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REVIEW: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS TYTUS
By Thomas Wheeler

Most sufficiently long-lived toy lines have at least one item or aspect or some part of the planned collection that just never quite made it out, or made it out in horrifically limited quantities, or some such. For G.I. Joe, it would be the Star Brigade Manimals. For Kenner's Super Powers, it would be the proposed fourth year of figures. Pictures and a few samples here and there are about all that exist of these, generally driving fans of these lines a little bit nuts over what "might-have-been".

For the original Masters of the Universe line, that particular aspect of the collection can be summed up in one simple phrase -- The Preternian Giants.

Roll back the clock to 1987. The live-action Masters of the Universe movie has met with mixed results. Its presence in the toy line was relatively minimal -- a handful of figures worked into the mainline action figure assortments, moderately modified to better fit the design. A whole new world of the Masters, focused on an earlier epoch called "Preternia", a play on words of "Prehistoric" and "Eternia", homeworld of the Masters, seems poised to begin, with the new group name "The Powers of Grayskull". Characters such as He-Ro and Eldor have been hinted at.

A few products emerged under this new banner -- barely. A series of dinosaur-like creatures with mechanical enhancements -- Bionatops, Turbodactyl, and Tyrantisaurus Rex, make it to the stores -- barely. After that, the original Masters of the Universe line came to such a screeching halt that I'm surprised it didn't give fans a case of whiplash -- and I don't mean the lizard guy with the big tail.

But there were a few additional products -- two in particular, really, that did make it out, although not in the United States. Marketed to Europe, two massive figures named Tytus and Megator would ultimately be the "holy grails" of the original Masters of the Universe series. Humanoid in appearance, they were not a new scale of figure. Rather, they were intended to represent actual giants, one a hero, the other a villain, and as such were entirely in scale with the rest of the Masters of the Universe collection despite their massive size.

Neither character appeared in the 2002 Masters of the Universe line. No great surprise. A whole lot of standard-sized individuals didn't turn up there. That line had enough problems without trying to accommodate a couple of super-sized individuals.

Now, let's consider the Masters of the Universe Classics line. By any reasonable estimation, the best incarnation of the Masters ever. The figures are more detailed, better proportioned, and certainly far more articulated than they have ever been. The line has already introduced a number of major players that never made it into the 2002 line, Hordak chief among them. The line has also not been afraid in the least to incorporate characters from other Masters-related concepts. We have already seen Princess Adora from the She-Ra line, and as of this writing, She-Ra herself is on the horizon. Optikk from the New Adventures of He-Man was released recently. The "urban legend", for lack of a better term, named Wun-Dar has finally been turned out as an official figure, with a full backstory. And last year's San Diego ComiCon finally brought He-Ro into the concept officially.

So, why not a giant? Yeah, really, why not? And with that, the heroic TYTUS has finally joined the Masters of the Universe Classics!

So -- how big is he? Well, the figure stands about 13" in height, despite the fact that his box says he's a 12" figure. So, how big would that make Tytus if he existed in real life? Okay -- He-Man, in comparison, stands about seven inches in height, and is not quite waist-high to Tytus. Let's assume that He-Man, if he existed in real life, would be about six feet tall. This assumes that Eternians and humans from Earth are relatively compatible, which I think is proven given that He-Man's mother, Queen Marlena, is from Earth.

By the same calculation, this would make Tytus just a bit over eleven feet tall! Wow! An oddball question -- would this be possible in real life? Well -- no. At least probably not. That's not to say there aren't some big people out there. Watch the NFL on any given Sunday during the fall and winter and you'll see plenty of big people. The WWE has among its regular superstars a fellow who goes by the name of Big Show, who's somewhere around seven feet tall, give or take, and one of his finishing moves is a direct blow to the head from his fist -- which is about the size of a human head -- pretty well knocking his opponents down and out until someone comes and gets them with a stretcher. The tallest person on record was a fellow who came close to nine feet in height, and due to the medical condition that had caused this vast height, would've kept right on growing through the rest of his life, if other health conditions related to his huge size hadn't ended his life at an early age.

And there's the rub. Real-life giants have a pretty tough time of it. They tend to get stared at because of their massive size, they find living in a world that is ultimately too small for them -- everything from furniture to doorways to cars -- exceptionally difficult, and the basic design and composition of the human body was simply not meant to accommodate such size. Gravity is not their friend.

So eleven feet? Even if it were possible, which I doubt, imagine what someone of that size would have to endure. Imagine what Tytus must have to put up with. Maybe he can walk through the drawbridge entrance of Castle Grayskull, but he's not going to get through the corridors, except maybe on his hands and knees. There's some other likely problems related to the size of certain room fixtures that I don't even want to get into. Then there's the matter of food. A Thanksgiving turkey to anyone else might as well be a roast pigeon to this guy. One would sort of have to hope that, for his own sake, Tytus is something of an outdoorsy type who's adept at hunting his own food -- like Grizzly McNuggets or some such.

So, how's the figure? Very impressive. I have seen a picture of the original Tytus, linked via the superb Masters web site he-man.org, and we can definitely operate here under the logical assumption that Tytus here is what all of the other Masters of the Universe Classics figures have proven to be -- better-proportioned, significantly more detailed, better-articulated, and overall cooler versions of their original counterparts -- not that there was anything wrong with the original line for its time.

With that in mind, Tytus certainly fits the bill of one of the Masters of the Universe. Despite his vast size, he looks otherwise entirely human, as human as He-Man. He has Caucasian skin, an entirely human face, and rather long dark blonde hair. He has fairly thick brown eyebrows, and a serious and determined expression on his face. His eyes are a grayish-blue. He has as powerful a physique as any of the Masters.

Tytus is relatively minimally dressed, again not unlike He-Man himself. He is wearing a brown fur-sculpted loincloth -- and he must've skinned that grizzly I mentioned a couple of paragraphs back to get it. He has a thick, silver and black belt around his waist, with copper highlights and a series of silver spikes around its perimeter. Tytus is wearing silver metallic boots, with copper and blue details at their top, and quite a bit of ridged detailing. He has two thick wristbands, also silver in color, with high ridges and copper ovals around their interiors.

In addition, Tytus has a headband, grey in color, with silver ridges and ovals, that also includes a nose guard of sorts. He is also wearing a large harness around his shoulders and chest. This is mostly dark gray in color, with silver rivets, a blue interior that looks armored in and of itself, and copper detailing including lightning bolds on the sides, buckles on the front, and a symbol in the middle that looks like a primitive letter "G", doubtless for Grayskull.

The sculpted and painted detailing on the figure are all superb, especially for a figure that I suspect was manufactured at the same size it was sculpted. Many action figures have their initial sculpts at a size larger than they'll actually be produced. 3-3/4" G.I. Joe figures, for example, start out as a "two-up" sculpt that's about 7-1/2" tall. Any minor imperfections in the sculpt are likely to disappear when the figure is scaled down in the mold cutting. The same is likely true of most action figures, regardless of line or company.

I tend to doubt, however, that Tytus started out as a sculpt on the high side of two feet tall! In light of that probability, all due and considerable credit should be given to the Four Horsemen sculpting and design team who created this superb-looking figure. The physique is powerful and impressive, the more intricate areas such as the hair and loincloth are carefully done, and the face is excellent.

Just as impressive is the paintwork on this figure. The body has been given a certain amount of airbrushed highlighting. This is something that can work very well if done well. It can also backfire horribly if done sloppily. In Tytus' case, it has been done exceptionally well, looks great, and really serves to enhance the sculpted detail. More specific paint applications are just as well done. The eyes are especially intricate. A series of silver rivets have been superbly well painted on the chest harness. The belt has a little bit of weathering on it, but nothing unacceptable, and the small copper details look excellent. Even the fingernails have been painted a little bit.

Alas, Tytus is not without some measure of controversy, and it has to do with the way the majority of his body was manufactured, and the consequences this has had on his articulation. Tytus is not as well articulated as a standard-size Masters of the Universe Classics figure. He IS definitely more articulated than an original Masters of the Universe figure. Tytus is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, and knees. That's not too shabby. Unfortunately, his arms and legs lack any significant outward motion, the upper arm and upper leg swivels are absent, as is ankle articulation, and the mid-torso.

So, what happened? Much of Tytus' body was created with a molding method called rotocasting. Also known in wider industry applications as centrifugal casting, it is used to create hollow pieces. In plastic molding, the process generally uses a softer plastic than is more routinely used for more rigid, and more solid, figures, such as the more standard sized Masters of the Universe figures.

This has cost Tytus none of his detail. The figure looks superb. However, a lot of fans have raised something of a ruckus over the diminished articulation, and questioned the necessity of making the Tytus figure via this method.

Mattel responded to these concerns, saying that it was necessary to keep costs down, but that unfortunately using the rotocasting method did mean that certain articulation assemblies were not possible. The alternative -- making a more solid Tytus figure by the same means as the more standard-sized Masters of the Universe Classics figures, and with full articulation, would've resulted in a figure that would have been over twice as expensive as Tytus already was, and as it was, he was twice as expensive as the more standard-sized Masters. An online poll was started, wondering how many people would have been willing to pay that high a price. Few were so inclined.

What's my personal take on this? Okay, first of all, I'm delighted to have Tytus. He looks great, he's an interesting addition to the collection, and his articulation is above that of either the original line or the 2002 line, and certainly well within, let us say, traditional standards for action figures these days, which is more than can be said about some lines. I'm NOT complaining.

At the same time, I do have to question some of this. Now, I don't pretend to have more than a passing understanding, if that, of plastic manufacturing practices. And I certainly don't have any significant understanding of the costs involved. I am reasonably prepared to take Mattel at their word.

At the same time, action figures in Tytus' size range have been produced with reasonable price tags by traditional methods before. And I don't mean G.I. Joe, although honestly, that's not a bad example. But I think a better example is a 12"+ Thor figure that came out as part of the Marvel Legends line several years ago. Unlike a 12" G.I. Joe, which has some complex workings within him and, quite frankly, nowhere near the musculature of Tytus, the Thor figure is a solid plastic figure, just about the same size and even physique of Tytus, with as good a range of articulation as a standard-size Masters of the Universe Classics figure, and he even has articulated fingers and a cloth cape! And if memory serves, he cost about thirty bucks. Not cheap, but less than Tytus, and vastly less than the proposed cost of a "solid", fully-articulated Tytus figure.

Now, Thor is not problem-free. He's so heavy that he's gotten a bit bow-legged just standing on a shelf. If I want bow-legged Masters, I'll go back and buy the originals. Nevertheless, the Thor figure is proof that a fully-articulated figure the size of Tytus is possible. Then again, Mattel has not denied this. They've simply made a claim about the costs involved.

And there's where I cannot really challenge them. Mattel has made some large action figures here and there. But none this big. Take a look at even the largest of their DC Universe Classics "Collect-and-Connect" -- Darkseid, Giganta, Atom Smasher -- they all come up distinctly short. Another side of the equation is the limited edition status of Tytus. There's some good-sized Buzz Lightyear figures out there, from Toy Story. And they're loaded with electronics, and fully poseable. But they're also likely being turned out by the hundreds of thousands, and Tytus is nowhere near that. Thor has a 2006 copyright date on his boot. I don't really need to get into what's happened economically since then.

The other area where I really cannot challenge Mattel is with regard to their comments concerning the restrictions of rotocast plastic. Would it rally have been impossible to incorporate full articulation? Personally, I think the mid-torso point would've been impossible. I'm less convinced that the upper arm swivel would have been, I'm pretty sure the ankle would have been possible, and I'm just not sure about the upper leg swivel. Granted, any of these would've required additional parts, and as such additional molds, and as such, additional expense. And in fairness, not ALL of Tytus is rotocast. The lower arms and lower legs are solid, and I believe his head, hair, hands, and loincloth use the same molding methods as most Masters figures.

So ultimately, and I'm sorry for dragging it out this long, but it HAS been a major issue regarding this figure, and I feel I did need to address it, I think it comes down to intangibles, and Mattel's word. I am not sufficiently knowledgeable, and I don't think most toy collectors are, to really know what a fully-articulated, non-rotocast figure of Tytus would actually cost Mattel to produce in this day under current economic conditions. I can draw all the comparisons to other similar products that I like. It's all speculation based on insufficient evidence. And I think the bottom line needs to be that Tytus proved to be just as popular as any other Masters figure offered by MattyCollector.Com, with people having full knowledge of how he had been made and the restrictions that this caused. A fully-articulated Tytus would've been nice. But so is the Tytus we have, and the final result is still extremely impressive.

Accessorywise, Tytus comes with a large device which, for all intents and purposes, is a giant scoop. Very high-tech looking, it's designed to cup over or scoop up standard-size Masters figures. One gets the impression that if Tytus scooped up a bad guy in this thing and took a decent wind-up with it, and let fly, the poor sap in the scoop probably wouldn't slow down until he hit escape velocity. If he was lucky.

As with all Masters figures, Tytus has his backstory printed on a scroll-like file card on the back of his box. I've found these to be highly enjoyable. His reads as follows:

TYTUS - Heroic Giant Warlord

Real Name: Tytus

The giant Tytus fought for peace alongside King Grayskull and He-Ro in the Great Wars. Originally from the mountains of Perpetua, he was forced to leave his home after his herd of dinosaurs began developing strange techno parts. He traveled across Eternia, to seek help from Grayskull's village. There he joined the king in battle against the Snake Men and the Evil Horde. After He-Ro's death, Tytus used his great strength to build King Grayskull a mighty fortress, incorporating the symbol of the Cosmic Warriors into the entrance as a tribute to his fallen comrade. He would later help construct one of the Three Towers during a temporary truce with his enemies. In the end, Tytus fell during the first Ultimate Battle Ground, heroically sacrificing his life to stop the rampaging giant Megator.

Always bothers me just a little to hear about the "death" of some character I've just bought. They did the same thing with He-Ro. Okay, they're from Eternia's distant past. Even so... just a little unnerving.

Nice reference there to the other giant, Megator, and a cool reference there to his "herd of dinosaurs" developing "techno parts" -- doubtless a reference to the three semi-cybernetic dinosaurs that did make it to the stores at the tail end of the original line.

And brother, if you're going to herd dinosaurs for a living, you'd dbetter be fifteen feet tall. Hey, pal, ever hear of sheep or cattle? They're a lot easier to work with. Sheesh!

So, what's my final word here? I'm impressed. I can understand and sympathize the concerns of some of the fans, and I certainly hope that it's not the sort of thing that becomes a trend, in either the Masters or the DC Universe Classics line. I would expect that as such time as Mattel decides to produce Megator, that he'll be much the same as Tytus. So be it, but let's leave it at that. However, I will also readily say that the impressiveness of this figure readily compensates for the reduced articulation, and the overall quality of the design, sculpt, production, and painting cannot be questioned, and he was well worth what I paid for him.

With all of that in mind, the MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of the giant TYTUS definitely has my highest recommendation!