REVIEW: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS MIGHTY SPECTOR
2012 commemorates the 30th Anniversary of the Masters of the Universe concept, and as part of the celebration, Mattel's MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS action figure line is releasing a special assortment of 30th Anniversary figures over the course of the year.
The first one was Fearless Photog, a character first developed by Nathan Bitner as part of a "create a character" contest from the original line, that sadly never saw the light of day since the line came to an end before it could be produced. Hey, better late than never.
The second figure in the special 30th Anniversary line was Draego-Man, an all-new character, a humanoid dragon, created by the Four Horsemen, the sculpting and design team that does such fantastic work for Mattel on Masters, DC, and more. Draego-Man really let the Four Horsemen show off their talents, without being the least bit encumbered by a previously-established likeness.
And now we have THE MIGHTY SPECTOR, a creation of Scott Neitlich. And if you need to ask "Who?" -- you haven't been paying close enough attention to Mattel's top lines in recent years.
Born in Cheshire Connecticut, Scott Neitlich has been a life-long toy fan, fondly remembering his Masters of the Universe toys which came with him when his family moved to Orange County, California, during elementary school. After graduating from University High School in Irvine, he attended the University of California Santa Barbara graduating with a double major in Film Studies and Communication.
Following a four-year stint as a writer in an ad agency, he went on to pursue his passion in the toy industry, landing a gig as a staff writer for Mattel's Hot Wheels brand, helping to work on basic cars and track sets. Soon after, he moved into the action play marketing group, and helped start up the Mattycollector.com website, as well as brand managing Mattel's DC Universe, Justice League, Ghostbusters and Master of the Universe Classics toy lines as Senior Brand Analyst.
So, where does The Mighty Spector come into all of this? This was a character that Neitlich created during his childhood. And now, Spector is officially part of the Masters of the Universe Classics line.
I have to say, it sincerely amazes me the amount of negative reaction I've heard about this. I even saw one posting on a message board that proclaimed it to be an "abuse of power".
Okay, really? Come on, already. First off, you show me one person on the face of the planet who, as a toy collector themselves, and then placed in a position of responsibility over a toy line which they had enjoyed since childhood, wouldn't try to work in a few personal designs if they had the opportunity.
This may sound horribly cynical, but I've never met anybody in the toy world quite that noble and selfless -- myself included. I sent in an entry for the recent Create-A-Character Contest, the winner of which will see their creation turned into a figure as part of the 30th Anniversary celebration. At this particular point in time, I have no idea who won, but seeing as how I haven't received any notifications from Mattel as of this writing, I think it's a safe assumption that it wasn't me. If I were suddenly placed in charge of the Masters of the Universe Classics line, would my creation find its way into the future figure line-up? Heck, yes!
And "abuse of power"?!? Give me a break. If a toy company executive taking a childhood design of his and having it made into an official action figure qualifies as "abuse of power" in your book, then you're not paying enough attention to the rest of the country.
Honestly, I believe we owe a great deal of thanks to Mr. Neitlich, especially with regard to the Masters of the Universe Classics line. When the Four Horsemen crafted the first He-Man figure, that would become the standard for the Classics line, they did so entirely on speculation, showcasing him at the San Diego ComiCon several years ago, as much as anything to gauge fan response, which was extremely enthusiastic.
But fan response doesn't equal retailer interest, and in the eyes of the retailers, Masters of the Universe was something of a failure. As cool and dynamic as the 2002-era line had been, it suffered from several unfortunate factors that led to its demise, the greatest of which, in my opinion, was horrible packing ratios. Someone, somewhere, got it into their head that some version of the core characters of He-Man and Skeletor had to be kept in the line at all times, and they so dominated the shipments that the supporting cast, that was being featured in the animated series, were extremely difficult to find, while endless variants of He-Man and Skeletor piled up on the store shelves, unsold, much to the consternation of the retailers. They really wanted no further part of the Masters.
Scott Neitlich was one of the major factors behind MattyCollector.Com, which, by offering one new figure per month directly to the collector base, could bypass the retailers and make a line that would appeal to collectors, although I'm sure there's kids that are interested as well. The only retail appearance of the Masters since that time has been in several Toys "R" Us two-packs alongside DC Universe Classics figures.
I'm not saying that I think Mattel, or MattyCollector, or Scott Neitlich are perfect. In fact, I do have a few issues with them, but they mostly pertain to the DC Universe line, and that's nothing I care to discuss in this review. I am saying that Scott Neitlich has been a huge supporter of the Masters of the Universe, and certainly one of the guiding hands behind its present, very impressive incarnation, and if he wants to take some of his childhood drawings and ideas and transform them into a new Masters of the Universe character and figure -- well, given all he's done for the concept, I'd say he's entitled.
So, how's the figure? Really very impressive, and certainly a distinctive entry into the Masters universe. And a very interesting history for the character has been worked out.
Some time back, a special two-pack of Masters of the Universe Classics figures was offered through MattyCollector. This two-pack was known as the Eternian Palace Guard, and featured two armored soldiers dressed similarly to Man-At-Arms, and intended to be reminiscent of the Eternian Palace Guards that had been frequently seen in the original Filmation animated series, where Man-At-Arms was, indeed, their commander.
These figures featured exchangeable heads, and body armor that had switchable chestplates. Two of the heads were entirely non-human, one of them looking rather reptilian, and presumably not related to the infamous Snake-Men, while the other was more or less a nondescript mammal, with a furry face and a little black nose. It's like I've often said, an anthropologist would go insane on Eternia. I think a zoologist would, too.
The other two heads were entirely human. One featured a fairly generic African-American face (although whether the terms "African" or "American" are applicable to Eternians I have no idea). The other was a Caucasian face, and as it turned out, was of a far more specific likeness. Specifically, it was sculpted to look like Scott Neitlich.
Headsculpts being designed to resemble employees of a toy company isn't really anything new. G.I. Joe used to do it quite frequently during the original run of the Real American Hero. There was even an article in one of the popular toy collector magazines of the time, that put the figure heads up against same-size photographs of their real-life counterparts.
Again, this isn't something I'm the least bit inclined to begrudge Scott Neitlich for. I think many of us would do the same thing, if a reasonable opportunity presented itself, and there was nothing unreasonable about this. Few if any of the Palace Guard had ever been given specific identities. Heck, the "redshirts" in Star Trek fared better in the having-an-actual-name department, even if their casualty rate was a lot higher.
Although the other three Eternian Palace Guards went nameless, the one bearing Neitlich's likeness did have a name. He was known as Lt. Spector, and to no great surprise, he appears with that name on the back of Mighty Spector's package, mixed in with other characters.
Clearly, however, Mighty Spector has gone far beyond being an Eternian Palace Guard. In fact, the description of him below his name lists him as "Heroic Master of Time Travel".
Even this has caused a little bit of controversy among some fans. I almost can't blame them. Time travel is one of those things that is very tricky to work out in any story, and it can easily be botched. Consider Star Trek for example. There's been no shortage of time travel episodes there, from Kirk and Spock jumping through the Guardian of Forever to visit Depression-era Earth, to the Enterprise sling-shotting around the sun to travel back to the late 20th century to help save the whales. Even the Next Generation crew bounced through the time-stream a few times, once ending up giving Mark Twain a tour of the ship, and on another occasion, in one of the movies, to save Earth from becoming Borg Central.
By the time of Deep Space Nine, there was actually a Department of Temporal Investigation in place. Good thing, too, since Sisko and the others had wound up nearly 100 years in the past, visiting Kirk's Enterprise just in time for the tribble invasion. Fortunately, there weren't any serious consequences from that -- except for the tribble that Odo brought back to the future (!), whose offspring threatened to overtake the Promenade. That situation's resolution remained officially unknown, although I've heard that Quark did a good business selling Tribble McNuggets for several months -- with dipping sauce.
Anyway, the question would as such arise -- does the Masters' universe need a time traveler shifting around the timestream? Well -- maybe it does. Consider that we have several time periods already established within the current concept. The very first figure right out of the gate was the San Diego Comic-Con exclusive of King Grayskull, who was an ancestor of He-Man. He's been joined by, at the very least, He-Ro, and there have been other references to Preternia since then.
Then there's arguably the recent-past-to-present-day environment, which one could probably claim as the "Filmation era". Most of the figures come from this, but the file cards of many of these characters have dropped substantial hints to a time beyond that, perhaps a present-day, certainly post animation environment, in which King Randor has been deposed by Skeletor, the Sorceress is dead, replaced by her daughter Teela, Hordak has returned to Eternia, and She-Ra and a number of her allies from the Great Rebellion have followed suit to help restore Eternia.
On top of that, you've got long-lived characters such as King Hssss and Hordak, who started out in the distant past, but remain active to this day. Then you've got oddballs such as the Galactic Protectors and the Space Mutants, from the "New Adventures" concept, and who knows where they fit into the timeline, as well as characters such as Vikor and Wun-Dar, who exist somewhere between the eras of King Grayskull and He-Man.
So what's a time traveler in the midst of all this mess? He certainly can't cause much more chaos, although his bio card does hint at yet another time period, one distinctly in the future from any events this far reported.
As for Mighty Spector, he's an interesting-looking figure. I can only imagine the delight that Scott Neitlich must have felt when he saw his childhood crayon drawing transformed into a superb action figure at the hands of the Four Horsemen.
Mighty Spector is predominantly a very dark purple in color. This is a costume, not a skin color. He is wearing a headpiece that covers his entire head, with two extended diamond shapes, red in color, placed where the eyes would be. These are the only visible features on the head.
Mighty Spector is wearing a bright yellow series of straps, that go over his shoulders, and are connected to a circular centerpiece in the middle of the chest. A single strap then goes down to the belt, which is also yellow. Mighty Spector has a large pistol holster on his upper right leg, also yellow in color, and connected to the belt, as well as to the upper leg by a strap that has a series of small holsters with little green capsules in them.
The color choice is interesting. From a spectrum standpoint, yellow is the exact opposite of purple. I wonder if the young Scott Neitlich knew that.
Mighty Spector has a dark gold wristband on his right wrist, and a more complex piece of machinery, dark silver and gold, on his left, extending over the back of his hand. This almost has to be his time-travel device. It's rather ridged, with an additional, very jagged piece attached to the outside of it, with a small green peg sticking out of it. On the wristband itself is some sort of readout on a green panel. Three symbols, resembling a backwards "Z", three diagonal slashes, and an "X" with a dot in the top part of it.
Mighty Spector is wearing dark purple trunks, with ridged metallic purple sections providing some extra protection. His boots are dark silver, and very complex in design. I almost thought the boots might have been unique to the figure, but they're not. Optikk and a few others also have them. I think it may be how they were painted that threw me off just a little.
The only real mystery about the figure is the emblem on the circular chest piece. It's a black spade, like from a deck of cards. This is a carryover from Neitlich's original design. If it has any specific meaning to the character, I haven't encountered that information.
So, how well does the figure work within the Masters of the Universe collection? Okay, he may be a little more "super-heroish" than some, visually, but let's be fair. One of the hallmarks of the Masters of the Universe line has always seemed to be that it's got room for just about anything. Robots, cyborgs, dragon-men, ninjas, barbarians, and quite a few things that aren't easily defined. So -- Mighty Spector fits as well as anyone else.
The figure didn't really come with any separately packaged accessories, but the holster on his right leg holds a fairly sleek and futuristic-looking blaster of some sort, with another one of those odd green whatever they are objects in it.
Of course, Mighty Spector is superbly articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. I really believe this basic design represents one of the finest action figure designs ever crafted. All of Mighty Spector's painted details are very neatly done.
Here's the bio card for Mighty Spector:
THE MIGHTY SPECTOR
After Skeletor banished King Randor to Despondos, he seized his rightful throne and dismantled the Eternian Palace Guard. Loyal to Marlena and the Royal Household, Lt. Spector was cut off from the rest of the Masters of the Universe when he was thrown into a time portal and flung into the future. In this new time, he served King He-Man and was given a special suit reserve-engineered from the Cosmic Key. Using its powers, Spector could travel into time, fighting for the Royal Family as their agent throughout Eternia's history. Spector uses his Vortex Suit to turn the tide in battle, loyally serving the King and Queen of Eternia.
Interesting reference there to "King He-Man". It's reasonable to assume that Skeletor gets his comeuppance at some point. The Cosmic Key is actually an artifact from the live-action Masters movie, but it's also not the first time it's been mentioned.
And I do find myself wondering just a little bit. Most of us suffer a certain amount of "jet lag" when we travel by air across several time zones. Wonder what sort of "time lag" Spector must go through. "Let's see, when was I yesterday?" That could get annoying in a hurry -- not to mention confusing.
So, what's my final word? I'm impressed. This is a cool figure, and I believe that Scott Neitlich should be commended for an impressive imagination in his youth, and I certainly can't blame him for taking the entirely legitimate opportunity to bring one of his youthful creations into action figure reality now. Although the present media outlets for Masters of the Universe are limited, I think there could be a lot of potential for this character, and certainly he has an interesting and distinctive appearance. If you're a fan and collector of the Masters of the Universe Classics line, don't neglect the 30th Anniversary figure of Mighty Spector!
The MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE 30th ANNIVERSARY CLASSICS figure of THE MIGHTY SPECTOR definitely has my highest recommendation!