REVIEW: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS WUN-DAR
There's no shortage of "urban legends", even in the toy world. Unproduced toys, canceled toys, rumored toys. It is at once fascinating and frustrating, since many of these are toys that would have been most welcome, had they come out, but alas, in many cases, all we have is, at best, photographic evidence of probable prototypes that never reached mass production.
Easily one of the greatest weird mysteries in the history of action figures has to be Wun-Dar, or, as he was once known, "Wonder Bread He-Man". According to -- well, legend and a few debatable photographs -- maybe not as debatable as some of those of Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, but you get the idea -- a few figures, perhaps sample figures, have turned up from the original Masters of the Universe line, that show a brown-haired He-Man with a black belt and black boots. None of these have shown He-Man wearing his traditional harness. A few have shown the figure wearing a black version of Zodac's chest armor, but it's thought that this was some sort of customization.
Supposedly, this was a variant He-Man figure that was going to be released through some sort of promotion with Wonder Bread -- hence the name, "Wonder Bread He-Man". The only problem with that is -- Wonder Bread has long denied ever having or even planning such a promotion.
Let's face it, folks, you could bring in Mulder and Scully on this one, and after twenty minutes, they'd be happy to go back to studying UFO's and government conspiracies.
Whatever the truth may be -- or whether (dare I say it), "The truth is out there", Mattel has decided to have a little bit of fun with this urban action figure legend, and has added this mysterious character, finally officially, to the Masters of the Universe Classics line-up, with the somewhat comical but semi-tribute name of "Wun-Dar".
Even then, this was not an easy figure to get. You had to have subscribed to MattyCollector's "Club Eternia", which pretty much guaranteed that you would receive most of the Masters of the Universe Classics figures offered within a one-year period. Wun-Dar was a bonus figure offered to subscribers. You couldn't even buy him through MattyCollector.Com.
I'll admit, I didn't subscribe. This is nothing against MattyCollector.Com or Mattel. I've just never been that fond of subscriptions. I am certainly disinclined to subscribe to something like "Club Eternia" that is going to automatically for a figure each month. Yes, I want the figures, but I want to know for myself that the money is available for them. Yes, it's a pain in the neck to get on the Web Site each month and order them individually, getting caught up in the "traffic jams" on the Web Site (although to their credit, I think the idea of setting the page up to refresh itself until it punches through is actually a good one), but I'd still rather know that I have physically, personally ordered each individual figure. That's just the way I am. There's a limit to how far I trust technology, automation, and computers, and it's probably a lot more a limit than most people these days.
This, however, left me high-and-dry as far as Wun-Dar was concerned. And I really did want to bring him into my Masters collection, too. But, since there was no way to obtain him directly, this is where the "secondary market" had to come into play.
A few online toy stores did manage to secure minimal supplies of Wun-Dar. And they blew through them so fast that I can well imagine that their supplies of figures turned up just long enough for them to slap new shipping labels on them and pack them right back out in the same truck that had just dropped them off. I suspect some people probably missed out on these just because it took too long to type their mailing addresses on the order form.
So much for Plan "B". Well, there's always a certain well-known auction site, which is where I wound up, and even THEN, it took me three tries, and those were on "Buy It Now" listings, before I finally got one within my budgetary limitations.
I received shipping notification, and paid very close attention to the mailbox on what I suspected was the day Wun-Dar would most likely arrive. Fortunately, Wun-Dar arrived as expected and in good order.
So, after all of that -- how's the figure? Really very cool. I'll admit, that there's a bit of "what the!?" to him, since he does look very much like the "Wonder Bread He-Man", as well he's supposed to, and technically speaking, that's not a "character" that was ever integrated into the concept. While the Masters of the Universe Classics line is open to bringing in characters from the original Masters, the 2002 concept, the world of She-Ra, and even the "New Adventures" line -- and in fact we have had characters from all of these areas brought into the toy line, they are, one and all, established characters. Maybe this is the first time that Count Marzo has gotten an action figure. Maybe this is the first time the Optikk has encountered Webstor or Mer-Man. But they're still all established characters in the history of the combined concepts. Wun-Dar, in a very strange way, represents a new character that is based on a toy that never officially was produced. There's a certain weirdness there, as such.
Obviously, the figure uses the same molds as He-Man. Of course, the Masters of the Universe Classics figures do a lot of mold-sharing, so both He-Man and Wun-Dar have shared their body molds with a host of other figures, even including the head, which was used to make Faker. I'll admit, this is one of the things that has drawn me to the Masters of the Universe Classics line. It's the same reason I especially like the DC Universe Classics line -- which is also produced by Mattel and designed by the same sculpting and design team -- the Four Horsemen. It's something called CONSISTENCY, and it's not something that's seen nearly enough in the action figure world these days.
Wun-Dar, like his legendary predecessor, looks like He-Man except for the coloration. The skin tone is the same, but Wun-Dar has brown hair, a black belt, black boots, and black wristbands. The loincloth is still brown. It's amazing how much the darker colors of the hair and the clothes make him look quite unlike He-Man. That and the absence of the harness.
Of course, one would expect Mattel to put some additional detail onto the figure, and they have certainly done so. The straps on the boots are actually a very dark gray, and there is some dark silver metal streaking on the belt and wristbands. I'm normally not too fond of this sort of thing, but it's used very judiciously and minimally here, so it works well enough. The left wrist piece actually has brown straps.
The paint detailing around the face is excellent. Wun-Dar has blue-eyes and brown eyebrows, all very neatly painted. The hair is actually a separate piece attached during assembly.
Wun-Dar is wearing a black version of Zodac's harness. As I indicated earlier, it's somewhat debatable as to whether the "official" version of the original Wun-Dar, if there can be said to be such a thing, would have included this accessory, but I am pleased that it has been included here, since it certainly adds something to the overall look of the figure. And, interestingly enough, the white sculpted area near the top of the chest piece does look something like a stylized "W".
The harness is molded in black, as opposed to the traditional red for either Zodac or Zodak (and if you want that explained, go read their reviews), but there's a bit of painted detail on it. Along with the white emblem on the front, there are these little cartridges or something along the side straps, that have been painted in dark gray. And there are a few portions on the back of the harness that have been given some gray trim.
But then there's the one painted detail on the back that just about put me into hysterics. The back of the harness looks something like a jet pack, which for Zodac perhaps is not inappropriate. Not so workable for Wun-Dar, but there's this circular section near the base of the back of the harness that looks like the end of a jet. Clearly, though, that is not its intended purpose. As to what specific purpose it might serve for Wun-Dar I can't really guess, but I know what purpose it served for Mattel, and I can certainly see why they decided to put it on the back of the figure, so that you'd have to take him out of his package in order to see it. There's a white circle there, with three smaller circles within it, in a triangle formation. Those circles are red, blue, and yellow.
So, what's the big deal? Next time you're in a grocery store, go over to the bread aisle and look at a package of Wonder Bread. Although the design has changed since the 1980's, certain basic particulars have remained the same -- doubtless since long before Masters of the Universe ever existed in any form . Wonder Bread's bread wrappers tend to be mostly white, and they use a lot of circles in their design -- circles that follow the primary colors of red, blue, and yellow...
I am sure that Mattel was careful to design this little emblem so as to not cause any legal ire on Wonder Bread's part. But given the history of the figure, there's no way this wasn't a bit of an acknowledgment of his reported origins -- although I can see why they'd put this on the BACK of the figure.
Now, I'll admit, I found myself wondering what sort of storyline they were going to create for Wun-Dar. I half-expected Mattel to go completely comedic with this, and make him the official Royal Baker to King Randor or something, and in his spare time he goes out and fights Skeletor alongside He-Man when there's a particular need. But, that's not the case. Indeed, Mattel came up with an impressive origin for Wun-Dar that at once explains why he was never seen in any of the animated adventures, ties him in with another rather obscure character that's been turned into a figure, and still lets him be a hero in the line of He-Man. I have very much appreciated the backstories that Mattel has crafted, for the first official time ever, and presented on the scroll-like "file cards" on the back of the packaging. Wun-Dar's is superb, and reads as follows:
WUN-DAR - The Savage He-Man
One hundred years before Prince Adam was born, Wun-Dar, a warrior from deep in the savage underground city of Tundaria, rescued a young woman who turned out to be The Goddess of Eternia. She provided him with cosmic battle armor and a sophisticated ray gun that could tap into almost unlimited power. The Goddess tasked Wun-Dar to protect both halves of the Sword of He and keep them apart lest they fall into the hands of evil. Like many warriors before him, Wun-Dar became known as "the He-Man", battling in a savage way to keep evil from obtaining the key to the great power hidden inside the long forgotten Castle Grayskull.
Okay, that all reads well, and it makes sense. It puts Wun-Dar in a different time period, links him to The Goddess, another somewhat unusual character, and also explains why his armor resembles Zodac's as much as it does.
Among Wun-Dar's accessories are -- well, one and a half swords, both resembling He-Man's own, but with black hilts, a black version of Zodac's ray gun (which if memory serves has been seen as an accessory for the original "Wonder Bread He-Man", but this might be the same sort of questionable extrapolation as the black Zodac harness), and -- just to throw one more Wonder Bread reference into the mix, Wun-Dar comes with -- a loaf of bread. I believe its official designation is "Eternian Baked Good". But it's a loaf of bread. It doesn't really look like a loaf of Wonder Bread. It's about the right size, scale-wise, for a fairly typical loaf of bread. Rather heavy. It's a rather dark brown. Maybe it's the Eternian equivalent of pumpernickel. It has a puffy top, with several splits along it. Apparently the Eternians have yet to discover the secret of sliced bread, or at least they hadn't in Wun-Dar's time and place. Still, it's an amusing addition. When's the last time an action figure came with an accessory that represented food!? I honestly can't recall.
Wun-Dar also comes with one other, very impressive item. A MAP OF ETERNIA. Now, I honestly wasn't entirely sure what to expect here. I initially thought that this might be some tiny, scroll-like item, to scale with the figures, that could be unfurled and maybe nailed to the wall of Castle Grayskull, but which would require a microscope for an actual person to read.
Boy, was I wrong. It's a full-sized, human-scaled map, folded in sixths. Unfolded, it measures about 30" x 20". I don't know who the illustrator is, but it's been drawn in a rather classical style, looking somewhat like maps from the days of oceanic exploration on Earth, of some centuries ago. The map has a distinct goldish tone to it, with an ornate border, and the inscription "Eternia during the Reign of King Randor".
There is no scale to the map, so it's impossible to determine how large Eternia actually is. I suspect it's a representative map as much as anything, since for the most part, it just hits the high points of known Eternian geography. The map is a little more simplified than I might like, but it makes its necessary points well.
Eternia is divided into two hemispheres, represented by two intersecting circular areas on the map. There is the Light Hemisphere, and the Dark Hemisphere. The Light Hemisphere appears to have the bulk of the land mass, with what could be described as two continents connected by a fairly slender region, in its own way not unlike North and South America. A third connection links it to the major continent of the Dark Hemisphere, which is not quite two continents, but does have two wider areas and a slightly narrower one. Interestingly, there is no point at which the major land masses are disconnected from each other, although there are a few large islands here and there.
The main features on the Light Hemisphere include the Ice Mountains at the very top, with a region called Stilia. Further down what I will call the northern continent are areas noted as the Plains of Perpetua, the Village of Pelleezeea, Zodak's Mountain, Avion (Stratos' home), Andreenos, Mystic Mountain, the Tar Swamp, and the Underground City of Tundaria.
To reach the southern continent, it is necessary to cross through the Vine Jungle and the Evergreen Forest. At the southern tip of this is Castle Grayskull. Also noted on the map is the Grave of He-Ro. A blank area indicates the former location of the Hall of Wisdom. Southeast of this is Eternos Palace (home of Randor), and the Village of Veridas to the west. South of this is the Southern Plain and finally the southern polar ice cap.
The route to the Dark Hemisphere is certainly unpleasant looking. If you take the eastern path from the Evergreen Forest, you come to the Sands of Time, followed by the Sands of Fire. This leads to the ruins of the Temple of Hordak, north of which is an unmarked but very unpleasant-looking mountain. Directly east of this is the Valley of the Dragons. South of that region are the Dunes of Doom, and Mount Barathrum. Continue to the easternmost part of the region and you finally hit Snake Mountain, from which the Blood River and the Death Channel seem to flow. Other highlights on the continent include the Ruins of Zelesia and the Corridors of Lithos.
The three main bodies of water on Eternia are named the Harmony Sea, the Sea of Rakash, and the Ocean of Gnarl. The only major water-based highlight on the map is a region marked Mer-Man's Lair. However, there are several islands, mostly in the Light Hemisphere, marked the Golden Isles, where Anwat Gar is located, Orkas Island, and the Berserk Islands, which are closest to the Dark Hemisphere.
It's an interesting map, although it does leave the overall proportions of Eternia open to interpretation. Studying the map, one realizes that all those times Skeletor left Snake Mountain to attack King Randor's kingdom, the easiest flight path would've been over the Ocean of Gnarl. Sort of makes one wonder how He-Man got to Snake Mountain sometimes when he wasn't using a flying vehicle. Battle Cat must be a better swimmer than we thought.
The map is printed on heavy-stock glossy paper, but I have been told that it should be unfolded carefully, as it can split along its seams. So far, I have not had this problem. There is a scroll-like origin for Eternia itself printed on one section of the back -- which is a nice touch -- and it reads as follows:
ETERNIA - ANCIENT PLANET OF MYSTERY AND POWER
Gifted with the Wisdom of Ages, the Elders of Grayskull secretly knew that the twin warriors of the Great Prophecy would one day be born on their planet. Therefore, they made a secret bargain with Trolla. In return for keeping the Power Sword of He on Eternia was to join the Cosmic Enforcers, beings tasked with maintaining neutrality throughout the Universe. The sword was then split in two and hidden, awaiting a time when worthy heirs would reclaim it, channeling its power and their wisdom to transform into heroic Masters of the Universe, fulfilling the prophecy to defeat the Horde Empire and restore peace to the Universe.
Impressive reading, if a little vague in some areas -- as one might expect. It does manage to make mention of Orko's homeworld of Trolla, as well as explaining something of where Zodac came from.
So, what's my final word here? Okay. Wun-Dar is not going to be easy to find, or inexpensive when you do. But in my opinion, he's worth it. He's a cool figure, representing the fulfillment of a very quirky point in Masters of the Universe history that, in my opinion, has never been conclusively explained or resolved. And probably never will be. He comes with some cool accessories, a cool nod or two to his purported origins, and he's been given a backstory that makes sense with the growing legend coming out of the scroll cards on the back of the Masters of the Universe Classics figures.
And the Map of Eternia is impressive, as well. When you decide to track down Wun-Dar, make sure he comes with the map. Not all offerings I have seen do so. And, in fact, the Map is available separately. But I would certainly recommend getting both.
The MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of WUN-DAR, and the MAP OF ETERNIA, definitely have my highest recommendation!