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By Thomas Wheeler

One of the most interesting additions to Mattel's truly superb line of MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS figures is this individual -- Count Marzo. If the name doesn't sound all that familiar to more casual Masters' fans, there's a reasonably good reason for that -- he's not exactly what you'd call a major player.

While trying to do some online research into the character, I discovered that information about him was relatively sparse. I recalled the character from the 2002-era animated series, but much to my surprise, I discovered that the character did exist in the original 1980's animated series from Filmation!

According to what little information I could glean about that particular version of the character, Count Marzo was a very powerful sorcerer, who has lived for thousands of years with no greater desire than to become King of Eternia. Nothing like patience with a purpose, huh? It is also said that he tends to concoct his evil schemes more subtly than most of the villains. Guess so. He was so subtle that I didn't even remember he turned up in the original series.

A picture I was able to track down shows a character that bears little resemblance to the modern Marzo. Apart from being relatively human in appearance with moderately long dark hair, there's not a lot of similarities.

Count Marzo was more notable in the 2002 series. The same online information that I used to get information about the original Marzo merely describes the 2002 Count Marzo as a "barbaric wizard". True enough as far as it goes in that the 2002 Count Marzo was dressed a little more in keeping with the pseudo-medieval fashion styles common to many Eternians, and his hair was longer. However, Count Marzo was a greater fixture in the 2002 series, generally considered a rival to Skeletor, as well as a moderate threat in his own right, but lacking the additional manpower that Skeletor's assorted cohorts afforded him. Generally speaking, Count Marzo seemed to work alone.

However, Count Marzo wasn't above occasional alliances. He was among a number of independent bad guys that Skeletor recruited at one point to take the place of his usual assemblage of assorted nitwits, whom Skeletor had, for one reason or another, finally had enough of. Turned out the new crew wasn't much of an improvement. In a later episode, if memory serves correctly, Evil-Lyn recruited Count Marzo as part of a scheme of her own to restore Hordak from the dimension into which he had been banished. Fortunately for everyone, this didn't work out especially well, either.

Up until now, there has never been a figure of Count Marzo. The character was simply not prominent enough in the 1980's to warrant it, and he just didn't make the list in time to get into the 2002 line.

This may well have presented the Four Horsemen design and sculpting team with an interesting challenge. The original Filmation animated series was reasonably realistic in style. Okay, the physiques of the characters were somewhat improbable outside of anyone who didn't actually live at a gym, and there were all those weird and bizarre characters and creatures thrown in, but the basic style of the series was fairly straightforward. The 1980's toys were a little less so, with massive physiques, but somewhat limited articulation, and they tended to be rather bow-legged, and those legs were a bit on the short side, for that matter.

Conversely, the 2002 series gave the Masters of the Universe something of a Japanese anime style, which was also reflected in the toys. Unlike the original Masters, each 2002 figure was entirely unique, generally somewhat pre-posed, and highly styled. It was a cool line from a design standpoint, but it was also pretty far removed from the original. However, the modern Count Marzo, in the animated series, was designed to fit into this style. Had there been a Count Marzo figure, it would not have been a difficult transition from the animated series to poseable plastic.

So now we have the Masters of the Universe Classics line. Fantastic design, excellent articulation, without question the finest Masters ever. But, some of the basic parameters are more closely affiliated with the original Masters of the Universe series than with the 2002. The "extreme styling", for lack of a better term, that was present in the 2002 line is absent here. I'm not talking about detail. There's tons of sculpted detail on these guys. The line is amazing. Many of the figures look like they walked right out of the original animated series, if not better. The bodily proportions, although once again having a considerable musculature, are far better than the original line, and frankly better than the 2002 line. But, it's just as evident that the character likenesses are more closely based on the original Masters, than they are on the 2002 designs.

Therein lies the challenge, as I see it. Taking a character who was most prominent in the 2002 series, and somehow getting him to fit recognizably into the Classics series, that takes most of its cues from the original. Mattel has access to characters from the original Masters, the New Adventures (and we've already had one character from that concept, Optikk), She-Ra: Princess of Power, and the 2002 line. And Mattel has said more than once that their intention with the Classics line is to make the figures look like modern versions of their original incarnations -- even if in a few instances that character might not have had an original incarnation. That was what needed to happen with Count Marzo.

So, with that said -- how's the figure? Hmmm -- interesting. He's very impressive, as are all of the Masters of the Universe Classics figure, but for the first time in the line to date, we have a figure that is based on a character likeness that only existed in the 2002 series, and there's a degree to which I think that this aspect shows maybe just a little more than necessary. That's not really a negative comment, just an observation.

Certainly, it can't have been easy to take the more or less anime design of Count Marzo and fit it into the Classics line with its distinct 1980's flavor, and have it be quite as good a fit as carrying He-Man or Man-At-Arms over. And to a fair degree, Count Marzo uses the same body molds as most everyone else in the line -- at least most of the males. It's in the headsculpt and in the costume details where the major departures tend to occur, as one might expect.

Let's consider the headsculpt. Marzo is a relatively human-looking character. He's not one of the wilder individuals such as Mer-Man or someone, or even one of the 2002-developed characters such as the forthcoming (as of this writing) Chief Carnivus whose facial details can be adjusted a bit to fit into the format of the Classics figures. Marzo needs to look like Marzo, and Marzo is relatively human. But his likeness is also that of a human being who was developed for an animated series that was much more stylized in its look than these figures are. To the Four Horsemen's considerable credit, Count Marzo's basic facial features actually transitioned very well.

Where we might have gone just a little too stylized is with regard to the hair. Count Marzo's eyebrows are pretty wild, upturned, flared out things, but the really noticeable aspect is the hair on Marzo's head. The color's right -- black with hints of gray, mostly on the front -- but that part down the middle is pretty wild, as is the fact that the hair is designed to look a bit windblown. Personally, I dislike pre-posing, especially in a line that doesn't need it and seldom has it, and that certainly includes the Masters line. If one aspect of Count Marzo screams "2002-style", it's the hair. The angular beard is close in this regard, but not quite.

Count Marzo has a large red cape, which is a little windblown, but not too badly. It's reasonably flexible, and has an ornate black border and pattern on the back, very neatly painted. The cape is attached to two semi-loops that go over the shoulders, and appear to be curved, armored ridges. Count Marco also has a chestplate, which is black with gray trim, and includes a sculpted clasp for the cape, which is gray with white details.

It MIGHT be possible to remove the cape, but the chestplate would go with it, and I think the only way to do it would be to pop Marzo's head off first. Personally, I don't intend to try that, and there's no real good reason to, as far as I'm concerned.

Count Marzo's arms and mid-torso are bare, although his wrists do have the same sort of wristbands as He-Man and a number of other characters. Marzo's are black and gray with a bit of silver trim. Although the detailing is extensive, including little silver points, I was a little disappointed that it wasn't more neatly painted on these features, especially since the rest of the paint detailing on the figure is so well done.

Count Marzo does not have the typical furry loincloth of many Masters of the Universe figures. Here once again is a clear mark of his origin. Although there are other Masters of the Universe Classics figures that do not have this typical piece, it was even less prevalent in the 2002 line, where the individualized figures allowed the designers to sculpt all manner of clothing and costuming for the figures. Since this carried over into the design of the characters for the 2002-era animated series, it included Count Marzo.

In place of the loincloth is a complicated piece that includes a wide belt with a large circular center, and highly detailed "flaps" that hang below the belt. The entire piece has something of a futuristic look to it. The belt is gray with black outline and detailing, and a large white circular center. The flaps are squarish and have curved sculpted elements in both gray and black, with silver studs, very neatly painted.

Count Marzo is wearing black leggings, and has gray boots of a distinctly "non-barbarian" type, that have been seen on a number of other figures in various colors. They're a good match for the rest of the design and detailing on the figure.

Some of the choices of what portions of the figure to paint, and even what colors to mold the plastic in, are interesting. Count Marzo's legs are molded in the same flesh-tone as his body, but painted black. I know this because my Count Marzo came with a bit of a paint scuff on his left knee (nothing a little flat black couldn't remedy -- thank goodness he wasn't wearing a complicated color to match). I'm honestly not sure why this was done. My first thought was that perhaps a typical Masters body has one set of molds that must be molded in the same color -- but although this formula does hold for a lot of figures in the line, there's at least one exception -- King Randor, who has a red torso and arms, and orange legs. So why was Count Marzo not molded with black legs? I don't know. He looks okay (once I touched him up).

Also, curiously, his hands are painted flesh-tone, despite the fact that -- based on a little missing paint on a couple of knuckles on his right hand, his hands were molded in flesh tone plastic! Very odd.

One notable thing about Count Marzo's hands, or more specifically, his left hand, is that it's a newly designed hand with a very specific position to it, designed to hold onto a magical amulet that is the source of Marzo's powers. He was obsessive about guarding this in the 2002 animated series, almost to the point of paranoia. Of course, Count Marzo comes with the amulet. It's secured in his left hand, but it is removable. Honestly, it's just as well to leave it where it is. It fits very well, isn't terribly likely to pop out, and Marzo's left hand looks just a little silly without it. The amulet is a nicely made little item, molded in transparent red plastic with a silver border. It has a large oval shape on the front, and a smaller diamond shape on the back. Credit to the Four Horsemen, the new hand is superbly well designed, with each finger individually apart from the others.

Count Marzo's other accessory is a sword. Surprisingly lengthy relative to some of the other swords in the Masters of the Universe line, including He-Man's, it is a straight, rather narrow blade, painted in silver, with a red design at the base and a brown handle. The tip also has a red addition to it, with backward-facing points. One gets the impression that if Count Marzo were to run you through with this thing, it'd do just as much damage on the way back out.

Of course, the figure is superbly articulation. Count Marzo is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, knees, boot tops, and ankles. Count Marzo's overall balance isn't bad, but could be better. Mine has somewhat loose ankles. No reason to believe they're all like that, however. But mine does tend to be a little back-heavy because of the cape. Sometimes it looks like he's standing, when he's really fallen back just a little, and his cape's propping him up. However, a proper stance is certainly well possible.

The practice that Mattel has adopted with the Masters of the Universe Classics line of finally putting written backstories on the back of the package card, in the form of a printed image resembling a scroll, is especially appreciated here, since there's so little information about Count Marzo to really go on. Marzo's reads as follows:

COUNT MARZO - Evil Master of Magic

A fifth degree wizard raised by evil mystics in the Dunes of Doom, Marzo spent most of his early life learning of the many advantages of magic over technology. Seeing the suffering of warriors in the Dark Hemisphere, Marzo became convinced that Eternia would be better off with him as its leader. He staged a series of strategic uprisings across the planet and challenged King Miro for his crown. Unable to defeat the King's army, Marzo used his magical amulet to banish Miro into another dimension. In their father's absence, Miro's royal sons heroically joined together and defeated the wizard, trapping him in the form of a powerless, old man.

Which, if I recall, is how Marzo first appeared in the 2002 animated story. For the record. King Miro is the predecessor to King Randor. The illustration accompanying the scroll information is interesting. Generally speaking, these "file cards" have tended to take their artwork either from the original comic books, or imitated that style. Count Marzo's illustration looks like it's taken directly from a cel from the 2002 series, anime style and all. Makes for an interesting comparison with the figure.

So, what's my final word here? This is an impressive figure. There's a few attributes that may be a little too close to the 2002-style, but in Count Marzo's case, that was unquestionably a delicate balance that the Four Horsemen had to deal with, and in the final analysis, I believe they did a truly superb job. The figure certainly fits well into the Classics line, and brings a character who, even though he appeared briefly in the original series, is certainly better known from the 2002-era, into the modern line, with abundantly impressive results.

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