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REVIEW: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS MEKANECK
By Thomas Wheeler

The Masters of the Universe Classics line has proven to be a highly diverse and varied series of action figures. Mattel, through their online store at MattyCollector.Com, has given us figures, masterfully designed and sculpted by the Four Horsemen Studios, of characters from the original Masters of the Universe line, the New Adventures line, He-Man's literal sister line, She-Ra, Princess of Power, and even some characters that were exclusive to the 2002 concept. We've even been presented with a small handful of new characters through the 30th Anniversary line.

In all of this, and given the vast resources of those previous lines -- not to mention everybody having their own favorites and not-so-favorites, it's no great surprise that pretty much everybody collecting this line will say that there are characters that they were surprised were developed into figures when they were, while there were others that they wondered why it's taken so long to get around to them -- or in a few cases, we're still waiting.

For me, one of the most recent releases fits into the category of -- what took so long? Now, don't get me wrong. I'm certainly delighted to have him. But it does seem as though he took a while. The man's name is MEKANECK.

Mekaneck is the Master of the Universe with a telescoping neck that enables him to serve as a scout and do reconnaissance. Man-At-Arms is the one who gave him his extending prosthetic neck, although in the 2002 series this is never discussed; Man-At-Arms is only shown repairing kinks and damage to Mekaneck's neck.

In the 2002 series, Mekaneck occasionally feels useless and wishes he had better super powers than just an extending neck. This leads him to unknowingly retrieve Count Marzo's power amulet, in the vain hope that he'd be granted better abilities. He-Man and the other Masters finally convince Mekaneck of his worth.

Mekaneck also had a son by the name of Philip. Mekaneck is voiced by Lou Scheimer in the 80s series and by Gabe Khouth in the 2002 series.

Honestly, I don't recall seeing Mekaneck all that often in the 1980's series. However, that was a long time ago (he says, trying not to date himself too much), and I wasn't really all that dedicated a viewer of the show at times.

Mekaneck was certainly a major player in the 2002-era series, and perhaps it was his substantial presence in that show that makes me think he should have been brought into the Classics line before now. But, he is here now, and I'm pleased that he is.

So, how's the figure? Extremely impressive, if admittedly lacking the direct action feature that gave his predecessors their distinctive names. Now, in fairness, whether or not a certain Masters of the Universe Classics figure can be given his or her established action feature depends very much on how well that feature can be worked into the existing body format.

For example, it's no great challenge to give Tri-Klops his rotating visor, insofar as the rest of the body using standard molds is concerned. The head will take more work, certainly since it needs to accommodate the feature of the visor, but that's all part of the head, not the rest of the body.

And then there are some figures whose bodies are so distinctive that they have to be produced especially for that singular figure. Roboto would be a good example of this. You're just not going to do a Roboto figure that doesn't have a transparent torso with little moving gears in it.

And then we come to Mekaneck. Will his action feature work within the established body parameters? No. Does the figure otherwise have normal body parameters. Yes. All right, then. Some other means will have to be determined so he can still live up to his name.

As his name might imply, and as the backstory has already discussed, Mekaneck has a mechanical, extending neck. How this could possibly work I have no idea. When I get around to the specific file card for this figure, I have to say that they came up with a more than plausible explanation -- allowing for a certain willing suspension of disbelief -- that admittedly isn't something that would've been thought of in the 1980's.

However, for the moment, let's just say that Mekaneck has a bionic, telescoping neck, that if the two of them ever met, would probably make "Six Million Dollar Man" Steve Austin glad that all he did was damage one arm, both legs, and an eye. Not his neck. Because I think he'd think that Mekaneck was just a bit -- odd.

Now, the original Mekaneck figure from the 1980's, and its 2002-era successor, did have built in telescoping necks. Many of the original Masters of the Universe action figures had spring-loaded waists. In most cases, this meant that you could turn the waist to one side a certain distance, let it go, and it looked as though the figure was throwing a punch.

I'm not sorry that this feature has not been included in the Classics line. I've never thought very highly of built-in action features in action figures, especially ones that otherwise hindered the articulation of the toy.

Mekaneck was a bit different. Turn him at the waist, and his neck stretched upwards a certain distance. It was cool, if a trifle weird. I do tend to wonder who at Mattel back in the day got an idea along the lines of a submarine periscope and subsequently thought, "Hey, what if that was somebody's neck!?" Let's face it, that's not exactly a normal thought process.

One could also look through the back of Mekaneck's head. The figure appeared to be wearing these large, triangular goggles over his eyes, but the back of the head was hollow, and you could look through the lenses, as if you were looking through some sort of viewfinder or some such. I don't recall there being any significant magnification factor.

And really, I'm not sure which was weirder here -- that Mekaneck had an extending neck, or that the entire back of his head was open all the way to the front so that kids could look through it. They're both just a little creepy if you think about it.

Appearance-wise, Mekaneck uses a lot of primary colors. He's outfitted in a blue suit -- that is, his body has been molded in blue, much as Man-At-Arms' body has been molded in green, to look like colored tights. The traditional loincloth is black, with a metallic green belt, and the traditional "barbarian"-type boots are silver with dark gray wrappings. Mekaneck also has metallic blue wristbands. He is not wearing gloves, and his skin color is a standard flesh-tone.

Of course, the most distinctive parts of Mekaneck are his head and torso armor. Only Mekaneck's lower face can be seen, and appears to be that of a rather ordinary male human. His helmet is an interesting piece of work, very angular in shape, looking pretty much triangular from the front, and multi-angled from a side view. The helmet is red in color.

He is also wearing a silver visor, just as angled as the helmet, with two inverted triangular lenses up front. These are also silver, which is a bit different from previous Mekaneck versions, which, for obvious reasons, had colored transparent lenses. I'm a little surprised the lenses weren't at least painted in a color here, but so be it. Honestly, it wouldn't be a hard thing to do for someone with a small paint brush, an appropriate color of acrylic paint, and a steady hand. The two lenses are distinctly sculpted, and flat surfaces. But I leave that decision up to the individual collector.

Mekaneck is also wearing some serious armor around his torso. This is also the same color red as his helmet, with silver trim. The armor is identical to that worn by Stinkor, except for the color and the way the details are painted. This is not inappropriate, since the original versions of Stinkor and Mekaneck did the same thing. In fact, I heard from one collector who as much said, upon Stinkor's release, that Mekaneck had to be coming along fairly soon, and indeed, here he is.

Part of the front panel, and the sides of Mekaneck's armor are painted silver, as well as a small detail near the top. The back is entirely red. The details are very neatly painted, and indeed, different from Stinkor's, which did not have the side details painted, and the front was painted somewhat differently.

Now, this brings us to Mekaneck's main function. Since the neck does not automatically extend from the torso, how does it work? Mattel wouldn't leave Mekaneck without the means to extend his neck, would they?

No, they wouldn't. Fortunately, a solution within the Classics format exists. It's not terribly difficult to pop the head off of one of these figures. They're mounted on a ball-and-socket joint which allows for an excellent range of articulation -- as well as interchangability. There's been any number of figures in the collection that have featured a second head, usually one based on a later or some other alternate version of the character -- clean-shaven Man-At-Arms and one with a mustache, for example.

Mekaneck comes with two neck extensions. One of these is about 2-1/2" in length, and if the character had his "actual" action feature, this wouldn't be too implausible. Maybe a little more than expected, but it could still work. The other neck extension is more like 5-1/2" in length, and at this point, we're way beyond "physically impossible" for a "built-in" type of action feature -- but not impossible for Mekaneck.

At this point, I would like to present Mekaneck's biographical backstory as it appears on the package, because it does answer the question -- just how does he stretch his neck, and how far can it go?

MEKANECK
Heroic Human Periscope!
Real Name: Orius

Injured in the Battle of the Avion during the Great Unrest, Orius was brought by Duncan to Castle Grayskull, where he was healed by the Sorceress. The magic spell replaced his neck with an ever-expanding mechanical construction made of microscopic nanites. By increasing or decreasing the number of nanites in his body, Orius gained the ability to grow his neck to almost unlimited length. Taking the code-name Mekaneck, he served the royal household as a loyal member of the Masters of the Universe, using his amazing periscope neck to spy on the evil enemy.

Well, first of all, you've got an explanation that, within the Masters universe, makes sense. It's a combination of magic and technology. A quick tour around Eternia would tell anyone that the natives are quire adept at using both. This explains why Mekaneck's neck looks mechanical, but is capable of things that no machine would normally be able to do.

There was one episode of the 2002 animated series -- I forget the specific circumstances, but Mekaneck was able to stretch his neck through some sort of maze or tunnel of some sort, and it looked like it went on for miles -- quite a few miles, in fact. The thought in my head at the time was, "Oh, come on, that's a bit of a stretch." Once I apologized to myself for the horrendous pun, it still just seemed like it was a bit much. But -- perhaps it's not.

The nanite explanation is interesting, and I found myself wondering if this was an explanation that could have even been used in the 1980's, had the original Masters line bothered with backstories like this, which it didn't. I'd heard the term nanites in any number of pop culture outlets, from modern Star Trek series to various comic books, even in G.I. Joe. But I wasn't sure when the concept of nanites had first been developed.

Nanites, or Nanorobotics, is the emerging technology field creating machines or robots whose components are at or close to the scale of a nanometer (10-9 meters). More specifically, nanorobotics refers to the nanotechnology engineering discipline of designing and building nanorobots, with devices ranging in size from 0.1-10 micrometers and constructed of nanoscale or molecular components. The names nanobots, nanoids, nanites, nanomachines or nanomites have also been used to describe these devices currently under research and development.

Nanomachines are largely in the research-and-development phase, but some primitive molecular machines have been tested. An example is a sensor having a switch approximately 1.5 nanometers across, capable of counting specific molecules in a chemical sample. The first useful applications of nanomachines might be in medical technology, which could be used to identify and destroy cancer cells. Another potential application is the detection of toxic chemicals, and the measurement of their concentrations, in the environment. Rice University has demonstrated a single-molecule car developed by a chemical process and including buckyballs for wheels. It is actuated by controlling the environmental temperature and by positioning a scanning tunneling microscope tip.

Another definition is a robot that allows precision interactions with nanoscale objects, or can manipulate with nanoscale resolution. Such devices are more related to Microscopy or Scanning probe microscopy, instead of the description of nanorobots as molecular machine. Following the microscopy definition even a large apparatus such as an atomic force microscope can be considered a nanorobotic instrument when configured to perform nanomanipulation. For this perspective, macroscale robots or microrobots that can move with nanoscale precision can also be considered nanorobots.

According to Richard Feynman, it was his former graduate student and collaborator Albert Hibbs who originally suggested to him -- circa 1959 -- the idea of a medical use for Feynman's theoretical micromachines, also known as nanotechnology. Hibbs suggested that certain repair machines might one day be reduced in size to the point that it would, in theory, be possible to (as Feynman put it) "swallow the doctor". The idea was incorporated into Feynman's 1959 essay "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom".

So, nanites, in some form, go back a lot further than I thought. It would seem that practical application is still some ways off, but let's be fair, most technology seen in pop culture, including Eternia's, is in advance of our own.

And if you think about this original idea of using nanotechnology for medical purposes, that fits in rather well with how it was used on Mekaneck. The Sorceress just amped it up a bit -- no great surprise there.

Mekaneck also comes with a large, rather ornate, gold-colored club. This makes sense. He's a warrior as well as a reconnaissance specialist, and if he were to look around the wrong mountain while trying to spy on Skeletor and his minions, he might well need to defend himself.

So, what's my final word? I'm extremely impressed with this figure. It's an excellent Classics-style take on the character, and really looks great. The switchable neck extensions are a very agreeable means of presenting Mekaneck's main "action feature", and I don't miss the hollowed-out "viewfinder" head one bit. That was just -- a little too weird. And the explanation for his abilities on the bio card is superb.

The degree to which you consider Mekaneck a major player in the Masters universe may well depend on which animated series you watched. For me, although I watched both shows at various times, I've tended to lean a little more towards the 2002-era series when it comes to Mekaneck, and as such tend to see him as a fair significant character.

As such, I regard his inclusion in the Classics line to be just a bit overdue, and I'm glad that he's finally arrived. And Mattel's done a really great job with him. If you're any sort of Masters fan, you'll truly enjoy this excellent figure of Mekaneck.

The MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of MEKANECK definitely has my highest recommendation! Now excuse me, I have to go tell him to stop looking over my shoulder.