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REVIEW: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS OCTAVIA
By Thomas Wheeler

The declaration you'll hear time and time again from toy companies is that female action figures don't sell. It's why, within the world of G.I. Joe, featuring literally a cast of many hundreds, there have been somewhere in the vicinity of a dozen female characters over its 30+ year history, and of those, less than half have achieved any significant prominence, and a handful have been the exclusive product of the official G.I. Joe Collectors' Club. It's why, within the world of Transformers Generation One, there was all of one prominent female character, Arcee, and a handful of other female Autobots featured within one early episode of the animated series. Guess how long it took to get toys of any of them? Beast Wars fared slightly better, with the likes of Airazor and Blackarachnia, but then TV show producers like to give these characters some prominence just to provide some diversity in the cast.

The reverse of this seeming axoim also seems to be true. You don't find a lot of male characters among girls' dolls. Barbie's been going out with Ken for over fifty years. The handful of other male characters that have come along have tended to come and go rather quickly. One might suspect some sort of jealous rage on Ken's part, but he doesn't really seem the type. Poor sales are the more likely contender. One of Mattel's biggest hits these days is a quirky line of dolls called "Monster High", featuring very bizarre fashion dolls that are ostensibly the teenage offspring of classic monsters. There's maybe three males in the entire line.

There have been exceptions, but they've tended to be out of necessity -- and licensing. You don't do Star Wars without Princess Leia. You don't do the Justice League without Wonder Woman. And you don't do the Fantastic Four without the Invisible Woman.

The lone exception to this axiom, and even this exception is sort of a sideways one, is MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE. Masters started out, and largely remained, a fairly typical boys' toys line, at least from a gender standpoint. There were all of two female characters in the entire run, the heroic Teela and the malevolent Evil-Lyn.

But somewhere along the way, Mattel determined that there was no shortage of girls playing with Masters of the Universe toys. Precisely what appeal some of the bizarre, freakish characters within the Masters line had to girls is anybody's guess. Then again, considering the present popularity of "Monster High"...

In order to take advantage of this phenomenon, Mattel created a decided rarity in the toy world -- an action figure line for girls. Technically, this definition might be considered by some to be a bit of a stretch. A line of dolls with certain action figure overtones might be more precise a definition.

That line was called PRINCESS OF POWER, and it featured She-Ra, the most powerful woman in the universe, and sister to He-Man. No great surprise, there was all of one male character in the entire line, an archer named Bow, who was described as She-Ra's special friend. The villains of the piece weren't as nasty as He-Man's enemies. The most prominent of the lot went by the name of Catra, and the worst thing that could be said about her was that she was described as a "Jealous Beauty".

If left on their own, one might expect that the worst any of these characters were likely to get into was a hair-pulling contest. Most of them did feature actual rooted hair. One assumes Bow would've either been trying to break up the fight, or at least refereeing.

Were the Princess of Power toys compatible with Masters of the Universe? No. They were somewhat different sizes, and the overall look of the toys was very different. The Princess of Power toys had a much more doll-like appearance to them, and the line as a whole categorically lacked the bizarre freakshow characters that populated the Masters. Everybody was pretty much human, the most unusual feature being odd hair colors.

It was the animated series that really tied the two together. Produced by Filmation, the same company that was turning out the Masters of the Universe series, She-Ra's animated series was able to use the same style of character design, and so make the two concepts far more compatible than their respective toy lines were.

More importantly, though, were the villains. Since none of the villains specifically in the Princess of Power toy line were really all that villainous, a newly-developed enemy for the Masters of the Universe line -- Hordak and his Evil Horde -- were transferred over to the She-Ra animated series as its main antagonists. Certain characters such as Catra were given a more evil appearance and nature and signed on with the Horde, and it also allowed for the presence of some more bizarre-looking characters than the Princess of Power line allowed for on its own.

From an animation standpoint, She-Ra first appeared alongside He-Man in the theatrical film "He-Man and She-Ra: The Secret of the Sword", which eventually became the first five episodes of the She-Ra series. She-Ra is He-Man's twin sister who was kidnapped at birth by Hordak and taken to the planet Etheria, where she served as a Horde Force Captain before being rescued by He-Man and joining the Great Rebellion. With her Sword of Protection Adora can become She-Ra, just as Prince Adam can become He-Man. After reuniting with her parents she decided to return to Etheria.

The show revolved around Adora's adventures with the Great Rebellion battling against the evil Horde, which unlike Skeletor's repeated attempts to conquer Eternia, the Horde has already accomplished on Etheria, which made for an interesting and different sort of vibe. It was virtually identical to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe in structure, even down to the show's opening introduction. In the storyline, the Horde invaded Eternia and Skeletor worked for Hordak as his second-in-command. The Horde was defeated by King Randor and the Masters. Hordak fled Eternia, but not before stealing King Randor's infant daughter leaving Skeletor behind where he would end up being the main villain on Eternia. Many characters from He-Man guest starred frequently on She-Ra's show. The series premiered in 1985 and ran for two seasons for an impressive total of 93 episodes.

Which brings us around to a recent addition to the MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS action figure line by the name of OCTAVIA.

In an odd sort of turnaround, the characters of the She-Ra concept and animated series have remained very popular with longtime Masters of the Universe fans. During the 2002 action figure line, She-Ra was a special exclusive figure at the San Diego Comic-Con, marking the first time She-Ra was ever presented under the Masters of the Universe banner. There was word that she was expected to turn up in the 2002-era animated series, but the abrupt cancellation of that show ended that notion.

When the Masters of the Universe Classics action figure line commenced, one of the earliest questions being asked time and time again was -- would She-Ra be a part of it? The eventual answer was -- yes. Basically, all aspects of the Masters universe are open for Mattel to use as part of the Classics line, and they have certainly done so.

Quite a few Princess of Power characters have made their way into the Classics line. Interestingly, the first one was not She-Ra. Rather, it was her secret identity of Adora, who had never previously been released as a figure (unlike He-Man, who had seen a Price Adam figure produced). She-Ra soon followed, however, and since then we've seen figures of Catra, very much as she appeared in the animated series and definitely a member of the Horde; Bow, who finally looks as muscularly powerful as he did in the animated series, and to the point where the male cast of the Masters aren't likely to make fun of him for having started out in a girls' line, and a number of other characters such as Frosta and Netossa.

And then there's Octavia. She was not part of the original Princess of Power toy line. Rather, she appeared in the animated series. According to the information I tracked down about her, Octavia is an octopus woman from Octopus Cove (you expected her to be from Phoenix?). She is the Horde Commander at a port near the Sea of Sigh, a small Etherian ocean. Although she caught She-Ra in her tentacles upon first meeting her, Octavia proved to be no match for the Princess of Power. Sea Hawk, on the other hand, another character developed for the animated series, was not nearly as successful at defending himself from Octavia, who even brandished hidden swords when challenged by the pirate. After being seized by her tentacles, Sea Hawk appeared to be drained of energy, suggesting that Octavia has abilities similar to Leech. She was also vastly more intelligent than the average Horde villain.

One would hope so. I mean, really, both Skeletor and Hordak really seemed to surround themselves with packs of idiots, even more than most animated bad guys. Octavia was voiced by Melendy Britt in the animated series, who also voiced She-Ra. This was not an uncommon practice.

Mattel has been making good use of the character developed for the animated series, and there's more to come. Both Octavia and a figure from a couple of months ago could be seen as precursors to a six-month run of figures called "Club Filmation", which will feature monthly figures as part of the Masters of the Universe Classics line that were specifically from the animated series. Definitely something to look forward to in my opinion.

So, how's the figure? Really amazing. What I find especially interesting about Octavia's design is that she very effectively splits the difference between the largely human-female characters that were the foundation of the Princess of Power toy line, and as such the animated series itself, and the more bizarre characters that were more common to the Masters of the Universe line. Until I saw Octavia, I wouldn't have been entirely sure that such a combination of attributes, or a merging of them, would even be workable. Clearly, it is.

Octavia is, for the most part, a humanoid female. She has a basically human body structure, and uses the same female body molds that most of the other female characters in the Masters of the Universe Classics line have used. In this respect, she's really no different than the likes of Catra, Frosta, or She-Ra herself. However, beyond the basic physicality, the resemblance ends there, and from this point on it becomes apparent why Octavia was never part of the Princess of Power toy line, which wasn't inclined towards this sort of unusual character.

Octavia has green skin, for starters. It's sort of a light olive. Not a bad shade at all. It's been my experience that giving a human-type character green skin in the action figure world must somehow be a lot more difficult than sticking with more real-world color schemes. From the Hulk to Beast Boy to Martian Manhunter to Brainiac 5, the variety of shades of green I've seen over the years has been astounding. Kermit the Frog was right. It's not easy being green -- or to mold it, either, apparently.

Octavia has more or less human facial features. Here, as much as anywhere, is where that fine line between human and something more bizarre seems the most blurred. Octavia has no visible eyebrows, but does have a very slight prominence to her brow. Her eyes are encircled in black, but whether this is intended to be some sort of paint or make-up, or is just natural coloration, I couldn't say. Here eyes are fairly normal-looking, with brown irises and black pupils. Her nose and mouth are entirely ordinary. She even has dark red lipstick. I would call her facial expression "serious", but nowhere near as malevolent as some I've seen. As much as anything, she looks like someone who takes her job as Horde Commander very seriously and with a fair amount of pride.

Beyond the basic facial structure, we start getting into the weird. She has a very high forehead. Her hair doesn't even start until one gets past a headband that she wears perched on the very top of her head. Give her some forehead ridges and you've got a green Klingon. But then there's the little matter of the ears. They're these large, rather bat-wing shaped appendages on either side of her head. They're not the least bit human, and one wonders how sensitive her hearing must be.

Octavia is essentially a redhead. She has long, orange-colored hair flowing from the top of head head to most of the way down her back. I always have to stop here and give extra credit to the Four Horsemen design and sculpting team. They are masterful sculptors in everything they do, but they seem to do an especially impressive and intricate job with things like hair, fur, and feathers. It's really superbly well done.

Octavia's outfit is fairly simple, doubtless designed that way back in the 80's for the sake of animation. She is wearing a gold-colored tunic and skirt with slightly flared shoulders, with a large red bat-like emblem representing the Evil Horde in the center. She has a reddish-tan belt, and reddish-tan gloves. She is wearing black boots with fairly high heels, and the bat-like Horde emblem once again gracing the tops of the boots. It's a fairly simple outfit, but it's nicely designed, and the Horde emblems are especially well-detailed.

Now, of course, we come to the part which really sets Octavia apart, and earns her the name "Octavia". There are four long, octopus-like tentacles emerging from her back, each ending in a flattened tip with several suction cups visible. The tentacles have some ridging on them, and are superbly detailed. They're a somewhat darker green than Octavia's skin color.

The tentacles are packaged separately in Octavia's package, and must be attached to sockets on her back. A friendly word of advice here. Gently pop the head off before you attach the tentacles. It will make securing the tentacles much easier, as Octavia's hair won't be in the way, and you'll be able to snap the head back on very easily once you've completed assembly.

Also, be sure you place the tentacles properly. I didn't see any obvious way to match up any given tentacle with any one socket, but what you want to accomplish is what you see in the pictures featured with this review, or on the package back. The tentacles should all be able to point downwards readily.

One thing was a mild disappointment to me. I suppose I rather expected that the tentacles would be "bendies" -- that is, molded from flexible plastic with a wire armature within. They're not. They're molded from relatively rigid plastic, and so are not flexible. They do have a limited amount of articulation. They can rotate to a certain degree in their sockets, and they have a second point of articulation that allows for some back and forth movement, although Octavia's hair is somewhat of a hindrance here.

To me, it's not really that big of a deal. It's not like my Masters figures see a lot of "play", and I think Mattel realizes that their primary audience for the Masters of the Universe Classics line is mostly adult collectors such as myself. But -- it still would've been nice.

It is possible to get different "poses" by switching the tentacles around, but how much you want to be popping the head off and then switching the tentacles to different sockets -- I don't know. I'd be a little concerned about wearing them out after a while.

Octavia has a number of accessories. She comes with a black crossbow, that has been given a very impressive paint job where some parts of the crossbow are a rather glossy black, and others have more of a matte finish. The front of the crossbow is designed to resemble a small squid, with red eyes. Boy, give somebody a theme and they just run with it.

Octavia also comes with four identical swords, extremely well made and nicely detailed. They have silver blades, black and silver handles, and gold bat-like Horde emblems on them. These are designed, much in keeping with what she did in her animated appearance, to be used by Octavia's tentacles, not her hands.

Of course, the figure is superbly articulated. Octavia is poseable at the head -- although the hair is something of a hindrance -- arms, upper arm swivels, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, upper leg swivels, knees, ankles, and tentacles. I don't get to say that very often...

The worst thing I can say about this figure is that the ankles are a bit loose, but that might not be the case with every figure. She has a slight balance problem which I believe is exacerbated by the tentacles. But it's not impossible to get her to stand up and stay put, so that's a relatively minor issue.

The details of her background on the scroll-like bio card on the back of her package read as follows:

OCTAVIA - Wicked Tentacle-Swinging Warrior
REAL NAME: POLYPUS RORQU

The unpredictable waters of the Etherian sea are home to many sea creatures, none more dangerous and cunning than the Aquatican warrior Octavia. Working her way up the Horde ranks, she eventually became a Horde Commander, first in her home waters of Octopus Cove and eventually serving Hordak in the Sea of Sigh and the Fright Zone. Truly enjoying a good fight, she cackles shrilly while brandishing weapons in her four thrashing tentacles. Octavia uses her tentacles to hold weapons and capture her enemies, squeezing their bodies into submission.

Not exactly my idea of a fun date. The card also features an image of Octavia that seems clearly derived from the animated series. It's also worth mentioning that the front of her package has a sticker on the bubble for the Evil Horde, but not for Princess of Power, perhaps since she was never part of the toy line.

I looked up her real name to see if there was any sort of real-world basis for it. Every once in a while there'll be some scientific terminology connection. Somewhat surprisingly, I not only got something on "Polypus", but even on "Rorqu". The word "polypous" means: "of the nature of a polypus; having many feet or roots," which isn't too far removed from someone who's got some extra appendages like Octavia here. Moreover, "calliactis polypus" is a species of sea anemone in the family hormathiidae. It is usually found living on the surface of a sea snail shell in which a hermit crab is living. So we've got the aquatic connection.

What really surprised me was finding a connection to the second part of her name, "Rorqu". I didn't really expect anything there, but it seems that a rorqual is a type of baleen whale with a dorsal fin and throat pleats, or grooves, that extend from the whale's lower lip down past its flippers. So there's another aquatic connection, and I'm not believing that this is coincidence. Who says action figures can't be educational?

So, what's my final word? I'm very impressed with this figure. Yes, Octavia is an obscure character. But she's an impressive one, especially in the way she blends the "girl's toy" look of most of the Princess of Power figures, with the rather bizarre creations that were more common to Masters of the Universe. Octavia steps right in between those realms very effectively, and as such, becomes a superb addition to the modern Masters of the Universe Classics line, that connects all of these worlds together.

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