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By Thomas Wheeler

Given how sparse any new Masters of the Universe figures are at the present time, I was truly delighted when the "He-Store", an online outlet affiliated with the excellent Masters of the Universe Web Site, He-Man.Org, chose to offer the Moss Man figure, which had previously only been available as some sort of mail order exclusive, the particulars of which I honestly do not recall.

The original Moss Man, in the 1980's Masters of the Universe line, was a recolored Beast Man figure, molded in dark green, and flocked with greenish fur. He was also a good guy, not a villain like Beast Man was.

For those unfamiliar with the practice of "flocking", it involves coating an area of a figure with glue, and then spreading bits of hair-like fur over the glued area. Its most popular use is undoubtedly with the original G.I.Joe figures from the 1960's, which have Joe the appearance of having a "real-hair" crewcut. A number of Hall of Fame G.I.Joes from the 90's, and even some modern-day G.I.Joe figures, have also used flocking. Several doll lines over the years have also used this practice, mostly on male dolls that need to have a short-hair look.

It's not an especially common practice, however. It has its drawbacks. For one thing, the figures that it's used on -- depending on the quality of the glue used -- have a slight tendency to shed, at least fresh out of the package, until any loose bits of fur/hair have fallen away. Flocking also tends to not be especially durable. The existence of a company that specializes in re-flocking old G.I.Joes, called "The Hair Club for Joe", if I remember correctly, is proof enough of that. The worst case scenario is if you should inadvertently get your flocked figure wet somehow, especially in warm water. That will do a pretty good job of dissolving the glue, deflocking your figure, and probably making a pretty hairy mess in the bargain.

Now, let's turn our attention to Moss Man. His flocking seems pretty stable. I fully expected a flurry of fur bits when I pulled him out of his plastic encasement, which fit him rather tightly, but this didn't happen. Nor have I noticed any significant amounts of green fur around where he has been placed for display.

The figure is, like his predecessor, a recolored version of Beast Man. Hey, if they can re-do He-Man and give us Faker in this modern Masters line, I guess they can get away with this, too. There were some rumors that there was going to be a "general release" Moss Man figure, that would be an all-new sculpt, but given the present undetermined status of the line, I suspect this is very much up in the air. Really, if they're going to do more figures, I'd prefer they do new ones, such as the sculpts that were shown off at the San Diego ComiCon and Wizard World Chicago Convention. I'm abundantly content with this Moss Man. Let's get Hordak, Sorceress, and the rest into production!

The basic character description of Moss Man is that he is a "Heroic Guardian of Nature". A least that's what it says on the package. He did turn up in the animated series a couple of times, even if his resemblance to a green Beast Man wasn't quite as precise as this figure (lending more credence to the "new sculpt" theory). Still, how many hulking, green, furry humanoids comprised of plant matter can be wandering around Eternia? Okay, maybe that's not the best question to ask. Given some of the life-forms on that world...

Moss Man, really, is more than just a "guardian" of nature. He's no tree-hugger. He is a tree. At least, in the sense that he is a sentient humanoid being whose basis is plant-life. Now, I don't know if this means that he needs to be weeded and watered (and I certainly wouldn't recommend it for the figure!), but it does speak once again to the bio-diversity of He-Man's homeworld.

Despite his vicious appearance, Moss Man is one of the good guys. He didn't turn up in the animated series all that often, but when he did, it was to impressive effect. Moss Man is able to control all plant-life in his immediate vicinity. That means that Skeletor and anybody else that came his way was in danger of being attacked by a forest, if Moss Man saw fit. Now, unless you're carrying the world's biggest weed-whacker, or have managed to put yourself in league with Paul Bunyan, that's not a threat that I would take lightly.

The Moss Man figure is excellent. Even standing him next to Beast Man, the similarity between the two is diminished somewhat by the fact that the Moss Man figure is rather heavily flocked. Just as interestingly, several colors of "fur" were used for the flocking, giving Moss Man a sort of mottled appearance, which seems appropriate. While the flocking obscures much of the original figure's sculpted fur details, it doesn't obscure the basic musculature of the figure, which is very well-sculpted and detailed.

The flocking is missing from a few areas on the figure. Moss Man's hands are unflocked, which is probably just as well given how finely sculpted they are. He also comes with a Battle Club which he needs to be able to hold. His face, understandably, is not flocked. Neither are the figure's shoulders, which looks a little strange, but here the sculpted fur of the original figure takes over, and keeping the shoulders flock-free helps the built-in action feature work better. I suspect if they had been flocked, it either would not have worked, or the "friction" of the articulation would've really send the fur flying.

The figure's legs are completely flocked, which tends to obscure the toes a bit, bit it's not that big a deal, and it doesn't adversely affect the articulation of the legs at the hips. Moss Man is still readily poseable. Of course, his clothing details -- loincloth, wrist bands, and elbow and knee pads, are not flocked.

Moss Man is a figure that I suspect would be better off in the hands of collectors than kids, and might well have been intended for that purpose. Hopefully, Mattel will realize that there's a readily sufficient collector fan base for Masters, and bring the line back in some form so we can carry on our collections. I'd be a little worried about giving this figure to a small child, since an incident that would de-flock it would seem to have far too high a degree of probability.

One additional note: The original Moss Man from the 1980's was one of two "scented" figures that Mattel produced for the line. I never had the original Moss Man, or the other scented figure,, so I can't personally comment on the aroma or odor, but apparently the figure was supposed to have the scent of a pine forest or something. I remember a number of people making jokes that you could hang him from your rear view mirror in your car in place of one of those little pine-tree shaped car fresheners.

In the case of the new Moss Man, the figure is decidedly unscented. For that I am sincerely thankful to Mattel. I went through the "scented figure" bit in 1993 with Hasbro's "Mega-Monsters" from the G.I.Joe line, and it is not an experience that I am anxious to repeat.

And if I may add, given that the other scented figure in the original Masters line was the skunk-like Stinkor, whose odor tended to be described in words I'd prefer not to repeat, and given that Stinkor has shown up in the animated series and was among the two-up figure sculpts that made the Convention rounds this year at Mattel's booth, I would just like to say that while I would indeed welcome a new Stinkor to be introduced into the Masters line, and I hope it happens, I see no great need to repeat a certain aromatic -- "blast from the past" aspect of that character.

Anyway, while the ultimate fate of the Masters of the Universe line remains in doubt, at least I'm able to make occasional additions here and there. And I most definitely recommend Moss Man! I'm not sure how many the He-Store has left as of this writing, and it's the only way to get him, so if you're interested in the big green furball, don't wait! Go get him!