Masters of the Universe Classics Mer-Man, released in April of 2009 and again as a blue variant in November of 2010, is still, for me, the best figure ever released in the Classics toyline. Part of that is certainly the painstakingly accurate reproduction of Mer-Man as he appeared in the vintage cross sell artwork, but part of it also is the shading and detail on the figure itself.
The main source material for the Classics Mer-Man (green version) is explicitly the vintage cross sell artwork. It’s nearly a perfect reproduction of that depiction, and a passion project for Eric Treadaway of the Four Horsemen. The details reproduced from the artwork include:
- Color and shape of the gloves
- Four-fingered hands, with open left hand
- Bare feet with smooth, yellow shin guards
- Yellow loin cloth
- Yellow detail on face
- Large eyes
- Upward pointed fins on the head
- Sculpted gills around the neck
- Wide chest armor with enlarged spikes
- More detailed sword (the Classics version is more detailed still than the source material)
The figure was augmented beyond the source material with some colored gems on the armor and some additional shading throughout the figure. There are some nods to the vintage figure as well. The most obvious one of course, is the second head, sculpted after the vintage figure, but also the green belt, which was featured on early releases of the 1982 toy.
It should be noted that in some respects the Classics vintage style head is somewhat less detailed compared to the original vintage head. The vintage head has fins that terminate in individual protuberances, while the fins on the Classics head are rounded at the ends, and more closely resemble ears.
There is one nod to the 2002 Mer-Man figure as well – the trident accessory. Of course the 2002 figure is also influenced by the vintage cross sell art, particular in the head sculpt:
The blue version of Mer-Man that came packed with Aquaman is supposed to resemble Mer-Man as he appeared in the earliest minicomics illustrated by Alfredo Alcala. That version was based on early concept art by Mark Taylor and an early prototype sculpted by Tony Guerrero.
The color scheme is similar to the minicomic version (blue skin, blue and yellow sword, full yellow boots), but it borrows wholesale the sculpt of the original green release of Mer-Man. It doesn’t have the unique boots, gloves, belt and other details of the minicomic/concept version, so it actually winds up looking like earlier versions of the cross sell artwork, which featured a blue-skinned Mer-Man:
This Mer-Man also has the green belt of the vintage toy. Note also that early concept art gave Mer-Man copper/gold/ accents on parts of his costume, which didn’t end up in the minicomic artwork.
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5 thoughts on “MOTU Classics Mer-Man”
Mer-Man remains one of my favorite figures in the Classics line, as well. (I think Trap Jaw probably stands as the single greatest figure, though, if I had to choose one!) Like many kids, I spent a lot of time wishing my Mer-Man figure more closely resembled his appearance in the early minicomics and the cross-sell art. The 2002 figure was a great step in that direction, and I loved the sculpt, but the MOTUC version is the apotheosis of the cross-sell Mer-Man. The figure is also an example of how the early releases in the MOTUC line were nicer in a few ways that many later releases simply weren’t. Most of them had nice paint washes and airbrushed highlights that were mostly absent after the first couple of years.
Yes! It’s a shame that the nice airbrush shading was cut down after the first couple of years in the Classics line. Those years did have some issues (lots of swapped limbs) but also some of the finest looking figures. On the other hand they were also very hesitant to sculpt new parts if existing parts were “close enough”. And of course those early figures didn’t have the fat armor problem that developed later.
Ugh, the fat armor issue… I know they had some designers come and go during the line’s life, but it’s still baffling to me that they couldn’t simply look at how it was done early on and duplicate that method to avoid that problem! It was a persistent problem for far too long.
The swapped limbs is another thing that happened far too frequently. My default He-Man is still the original release (albeit with the Alcala head) with the swapped shoulders, and those, at least, aren’t really noticeable. Some of the later ones were a much bigger deal, though. (Except for Stinkor, since they TOTALLY did that on purpose for aesthetic reasons! Right…)
The use of torso overlays instead of newly-sculpted torsos was a big issue in some cases, too. Intergalactic Skeletor was hurt most by it, I think. I do like that practice in general, though, especially on the female figures. (Not that that has anything to do with Mer-Man, it just came to mind along with the other issues mentioned.)
Back to Mer-Man, I love the standard figure, but I still want a full-on Mark Taylor version with the unique boots, scaly diaper, and seed pod thingies!
Re: Fat armor. It was a weird problem that got worse over time. I noticed too that armor started to get asymmetrical.
I can’t deal with swapped limbs. I had a Skeletor with swapped shoulders, had to sell him even though he was very nice otherwise. Had to fix Stinkor too. The weird forearms bugged the heck out of me.
Yeah, IG Skeletor had a ton of issues. Fat “skin” armor – maybe swapped shoulders too? I don’t remember.
Anyway, I would love a full on series of Mark Taylor inspired versions. Mer-Man would be at the top of that list!
I generally can’t tolerate swapped limbs either, the shoulders on He-Man are an exception. I had him (and the original King Grayskull before him) for months before anyone even noticed. In general though, I have to fix it. I never got Stinkor, as he was release during the few years where I was bad enough off financially that I couldn’t collect the line, but if I had him, I’d have to do a forearm swap and repaint the arms to match the stripe pattern afterward. There was an early female figure– I think it was Teela– who arrived with swapped forearms as well, and I had to switch hers because it was bugging the hell out of me.
The MOTUC line has been so diverse that my top two remaining wants are things I know will almost certainly never happen: That Mark Taylor concept art line, and a full-on Alcala line. The heads we got are nice, and something I thought for years we’d never get, but I want full figures in his style!