REVIEW: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON EXCLUSIVE QUEEN MARLENA/CAPTAIN GLENN
The 2011 San Diego Comic-Con Masters of the Universe Classics exclusive, (which turned up several weeks after the Convention on MattyCollector.Com) was the first-ever figure of QUEEN MARLENA, Prince Adam's (and as such He-Man's) mother. The only real difference between the two versions, Comic-Con and MattyCollector, is that the Comic-Con version was packaged as Queen Marlena. The MattyCollector version was packaged as Captain Glenn.
Simply stated, for those that missed the references in the original animated series, Queen Marlena was once an Earthwoman, an astronaut named Marlena Glenn, who made her way to Eternia as the result of a space exploration mission, and eventually married King Randor.
Both versions of the figure come with the necessary parts to convert the figure between her Captain Glenn and Queen Marlena incarnations, although both have different scroll-like bio cards. Since the Filmation animated series that presented this backstory, in very basic form, wasn't one for going into all that much detail, and Marlena wasn't exactly one of the most major characters of the series, I figure the best way I can present Marlena's background is to first present Captain Glenn's bio card, and then Queen Marlena's, from the actual toys themselves.
CAPTAIN GLENN - Heroic Galactic Adventurer
Before she was Queen of Eternia, Marlena Glenn was a heroic explorer and space captain from planet Earth. Alone with her courageous crew, she traveled the stars in search of new sources of fuel for her homeworld. A crack shot with almost any laser rifle, she prefers a Higuchi 1114 model for its speed and accuracy. On many adventures she learned to rely not only on her strength and courage but her intellect as well. After completing her assignment with Project Photog, Marlena volunteered to pilot an experimental warp ship through a black hole. Arriving in the center of her dimension, she became the first Earthling to make contact with the magical planet of Eternia. Late in life, she used the power of the Cosmic Key to return to her homeworld, discovering a great secret that linked the two planets she called home.
QUEEN MARLENA - Heroic Queen of Eternia
An explorer from planet Earth, Marlena traveled with two companions in an experimental warp ship through a dimensional rift. Crash landing on Eternia, Marlena was the ship's only survivor, rescued from certain death by a young Captain Randor. Falling in love with him, Marlena chose to remain on Eternia as Randor's wife and eventually serve as Queen after the end of the Great Unrest. Although her children do not suspect it, she is well aware of both Adam and Adora's dual identities and is proud of her warrior twins. Often assigned diplomatic duties, Marlena has been trained by Duncan and Clamp Champ and has lead Randor's armies in battle in times of need. Queen Marlena helps rule the free people of Eternia with her wisdom and strength.
Now, there's more than a little to pick apart there, along with some additional information that was shown at the Convention that is not apparent on these cards.
The big one for me is that apparently there was a placard at Comic-Con accompanying this figure that listed Marlena's fellow astronauts as Mason, Storm, Long, and Bitner. Bitner's the last name of Nathan Bitner, the individual who, at the tail end of the original Masters of the Universe run, won a contest to design a Masters of the Universe figure. His winning entry was named "Fearless Photog", and was a humanoid individual with a camera for a head that could somehow draw the evil right out of a person. That figure was never made, as the line was canceled before it could happen. Fearless Photog is on deck for 2012, at long last, but let us note that Captain Glenn's file card does make reference to a "Project Photog."
As to "Mason, Storm, and Long" -- got a huge kick of hearing about that. For those of you that may need a little history lesson: In the 1960's, Mattel's main claim to action figure fame was a series of 6" astronauts, reasonably realistic, although their vehicles were somewhat fanciful, that were released under the brand name of "Major Matt Mason". Given the attention garnered by the Space Race at the time, the line was a massive hit. Two of Major Matt Mason's fellow astronauts were a blonde-haired fellow named Sgt. Storm (if he ever had a first name, I don't know it), and Jeff Long, an African-American. I was a huge fan of Major Matt Mason, really wish the line would come back, and I think this little connection here is just excellent.
It does concern me that the fourth astronaut from Major Matt Mason, a fellow by the name of Doug Davis, doesn't get a mention here. But you know, I always thought he bore some resemblance to Big Jim, Mattel's prominent action figure line of the 70's. Perhaps Davis retired from space travel, changed his name, and then first became an athlete, and then later a crime-fighting adventurer with Big Jim's P.A.C.K.
But I digress. Still, you've got to love the cross-concept continuity...
Now, admittedly, the Queen Marlena file card only makes reference to TWO companions, not FOUR. However, the placard clearly stated that Mason and company were part of Project Photog, which was not the mission that took Marlena to Eternia. Poke around some of the more obscure information and you'll discover that there was some notion that one of Marlena's original compatriots on the mission that ended up on Eternia was Evil-Lyn! Clearly this is not officially the case, since Marlena was the only survivor.
Nevertheless, sorting out the continuity on any Masters character, even someone not exactly center stage, isn't always easy.
The reference to Clamp Champ is interesting, since this is a Masters character that hasn't been introduced into the Classics line -- yet, anyway. The rifle that is used by Captain Glenn is actually derived from the live-action movie! Although it is not named in the movie, the name "Higuchi" is one of the people who presently works on the Classics line.
The rifle isn't the only reference from the live action movie. So is the Cosmic Key, even though the events listed were not part of the film. The Cosmic Key was a device that Gwildor invented that allowed travel through space and time. Marlena isn't in the movie, but there was a panel in the comic adaptation that was based on a different version of the script in which a NASA flag is found inside Grayskull. He-Man says that his mother showed it to him and said it was found with the first Eternians when they crash landed.
So between the two file cards, and some additional information at the Convention, we're now presented with a very thorough backstory for Queen Marlena, that also references a previous (and personal childhood favorite) action figure line, at least two characters that have yet to be made as action figures, one of which never was, and even a few references from the live-action movie. That's pretty impressive!
So, how's the figure? Equally impressive, I'm pleased to say. Since I purchased the non-Comic-Con version of this figure, she came dressed and packaged as Captain Glenn, the astronaut. Marlena did actually appear in her astronaut uniform, in flashback mode, in the original Masters of the Universe series, and Filmation cut Mattel a huge unintentional break when it came to this figure, by giving Captain Glenn as astronaut suit that was the same basic color as her royal gown!
I have to say I was a little surprised that this character was chosen as the Comic-Con exclusive when I first heard about her. My thinking was, "Is Queen Marlena really so unusual as to warrant convention exclusive treatment?" As it turns out, given the swappable modes between Queen Marlena and Captain Glenn, and the parts required for both modes -- yes, she is.
As Captain Glenn, Marlena is dressed in a turquoise green, fairly tight-fitting astronaut suit. The figure is wearing a helmet and chestplate, and there is an emblem on the chestplate. The emblem accurately reproduces that of the the Rainbow Explorer, Marlena's ship in the Filmation episode "The Rainbow Warrior", in which she appeared in this astronaut mode. The helmet is spherical and has a clear front. The rest is silver. The headsculpt is excellent, and shows a somewhat younger-looking Marlena than we are used to seeing, with her hair worn up in a bun.
Interestingly, the torso piece is virtually identical to that of Adora, She-Ra's secret identity. It's just a different color, but the particulars are the same. Additionally, there's an imprinted name badge, "GLENN" on the front.
The helmet and chestplate can be removed, although to do so also requires popping off the head. It snaps back readily enough, however, so Captain Glenn can still be wearing her exploration suit without the bulky survival equipment.
The headsculpt is superb, and very neatly painted, and of course, the figure has superb articulation, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.
Now for the big question -- how does the figure (at the risk of insulting some robots) transform (!) from Captain Glenn into Queen Marlena? I'd wondered that myself. From fairly tight-fitting astronaut suit to a royal gown? How was that going to work?
Incredibly well, as it turns out, no doubt to the talent, skill, and innovation of the Four Horsemen. Included with the Captain Glenn figure, as one would expect, is a Queen Marlena head, gown, and appropriate accessories. But, you might wonder, how does the gown work, since Masters of the Universe Classics figures do not use cloth accessories?
Here's how the figure switches from Captain Glenn to Queen Marlena. Obviously, the head must be switched. But there is also a seam in the back of the astronaut suit torso, that VERY effectively hides several tabs and slots that keep the piece secured on the figure. These are barely visible, but can also be fairly easily undone, and the uniform section slid past the arms, which are really the only part of Marlena that remains visibly the same in both modes.
The figure, minus the astronaut suit torso, looks -- odd, in a way. Just about all female Masters figures to date have used some variation of this design, except that it's not removable. Teela, She-Ra, Adora, Evil-Lyn, Catra -- they've all used this design. And it's interesting to see this rather overly slender torso with all the articulation points readily apparent, before putting the gown in place. It's like getting a look at the design of the figure that one normally wouldn't have.
The gown works pretty much the same as the astronaut torso. Fit it past the arms, over the torso, and tab-seal it in the back. It's just that, since it's a gown, it's got a good bit more tabs. But they seal just as effectively as the astronaut uniform portion. Between that and the new head, Queen Marlena is ready to rule!
Here is Marlena as I believe she is best known. The Captain Glenn figure is certainly cool and very impressive, but we saw Marlena a lot more as Queen than as Captain. The headsculpt is superb. So is the gown design. She looks like she's stepped right out of the Filmation series. The headsculpt looks slightly older than the Captain version, but this is to be expected. The hair is restyled appropriately, and she is wearing a gold crown. The gown has the appropriate upturned collar, and a gold studded belt. The gown goes nearly to the floor, so does an effective job of concealing the fact that Marlena is still wearing the better part of her astronaut suit -- including black boots -- underneath it.
Queen Marlena comes with a very respectable sword, and a regal staff. Personally, given the sorts of enemies that are known to plague Eternia, I think she ought to keep her old astronaut pistol concealed somewhere in those robes. I mean, remember that scene from the Indiana Jones movie? That one sword guy starts waving his sword around, showing off his skill, trying to intimidate Indy -- who just pulls his pistol, pops a cap into the guy, and that's the end of it. Queen Marlena should learn from that a bit, I think.
Obviously, in "Queen" mode, the figure's articulation is seriously hindered. The gown is not flexible enough to allow for much in the way of leg movement. I will say that I'm impressed that the figure does stand up very well, and remains standing without difficulty, but the articulation availability pretty much comes down to the head, arms, upper arm swivels, elbows, and wrists.
Nevertheless, I think it's immensely cool to finally have a figure of Adam and Adora's other parent. King Randor's been made before, but never Queen Marlena. And the Captain Glenn option certainly is an interesting and impressively-made bonus.
There is -- one other item in the set. Cringer. That's right, Battle Cat's secret identity.
I'm sure I don't need to remind many of you that, especially in the original animated series, Cringer was a rather cowardly green tiger, who seriously disliked being transformed into the larger and vastly more gung-ho Battle Cat, to accompany He-Man on his adventures (and provide transportation), but his loyalty to Adam more often than not allowed for him to participate.
Now that I think about it, I can't recall if there was ever an episode that dealt with Battle Cat's feelings about being turned back into Cringer...
The figure of Cringer is -- cute, in its own way. The facial expression is dead-on perfect. The Four Horsemen must have committed the entire Filmation series to memory, and have pretty photographic memories. Or they've got a ton of reference material. The figure is not overly articulated. Really, Cringer is only poseable at the head and tail. The legs are posed in a sort of walk, that between their position and the rather alarmed expression on Cringer's face, he looks about ready to dive for cover -- which wasn't an unusual reaction whatsoever every time Adam held aloft his sword and proclaimed, "By the power of -- " by which time Cringer was looking for an exit and generally not finding one.
The overall detailing on the figure is excellent. Nobody sculpts fur like the Four Horsemen. The positioning is excellent. Despite being a green tiger with orange stripes and a comical facial expression, Cringer was otherwise a realistically proportioned animal. I tend to think the head may be a little large, but this figure is intended as an accessory piece, really, and a rather comical one at that.
My only gripe, and it's a very minor one, is the size relative to Battle Cat. Again, I realize that Cringer here is an accessory piece as much as anything. And it was shown in the program that Battle Cat WAS definitely larger than Cringer. But with Cringer measuring 7 inches from nose to tail, and Battle Cat measuring over 12 inches -- was Battle Cat really THAT much larger? I'm not saying he wasn't, necessarily, and it's been a while since I've seen the series, but I don't recall the discrepancy being quite that much. It's still a cool addition to the overall set, though. No complaints really.
So, what's my final word? Well, I can certainly see why this was turned out as a Comic-Con exclusive. The parts and complexity needed to carry out both Queen Marlena and Captain Glenn as a single figure certainly warranted it. Cringer is a cool addition, and the combined file cards, and the additional information presented at the Convention itself, certainly make for an impressive profile, that also offer a nice oblique nod to a previous toy line, and I can appreciate that.
And finally, Queen Marlena joins the action figure line! With her, Randor, Adam, Adora, and of course He-Man and She-Ra, the Royal Family of Eternia is complete! And if you're any sort of Masters of the Universe fan, you're going to want to add Queen Marlena to your collection.
The MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of QUEEN MARLENA/CAPTAIN GLENN definitely has my highest, most enthusiastic recommendation!