever conceived. The figures are far better proportioned than their somewhat short-legged, bow-legged ancestors, and they're certainly far more detailed and massively better articulated. And they're a lot more straightforward in design than the decidedly stylized 2002 line, although to give that line its due, it did manage to take a few of the more odd characters like Buzz-Off and actually make him look cool.
But it's fair to say there's no real room for rooted hair and overly-cute, doll-like characteristics in the Masters of the Universe Classics line. However, the entirety of the Masters -- universe -- is available to be included in this line. That includes the Masters, it includes the New Adventures of He-Man, and it includes the Princess of Power characters. We've already seen a few of them, as I noted before. But She-Ra, Bow, and Catra were relatively easy entries. They were established characters, prominent within their respective concepts, with established appearances that honestly, worked well enough within the Classics line, since there were the animated likenesses to work from.
This wasn't the case with the Star Sisters. The small artwork that appears as a picture on their scroll-like bio card is either derived directly from some early artwork prepared for their intended versions from the 1980's, or is doing one heck of a good job imitating that particular style. What we have here are three -- individuals -- who are clearly designed in the format of action figures, but between the flowing sculpted hair and especially the distinctly girlish color schemes, manage to come across as the most doll-like action figures I think I've ever seen in my life.
Or maybe that should be action-figure-like dolls? No, I think we'll stick with doll-like action figures. They're definitely action figures, in their design and construction. But the color schemes, especially, push the final product a good bit further into the "girls' toys" range than anything I've ever seen in the action figure aisle. As I said before, I think it's a good thing that the Masters of the Universe Classics line is an exclusive to MattyCollector.Com. They'd have a heck of a time persuading a retailer to carry this. Don't even get me started on how bizarre it is to see three such colorful young ladies packed in the rather foreboding dark green medieval Castle Grayskull brick packaging common to this line. This works about as well as if someone made a figure of the Terminator, half shot up, bloody skin partly ripped away, cyborg endoskeleton showing through, black leather jacket and trousers torn up and full of bullet holes, and put him on a package card printed in colorful pinks and pastels.
None of this should be considered criticism. I'm impressed that Mattel and the Four Horsemen were able to take these characters, clearly originally intended for a line that, in fairness, was probably more doll than action figure, and bring them as far into the action figure format as they have. I also find myself wondering, just a bit, if the Star Sisters were a bit of a test for further Princess of Power characters down the line. We're talking about characters that have names like Glimmer, Sweetbee, Peekablue, and Perfuma (just what we need after Moss Man and Stinkor). If characters like this are going to share the company of Hordak, Clawful, Trapjaw, and Beast Man, they'd better be able to get away with it. And if the Star Sisters are any indication, they just might.
Let's have a look at the scroll-like bio card on the back of their package. First off, let's have a look at the 30th Anniversary logo on the back, though. I'm truly pleased that Mattel is acknowledging this. It's an impressive logo, with the traditional Masters of the Universe logo, topped by Castle Grayskull, with the number "30" beneath it, with a banner on either side with the years "1982" and "2012" on it.
Now, as to the Star Sisters. Their individual names are Jewelstar, described as a "Hidden Beauty" with a real name of Devena; Starla, described as a "Bright and Beautiful Leader", with a real name of Gemma; and Tallstar, described as a "Lovely Lookout", with a real name of Cassandra. Their bio card reads as follows:
In ancient times, an evil sorceress became jealous of the Star Sisters' youth and beauty and trapped them in a shooting star. It was sent hurtling through the cosmos until the three women crash-landed on Etheria. There, they remained magically confined in the side of a mountain until the day Swiftwind's hooves accidentally loosened the stone that concealed their prison. She-Ra quickly used her powers to melt away the star that held them captive. In gratitude, the sisters pledged their everlasting friendship. Jewelstar magically conjures gem armor to protect herself and others. Tallstar uses her magic to stretch to unbelievable heights. Starla, with her pet Glorybird, can sense danger and project spells of light against her foes. Together, they stand side-by-side with She-Ra in the battle for freedom.
One has to think that somebody at Mattel isn't taking these characters entirely seriously given their method of escape. Swiftwind is having a bad day, kicks a rock, and reveals the Star Sisters? Granted, I'm not so sure it's all that much more dignified than being frozen in a block of ice for decades and worshiped as some sort of deity by Eskimos until Namor comes along and tosses you into the ocean in a fit of pique, like what happened with Captain America, but really...!
Now, let's consider the figures individually:
STARLA - Starla is listed as the leader of this group. She has long blonde hair that is tied off in the back. Tons of credit to the Four Horsemen, they sculpt hair and fur better than any other toy designers on the planet as far as I'm concerned, and the Star Sisters doubtless gave them quite a workout. Starla's long hair is slightly windblown to one side, and hangs well below her waist.
The figure has blue eyes and just a hint of blue shading above the eyes. It's an interesting contrast to her costume, which is entirely in three colors - yellow, orange, and red. Suffice to say that whatever skills Starla has, they don't likely include covert operations.
Starla is wearing a red star-like tiara, with an orange border. Her costume consists of a yellow halter top with a red border and a red line down the center, topped with a red star with a yellow border. She is wearing an orange skirt, with a red border. Actually, it appears as though it's intended to be a sort of double-skirt, orange and then red. One can imagine that had Starla made it into the original Princess of Power line, these would have been made separately, and from fabric. She has another red star with a yellow border as a belt buckle of sorts, even though she does not in fact have a belt.
She is wearing yellow wristbands with red borders, and has red leggings. She has yellow boots with red borders, one side of which tapers all the way down to the ankles. There are little yellow stars at the tops of the boots.
One thing that especially impresses me is the number of newly sculpted parts that Mattel devoted to these figures. Certainly the top and skirt are new, but so are the boots and wristbands. These required entirely new lower arms and legs to be made.
Starla's bio card makes reference to her pet, Glorybird. This is an eagle that comes with the set. It's a bright metallic pink eagle. The wings are articulated, and it's wearing some sort of gold collar that tapers into what honestly looks like a bright pink mohawk or fin running down the back of the eagle. I'm fairly certain that the basic mold is the same one that's been used to bring a couple of other birds into this line, small versions of Zoar and Screeech. What's moderately hilarious here is that the serious expression on the eagle's face just doesn't work with the color scheme. It sort of translates as, "What did I do to deserve this?"
It should probably be noted that if one researches the history of the original Princess of Power line, there was no shortage of animals in it -- mostly winged horses, in a wide variety of colors. We've already had Swiftwind. If Mattel keeps this up, we're going to have a more colorful stable than My Little Pony -- with one aviary contender in Glorybird.
Color notwithstanding, the bird is an impressive sculpt, and certainly well made and highly detailed.
Any complaints? Just a slight one. Starla has a couple of dark blue spots on one foot. I've seen this before, thankfully infrequently. I suspect that what happens is that a couple of little wrong-color pellets find their way into the plastic mix, and this is what happens. It could be worse. My Lightning Lad figure from the Justice League Unlimited line has one on his nose. There's nothing to be done to fix it, but somebody should really make sure this sort of thing doesn't happen at the factory in the first place. It's carelessness, really.
However, it's also a minor issue on an otherwise very impressive figure.
JEWELSTAR - I started off this review by commenting about the relative dearth of pink in the average action figure collection. Jewelstar more than compensates for this.
Jewelstar is dressed pretty much head to toe in what looks like metallic pink armor. The chestplate is very clearly intended to look armored. Once again, I must commend Mattel for being willing to create as many new figure parts for this set as they have. There's a rather angular look to the upper and lower torso, clearly denoting armor. The upper arms and legs somewhat less so.
Then there's Jewelstar's stated ability -- the ability to create "gem armor". This is clearly evidenced on the figure. She is wearing a metallic pink crystal headdress, has crystal armor emerging from her shoulder blades in the back, which appears to help keep her cape in place, her lower arms, except for her hands, are entirely made from crystal, and she has more crystal armor emerging from her knees.
There is an extremely peculiar visual comparison, albeit a very limited one, that can be made here. The placement of some of Jewelstar's crystal armor is eerily similar to some of the more dangerous bony protrusions to be found on that most monstrous of Superman villains -- Doomsday. Fortunately, that's as far as the comparison goes.
One also tends to hope that the problems that plagued the last transparent female figure in the Masters line, the Green Goddess, have been resolved at least well enough so that Jewelstar's lower arms don't fall off.
The character has purple eyes with pinkish purple eye shadow, and is also wearing a very metallic cape that has swirls of silver and metallic pink-purple in it. She even has metallic pink nail polish. In fact, the only thing that really deviates from the color scheme is a star emblem on her chest, which is a yellow star with a white border, and it stands out like a pair of sneakers in a formal wear shop.
Even Jewelstar's hair is pink. Her hair isn't all that evident when viewing the figure from the front, as it's tied off behind the headdress in a long, upswept ponytail. This is an impressive piece. Along with the difficulty sculpting something like this, I find myself sincerely wondering what the mold for it must look like.
Overall, Jewelstar is an extremely impressive figure, and I do get a kick out of the transparent lower arms.
TALLSTAR - Of the three, Tallstar is probably the one that fits best with the Masters of the Universe line, at least insofar as uniform colors are concerned. Her outfit consists of a metallic blue torso and trunks, lavendar upper arms and boots, and red gloves and leggings. It's easily less intense than Starla's costume, and less -- single-minded, for lack of a better term, than Jewelstar's.
And again, the number of unique parts is impressive, although some of them are certainly necessary for Tallstar's special feature. I'd be willing to say that with the possible exception of the hands and feet, Tallstar is an entirely new figure. The upper arms are designed to look like billowing sleeves, although they have lost none of their articulation. The torso has lavender straps running to a ridged belt, and a red star on the chest.
Really, what is it with these women and red stars? In the 1980's this could have been considered -- well, at the very least, politically inadvisable.
Tallstar has a somewhat more serious expression on her face than the other two Star Sisters for some reason, and a hint of eyeshadow identical to the lavender parts of her costume. Her eyes appear to be a deep blue-purple. She also has decidedly the most impressive hair sculpt, and it's not tied off anywhere, and is extremely long, hanging well past her waist. It's also a very deep pink in color. It's not at all a pale pink, but a very deep, intense pink. But it's still definitely pink.
Tallstar also has a very unusual ability, that requires her to have the first set of written instructions that I believe have been included with any individual figure. Living up to her name, and her specialty as a "lookout", she has the ability to slightly stretch her limbs and her neck. She's no Mekaneck or Extendar, but it's still an unusual feature.
For the figure, this is accomplished by the fact that the figure can be separated along certain ridged portions of her costume. These include the neck, the upper arms at the swivel, and the lower legs at the boot. Tallstar comes with additional sections that can then be placed in these areas, raising her height and arm length somewhat.
Although I'm certainly impressed with all three of the Star Sisters, I'd have to give Tallstar a slight edge as far as a more dynamic appearance is concerned, and her "action feature" is certainly an interesting one.
Certainly, articulation on all three figures is very impressive. They are all poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, legs, knees, and ankles. Paintwork is extremely impressive, especially on the figures' faces, and most notably around the eyes. Superbly well detailed and neatly done.
As far as accessories go, apart from Glorybird and Tallstar's extra -- body parts -- there's got to be a better way to say that -- the set comes with what I believe to be a blue perch for Glorybird, and a set of three identical staffs for the Star Sisters. Each one is a different color -- yellow, orange, and pink. Each is made from transparent plastic with metallic sparkles inside it. The staffs are curved and relatively slender, with a a thick star emblem at the top. There's no indication on the bio cards that the staffs convey or possess any special abilities, but I don't think it would be pleasant to get whacked over the head with one.
So, what's my final word? Admittedly, this is an unusual set of figures, even for the Masters of the Universe Classics line. It represents a group very clearly associated with the Princess of Power line -- and you don't really need the Princess of Power logo sticker on the front window of the box to figure that one out -- and perhaps moreso than most. She-Ra, Bow, Catra, even Adora tend to "blend" a good bit better with the rest of the Masters than these three do. This is why I tend to think they're something of a test to see how well they're received, and what other Princess of Power characters can be brought into the line.
And in and of themselves, they also represent a curious blending between the concepts of "doll" and "action figure" that is seldom seen, and to an even greater degree than the original line. I'm pleased to have them, as at the very least, they certainly represent distinctive toys, and I continue to be highly impressed with the Masters of the Universe Classics line as a whole. And if this is a line that you've been following, you should definitely consider adding these three to your collection.
The MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS set featuring the STAR SISTERS from PRINCESS OF POWER - STARLA, JEWELSTAR, and TALLSTAR, definitely has my highest recommendation!