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By Thomas Wheeler

I think if you were to take a look at any sufficiently long-running pop-culture concept that has enjoyed a decent-sized toy line over the years and/or decades, you'd find that the characters respective to those concepts would fall into three categories. You've got your lead characters. You've got the secondary characters that most people reasonably familiar with the concept are likely to be familiar with. And you've got some obscure names that only the die-hard experts are going to know, and it might even be a strain for some of them.

Take G.I. Joe. Everybody knows Duke, Snake-Eyes, Storm Shadow, Cobra Commander. Granted, the live action movies have helped. Most longtime fans can probably name all the Dreadnoks and rattle off a fair number of Cobra specialist troopers. But Steam-Roller? Wildcard? Windmill? There's nothing wrong with any of these guys, but they're not exactly A-listers.

Or Transformers. Everyone knows Optimus Prime, Megatron, Bumblebee, Starscream. But given the number of iterations the line has had over the years, and the astounding number of toys from massive creations such as Unicron and Primus down to Transformers sold in multi-packs you can pop in a shirt pocket, "obscure" doesn't begin to describe it. Quick, can you tell me who Sledge is?

Then we come to Masters of the Universe. Although not as populated as either G.I. Joe or Transformers, we nevertheless encounter the same situation. Everyone know who He-Man and Skeletor are. Now, give me a list of the Meteorbs. See what I mean?

Fitting into that "middle space" of neither an A-list player or especially obscure is a recent addition to the Masters of the Universe Classics line by the name of FISTO. And here we have an interesting situation, character-wise. Although in the original run of the line, Fisto was pretty much just another one of the good guys, came along partway into the run, and managed to get some time in the original animated series, an extensive backstory developed for the character during the run of the 2002 animated series definitely elevated Fisto's overall status to something a lot closer to the top tier.

Neither the original toy line, nor the 2002 action figures, bothered much with origin stories or backgrounds. And the original Filmation series didn't tend to touch on these matters all that much, either. The 2002 animated series was a different matter. If there was a good character story to be told, they'd tell it. And a lot of what they told has been carried over, when possible and appropriate, to the modern Masters of the Universe Classics line, which as we all know, now certainly includes backstories presented on the scroll-like bio cards on the backs of the packages. Since Fisto didn't really have any other significant character development, and since it was certainly a good background, Mattel maintained it, which I think was the right decision.

The original Fisto came out in 1984. His main claim to fame, as his name would indicate, was what appeared to be a decidedly outsized armored fist-glove on his right hand. In addition to the usual "twist the waist and he throws a punch" feature that most original Masters figures had, Fisto also possessed a spring-loaded feature in the fist-glove itself.

In this respect, Fisto borrowed this idea from a previous Mattel line -- Big Jim. After a number of years in the early 1970's as a successful athlete and part-time adventurer, Big Jim brought several of his friends together -- Dr. Steel, a formal rival in the athletic world; The Whip, and Warpath, and formed a team known as Big Jim's PACK, which stood for Professional Agents/Crime Killers. All of these figures had the standard feature of pressing a button in the back to deliver a karate chop with the right arm.

Sometime later, a fifth member joined the team. Taking the name TorpedoFist, this character had lost his original arm -- and one eye -- and had replaced the arm with a rather odd-looking mechanical replacement. Instead of a karate chop, when you pressed the button on TorpedoFist's back, the mechanical arm shot out an inch or so -- which at the 10" scale of Big Jim, was usually more than enough to deliver a rather nasty shot to someone's face.

It was an interesting feature once, no reason not to use it again, and have Fisto belt Skeletor in the head instead of TorpedoFist belting Zorak in the head. Granted, the bad guys retaliated later with a big-handed character of their own named Jitsu, but I'll wait to comment on that until the Classics line gets around to him.

There wasn't really anything all that distinctive about Fisto as a character. He was just another one of the good guys. In the original animated series, he was portrayed as he caretaker of a forest, and was reluctant to join the fight against Skeletor. Eventually, however, he did so, and it was estimated by both his fellow Eternians and by an alien race that appeared in the series that Fisto was second only to He-Man himself in terms of strength. Impressive, but apparently not enough to make him one of the major players.

Until, that is, the 2002 animated series. Very much out of the blue, Fisto was made Man-At-Arms rather ne'er-do-well brother! Man-At-Arms was certainly one of the A-list players, and the estrangement between the two stemmed from the fact that Fisto, technically the older brother, had allegedly deserted Randor's forces during battle during the Great Unrest at some point in the past.

Fisto did make it into the 2002 action figure line, although as with many of the supporting cast, especially later on in the series, the figure was extremely difficult to find, and due to various copyright reasons, had to be given the legal name of "Battle Fist", although he was referred to as "Fisto" in the animated series.

The 2002 figure, much like most of the Masters of the Universe figures from that era, looked like a more detailed and rather stylized version of the original, although the fist-glove was actually a mechanical replacement for Fisto's original hand, which had been hopelessly injured in an adventure in which he had rescued the Masters, and this new hand looked a lot more cybernetic than the armored glove of the original. It still had a similar feature, however. Press a button and the fist section shot out a bit.

Obviously somewhere between the 2002 line and today, Mattel got the rights to the "Fisto" name back, because for the Classics line, he's definitely named Fisto. "TM" on the package and everything.

So, how's the figure? Really outstanding. There were several things that I always thought made Fisto a little more distinctive than most of the Masters. For starters, he was human. That wasn't something that most of the Masters could claim -- not even the good guys. Secondly, he had a beard. Not a lot of the human Masters had beards. Thirdly, the color scheme of his costume was silver and dark purple. That was a bit unusual, although admittedly the better part of the color spectrum was used over the course of the line, certainly.

As always, the sculpting and design team of the Four Horsemen have done a superb job with the headsculpt. Technically, Fisto comes with two heads. One standard, and one with the armored-looking headband that the 2002 incarnation of the figure wore.

Interestingly, if not particularly surprisingly, both headsculpts look a little more like the 2002 incarnation of the character than the original. This isn't surprising, since the Four Horsemen also worked on the 2002 line. It's also not objectionable, since the headsculpt of the original Fisto figure from the 1980's was -- well, there's no polite way to put it, I suppose -- a little big-headed in my opinion.

For whatever reason, and it's probably the beard, Fisto looks a little Viking-like to me. Give him a horned helmet and he could probably travel back in time and sign on with Vikor's bunch with no problem. The mustache and beard are really quite thick, and expertly sculpted. Fisto also has superbly painted, well-detailed eyes, that have these very intense, ice-blue irises. I can't say as I recall seeing eyes this particular color on an action figure before, and there's something about them that gives the figure a certain intensity. Like -- this is not a person you would want to tick off if you somehow met him for real.

The paintwork on the figure is excellent, but I'm quite certain that the eyebrows on both heads have been painted by hand. They're not quite as precise as one would expect from being painted through a stencil. Conversely, they're a great many times more precise than I would expect from hand painting. Somebody (and that's probably plural) really did a good job on these.

Fisto is wearing the standard furry loincloth that most Masters of the Universe figures have, with the usual fancy belt. In this case, the loincloth is brown, and the belt is purple, with lighter metallic purple trim, and silver around the central circle. Fisto comes with a second belt, an interesting accessory, but this is also intended to make him look more like his 2002 counterpart, should one so desire, since that Fisto had a more individual and ornate belt.

Fisto is also wearing the standard boots of most Masters of the Universe figures, made to look like some sort of animal skin held in place with straps, and with fur at the top. The boots are purple, with purple fur trim, with black straps. Now, while it might seem improbable to find an animal with purple skin and fur, let's remember that this is Eternia. Anything's possible. And, what the heck, it might've been a dye job.

Most notable is the armored vest that Fisto is wearing. This is pretty much a trademark of his appearance. It's silver, with purple stripes. The vest has a purple collar, with some intricate sculpted detailing in it. This is followed by a large, protective silver area protecting Fisto's shoulders and upper chest and back. This armored area has ridged borders and numerous half-spheres embosses within.

The rest of the armor consists of alternative areas of smooth silver, and ridged purple. Presumably the purple areas are some sort of tough fabric or leather, one would assume. The vest is held in place by four extremely well-hidden clasps on the back that blend in with the ridged purple areas superbly well. Also on the back is a raised slot, with copper trim, to carry a sword. And brother, does he ever come with one, but I'll get to the accessories in a few paragraphs.

Fisto has a silver wristband on his left arm, but it's obviously the right arm that has the main feature. Here as always is Fisto's massive silver armored fist. The design definitely takes its cues from the original, and not from the 2002 Fisto. There's nothing at all cybernetic or mechanical-looking about this huge gauntlet. It's designed to look like a huge, oversized, well-armored, metal fist. And cybernetics or no, it's not only the last thing you'd want to see coming at your face, it's probably the last thing you would see coming at your face for a long time, possibly ever. This thing hits you, you consider yourself fortunate to wake up, even if your nose is now on the back of your head.

The fist is designed to look like multiple layers of very thick metal, held together with large round rivets. The entire thing has been painted silver, with the exception of four copper rivets on the knuckles of the four fingers. The fist does have joints sculpted into the fingers, although no actual articulation, but presumably this shows that Fisto can move the fingers of this massive fist should he decide to do so. One might hope for his sake that he's otherwise left-handed. Something like this still has its limits.

The fist does not have any spring-action features this time around, but this isn't surprising. One of the things which allowed the first two to possess such capabilities was the more limited articulation of both the original and the 2002 line. Neither version possessed any elbow articulation, and certainly no upper arm swivel. So there was room to incorporate a mechanism. There just isn't here.

It's no big loss in my opinion. Mattel as much said at the outset that unless a special function were absolutely necessary, and could fairly easily be incorporated into the design of the figure -- which generally means using existing parts when possible -- it wasn't going to happen. It's not that much of a stretch to give Tri-Klops his rotating visor, for example, but a spring-loaded arm is another matter. As I said, I don't consider it a big loss. A fist this big doesn't really need much enhancement.

Of course, Fisto's complete articulation is highly impressive. This is one of the reasons I really enjoy the Masters of the Universe Classics line. The figures finally have the articulation they deserve, not to mention better overall proportions. Fisto is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivels, elbows, wrists (or glove top in the case of the fist), mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, boot tops, and ankles.

As for accessories, along with the additional head and belt, Fisto comes with two swords. The first is a relatively standard-sized sword, metallic purple with a dark gray hilt, that represents the sword the original Fisto came with. The other sword is a massive, monstrous piece of work, with a huge, broad silver blade, rather high-tech looking, with a narrow black hilt with a silver fist at the tip. Fisto is capable of carrying this in the slot on the back of his vest, but I'd hate to see him try to get through the Eternian airport with this thing. One sort of gets the impression that Fisto wouldn't need to fight with this sword all that much. Just show it to someone who's coming at him with a standard sword, and they'd stop in their tracks and head the other way as quickly as possible if they had an ounce of sense,

For myself, it's big and sturdy enough that I'm seriously thinking of using it for a letter opener. One word of warning, however. Fisto does not easily hold either of his swords, especially this vastly larger one. The handles are just a little bigger than the molded grasp of his left hand. I had to force this a bit for the sake of the photo, and ended up bending one of Fisto's fingers inwards and nearly damaging the figure. Mattel -- ? Cool accessories, but you might want to do some test-fitting in the future.

Fisto's bio card reads as follows:

Heroic Hand-to-Hand Fighter
Real Name: MALCOLM

The older brother of Duncan, Randor's first Man-At-Arms, Malcolm served under King Miro during the Great Unrest, but was wounded in battle and stricken with magical amnesia. Wandering through Eternia, he settled in the Mystic Mountains in a mining settlement unable to piece together how he lost his battalion. His life changed when the Snake Men attacked his town and he helped save the Masters of the Universe from their trap. But in doing so, Malcolm shattered his right hand. In gratitude, Duncan replaced it with a robotic strong arm. Now known as Fisto, he has made up with his brother and fights as a heroic member of the Masters of the Universe, smashing evil with his giant knuckles!

Magical amnesia, huh? If memory serves, Duncan and the other Masters encountered him in a tavern. Good place to get magical amnesia. However, in fairness, this tale really is a well-done summary of the events of the 2002 animated episode that introduced Fisto. Malcolm shattered his hand by punching his way through the better part of a blocked cave to reach the Masters and rescue them. And I suppose that this gauntlet is robotic, even if it doesn't look like it to the same degree as the 2002 version.

So, what's my final word? I'm sincerely pleased to see Fisto join the collection. Here we have a character whose eventual storyline allowed him to rise through the ranks, getting a lot closer to the A-listers than he'd ever been before. That's commendable, and he certainly deserved to be added to the Classics collection. And here he is. Mattel has done a truly superb job with him, it's cool that you can switch him between modern versions of his original look and his 2002 appearance, and I can't imagine that any longtime Masters fan won't be extremely pleased with this figure. I certainly am, and regard him as a "must have" for any Masters collector.

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