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REVIEW: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS CLAMP CHAMP
By Thomas Wheeler

One of the 2013 additions to the Masters of the Universe Classics collection is a little harder to come by than some. That's because he was offered only to subscribers of Club Eternia. He wasn't available just by going to MattyCollector.Com and ordering him.

This, understandably, upset a fair number of fans. I am a subscriber, and I certainly do recommend both Club Eternia, as well as Club Infinite Earths for the DC Universe Signature Series. You're guaranteed of getting the figures, you get a bit of a price break, and you're spared the monthly hassle of going to MattyCollector on the day of release and waiting for the automatically-refreshing hold page to clear so you can order your figures and hope they don't run out in the meantime. There's a whole lot more pros than cons there.

That said, even as a subscriber, I can understand why non-subscribing fans wouldn't be happy about being unable to order a particular figure, even though Mattel did announce some time back that there were going to be a number of subscriber-only figures. Admittedly, there are bound to be other ways to acquire this figure. There's always the secondary market, and I have little doubt that he'll turn up here. Granted also, the most direct route is usually the preferable one.

I suspect the frustration on the part of non-subscribers is only increased when the figure in question is, if not one of the most major characters in the concept, then certainly one of the more significant ones from later in the original line. The character's name is CLAMP CHAMP.

It's been long established that the sentient population of Eternia is an astounding mixed bag of life-forms that would send Darwin crawling into a corner to whimper, and have everything from anthropologists to zoologists throwing up their hands in helpless despair. Although most of the sentient species of Eternia are reasonably humanoid, they don't have a whole lot else in common. You have straightforward humans, of course, but beyond that, you've got bird-men, bee-men, skunk-men, crab-men, reptile-men, and no shortage of individuals that defy easy classification. It's a testament to the imagination of the creators of the original line, even if it does tend to throw any logical assumptions about the development of life on any given planet right out the window.

Not surprisingly, the core characters of the concept, at least among the good guys, are human. He-Man, Teela, Man-At-Arms, would not be out of place in any human population -- although here on Earth they might either need a wardrobe change or have to restrict themselves to pop culture conventions if they expected to blend in. Ultimately, it's just easier for us to relate to characters that look something like us.

Two human characters in the Masters of the Universe line, however, proved that the human population of Eternia had much the same sort of racial variance as the human race on Earth. One of these was Jitsu, a villainous martial arts expert who clearly had Asian-type features. The other is Clamp Champ, who is black.

I realize the more preferable term is "African-American", but I'm a little reluctant to use that for Clamp Champ. Although clearly the intent of the character was to include someone who looked African-American in the Masters concept, within that concept, Eternia does not have either an America or an Africa. It's like watching Star Trek Voyager and saying that Tuvok is an African-American-Vulcan. Tuvok is a Vulcan who happens to be black. Clamp Champ is an Eternian who happens to be black. I mean no offense with this description. I'm simply trying to be accurate within the concept.

Let's consider the history of the character, and then have a look at his action figure.

There's a certain irony in that, since Clamp Champ came along fairly late in the original action figure line, he was never featured in the animation. However, other black characters were. There was a well-regarded archaeologist who turned up in a few episodes, and went by the name of Malaktha. Additionally, any number of the soldiers of the Eternian Palace Guard were also black. One wonders to what degree the appearance of these characters in the animated series led Mattel to eventually come up with the character of Clamp Champ, even though he missed out on any animated presence.

The character was planned for usage in the 2002 series, as a replacement for Man-At-Arms, but the cartoon was canceled before he could be featured in it.

According to He-Man.Org, Clamp Champ, whose real name is Raenius, is a member of the Heroic Warriors, and once the bodyguard of King Randor. He's a warrior who wields a powerful Techno Clamp, which can firmly hold any opponent.

As the master of capture, he possesses tremendous physical strength, necessary for operating the clamp, and is also a master of weaponry and technology. When he was the Royal Bodyguard, Clamp Champ was entrusted with the safety and care of King Randor and Queen Marlena, even volunteering his body as a shield if necessary. Sort of like the modern Secret Service.

As the next Man-At-Arms, after Duncan, Clamp Champ utilized his expert combat skills and mighty strength to lead the Masters Of The Universe into battle on numerous occasions.

Born in the Kingdom of Targa, Raenius was too young to remember the Great Unrest. His earliest memories were of a fairly happy time, a time after the war had ended and Eternia was being rebuilt. Having survived such a harsh and dark war, the people as a whole were joyous and relieved that the dark times had passed and that a bright new future lay ahead.

During the war, his father had lost an arm while protecting their leader, King Torgul, and as a consequence was unable to continue to actively serve in the guard any longer.

A few years later, Raenius traveled to the Kingdom of Eternos, to become King Randor and Queen Marlena's personal bodyguard, replacing Captain Steele, who was fatally wounded by Spikor.

Although Clamp Champ missed out on any animated appearances, he turned up in a number of different comic books and such. He appears in the mini-comic "The Search for Keldor"; the Marvel/Star Comics two-parter "Lifetime"; and three issues of a Masters of the Universe magazine, including issue #9, "Raid on Snake Mountain", issue #13, "Time Trap", and issue #14, "To Save a World".

Additionally, Clamp Champ appeared in two issues of a couple of United Kingdom magazines, in stories titled "Of Champions and Kings" and "The Fall of Eternos City". So, he didn't make it into animation. He still managed to get around a fair bit.

He also appeared in one of the modern mini-comics, but I'll address that a little later. Of course, Clamp Champ was part of the original figure line. He nearly made it into the 2002 figure line, but that line was canceled before this could happen. Instead, there was a 2002-style Clamp Champ "staction figure" -- really a to-scale statue -- sculpted by the Four Horsemen and produced by NECA as part of a line that sought to take advantage of the designs of the time and bring them out in some fashion.

So, how's the figure? Really outstanding. Clamp Champ is one of those characters that, while not exactly on the "A-list", is still well-known enough by a majority of Masters of the Universe fans so that his inclusion in the Classics line is more than a bit overdue, and I'm pleased to see him.

The headsculpt is interesting. Certainly it's a highly-detailed and excellent sculpt of the character, who, categorically unlike some of the bizarre, non-human characters of the Masters concept, looks entirely like he should -- a human male of black ancestry. His hair is relatively short, and superbly detailed. The eyes have been very neatly painted, and unusually, have been given a slight glossy finish.

But what's especially interesting about the headsculpt is the facial features. There's a few more creases in the face than one might expect, and they're not the kind of defective mold creases that I occasionally have to complain about. No, for some reason, Clamp Champ's face is just naturally a little more lined than average. He has several lines in his forehead and elsewhere on his face, and the clear intention is to make Champ Champ look just a little older than the average Masters character (although how one would determine age on some of these beings is certainly a topic open to a lot of interpretation).

If I had to get really specific about it, I would say that Clamp Champ has been designed to look more like a contemporary of Man-At-Arms, more than of He-Man or Teela. Now, that doesn't mean that I think Clamp Champ looks old. He just looks like he has a few more years on him than He-Man or Teela. And clearly, as Man-At-Arms himself proved time and again in his adventures, a few more years on Eternia does not in any way mean diminished capability in battle.

I never had the original Clamp Champ figure, so I honestly can't say if that one looked like he was a little older than the other human-type characters or not. But it's interesting to see it here, and certainly, the Four Horsemen have turned out a spectacular headsculpt.

Clamp Champ is fairly typically dressed for a Masters of the Universe character. He has the metal wristbands, in this case silver, with black straps on the left one, and he's wearing the standard loincloth with wide belt, and leather-like boots with wrapped bands around them, and fur across the top. For Clamp Champ, this provides him with a red loincloth with a silver belt, and black boots with red furry tops.

Additionally, Clamp Champ is wearing an armored vest. Now, initially, I thought it was largely the same as Fisto's, with a few minor modifications, and I would suspect that the original Clamp Champ's was based on the original Fisto's. But after comparing the modern Champ Champ's vest with the modern Fisto's, I'm not so sure.

The most significance difference is the back. The back of Fisto's vest has a large, rectangular slot, which he can use to sheathe a large weapon that he came with. The back of Clamp Champ's vest features a large, more or less round, almost dome-like device, black in color with silver trim, purpose indeterminate, but it could well be some sort of portable power source for his Techno Clamp.

But let's set that obvious difference aside. Then you have the color schemes between the two. And they are quite different. Fisto's vest is a non-metallic silver, really sort of a pale gray, with purple trim in the ridged stripes. Clamp Champ's vest is a metallic blue, with a darker shade of non-metallic blue in the ridged stripes, and the collar of the vest is silver.

Even so, the basic configuration is nearly identical. But -- it's not identical enough, and I really don't think that Clamp Champ's vest is specifically derived from the Fisto vest.

Most significantly, there's a lot more sculpted detail. The large silver collar is a lot more complex in its design. The area of metallic blue that appears near Clamp Champ's throat is entirely different than the little region of purple that appears near Fisto's. The metallic blue stripes have a great deal of sculpted detail in them, whereas the gray stripes on Fisto's vest are plain. And while I'm not going to sit here and count them, I'm not even convinced that the narrow ridges between the raised armored stripes are entirely identical.

The clincher for me was the clasps on the backs of the vests that secure them in place. On Fisto's vest, there are two, small, square-shaped clasps on each side. On Clamp Champ's vest, there is one, larger, rectangular-shaped clasp on each side.

I could accept the idea that Mattel and the Four Horsemen could go back to the Fisto vest, change the design of the back, and add some fairly extensive new detail to the front. But altering the clasp mechanism, when there would have been no real reason to do so, is an unnecessary step.

As such, while I'm convinced that the Clamp Champ vest was certainly inspired by the Fisto vest, I'm not at all sure that it was derived from a modification of the original molds. Aspects of the original sculpt might have been involved, but that's as far as I think it went. Admittedly, I am not an expert on such matters. But it is interesting to observe both the similarities and the differences between the two vests.

Overall paintwork on the figure is very neat. Granted, most of that paint is on the vest, but it's been very impressively done, as have the other costume details, and certainly the face.

Of course, the figure is called "Clamp Champ" for a reason, and now we must turn to the accessories. Unlike characters such as Fisto, or Jitsu, or Trap Jaw, whose weaponry is attached to their persons, that's not the case with Clamp Champ. His primary weapon from which he derives his name is a separate weapon that he can hold in his hands. This is the Techno Clamp. It's a large, somewhat trapezoid-shaped device, rather flat in appearance, about three inches long and two inches wide, with a trigger handle underneath, and some impressive techno detailing on the top, neatly painted in metallic red and blue.

Emerging from either side of this device are two pincer-like claws, red in color. I imagine the original version of this figure featured a spring-action device. This device is not, but the pincers can be moved out and around easily by hand. The pincers are curved, have a serrated look to them, and at full extension bring the total length of the Techno Clamp to five inches.

Now, it's one thing to use a device like this to immobilize an opponent. It's another matter to make sure he stops giving you trouble. So Clamp Champ comes with a second weapon, which has a certain clamp-like look to it, but I'm more inclined to think it's some sort of sophisticated blaster, perhaps of Clamp Champ's own design, that will render any captured foe incapable of any further hostile action for the foreseeable future. It's a nicely designed weapon, silver in color, with impressive detailing.

Of course, Clamp Champ is superbly articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivels, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivels, knees, boot tops, and ankles.

Let's have a look at Clamp Champ's backstory on the scroll-like bio card on the back of the package, and then I want to add a few thoughts.

CLAMP CHAMP - Heroic Master of Capture
Real Name: RAENIUS

After Duncan was captured and permanently turned into a Snake Man, Raenius, former Bodyguard to King Randor, stepped in as the new royal Man-At-Arms. Although lacking Duncan's skills as an inventor, Raenius proved his worth in the Masters of the Universe with his ferocious hand-to-hand combat and extensive knowledge of almost every weapon, including his favorite, the Techno Clamp, for which he earned the nickname "Clamp Champ". He continued to lead the Masters of the Universe all the way to the Second Ultimate Battleground. Clamp Champ surprises his enemies with his clamping action.

Okay, there's some story elements here that I want to comment on. As I understand it, the 2002-era animated series, had it continued for another season, wanted to permanently transform Man-At-Arms and possibly Teela into Snake Men. There was one episode where this happened temporarily. Whether or not this would've happened permanently, I don't know. I seem to recall hearing that Mattel wasn't to keen on that idea, and I don't blame them. I, for one, resoundingly disliked the idea of one of the foundational heroes of the concept such as Man-At-Arms being permanently transformed into one of those creepy, slithering bad guys.

However, in the modern concept, which admittedly has had to rely on the bio cards and a small handful of mini-comics to tell its stories, this is what happened, up to and including a Snake-Man-At-Arms figure -- nicely made, but not really one of my personal favorites.

The Second Ultimate Battleground mini-comic, which is the one additional comic appearance of Clamp Champ that I did not mention earlier, not only has Man-At-Arms as a Snake Man, serving in the combined Snake-Men/Evil Horde army, but ultimately, the one forced to kill him was -- Clamp Champ.

Clearly, this isn't something Clamp Champ wanted to do, and he tries to talk Duncan back, to no avail. It is only after he has delivered a fatal blow that Man-At-Arms regains his senses, and transforms back to a human as he is dying. He has just enough time to express to Teela how proud he is of her, and then he perishes, Clamp Champ standing regretfully in the background.

It was a grim scene, and personally, my one sticking point with the modern Masters. I wish they hadn't done this to Man-At-Arms. I don't fault the Clamp Champ character, and I'm certainly glad to have him as part of my collection, but this whole business of permanently, irrevocably transforming a classic character like Man-At-Arms into a bad guy, and to the point where one of the heroes had to kill him, has never set well with me.

Of course, I still have my Masters of the Universe Classics Man-At-Arms figure -- pre-Snake-Man version, so as far as I'm concerned, he's still part of the group.

So, what's my final word? I think it's a bit of a shame that Mattel chose to make Clamp Champ a "Subscribers Only" figure, and I hope that at some point, he'll be more readily available. He's a well-known character, and I believe just a bit overdue for inclusion in the line.

Certainly, Clamp Champ is an extremely impressive figure. The headsculpt is amazingly well detailed, the overall colors are right on the money, and the very detailed vest is superbly well done. His accessories are just as they should be, especially the Techno Clamp.

If you're a fan of Masters of the Universe, even if it takes a bit more effort than usual to track down this figure, he's certainly worth it. Don't let your Classics collection be without him.

The MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of CLAMP CHAMP definitely has my highest recommendation!