Awesomesauce! The mention Randor variants in the plural! And he has a lot of looks...
The vintage King Randor figure looked nothing like the cartoon.
He was part of one of the last waves of vintage figures and, from talking to a few executives who worked on the vintage line, it was pointed out to me that the old vintage Randor figure was a “low cost solution” figure to quickly get more figures to the market. This is why he was pretty much a new head and softgoods cape only. By minimizing tooling and reusing existing parts such as the Jitsu armor and Whiplash’s weapon, the vintage King Randor figure completed a wave that also included other low tool, quick-to-market figures like Scareglow, Clamp Champ, and Ninjor.
When it came time to getting Randor into the Classics line, we knew there were a few roads we could take. Doing the “vintage toy” version, which we tend to call “Battle Armor Randor,” around the office was part of the overall roadmap, but we also knew that the 2002 series introduced quite a few variations of Randor in different types of armor. As a major character and a fan favorite, we always knew the plan was to get to several versions of Randor in time.
But this is MOTU Classics after all, so we did really want to start with the vintage toy version first? Hopefully, in time, other slots will still be available to revisit Randor in one of his many alt outfits and armors from not only 200X, but now that we have Filmation rights, that version is always a possibility, too (i.e., “Throne Room Randor”).
Randor has always been an interesting toy. He did appear very early on in some of the vintage mini-comics and DC mini-series, but here he was drawn as a much older man with a gray beard and a long frock. It really was the Filmation series that made a star of him, appearing in almost 80% of the episodes (I’m sure Busta Toons can correct me on that one!). His appearance in the vintage line was clearly an influence from how much screen time he received. But, as stated earlier, he was part of a “rush to market” wave used to fill a product gap. So when his toy came out, it really looked nothing like the cartoon except for the head.
But needless to say, slapping Jitsu’s armor on the Tri-Klops body and sculpting up a new head really did make the vintage figure pop. The softgoods cloak in bright blue also added a nice color pallet to the figure. I never had the vintage Randor figure, but I do have fond memories of playing with one at my friend Shawn’s house (who, as I mentioned in earlier blogs, tended to have all the figures I did not – I always wondered if our parents were in cahoots).
When it came time to translate Randor into Classics, we started with the vintage figure and added a few details. For the most part, we have tried to stay away from softgoods in the Classics line. This meant Randor was going to have a plastic cape similar to Grayskull or He-Ro. We are not 100% against softgoods (or cloth, if you will) if there really is a compelling reason to use it, but for the most part the Horsemen and Mattel design really wanted Classics to have a unified look.
We’ve done a lot of research on capes (considering how super hero-heavy some of our other brands are this is a much discussed topic around Mattel!) The conclusion that multiple surveys have reached is that capes tend to split the fan base right down the middle. While 51% of fans prefer sculpted capes, 49% prefer softgoods. In the end, we let the Horsemen make the call and the choice was to make all MOTUC figures with sculpted capes and clothes unless there was a REALLY compelling reason we needed to use cloth parts. This was also done specifically to help transition the vintage dolls that were in the POP line into modern action figures. Going with a “no softgoods” guidelines helped solidify this and unified the line in terms of feel and look.
For the Classics Randor figure himself, he really is a straight translation of the vintage figure. One of the only differences is his weapons. For these, the Horsemen went straight up 200X, giving him a sword and staff inspired by the 200X line in lieu of the vintage spear (which was a repaint of a weapon originally with the vintage Whiplash figure).
Come to think of it, at the time I really didn’t ask them about this. It is a little odd now that I reflect, especially since the idea was that all the Classics figures were generally following the layout and accessories of the vintage counterparts (if one existed). I am guessing that perhaps the Horsemen were banking on a future variant of Randor (perhaps in one of his many 200X outfits) which could include the gold spear. In the end, we actually wound up offering this spear in the second weapon pak a year later. So if you held onto your Randor, you could weapon him up vintage-style by buying this accessory pack.
While Randor wound up being our December 2009 figure, originally he was supposed to ship in November with the December spot reserved for our first POP figure, Adora. We did this on purpose to try to give just a little hint of POP in our first full year. But alas, production issues with Mer-Man way back in February/March sent a ripple-effect through the whole year that pushed out all figures a month. This meant Scareglow got pushed from his Halloween debut, and Randor was pushed from the tail-end of the year in November to the very end of the year as the last monthly figure.
I was personally really excited to get to Randor. He was a figure that was an obvious choice to eventually include in the line, but getting to him so early was mostly because we also knew he had a lot of fan demanded variants. By doing his “classic toy” version in Year 1, it cleared the way to get to more variants in time (which now that I think about it, STILL has not happened).
Not only did I personally not own Randor from the vintage line, I also never got the awesome Staction from the 200X line. The King never had a figure in Mattel’s 200X line but, man, did the Horsemen knock it out of the park with their Staction. If I am remembering correct, a variant of it was offered at SDCC one year, but you could only buy it if you bought every toy that either Diamond or Action Figure Express was offering that year (AFX or Diamond was the distributor of the Stactions that year – I can’t remember which). All I do remember was in order to get this kick-butt Randor Staction, I was being forced to buy ALL of the SDCC items this distributor was selling and I had no interest in any of them except Randor. So I went without. So sad… never got my Randor.
Years later when I started working at Mattel, the Horsemen were kind enough to send me one after hearing I missed out (thanks, CB!), one of the cool fringe benefits of working for Mattel and running the MOTU line, I suppose.
So including Randor in the Classics line I suppose became a little bit of my retribution for missing out on the 200X station and never having owned the vintage toy. I’m really glad we got to him so early and honestly, as a HUGE fan of the 200X series, I really can’t wait to find a slot down the road for more Randor variants (and maybe they can even include the spear!).
One last item on Randor was a quick hit on his “rosy cheeks.” When our early samples came back from Hong Kong, his cheeks had a bit more blush in them compared to the paintmaster. We asked for this to be corrected, and it was, but a very small amount did ship with a bit more red in the cheek. We really try to do all we can to minimize “variants” like this. Since MOTUC is sold online and customers do not have a choice in the exact figure they are buying (vs. at retail you can look through the pegs for one that meets your specific deco and assembly needs). But we just couldn’t afford to scrap the early run of Randor with the red in his cheeks. It isn’t THAT much different, but I can confirm there are two versions of Randor out there: one with just a little bit more red on his cheeks vs. a little less. Again, is this a true “variant?” I’ll leave that to the aftermarket. But I do remember this one slipping through and in order to hit out deadline we just did not have time to rework the small run that was made prior to our request to reduce the red in his cheek.
Burger King jokes aside, that is pretty much Randor in a nutshell. He is definitely an essential character and I am really glad we got to him so early in the line. One day perhaps we can revisit this character. As a core hero who had many, many legitimate looks throughout the history of MOTU, from the mini-comic old man to the Filmation green frock, King Randor is sure to live on in multiple incarnations as the true king of Eternia and a king among action figures.
With him complete, we had officially wrapped up the monthly 2009 line. One more variant to go (the notorious Green Goddess) and the books would close on 2009 and we could head out into unknown territory – the 2010 year, which would finally open the line up past vintage MOTU figures as we explored POP, NA, concept figures and more. The future never looked better. It’s good to be the king.
Until next time!
(AKA Toy Guru)