REVIEW: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS GRIZZLOR
The next addition to Mattel's superb line of Masters of the Universe Classics figures is the ultimate in action figure bad hair days. He's the furry member of the Evil Horde -- GRIZZLOR!
I'd like to say that I continue to be resoundingly impressed with this Masters of the Universe Classics line. When the 2002 line failed, in my opinion due as much to poor case assortments as anything (He-Man and Skeletor were everywhere, but just try to find anybody else!), I figured that was it for one of the three major iconic pop-culture toy lines of the 1980's, the other two being G.I. Joe and Transformers.
The 2002 line was cool, but not without its quirks. Although the line featured radical new designs and fantastically detailed sculpting, some argued that the designs went a little too far, and there was the unfortunate fact that some of the figures were pre-posed, and the articulation was scarcely better than it had been in the 1980's, which in the case of the Masters amounted to the head, arms, waist (which was frequently spring-loaded), and legs. That sort of thing doesn't fly too well in the 21st century.
The first indication that there was still an audience for the Masters was almost certainly the figure-sized statues that followed the demise of the line. Sculpted by the same Four Horsemen studio, these statues featured characters that should have made it into the action figure line, in that style, but just didn't come out. They were decently successful for a couple of years across several assortments.
Then the Four Horsemen, very much on their own, came up with something, and brought it to a San Diego Comic-Con. It was a new take on He-Man. The figure looked more or less like the classic He-Man, but with better overall bodily proportions, greater detail, and, for the first time ever, superb articulation! Fans were pretty much falling all over each other just to get a look at it, even though there were no plans to market it or really do anything with the Masters at that time. Still, there was obviously something there...!
It was generally thought that Masters would be a tough sell for retailers, after the failure of the last line. But Mattel was looking into setting up a major Internet presence for collectors. Perhaps the Masters could be the flagship line of MattyCollector.Com!
And so it was. And since then, in the middle of every month, collectors jam up the MattyCollector Web Site trying to snag the latest Masters offering, and the line has certainly proven its popularity. It's even back at retail on a limited basis, participating in two-packs joined by the Four Horsemen's other masterpiece line, DC Universe Classics.
Mattel has put a lot of effort into restoring the popularity of the Masters. The history and timeline is better defined than ever before. The individual figures, for the first time ever, have clearly outlined biographies printed on scroll-like bio cards on the back of their packages, a tradition started by G.I. Joe, carried over to Transformers, as well as other lines over the years, but never previously used by the Masters. The histories and timelines do their best to reconcile the continuity problems caused by the mini-comics and the animated series, and in some instances, even work in some of the history of the 2002 series, which in some cases is really the only history there is to work with. This can be no easy task.
The line has brought in every part of the Masters Universe -- the original line; She-Ra, Princess of Power; the 2002 line with a character or two; and even the New Adventures of He-Man line, in the form of Optikk, one of the few characters from that line that's worth the effort, in my opinion.
And then we have Grizzlor. Grizzlor is noted for one thing -- fur, and lots of it. The original figure had actual fur. The new figure has actual fur. Heck, even the statue of him based out of the 2002 line had actual fur!
Fur on an action figure is a relative rarity. Oh, actual hair isn't too uncommon, relatively speaking. You've got "flocked" figures like the original 12" G.I. Joes, and a number of their modern counterparts over the years. You have some figures that for one reason or another need a certain amount of "actual" hair. Zanzibar, a Dreadnok pirate in the G.I. Joe line, was one of the first small-scale action figures to have real hair, a sort of topknot on his head. Granted, actual hair is more commonly found in the doll section, but it's not unheard of among action figures.
Fur is a little less common. There's been a few large-scale Chewbaccas over the years, and a Wampa here and a Yeti there, but it's still pretty uncommon. I looked around my own apartment, at my rather considerable collection encompassing a wide range of action figure lines, and the only other objects I saw that had fur on them were some Star Trek tribbles. Not exactly action figures. Based on that evaluation, I'd say it's a fair statement that Grizzlor is a relative rarity in the action figure world.
Grizzlor's fur is on most of his head, and covering his entire torso. Someone likened Grizzor's head to an ugly version of one of those overly ugly-but-cute "Troll" figures. I tend to disagree -- the Trolls are generally better groomed. Grizzlor's head and body look like Grizzlor's people never even heard of the concept of a comb or brush -- or a weed-whacker, for that matter.
It's rather amusing to call up images from the 80's animation and see what Grizzlor looked like in the cartoon. He's just as mean, but he's far neater. Now, granted, although the characters of the Evil Horde were marketed as toys in the Masters of the Universe line, in the animation, their home was the She-Ra, Princess of Power series, which took place on an entirely different planet, Etheria, which the Horde had conquered. This gave She-Ra a more effective and villainous set of villains than the somewhat less-threatening-looking female characters that her toy line came with, as well as did a nice job of unifying the Princess of Power and Masters of the Universe concepts in their main media outlet.
One sort of wonders if Grizzlor felt the need to be slightly better groomed on She-Ra's world. In reality, though, it was obviously a decision of simplifying the look of the character for animation, a not uncommon practice. I think Grizzlor would be a challenge even for modern animation. The only animated characters I've ever seen who had hairstyles quite this wildly chaotic were certain young people in various Japanese anime series, and even they weren't this badly off, and they certainly didn't look as though they needed a full-body perm.
As best as I can determine, Grizzlor has a standard Masters of the Universe Classics body under his hairy hide. He even has a standard molded loincloth and a painted belt underneath. Apparently the figure has somehow been sewn into this fur suit, but trying to find any sort of seam in this mass of fur starts to rather quickly fall under the "needle in the haystack" category, and I'm just going to leave well enough alone.
Grizzlor's arms and legs do not have actual fur on them, Granted, neither did the original Grizzlor. They use, for the most part, the same furry-limbed body molds that characters such as Beast Man and Stratos have made use of. They are molded in a dark tan, and are slightly lighter than the tan/brown fur that is present on the rest of the body. Grizzlor's hands are distinctive, however, as they only have three, rather thick fingers and a thumb per hand. This is a relative oddity in the Masters line, regardless of what other physical peculiarities a given figure may have. The only other three-fingered figure that I notice in my collection offhand is Mer-Man. Additionally, Grizzlor does have distinctive lower legs, as he is wearing a pair of black boots with the red bat-winds indicative of the Evil Horde on them.
It's worth mentioning that the Evil Horde is one of a couple of distinctive enemy forces that were developed for the Masters of the Universe line. Much like G.I. Joe, over the years, developed other threats for the Joe Team besides Cobra, such as the Iron Grenadiers, the HeadHunters, and the Lunartix aliens, so did He-Man and his heroic allies have to contend with more than just Skeletor and his cadre of cronies. The Snake-Men were a distinctive threat, as was the Evil Horde.
The Evil Horde was led by Hordak, although there were clear indications that, as a whole, the Horde was a far more massive, multi-planetary threat than just Hordak's reign over Etheria. On more than a few occasions references were made to "Horde Prime", clearly Hordak's superior, who obviously had more important things to do than personally deal with the rebellion on Etheria led by She-Ra. It was also revealed that Skeletor had been a pupil of Hordak's, although Hordak had betrayed Skeletor, who no longer considered himself part of the Evil Horde, and had no great affection for his former teacher, for obvious reasons.
More recently, in keeping with the storylines established in the 2002 series, it has been established that Hordak and his followers existed in ancient times, and fought He-Man's ancestor, King Grayskull, as well as the primary hero of the time, He-Ro himself. To what degree this might ever have been introduced into the 80's continuity is unknown.
The bat insignias on Grizzlor's boots are not the only sign of his allegiance. He is also wearing an armband on his left arm that has the Horde symbol on it, and his chest harness has a massive Horde symbol as part of its design, easily the largest representation of this symbol yet seen in the entire line.
Grizzlor's head is plastic, but has a generous amount of fur secured to it, except for the face. The face -- is not easily described. With a name like Grizzlor, one might think that the face would have some resemblance to a bear, but it doesn't. If anything, it looks more like a really mean cross between a gorilla from Planet of the Apes, and a Tellarite from Star Trek. Grizzlor has a prominent brow, with large, red eyes, with yellow pupils, beneath. He has a relatively small, upturned nose, and a somewhat jutting muzzle, with a wide mouth, from which can be seen two sharp teeth. He doesn't seem to have much of a chin, but at this point the fur resumes, and it's likely anyone's guess where a beard might end and the torso fur begins.
Keeping the fur in place to some small degree is the aforementioned harness, which straps across the torso. It is mostly a yellow-orange in color, with a huge Horde emblem in red on the center. On the back are clasps for two swords, a short one and a longer one, both molded in silver plastic. One assumes that Grizzlor could not only use these for combat, but to give himself a shave if he so desired.
There is a second piece, that is packaged separately, that is designed to be strapped around the waist, and act as sort of -- well, something between a loincloth and a codpiece, I assume, even though it's been reported that Grizzlor does have a loincloth under the fur. This item has a yellow orange belt, and a piece hanging down in the front that's been sculpted to look like crudely-cut leather-like animal hide, in two colors, with a small string with several fanged teeth hanging from it, and some sort of shield like emblem, in a bone ivory color with black and red details.
This item is a small acknowledgment of the 2002-era Grizzlor statue, which came thusly equipped. There were some rumors that Grizzlor was going to have a second head, reflecting his 2002 facial likeness, but these plans were dropped. The stated reason, which I believe, is that Mattel wants to emphasize the more classic looks of these characters, with the modern sculpting and articulation, of course. I also tend to think that trying to swap out a head that is covered with this much fur would be an extremely difficult endeavor. It's one thing to do something like this with Whiplash, Mer-Man, or even Moss Man. Grizzlor -- well, personally, I think the fur would be flying, literally, and it wouldn't do any favors to the figure. So, he gets this secondary loincloth-like item, but it's purely optional. Honestly, I don't think it looks that great on the figure. It's a nice item to have for those so inclined, but I tend to think it breaks up the rest of his Horde-directed wardrobe a little too much.
Articulation of the figure is, of course, excellent. Grizzlor is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, boot tops, and ankles. I want to put a couple of disclaimers in that, however. I'm not 100% sure about the mid-torso articulation, and the waist articulation. You can't really see these areas, but I assume that Grizzlor uses a generally standard Masters of the Universe body mold, so he would have these features. To what degree the fur "suit" he is wearing may hinder this, I'm not certain. I do feel that Grizzlor is a figure that should be handled cautiously. I don't really know how fragile the fur might be. I certainly would recommend displaying him in a clean area, free of grease or dirt, and I certainly wouldn't risk getting him wet. Nor do I recommend trying to brush or groom the fur. Not only would it not look appropriate for the character, it probably wouldn't even be that effective.
The only other matter is that Grizzlor's right leg seems a little loose at the hip, but this is probably just this particular figure. He still stands well, and I don't believe the leg is at risk of falling off (the way they did on just about everybody's figure of The Goddess), and I don't think I can entirely fault the assembly procedure, which I'll admit I'd be curious about to know at just what point the fur suit was put into place.
Painted details on Grizzlor are rather limited, but effective where they appear, and include Grizzlor's eyes, mouth, wristbands, and boots. All are very well done. I'm assuming that the painted belt on his loincloth is, as well.
Grizzlor has one other accessory, which is mostly turquoise in color, and looks like a cross between a crossbow and a gargoyle. This is Grizzlor's main weapon, obviously, and is a very ornate if seriously ugly crossbow, with a center section designed to look very much like some sort of bat-winged gargoyle. An arrow-like appendage emerges from the mouth of the gargoyle, even though the weapon does not actually fire.
Grizzlor's backstory on the scroll-like bio card on the back of his package (which, by the way, has the Horde logo on the front) reads as follows:
GRIZZLOR - The Ferocious Figure with Fur
Originally a peaceful creature from the planet Jungulia, at the young age of 428 Gur'rull was kidnapped by the Horde Empire who erased his memories so he would serve loyally in their armies. Renamed "Grizzlor", he traveled with Hec-Tor Kur to Eternia in search of He-Ro. His ferocious attacks were so frightening that even after being banished to Despondos, along with his master, Grizzlor's legend lived on, becoming a myth told to young Eternian children. Prison guard for the Horde, Grizzlor is ready to unleash his fierce claws to attack the forces of Eternia!
Now, there's a few details I'd like to address. First off, for those who may not know, "Hec-Tor Kur" is the real name of Hordak. Secondly, I find it interesting that Grizzlor is described as "The Ferocious FIGURE with Fur", as if strangely emphasizing his toy incarnation rather than the character. That's pretty unusual. Finally, his card actually had a "TM" after "Gur'rull Gu'rrooowarrrk". Now, I can understand this on a basic level. A toy company wants to protect its property. It's going to trademark everything it can.
So, what's my final word here? I'm very sincerely pleased that Grizzlor has been added to the lineup. He's an interesting character, and certainly an interesting and highly distinctive figure. There's just not a lot of "actual" furred figures out there, and Mattel has done a superb job of bringing him into the modern Masters of the Universe Classics line. Any fan of the Masters will certainly welcome Grizzlor into their collection.
The MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of GRIZZLOR definitely has my highest recommendation!