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By Thomas Wheeler

Mattel is really starting to fumble the ball on Masters of the Universe, and that's a darned shame, seeing as how it's about the only 1980's toy line to actually be improved upon its re-emergence.

So, how scarce are new character figures within the Masters of the Universe
line? I can find endless versions of He-Man and Skeletor, but as for the four newest characters -- Man-E-Faces, Buzz-Off, Evil-Lyn, and Roboto -- I didn't even get any of them in Tucson.

Man-E-Faces was located at a Wal-Mart in Casa Grande, Arizona, at the end of
July when I was headed up to Scottsdale with some friends on a short day trip. Casa Grande is a sort of "middle point" between Tucson and Phoenix. Buzz-Off
was acquired for me by a fellow collector in North Carolina. And I got Evil-Lyn and Roboto from eBay. I don't like having to buy collectible toys from eBay, but I was just plain fed up with the search. The final straw was when the Wal-Mart nearest me followed suit on the Targets around me and clearanced what Masters figures it had left.

Let's review these four newcomers individually.

MAN-E-FACES - A heroic character, known for his changeable face. In the animated series he is portrayed as an actor, but he helps out the heroes when the situation calls for it. The figure's face can switch between a human face, to a
robotic one, to a reptilian monster one, by means of a small dial in the top of the figure's large helmet. One thing of note is that the figure can turn his head at the base of the helmet, and whichever face he has visible at that point will follow suit. Nice touch, and I don't think that the original Man-E-Faces could do that. Overall, it's an excellent figure, and as with most of the Masters figure, a superb upgrade from his original incarnation.

BUZZ-OFF - Now, you want to talk upgrades. I wouldn't've bet that even Mattel's team of sculptors could have taken one of the arguably goofiest looking characters from the original Masters line and made him into something this cool. Let's face it, the original Buzz-Off was a humanoid bumblebee with a
stupid grin on his face and what looked like oversized bulbous sunglasses and a striped T-shirt. The new Buzz-Off has a much more distinctly insectoid appearance. His arms and legs are covered in what appears to be an insect-like exo-skeleton, there are distinct ridges in the striped torso, the head is more angular than bulbous, and there are even two vestigial arms in his back, which
indicate that at some point, Buzz-Off's people might have been six-limbed. The
figure is more slender than most Masters figures, but looks imposing enough so you get the distinct impression that he's not someone you want to pick a fight
with. Overall, I am extremely impressed with the new Buzz-Off.

EVIL-LYN - If Cobra Commander and Destro have the Baroness, then Skeletor
is going to have Evil-Lyn. This evil character is the lone female in Skeletor's cadre of cronies, but she's not one to toady up to old boneface. She's as formidable an adversary as he is, and probably a bit more underhanded. The original Evil-Lyn figure was, except for the head, a recoloration of Teela. And
she was done in pretty obnoxious colors. The original Evil-Lyn had bright yellow-orange skin and blue armor. The new Evil-Lyn is far more formidable, with black
and purple armor and pale skin that in a way says, "Hey, ever think about laying off the 200 SPF sunblock?" But it's a grim pallor that tends to speak of evil. Then there's the facial expression. I am distinctly reminded of the Wicked Queen from Disney's Snow White. That look of beauty corrupted by evil and a
contempt for everything except herself. Evil-Lyn has this look. Rather chilling
on an action figure. There's some nice touches to the figure, as well. She's wearing a small necklace that is actually a separate piece. There's no clasp on it, so I have to assume that it was placed on the neck of the figure before the head was added to the assembly. About the only negative comment I can make is that her legs are noticeably loose, but this is a problem I have encountered on Masters figures before, and there's not a lot to be done for it. It's bothersome, but given the scarcity of the figure, I'm just glad to have her in my collection.
The new Evil-Lyn is an excellent addition to the current Masters of the Universe collection, but is also proving to be the most elusive to date. Good luck finding one, and if you do -- get her.

ROBOTO - According to a response to an inquiry I placed online, the origin of
Roboto is as follows: In the new Masters of the Universe episode "Roboto's
Gambit", Roboto was built as a chess-playing robot for Man-E-Faces' robot
component to have a decent opponent at the game. When Tri-Klops attacked
with an army of skeleton-beasts, Roboto re-fitted himself to help in combat.
That's a little strange, but no moreso than some of the others, I suppose.

The figure is superb. And, of course, is connected to the original Roboto from the 1980's toy line. That figure had a transparent torso with turning gears within. So does this Roboto. Of course, the new Roboto looks a lot more impressive than the original, even with the transparent torso. Even the gears look a little sleeker.

The figure comes with a solid silver snap-on chestplate. One might assume that the transparent torso is more vulnerable in combat, and the end result is a very dangerous-looking mechanoid that is clearly ready for battle. Roboto has an overall metallic (not chrome) finish, and is done in shades of silver, red, and blue. His feet are immense compared to the rest of the figure, and have complicated jets on the bottoms. I get the impression the sculptor might've been a Gundam fan and decided to throw this in as a very nondescript nod to that concept.

The right "hand" has two different options, either a claw or a spring-loaded
missile launcher. This makes me wonder who has switchable hands first -- the
original Roboto or the Cobra Battle Android Troopers from G.I.Joe?

Overall, I continue to be impressed with Mattel's redesigned Masters of the Universe collection, even as I am troubled by their packaging ratios and shipping methods. This is a very cool line that deserves a lot better treatment by
its producing company. Whether it will get it in time to save it is anybody's guess, but I hope so.