REVIEW: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS BATTLEGROUND EVIL-LYN
It's an unfortunate fact in the action figure world that female characters are few and far between. There is an unspoken credo that "Female figures don't sell", so they tend to be kept to a distinct minimum.
Paradoxically, perhaps, any female character within an action figure concept that has some other type of media outlet, such as a comic book or animated series, is likely to be pushed to something of the forefront of that concept, since such characters make for an interesting amount of variety, and as such, more interesting stories.
For example, there may only be the smallest handful of female characters in the world of G.I. Joe, but characters such as Scarlett, Baroness, Lady Jaye, and Zarana, are much better known, and generally more popular among longtime adult collectors, than any number of the vast ranks of male characters or enemy troopers.
Similarly, in Transformers, when the female character of Arcee was introduced, fans desperately wanted a toy. But there was none, not for a great many years.
In Power Rangers, while the female Rangers -- most often Yellow and Pink -- do receive action figures, they tend to be de-emphasized as far as supply and being stretched into other aspects of the action figure line, so they tend to be hard to find, since their numbers are limited, and anyone wanting a complete Power Rangers team needs to have them.
And then we come to Masters of the Universe, and we find exactly three females -- Teela, the Sorceress, and Evil-Lyn. This amidst a cast of -- well, if not thousands, then certainly dozens. The only way you get a higher-than-average number of female characters in the Masters' Universe is by bringing in the folks from She-Ra: Princess of Power, which although a legitimate thing to do as far as story concept is concerned, is just a bit of a cheat, since the Princess of Power toy line was an action figure/doll line aimed at girls, an admitted extreme rarity in the history of toys.
Of the three characters, Evil-Lyn probably saw the most use in the original Filmation animated series. The Sorceress, although certainly powerful, was confined to Castle Grayskull, and more often than not served to send He-Man on some sort of mission. Teela was Captain of the Eternian Palace Guard, and her duties generally kept her in that area. She also played a bit of a "Lois Lane" to He-Man's "Clark Kent/Superman", occasionally wondering why Prince Adam was always ducking out at the first sign of danger, and why he was never around when He-Man was.
Evil-Lyn could pretty much go where she pleased, and as the only one of Skeletor's minions who had a brain that was more effective than an overripe turnip, she was featured very prominently in the series.
Of course, there were action figures of all three of these individuals. The animated counterparts for Teela and the Sorceress were pretty straightforward carryovers. In fact, the Sorceress figure actually came after she appeared in the animated series, but that's a story I'll reserve for my review of the Sorceress. Evil-Lyn was another matter.
It's fair to say that the original Masters of the Universe line was a notably colorful line. All manner of colorful humanoid creatures emerged in plastic form. But, as I said, most of them were male, regardless of what other unusual features or characteristics they might have had.
I believe that it's a lot easier to exaggerate a male character than it is to exaggerate a female characters. Let's face it, the physiques of the male characters in the original Masters of the Universe line were pretty extreme. Massively muscular torsos, huge arms, and rather short and stumpy, but still highly muscled, legs. Contrast that with figures like Teela and Evil-Lyn, who were nowhere near as exaggerated.
Then consider the comparison between the Masters of the Universe and Princess of Power lines. There could be all manner of wild creatures in the Masters of the Universe line -- Stinkor, Beast Man, Mer-Man, Webstor, Spikor, Whiplash, the list goes on and on. The key factor is -- they were all male. Then you have the Princess of Power line, and regardless of what unusual capabilities a given character might have had, she was still largely human in appearance. Wardrobes and hair colors changed, but there certainly wasn't the same level of weirdness.
You can exaggerate the musculature on a male humanoid character and get away with it. You try exaggerating the most prominent features on a female character and you're likely to end up with something that, at the very least is politically incorrect, and at worst, is certainly unfit to sell in a store aisle dominated by children's merchandise, and you're likely setting yourself up for some sort of backlash that you really don't need.
As such, there was a limit with what Mattel could do with the female characters in the Masters of the Universe. They couldn't really mess with their physiques much, nor did they. Both Teela and the Sorceress were very human in their appearance. So, for that matter, was Evil-Lyn -- with one notable exception.
As I said, the Masters of the Universe line was a notably colorful line. And most of the time, it could get away with it. Most of the time. Evil-Lyn was arguably the notable exception to that.
The original Evil-Lyn figure was wearing an outfit that was very similar in basic design to Teela's -- no great surprise since they used the same body molds, but was colored in dark blue with light blue trim. This wasn't really a problem. The problem came with regard to Evil-Lyn's skin color, which was a rather intense, bright yellow-orange. It has been likened in more recent years as being equivalent to that of "The Simpsons", and not in a complimentary fashion. It's a legitimate comparison, even if it's one that couldn't have really been made at the time of Evil-Lyn's initial release.
When it came time for the original animated series, someone at Filmation figured, and I believe quite rightly, that Evil-Lyn was going to be a major player, but that presenting a bright yellow-orange woman dressed in fairly bright shades of blue was going to be a tough thing to do. The intensity of Evil-Lyn's color palette was scaled back considerably. Her skin, although not quite a match for most of the human characters in the series, was a lot closer to it, sort of a flesh tone with a slight spectral lean into the yellow. Similarly, her costume was darkened considerably, with black details being added as well. She was even given a black cape, something the original figure never had.
When the 2002-era animated series came along, Evil-Lyn's color scheme was modified once again. It was darkened even more, which made sense, seeing as how the 2002 animated series was generally far darker and more intense in tone than the original series had been. The dangers were greater, and the villains were a lot nastier.
Here, Evil-Lyn's skin actually had a gray appearance to it, rather than anything the least bit yellowish. Additionally, her costume was now colored in black and purple, rather than in shades of blue.
When Mattel made an Evil-Lyn action figure for the 2002-era line, which was admittedly after the animated series debuted, although given the lead time required to develop toys, she was likely in the works, Mattel maintained the color scheme from the new animated series. This was a seriously evil-looking Evil-Lyn that one was inclined to take a lot more seriously than the original.
So now we come to the modern line, and of course, Evil-Lyn would be a part of it. However, as the line is called Masters of the Universe CLASSICS, Mattel apparently believed that the best way to present Evil-Lyn was in her original color scheme -- blue costume, Simpsons-esque skin, and all.
Don't get me wrong. It's a cool figure, and it was certainly appropriate for Mattel to bring Evil-Lyn into the Classics line in her original colors. Nevertheless, I do believe that a large number of collectors, myself included, hoped that somehow, some way, Mattel might find a way to present us with a Classics-style figure of Evil-Lyn in her more recent, and let's be honest, far more effective and menacing color scheme.
That day has arrived, with the figure known as "BATTLEGROUND" EVIL-LYN. I'll explain that "Battleground" part of it a little later. First of all, though, I'd like to take a look at the background and history of Evil-Lyn herself, apart from the bio card that appears on the package. Since Evil-Lyn is one of the most prominent characters in the Masters universe, there was not shortage of available information to be found:
The only female member of the Evil Warriors, Evil-Lyn is an evil witch who aids Skeletor as his second-in-command with her powers of darkness. She is vastly more intelligent than Skeletor's other minions and often comes much closer to defeating He-Man than anyone else. It has been suggested that she is more cunning than even Skeletor himself and is merely a member of his ranks while it suits her own purposes. She regularly uses the crystal ball atop her wand to aid with her magic.
Evil-Lyn's appearance in the cartoon series by Filmation is somewhat modified; her helmet and clothing are black and purple rather than blue and includes a black cape, and her skin a pale yellow tone rather than bright yellow like the action figure. In one episode, "The Witch and the Warrior", it is revealed that she has white short hair under her helmet.
Introduced in the pilot episode "Diamond Ray of Disappearance", she is quickly established as one of Skeletor's main accomplices, capable of using all manner of magic spells to battle against the Heroic Warriors. She also frequently employs the use of magical disguises to trick the Heroic Warriors, in episodes such as "The Shaping Staff", "The Curse of the Spellstone", "Evil-Lyn's Plot" and "The Royal Cousin".
She is also shown to frequently branch out on her own and conduct her own schemes away from Skeletor in episodes such as "Ordeal in the Darklands"; also using her services to aid other villains in "The Defection" and "Eternal Darkness". There seems to be a kind of rivalry between her and Teela, based purely on the fact they are the only women in their respective armies. Although she is seen to have a similar feud with the sorceress Sybiline, as seen in "The Defection".
This is brought to the forefront in the episode "The Witch and the Warrior", in which she is forced into making an uneasy alliance with Teela when the two of them are stranded in the desert together. As well as showing a degree of respect for Teela's skills and intelligence above the levels of pure evil, she also reveals in this episode that she is only working for Skeletor so she can overthrow him once he conquers Eternia.
With her intelligence, fearlessness and her formidable magic skills, Evil-Lyn is generally Skeletor's most powerful minion. She is often left in charge when he is away from Snake Mountain.
Although her background is never mentioned in the series, the series bible explains she was once a scientist from Earth called Evelyn Powers, who was on board Marlena Glenn's spacecraft before it crash-landed on Eternia. Evelyn had been insanely jealous of Marlena for being chosen over her to pilot the shuttle. When the ship crashed as the result of an explosion from Skeletor's homeworld of Infinita, Evelyn wound up on Infinita, where the evil powers of that world turned her knowledge of science into sorcery to aid Skeletor. This origin is used in a storybook, New Champions of Eternia, but it was unpopular with the show's writers and therefore never alluded to in the cartoon.
Evil-Lyn returned for the 2002 relaunch of the Masters of the Universe toy line and cartoon series. While her portrayal in the new show is very much in keeping with the original series, her background is expanded upon in the new series. She is revealed to be the daughter of a mysterious sorcerer known only as The Faceless One, who lives in isolation amongst the ruins of Zalesia and is the guardian of a precious object called the Ram Stone. The Faceless One disapproves of his daughter's servitude of the evil forces and hopes that someday she will learn the error of her ways. The episode "Lessons" indicates that she still feels a familial bond with her father when she returns the Ram Stone to him after it was used by Skeletor in an attempt to breach Castle Grayskull.
The show's second season expands considerably on the theme of her disloyalty to Skeletor, as well as showcasing her origins. Unbeknownst to Skeletor, Evil-Lyn forms a secret alliance with Kobra Khan to free King Hiss and the Snake Men, whom she believes will grant her greater power than Skeletor. After the release of the Snake Men, Skeletor seeks to punish her by banishing her to the Forsaken Realm in the episode "The Price of Deceit". This episode features a flashback to the time she first met Skeletor, when he was still in the form of Keldor. The young Evil-Lyn had managed to impress Keldor with her great knowledge and power, had fallen in love with him and played a part in saving his life. After his injury at the hands of King Randor, she had taken him to the altar of Hordak, who gave him new life by turning him into Skeletor. After the transformation, Skeletor became more and more twisted and evil, ceasing the love between him and Evil-Lyn and inspiring Evil-Lyn to overcome him rather than work alongside him. This episode also indicates there are sparks of good left within her as she considers defecting to the side of good after He-Man saves her life following a call for help from her father.
Later, in the episode "The Power of Grayskull", Evil-Lyn learns that Skeletor promised to free Hordak from the dimension of Despondos in return for having his life saved, but chose instead to destroy his sanctuary, knowing that Hordak could easily destroy him. She therefore chooses to free Hordak by herself in order to gain the power that she needs, and once again concocts a scheme behind Skeletor's back, allying with Count Marzo in the episode "History" to free Hordak from Despondos. Failing in her scheme, she vows to continue until she has freed Hordak. This plot was going to be expanded upon in the show's third season, but the cartoon was canceled before any further episodes could be produced.
Okay, so, where do we get "Battleground" Evil-Lyn? A while back, Mattel released a figure known as Battleground Teela into the Masters of the Universe Classics line. This was a Teela unlike any that the vast majority of fans had ever seen. This Teela had long blonde hair, and was rather minimally dressed in a metal-looking bikini top and a short loincloth, with wrist-bands and boots.
This was based, if memory serves, on some early images of the character from the early mini-comics, one presumes from a time before Teela's likeness was finalized. It's a cool figure, even with a quirky backstory on the package (although it pales in comparison to Evil-Lyn's here, as you'll see). I'm not entirely sure where the term "Battleground" came from, but clearly someone figured out that if you can get a radically different version of Teela out of this, then maybe it's time to give the longtime fans the Evil-Lyn they've been clamoring for.
So, how's the figure? Excellent! Absolutely outstanding, really! Here is the Evil-Lyn, again, not to malign the more classically-colored one, who certainly has a legitimate place in the collection, but here is the Evil-Lyn that I believe many longtime fans and collectors have been waiting for!
This is an Evil-Lyn that looks legitimately menacing, like this is someone even Skeletor himself had better be worried about. This is the Evil-Lyn that will stab anybody in the back -- Skeletor, Hordak, Marzo, whomever -- if it serves to advance her position and increase her power.
The figure has greyish skin, but there's a hint of tan in it. I approve of this, as it keeps Evil-Lyn from looking completely lifeless. The figure's face sculpt looks seriously menacing. Obviously we've seen it before, but it looks even scarier in this color scheme.
I believe that there's a fairly strong resemblance between this face sculpt and the look of the Evil Queen from Walt Disney's original animated masterpiece, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". To what degree this may be intentional on anyone's part, or for that matter if I'm just imagining it, I'm really not sure. But you have to admit, she wasn't a nice lady in that movie, and would be one heck of an inspiration for Evil-Lyn.
The figure uses the same outfit as Teela, and as the first Classics Evil-Lyn, although it's obviously been recolored black, with purple highlights, as well as a bit of silver and red. The use of this outfit had a few fans a little ticked off. I believe they were hoping for this Evil-Lyn to more closely resemble her 2002 counterpart, who wore an outfit that was different in a number of respects from Teela's. To this I really have to say -- be glad we got as much as we did with this figure. Don't gripe about it.
The addition of the slight red trim is interesting, and not really something previously found on Evil-Lyn. Somehow, it does manage to add a bit more menace to her -- like she really needs the enhancement.
The armbands and wristbands are black with purple highlights, and her boots are black with light purple fur at the top. It's worth noting that this Evil-Lyn's left hand is different than the first Classics Evil-Lyn. It's more open with the finger's spread out in a sort of claw-like position. No great surprise in this regard, since the hand was brought over from Catra, one of She-Ra's main adversaries, who was introduced into the line several months ago. For Evil-Lyn, it fits. The fingernails of both hands have been painted black.
And, Evil-Lyn finally has a cape! This cape is an exceptionally dark purple, with an oval silver clasp with a red jewel in the center holding it in place at the front. It's not a real clasp, just decorative, but it looks cool. For those of you who might prefer your Evil-Lyn capeless, the cape is easily removed over the figure's head. For myself, I like it. It makes her look meaner, and it's very flexible, so it doesn't impede articulation in the least.
Naturally, Evil-Lyn is superbly articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, legs, knees, boot tops, and ankles. The wrist bands can also swivel around.
Evil-Lyn comes with a spare head. This presents Evil-Lyn without her traditional headpiece, and in fact is how the figure is packaged. The additional media associated with the 2002-era Masters of the Universe line gave us a glimpse of what Evil-Lyn looked like without her helmet, something which had never been revealed before. She has rather short-cropped white hair. I've no idea what might have turned it white, although hanging around Snake Mountain all the time and having to put up with Skeletor's tirades might do that to just about anybody.
The headsculpt is excellent, essentially identical to her helmeted head, just with the alteration that the helmet is gone and the hair is there. It's a nice addition, but to be honest, I prefer the original version with the helmet, which I have to say has also been rendered very effectively. The helmet is black, and the "fan" on top has been done in purple, with silver and red trim. Very regal-looking really.
The paintwork on the entire figure is impressive. Evil-Lyn has green eyes, very well detailed, dark red lipstick, and the costume details have been very impressively painted, especially the fine red lines that appear on her costume.
Evil-Lyn comes with another accessory, her magic staff, with the orb at the top. This has been done in a very impressive gloss black, and there are two orb tips that can be switched out. One is black, and the other one glows in the dark! Nice little feature to add, I must say. And hey, Snake Mountain can be a creepy -- and dark -- place. She also has a small but very nasty-looking dagger. Just in case there's something in Snake Mountain that needs some more hands-on measures to be dealt with.
Now we come to the bio card, presented in its scroll-like format on the back. The image used is clearly from the 2002 animated series, and shows Evil-Lyn without her helmet. But it's the content of the file card that's the real shocker. I'm just going to present it and then comment.
Cast aside by her secret husband after his transformation, Evil-Lyn sent their infant son into the future and plotted to overthrow Skeletor by releasing his enemies from their dimensional prisons. In a series of miscalculations, she helped free the Snake-Men, Hordak, and Gygor - increasing her adversaries three-fold! After Randor and Miro returned from Despondos, the Three Towers rose and Evil-Lyn found herself again allied with Skeletor during the Second Ultimate Battleground. At the end, defeated and stripped of her powers by the new Sorceress of Grayskull, Evil-Lyn used the Cosmic Key and the power of the Central Tower to return to the future and find a new life with her long lost child - the son of Skeletor!
Good grief, where to begin with this? There have been bio cards before that have hinted at events that we've never seen play out in any media associated with the Masters line, but this -- ! This goes way beyond anything previously presented. Mattel has announced that they plan to release some new mini-comics with future figures, so maybe we'll get a handle on some of these events, but -- sheesh!
Start right off with "secret husband". Who knew Evil-Lyn and Keldor had ever been married? Can you imagine what their vows must have been like? I don't even want to think about the honeymoon, but clearly the marriage was consummated. And then Keldor is transformed into Skeletor and it's all over. Whether what he went through was grounds for divorce or annulment I have no idea. I think you'd need to write some entirely new law books on that one.
Still, talk about a spurned wife. Sets about to release his enemies from their dimensional prisons, thinking that might be enough to get even and increase her own power base? Brother, did that backfire. The one aspect of this bio card that did actually take place in the 2002 animated series was Evil-Lyn being responsible for the Snake-Men being freed, which was pretty much the focus of the second season as well as a major focal point of the action figure line at the time. Towards the end of the second season, Evil-Lyn was actively trying to free Hordak. You'd've thought one disaster would be enough. She never succeeded, but had the series gone for a third season, one presumes she would have, since the emergence of Hordak would have been the major storyline. I find it interesting that Gygor, the massive orange and green gorilla that was a planned character from the original line that had to wait his turn in the Classics line, is mentioned here.
As for the rest of it -- okay, Randor and Miro (Randor's ancestor, if memory serves) return from Despondos? What were they doing there in the first place? The "Second Ultimate Battleground" has been mentioned before, and I think it's safe to say it's not exactly a fun time for anybody. The Three Towers are a reference to the original "Eternia" playset, which featured a trio of towers representing Snake Mountain, Castle Grayskull, and a third Tower that actually looked like something out of Thundercats, with its huge feline head, that were linked by a monorail system. It's been brought up before, and while Castle Grayskull and Snake Mountain have certainly been used extensively in the Masters' media, this third tower, apparently the "Central Tower" and perhaps the most powerful of the lot, has never really turned up in any story format.
The Cosmic Key is actually a reference to an artifact from the live-action movie -- the one with Dolph Lundgren, the continuity for which had essentially nothing whatsoever to do with the animated series or anything else.
I've got a mental image of what the "Son of Skeletor" might look like, and I rather hope I'm wrong. The notion of a little kid with a skull for a head -- eeeyeewww....
Evil-Lyn's own fate is an interesting one, but what we ultimately have here is a very mysterious bio card that hints at events that we've never fully seen, and I'm sure I speak for a large number of Masters fans who would very much like to see these events played out in full in some form. I remain unconvinced that the forthcoming mini-comics are entirely up to it, or whether they'll even specifically deal with these events, but at the moment, they might well be the only option. Time will tell.
So, what's my final word? I'm extremely impressed. Here, I sincerely believe, is the Evil-Lyn most Masters collectors have been waiting for, the one with the more subdued, darker, and more sinister color scheme. The figure is superbly done, the addition of the helmetless head is a nice bonus, and certainly a legitimate one, and the glow in the dark orb is a cool feature as well. I really can't imagine any Masters of the Universe fan being disappointed in any way with this figure. I'm sincerely pleased that Mattel has produced her, and I'm glad to have her as part of my collection.
The MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of BATTLEGROUND EVIL-LYN definitely has my highest recommendation!