REVIEW: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS WEBSTOR
We all have phobias -- uncontrollable fears that may or may not have a rational basis to them, but which nevertheless cause an extreme reaction when we are confronted with the object of that phobia.
One of mine -- is spiders. And the bigger the spider, the more severe my reaction will be. I hate spiders. I mean, I really hate spiders. I'm also pretty well terrified of them.
This, however, didn't stop me in the least from getting the newest MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure, the villain with the somewhat spidery theme, named WEBSTOR.
Webstor is interesting in that while, of course, he was part of the original action figure line, he didn't quite make it into the 2002 action figure line. He's one of very few current figures in the Classics line that didn't make it into both previous lines. Although, in fairness, he almost made it. He did turn up in the 2002 animated series, and an action-figure-sized statue of him was manufactured.
The character has a surprisingly extensive background, given that he wasn't even part of the initial assortment of the original Masters. Let's see what WikiPedia has to say about him.
Webstor was introduced into the Masters of the Universe toy line in 1984. His action figure was packaged with a backpack and wire, along which his figure could be slid when the accompanying grappling hook was fixed to a surface.
Webstor appeared in Filmation animated series at the same time his figure was released, introduced in the first produced episode of the show's second season, "The Cat and the Spider". Voiced by John Erwin, he is given a memorable introduction appearance as a cunning and stealthy thief who is able to sneak into the Royal Palace with ease, as well as providing deadpan humor with his amusing retorts to Skeletor's jibes. Like most of the other villains introduced at the same time like Kobra Khan, Clawful etc., he seems to possess somewhat greater intelligence and responsibility than the generally bumbling villains of the show's first season.
In all of his subsequent appearances, Webstor is paired with Kobra Khan, the two of them working together. The first of these episodes, "Disappearing Dragons", showcases them as an independent duo and the main villains of the episode, concocting an entire plot of their own totally independent of Skeletor. Khan is clearly the leader of the two in this episode, although Webstor is given more screen time in a later episode, "Journey to Stone City" in which they accompany Evil-Lyn on a secret jungle mission, again independent of Skeletor.
The pairing of these two characters is later used in the She-Ra series in the episode "Battle for Bright Moon", which forms part of the movie The Secret of the Sword, which again showcases Webstor's ability to sneak into the palace, and even in a Mattel mini-comic "Rock People to the Rescue", which places them in the role of the main villains.
Another story medium in the 1980s to give Webstor significant exposure is the UK comic series, published by London Editions. This comic series greatly expands his character by portraying him as a skilled mathematician and strategist who can master any complex trap and solve any difficult puzzle, also possessing a range of technical skills. His character is brought to the forefront in issue #21, in which he designs and builds, for Skeletor, the ultimate trap, from which He-Man would not be able to escape. However, knowing that a master of escape would naturally design the trap so that it could be somehow escaped, He-Man forces Webstor into admitting there was a way out of the trap, which he leaves He-Man to work out for himself. Once He-Man works out how to escape, Webstor gladly allows He-Man to leave with dignity, respecting him for having the intelligence to decipher and escape the trap.
This side of Webstor's character is explored even further in the very next issue, #22, in the story "Puzzles of Peril". Webstor is sent by Skeletor to investigate a strange alien ship that had landed on Eternia, at the same time that He-Man reaches the ship to explore it. Webstor immediately calls a truce with He-Man and allies with him to explore the ship, in which they found themselves presented with a series of complex puzzles, which they work together to decipher. It eventually emerges that the puzzles had been set by an invading alien race to test the intelligence of the Eternians, given that they would only persist with their invasion on worlds in which the natives possessed low intelligence. Webstor and He-Man's performance, naturally, dissuades them from invading Eternia and the ship leaves. Impressed by Webstor's intelligence and co-operation, He-Man invites him to defect to the side of good and use his skills to help the Masters. Webstor refuses, admitting that he could not hope to beat He-Man, but vows that he will someday overthrow Skeletor as leader of the Evil Warriors and use his cognitive abilities to someday overcome He-Man. The UK comics, therefore, gives Webstor perhaps his strongest development ever in any media, portraying him as a villain with a brilliant mind who seeks to achieve his aims through firm logic and tactical planning; also indicating that he is perhaps not as intensely evil as his peers.
Normally, I wouldn't cite the UK series, but there's a reason I do in this case, apart from it presenting a very interesting characterization that tended to be somewhat lacking in the American media, which you'll see when I get around to Webstor's individual character profile as outlined on the package.
Webstor is reused in the 2002 relaunch of the Masters of the Universe cartoon series. He was also intended for the new toy line, but the line was canceled before his figure could be released. The writers of the new show showcased him as more of a freelance villain rather than another member of Skeletor's evil team.
Webstor's design was modified quite considerably from the old, to appear more spider-like, with a thinner frame, six equally-sized eyes (the original Webstor has multiple eyes, but they were smaller than his "normal" eyes), and additional spider-limbs. He receives a subtle introduction in the episode "Snake Pit", in which we see only a close-up of his eyes as he is awakened by Kobra Khan entering the cavern beneath Snake Mountain. This appearance immediately stirred intense debate among fans over whether the 'spider' was Webstor or just a regular giant spider.
He went on to receive a full introduction in the episode "Council of Evil part 1", in which he is a hired member of Skeletor's council of evil, composed of independent evildoers from across Eternia. Portrayed as a silent and subtle villain who spends most of his time lurking in the shadows, he is sent to capture Stratos by entrapping him in his web, spun in the hollow of the Eye of Zarcane within the Mystic Mountains. In the second part of the 3-part epic, he uses his webbing to steal the Sword of Power itself from Prince Adam, leaving him with no way to become He-Man.
In the concluding episode of the 3-parter, "The Last Stand" which begins season 2, Webstor declares that he will remain allied with Skeletor upon the defeat of the council of evil, when other members desert Skeletor. He is only seen in one episode thereafter.
In "Web of Evil" he is the main villain, stealing the substance Ambrosia from Buzz-Off's people, the Andreenids, to provide him with extra power and thus allowing him to spawn hundreds of deadly spiders, which he sets upon the Masters. The name of his species is given by Buzz-off in this episode calling him an Arachna, whose physiology is very similar to the Andreenids. After his Ambrosia-enriched eggs are subsequently stolen by the Snake Men, Webstor is brutally beaten by them and collapses dead on the ground, the only member of the regular cast ever to be killed off in a He-Man episode. However, his death is depicted in an ambiguous manner so that fans are led to debate over whether he is dead or unconscious, and it was only when Ian Richter of Mattel answered the fans' questions on the He-Man.org that it was confirmed that Webstor did indeed meet his end. It is possible that his death may have been deliberately shown in this uncertain manner, so that the writers could be left free to bring Webstor back if they chose to include him in future episodes. The series was canceled three episodes later, so Webstor remained dead.
Frankly, this version of Webstor was SO creepy across the board, that I'm not all that sorry we never got a figure of it. The spider-aspect was definitely brought much more to the forefront, and the mathematician/strategist was pretty much forgotten.
So, how's the figure? Extremely impressive -- and not nearly as creepy as the 2002 version would've been, fortunately.
Webstor has extremely dark blue skin. This is unusual even for the Masters, who admittedly tended to be all over the map with this sort of thing. The only other character that I can think off offhand whose natural color was this dark would be Spikor.
Webstor has the double flared lower arms, upraised boot tops, and three-toed feet typical of a number of the villains in the line. Although the boots are clearly designed to be boots and not part of the legs, including the feet, the flares on the lower arms are the same color as the rest of the body. This has tended to vary somewhat from character to character. On Mer-Man, for example, they're designed to look like gloves.
Webstor is wearing black loincloth with a red belt. He's not the most colorful figure in the series. Overall, his details are so dark, that the red highlights tend to be quite prominent.
Webstor's boots, and a harness he wears, are an extremely dark blue, even darker than his skin. The harness is interesting in that it does not come attached to the figure in his package. This is the first time I've ever had to partially dress one of these things...!
The chestpiece slips reasonably easily over the arms, but it does not attach to itself in the back. There is a red symbol, outlined in a dark gold, on the chest, that looks like an X-shape over a small diamond shape. It almost looks like a stylized exclamation point!
Connecting to the harness in the back is a backpack of sorts. It's not the easiest fit in the world. The two sides of the harness need to be brought quite close together. But it's not impossible. I've certainly had far greater struggles with toy assembly.
The backpack features a grappling hook of rather considerable size. Use this to fish with only if you're going after some pretty big trout. The hook has three prongs, that are pointy and rigid enough to make me think they might be a problem if Mattel was trying to market this line to kids.
The grappling hook is secured to a length of black rope, somewhat thicker and certainly better made than average string, which has a little stopper at the other and of it. The rope is attached to the backpack itself. I think the general idea is to place the hook at a high point somewhere, and use the other end of the rope to make it look like Webstor is ascending the rope. There is no mechanism built into the backpack.
Fortunately, it's possible to wrap the rope around the base of the grappling hook, and hook the stopper to the end of one of the hooks. This, at least, keeps it reasonably neatly affixed to the back of the backpack, and Webstor isn't going to be dragging a length of rope all over the place and tripping over it all the time.
The other feature on the backpack are four spider-like claw arms. Honestly, I couldn't find anything on Webstor's profile to indicate whether these were some strange extension of his own body, although they are the same color as his body, or some sort of mechanical limbs. They emanate FROM the backpack, but they're such an odd feature and don't really resemble the rest of the figure's structure. For myself, and just to keep the creepiness level to a minimum, I'm saying they're some sort of mechanical limbs. If this figure was based more on the 2002-era Webstor, I'd say there was no doubt they were intended to be natural extensions. Since it isn't specifically explained, whatever suits you in this matter is fine.
Each of the four arms is on an articulation point on the backpack that allows it to pivot and swivel. Conventional poses I've seen of Webstor show two of the arms coming up over his head, and two underneath his natural arms. However, I've found it looks a little more menacing for all four to be coming up from behind, in a standard pose.
Of course, Webstor has a distinctive headsculpt, and it's a fairly scary one, but looks very much like the character should. Relatively humanoid, Webstor has two large red eyes, and four much smaller additional red eyes on his forehead. He has a pushed in brow that almost looks bat-like. His mouth has four long fangs coming out of it, two fairly close in pointing down, and two further out pointing up.
Webstor has two pointed ears, but there's an extra flare on the back of the ear about halfway up, almost a double-point. Word is Mr. Spock is rather envious. And as long as we're making with Star Trek comparisons, Webstor has a ridged forehead that honestly goes all the way to the back of his head that would probably get him the admiration of most Klingons.
One additional accessory that Webstor comes with is a pistol. It's almost big enough to qualify as a rifle. Interestingly, it's the same color of orange-gold as the outline on his chest symbol. I suppose, composition-wise, Mattel wanted to get one more use out of that color. It's an impressive and well-detailed piece. Not sure what it fires, but it looks suitably dangerous, sort of the Eternian version of an UZI.
The figure is, of course, superbly articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, boot tops, and ankles. WikiPedia has been referring to this Masters of the Universe Classics line as the "Ultimate Masters", and that is an assessment with which I entirely agree. These really are spectacular figures.
One of the features I like is the character profiles provided on the backs of the cards, something neither the originals nor the 2002 line bothered with. Webstor's reads as follows:
WEBSTOR - Evil Master of Escape
And that's why I included the UK comics information. It seems clear that that's where Mattel derived that part of the character's profile from. The rest seems to be a reasonable blending of his original and 2002 character elements, all worked together as best as possible.
I do have to say I like the idea that Webstor is not the sort of idiotic lackey that Skeletor seemed to surround himself with early on. Okay, you want to be a supreme ruler. You don't want anyone TOO smart around you getting ideas of overthrowing you in his head. On the other hand, if all you surround yourself with are morons, sooner or later, that's going to prove detrimental to your plans as well. And they're not very good company, either. Webstor seems to be of a higher caliber.
So, what's my final word here? Arachnophobia aside, this is a very impressive figure. His very dark overall appearance makes him very distinctive, even in the wild world of the Masters of the Universe. He's well made, the articulated arms on his backpack are an interesting feature, and he has an impressive and different sort of character background.
By the time you read this review, Webstor will likely be sold out of MattyCollector.Com. However, there are other sources, as well as the secondary market. And this guy is definitely worth it. Maybe Webstor missed out on the 2002 line, but he's here now, and I'm glad to have him!
The MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of WEBSTOR definitely has my highest recommendation!