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REVIEW: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS SORCERESS
By Thomas Wheeler

Certainly one of the most anticipated figures in the Masters of the Universe Classics line is the legendary character known as The Sorceress. Guardian of Castle Grayskull and the person who granted Prince Adam the ability to transform into the powerful He-Man, and later, Adora to become She-Ra, this character has a rather decidedly convoluted history within the Masters universe.

Originally, it seemed as though the character of Teela was meant to be someone more akin to the Sorceress. The original package for Teela describes her as a "Warrior Goddess". And yet, when we encounter Teela in the Filmation animated series, she is certainly a powerful warrior, and captain of the Eternian Palace Guard, but she does not possess any unusual powers or mystical abilities that might earn her a designation of "goddess", nor does she wear the serpentine-like armor that the original figure came with.

At the same time, we were introduced to the character of Sorceress, who most certainly does have some impressive powers, but also doesn't wear any sort of serpentine armor. In fact, her motif is more bird-like, with colors akin to those of Zoar, a gigantic falcon who had already been made as a toy in the Masters of the Universe line, and whom, within the animated series, Sorceress could transform into when she needed to leave the protective confines of Castle Grayskull.

However, it would be several years before there would be an actual Sorceress figure in the original Masters of the Universe line, that resembled the animated character.

The character background is confounded a fair bit more by the early mini-comics, which followed a rather loose continuity that could charitably be described as a work in progress. Unlike the other two major pop culture toy lines of the 1980's -- G.I. Joe and Transformers -- which very carefully outlined the personalities and backstories of their respective characters with file cards printed on the packages, Masters of the Universe didn't take this particular step. And while the animated series set something of a continuity in place, it wasn't often that it went into a lot of background detail on the characters, and it certainly didn't jibe terribly well with the early mini-comics, some of which didn't even jibe terribly well with each other.

Here, we find a sort of gradual origin, or at least explanation, for the eventual differences between Teela and the Sorceress, as well as what happened to that snake-like armor.

The Sorceress first appears in the He-Man and the Power Sword mini-comic, and has green skin and wears cobra-themed armor that in later media is occasionally shown as belonging to Teela. In this story, the Sorceress gives He-Man his powers, consistent with later depictions. This mini-comic is the only time Sorceress appears with green skin.

In the second series of mini-comics, the character, now called Goddess, is white-skinned and still wears the cobra-themed armor. The mini-comic: The Tale of Teela exposes warrior woman Teela as a Skeletor-created clone of the Sorceress/Goddess (also named Teela), thus clarifying why both characters were originally represented by one action figure. This mini-comic also establishes a biological link between both "Teela" characters, setting them up to be developed as mother and daughter in the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe TV series.

Eventually, the "Goddess" name is dropped, and the falcon-themed Sorceress (with the updated name "Teela Na", in order to distinguish her from warrior woman Teela) of the TV show would appear in the later mini-comics.

Of course, in the Classics line, Mattel was produced an entirely different figure called "The Goddess", a really impressive figure with translucent green skin, and wearing the serpentine armor, who is unfortunately known for being catastrophically fragile in the legs. But at least she establishes the green-skinned version of the character as being entirely separate. So at this point let's focus entirely on the Sorceress, and Teela as needed.

I'm honestly not sure who came up with the falcon-themed look for The Sorceress. I've always generally assumed it was Filmation, but that, I suppose, depends on whether she appeared in that form in one of the mini-comics prior to the series. I never much followed the mini-comics, but I do know that they eventually fell more in line with the continuity of the animated series.

The Sorceress is one of the very few characters in the animated series that received a considerable origin story. In the Filmation series, the Sorceress is the mistress and guardian of the Secrets of Castle Grayskull, the source of He-Man's great power.

With a vast knowledge of magic and history, she is among the wisest beings on Eternia. He-Man often seeks her counsel, especially when situations are at their worst. In the Filmation series, the Sorceress demonstrates saintly qualities such as humility and appears to other characters who are in need of guidance.

However, since her powers are tied to Castle Grayskull, they weaken when she leaves its walls. When she does need to travel, though, she generally assumes the form of a falcon known as Zoar.

The Sorceress is also the mother of Teela, childhood friend of Prince Adam and Captain of the Royal Guard, whose aggressive temperament is a far cry from that of her soft-spoken mother. When Teela was an infant, the Sorceress gave her to Duncan (Man-At-Arms), to raise as his own, because the Sorceress felt that Castle Grayskull was too dangerous a place for her daughter to be raised. In the episode "Teela's Quest", Teela sets out to discover the truth of her mother from The Oracle of the Crystal Sea. She succeeds, but the Sorceress erases the revelation from Teela's memory for her own good, even though she desperately wishes she could tell her the truth. Other than Man-At-Arms, the only others who share the secret are He-Man, Battle Cat, and the Oracle of the Crystal Sea. It is also established in this episode that the Sorceress' daughter is destined to someday take her place as the magical guardian of Castle Grayskull.

The real name of the current Sorceress is Teela Na. Her history is revealed in the episode "The Origin of the Sorceress", in which Morgoth, an old nemesis of the Sorceress returns and attacks Eternia. While waiting for Morgoth to reappear, the Sorceress explains to He-Man how she became the guardian of Castle Grayskull. Her home, the village of Nowella, was attacked, and subsequently conquered, by Morgoth and his allies Ferros, Repta, and Rachney, servants of the Evil Horde. With the aid of an old storyteller's rhyme (In barren places find ye hope/And where no water grows, no plant grows, no wind blows/Find all you need...), Teela Na sought out Castle Grayskull, which she hoped would help her find a way to defeat her captors. Just as she was about to succumb to the Eternian wastelands, the mystical fortress appeared before Teela Na's eyes, and she was invited inside by a mysterious voice. Once inside she came across an old woman named Kuduk Ungol, her predecessor as the Sorceress. Kuduk invited her to take up the mantle of Castle Grayskull's protector, and explained her duties as such:

"It will not be an easy task, Teela Na. You will fight many battles, see great sadness, and great joy. As Keeper of Castle Grayskull you must fight a constant war against evil, and comfort those in need. And, you will never be mortal again. Finally, you must preserve and protect the Swords of Power, until the day comes when they may be claimed."

Teela Na accepted the offer and immersed herself in the Pool of Power, which imbued her with the powers of Castle Grayskull. Once she had taken her place as the guardian of Castle Grayskull, the Sorceress returned to Nowella and overthrew the invaders before returning to her new home inside Castle Grayskull. Kuduk Ungol was gone by this time, her fate unrevealed.

Have to say, I like that name, Kuduk Ungol. Sounds like something Tolkein came up with.

The Sorceress also appeared in the She-Ra: Princess of Power series, and was even surprisingly prevalent in the New Adventures of He-Man concept. In The New Adventure, the first mini-comic for the new series, the Sorceress appears in her classic falcon form, and warns Prince Adam that the Galactic Guardians, tricked by Skeletor, are siphoning the Power of Grayskull. She later appears with a totally different chrome armor, evoking the futuristic feeling of the new series, saying that He-Man will not become Prince Adam again, and that He-Man now had to say the name of the Starship Eternia in order to transform.

In the New Adventures animated series, the Sorceress wears an amalgamation of her classic falcon suit and chrome armor. She often appears in He-Man's mind, giving him advice. She can also reach out into the future with her powers to assist He-Man and his allies, and has been shown to talk to Master Sebrian telepathically. In one episode, she even sends Teela into the future to offer the homesick prince of Eternia comfort.

In the 2002 series, the attire of the Sorceress was redesigned to evoke the feeling of an Egyptian goddess rather than a falcon. She is still Teela's mother, and that fact is still kept secret. The episode "Out of the Past" briefly reveals part of the Sorceress' history, and how Teela was conceived after the Sorceress married an unnamed soldier, who supposedly died in battle. Her husband is seen in heavy bandaging throughout his appearance, and his identity remains unconfirmed throughout the series. However, it is suspected to be Man-At-Arms himself, as the heavily bandaged soldier has a close body-type to Man-At-Arms and when the Sorceress says "your child", Man-At-Arms immediately says, "my adopted child", sounding as if correcting her. However, the writers of the series later revealed that Teela's father was actually meant to be Man-At-Arms' brother Fisto, which would have been shown later on in the series had it not been canceled.

There was no Sorceress figure in the 2002 action figure line, although I suspect one would have turned up had the line not also been canceled. In the animated series, the character did retain falcon-like wings, and although the new attire did evoke a certain Egyptian look, let's be fair, the Egyptians certainly included birds of prey in their designs. She was hardly unrecognizable.

As to her powers and abilities, they are considerable. The Sorceress possesses a vast array of magical and spellcasting abilities, and is considered the most powerful magic-wielder on modern Eternia. Some spells she performs on a regular basis, including transforming into the falcon Zoar.

She is perhaps most noted for projecting her telepathic image to others, especially He-Man. Her telepathy is very powerful, as she can contact He-Man across great distances as well as sense the thoughts, emotions, and motives of others.

According to the episode "Teela's Triumph", the Sorceress can look into both the past and the future. She frequently uses a mystic mirror within Castle Grayskull to keep watch over current events on Eternia.

The Sorceress can also teleport herself and others across vast distances, and in the episode "The Cosmic Comet", she temporarily grants He-Man the ability to fly.

Other times she exhibits telekinesis, as well as the ability to project images, create fire, and to produce magical shields.

So, how's the figure? Really spectacularly done. There's been no shortage of female figures in the Masters of the Universe Classics action figure line lately. The Star Sisters, Battleground Evil-Lyn, and now The Sorceress. Each figure has been surprisingly distinctive. Anyone thinking that Mattel might be taking shortcuts with the females in this line just needs to take a look at this line-up to have that notion nullified.

The original Sorceress figure suffered a bit on two counts. As a probable Filmation creation, she didn't quite fit the look of most of the Mattel-created Masters figures. That's not really nearly as much of a concern with the Classics line for two reasons. First of all, you've got every aspect of the Masters universe thrown into the line this time around. Masters, Princess of Power, 2002 characters, New Adventures characters. There isn't quite as much "appearance consistency" to begin with. Secondly, you've got the expert team of the Four Horsemen designing these figures. If anybody can bring them together and make them all look good as a group, it's these people.

The other problem that the original Sorceress figure had was that her arms were outstretched to fully display her wing-like cape. This seriously affected the figure's articulation, and the original Masters of the Universe figures weren't all that well articulated in the first place.

You want wings? You want the Sorceress' wing-like cape, one that doesn't restrict her arm movement? Here they are, Hawkman, Stratos, and especially Falcon, take note. These are some seriously impressive wings.

The feather detail is astounding. The Four Horsemen seem to specialize in the sort of nit-picky little details that some less-talented or less-attentive designers try to do hastily or find some way to just skip entirely. The scales on Aquaman's shirt. The fur on Gy-Gor's body. And here, the feathers. Exceptionally intricate in detail, and not just on the winged cape. The detail level is also present on the Sorceress' headpiece and skirt, and even the tops of her boots!

The mechanism designed for the wings to work is extremely effective. Each arm has three separate wing pieces secured to it at the shoulder. The worst thing I can say about this is that it looks like she has two large knobs in the backs of her shoulders. Not the most -- erm -- magical-looking thing I've ever seen, but let's be reasonable about it. It doesn't look that bad, and it certainly works!

Raise the Sorceress' arms out to he sides, and the winged cape opens like a fan, three segments to each arm. A seventh segment, secured to the figure's back, completes a very effective and very striking image of the Sorceress right out of the animated series.

And the wing pieces don't have a significant impact on articulation. She does look a little odd moving her arms forward at the shoulder, but it is possible, provided the wings are folded up at the time. And the upper arm swivel, elbows, and wrists, are not affected in any way whatsoever. Moreover, the wing pieces are not so heavy that they affect her balance. The Sorceress stands very well, and isn't inclined towards toppling over backwards because of the weight.

The Sorceress' color scheme is the same as Zoar -- white, blue, and orange, a fairly bright orange, at that. The Sorceress' headpiece looks like the head of a falcon, mostly white, with yellow eyes and a blue beak, and orange trim under the eyes, framing the Sorceress' face. White feathers taper to her shoulders.

The top of her uniform is blue, including the sleeves, while most of her costume is white, ending in a white feathered skirt. She has blue boots with white feathered tops, and her winged cape has mostly orange feathers, which turn to an outer row of blue feathers.

The Sorceress is otherwise entirely human-looking (which I mention because that's not something every inhabitant of Eternia can claim), and has been sculpted with a superb face that, much like the Sorceress herself, looks both pleasant and wise. She almost looks cheerful.

Paintwork on the figure is surprisingly limited. Mostly it's on the face, which is expertly done, and the headpiece. Other painted details include the blue feathers on the wings, and the white feathers on the boot tops. Everything has been done with great precision.

Of course, the figure is superbly articulated. The Sorceress is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, boot tops, and ankles. And of course the winged cape has its own articulation.

Sorceress comes with several accessories, including a pearl-white staff with a falcon image at the top, as well as a miniature Zoar falcon, complete with a perch and harness. This bird has been superbly painted in entirely the proper color scheme. It's seen use before, and frankly, is probably still getting over the trauma of being molded in bright metallic pink for one of the Star Sisters. The Zoar colors are a distinct improvement.

The scroll-like bio card on the back of the package is an excellent summary of the character's background as it was presented in the animated series, as one might expect. It reads as follows:

SORCERESS
Heroic Guardian of Castle Grayskull
Real Name: TEELA'NA

Growing up in a small Eternian village, Teela'Na helped defend her people from a Horde Scout ship that had discovered her planet on a magic locating mission. Recognized for her loyalty, courage, and wisdom, the current aging Sorceress chose Teela'na to take up her title and defend Castle Grayskull's secrets for the next generation. During her reign as Sorceress, Teela'na not only cast the spell to clone the Sword of He, she was also cloned herself by Skeletor who desired a magic-wielding bride to pass on his legacy. With the help of Man-At-Atms, Teela'na saved the cloned child. And it was through her undying love and devotion to this baby girl that Teela'na gave her up to Man-At-Arms, awaiting the day when her daughter would become the new Sorceress and Guardian of Castle Grayskull's secrets.

So, what's my final word? I'm very pleased to have this figure, and Mattel has really done an outstanding job with her. She is certainly a vital part of the story of the Masters of the Universe, and I am certain that Masters fans everywhere are delighted to add her to their collections. If you're a Masters of the Universe fan who is collecting the Classics line, then the Sorceress is unquestionably a must-have, and you won't be disappointed with her.

The MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of THE SORCERESS definitely has my highest recommendation!