REVIEW: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS WHIPLASH
One of the more interesting additions to Mattel's superb line of Masters of the Universe Classics action figures may also be one of the most dynamic to date. His name is WHIPLASH!
The figure arguably uses more new parts in his basic design -- many of which admittedly can be used on several other characters as the line progresses -- than have been seen in some time.
Unlike a lot of Masters of the Universe characters which I have reviewed as part of this line, there wasn't a lot of background information on Whiplash. In most of the online resources regarding Masters of the Universe, he is mentioned, but little else. However, between the original line and the 2002 series, some details do come forth.
Whiplash is one of Skeletor's minions. As one might expect among this crowd, he was never portrayed as an intellectual genius. In one episode of the original animated seires, in which the villains actually temporarily sought the help of King Randor and the heroes of Eternia, it was Whiplash who was sent to Randor's palace to discuss the situation, and he managed to convince Randor that he was not there for hostile purposes, at least not on that particular occasion.
Details from the 2002 series provide some additional information. I saw one online reference to the new figure that identified Whiplash as one of the Snake-Men. He is not. Although the character certainly has considerable reptilian characteristics, he is not part of that specific group, which came along sometime later. If Eternia is known for one thing, it is an astounding variety of sentient, and generally humanoid life, whatever other unusual characteristics it may have. Whiplash comes from a race of beings known as the Caligar, who have no connection to the Snake-Men. It would seem that the Caligar are not necessarily bent towards being bad guys, either. It has been said that Whiplash betrayed his people, although the specific nature of that betrayal is unknown.
Whiplash was not part of the earliest days of the Masters of the Universe line. I believe he came along in the second or third year of the original line. Much like some other toy lines that needed to prove themselves, even the original Whiplash was evidence that Mattel believed the Masters of the Universe line had established itself well enough to increase the retinue of available body parts to be used, as the original Whiplash had some very distinctive body sections that were unlike anything that had been previously seen, although they were in keeping with the basic original Masters figure design of a broad torso, muscular limbs, somewhat short legs, slightly bow-legged, and even for the time, rather limited articulation.
So, how's the modern figure? Truly superb, and very distinctive. The Four Horsemen design and sculpting team, as they have done with all of the Masters figures in the Classics line, have brought Whiplash into the modern era most effectively, both in detail and in articulation.
As with the original Masters of the Universe line, the Masters of the Universe Classics line makes considerable use of established molds. I don't have a problem with this whatsoever, as I believe it lends a greater consistency to the overall line, which I sincerely appreciate. The same is true of the Four Horsemen's other flagship line, DC Universe Classics.
However, also as with the original Masters of the Universe line, Whiplash needed more distinctive parts created than most of his predecessors. Although Whiplash certainly has significant reptilian characteristics as part of his humanoid appearance, I would actually be more inclined to liken him to a humanoid dinosaur given his overall rugged appearance, and if "Pre-ternia" ever had anything that resembled a stegosaurus, then Whiplash might find a few of them somewhere in the Caligar family tree.
How distinctive is Whiplash? As far as I can tell, the only common parts he uses are the upper arms between the shoulders and the elbows, the hands, and the loincloth. Everything else was created entirely new for Whiplash.
The shoulder pieces have scales sculpted into them. The lower arms have a number of flared segments emerging from them, far more than the two flares that Skeletor and a few others have. The hands are a reuse from Skeletor and several others. The upper body is heavily scaled, and has an armor piece glued to the front, with alternating ridged areas of smooth and scaled. The upper legs have several large scales emerging from the sides. These legs will also be seeing use on the forthcoming figure of Buzz-Off. The lower legs have a single scale emerging just above the boot. The boots are very heavily scaled, and the feet are very strange, essentially having four toes pointing in four different directions, each ending in a thick claw. This guy must have a heck of a time trimming his nails.
Attached to Whiplash's back is a separate piece, which is nevertheless designed to be part of his body. It is an armored-looking, scaled, ridged piece that tapers down into a long, curved tail. The tail has an articulation point, cleverly hidden by one of the ridges, and the tail can move back and forth. This is an acknowledgment of the original Whiplash's "spring-action" feature, which allowed the tail to whip around, earning the character his name. Mattel doesn't incorporate these spring-action features into their modern figures -- but Whiplash obviously needed his tail, and the one articulation point is a good acknowledgment of the former feature.
Whiplash's skin color, apparently on his head, arms, and legs, is a rather bright green, an unusual color to encounter even in the world of the Masters. But it's a very effective color, and certainly appropriate for the character, and it looks good. A little airbrush highlighting on it in a greenish tan does a superb job of accentuating it. On the neck, the color goes from a light green to a darker olive green, which is the color of Whiplash's torso, leaving some mystery as to how much of Whiplash's torso is his own body, and how much of it is armor he is wearing. The tail structure on the back is a slightly lighter green, but is still a pretty dark olive.
Whiplash's loincloth and boots are a very dark bluish-green, and again, the boots are something of a mystery, since they clearly end in feet with large clawed toenails showing. So, where do the boots end and the feet begin? Good question -- one I'm not really sure I can resolve. Looks cool enough, though.
You'll note that I have not discussed Whiplash's head. That's because he came with two of them. There have been several figures like this in the line. Mer-Man came with two heads -- one which fairly closely resembled the original toy, one which looked more like the character from the mini-comics -- as well as his 2002 incarnation. Man-At-Arms came with two heads, one with a mustache and one without, the former in keeping with the animated incarnation of the character.
Giving Whiplash two heads is a little bit of a stretch, and from what I've been hearing, it may be the last time a Masters figure is given two heads, at least on the basis of accommodating both his original likeness and his 2002 version. That aside, I do wonder just a little if Whiplash really justified this treatment.
Let's consider the 2002 Masters of the Universe line for a moment. Also designed by the Four Horsemen, they took something of an anime approach to the characters, and created an action figure line that certainly presented very interesting, dynamic, and dare I say it, rather extreme versions of the popular Masters. Scroll far back enough on my review list on this Web Site and you should be able to find some of my reviews of these characters. These new and dynamic likenesses were also incorporated into the new animated series that took place at the same time.
Everything about the 2002 Masters was, for lack of a better term, an "amped-up" take on the originals. The figures were more dynamic in their look, although their articulation was not substantially increased and a good number of them were somewhat pre-posed. The detail work was certainly more significant. In the animated series, there was more backstory, more ongoing continuity, more history, and the bad guys especially were less dim-witted and a lot more dangerous. There were a few occasions in the original animated series where Skeletor or some other villain had to team up with the good guys to resolve a particular matter. One could hardly imagine the 2002 Skeletor doing so. The one time the Masters tried to create a temporary alliance with Skeletor, over the arrival of the exceptionally dangerous Snake-Men, they were rebuffed -- violently.
The Masters of the Universe Classics line, although it has no animated series tied into it, is an interesting hybrid in some respects. It takes its basic visual cues from the original Masters. He-Man's hairstyle is proof enough of that right out of the gate. At the same time, it's not afraid to include 2002 characters, such as Count Marzo and Chief Carnivus, and certainly the detail on the figures themselves is up to modern standards. Heck, it's the same design team.
So we have Whiplash. In the 2002 series, both toy and animated series. Whiplash was a far more massive individual than his original incarnation. He was decidedly stockier in build, and far more brutal. And yes, his face was somewhat different. Different enough...? Well, the figure as a whole was somewhat different, while still being recognizable as Whiplash. I suppose the question that it comes down to is -- was there sufficient reason to include a 2002-style head for this Whiplash figure, which takes most of its visual cues from the 1980's Whiplash?
And, strictly in my opinion, it's just a bit of a stretch. Now, both heads have been superbly designed, sculpted, and well-painted. But somehow, putting the 2002-style head on the Classics Whiplash body -- just doesn't quite make it for me. Your opinion may differ, of course. But let's consider both heads.
The head that Whiplash is wearing in package is based on the original Whiplash. And I'll admit, there is a certain goofiness about it, that might well be the main explanation for the inclusion of the 2002 head, for those who might want their Classics Whiplash to look a little more like a legitimate threat. The 1980's style Whiplash head is bright green, tapering to a slightly darker green near the jaw and the back of the neck. There are two little nubbins of horns on his forehead, and several dark green scales that run from his forehead, over the top of his head, and down the back. He has two rather large, pointed ears. Whiplash has a broad, somewhat pushed in nose, a jutting jaw with three teeth exposed, and a rounded chin that Jay Leno would envy. His eyes are small, yellow with red centers, encircled in dark green that looks a little odd (is it the color of his scales or does Whiplash use green makeup?), and somewhat incongruously for someone of obvious reptilian origin -- rather bushy black eyebrows.
The 2002 head is similar, but the differences are obvious, and it's really, in its own way, a case study of how "extreme" the 2002 line was in comparison to the original. The scales are larger on the head, and more squared off. This is another reason why this head really isn't that good a match on the Classics body, although in fairness, the scale pattern alters closer to the neck, so at that point it starts to line up. The ears and horns are larger, and the ridge of scales over the top of the head is more extensive. The nose is far smaller and more pushed up, the mouth larger, the lower jaw far more pronounced and squared off, and instead of three protruding teeth, somewhat centered, there are four teeth, two on each side. The darker green around the eyes, and the bushy eyebrows, are distinctly absent, and the brow itself is more prominent.
Don't get me wrong. It's a good headsculpt. It's excellent, really, and very well-detailed and neatly painted. And it's certainly an excellent modern version of the 2002 Whiplash figure, designed to be used in the Classics line. I just really don't think that it's the best fit on top of a body that, honestly, is more closely related to the 1980's Whiplash. But that's just my opinion on the matter. Yours may be entirely different.
Whiplash comes with two accessories, a classic one and what has to be a modern one. The classic one is a spear, a little over seven inches in length, mostly orange in color with some brown at the tip. It's a fairly straightforward spear, except for a few rings not quite halfway down its shaft.
The other weapon -- I don't even know what the heck to call this thing. I wouldn't want it aimed in my direction, though. It's slightly shorter than the spear, and one end of it looks like a futuristic pitchfork, and the other end of it looks like it was inspired by a Klingon bat'leth, one of the Klingons' large and nasty bladed combat weapons. This contraption has a black handle, and an orange area that keeps the fork and the massive blade held in place, both of which are painted silver. It's an impressive-looking thing, and basically any Masters figure that would be holding this would be someone that I think I would not want on my bad side.
Of course, Whiplash is 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, ankles, and a tail swivel. There's something I don't get to say very often...!
The back of Whiplash's package has a backstory for the character, printed on a scroll-like "file card". I truly and sincerely appreciate Mattel's inclusion of these. They're long overdue for these characters. Whiplash's reads as follows:
WHIPLASH - Evil Tail-Thrashing Warrior
Following their father's untimely death, Torrant grew up bitter under the rule of his older brother Ceratus. After years of brooding in Sub-Ternia, he struck a deal with a surface dweller named Keldor, and helped lead his forces in a raid against Randor's army during the Great Unrest. Although Keldor's plan failed, Torrant was banished from Sub-Ternia for betraying his people. He was taken in by his former employer and quickly rose through the ranks, staying with Keldor even after his transformation into Skeletor, serving as his chief brute squad enforcer. His thick hide and stubborn intellect have made him more than a match for the Masters of the Universe, often leaving only He-Man to defeat him. Whiplash uses his thrashing tail for doom and destruction.
A good card, even if it leaves off the name of Whiplash's race (I got that from a magazine ad for the figure), and it explains the character's history well, and reasonably in keeping with continuity.
So, what's my final word? This is an extremely impressive addition to the Masters of the Universe Classics line. The figure is highly distinctive, looks good, carries over the likeness of the original figure into a modern form, has a good acknowledgment of the 2002 series (even if in this case I feel it's not the best fit), and really does a superb job of presenting everything that is best about this Masters of the Universe Classics line.
The MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of WHIPLASH definitely has my highest recommendation!