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REVIEW: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS MOSS MAN
By Thomas Wheeler

The Masters of the Universe Classics line has been somewhat selective with regard to incorporating special features previously established in the original line into the new line. The fairly typical spring-activated waist, a common feature among many of the original figures, to make them look as though they were throwing a punch, is thankfully absent here. Battle Armor He-Man's rotating armor plate with varying degrees of "damage" could not be duplicated with the existing figure molds, so instead he had removable armor with snap-in plates duplicating the effect. On the other hand, Tri-Klops' visor does rotate around. I've heard it said that when Man-E-Faces joins the fray, he will have rotating faces. I'll be interested to see what they come up with for Mekaneck.

And then we have MOSS MAN. He was one of two figures in the original Masters of the Universe line who featured a very unusual special feature -- he smelled. The other one was Stinkor, who has yet to sign up with the Classics line.

I'll admit, I never had the original Moss Man, or the original Stinkor. My original Masters of the Universe collection was somewhat limited, since I had other toy priorities at the time, although I did enjoy the concept. And in the 2002 line, although Moss Man did make it into it, Mattel chose not to give that figure any particular aroma.

So, why was I reluctant to add Moss Man to my collection in the Classics line? Because it was stated that he would be given a scent.

The last time I had to deal with scented toys wasn't even in the world of Masters of the Universe. It was, oddly enough, in the world of G.I. Joe. In an extension of the 1993 Mega-Marines concept, Hasbro created two figures called the "Mega-Monsters". These were some of Dr. Mindbender's early attempts at genetic engineering. Large and bulky, the figures were named Bio-Viper and Monstro-Viper. And they were given their own distinctive scents, which according to something I was told by a Hasbro representative at the time, was actually molded into the plastic and could not be simply washed off.

Will I have to do the same with Moss Man? The jury's still out on that, but it's possible. My biggest concern is that I don't want to do anything to the figure that will damage his flocking, something that wasn't an issue with the Mega-Monsters.

Ultimately, obviously, I DID choose to get Moss Man. My desire for a complete Masters of the Universe Classics collection, coupled with how impressed I continue to be at the job Mattel is doing with these figures, so I overcame my concern.

Clearly, this was not that great a concern for most collectors. Moss Man sold out in record time on MattyCollector.Com, the Web Site where Masters of the Universe Classics figures are sold. A big part of this is due to the fact that Mattel offered a subscription service to the figures, something I chose not to go for, and once they had those numbers tallied, they scaled back the production run numbers to subscription levels and just a little more, believing that most Masters fans would have subscribed. This has turned out not to be the case. There's still a huge demand beyond the subscription levels. In the month prior to Moss Man's release, Trap Jaw and Battle Cat sold out so fast that Mattel had to promise another production run. They may find themselves having to do the same for green-and-fuzzy here. Mattel has also stated that they will increase the production runs of future figures, but it will take a few months for that to take effect. Personally, I'm planning to be in the proximity of the fastest computer I can get to on the ordering dates in the meantime. Granted it's also a balancing act for Mattel. Run too few and you upset a lot of fans. Run too many and you run the risk of the line becoming too unprofitable to continue -- although I personally don't see that happening anytime soon.

Fortunately, I was able to get Moss Man without difficulty. So, what is Moss Man's history in the Masters universe? A little online research provides answers.

As his name indicates, Moss Man is a man made of moss, whose power is to camouflage into foliage and other green areas (making him a useful spy), as well as control all plant life. He lives in the Evergreen Forest in harmony among the animals and plants.

The Moss Man figure was first released in 1985, as part of the line's fourth wave of figures. The figure is a green repaint of the Beast Man action figure, covered with fuzzy "moss" flocking, with the fangs painted over, and a pine scent added to the body. He has a brown mace that is a recast of a weapon from the original Castle Grayskull playset. With his added scent, he can in some ways be considered a Heroic counterpart to the Evil Warrior Stinkor, released in the same wave, who also had an added scent.

Given that the accompanying cartoon series was drawing to a close at the time his toy was released, Moss Man's role in the cartoon is minimal and he appears in only two episodes: "Here, There, Skeletors Everywhere" and "The Ancient Mirror of Avathar". The former portrays him as a spy who can secretly observe danger by turning into a plant. The latter shows him using his abilities to rescue others by turning his arms into vines, as well as communicating with plants. He also has a non-speaking cameo appearance with a number of other lesser-seen characters in He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special, where he appears in the background at Prince Adam and Princess Adora's birthday party.

One of the things that I remember about Moss Man's initial appearance in the Filmation series was he had an unfortunate tendency to shed. He shook hands with someone, and left behind a handful of grassy moss. He was able to reabsorb this immediately, and apologized, but the individual still looked a little creeped out.

Moss Man features in the 2002 relaunch of Masters of the Universe as part of the animated series and action figure line as a limited-edition exclusive. As with the original figure, this was a repaint of the line's Beast Man figure, this time replacing the mace with a club that came with the line's Mekaneck figure.

The cartoon series depicts him as one of the most powerful beings on Eternia, possibly even more powerful than He-Man himself. He is introduced in the episode "Orko's Garden", in which he is an urban legend. He seems to be a kind of spirit who farmed and looked after the Eternian forestry and kept it in harmony. His rival in this episode is Evilseed, an evil counterpart who wants the plant world to overcome the human world.

Evilseed was a character who first appeared in the original animated series, and posed such a threat that Skeletor had to team up with He-Man and the Sorceress to overcome him. Moss Man was not involved in that episode, and clearly, Evilseed's character in the 2002 series was different in some respects.

Moss Man's incredible powers help He-Man save the day, his power over all forms of vegetation able to overcome just about any obstacle. In a subsequent episode, "The Last Stand", he uses his abilities to save all the Masters from Skeletor's strongest trap yet. Given that he is so powerful, his appearances are sparse; only coming to the Masters' aid in times of desperation.

So, how's the figure? Well, Moss Man definitely has a very strong, sort of pine-like scent. There was a reasonably amusing comment on MattyCollector.Com about this, on their ordering form. It read: "Collector Note: It is not the identical scent as the vintage toy, but we came as close as possible within today's manufacturing standards." Given that I never had the original, I'll take their word for it. With maybe a little recommendation to not trouble themselves quite so much in the future).

Setting the smell aside, though, Mattel's done a really nice job with this figure. Months ago, there was actually a great deal of concern over whether Moss Man was even going to work out. Mattel was having trouble with the flocking. Part of the concern, I believe, was that the Masters of the Universe Classics figures are much more articulated than their vintage counterparts. Remember that the original Masters of the Universe figures only had six points of articulation -- head, arms, waist, and legs. Few of these parts came together in such a way that would've adversely affected flocking. Most were just basic back and forth movements. This is certainly not the case with the Classics, which have roughly twenty points of articulation, and this includes rotational pivots and much more.

Mattel initially proposed the possibility of an unflocked Moss Man, or a partially flocked one. Discussion went on for some time on popular Masters-related message boards and the like. Somehow, somewhere along the way, Mattel must have resolved the matter, because Moss Man is very heavily flocked. Really, the only unflocked areas of the figure, other than the belt and loincloth, are, appropriately, the face, ears, fingers, toes, as well as the palms of the hands and the bottoms of the feet, and out of necessity, areas immediately around the shoulders, elbows, and knees, and I'm sure that Mattel provided as much coverage as they possibly could here.

There is a variant of Moss Man where the ears got flocked, as well, but that was more of an "Oops!" than intentional. Mattel offered both versions of Moss Man when he went on sale. I ordered "unflocked". Interestingly, the figure has a secondary head (more on that in a few paragraphs). The "traditional" Moss Man head of the one I received has flocked ears. The "alternate" head doesn't. Perhaps this applied only to the alternate head?

Nevertheless, Mattel should be commended for doing a good flocking job on this figure, especially given the apparent difficulty in doing so. One word of advisory -- whatever you do, don't get this figure wet. That sort of thing has been the bane of flocked hair since it first turned up on the heads of 12" G.I. Joe figures back in the 60's, and I have no reason to believe that it's not still a problem.

Moss Man, in form, is a repaint of Beast Man. However, he looks so vastly different that you don't really recognize him as such. It's obvious that the figure uses the Beast Man molds from top to bottom, just as he did before. This gives Moss Man's face a somewhat simian appearance, which honestly is enhanced by the flocking. Moss Man has a prominent brow, a somewhat pushed in, wide nose, and a mean mouthful of fangs. He has a slight ridge on his forehead that almost looks Klingon. His hands have long, slender fingers.

Obviously with the flocking. Moss Man's wardrobe is somewhat limited. He's wearing the traditional furry-looking loincloth that most Masters wear, although he has the somewhat longer version that's been used on select figures, including King Grayskull and Hordak, with the accompanying belt. For Moss Man, the loincloth is brown, and the belt is gold. He also has two studded gold wristbands. His only other main accessory is a length of vine draped over his left shoulder. This is an extremely well-designed, detailed, and painted piece. It even has a few leaves on it! Attached to this, hanging near Moss Man's right hip, is a small, somewhat primitive-looking knife in a sheath, and a small bag which may be a canteen of water.

As I stated, the figure is superbly articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. He also comes with a second head, which is described as being more reminiscent of his 2002 design. This head is even more simian in appearance, with a pushed up nose and almost a muzzle for a mouth. The hairline is also much closer to the brow. The eyes are a blanked-out bright green, and the expression on the face is rather stern. It's a good design, but I prefer the original. I hope you'll forgive me for showing the head separately in this review, and not on the figure, but I know from experience that head-swapping on Masters figures takes a fair bit of effort, and I don't really want to accidentally scrape the flocking off.

Honestly, though, I'm glad to see the second head, with a nod to the 2002 line, for a sort of indirect reason. As such time as Mattel gets around to the character of Buzz Off, there's somebody that would definitely benefit from being derived more from his 2002 incarnation than his original.

Moss Man also comes with a club, which looks like sculpted wood. The detail work on this piece is as impressive as that on the vine strap he wears.

Of course, Moss Man's background is related on a scroll-like file card printed on the back of the package. I've really come to enjoy these. It's something that wasn't done for either the original or 2002 line. Moss Man's profile reads as follows:

MOSS MAN - Heroic Spy and Master of Camouflage

Real Name: Kreann'Ot N'Horosh

Thought of for many centuries to be an urban legend, the creature called "Moss Man" was in fact an ancient Eternian nature god and ally to King Grayskull. During the rise of Skeletor and the subsequent battles with the Snake Men and Horde invaders, Moss Man often joined forces with the Masters of the Universe, helping to protect freedom for all forms of life. He was instrumental in helping them win the Second Ultimate Battleground using his powers over plant life and his "fur" of forest green to fool and frustrate his wicked foes!

Not a bad profile at all, although I sort of wonder where they got that "Real Name" for him.

Any complaints? Apart from the smell, which I do think at this point I'm going to have to deal with, and which I also realize isn't something that's going to bother everybody, and I do acknowledge the tradition of it with regard to this character, I have just one. On the original-style head, the pupils of the eyes are painted somewhat off-center relative to the whites. It looks like he's looking a little towards the left. Doubtless this was a style decision, but I personally prefer my action figures to be looking straight forward. I'm rather hopeful this doesn't happen on anyone else.

However, this is admittedly a rather minor point on an otherwise cool figure in an increasingly impressive line. If you're any sort of Masters of the Universe fan, you'll certainly want to add him to your collection, difficult though he may be to find.

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