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By Thomas Wheeler

Masters of the Universe figures remain in rather scarce supply these days, except for some marked-down He-Man and Skeletor variants, mostly at K*B Toys. The future of the line, at least in the United States, remains in doubt. Even the renowned Web Site He-Man.Org hasn't had any toy news for a while, preferring to speculate about the proposed live-action movie, with John Woo and Adam Rifkin at the helm.

Meanwhile, the fate of the seven figure sculpts showcased at the San Diego ComiCon and Wizard World Chicago Conventions remains -- well, just plain unknown. No one's talking. Some believe that a live-action movie could reinvigorate the line. I'm not as convinced of that. I fear that a movie would potentially persuade Mattel to ALTER the toys to better correspond to the movie, and I think that would be a shame. These figures do not need altering. The only thing that needs altering is their marketing. Direct them towards the collectors that remember the original Masters from their childhoods, and were the most enthusiastic supporters of the new toys, the comic, and the animated series, and then turn loose those seven new figures, and we'd be on a roll again.

Which doesn't mean that once in a while you can't find something cool someplace. While I am convinced that the line's doom was brought about by too many He-Man and Skeletor variants, that's not to say that some of them weren't interesting. And I recently came across two that are.

I found them at a clearance store called "Tuesday Mornings", and they only had one of each. I felt a little sorry for them, so I brought them home. I have seen them on occasion at K*B Toys, however, so if you want them, they should be reasonably available.

Their specific designation is "BATTLE ARMOR" HE-MAN and SKELETOR, and they certainly live up to the name. I believe they even put in an appearance in the animated series with this hardware, or a pretty close approximation.

The figures are partial remakes. The legs and head of each figure are from their first incarnation in the current Masters line, which I feel its worth noting earned the #7 spot in a recent TOYFARE article of the Top Ten Toon Toys of All Time, and they were distinctly referring to the current line, not the original.

The resculpted torsos of Battle Armor He-Man and Skeletor have been redone to resemble armor-plating, but this is hardly the only thing that gains them their special designation. Each figure comes with two huge battle arms that clip on to their arms, and a sort of combination chest-piece/helmet, or at least front of a helmet, that clips onto the front of their torsos. These pieces also have clip-on weapons that have spring-loaded launchers, which come with a missile.

I'm not certain how much of the overall design work of these figures can be attributed to the legendary Four Horsemen, who sculpted most of the Masters of the Universe work for Mattel. It's been said that they didn't work on the repaints, but these figures are more than repaints. The Battle Armor is certainly detailed enough to be their work, but I simply do not know for certain. Regardless of its origins, it is certainly impressive-looking, and well in keeping with the overall look of Masters of the Universe, and works well with its respective characters, even if the "hands" on He-Man's armor look more like the front end of a steam-shovel.

The articulation in the basic figures has been taken down a bit, largely to accommodate the armor. The figures' arms do not possess any outward motion, and in fact both arms in each figure work along a movement system that is controlled by a small fixed lever on the back of the figure. Take hold of this and move the figure from side to side, and the arms flail out in battle.

Arguably, these two figures could be considered the "Karate Fighters" of the Masters of the Universe world, just without the control bases.

The paint work on the armor is quite impressive. While it's done largely with paint-wipes, a practice I normally despise, here, for whatever reason, it works, making the battle armor seem to have more of a metallic sheen to it, rather than making it look dirty or battle-worn, which is the usual result of this particular pating method.

As I mentioned earlier, I purchased these figures at a clearance store called "Tuesday Mornings", but I have seen them at K*B. I should amend that by saying I've at least seen the Battle Armor Skeletor at K*B. The Battle Armor He-Man might be a little scarcer, or it might just depend on what figures were received in a given shipment. I don't recall offhand ever seeing either of these figures in the main stores like Toys "R" Us, Target, or Wal-Mart.

While I would not consider them mandatory additions to a Masters of the Universe Collection, they are certainly more than just mere repaints, and they make a good pair of figures. They're less ludicrous-looking than the Samurai Armor figures that Mattel produced, if nothing else, and the nature of the Battle Armor almost evokes memories of a long-gone toy line called Exo-Squad. One can almost picture He-Man and Skeletor testing this armor in battle, and then gradually reworking it to a more complete battle suit, without losing that medieval look that seems to permeate the technology of Eternia.

As such, I definitely give BATTLE ARMOR HE-MAN and BATTLE ARMOR SKELETOR my recommendation to any Masters of the Universe fan, with the hope that these will not be the last Masters figures we add to our collections.