2009 was coming to a close! We had one last figure to get to, The Green Goddess, or just “Goddess,” as many fans call her.
This was our second repaint figure/experiment to test the waters and determine if the customer base was high enough to support more than one figure per month. To mitigate our risk, it was decided that both test figures needed to be repaints only. We specifically chose Zodak and The Goddess as characters for this very reason. Each figure did include one new accessory, but both new accessories were tooled with the original figure (Zodak’s staff was tooled with Zodac and The Goddess’ staff with Teela). By working ahead, we were able to successfully create deco only-figures and test the market for multiple figures a month.
One of the very significant things about The Goddess is she was one of the first figure in Classics who not only did not have a figure in the vintage line, but she has NEVER had a figure ever (Grayskull was the first, but he was more of a preview figure and not in the main monthly line). This brings up a very interesting point about the toy making process. When a character is made into an action figure, fans like to call this “being immortalized in plastic”. This actually rings very true. In the industry, we call this “permanence.”
When you have a toy of a character, that character becomes much more than just a passive image on a TV or movie screen (or comic book panel). Translating a 2D character into a fully articulated action figure/toy makes that character more permanent. This toy process translates them from a static, passive form of entertainment to an engaging, interactive format. You can now take said action figure, pose him, her or it in any way you want. The figure can hang out with other figures from other brands or stand by itself. The end user has complete control over what this figure does, how it is posed, and how it interacts with other intellectual properties. (Like posing Spiderman and Batman together on your shelf. You will never see this in a movie, but on your shelf in toy format, this can happen!)
Permanence, or as the fans call it “immortalizing a character in plastic,” really does become a major factor that is taken into consideration with each and every figure we do for all brands. Once a character becomes a figure (and a highly articulated one, at that) the ownership of said character is now with the end user/consumer. It is no longer in specific, locked entertainment like a movie or comic book where the IP owner can control what said character does. Giving a character a toy is really like giving that character over to the audience/consumer to control. So we take these decisions very seriously. There certainly are characters we don’t want immortalized in plastic; for others, like The Goddess, the MOTUC line became the vehicle to finally deliver them and give many characters their first-ever action figure!
So with that said, a little background on who exactly this character is and why she deserved to be immortalized in plastic!
In the original 4-issue mini comics that came with the 1982 MOTU line, two female characters were introduced: Teela and The Goddess.
As a cost saving measure (and because, in general, boys don’t buy female action figures), in the vintage line both The Goddess and Teela were combined into one toy with a swappable head gear that was supposed to distinguish between the two characters. To further create a difference, in the very first mini-comic, The Goddess was also colored with green skin. Most notably in the famous panel where she presents He-Man with his force field armor (a concept left over from the original 1980 He-Man Trio pitch where He-Man would get new armor with new powers every adventure). The Teela figure was even called “Heroic Warrior The Goddess” to help explain to kids that this one figure could be two different characters in their backyard adventures.
To add more confusion, the green skin was nixed by issue 2 and the character name was changed from The Goddess to Sorceress. Mattel attempted to clarify the confusion by coming out with a new mini-comic (I believe it is issue 7) called “the Tale of Teela.” In this issue, it is made clear that Teela is the cloned daughter of The Goddess/Sorceress character and that they are clearly two separate characters, even if they were packed as one figure with two looks.
When it came time to do MOTUC, one of the guiding edicts we went by was to use the bios to justify as many different characters as possible. Doing Teela was a no-brainer, and Filmation had recreated The Goddess/Sorceress character as just “Sorceress” and given her a bird look vs. the toy’s snake armor look. Additionally, Mattel put out a Sorceress figure late in the vintage line in the Filmation bird look. All of these were signs pointing that if we did a The Goddess figure, we had the perfect rationale to make her a separate character and therefore sell a separate toy!
Despite the shared parts The Goddess had with Teela, she was actually quite fan-demanded. So much so that many fans create fan art and pin-ups of her over the years. We used one of these images in an early presentation of the line at NYCC in 2009 to show she was a character we wanted to get to and represented how deep the line could get. This led to some friction with the creator of this art, wondering why he didn’t get credit for it appearing in our fan panel. In all honestly, I searched “MOTU Green Goddess” on Google and this art came up so I used it. Nothing more to it than that. Hope there were no bad feelings!
So back to the figure herself. She filled out our second “deco only” slot as a test of whether or not the fan base was large enough to support multiple figures a month (turns out they do!). She was a direct repaint of Teela with a new staff. But as stated above, we tooled the staff with Teela so we could execute The Goddess with no new tooling development.
We cast her in green-tinted clear plastic to help further differentiate her from Teela. Due to a manufacturing error, some of The Goddess figures broke at the pelvis. A lot of fans jumped on the boards to shout out that the clear plastic was “cheap” and was the cause of this cracking.
In truth, not only is clear plastic more expensive, but Mattel NEVER uses cheap plastic. If we ever have to cost-reduce a figure, our only options are to remove deco or accessories. Using inferior or cheaper plastics is not an option and we never do this. The breaking was due to a manufacturing error with the sonic welding that holds joints together. The same exact thing happened to DCUC figures in Wave 3 and Wave 4 that were produced at the same time as The Goddess. I tried to explain this many times online but fans still to this day shout out that the plastic used on The Goddess was cheap. It was anything but that.
It kills me when any figure turns out less than perfect. We spend days, weeks and months trying to make every figure as perfect as possible. When something like this happens that is 100% outside my direct control, it is nothing short of maddening.
To make things as right as possible, we did offer refunds for this figure. But this definitely doesn’t change the fact that yes, some of The Goddess figures do break and I seriously feel for anyone who received one that is anything less than perfect.
Another odd anecdote Goddess had was a change to her bio Real Name. We had always wanted to use the name Sharella to tie her into the Preternia storyline. The copywriter on the brand at the time (who is no longer with Mattel) changed her name on package without checking with marketing or design. When the package came back, it had the wrong name on the bio. Luckily, we were able to fix this with an over-label. Not the most beautiful thing in the world, but it got the job done.
Fans have asked over the years if we will ever revisit this older character and perhaps even give her the new 2.0 female body that we introduced with Bubble Power She-Ra. Nothing is off the table, but honestly, I wouldn’t get your hopes tied to this. We have so few “development SKUs” per year that to dedicate one to a “fix me” figure is often seen by management as not the best use of our precious development slots. It doesn’t mean we couldn’t get to this fix one day (as well as maybe correcting Roboto or King Hssss due to shoulder swaps) but honestly, as stated above, the likelihood of this happening is very, very tiny. We just don’t have the slots to “waste” one on a figure we already did (even if he or she was not 100% perfect). We redid She-Ra with Bubble Power She-Ra because she fundamentally could not interact (sit on) her mount, Swiftwind. A few The Goddess figures have leg issues and Roboto’s shoulders function just fine even if attached backwards. As a fan, I’d love to revisit them. As a marketing manager, I know that realistically this isn’t likely to happen. I do keep pushing for it, but so far the answer has been “do a new character with your design slots.” So that is that.
Overall, The Goddess is still one of my favorite figures. I love that she never had a toy before – ever. And this is really one of the fundamental reasons for MOTUC. We very deliberately wanted to create a line that would present all of the MOTU characters in one scale, in one line and in one collection. By hitting characters who had never been “immortalized in plastic” before, it really helped solidify both for the fan base and management what MOTUC was all about.
Over the years, we would eventually grow the line to include toys based on concept characters, mini-comics, Filmation and even all-new characters like Sir Laser Lot and Draego Man (and Spector! Had to plug him right!) It has been very rewarding to see that almost every character, no matter the source material, has consistently sold the same amount. This really speaks for the power of the brand and the dedication of our fan base.
There really are no fans like MOTU fans and I keep saying as long as fans keep buying them, I will do my best to keep MOTUC going as long as humanly possible.
So for those who got a The Goddess figure, congrats! You have one of the first figures in MOTUC who never had a figure before (and yes, I know King Grayskull falls into this category, too, but The Goddess had 25 years of buildup waiting for her; Grayskull was only introduced in 2003 – well, unless you count the one panel in ,ini-comic # 1. Oh man, now I’m giving myself a headache!)
Can we just leave it that The Goddess is an awesome character who did deserve to be made permanent though an action figure? She fits in great into the MOTUC canon as a unique character despite being a total repaint with one new accessory. That original panel of her giving He-Man his weapons really influenced a lot of fans over the years (and became the influence for her packout, too!)
We also very deliberately gave her He-Man’s weapon and armor (vest) knowing one day there might be a figure that goes with this vest… only time will tell!
Until next time!
(AKA Toy Guru)