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REVIEW: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS BUZZ-OFF
By Thomas Wheeler

I'll say it again. Eternia would either be an anthropologist's dream -- or nightmare. You've got lion-men, bee-men, skunk men (although Mattel is free to take as long as they want to get around to Stinkor...). And, what the heck, I hate spiders (and am terrified of them) even more than I am of bees, and I've got Webstor in my Masters of the Universe Classics collection. As far as that goes, there's a couple of Spider-Man action figures around here someplace.

So, I guess I really don't have that much problem welcoming BUZZ-OFF into my Masters of the Universe Classics collection. What the heck, he doesn't even have a stinger. He's got a long axe that has a stinger-like thing at the tip of it, though, but we'll discuss the accessories later.

I don't offhand recall to what degree Buzz-Off appeared in the original He-Man and the Masters of the Universe animated series. Granted, I was a rather casual viewer of the show. Doubtless he was in there someplace, at some point in time, one would think.

I regard Buzz-Off as one of a fair number of Masters of the Universe characters who had very specific traits based on Earth-type animals. There were quite a few of them, really, and if memory serves, they all were released fairly close together. You have characters like Buzz-Off, Webstor, Stinkor, Clawful -- I'm sure that the decision-making process was more involved than this, but one can almost imagine some designers at Mattel in the 1980's putting up a map to a zoo and throwing darts at it. Wonder what we would've gotten if they'd hit the penguin enclosure...

Buzz-0ff is one of the more interesting characters not so much because of his original presentation, but his subsequent one. The original Buzz-Off, in my opinion, just about takes the grand prize for goofiest-looking Masters figure. Now, that's a subject for some debate, I'll admit, but there was something about that bulbous head and that silly grin on his face that just made the original Buzz-Off very hard to take the least bit seriously.

But then we head into the 2002 Masters of the Universe line. Sculpted by the same design team presently working on the Classics, the Four Horsemen, the 2002 Masters of the Universe line seriously radicalized the look of the characters, giving them a rather extreme and almost anime look, that was definitely carried over into the Mike Young Productions animated series.

Categorically gone were the short little bow-legs of the original figures, and the over and over use of the same basic parts for many of the characters. Instead, entirely individual figures, with astoundingly detailed designs were put forth. The line was a hit for a few years, even if it created a measure of controversy among longtime fans. Some of the designs were seen as too radical. There was also the fact -- which was of the greatest annoyance to me -- that most of the figures were no more articulated than their originals -- which hadn't been much -- and a fair number of the figures were pre-posed, some of them rather extremely.

However, the line was cool for what it was, certainly. I still have quite a few of mine from that particular assortment. And it arguably paved the way for the amazing Masters of the Universe Classics figures that we're enjoying now, which I think it is fair to say is the ultimate rendition of the concept.

But if there is one character who benefited from a massive visual overhaul, it was certainly Buzz-Off. No longer was he a bulb-headed goofball. The figure was seriously trimmed down, with narrow limbs that looked more insectoid than ever, and the head was given a far more angular look to it. This was a Buzz-Off that looked both ready and prepared to take names and kick anybody's butt who threatened his hive.

Furthermore, the character was heavily featured in the animated series, once there was opportunity to bring him in. While a supporting character, certainly, he got more air time and certainly more personality, relatively speaking, that his earlier incarnation could have hoped for. This Buzz-Off had a temper. He wasn't entirely trusting of even the good guys in Eternia. This was a Buzz-Off who'd probably look at a swarm of Africanized bees and call them a pack of wimps.

So now we come to the Masters of the Universe Classics version of Buzz-Off. Okay. I get that the name is "Classics". I get the fact that the figures, in their own highly advanced way, are supposed to look more like the originals than they are the 2002-era figures. Evil-Lyn has yellowish skin and a blue uniform, not gaunt white skin and a purple and black costume. He-Man doesn't have his pseudo-anime haircut, he's gone back to what he had in the 1980's. I get that, and I accept that. The astounding sculpting, better proportions, and certainly better articulation are all more than abundant compensators for those figures that maybe fared somewhat better visually in their 2002 incarnations than they did in the 1980's. I can live with that.

Even so -- in Buzz-Off's case, it might have been nice if the occasional practice of including a second head, evocative of the 2002 line, had been worked out here. They did it for a couple of others, notably Whiplash offhand. And then there was Count Marzo, whose likeness was entirely based on his 2002 version, and then you have a character like Chief Carnivus, who didn't even come along until the 2002 line. Unfortunately, according to some highly reliable sources, Mattel isn't going to be doing "second heads" anymore, and Masters of the Universe Classics figures will have likenesses as closely based on their original incarnations as the format allows. As such -- the bulb-head is back.

So -- how's the figure? Well, honestly, not as goofy as I expected. And that's a good thing. One of the distinct advantages here is the fact that the Masters of the Universe Classics figures are far better proportioned overall than their original ancestors. Those figures had massively muscular torsos and powerful arms, but these almost stunted little bow legs.

Nowhere was this more evident than when watching the original animated series. Produced by Filmation, the original He-Man and the Masters of the Universe used a technique that Filmation used for quite a few of their animated series in the mid-70's and early 80's, called "rotoscoping", which involved filming a human actor, and then basing the animated drawings, frame by frame, on that person's actions.

The technique has its drawbacks, according to some of its critics. It tends to result in an awful lot of stock footage, and any one given character's movements are going to look a lot like another character's movements if the same original human action was used to develop the animation for both of them. This criticism has its validity, but the flip side of the coin is that, in an era well before computer-enhanced or computer-created animation, this technique resulted in some very smooth and realistic-looking (given the concept in question) animated characters.

But in the case of Masters of the Universe, the other thing it did was to reveal just how disproportionate the action figures really were relative to human norms, especially the legs. Even allowing for the permanent bend in the knee, they still came up pretty short-legged, and as a result, and certainly by today's standards, everyone in the original Masters of the Universe line looked just a bit goofy. Then you take someone with a huge round head like Buzz-Off, and -- well...

In contrast, the Masters of the Universe Classics figures have very agreeable proportions. Most of them look like they stepped right out of the original animated series. A few of them, such as Princess Adora (secret identity of She-Ra), were even given face sculpts that are such close matches, it had to be intentional. Yes, Masters of the Universe figures, and the Classics figures, have rather implausibly excessive musculature except for the most die-hard, maniacal body-builders (although I have heard one interesting argument that suggests that Eternia's gravity is such that it's requires). That's not my point. The overall relative proportions of torso to arms to legs -- and the head -- are far more appropriate and realistic, regardless of how much beef seems to have been packed onto them.

As a result, Buzz-Off, original-styled head and all, isn't nearly as goofy as his original incarnation. I'll admit, this new Classics figure isn't quite as bad@$$ as his 2002 incarnation, but it's a lot better than I expected it to be.

I tend to be of the opinion that when Buzz-Off was first created, the designers in the 1980's tried a little too hard to work aspects of a bumblebee into Buzz-Off's otherwise humanoid design, and this could be a reason for the strange head. The average bee doesn't have a lot in the way of facial features, certainly not analogous to human facial features. One tends to notice the large eyes as much as anything else. There's not anything that really makes us see a nose or a mouth.

Buzz-Off's eyes are notably large. They are round, and have been painted metallic blue, the only such use on the figure, who is otherwise colored in shades of yellow and brown, so the eyes tend to be very prominent. For reasons unknown, the original designers chose to put a horizontal indented line across the center of both eyes. One might have thought that a mesh similar to the multi-faceted eyes of certain insect species would have been more appropriate, but it might have been a little difficult in the 1980's. There's something about that indentation that, to be honest, just doesn't work that well. It makes Buzz-Off look like his eyes are closed (and that he has metallic blue eyelids for some reason), or that he's squinting. It's not an advantage to his overall expression.

Buzz-Off has a yellow face, and a rather flat nose. If you look at Buzz-Off in profile, well -- he doesn't really have much of a profile. The mouth is small, but reasonably humanoid, but has a certain color trim on it that, as much as anything, lent to the goofy look of the original. His upper lip is painted brown, and upturned slightly in a sort of smile, and there's two descending angles of brown that look like he tried to paint fangs on his lower lip. It's just a weird look, as much as anything.

Certainly the Classics figure is a good extrapolation of the original in all of these regards. Maybe a little too good.

Buzz-Off doesn't have significant antennae to speak of. One might assume that they're little more than vestigial and that for whatever reason, Buzz-Off's people no longer need them. There are these two little ridges on the top of his head, that represent what's left of his antennae. I do have to wonder if there might have been a hope of giving Buzz-Off better antennae in the 80's, but perhaps plastic types or mold design just wasn't up to it.

The sides and back of Buzz-Off's head are dark brown, and sort of scaly. This extends down to his neck and shoulders, as well as his abdomen. The figure at this point is using the same body molds as Whiplash, who was released a number of months ago, and it doesn't end there. Buzz-Off's chest piece, legs, and shoulders are also the same as the Whiplash molds. But the colors are so different, and the figures are so different in their basic character, that you'd barely notice unless you stood them side by side.

For one thing, Whiplash's chest piece is a solid dark green, although its sculpt alternates between smooth and scaly sections. Buzz-Off, on the other hand, has a two-color chest piece, with the raised smooth areas painted yellow, and the slightly recessed dark brown areas painted in dark brown. This obviously creates a "stripe" pattern that is intended to be reminiscent of a bee.

Buzz-Off has a metallic yellow belt, and a standard loincloth, colored in dark brown. His legs, as I said, are identical to Whiplash's, and as such they're quite unusual. They are a dark golden-tan in color, and have a more or less human design, except for the three protruding pointed ridges coming out of the side of each leg above the knee, and the one below the knee. Buzz-Off is also wearing scaly boots (unless these are actually his feet somehow), which also have ridges pointed out to the side.

Certainly unusual are Buzz-Off's feet, with one large toe pointing forward, and three smaller toes pointing out to the sides and behind. Trimming his toenails must require the ability of a contortionist...

Like his legs, Buzz-Off's arms are a dark golden tan. The shoulder pieces are scaled, and once again come from Whiplash. The bicep portion of the upper arm uses the standard molds for most male figures in the line. The lower arms are distinctly Buzz-Off's. Although they do have these little protuberances on them, the pattern is entirely different from Whiplash, who has a number of them all around his lower arms. Buzz-Off, by contrast, has three of them in a row, sort of a smaller version of his upper legs.

And certainly his hands are unique! They're claws. No fingers whatsoever, just an upper part and a lower part, with ridges on the insides. At least we know this -- whenever Mattel decides to add Clawful to the lineup, they're half-ready. If memory serves, Clawful had a distinctly larger claw on one hand.

One does sort of have to speculate about hands like these. It's doubtful that there's any great pianists among Buzz-Off's people (although they might be pretty good at plucking a banjo). And one would assume that whatever form of greeting they employ, it doesn't customarily involve handshakes. Nor would I particularly want to attempt it.

Then there's what's on Buzz-Off's back. Whiplash has a huge tail. Buzz-Off has a very different sort of attachment. It's this large yellow, ridged apparatus, that has two yellow insect-like legs on it. So technically, Buzz-Off is a six-limbed being. It's just that I doubt these two are especially useful. It's worth mentioning that the spider-like Webstor has four additional legs like this, and his are somewhat larger -- and potentially a bit more useful. Certainly they're intimidating. These small limbs are on a rotational pivot joint, and have back and forth movement, so they are articulated.

And, of course, Buzz-Off has wings. Now, science may have proven it by this point, but I seem to recall a science lesson when I was a child, that indicated that, technically speaking, given the size of a bee's wings, the average bee should not be able to fly. However, the corollary to that was that the bee was not aware of this, so it just goes ahead and flies anyway...

If a bee had wings like these, however, it probably wouldn't have the least bit of trouble flying. Buzz-Off has these immense, translucent yellow, insect-like wings, that at full extension give him a wingspan of over eleven inches. This for a figure that's slightly less than seven inches in height. That's pretty impressive.

Interestingly enough, the wings do not look natural. They have a natural shape to them, but the veins within are too straight, and there are obvious mechanical components. The veins almost look like a circuit board of sorts. It tends to make one believe that perhaps, much like the small antennae, Buzz-Off's people may once have had the ability to fly on their own, lost that ability, and regained it through technology that mimics the ability they once had. In any case, it certainly looks cool, and the wings are very well articulated in their mounted sockets, able to swivel and rotate very agreeably. The plastic is semi-rigid, and quite thin. I don't think there's too many concerns about fragility, as long as the figure is treated respectfully and carefully.

Of course, the figure's articulation is superb. This is what really sets the Masters of the Universe Classics line apart from its predecessors. Buzz-Off is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid torso, waist, legs, knees, boot-tops, and ankles, as well as the small limbs on the back, and the wings.

Buzz-Off comes with three accessories. These include a combat helmet, molded in yellow, that interestingly enough has mesh-type eyes, and small protruding antennae! Again, possible technological compensators for lost natural abilities? Buzz-Off also has two axes, a small one, and a larger one on a long handle, that has a stinger-like attachment at the top, that is big enough so I doubt very much that it's purely decorative.

One other cool thing about the Masters of the Universe Classics figures is that they include a backstory on a scroll-like bio card printed on the back of the package card, something no previous Masters line has ever done. Buzz-Off's reads as follows:

BUZZ-OFF - Heroic Spy in the Sky.
Real Name: Tzzzzt zzz zzTTTzz

Heroic King of the Andreenids, a bee-like species closely related to both the Kex insect people and the Arachna Spider-Warriors, Tzzzzt's race evolved into fierce warriors, guarding their home and their ambrosia honeycombs with stubborn dignity. Although he initially preferred to keep his people's neutrality, a sky war initiated by Skeletor gave Tzzzzt more than enough reason to ally himself with King Randor's Masters of the Universe. He often partner's with Mekaneck using his wings for airborne spying missions.

The bio card is notable for several things. For starters, it's notable for the weirdest name since Grizzlor's series of growling noises, although I still think the award for strangest real name goes to Optikk, whose real name is "a series of blinks". Buzz-Off's story is derived from the 2002 animated series, which makes sense, since this is where Buzz-Off played the greatest role, and that series delved more into backgrounds and histories than the Filmation series did, certainly with respect to supporting characters. And, it's the first mention that I recall of the character of Mekaneck, who was a major player in the 2002 series, and of course had a figure in the 1980's line, but has yet to report for inclusion in the Masters of the Universe Classics collection. Perhaps sometime soon.

So what's my final word here? Okay -- Buzz-Off was a seriously goofy-looking character in the 1980's line, and got turned into something a lot more dangerous-looking in the 2002 line. Visually, this figure is closer to the 1980's version, and so there's a certain element of goofiness that's been brought back, but the overall design and proportions of the Masters of the Universe Classics line as a whole do a good job of compensating for that. This Buzz-Off figure is what he should be -- a faithful rendition of the classic character, updated with greater detail and certainly greater articulation for the modern line, courtesy of the sculpting and design team of the Four Horsemen. And he's certainly a worthy addition to the growing collection!

The MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of BUZZ-OFF most definitely has my highest recommendation!