Snake Men

King Hiss – Dreadful disguised leader of the SNAKE MEN (1986)

Co-written with Jukka Issakainen

On a family trip in 1986 I was faced with something of a dilemma. On the way to California in the car, we had stopped off at store that had a nice selection of He-Man toys, and I was told that I could pick two. I was determined that both figures be Snake Men, but which ones to get?

I  was looking at getting Kobra Khan, or perhaps the newly released King Hiss or Rattlor. I don’t remember seeing Tung Lashor at the time. After studying all three toys and their packaging intently, I concluded that King Hiss was a cool idea, but his hidden snake body wasn’t all that great looking, so I went with the other two figures instead.

The Snake Men, with Kobra Khan retconned into the faction

Design & Development

When Mattel and Filmation were working on the She-Ra Princess of Power animated series, they designed lot of characters in concert. The Evil Horde cartoon designs were meant for She-Ra’s show because the He-Man series had ended on its second season. Characters like Rattlor and Tung Lashor were created very early on. Mattel would later come up with a third evil faction, thanks to Tim Kilpin; the Snake Men, into which King Hiss was created. Rattlor and Tung Lashor served him, with Kobra Khan was retconned into the group as well.

Some additional background from James Eatock:

As for the snake Men, Rattlor and Tung Lashor were designed ahead of King Hiss (and included as Horde Villains based on their earliest designs). By the time King Hiss was completed and the Snake Men as a faction had been created, She-Ra was already in full swing.

James Eatock

Various minicomics acknowledged Rattlor and Tung Lashor working for Evil Horde and used them from there on out as King Hiss’ servants. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that King Hiss was being planned for Filmation’s He-Man or She-Ra cartoons. During the She-Ra series, Rattlor and Tung Lashor sometimes were aligned with Skeletor, and sometimes with Hordak.

In terms of play concept, King Hiss came out of a series of designs by Ted Mayer for a figure concept that would have a removable outer disguise. One of the most well-known of the unproduced concepts is a character with a removable plant-like outer shell, as shown in the image below:

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

One of Ted’s concept designs included a green-costumed monster with tangle of coiled snakes hidden beneath his costume:

Image source: http://ted-mayer.com
Another take on the hidden snake creature concept. This one has a more alien-looking disguise. Image source: Tomart’s Action Figure Digest

Ted’s concept art was quite creepy, both on the inside and on the outside. The toy design, on the other hand, was greatly toned down in comparison. The outside of the figure was given a heroic appearance. The idea was that King Hiss could trick the heroes into believing he was on their side, only to betray them and reveal the mass of snakes underneath. The mass of snakes was unfortunately limited by the constraints of having to fit inside a plastic shell depicting the human costume, so the snake part of the figure was a bit underwhelming.

King Hiss cross sell art. Image courtesy of Axel Giménez

Action Figure

The shell of the costume consisted of four parts. The front and back of the chest and head, and the two arms. The torso piece completely concealed what was underneath, but the arms were open at the back. Consequently, the backs of King Hiss’ snake arms were painted green to match the external disguise.

King Hiss was given a serpent shield and snake staff. The staff would be reused for Rattlor, Tung Lashor and Snake Face, and consequently is one of the most reused weapon designs in the MOTU line. Everything else on King Hiss was a unique piece.

On September 27, 1985, Mattel filed a patent claim on King Hiss. The inventors listed are Roger Sweet and Ted Mayer.

Packaging

King Hiss’ artwork on the back was done by an unknown artist. Uniquely, it functions like a three-panel comic, telling the story of King Hiss’ gimmick.

In Belgium, there was a special release of King Hiss that included a fold-out reversible mask in the packaging:

Characterization

The 1987 Style Guide describes King Hiss in terms of his gimmick:

Power: Disguises himself as a Heroic warrior, then peels back skin to reveal a snake creature – designed to take victims by surprise.

Style Guide
From the style guide. Artwork by Errol McCarthy

There is also a fact file on all the Snake Men in the 1989 UK MOTU Annual:

Image source: He-Man.org

Comics and Stories

In King of the Snake Men, Skeletor unleashes King Hiss from an energy pool he finds in the depths of Snake Mountain. King Hiss had apparently been trapped for thousands of years. In the story (illustrated by Bruce Timm), he teams up with Skeletor to lure He-Man into a trap:


Later in the story, King Hiss tells He-Man how thousands of years ago, he was rule of an empire of Snake Men that held dominance over several other planets. He came to Eternia and took up residence in Snake Mountain. Ultimately he was banished to another dimension by the Council of Elders, until Skeletor freed him.

In the Kid Stuff story, Battle Under Snake Mountain, King Hiss rules Snake Mountain, as if Skeletor never existed:

The Summer 1986 issue of Masters of the Universe Magazine features the story, The Armies of King Hiss. Skeletor teams up with Hiss and his Snake Men against He-Man:

King Hiss shows up in several issues of the UK Masters of the Universe Magazine as well:

King Hiss appears in the November 1986 Star Comics story, Snakes Alive! In the story, we learn that Rio Blast is terrified of Snakes, which King Hiss uses to his advantage:

“He-Ro, Land of Legend” and He-Man Newspaper Strips

The Filmation “He-Ro Land of Legend” development from 1986 has a snake man character which possibly is the one Gérald Forton designed, and later used in the newspaper comic strip story arc, “Vengeance of the Viper King”:

From the Dark Horse He-Man Newspaper Comic Strips Collection

In “Vengeance of the Viper King,” King Hiss has the unique look only when in his true form. In his disguised form, he looks on model with the action figure:

Powers of Grayskull

King Hiss was to be (apparently) a principal villain in the abandoned Powers of Grayskull line. Tyrantisaurus Rex was envisioned as his primary mount:

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation/The Art of He-Man
From The Powers of Grayskull minicomic

Artwork

King Hiss appears in poster art by both William George and Earl Norem:

Artwork by William George. Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen.
Artwork by Earl Norem

Errol McCarthy also created several illustrations of the character:

King Hiss also makes an appearance in the box art for Tyrantisaurs Rex and Turbodactyl, both illustrated on the front by Warren Hile:

King Hiss had his limitations as an action figure, but he was actually an interesting concept and pretty fun to play with.

King Hiss in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has generously shared the following image and video of King Hiss in action:

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Snake Men

Tung Lashor – Evil tongue-shooting SNAKE MEN creature (1986)

I don’t remember seeing Tung Lashor in stores as a kid, so my first memory is really from reading about him in the minicomic that came packed with Rattlor. One of the first things of course that strikes you about Tung Lashor is that, despite being a member of the Snake Men, he looks much more like a frog than a snake.

Design & Development

As for the snake Men, Rattlor and Tung Lashor were designed ahead of King Hiss (and included as Horde Villains based on their earliest designs). By the time King Hiss was completed and the Snake Men as a faction had been created, She-Ra was already in full swing.

James Eatock

The earliest known design for Tung Lashor doesn’t look like a frog creature, but it doesn’t look particularly snake-like either. This concept by Ted Mayer seems to be a demon or an imp in an acrobat costume:

Image source: The Art of He-Man/The Power and the Honor Foundation. Dated July 12, 1984.

There may or may not be some relationship with the Ted Mayer Jester design below. The costume and pose are quite similar, but otherwise the relationship between the two is unclear:

Image source: Tomart’s Action Figure Digest, courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Ted Mayer’s early design was used to create the design for the animated version of Tung Lashor, and there may have been an intermediate Mattel design along the way that was used for the Filmation model sheet below. Compared to Ted’s original design, this character lost his pointed ears and has arms and legs reminiscent of Skeletor (or at least his action figure). The color scheme roughly follows Ted’s drawing.

Image source: He-Man and She-Ra – A Complete Guide to the Animated Adventures

The final version of the design is so different from the early concept that it’s hard to find much of a connection between the two, other than the long tongue. The production figure looks quite a lot like a poison dart frog, but with sharp fangs. He has a mottled two-toned purple color scheme, with an orange front torso, and the Snake Men logo in green on his chest. He has frog like-fingers, covered in black rubber gloves. His feet look like smoother, simplified versions of the type of the feet used for Buzz-Off and Whiplash.

Tung Lashor cross sell artwork

Production Figure

Tung Lashor came with two accessories – a purple repaint of King Hiss’ staff, and a dragonfly crossbow weapon. He reuses He-Man’s trunks, but all of his other parts are newly-sculpted. His thin plastic tongue (which was painted in a rather venomous looking, two-tone green and yellow color) could be made to flick in and out by turning a dial on the figure’s back.

The first release of the figure has a dark purple design painted on its back, while subsequent releases omit the paint on the back. This was a fairly common practice in the MOTU line. Some examples: The first release Skeletor had purple trunks with a painted black belt, while later versions had a plain black belt. The first release Mer-Man had orange trunks and a green belt, while later versions had an unpainted belt.

Tung Lashor in the 1986 JCPenney Catalog. Image courtesy of RM Hart.
Tung Lashor in the 1986 JCPenney Catalog. Image courtesy of RM Hart.
Tung Lashor in the 1986 Mattel Dealer Catalog. Image source: Orange Slime.
Tung Lashor advertising line art for retailers.

Packaging

Tung Lashor was not included in any gift sets or multi-packs. The artwork on the back of his card was, in my opinion, likely illustrated by Dave Stevens, who also worked on the packaging for Moss Man and Stinkor.

Tung Lashor in Action

A photo and a short video of Tung Lashor in action, contributed by Øyvind Meisfjord:

Artwork

Tung Lashor appears in the Eternia poster and packaging art, both painted by William George:

A poster by Earl Norem included with issue 7 of Masters of the Universe Magazine features all of the snake men (including Kobra Khan, who had been retconned into that faction starting in 1986) that existed up to that point:

Tung Lashor was illustrated in several dynamic poses by frequent Mattel contributing artist Errol McCarthy. McCarthy’s art makes the character look a bit more snake-like, and may represent an earlier stage in Tung Lashor’s design evolution.

Characterization

The above illustration is from the 1987 Mattel Style Guide (which depicts the character with three-toed feet, similar to Ted Mayer’s concept), which provides Tung Lashor’s bio and characteristics:

Role: Evil Snake Men creature with the “venomous” tongue

Power: Quick-licking tongue shoots out to reach enemies in battle, inflicting a dose of vile venom.

Character Profile: This unusually mean creature possesses a truly terrible tongue. Tung Lashor is loyal to King Hiss, although he does answer to Skeletor at Times. He is an extremely brutal creature, more openly vicious than Rattlor. He cowers before King Hiss, however, like all the others. He likes to lash his tongue at just about anything, even his comrades to shake them up once in a while.

Note: Like Rattlor, Tung Lashor is a member of The Evil Horde in the Filmation shows. However, he has now become a member of the Snake Men.

There was also a fact file on Tung Lashor in the 1989 UK MOTU Annual:

Comics & Stories

In the Snake Attack minicomic, Tung Lashor takes the active speaking role in his partnership with Rattlor, although his impulsiveness gets him into trouble. Tung Lashor’s tongue in this instance isn’t exactly poisonous – it rather has the ability to paralyze his victims and cover them with some kind of hard coating.

When Rattlor and Tung Lashor are introduced in King of the Snake Men, it’s mentioned that they had been serving Hordak before King Hiss summoned them. This is a reference to their appearances on the She-Ra cartoon series (they came out too late to appear in the original He-Man series, which ended in 1985). King Hiss does not appear in the series, so the snake men are made to serve Hordak.

Tung Lashor appears in issue 7 of the US Masters of the Universe Magazine in “The Armies of King Hiss”:

Both Rattlor and Tung Lashor are wildly off model in the 1987 UK MOTU Magazine story, “Attack of the Snakemen.” Tung Lashor especially looks unrecognizable and bizarre (I first learned about this issue from James Eatock’s excellent He-Man and She-Ra Blog).

In the 1986 Kid Stuff story book/record, Battle Under Snake Mountain, Tung Lashor makes another appearance, again with the three-toed feet design.

Animation

Tung Lashor is inconsistently called Tung and Tung Lash in the Filmation She-Ra series, probably a reflection of early working names for the figure. He has a high voice and a rather adolescent-like personality, and is usually subordinate to Rattlor.

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Snake Men

Rattlor – Evil SNAKE MEN creature with the quick-strike head (1986)

Rattlor Graphic

My memory of getting Rattlor is quite vivid. It was our last summer in our Eastern Washington house, before our big move across the mountains to a rainier, more temperate part of the Pacific Northwest, and we were taking a road trip vacation to California before the move. I remember gravely weighing my options at a store along the way. I could get two toys, and I was determined that they be Snake Men.

I  was looking at getting Kobra Khan, or perhaps the newly released King Hiss or Rattlor. I don’t remember seeing Tung Lashor at the time. After studying all three toys and their packaging intently, I concluded that King Hiss was a cool idea, but his hidden snake body wasn’t all that great looking, so I went with the other two figures instead.

Rattlor (2)
Rattlor ad sheet artwork. Notice in the first illustration he is holding Skeletor’s staff and has a belt similar to Trap Jaw’s; in the second he has what appears to be an off-model King Hiss shield (thanks to Manic Man for that observation)

Design & Development

Rattlor started life as a Roger Sweet concept, although in this very early concept drawing he’s barely recognizable. As is evident in the artwork, he was to have a yellow and green color scheme and would have reused Buzz-Off’s legs and Skeletor’s arms, just like Whiplash. If you look carefully you can see the rattle at the end of his tail, without which we would have no visual cues to assume this character was based on a rattle snake. There are no obvious signs that his head was to have the pop-out action feature. This design came about sometime around 1983, at the same time Whiplash and other third wave characters were being developed, per Aidan in the comment section.

Rattlor concept Roger Sweet
Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation Catalog

Ted Mayer’s Basher concept illustrates the general idea for Rattlor’s action feature. In this illustration the character’s head is being used as a blunt weapon, but of course for Rattlor the idea was that he could quickly strike his head forward and deliver a bite.

Image source: Power and Honor Foundation

As for the snake Men, Rattlor and Tung Lashor were designed ahead of King Hiss (and included as Horde Villains based on their earliest designs). By the time King Hiss was completed and the Snake Men as a faction had been created, She-Ra was already in full swing.

James Eatock

Depictions of Rattlor in the minicomics give us a glimpse of an intermediate design. He is usually depicted with the dragon-like spines from the prototype, but with the updated scaly limbs and two-toed feet that were used in the final toy. This represents a mid-point in Rattlor’s design evolution. Most of these appearances feature the character with his final rust, cream and blue color scheme, but in his first appearance he is yellowish orange.

Production Toy

The actual toy has an elongated neck and a tail with a sculpted rattle at the end of it, but otherwise it has little in common with Sweet’s initial design, and the final toy was redesigned by John Hollis, who also worked on Extendar and Turbodactyl. The toy’s head certainly looks much more rattle snake-like than the concept artwork. Rattlor lost the spines along his back, and the final figure featured all new limbs. He came with a staff borrowed from King Hiss, but molded in brick red plastic.

In order to accommodate Rattlor’s long neck when it was recessed, his torso had to be quite large compared to most He-Man figures. His legs are relatively short, however – they’re about the size of Beast Man’s legs, but look even more undersized because of his large torso. His arms look like they were based on the He-Man’s arms (with a similar open left hand) with added scales and gloves, and slightly different musculature. Curiously, the staff is omitted in the cross sell artwork below:

Rattlor’s quick-strike action feature was activated by pushing a button on the back of his belt, revealing a long yellow (or sometimes red) neck. There were also some loose bits of plastic in the figure, so that when you shake him you hear a rattling sound.

Packaging

The artwork on the back of Rattlor’s packaging was done by an unknown artist (Jukka Issakainen pointed out that it’s not Dave Stevens, as I originally thought – it’s signed either MT or TM). The name Rattlor was trademarked by Mattel on June 17, 1985, a year before the toy’s release.

Scan by Starcrusader

Minicomics

As mentioned earlier, Rattlor’s design in most of his minicomics appearances represents an intermediate stage in his development, particularly in his first appearance in King of the Snake Men. His appearances in the last couple of minicomics of the toyline are much closer to his toy look. Throughout, he is described as a fairly typical muscle-headed henchman who rarely says much. In Snake Attack! Tung Lashor seems to be the brains, while Rattlor is the brawn. Rattlor also appears in The Ultimate Battle Ground, Revenge of the Snake Men, Energy Zoids, and The Powers of Grayskull.

When Rattlor and Tung Lashor are introduced in King of the Snake Men, it’s mentioned that they had been serving Hordak before King Hiss summoned them. This is a reference to their appearances on the She-Ra cartoon series (they came out too late to appear in the original He-Man series, which ended in 1985).

Animation

In the She-Ra series, Rattlor is usually mute, although that’s not the case in the Christmas Special, where Rattlor gets a brief line. (There are other She-Ra episodes where he is given lines as well – see the comment from SpineBear at the end of this article.) Design-wise, Filmation’s Rattlor lacks the colored strips on his arms and legs, and he’s given purple trunks and a blue belt:

Before Filmation settled on the toy-like design for Rattlor, they were using a model sheet based on Roger Sweet’s original design:

Image source: James Eatock, by way of Jukka Issakainen

Stories, Comics & Magazines

In the 1986 Kid Stuff story book/record, Battle Under Snake Mountain, Rattlor seems to be more intelligent and talks more frequently than in other media, although he seems constantly terrified of King Hiss:

Image Source: He-Man.org
Image Source: He-Man.org

Both Rattlor and Tung Lashor are wildly off model in the 1987 UK MOTU Magazine story, “Attack of the Snakemen.” Tung Lashor especially looks unrecognizable and bizarre (I first learned about this issue from James Eatock’s excellent He-Man and She-Ra Blog).

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Image Source: He-Man.org

In the MOTU newspaper story, Vengeance of the Viper King, Rattlor is also wildly off model, albeit based on line art from the Filmation She-Ra series. He appears here with green skin and no tail:

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Image Source: Dark Horse Newspaper Comic Strips
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Image Source: Dark Horse Newspaper Comic Strips

Rattlor appears in issue 7 of the US Masters of the Universe Magazine in The Armies of King Hiss:

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Artwork Appearances

The same issue features one of Earl Norem’s most iconic MOTU paintings, featuring all of the snake men (including Kobra Khan, who had been retconned into that faction starting in 1986) that existed up to that point:

William George illustrated the character in both his Eternia playset boxart and in his Eternia poster:

Artist Errol McCarthy drew Rattlor in a number of contexts, including in an illustration for the 1987 Style Guide:

Characterization

The Style Guide characterizes Rattlor this way:

Power: Can sneak up on enemies and strike with lightning speed and precision.

Character Profile: Rattlor never says much: he’d rather just hiss. He sticks close by Tung Lashor, keeping a low profile so his attacks are that much more surprising. Just before he is about to strike, Rattlor will sound his ominous battle rattle, giving his quarry the merest fraction of a second to realize his horrible fate.

Note: Filmation has positioned Rattlor as a member of The Evil Horde. For story purposes, he and Tung Lashor joined The Evil Horde when King Hiss was banished eons ago. Now that King Hiss has returned, however, Rattlor and Tung Lashor have rejoined him.

There was also a fact file on Rattlor in the 1989 UK MOTU Annual, which also says that Rattlor preferrs hissing to speaking:

Note the unusual colors scheme on Rattlor – he has blue legs and a yellow tail!

Rattlor is my favorite of the snake men. I love his Southwestern-looking color scheme, his detailed scaly skin, and of course his action features. I would have preferred a unique weapon for him, but otherwise he’s one of my favorite figures to come out in the last years of the line.

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Snake Men

Sssqueeze – Evil Long-Armed Viper (1987)

Sssqueeze graphic

I have no recollection of ever seeing Sssqueeze in stores, but by 1987 I had stopped following what was new in He-Man’s world (back in the day that meant scouting out catalogs and toy aisles rather than forums and social media). My first reaction to seeing him as an adult was that I didn’t think he fit in with He-Man at all. His head reminds me of those hollow plastic Imperial beasts you used to find everywhere. And of course his ultra-long bendy arms are incredibly goofy-looking and gimmicky.  He also reminds me of something that might have come out in the Galaxy Warriors toyline.

But, as is often the case, Sssqueeze won me over once I bought an example for myself. Yes, he’s still goofy, but he’s got some interesting and unique design elements going with his costume, and I am a sucker for his bright green, purple and orange color scheme.  It’s nice that he doesn’t reuse any parts from previous figures, although he easily could have made use of legs from Rattlor or King Hiss.

Sssqueeze is a part of the Snake Men faction (their logo in on his chest). However, like Tung Lashor, he doesn’t seem to be a snake at all. His head has looks like it was taken from some kind of dinosaur. His long arms are certainly snake-like, but otherwise he seems to be a distant cousin of the Snake Men who decided to join in on their fun.

Sssqueeze’s early working name was Tanglor. The concept art below shows the character with a rather oversized head, and some black paint behind the Snake Men symbol, but otherwise it’s pretty close to the final toy, which was sculpted by Eddy Mosqueda:

Tanglor concept
“Tanglor” concept art. Image source: The Art of He-Man
Squeeeze axel
Cross sell artwork courtesy of Axel Giménez. The artwork is faithful to the look of the final toy.

The figure itself had flexible rubber arms with internal metal wires to maintain their position, similar to Gumby toys. The arms could be rotated within the figure’s hard plastic body, or even slid from side to side, giving the character two arms of different lengths. He had the familiar spring loaded waist, but given the weight of his upper body, it moves rather sluggishly.

page_147
Sssqueeze in Mattel’s 1987 Dealer Catalog (image via Orange Slime)

The artwork on the back of Sssqueeze’s card was done by the prolific Errol McCarthy, and I believe the artwork on the front was done by Bruce Timm.

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Sssqueeze instr
sssqueezecardback
Image via Grayskull Museum
sssqueezevsrioblastextendar_full
Image via He-Man.org

McCarthy also illustrated the character for use on a T-shirt and also for the 1987 Style Guide.

According to the Style Guide, Sssqueeze “entangles foes with his powerful constrictor snake arms. Sssqueeze just can’t keep his long arms off any enemy. As soon as a fight starts, he’s in the thick of things, wrapping up the first warrior he gets a grip on.”

There is also a fact file on Sssqueeze in the 1989 UK MOTU Annual:

Image source: He-Man.org

Squeeze plays a fairly major role in two mini comics released in 1987 – Revenge of the Snake Men! and Energy Zoids. In the former he goes by his working name, Tanglor.  At the behest of King Hiss, Snake Face, “Tanglor” and Blast Attak launch an assault on the royal palace, nearly succeeding in overthrowing all the heroic warriors there.

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In Energy Zoids, Sssqueeze helps Skeletor capture Rotar, but ultimately becomes Rotar’s weapon as he unleashes his attack against Twistoid.

Sssqueeze works for Hordak in issue 8 of the Star Comics Masters of the Universe series, where he faces off against He-Man, who is equipped with his Scubattack accessory (images via He-Man.org).

In the Fall 1988 issues of the US Masters of the Universe Magazine, Skeletor sends Sssqueeze, Blast Attak, Snake Face and Ninjor to capture King Randor, who has been stranded in the desert.  He-Man defeats the villains with little difficulty (images via He-Man.org).

The same issue comes with a poster painted by the legendary Earl Norem. In the scene, He-Man faces off against Snake Face and Ninjor, while Clamp Champ takes on Blast Attak. Sssqueeze holds King Randor captive at the top of a cliff.

Norem sssqueeze Fal 1987

The Winter 1988 issue features a puzzle made from a tangle of Sssqueeze arms.

winter 1988 magazine puzzle
Image source: He-Man.org

Issue 7 of the 1988 German Ehapa Verlag comic series came with a poster by Esteban Maroto, featuring Sssqueeze, Snake Face and Blade:

8807 maroto

Sssqueeze also appears in William George’s Preternia poster:

Preternia_1


Sssqueeze is certainly one of the goofiest characters in the MOTU line, but also one of the most fun to play with. He’s certainly the most poseable, and works great as a desk toy.

sssqueeze ad art

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