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REVIEW: SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON 2013 EXCLUSIVE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS ROKKON & STONEDAR
By Thomas Wheeler

The San Diego Comic-Con -- almost certainly the largest gathering of pop culture fans in the world. Comic companies, toy companies, movie studios, television productions, video game manufacturers, and more, find their way to this center of activity each summer to showcase their forthcoming products, stage seminars, and greet their fans.

And, in recent years, many of the toy companies present at this gargantuan celebration have offered a wide range of exclusive product that is not available anywhere else. Well -- not much of anywhere else, anyway.

Fortunately for those of us who for one reason or another are unable to attend Comic-Con, at least some of these exclusive items are available on a limited basis through other means, typically after the Convention. Case in point -- most of Mattel's offerings become available on their MattyCollector Web Site not long after the event.

Not surprisingly, many of Mattel's exclusives in recent years have involved their Masters of the Universe Classics line. In fact, the Masters of the Universe Classics line got its start at the San Diego Comic-Con several years ago, with the release of the King Grayskull figure. This certainly proved the probable popularity of the line, since He-Man's noble ancestor sold out faster than you could say "By the power of Grayskull" -- something that, in fact, a sound chip in the box itself yelled, on a hair-trigger switch, making my local UPS driver rather nervous, since he wasn't used to having packages yell at him.

There have been quite a few Comic-Con exclusives since that time for the Masters of the Universe line. Fortunately, perhaps, none of them have been inclined to vocalize. But they've generally been very impressive. Orko was available one year, with a Prince Adam figure tucked in the package. Queen Marlena was another exclusive. Possibly the oddest addition was 2012's Vykron, a figure designed to represent the three possible avenues that He-Man could have taken early on in the development of the concept.

I'll be honest, I've got Vykron and I'm glad to have him, but he was perhaps just a little too offbeat. The Masters of the Universe Classics offering for the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con falls in line with the overall line a whole lot better. It's a two-pack of the famed Rock People -- ROKKON and STONEDAR!

I've often said that an anthropologist (with a minor in zoology) would have a field day on Eternia. Either that, or he'd need therapy by the time he was done. The range of sentient, and in almost all cases, humanoid life to have developed on that planet is just unreal. You have standard human-types, of course, but you've got bird people, several types of bug people, fish people, snake people, cat people (and talking tigers), skunk people, crab people, and several types of non-human humanoids that defy easy classification.

But -- rock people!? I mean, at least the various species of sentient life on Eternia, even if they're based on recognizable or semi-recognizable animal forms, are nevertheless based on organic creatures that have a brain. The average rock doesn't have a brain. It just sits there -- although I have been nearly tripped a few times by rocks that I am convinced somehow rolled into my path of their own volition, out of pure maliciousness.

Now, technically, calling Rokkon and Stonedar "Rock People" is perhaps something of an understatement. In reality, they are not native to Eternia. They're space travelers who can use the rock-like aspects of their own bodies to transform into meteors, and thus voyage through space, and come to, one would assume, a rather abrupt landing on any given planet. Seems like this would not be the most pleasant means of traveling from one world to another, but it seems to work for them.

Unfortunately, I had a little trouble tracking down much information as far as backstory is concerned. The two figures came along rather late in the original Masters of the Universe line, and as such never appeared in the original He-Man and the Masters of the Universe animated series. They DID appear in the She-Ra: Princess of Power animated series, which made substantial use of characters otherwise reserved to the Masters toy line to expand the otherwise almost entirely female cast of of the She-Ra toy line.

Fortunately, the Web Site "He-Man.Org" has an extensive "Encyclopedia" section, and if a character appeared much of anywhere, and has any sort of history, they'll know about it.

According to the history provided by He-Man.Org, Rokkon and Stonedar are representatives of an entire race of people whose bodies are encased in shells of rock, who can transform themselves into the forms of meteors. When in meteor form they gain the power of flight as well as near-invincibility. The Rock People are known as the Comet Warriors. They were members of a scouting party from the planet Geolon, who are looking for a new home as their planet is due to explode. They are a peaceful race who refuse to fight, but are left with no other choice but to do so when Rokkon is captured by Hordak. Although initially feeling Etheria is too violent for their race, after realizing that they share a common bond with She-Ra and the Rebels desiring to live in peace by driving the Horde away, they summon the rest of the Comet Warriors from the small moon and choose to settle in a peaceful region of Etheria called the Lost Valley, within the middle of the Spikeheart Mountain Range. They ally themselves with the Great Rebellion, eager to defeat those who strove to enslave his people.

Later, when the Evil Horde invaded their new home on Etheria, the Comet Warriors went to Eternia and settled in the abandoned Region Of Stardica. Rokkon, Stonedar and Granita joined He-Man and the Masters of the Universe to help fight in the war again the Evil Warriors, the Snake Men and the Evil Horde. Rokkon and Stonedar can be seen in the recent mini-comic "The Second Ultimate Battleground".

Rokkon is the younger, more excitable representative of the Geolonians, whereas Stonedar is the leader of his race; a noble and wise warrior who acts as a kind of father figure to the younger, more excitable Rokkon. A third character known as Granita was also presented in the animated series, and at least two other Rock People appeared in the mini-comics: Pebblass, a female Rock Warrior who could encase herself in pink rock; and Bold-Or, a male Rock Warrior who could encase himself in green rock.

None of these additional characters, including Granita, Pebblass, and Bold-Or, were ever made as figures, but I have to admit, I like the names. It can't be easy to come up with rock-based names for characters without stepping all over "The Flintstones" -- although "Pebblass" might be pushing it just a bit.

Both Rokkon and Stonedar appeared in the episodes "The Rock People", and Stonedar would return in "The Light of the Crystal". In the mini-comics, both would appear in "Escape from the Slime Pit", along with Pebblass and Bold-Or, and Rokkon would go on to appear in the mini-comics "Rock People to the Rescue", "The Hordes of Hordak", and "Between a Rock and a Hard Place". Apparently Rokkon's tolerance for rock-based puns was greater than Stonedar's.

Rokkon also appeared in the Marvel/Star Comics stories "Falling Stars", "From Here to Eternia", and the two-part "Lifetime". Bit of a glory hound, wasn't he?

As for the original toys, given the limited articulation of the Masters of the Universe figures, it was no real hindrance to design figures whose legs, arms, and backs were seemingly partially formed from rock, and who could more or less be "folded" into a rock-like form with the existing articulation. In the animated series, Rokkon and Stonedar could assume a less rock-like appearance, which was doubtless a considerable relief to the animators.

I've long suspected that the original Comet Warriors were developed to introduce some sort of new action feature into the figure line, which had been running for several years at this point. The swivel-waist punch had pretty much had its day, and there hadn't been anything all that really innovative. It also wasn't a bad idea to introduce a new faction, albeit a small one, that were on the side of the good guys. I mean, come on -- along with Skeletor and his cronies, you'd also had the Snake-Men, Hordak and his Evil Horde... the Masters needed a few new heroes. Who knows? Maybe there were some plans to bring some of the other Rock People into the line at some point, but they just never materialized.

But, Rokkon and Stonedar certainly established themselves, and I'm truly pleased that they have been brought into the modern Masters of the Universe Classics line.

So, how are the toys? Absolutely outstanding. One of my greatest concerns when I heard the announcement that these two were being added to the line was -- can they make the designs work given the more extensive detail, different body proportions, and more extensive articulation of the Classics figures?

Let's face it, as cool as the original Masters figures were, they were a rather odd lot when it came to body proportions. Their legs were about the same size as their arms, and that's just not how human anatomy works. And the design of the figures in general gave them arms that were pre-bent at the elbows, and legs that made most of the figures downright bow-legged. I'm not a toy designer, but I tend to think that at least some of this was an aid in working out how to enable Rokkon and Stonedar to fold up into their meteor forms.

The Masters of the Universe Classics figures are better proportioned. They look more often than not like they stepped right out of the Filmation cartoon -- whether they appeared in it or not. This is certainly testament to the sculpting abilities of the Four Horsemen, as well as throwing in the fact that Filmation did an excellent job of maintaining a good character design throughout the series, aided by the fact that a lot of their animation used a technique called rotoscoping, which involved basing the animation on the movements of live actors. So from the standpoint of animating human-type characters, it was bound to be accurate.

And, certainly, the Masters of the Universe Classics figures are better articulated than their predecessors. The original Masters of the Universe figures were poseable at the head, arms, legs, and had that spring-loaded waist. The Masters of the Universe Classics figures are poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivels, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, frequently the boot tops, and ankles. While this is certainly all very impressive and most assuredly welcome, I did wonder if it wouldn't make unusual characters like the Rock People next to impossible.

And you're right, I should have known better. I should have figured that Mattel and the Four Horsemen would find a way, and indeed they have. Simply stated, the vast majority of the rock-like armor is removable. In fact, the only pieces that aren't are the ones on the backs of their helmets.

I'm not usually in the habit of saving the entire packages of Masters of the Universe Classics figures once I open them. I typically save the card back, since it has the scroll-like biographical card with the information of the character on it. But I think I'm going to make an exception for the box that Rokkon and Stonedar arrived in. It's as good a box as any to store all that bulky rock armor in.

Let's consider the two figures individually, shall we?

STONEDAR - He is the leader of the Comet Warriors, and as such older than Rokkon, and frankly, he looks it. Although these beings are designated "Rock People", apart from the rock-like shells they possess, and their unusual coloration, they're relatively human in appearance, especially their faces.

Stonedar has light blue skin and deep, metallic black eyes. There are a few lines on his face that would be typical of a human that is no longer entirely youthful, but is hardly elderly. His face is somewhat broader than Rokkon's, and has a more serious expression.

Interestingly, his rock-like shells have more pitted craters in them. One can assume that he's been on a few more space voyages in his meteor form than Rokkon has, and has taken a few more hits from passing asteroids or whatever.

Stonedar is wearing a blue helmet, only slightly darker than his skin color, with gray and gold trim. The back of his head is the only fixed part of the rock shells. In Stonedar's case, the interior of the shell, which frames his head, is metallic gold, and has a rather worn down look to it. The exterior is dark blue, with lighter gray in it, and in fact there's a couple of good-sized craters on it. That had to give him a headache...

Most of Stonedar's body is the same color light blue as his face. To whatever degree the term "skin" applies to rock-like beings, one assumes that most of Stonedar's is visible here as such. He has gray wristbands, which taper upwards to ridged gold armor near his elbows, and some fancy, rather tech-looking gold trim on his upper arms.

His torso is encased in an armored harness, mostly light gray in color, with a large red disc in the center, with ridges that extend upwards to the sides. There is a section of blue piping through the disc. The shoulders of the armor are the same slightly darker blue as his he;met, with some metallic blue details, and they are framed by some extremely intricate ridged gold trim.

Neither Stonedar nor Rokkon are wearing the typical loincloths or shorts that most Masters of the Universe Classics figures possess. I found this to be highly unusual, but I suspect it's designed to give them just a little more mobility when it comes to folding into their meteor forms. Stonedar has a gray belt around his waist, with a blue centerpiece. He appears, really, to be wearing gray shorts -- they're just not as extensive as most Masters figures.

Stonedar is wearing gray boots with gold armored knee pads that have a bit of red trim on them. His portion of the file card on the back reads as follows:

STONEDAR - Heroic Leader of the Comet Warriors
Real Name: STONEDAR

From the heart of the Horde Empire, Annilis Kur unleashed a powerful light storm which drove the Comet Warriors from their orbit and hurled them through space. Blasting through several untamed star bands, several Comet Warriors, including Stonedar, their heroic leader, arrived on the magical planet of Eternia. Part of a peaceful clan that shies away from conflict of any kind, Stonedar quickly realized some evil needed to be fought and allied himself and his warriors with He Man and the Masters of the Universe. Stonedar can use his blazing armor to temporarily blind attackers in battle. When the Rock People are in danger, he transforms into his boulder form to drive back the enemy!

ROKKON - He is described as a "Young Heroic Battling Boulder", and he definitely looks younger than Stonedar. His more or less human face is narrower and less lined than Stonedar's. He has a metallic silver face, with metallic light blue eyes, and is wearing a blue helmet with red-purple trim on it.

Unlike Stonedar, Rokkon appears to be wearing a full uniform, a tight-fitting orange bodysuit that really only leaves his hands exposed. His hands are silver, and this assumes that they are his hands, and not some sort of glove extension of the silver wristbands that Rokkon has around his wrists, which much like Stonedar's armor, extend upward to ridged armor at the elbows, but then continue up to the backs of the biceps. However, there's enough of a ridge between the wristbands and the hands so that I believe these are intended to be Rokkon's actual hands, without gloves.

Rokkon is wearing an armored harness over his torso, like Stonedar. Rokkon's is orange, like the rest of his costume, with a blue collar, and various details in silver and reddish-purple. He has a purple belt with a silver buckle, and blue trunks.

Rokkon is also wearing blue boots, with light blue metallic trim across the top of the knee pads, and some dark blue metallic trim on the sides.

The portion of his rock-like shell on the back of his head is interesting in how it differs from Stonedar's. Both the interior and exterior are a light blue with metallic silver sprayed trim. Rokkon's rock shell does not appear to be nearly as -- well, I suppose the best term would be "eroded" -- as Stonedar's, nor has it been pitted with craters. If anything, the color scheme and the somewhat more angular look of it gives it almost a crystalline appearance. It's an interesting alteration in the design that really succeeds in showing the age difference between the two characters.

Rokkon's portion of the bio card on the back of the package reads as follows:

ROKKON - Young Heroic Battling Boulder
Real Name: ROKKON

Rocked from his stationary orbit patrol by a light storm from Horde World, Rokkon was part of a brigade of Comet Warriors thrown across the universe. Arriving on Eternia with his leader Stonedar, Rokkon quickly allied with the Masters of the Universe, eager to defeat those who strove to enslave his people. Along with others of his race, Rokkon can transform into a mighty meteorite to roll into battle and surprise attackers. His rocky body can deflect laser blasts as he bursts forth to aid the heroic warriors in the heart of battle!

Both figures also come with small blaster pistols, which are different from each other. Nice bit of extra effort there, Mattel! These blasters are rather small, and have very straight-edged, angular designs. I rather like them. But now, let's discuss that transformation into true rock warriors, shall we?

Both Rokkon and Stonedar come with five armor pieces which they can readily wear, although it obviously hinders their articulation for them to do so. These include -- a large piece that attaches to the back, one piece for each arm, and one piece for each leg. These attach either by clips, or peg holes on the figures, or a little of both. They definitely secure to the figures extremely well.

As with the permanent head pieces, the rest of the rock armor definitely reflects their respective owners. Stonedar's is gold on the inside, dark blue and gray on the outside, and has a somewhat eroded and cratered look to it. Rokkon's is light blue with silver on both sides, and has a more crystalline appearance. The interiors of the rock armor also have circuitry and wiring details sculpted into them and fully painted. One definitely gets the impression that these rock armors are technological constructs, more than a natural part of the actual persons.

Each figure also has one additional large piece of armor, which completes the transformation. According to the instructions, you clip the leg pieces together, bend the figure over slightly, and then use the additional leg clips to secure him to the large piece that conceals his front. The rest of the armor more or less folds into place.

Anyway -- ! Here's the 21st century version of Pet Rocks. Rokkon and Stonedar in their boulder/meteor forms. Now, no one's going to mistake them for actual rocks, but the overall design works, and certainly the sculpting and detail is impressive. I've seen the Four Horsemen take on a variety of sculpting challenges -- fur, long hair, that sort of thing. And they've always come through impressively. We can add "rock surfaces" to their repertoire of excellent sculpting and detail work.

So, what's my final word? I'm truly delighted to welcome Rokkon and Stonedar into the Masters of the Universe Classics collection. They're well-established characters from the original line, even if their media presence is a little more limited than some, and they're certainly a pair of very distinctive characters. Mattel and the Four Horsemen found a great way to incorporate their unusual abilities into the modern figure line, and presenting them together in a special set like this certainly made for an outstanding San Diego Comic-Con exclusive!

If you're any sort of Masters of the Universe fan, you'll definitely want to track down these two and bring them into your collection.

The MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS figures of ROKKON and STONEDAR, from the 2013 SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON, definitely have my highest recommendation!