Masters of the Universe fans are still reeling from the umpteenth cancellation of another planned live action film project starring the inhabitants of Eternia. The only solace for this pop culture disappointment is to be found in the warm embrace of childhood nostalgia. After all, the MOTU franchise wasn’t built for the big screen, but endless imaginary battles staged on the living room floor. Selecting your favorite figures for playtime was part of the fun and that’s why we’re about to offer up the 10 Best Vintage Masters of the Universe Figures.
As an 80’s kid I was all in on He-Man from ages 3-5, playing with figures like Rokkon & Stonedar, Sy-Klone, Tongue Lashor, Evil-Lynn and Spikor. But like many of my peers, my He-Man fandom didn’t extend into the late 80’s once a certain quartet of sewer dwelling mutant teens arrived on the scene. He-Man was powerful, but the Turtles were radical!
However, a few years back my younger cousin, JT discovered some vintage Masters of the Universe figures at our Grandma’s house that captured his imagination. Over the last 6 years, this young man has been on a quest to collect all the Mattel MOTU figures through ebay auctions, annual trips to PowerCon, exploring antique stores and other purveyors of old school awesomeness. Needless to say, the kid knows his stuff.
Being aware of his expertise, I had to bring J-TOR (as a I call him) in on this article and in fact, this list is based on his enthusiasm for the line. What follows are J-TOR’s selections of the best figures from Mattel’s original Masters of the Universe toy line, with commentary from his perspective. After which I shall magically appear like the Sorceress to chime in with my own thoughts.
10) Rio Blast
J-TOR: All the hidden weapons on the figure are a really cool gimmick and the idea of a southern cowboy character in the MOTU universe is hilarious.
Adam: There was nothing that signified machismo more in the 80’s than a big, bushy mustache. That was the first thing I noticed when I pulled Rio Blast out of my friend’s toy bin as a child to admire his manly visage. I agree with J-TOR that the hidden guns are super fun and I loved when the gimmick was “borrowed” by the C.O.P.S. N’ Crooks line for the gangster villain, Buttons McBoom-Boom. Plus, I can still hear the toy commercial announcer declaring emphatically, “They call him Blast…Rio Blast!”, with the urgency of a motocross event happening on SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY!
J-TOR: It’s modular so you can turn it into anything you want.
Adam: When the idea for this article was first offered to me by The Retro Network, Modulok was the first figure that came to mind. It seemed revolutionary at the time to include so many interchangeable parts, for seemingly endless combinations. Plus, the two-headed design worked better for this character than on the goofy looking, Two-Bad. On a side note: Modulok always personified what a Martian would look like in my mind. Definitely one of the best.
J-TOR: I love the movie and the spark feature is pretty cool.
Adam: In just 2 minutes of screen time, Saurod really made an impact. To be honest, I would have preferred to see Karg get vaporized by Skeletor and watch this awesome reptilian bounty hunter chase Courtney Cox around an overly tinseled high school gymnasium while Beast Man drooled all over the basketball court. I don’t think Mattel’s figure quite captures the awesomeness of the character as seen on screen, but it’s just amazing that these movie characters got produced at all.
7) Dragon Blaster Skeletor
J-TOR: I believe at least one Skeletor should be on this list and Dragon Blaster Skeletor so happens to be my favorite version. It has a pretty cool water shooting feature and a real chain.
Adam: If I’m being honest, this Skeletor fails to project the dangerous aura I’m sure he was going for by strapping a spitting dragon/snake on his back. The chains make him look like he’s already a prisoner of Castle Grayskull and the breastplate looks like surplus armor he took off the corpse of an old enemy in the Snake Mountain dungeon. The late Joan Rivers would have torn his fashion faux pas to shreds if this villain dared to walk the red carpet in this eery ensemble.
J-TOR: The amount of accessories and soft goods that this figure has makes it one of the best for me.
Adam: It’s just a ninja. There were so many generic ninjas to be found in toy aisles in the 80’s and Ninjor does nothing to set himself apart from the other masked martial arts assassins that were part of the Rambo or the Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos lines. The cloth outfit does make him unique amongst the rest of the Masters of the Universe figures, but The Karate Kid toys had removable cloth clothing too, so he still gets no points from me.
5) Clamp Champ
J-TOR: It’s just a guy with a huge clamp and that makes him super cool to me.
Adam: It’s interesting that J-TOR put Ninjor and Clamp Champ so close together on this list, since they were adversaries in the TV commercial that promoted the figures. I remember well the hall of mirrors that Clamp Champ made his way through by crushing the reflective barriers with his mighty clamp. I’ve always liked the simple color scheme of the red, blue & silver that just screams “HERO”. Plus the clamp weapon accessory could be used as a snack delivery utensil. Just imagine the fun of grabbing a Fig Newton or Giggles cookie out of the tray with those little plastic pinchers!
4) Scare Glow
J-TOR: It’s one of the rarest figures in the line and the glowing feature is really cool.
Adam: It’s hard to deny how impressive Scare Glow looks with his cape and staff, so majestic. But even without his accessories, the guy looks like a member of the Cobra Kai who actually needed a body bag when Mister Miyagi rescued Daniel-San and has now returned from the grave for revenge. The rarity of the figure is a factor for me, since I never knew he existed as a kid. It’s only in recent years that I learned about this glowing ghoul from various retro blogs and YouTube channels. I feel like Mattel should have built an entire line around the glowing gimmick with Scare Glow leading the pack. Total missed opportunity.
J-TOR: He is one of the highlights of the cartoon and has a cool ripcord feature.
Adam: This was without a doubt my favorite Masters of the Universe toy as a kid. Orko was meant to appeal to the youngest viewers of the cartoon series and Filmation definitely won my heart with this bumbling court magician. Aside from the spinning action, I loved the fact that Orko’s hat was removable, because it meant that I was one step closer to seeing his real face. That shadowy mystery endeared me to the character all the more each time I tuned in to a new episode. It should be mentioned that J-TOR has a great Orko costume that he’s worn to Power Con in the past.
J-TOR: He-Man is one of the most iconic action figures of the 1980’s and I don’t believe the list is complete without this figure. I think the original has to be my favorite variation.
Adam: The one that started it all. The texture of the raised bumps on the shield were always my favorite part of playing with the standard He-Man, but he was also so chewable! I distinctly remember chewing on his battle axe and tiny fingers in between play sessions. I know I’m not the only one, since I’ve come across several munched-on Masters of the Universe figures at thrift stores over the years. What was it about these toys that made them bound for biting? As much as I can’t deny the power of the original, I’ll always be more partial to Battle Armor He-Man. That rotating chest plate design with the “H” always felt more iconic to me.
1) Moss Man
J-TOR: I’m sure my number one pick is a little bit weird, but I think this action figure perfectly symbolizes the original Masters of the Universe toy line. Goofy characters and reused parts. Moss Man is just so “He-Man” to me. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but this has always been one of my favorite action figures of all time. I can’t forget to mention the flocking that the action figure has, as well as the moss scent, which smells more like pine tree air fresheners.
Adam: I really agree that Moss Man was one of a kind in a line that had a lot of creativity infused throughout. Fuzzy, smelly and snarling like a feral lunatic makes this “Master of Camouflage” a real winner. What truly signifies the special nature of Moss Man however, is the fact that the Horde Slime Pit instructions singled him out, along with Grizzlor and Panthor as NEVER to be used with what was every 80’s Mom’s least favorite playset. In my head-canon, it’s because he was immune to the hypnotizing powers of the Evil Horde Slime, so why bother trying to slime him. Moss Man could not be turned into a goo-covered zombie, but He-Man could! Who’s the most powerful man in the universe now?!
So there you go, two perspectives on the 10 Best Masters of the Universe figures from two men decades apart in age, but united by their love of 80’s actions figures. I want to thank J-TOR for sharing pictures of his collection and providing the backbone for our list.
Now it’s your turn to tell us which citizens of Eternia were missing from these rankings or how “brilliant” our selections were. By the power of Grayskull, YOU have the powerrrrrr…to leave a comment below.