At ToyFair 2020 I had the pleasure of an advanced look at Mattel’s new He-Man relaunch. If you’re an ’80s kid, like me, then He-Man was probably a huge part of your youth. Unlike some other toy franchises from back in the day (Transformers, TMNT), He-Man has been largely resistant to re-launching. There have been few high-end collectibles aimed at aging fans (like the one I see in the mirror each day), but no toy-line with a primary purpose of play.
Mattel aims to change all that with a very smart update of the classic toys. If you remember, the He-Man toys had minimal articulation (in the case of my Ram Man figure, basically none) and body range. Some toys were very different from the cartoon version. What Mattel has done is re-envision the classic figures, keeping the same basic body type, but adding lots of additional articulation. Figures can now bend their wrists, knees, elbows, and rotate in the shin area. This opens up a lot more avenues of play.
The question is, does a market exist here? Not just for people like myself, but kids. I decided to leave this in the hands of my in-house toy tester, my newly 10 year old son. First we tried He-Man and Skeletor. He thought they looked really cool and especially liked the interlocking halves of the Power Sword (a gimmick from the original toy-line). He asked me lots of questions about the He-Man story at first, but after a while began using his own imagination. It was easy enough that big muscle guy=good, evil skull head man =bad.
A few weeks later, we opened the rest of them. Our set included Man-At-Arms, Teela, Beast Man, and Evil-Lyn. A few quick things to note: in the original toy-line, Man-At-Arms lacked his signature mustache and his head popped off really easily. This new figure fixes these defects.
My son’s favorite of the new batch quickly became Beast-Man, with his coiled whip of real rope. He noted that the whip stays in his hand really well. He also liked the detailing on Beast-Man’s armor.
Teela was conflated with the Sorceress in the original line, and while this toy keeps her snake-armor, she is instead a “warrior goddess” (whatever that means). Evil-Lyn is probably the most basic of the bunch, with no extra armor and just a simple staff. Her body is very clearly a repainted Teela with a different head. Still, her evil scowl is a delight.
My son’s biggest complaint was that Skeletor’s hands did not hold his awesome skull headed staff well. Evil-Lyn and Teela do slightly better with their respective staffs, but he thought it needed work.
In case you’re wondering, the toys still come with a mini-comic. However, instead of a different comic for each figure, they all come with the same one. A bit of a let down. For those in the mood for He-Man comics, you may want to check out the recent DC comics.
With a starting price of $14.99, the He-Man Origins line is appealing and affordable. I’m very tempted to re-collect the figures I had as a child for my own son. They already have Battle Cat and Trap-Jaw (my personal favorite baddie). Most excitedly, they have Castle Greyskull coming soon – I had to settle for Snake Mountain back in my day. Meanwhile my son just finished watching She-Ra and is fascinated by the He-Man connection. Pretty sure I’m picking her figure up next.
So yes, He-Man is back and I think Mattel has a hit on their hands. Not just with us old cranks, but actual kids. Here’s hoping the line continues for a long time.
Note: I was provided with free figures by Mattel. I took a while to write this because we were PLAYING