Thursday, January 10, 2013

Toy Review – Masters of the Universe Classics Castle Grayskullman By Mattel

This review is later than I would have liked, but I hit this weird stretch where I wrote about a bunch of stuff that wasn’t toys.
When I first heard the name “Castle Grayskullman” announced as the winner of the 30th Anniversary contest to let a fan design a figure, I groaned. It sounded fucking absurd. But then we got a visual of the design and he actually looked kind of cool. Maybe a little ridiculous, but since when has that been a bad thing in Masters of the Universe? And the more I looked at the design, the more I liked it. If the bio somehow managed to be cool enough this guy might actually be a big win.
Eventually Matty did reveal the bio and I have to say – it’s about as perfect as you could expect. As a matter of fact, I’ll go ahead and say that Castle Grayskullman’s bio is one of the best ones in the Masters of the Universe Classics line. I don’t know if it’s from Mattel or from Daniel Benedict – the fan who designed the figure – or a combination of both, but it’s perfect for this kind of character. Beau Brown and I discuss it a bit more on the first Needless Things Podcast, so go check that out.
My only reservation about the guy was his blonde hair. I felt like it should be black and was even planning on painting mine. But once he arrived I dug the blonde and decided that if he had shown up on the old Filmation show, this is what he’d look like.
Essentially, the 30th Anniversary Collection was a great addition to the MOTUC line. I passed on Spector because I didn’t like him, but I will defend Scott Nietlich’s right to have produced Spector (or anybody else he might dream up) all day long. The bottom line is that whatever you might think of Toy Guru, he is the reason we have this line and he is the reason it’s as good as it is. I’ve spent plenty of time here bitching about him (and he’s deserved it), but in the end I feel that the positives have outweighed the negatives. But to get back to my original point, I bought and was satisfied with five of the six figures from the sub-line. I think starting with Photog – a true creation from a young fan of the 80’s – and ending with Grayskullman – from a grown-up modern fan of today – was genius. The perfect bookends to a nice little piece of MOTU history.
First Glance: Like most Masters of the Universe Classics releases Castle Grayskullman looks better in person. A lot better. Well, it might not so much be that he’s better as it is that you can tell just how good he is.
Articulation: Castle Grayskullman features the same great articulation as the rest of the line.
Head – ball joint
Shoulders – ball joint
Biceps – swivel
Elbows –pivot
Wrists – swivel
Abdomen – pivot
Waist - swivel
Hips – ball joint
Thighs – swivel
Knees – pivot
Boot tops - swivel
Ankles – rocker joint
Grayskullman’s head has a fairly good range of motion, even considering his long hair. His abdominal joint is – like every other figure with such things – restricted by his chest armor. It isn’t a big deal at all, but it’s there.
The ankle joints are mostly pivots. This seems to be the new standard. There is a tiny bit of side-to-side motion, so you can still call them rocker joints, but just barely.
It has been a while since I’ve received a MOTUC figure with joint issues. Actually, I’ve never had a whole lot of problems anyway. But all of my figures lately have been coming in with the same quality of functional joints.
Sculpt: Grayskullman has a new head, forearms, hands, boots, and feet. These new parts come together with the figure’s paint job to make a truly iconic new figure.
The head is meant to resemble the front of the actual Castle Grayskull and it totally does. Also, it’s totally creepy. The hair is stringy and dead-looking and hangs from the top of the head in a kind of Crypt Keeper-y way. There is a sort of circlet that is reminiscent of one of the castle’s towers. The face is the truly creepy part. Those dead, empty eye sockets seated above the fanged, gaping maw are just creepy. It’s an awesomely done rendering of the castle’s face.
Grayskullman sports Clawful’s (and maybe other people’s) shoulders, regular human arms, and the new forearms/hands. The shoulders work just well enough with the new parts and the gloves formed by the forearms and hands look great. I like the small size and irregularity of the individual stones.
There’s a standard crotch/hip area with human upper legs with the new boots at the bottom. These match the gloves and the new chest armor. It’s interesting to think that the gloves and boots on this guy can’t really be reused on anybody else. Not that I can think of, anyway.
Coloring: While I do like Castle Grayskullman’s coloring, It does not match the vintage Castle Grayskull that I own. This is honestly a negligible point. First of all, my Grayskull probably isn’t the same color as it was thirty years ago. Second, the only thing this figure needs to match is the forthcoming MOTUC Castle Grayskull and one would assume that the Horsemen have that in mind. Well, I suppose he needs to match the Grayskull stands as well, but I don’t own any of those so I don’t know if he does.
Whatever the case, the shade of green that was chosen is nice. It does match the packaging for the line and is immediately recognizable as “Grayskull Green”.
Side Note: This should be a trademarked color and sold as a paint at Home Depot. Like the Disney colors. I would also like to repeat something my son has said more than once: “It’s green. Why do they call it Castle Grayskull?”
I don’t know, son. I just don’t know.
There are actually about three colors at work here and they are all blended well, from the wash in the stonework of the boots, gloves, and chest to the highlights on the regular portions and the work on the loincloth.
The head features the same greens with some additions – the blonde hair and the white fangs. The hair is not as bright as it looks in pictures. It actually has more of a greenish tint and is fairly subdued. I haven’t decided how I feel about the fangs yet. The bright white certainly brings out the face a bit more, but Castle Grayskull does not have bright white fangs. They don’t look bad, but I’m not sure I wouldn’t prefer if they matched the rest of the figure. I’ll just assume that either the Horsemen or Mr. Benedict tried that and it didn’t work. The actual paint job is sloppy - as you can see in the close-up picture. It's also kind of weird that the rest of the teeth aren't white. Yeah, I don't think I like the white fangs.
Flair: Castle Grayskullman has a new and unique piece of chest armor and the standard furry loincloth and belt.
The chest armor has a nice design that matches the gloves and boots in being reminiscent of the castle’s design. I'm especially impressed by all the pitting and texture in the individual stones. The crest on the front is the one from Grayskull’s Jawbridge (as well as the figure’s shield). It is accurately reproduced here and is a nice, raised piece. I’m disappointed that the Horsemen went back to their old design here. Dekker’s chest armor had the clasps more toward the back so that their thickness didn’t interfere as much with the figure’s arms being lowered. But Grayskullman’s armor has the clasps back directly under the arms so he has that Maggie Simpson-in-a-snowsuit look. It isn’t a huge deal, but I like it better the Dekker way. I like that the crest on the front is a grey color rather than blending in. I do wish that there were loops on the back to store the figure’s swords, but I’m also pretty sure that this guy is never not holding them since his sole function is to whoop ass and slice motherfuckers in two.
The right choice was made for the belt/loincloth. Grayskullman is very reflective of the standard heroes from the line and I like that he has the most common piece here. I love the bronze coloring of the belt. It breaks up the coloring of the figure while still blending in nicely. The furry part is a slightly darker shade of Grayskull Green and compliments the rest of the figure nicely.
Accessories: This figure comes with an impressive three accessories – two swords and a shield.
The swords are the design and colors of the ones from the vintage Grayskull’s flag. They’re made from a sturdy plastic and share a mold. Both swords feature a couple of paint apps with some small, detailed jewels on the hilt. They fit in the figure’s hands perfectly.
The shield is also an all-new sculpt. It is based on the same crest as the one on Grayskullman’s chest. The clip fits on the figure’s wrist nicely. The coloring matches the grey of the chest crest, with three bronze (things) that match the color of the belt.
Packaging: It’s the regular MOTUC blister card. Still neat and still effective. Here’s his bio:
That’s great. As I told Beau on the podcast, I could really see this guy showing up for one episode – Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man-style – and then ending up so well-liked the writers figured out excuses to bring him back a few more times, despite being a one-shot character.
Value: I think I overlooked this on the other 30th Anniversary releases, but I’ve been paying more for these than the regular figures since I did not subscribe. But I will say that just the fact that they are Anniversary figures lends them a certain something that makes them feel a bit more special. I’m not saying they’re totally worth $22; but they feel closer to being worth the high price.
Overall: I think this is the second-best figure to come out of the MOTUC line this year. As I said in my Best of 2012 article, Fisto was the best, but Grayskullman is a close second. I really love this guy and particularly admire everything that went into creating him. Especially this:

4 out of 5

Yeah, there were a couple of nitpicky little things like the lack of a place to store the swords and the locations of the closures for the chest armor, but overall this guy just hits the right notes. The only true flaw is the sloppy tooth paint. He feels so classic, but is entirely new and an excellent tribute to both the MOTU legacy and the current line.
You can check out eBay and BigBad if you’d like to own this guy and by all means, you should.

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