REVIEW: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS RAM MAN
One of the things I enjoy about the MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS line is that Mattel has proven entirely willing to bring in characters from just about any aspect of the Masters -- universe. Along with modern incarnations of characters from the core toy line, we've seen characters brought in from Princess of Power, the New Adventures, the Filmation cartoon, the 2002 series, and more, all brought together in what is easily the most impressive incarnation of the action figures ever.
And it continues! A number of figures planned for 2013 are based on characters who appeared in the original cartoon, but never had figures made of them -- until now. Another special group, the Fighting Foe Men, is based on illustrations of heretofore undefined characters that only appeared on the package art for a series of model kits released through Monogram that were based on some of the early Masters vehicles. Doesn't get much obscure than that!
Fan reaction to some of these unusual characters has been mixed. Personally, I love the idea. Granted, some of them impress more than others, but for the most part, I'm entirely in favor of it.
However, the point is made, and has some legitimacy, that there's no shortage of characters from the core toy line that have yet to be brought into the modern line, and these should receive priority. Fair enough. There's some characters from the core line that I would indeed like to see brought into the modern line. I'd like to see TWO BAD turn up at some point. And although I'm not the biggest fan of the New Adventures concept, HYDRON would be a nice addition. He had a cameo in the recent mini-comics, and I'm sure Icarius would appreciate the company. The other New Adventures characters brought into the modern line have all been bad guys.
But never let it be said that Mattel isn't paying attention to what they're doing in this line. They most certainly are. In some cases, though, a character's absence is a result of the fact that that character's appearance cannot easily be rendered with the existing body molds. Tooling an entirely new set of molds, especially one that's likely to only see one use, is an expensive bit of business, and is not one to be undertaken either lightly or frequently.
Such has been the case with one very notable member of the Masters, who had a prominent role in both the Filmation and Mike Young animated series, and is generally well thought of by the fans. But his physical appearance was just so unusual, and so impossible to create with existing molds, that he had to wait his turn until the expense of bringing him into the line -- as admittedly a higher-priced deluxe figure -- could be justified.
But, overdue though he may be from one standpoint, he's finally here, so let's all give a big Eternian welcome to the Masters of the Universe Classics incarnation of RAM MAN!
As always, I do try to track down some background information on the characters whose figures I review, and in the case of Ram Man, while that information was relatively sparse, there was one very oddball tidbit at the end of it.
Ram Man is a stocky warrior with poor verbal skills whose chief method of attack/defense involves using his head as a battering ram.
He is afraid of the dark, and is unswervingly loyal to the people of Eternia, at times questioning the loyalty of newer Heroic Warriors such as Buzz-Off. However, he is also a bit naive and gullible.
His lack of intelligence is often played for humor. The moral in "House of Shokoti, Part I" was considered so obvious that Ram Man delivered a lesson about not trying to imitate his human battering ram practices, noting both his heavy armor and his nature as a fictional character.
In the original cartoon series, Ram Man is rather short, whereas in the 2002 series he is very large, one of the tallest heroes. He wears a battering helmet in both series, although in the 2002 series he is shown to remove it at times, displaying his short-cropped blonde hair. He does not have the action figure's axe in the cartoon.
Ram Man was voiced by John Erwin in the 80s series and by Scott McNeil in the 2002 series.
In 2011, BBC Online reported that performer Jamie Moakes was trying to create "a new commodity, one to replace gold, silver and copper", by buying as many Ram Man figures as possible.
Which would tend to lead one to believe that performer Jamie Moakes didn't listen to Ram Man's warning that using your head as a battering ram is something that only fictional characters can really get away with. I tend to wonder if that particular moral segment was put forth because either Mattel or Filmation got wind that some kids were giving themselves concussions trying to imitate him.
And those of you that may have wanted to add either the original or 2002 versions of Ram Man to your Masters of the Universe collection, and had trouble doing so, well, now you may have an explanation. I have no idea if Mr. Moakes is still attempting this, and what impact it might have had on the availability of the new Classics Ram Man.
As for the character study of Ram Man himself, while it's not especially flattering, neither is it inaccurate. Ram Man, while certainly a loyal ally of the Masters, he's never exactly been the brightest bulb in the socket. The 2002 version of him was arguably a bit more intelligent, but came across more like a "dumb jock" than just somebody who'd probably lost a few IQ points every time he ran his head into a wall and didn't have much to spare at this point.
So, how's the figure? Really excellent, but here we get into the explanation of why it's taken so long to bring Ram Man into the Masters collection. What we have here is an extremely atypical-looking individual.
The original Ram Man figure did not at all fit the standard Masters appearance. Those who might not care for the fact that the modern Masters of the Universe Classics line reuses body sections as much as it possibly can would do well to remember that the original line did much the same thing. Creating the steel molds into which the plastic is injected to make the various parts of an action figure is the most expensive part of making toys. Any toy company is going to want to get as much use out of those molds as possible.
Ram Man was an oddity right from the start. He didn't use any of the standard body molds. He was given a stockier body, but this was mostly to accommodate Ram Man's original very unusual action feature. While most of the Masters figures had a spring-loaded waist that let them simulate throwing a punch or whatever, Ram Man's upper body could be shoved down at the waist, over his legs, and then it would spring back up, giving the illusion of a "battering ram" feature. The 2002 figure featured the same function.
This did, however, result in two Ram Man figures, one from each line, that were extremely limited in their articulation. Their legs didn't move AT ALL, since they were essentially the "base" for the spring-up battering ram feature. Ram Man could move his arms and that was about it.
One wonders how such a limited figure was given the level of prominence that he was in the animated series. I suspect the answer to this is the same reason that the very limited number of females in any given animated series based on a "boys' toy" tend to get an above-average amount of screen time -- variety. Whether it's Scarlett and the Baroness in G.I. Joe, Arcee in Transformers, who didn't even exist in the toy line at the time, or the likes of Teela and Evil-Lyn in Masters of the Universe, they at least provide for a more interesting character range.
In the case of Ram Man, while certainly a male character, he didn't really resemble the others all that much. So he provided some visual variety. That's my guess, anyway.
As for his personality, maybe that is a tad derivative. There does seem to be an unwritten rule that "the big guy is never very smart". But can you see him quoting whoever the Eternian version of Shakespeare is? Or Einstein? Yeah, me neither. At the same time, I wouldn't want to see He-Man starting every other sentence with the word "Duhhh..." and then having to pause while his brain tries to put together a coherent phrase. That wouldn't exactly inspire confidence in the main hero.
I'll admit, I was never the biggest fan of Ram Man, probably because the figure was so pathetic. The 2002 figure was certainly much better detailed, but the legs were still frozen, molded as a single piece to act as a base for the spring-up function.
However, I also knew that the Classics line, as such time as they got around to Ram Man, would get it right. Up until the Classics line, articulation had never been a major factor in the Masters of the Universe. Even the 2002 line, crafted as it was by the same Four Horsemen who work on the current line, as magnificently detailed as it was, wasn't much better articulated than the original. They gave the figures wrist articulation, but that was about it. Otherwise, it was the same as the 80's line -- head, arms, legs, and a spring-loaded waist. That just doesn't really make it these days, despite an unfortunate recent return to this sort of limited articulation in some toy lines. I think it's a bad trend.
When the Classics line turned up, the Masters finally got the articulation they long deserved. Head, arms, elbows, wrists, knees, ankles, assorted swivels, you name it. The figures look great and they move well -- finally! Now, the spring-activated waist turn was dropped, but that was no big loss in my book. I've never really liked that sort of thing. I also knew, right from the start, that as such time as Mattel brought Ram Man into the series, with all probability, they'd drop his action feature and he'd finally get a decent level of articulation. And I was right.
Ram Man was offered as a deluxe figure, in a larger package, I think as much as anything to justify the cost of making him. I am also of the opinion that most fans and collectors of the Masters of the Universe Classics series aren't really going to complain about this, at least not overly much, because on the one hand they have some idea of what it takes to create an entirely new figure, something that Mattel has certainly made the collecting public aware of, and on the other hand because this character really needed to be brought into the collection.
Now, the backstory made the point that in the original series, Ram Man was portrayed as somewhat shorter than most of the other characters. I never had the original Ram Man figure, so I really don't know if his figure was shorter than most. The 2002 series portrayed Ram Man as distinctly larger and taller than most of the Masters. This despite the fact that his figure was slightly shorter.
The new Ram Man sort of splits the difference, in that he's the same height as a typical Masters of the Universe figure, just slightly under seven inches tall. That's also the only typical thing about Ram Man.
"Stocky" is an understatement. His overall bodily proportions are distinctly exaggerated relative to a standard Masters figure. His head is moderately larger, and is largely encased in a heavy silver helmet with a series of raised ridges across the top, and a circular, indented center. Only his face shows through, with black eyebrows, squinting black slits for eyes, a broad nose, and a relatively large mouth.
The eyes surprised me, and are perhaps my only criticism of the figure. Why this squint? Why not fully open eyes? The original Ram Man figure wasn't especially well detailed, but the 2002 version featured fully open and painted eyes. I don't see why they couldn't have done so again.
Ram Man has a very wide body, and is wearing a dark red tunic that conceals whatever his musculature must look like underneath it. His shoulders are encased in thick silver armor, with very impressively detailed chains running over the top of each shoulder. There is a great deal of detail to be found here, right down to little rivets.
His arms are bare, except for silver wrist bands, and it is here that the detail work really comes through. Ram Man's arms are huge. They're bigger around than the legs of a typical Masters figure, and his hands are immense. The part of Eternia that Ram Man is from either grows its people big, or Ram Man's parents kept their boy extremely well-fed.
The tunic, although not showing off significant musculature, is nevertheless well-detailed. Fabric-like wrinkles are properly positioned, and there's some black "twine" sculpted on the front, indicative of Ram Man having laced himself into the tunic. This is especially well detailed, as even the twine has been given a woven texture.
The lower part of the tunic is designed to look segmented, with narrow strips across the entire perimeter, each ending in a little circular stud. Ram Man is also wearing a thick black belt, bordered in dark metallic silver, with a huge belt buckle with a skull image on it. The skull is somewhat surprising for one of the good guys, given what the main bad guy -- Skeletor -- looks like, but there may be an explanation for it on Ram Man's character profile when we come to that.
Most unusual are Ram Man's legs. They're basically cylindrical, admittedly very large cylinders, with multiple ridges down their length. This is obviously indicative of the unusual armor that Ram Man is wearing, and not the actual shape of his legs. From a toy standpoint, it was obviously done this way to facilitate his action feature. The legs are dark green in color.
Completing the costume are huge black boots, topped with a series of vertical sections much like the lower portion of his tunic, each with a dark silver stud in them. The soles of his boots are similarly impressively detailed, right down to the treads, which also have the skull symbol in them. If Ram Man were to use his feet in battle instead of his head, it'd leave a nasty mark, I can guarantee that. But the overall sculpted detail of this footwear, which I would probably classify as "medieval workboots" is extremely impressive.
Let's discuss articulation, because here is where Ram Man, like the other modern Masters figures, really shines, and it's that much more impressive and satisfying in Ram Man's case, given how exceptionally limited his predecessors have been.
Ram Man is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivels, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, knees, knee swivels, boot tops, and ankles.
Several things need to be noted here. First of all, for the first time ever, a Ram Man figure has separate legs. They've always been molded together before. Secondly, there is a slight difference here in the design. Most Masters figures have an upper-leg swivel, near the top of the leg. Ram Man's leg swivel is at the knees. However, if you study the design of the figure, you'll see how it works and why it makes sense. Ram Man's very unusual leg structure lets him get away with this, where it wouldn't really work in a standard Masters figure.
The waist articulation was no great surprise, but the mid-torso articulation was. I wouldn't have expected such a broad-bodied figure to have mid-torso articulation, and yet, there it is! And it looks good and works well, too! The boot-top rotation was just a nice little added bonus. It's as if Mattel and the Four Horsemen wanted to make up for Ram Man's predecessors by giving this incarnation as much articulation as they possibly could. Fine by me.
Ram Man comes with two accessories. The first is a short axe, that the earlier versions also came equipped with. I'm not sure why he needs an axe, unless there are simply times when he wants to give his poor head a break from battering down doors. Can't say as I blame him. Personally, I think another useful accessory would've been a bottle of Eternian aspirin.
The other accessory, which surprised me a little, is actually a second head. This is the "unhelmeted" version of the character, as he occasionally appeared in the 2002 series, showing his short-cropped blonde hair. It's a nice addition, but I'm inclined to keep the original, and more iconic head, in place.
So, what does the scroll-like bio card on the back of Ram Man's package have to say about him? Let's see...
RAM MAN - Heroic Human Battering Ram
Growing up just outside the Vine Jungle, Krass' village was always under threat from the savage Beastmen. During a particularly brutal attack, he donned his family's ancient mystical armor that magically absorbs raw force. Using it to ram into his enemies and drive off their attack earned Krass the nickname "Ram Man". These actions were quickly detected by Skeletor who recruited him in a scheme to ram through the Jaw Bridge of Castle Grayskull. Realizing the error of his ways after seeing Skeletor attack He-Man, Ram Man switched sides, helping to defeat the Evil Lord of Destruction and save the Castle. He soon became a core member of the Masters of the Universe, using his iron-like body as a battering ram against evil.
Okay, so he switched sides quickly enough -- he can't be that stupid. But it might explain the skull on his belt buckle, unless that was just part of the ancient design before Keldor became Skeletor or some such.
I have no idea if this story has ever been presented in the mini-comics or whatever, or if this was simply written as a way to present an interesting origin for the character. In any case, it works well.
So, what's my final word? I'm truly pleased that Ram Man has finally joined the Masters of the Universe Classics line, and that this popular character has finally been given a figure that is capable of more than just having his upper body shoved down and springing back to simulate his powers. While that particular ability has been removed -- no big loss in my book -- the level of articulation gained more than compensates.
Yes, Ram Man cost a bit more than average, but was most assuredly worth it. If you're any sort of Masters of the Universe fan, and have been enjoying the Classics line, then you'll definitely want to add Ram Man to your collection. I promise you won't be disappointed.
The MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of RAM MAN most certainly has my highest recommendation!