Topless Toy Chest: Oo-Larr, the “Original” He-Man
Masters of the Universe as a property is plenty homoerotic and always has been, but Oo-Larr here might just be the gayest He-Man figure ever made. And I don’t mean that as a pejorative – I mean it as “If this were not the exclusive subscriber figure that will never be available again except for ridiculous amounts on eBay, I would buy multiples as gag gifts for every gay male friend I have.”
[N.B. at least one gay friend tells me the Burt Ward Robin action figure is gayer, but that this comes close]
Strap in – not on – because we’re about to dive into some serious geek-level He-mania to explain this figure and the comic he comes with.
Before the Filmation cartoons, Masters of the Universe existed solely as a toy line loosely inspired by Conan the Barbarian, but with a Star Wars sci-fi twist. The original characters were based on classic archetypes, and in the beginning all had the word “Man” in their names (Skeletor was initially “Demo-Man”). To further the storyline, the figures came with mini-comics that depicted a different continuity than the one that would come later and supersede it – in that telling, He-Man was a loinclothed barbarian who came out of the jungle to be trained by a goddess and molded into the most powerful man in the universe. Oo-Larr is based on that depiction.
The Classics toy line has, for whatever reason, attempted to reconcile every version of canon into one big new tale via the biographies on the back. So rather than do what Star Wars does, for example, and simply release Ralph McQuarrie concept figures labeled as such, MOTU Classics has taken several earlier concept designs for He-Man and made them entirely new characters, all of whom were “He-Men” but not THE He-Man.
Confused? Still giving a shit? The logic is that they were all guardians of the sword of He, but only the modern He-Man could actually channel the power of the sword to transform, seeing as he’s a descendant of King Grayskull, whose essence gives the sword its power in the first place.
As an additional throwback, Oo-Larr comes with a bonus head based directly on the original, kinda ugly headsculpt for ’80s He-Man. For my money, the Classics line has improved his facial appearance tremendously, but for those who want him looking more like the old figure, this will do it.
Most Masters of the Universe Classics figures are pretty similar when you get down to it, and Oo-Larr is as basic as the body type can get, being practically naked. For contrast, he arrived in the same box as Snake Armor He-Man, who is the most intricately garbed and detailed He-Man to date.
I know you’re wondering just how naked Oo-Larr is, so…
In addition to the extra head, Oo-Larr comes with a caveman-like spear, and a slightly more polished-looking sword. A third weapon – a barbarian-style ax – comes with a different figure, Huntara. Since both are subscription-only, you’re not getting one without the other unless you go the eBay route.
Oh yeah, and he comes with a comic. But if you were expecting said comic to tell you anything about Oo-Larr, you’d be mistaken…
I don’t know if there’s a word for something that’s such fan-service only hardcore fans will understand it while simultaneously being something most fans will hate, but we should invent one for this mini-comic. Continuing a storyline set up in previous mini-comics that came with other figures, this one takes the He-Man saga into the future. He has returned from outer space, having defeated Skeletor and seen She-Ra defeat Horde Prime (Hordak having been previously killed by Skeletor). Now back home, he is crowned “King He-Man” – not King Adam, because the comic explains that He-Man is a name that has more awareness throughout the universe – but She-Ra, meanwhile, has been infused with the spirit of Horde Prime, become the evil Despara, and resurrected Skeletor from the dead.
That’s not necessarily a terrible idea. But then you get stuff like this:
And then you remember that the new storyline is designed entirely to create new toy possibilities. That’s not new for this property, but it has rarely been so obvious.
A key thing to know about the current figure line is that initially, it was denied the right to make figures that had only appeared in the Filmation cartoons, the live-action 1987 movie, or the New Adventures cartoon. Unless – there was a loophole – they had been made as figures before, which allowed Mattel to keep the rights. The folks at Mattel quote clearly never want to be in this position again – in the previous mini-comic, various fan-created characters submitted as contest entries were included, and it was explained that this officially made them a part of continuity, and thus possibilities for figures. In this comic, characters like Despara and a horned Skeletor are almost certainly included to make these DC Comics-created looks part of Mattel canon to protect them for future toys. The opportunism is as naked as Oo-Larr. Hey, maybe that’s why this comes with him!
Then there’s this:
Filmation had developed a followup cartoon series called He-Ro: Son of He-Man, but it never actually came to be – some of the concepts wound up in the New Adventures cartoon, while the name He-Ro was ultimately used for a different character. Here, we see Mattel’s proactive move to ensure toy rights to those concepts – and a sad lack of imagination in depicting He-Ro in the same costume New Adventures He-Man wears. Yes, it was originally He-Ro’s – but it may be time to change it up when his father has the exact same thing in his closet somewhere.
And who will He-Ro have to fight? Unless you’ve been following closely, you may not know the stupid answer:
Skeleteen. Yes, that’s Skeletor Junior’s name. Which answers the question of whether Skeletor had a penis. There’s also an evil version of Orko called The Unnamed One (though he has a name: Gorpo. I get why he’d want to pretend he doesn’t).
The very last page of the comic features a joke about the “white screen of death,” a reference to how how insanely difficult it used to be to log on to Mattycollector.com and buy a figure before it sold out. It’s supposed to be self-deprecating, but it comes off smug – a sort of “Ha ha, we suck but you keep coming back to us anyway.” It’s impossible to judge this comic as a comic in any real way, since it mostly seems to be legal maneuvering for toy rights, and finishes with a self-reflexive in-joke. I remember when these used to be aimed at kids. Not that kids are buying these, but I’d like to think that some of the subscribers are buying them for their kids.
Thankfully Oo-Larr is pretty fun regardless.
And with the magic of head-swapping, a body this basic can be quite useful.
On the whole, a versatile figure even for the casual fan, and probably the best base for customizing in the whole line. Too bad he’s a subscription-only figure that you’ll never find at a reasonable price unless you already have him.