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REVIEW: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS CLAWFUL
By Thomas Wheeler

Do you like lobster? Personally, I've never been a fan of seafood. It just wasn't something that was part of the family diet. Sometimes I wonder what people eat on Eternia. There are so many sentient versions of humanoid life that seem crossed with one sort of animal or another. One of the more obvious ones is a recent addition to the MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS line, the apparent lobster-man, minion of Skeletor, known as CLAWFUL.

Clawful has an interesting history within the Masters of the Universe concept. He wasn't one of the first bad guys to come out in the original line, but he came along soon enough thereafter so that he's regarded as being almost as prominent as the likes of Beast Man, Merman, and a few others, and generally ahead of some of the bad guys that turned up later in the line.

Things got a little weird for the character in the 2002 concept. Although Clawful was VERY prominent in the animated series, and given the style of the concept, was presented as an immense being with an armored body and an even more exaggerated face than the original version, and his presence carried over into the comic book that was tied in to this series -- for some strange reason, there was never a Clawful action figure.

Granted, there were a lot of characters that never made it into the 2002-era line, that I'm sure most of us would have liked to have seen. It's a shame the line didn't last long enough to bring Hordak in, along with some of his Horde. But Clawful seemed a particularly blatant omission on the toy shelves, since he was part of the animated series from the outset, even when other characters, that came along later, such as Roboto, Sy-Klone, and others, did make it as action figures. But not Clawful. This was most unfortunate in my opinion.

So, I'll admit, when the current Masters of the Universe Classics line got rolling, Clawful, although certainly not the most prominent character in the world, was definitely on my list of characters that I wanted to see. The guy just needed a break, and he finally got it. Clawful has joined the Masters of the Universe Classics line!

Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot I can say about the character, apart from what's presented on the scroll-like "bio card" on the back of his package. I am accustomed to presenting as much history as possible about any given character whose action figure I happen to be reviewing. I believe this makes for a more interesting overall review, and gives the figure more of a personality than just treating it as an assemblage of plastic.

However, the further one gets from the main cast of Masters of the Universe, the less there is to say. While this might not seem all that unusual, in a way it really is. Other pop culture concepts, such as G.I. Joe and Transformers, seem to go to some lengths to expand upon their characters. Now, there will always be more to say about Duke and Optimus Prime than there will be to say about, for example, Slip-Stream or Seaspray, but even in these cases, the characters have generally had enough of a presence so I can present a fair backstory.

However, for Masters of the Universe, creating a detailed backstory was never a priority for the toy line, nor was it really one for the original animated series. And if you weren't pretty close to the center of the spotlight, which Clawful wasn't, you weren't going to get that much attention. And while this situation is being decently remedied with the new "bio cards" on the back of the Classics packaging, this information is somewhat limited. It's also just about all we have to work with.

Wikipedia was of no help. By the time one gets around to characters like Clawful, they don't have their own individual entries. They're just mentioned as part of a list of Masters of the Universe characters. And the encyclopedia entry on He-Man.Org didn't really provide much more in the way of detail. As such, this review is likely to be shorter than most, and when it comes to Masters of the Universe Classics reviews, this is something that both you the reader and I the writer are likely to have to simply get used to.

Meanwhile, here's what Clawful's package card has to say about him:

CLAWFUL - Warrior with the Grip of Evil!
Real Name: Pronounced through a series of claw clicks.

A member of the Karikoni, an Eternian race of crustacean warriors, "Clawful", as he was known outside of Orkas Island, became a core member of Skeletor's Evil Warriors after he saved Beast Man from a Seclapoid attack. Clawful's hard shell protects him from both extreme heat and cold. Under a spell cast by Evil-Lyn, Clawful's dull wits were enhanced, turning him into a keen warrior and strategist. He fought alongside Skeletor, leading a battalion of Skeleton Warriors during the Second Ultimate Battle Ground. Clawful uses his dreadful claw to work his evil will!

Well, that's interesting, especially from one standpoint -- that Evil-Lyn initiated a procedure to make Clawful smarter! I mean, it really did seem in the animated series that the collective brain energy of a lot of Skeletor's minions would be hard pressed to burn toast. I mean, I can understand not wanting someone around who's smart enough to get really ambitious and possibly overthrow Skeletor, but one does have to wonder if they had to be quite that imbecilic. It's kind of nice to know he wants some intelligence around him.

As for his real name being "pronounced through a series of claw clicks" -- must be the first race in history to use something akin to the Morse Code as their primary language. Although you've got to figure that being in a roomful of Karikoni engaged in a lively conversation of just about anyone besides them real quick.

Okay, so, how's the figure? Really superbly done. The Masters of the Universe Classics line, first and foremost, seeks to create modern, more detailed, better proportioned, and certainly better articulation incarnations of the original Masters of the Universe figures. In this respect, Clawful succeeds admirably across the board.

First off, there's the headsculpt. I have, on occasion, heard Clawful's head design likened -- and not especially favorably -- to that of a Muppet. I can almost see this. Clawful does have rather large, round eyes, with fairly small black pupils. In this respect, there is a certain similarity to many of Jim Henson's best known creations. However, if you take a look at the rest of the head -- wow, that'd be one ugly Muppet!

The one thing that does get me about Clawful's headsculpt is those thick black eyebrows right over the eyes. Okay, I know Eternia is a weird place where all manner of life can be found, and a lot of it is seriously strange. But someone tell me how a race of humanoid crustaceans manages to not only grow hair, but that much of it in such concentrated sections?! Muppet, heck, Clawful's eyebrows look more like he got them off Groucho Marx.

Granted, the large, roundish eyes and the bizarre black eyebrows do tend to give Clawful a moderately comedic appearance, which I think is a little unfortunate -- especially when you consider that there's nothing especially funny-looking about the rest of the figure, and if Evil-Lyn really did make him smarter than the average minion, then he's also a good bit more dangerous.

The rest of Clawful's head is a fairly bright red in color, and distinctly scaly. He has a snout, rather pushed in. This is interesting given that both the Filmation and 2002 animated series drew the character with a much longer snout (of course, the Filmation version of Clawful barely looked like the character). There are two, almost rhino-like horns on the top of the snout, and a ridged crest going over the top of the head.

Clawful's mouth, upturned on the sides in an angry snarl, is full of long, sharp teeth, two of which protrude from the lower jaw in the front of the snout. The detail work on the head is really quite remarkable and impressive, and has been very neatly painted.

The red scaly appearance continues on the upper torso and shoulders. The figure uses the same body molds that have been used on a couple of other characters, notably Whiplash and Buzz-Off. This only makes sense, for two reasons -- the original Masters of the Universe line did this quite a bit, so it does adhere to accuracy -- and reusing the molds as much as possible makes for more economically-produced figures.

In what I consider to be a slightly odd coloration occurrence, Clawful's mid-to-lower arms, and his legs, are a fairly normal flesh-tone. Now, of course, there are any number of characters in the Masters of the Universe line, both good and evil, who have this coloration. There's also plenty that don't. But to me, there's just something a little unusual about seeing a relatively normal flesh-tone on a character who is otherwise so non-human looking, especially the headsculpt, and whose remaining body is distinctly non-human in both skin color, texture, and composition.

The lower arms, and the legs, have these strange protrustions on them, like large scales or ridges. These are especially notable on the sides of the legs, but also appear on the lower left arm, as well. I'll get to the lower right arm in a bit. In place of a hand, Clawful's lower left arm ends in a small red claw, rather lobster-like in appearance, but it's also the same claw-hand used by Buzz-Off, the heroic insectoid character in the line.

Clawful is wearing a dark blue belt, and has a red loincloth, which is pretty much the standard wardrobe accessory of most of the Masters. He has dark blue boots, that are also scaly like his skin, and end in some of the most bizarre feet -- again a distinctly non-human appearance -- available in the line. These feet have been used on other characters, notably Whiplash and Buzz-Off, but "strange" would be an understatement. The feet seem to have four clawed toes, with the claws protruding from the boots. One large toe points forward, and the three remaining toes point to the sides and back. Very bizarre.

Clawful is wearing an armored vest, dark red in color and rather nicely airbrushed for a little additional detail. The vest is distinctive to Clawful, and given especially what the back of it looks like, I'd be hard pressed to think that it will be used on much of anyone else. Of course I'll likely be proven wrong at some point. The front of the vest has a series of V-shaped ridges on it, painted a slightly darker color than the rest of the vest. The back of the vest also has a series of V-like ridges, but is far more shell-like in its appearance, and is perhaps one of the most lobster-like details on Clawful.

The vest was secured through rather imaginative means, in my opinion. It's essentially a backwards vest, in that it would've been placed in the figure from the front, and it doesn't entirely close in the back. Instead, the shell-like carapace that comprises the back of the vest is a separate piece, that fits over four knobs on the vest itself, that are designed to blend in at least somewhat with the patterning of the carapace. It's a clever design, and works remarkably well.

This does not mean that the vest is removable, however. It's not, and the reason it's not and why I am certain that the vest was put into place before the arms were assembled, is also the reason I've put off discussing the lower right arm of Clawful until now.

Certainly Clawful's most lobster-like characteristic is the massive claw attached to his lower right arm. The entire lower arm is a distinctive piece, and the red scaly pattern resumes just below the elbow where this new piece starts. It would have to be an entirely new lower arm, too. The claw is gigantic, far larger than the relatively small one on the left arm, and is authentic-looking enough so that I find myself wondering if the Four Horsemen completed the design for it over dinner at Red Lobster.

Moreover, it has a spring-action function! This surprised me a bit, since the Masters of the Universe Classics figures have generally avoided built-in functions that were common to the original figures -- and personally, I don't miss that spring-action waist in the least. There have been occasional exceptions, such as Roboto's internal gear workings, and Tri-Klops' rotating visor, that essentially had to be included for a proper rendering of the character. I'm not entirely sure that a spring-action claw was an absolute necessity. It could have just been given standard articulation. However, I'm not at all complaining. It's a cool feature, and the claw is strong enough to grasp and hold small objects, such as a pencil or a USB drive (and there's something the original Clawful couldn't've held!)

Clawful comes with two accessories. One is a shield -- that looks very much like his own carapace. It's dark red in color, with the same sort of ridge pattern, and has a series of metallic dark blue spikes around the edges. It clips effectively to Clawful's left arm. Don't even try to use it on the right. Clawful also comes with a very ornate mace-like weapon, rather incongruously bright green in color. He can hold this in his right claw as readily as he can hold a pencil, although to be honest, the claw looks more dangerous.

So, what's my final word? Given that Clawful got left out of the 2002-era action figure line, despite being present in the associated media, I'm sincerely pleased to see him finally return to the toy world with this new Masters of the Universe Classics figure. He's an interesting individual with a decent history in the line, perhaps not among the most prominent of the characters, but certainly more prominent than some. He both earned and deserved this figure, and I am very glad to welcome him into my collection. I am sure you will be, as well.

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