REVIEW: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS SY-KLONE
As I have often said, one of the most remarkable aspects of Masters of the Universe is the sheer variety of character types that can fit into it. Eternia is a world with an astonishing array of sentient life. Few fictional concepts have dared to approach the level of variety of life-forms on a single planet that Masters of the Universe has with the world of Eternia.
And consider the characters themselves. You've got He-Man, a hero with the strength of Superman, the muscular build of a super-hero, and the fashion sense of Conan the Barbarian. There is the villainous Skeletor, the noble Man-At-Arms, the fiery Teela, the enigmatic Zodac, the brutish Beast-Man, and many more.
The culture and society of Eternia seems at once high-tech and medieval. Furry loincloths are a fashion statement. Much of the planet seems governed by King Randor. And yet high-tech devices of all sorts are clearly in use. It seems as if -- you name it, and we'll find a way to make it fit. G.I. Joe may be largely military, Transformers may be all about robots, but Masters? We'll find a way to make it fit. We'll take in ninjas, robots, whatever you got. It may go some way to explain the popularity of the concept.
And then there's characters that are a little harder to define or categorize, such as SY-KLONE, that was added to the Masters of the Universe Classics series.
Now, admittedly, in the original Masters of the Universe line, little attention was paid to backstories, especially of the supporting cast. All we knew about He-Man was that he was Prince Adam, the son of King Randor and Queen Marlena, the latter hailing from the planet Earth. He had at some point been contacted by the Sorceress, and granted the ability to transform into He-Man with the use of a powerful magic sword. All we knew about Skeletor was that he wanted to conquer Eternia, and believed that the means to do that was through the power of Castle Grayskull, preferably getting He-Man out of the way either before or during doing so.
As time went on, we learned a little more. We learned that He-Man had a long-lost sister who had been kidnapped by Hordak and taken to the world of Etheria. And we learned that Skeletor had been a one-time ally of Hordak. But these were elements that came out of the Filmation animated series, not from anything specifically referenced on the toy packages, and although the action figures did come with mini-comics for a time, the stories presented therein were often conflicting with the animation (and sometimes with each other) as far as background details. Not that this was terribly unusual in and of itself. G.I. Joe and Transformers, arguably the other two "big guns" of the 80's toy-based pop culture world, also had some continuity problems between media forms. Generally speaking, most fans of G.I. Joe will give the comic book greater credibility over the animated series, whereas with Transformers and Masters, the animation has the edge.
But both G.I. Joe and Transformers presented some measure of backstory and character profiles on the toy packages for their products. We could learn who Duke, Destro, Megatron, or Bumblebee were just by reading the information on the package if we wanted. Masters of the Universe provided no such information. Character history and development just wasn't as much of a priority.
As the Masters fans grew up, so the toys and their world had to as well. When the Masters of the Universe line was relaunched in 2002, although the toys once again were without specific character backgrounds, the new animated series from Mike Young Productions did go into far greater detail with regard to the characters involved. We learned that, for example, Skeletor had once been a man named Keldor, before his face had been eaten down to the bone following a mishap in combat. Not that he'd ever been one of the good guys. We learned that before He-Man, there had been a similarly endowed individual named King Grayskull, who had defended Eternia against the threats of his time, the greatest of which had been Hordak.
The 2002-era toys were a decent success, but came to a premature halt for a variety of reasons, as did the animated series. Additional toys were planned but unproduced, with many of the intended characters turning up in a line of similarly-scaled statues. The animated series' proposed third season never happened.
With the advent of the Masters of the Universe Classics series, presenting highly-detailed, and more significantly, highly-articulated and faithful to its origins action figures of the Masters of the Universe characters, a longtime oversight was corrected. The new figures had backstories presented on their packages, in the form of scroll-like "bio cards" (for lack of a better term), which have done their best to reconcile all of the available information from all sources as much as possible. Given the current lack of any additional media for the Masters -- there is no new comic book or animated series -- Mattel is weaving a world around these action figures solely on the basis of these package cards, and really, it's working pretty well.
And for someone like Sy-Klone, it's pretty necessary, too. The figure is a bit of an oddball. His overall appearance is somewhat atypical even by Masters standards, and finding a way to fit him into the world of Eternia isn't that easy. In fairness, the character did turn up briefly in the original animated series, albeit with no real explanation, and also was found in the 2002-era animated series, this time around with a greater backstory, significant components of which have been included as part of the character profile on the package.
Even so, he's a bit unusual-looking. There's nothing at all subdued about his costume, which is a bright yellow and an intense shade of blue with red trim. Certain aspects of the design look like something out of The Jetsons crossed with a super-hero. And then there's the face, the only visible skin tone on the entire figure -- and it's light blue, initially to no apparent reason, although even this has been explained on the new backstory.
Granted, I've always rather liked the character. I'm not making any of these observations as a complaint. But relative to a lot of other Masters of the Universe figures, Sy-Klone is something of an oddity.
He is listed on a listing of Masters of the Universe characters on Wikipedia, although it's a rather brief entry. It reads as follows:
Sy-Klone is the Master of the Universe with the power of the wind. He can generate whirlwinds with his legs, torso, and arms. He was only shown twice in the 80's series because his figure was released just before the cartoon's closure. The figure came with a yellow shield.
In the 2002 continuity, Sy-Klone was recast as a mystic guardian of the Legacy Stones and the last defender of Anwat Gar, the Tibetan-Japanese-style temple that housed these stones. After destroying the stones, He-Man invited Sy-Klone to become a Master of the Universe. Sy-Klone's look resembles that of a stylized samurai; he tends to speak in proverbs, which irritates Teela from time to time. He is very lawful and righteous in nature.
I do recall those episodes, and need it be said that a fair amount of the 2002 storyline has been carried over to the new backstory, especially since in the 80's, supporting characters tended to turn up pretty much haphazardly, if only to give them a little bit of promotional screen time.
One thing I recall about the original Sy-Klone figure from the 80's. However else unlike he might have resembled the main hero of the line, Sy-Klone's face seemed to be a dead-on match for He-Man's, skin color and helmetry notwithstanding. It might have even used the same mold. Now, the 2002-era Sy-Klone figure didn't look much like He-Man, but that's not really a fair comparison, since the figures in that line were highly stylized.
I did find myself wondering -- did the new Sy-Klone have a face akin to He-Man's own? Well, it clearly wasn't the same mold. Sy-Klone has a closed mouth. He-Man has a slightly open one. So then I wondered -- well, what about the Prince Adam figure? But here again, the answer was no. Prince Adam has a slight grin on his face. Sy-Klone's face is very serious. It's a distinct mold.
Now, structurally, it does have some resemblance to He-Man. The cheekbones and jawline are similar. But Sy-Klone's eyes are slightly larger, and his eyebrows certainly are. And the two don't look that similar in profile. The bridge of Sy-Klone's nose is more prominent close to the brow. I'd say there's enough similarity to respect the similarity of the original figures, and still make Sy-Klone a unique individual.
Sy-Klone is wearing a yellow helmet that does have a vague samurai look to it, and a red ring around the brim. Here is my lone complaint about this figure, in that the brim appears to have been hand painted, and while it's decently neatly painted, there are a few uneven sections that I suspect could have been avoided with a proper paint stencil.
Sy-Klone's arms and legs are yellow, with blue boots and gloves. He has a blue torso. One thing that's certainly worth noting is the number of unique parts this figure has. One expects the reuse of body parts in this line, to maintain consistency. But sometimes a figure has enough unique attributes that a modification of a standard part is required. In Sy-Klone's case, he has unique upper arms below the shoulders, in order to accommodate these blue, wedge-like fins on his upper arms, unique lower arms to accommodate the unusual gloves, a unique upper torso, to accommodate a feature that I'll discuss in a couple of paragraphs, a unique lower torso, since he doesn't have a loincloth, and unique lower legs, because of his unusual boots. That's quite a bit of new molding!
Unlike the traditional loincloth, Sy-Klone has what appears to be blue trunks below his belt. They ave a ridged pattern in them. He is wearing a red belt that has a belt buckle with the emblem of a ringed planet on it. Speaking of rings, the tops of his gloves and the tops of his boots have ridged red rings surrounding them, two on each glove, three on each boot. It is this detail, along with the belt buckle, as much as anything, that gives him that touch of "Jetsons" look I mentioned earlier. Between that and the bright color scheme, he sort of looks like a futuristic superhero.
Then there's the major detail on the torso. Sy-Klone's -- well, let's call it what it is -- body armor, has this huge circular screen on it, that looks very much like some sort of long-range radar screen. While it doesn't move of its own accord, it has a lenticular design, which when viewed from different angles, causes a white "sweep" across various parts of the screen, not online an actual radar screen. The screen is mostly black, with concentric circles, straight red lines, and a pattern of stars and several planets (including a prominent ringed one) on the screen.
Then there's the big ring. Attached to his back (although it is detachable), Sy-Klone is wearing a large red circular apparatus, that is on a hinge that allows this item to be lowered over Sy-Klone's shoulders. Among his accessories, he also comes with a shield, very much like his original incarnation.
There's an additional little detail that I found amusing. The original Sy-Klone, and for that matter the 2002-era edition, had a little geared wheel on the back, at the belt level, slightly off center of the spine. Turning this wheel allowed the figure's upper torso to spin around fairly quickly, thus demonstrating his special abilities -- other "spinning" characters have the good sense to incorporate the ability into their legs, not their upper bodies and heads.
Anyway, as one would expect, the new Sy-Klone does not have this ability. Spring-loaded features and the like are simply not a part of the modern Masters line. I, for one, don't miss them in the least. The only exceptions being made are in instances where a specific ability is absolutely crucial to the figure, and can be carried out without too much hassle. This would include things like Tri-Klops' rotating visor, and Man-E-Faces' multiple faces. This sort of thing likely explains why we haven't seen the likes of Ram Man in this line -- yet, anyway. Arguably the greatest exception thus far has been Roboto, who was given an entirely new transparent torso, with the internal turning gears mechanism. But as with Tri-Klops, it just wouldn't have been Roboto otherwise.
Clearly, Sy-Klone's spinning ability (or lack thereof) had nothing to do with the VISUAL presentation of the figure, unlike the others, and so it was excluded. However, there's still a little ridge on the back of his belt, representing the original gear mechanism. Cute touch. I like it.
Overall, the figure is extremely impressive and, with the exception of the ring around the helmet, very neatly painted. He basically uses three colors -- yellow, blue, and red -- not counting the light blue of the face, or the white and black used for the eyes and eyebrows. However, just to add a little something extra, he has a few slightly metallic blue details on his gloves and boots.
I was initially of the opinion that Sy-Klone had inexplicably small hands. And they do look a little tiny for some reason. However, I compared them to He-Man's own hands, and they're roughly the same size. So I withdraw any potential complaint there. I honestly don't know why they look small, but somehow, they do.
Let's consider the bio card that appears on Sy-Klone's package. It reads as follows:
SY-KLONE - Heroic Fist-Flinging Tornado
Protector of the Legacy Stones and the Last Defender of Anwat Gar, Sy-Klone joined the Masters of the Universe after the Stones were destroyed and his mission completed. He wears the last remaining TECH vest armor created by his Gar ancestors to terrorize Eternia after the Great Wars. Its built-in wind rockets allow the user to create powerful vortexes of spinning energy as a defensive weapon or to fly through the air. Sy-Klone has upgraded his armor to also include cosmic radar which lets him sense the physical presence of evil long before others. Sy-Klone's wind powers and radar chest make him combat ready.
Okay, there's a number of things on that bio card that I'd like to address. For the most part, the first couple of sentences follow Sy-Klone's story as it was presented in the 2002 animated series -- which is fair, since it was the first time that the character really had a significant backstory.
The reference of Sy-Klone being a member of the Gar race is an interesting one, since this is a race known first of all for having blue skin, but otherwise looking relatively human, and whose most prominent member isn't Sy-Klone, but Keldor, later known as Skeletor himself! The fact that the armor was initially built to "terrorize" Eternia would tend to indicate that the Gar race isn't an especially likable bunch to begin with, and Sy-Klone is a rare exception. But this does give a relatively minor character such as Sy-Klone a previously unknown link to a certainly prominent character in Skeletor.
I find it interesting that the name "Dy-Lex" has a "TM" after it. A number of mysterious names have cropped up on these bio cards, and one wonders what, if any, plans Mattel has for them eventually. You generally don't trademark something unless you plan to use it fairly extensively at some point.
Then there's this reference of the TECH vest armor -- capitalized. That really stood out to me. Here's why. I recall reading something during the production of the modern Star Trek series, whether you're talking Next Gen, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, or Enterprise. These shows, far more than the original, had a lot more of what was called "techno-babble" in them. And sometimes, the specifics of such wording in a script had to be worked out after the initial script was prepared. The writer of a script wanted to tell a story involving the characters, not write a technical manual. So instead of saying, "The plasma manifold conduit on Deck 23 needs to be replaced", he'd simply write, "The TECH on Deck 23 needs to be replaced", and leave it to those on the production staff far more expert than himself in Trek terminology to make sure that whatever it was that needed to be replaced was either something that already existed within the world of Star Trek, and fit in well with the continuity of the story, or if something new needed to be invented, that it was something that sounded good within the established technological rules.
With that in mind, I can't help but wonder just a little bit if something a little more fancy-sounding was supposed to be in here to describe Sy-Klone's hardware. It's strange for the word "TECH" to be capitalized, it doesn't really seem to stand for anything, and I just wonder if either somebody meant to come up with something a little more extensive and specific-sounding (Oscillating something-or-other, maybe?) and just forgot, or if time ran out before they came up with something they liked -- that maybe could also be trademarked -- and just decided to leave it as it was and not worry about it. I don't know this for certain, of course -- but I do wonder.
So, what's my final word here? I'm extremely impressed. I've always liked Sy-Klone. Even within the Masters, he's a bit of a visual oddball because of his very primary color scheme. He definitely stands out in a crowd. The light blue face is an interesting aspect of the character, as well, and now, it even has a good explanation to back it up. The loss of the spinning ability is no loss whatsoever as far as I'm concerned. While I never had the original Sy-Klone, the 2002 version, which I do have, has these seriously floppy arms, so that they flap around better when you spin the figure. Who wants a floppy-articulated action figure? Not me. So, as I said, no big loss.
Of course, Sy-Klone is superbly articulated, fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, knees, boot tops, and ankles. And for the most part, the paint work is excellent. I firmly believe that any Masters of the Universe fan will be truly delighted to add this fine figure to their collection.
The MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of SY-KLONE definitely has my highest recommendation!