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By Thomas Wheeler

It seems that Mattel is determined to bring us new figures in the new Masters of the Universe line as gradually as possible, throwing in only a couple of new characters with the increasingly much too frequent redos of core characters such as He-Man and Skeletor. I am fervently hoping that this strategy does not doom the line, since the various He-Man and Skeletor figures are starting to get to be real shelf-warmers, and the other characters very difficult to find, especially new releases.

However, when new releases do turn up and can be found, they're generally worth the wait. Such is the case with the two newest arrivals, PRINCE ADAM and SY-KLONE, which I successfully turned up at a Target recently.

PRINCE ADAM is, of course, the secret identity of HE-MAN himself. Now, back in the days of the original series, when the cartoon show aired (this was before there was a Prince Adam figure), there wasn't much visual difference between Adam and He-Man. They were both big and muscle-bound. The main difference was that He-Man wore a fur loincloth and chest harness, and Adam wore a white shirt, red vest, and purple leggings. I'll leave it up to you to decide which was the bigger fashion nightmare. When Mattel finally got around to making a Prince Adam figure for the original line, it was no great challenge. All they had to do was change some of the colors of the He-Man figure, and give him a red vest instead of a chest harness.

Well, things have changed. Prince Adam, in the new series, is essentially a teenager. And while he's no weakling in appearance, neither is he the powerfully-built He-Man. So when Mattel chose to add Prince Adam to the figure mix this time around, they had to create an entirely new figure.

Adam, in the show, is still dressed very similarly to the original Prince Adam, but there are a few changes. Adam's white shirt is now sleeveless. The pants are more grey than purple, and the red vest is a darker red, almost a brownish-burgundy. These were wise changes.

As for the figure, as with essentially all of the new Masters figures, it follows the cartoon show look very closely. What's especially interesting, though, is the face. I have a very strong feeling that the He-Man figure was kept very close at hand for a sculpting reference for Adam, and I suspect it's entirely possible that the two heads were sculpted by the same individual. Although Prince Adam's face is clearly younger-looking and narrower, the resemblance to the He-Man face is both undeniable and remarkable. Adam is very much the "potential He-Man" here.

The figure, interestingly, has the same "action feature" as the basic He-Man figure. Twist him at the waist and he recoils back and throws a punch if his arms are posed properly. He comes with a somewhat smaller version of his ever-present sword, as well. Overall, Prince Adam is an excellent addition to the Masters of the Universe collection.

Now we come to SY-KLONE. This is one of those characters that you sort of suspect comes out of the stated fact that the sculpting team responsible for the Masters, the famed "Four Horsemen", were told that as long as they maintained the core characters of the concept, they could pretty much do new versions of any of the original characters that they wanted to. That's not to put down Sy-Klone as a character. But he is sort of one of those oddball choices.

In his original form, Sy-Klone was a somewhat nondescript character dressed in bright yellow and dark blue, with a pale blue face (that if I recall correctly looked a lot like the He-Man sculpt of the time) underneath a sculpted helmet, and he had the ability to twirl his upper body at a high rate of speed, producing a fearful wind.

Personally, I think that if any normal person were to twirl around like that, it'd produce something a lot more fearful, although wind might be a part of it, but let's not go there, shall we?

The new Sy-Klone retains the abilities of the previous one. There's a little gear in his lower beck that if you move it, his upper body whips around. His arms are rather loosely articulated in their side to side movement, so that they can raise up when he's twirling. Personally, I've never liked special features that hinder or adversely affect a figure's basic articulation, but this isn't too bad.

The bright yellow of the original has been traded in for a somewhat more muted but still fairly bright yellow-orange. The dark blue has been retained, as has the blue face, although there is no resemblance to He-Man this time around. There's a nice lenticular-motion sticker on Sy-Klone's chest, as well, that looks like a radar screen.

In the animated show, Sy-Klone was introduced as a guardian of an ancient temple, which both He-Man and Skeletor raided to gain new weaponry, essentially presenting the oddball "Samurai" versions of these figures. With the temple violated, Sy-Klone believed that his existence had no further purpose. He-Man told him that there was always a need for brave heroes, and so the young warrior joined the Masters.

There is a slight "samurai" look to the helmet that Sy-Klone wears, but it's much more understated than the actual Samurai figures of He-Man, Skeletor, and Man-At-Arms, and Sy-Klone is not part of that special assortment. Overall, Sy-Klone is a most impressive addition to the Masters of the Universe line-up.

It continues to impress me how Mattel has taken this once popular line, and not only rejuvenated it, but improved it. I can think of a number of 1980's concepts that have been brought back, but not only not improved, but cheapened down or otherwise altered to the point of intolerability for anyone who truly enjoyed the original version. This is not the case with the Masters of the Universe. The figures are much more formidable looking, and far less goofy. It amazes me that Mattel's creative team can take some of the most ridiculous characters and turn them around into a new form that transforms them into serious business -- within the concept, anyway.

I hope the line continues and succeeds. My one lingering concern is Mattel's practice of issuing more and more "new" versions of the basic core cast of He-Man, Skeletor, and sometimes Man-At-Arms or another prominent secondary character, and letting loose characters such as Sy-Klone, Mer-Man, Trapjaw, etc., through an eye-dropper. It's very frustrating and I'd hate to see it hurt business in the long run, because there's a ton of potential in this new Masters of the Universe line.