In the comments of my recent fifth anniversary post, P.J. Gathergood suggested that I make a personal 10 favorite figures post to commemorate. Usually my posts tend to be more informational than personal, but I thought this might be a nice change of pace.
It’s actually really hard to whittle down a list of favorites to just 10. To make it a little more interesting I’ve decided to rule out He-Man and Skeletor and their variants, otherwise they would take up a lot of this list. Typically a figure is going to make my top 10 list for two reasons – I have strong, positive memories of it from my childhood and it has a really strong visual design. I’m not even going to try to order these, I don’t think I could do it!
Ram Man was an early favorite of mine. I want to say I had the figure in hand before I saw him on the Filmation cartoon, because I remember reading his minicomic and trying to suss out what Ram Man was all about. Lots of people don’t like the figure because he feels a little cheap (he’s hollow and has very little articulation owing to his spring-activated ramming feature). But I loved his shiny metal armor and his ramming feature. Visually he just clicked with me right away. I remember thinking the literal spring legs he was given in the Filmation cartoon were a little over the top, but I always perked up when Ram Man was on the screen.
Beast Man was one of the first four MOTU figures that entered our house, along with He-Man, Skeletor and Man-At-Arms. Beast Man belonged to my brother, but right away I was drawn to his vivid color scheme and beastly appearance, particularly his face with the big fangs and blue and white coloring (whether it’s meant to be face paint or his natural coloring, I’m not sure). I recall having a lot of fun taking his armor on and off, and he was a great villain for He-Man to clobber.
I clearly remember playing with Teela as a child. I don’t know if that means I owned her, or if she belonged to a sibling, but her gold and white costume and mysterious rust-red snake armor were etched into my brain from an early age. To me her iconic look will always be her with the red snake armor, which had that mysterious and magical quality that permeated the first wave of MOTU figures.
Clawful was an instant hit with me as a kid. I distinctly remember the existential agony of having to choose between him and Whiplash at the store. Ultimately I went with Clawful. That giant bright red snapping claw was just impossible for me to resist. I’ve always liked the “beast” themed figures. In the first wave we got a fish man, an ape man, and a (sort-of) bird man. That wasn’t repeated in the second wave, but it came back with a vengeance in the third wave.
After we got the first four figures in our house in 1982, I was eagerly looking for what other figures were available in the line. The one that caught my eye the most was Mer-Man. And while the figure itself was significantly different compared to its cross sell artwork, I loved the figure from the moment I got it, and it remains probably my all-time favorite to this day. Why is that? It’s hard to quantify, but it has a lot to do with his coloring and his headsculpt. I want to say I got him around the same time as Zoar, but of course childhood memories are always a bit fuzzy.
Why do I like Stinkor so much? He is after all just a cheap Mer-Man repaint with Mekaneck’s armor. But then again, I love Mer-Man, so maybe this is just a way for me to count him twice! My memories of playing with Stinkor as a kid are permanently etched in my brain, and that probably has a lot to do with his smell. What Stinkor lacked in originality, he made up for in his strong, faux-skunk odor. I don’t think I noticed he was a repaint at first, but it became clear once I removed his armor!
Stinkor quickly dominated my toy area. As soon as I opened the box where I stored my collection of He-Man and G.I. Joe figures, I was immediately hit in the face with the evil odor of Stinkor, a sharp and pungent reminder of his existence, even when he wasn’t immediately in sight. Aside from all that, he has a striking color scheme and works as a great character in his own right.
Man-At-Arms was one of those first core figures that I had in the house. Like Beast Man, there was a lot of fun to be had in just messing around with his various bits of armor. I usually used him as a victim for Skeletor, just as Beast Man was a punching bag for He-Man. I had a version very much like the one above, with a lighter green costume, red dots on the helmet, and a light blue belt. It doesn’t get more “core” MOTU than this guy.
Leech represented a gruesome new direction for the MOTU line embodied by the Evil Horde. They were a bizarre collection of freaks and monsters, and the one that caught my imagination the most was Leech. A monster with a suction cups for hands, feet and even his face was terribly creepy to me, in the best way possible. I spent as much time playing with his suction cup feature as I did just admiring his bizarre design.
As I mentioned previously, I had a tough time choosing between Clawful and Whiplash as a kid. Ultimately I went with Clawful, but it could have gone either way. I remember getting the comic that came with Clawful, and it prominently featured Whiplash in the story. FOMO wasn’t really a term that was used in 1984, but I had it bad. I had to have that lizard guy with the tail! I remember spending a lot of time playing with Whiplash despite that, so I think I was either able to borrow one from a friend or get my own later.
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 had a pretty fun action feature with his pop-out head, and the “rattle” was a nice touch too. I also appreciate the detailed scales all over his snake-like body.
And those are my top 10! I could have easily turned this into a top 20. There is no shortage of amazing figures in the Masters of the Universe lineup!