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MOTUC Director's Commentary #7: Dear Legal, it is "Zodac" not "Zodiac"
March 7, 2012 6:23 pm by MegaGearMax

Toyguru's blog about the behind-the-scenes developments toward the various MOTUC figures returns! This time it's Zodac's spotlight!

I never had the vintage Zodac figure. I actually never had Mer-Man, Beastman or Evil Lyn.

But my best friend Shawn did. Between the two of us, we pretty much had all of the original figures. I had received He-Man, Man-At-Arms, Stratos, Skeletor, Battle Cat, Ram-Man and Castle Grayskull for my fourth or fifth birthday. So my introduction to MOTU was with a huge pile of loot.

I had been very sick on my birthday (just a cold, nothing too terrible) but sick enough that my parents had to postpone my party. Pretty devastating to a 4 or 5 year old.

To help cheer me up, my parents gave me my gifts anyway (my party was moved to two weeks later). To say it was love at first sight as an understatement. These toys were awesome!

First off, they were way bigger then my Star Wars toys and could pretty much tear Luke Skywalker in half if they wanted. And the castle – wow. That was just the coolest thing a young boy could own in the '80s. It was my personal suitcase and I would drag it everywhere with me.

My MOTU collection grew when I had my actual party a few weeks later. I don’t remember if I got a ton more MOTU, but I do remember getting a Teela/Zoar 2 pack and this group formed the core of my adventures (supplemented in time by quite a lot of the 1984 and 1985 line).

But for all the toys I didn’t own, Shawn did. And that was awesome. I could bring my Castle Grayskull over to his house full of figures (he didn’t have one) and play with all of the figures and playsets that I didn’t have (like Snake Mountain). It is actually a little weird looking back how few figures/vehicles/playsets did overlap between both of our collections. Wonder if our parents were coordinating…

Of course, there were a few figs we both had and my mom was quick to dot them all with a bit of red nail polish on the foot or ankle. Because heaven forbid I come home with Shawn’s Battle Armor He-Man and not mine! That would have been a tragedy.

Anyway, I’m on a tangent. Back to Zodac. So I never had him. But Shawn did. And he was always one of those figures I loved recruiting into my army when we divided up figures (I don’t think we always paid attention to who was on whose team and pretty much made up good guys or bad guys depending on who we liked personally and wanted to play with.

Many fans will remember that Zodac started off life as a bad guy noted on package as an “Evil Cosmic Warrior.” From the notes I have seen in the archive, this was due to wanting an even number of bad and good guys in the first wave. And because Zodac had the “bad guy feet” (reptile) he was noted as a bad guy.

But in his limited early appearances (in the DC comics and the Talon Fighter record book) he was shown as a “neutral” cosmic enforcer.

Neutral? What makes a man go neutral? Lust for gold?

Zodac did appear in a handful of Filmation episodes, also as a Neutral Cosmic Enforcer. But man, without being a definitive Evil Warrior or Heroic Warrior he kinda got the short end of the stick in the old days. He was even “out of print” for a good length of time in the vintage days.

In 2002, the character was reimagined and redesigned. In an effort to diversify the cast, the show’s creators wanted to add an African American (on Eternia?) character. At first this was going to be Stratos but that idea was shelved when the visuals didn’t look right. Zodac became the character for this treatment and he was not only made into an African American character, but his role was completely changed from being a neutral Cosmic Enforcer to a good guy Mystic Enforcer who had a grudge against the Snake Men and glowing tattoos allowing him to sense any enemy’s weakness and use that weakness against him. The spelling of his name was also changed to Zodak with a "K."

So while I never had A vintage Caucasian Zodac, in 2002 I loved the Zodak character and shelled out big bucks to a dealer (Scalpor?) for a mint on-card Zodak. The 2002/2003 toy was pretty cool. Tatoos, staff and a kick-*** removable helmet. Today he is still my favorite 2002 figure.

When it came time to put Zodac/Zodak into the Classics line, we had to decide how to handle it him. The choice was actually very simple. As stated in the last blog, one of the goals of the Classics line and bios was to create a world that would justify the greatest number of characters (and hence figures/toys). Since vintage Zodac and 2002 Zodak had very different looks and, more importantly, roles (Cosmic Enforcer vs. Mystic Warrior) it was a no-brainer from the start to make them separate characters, if for no other reason so we could sell two toys. (Hey, at the end of the day that is really what it all comes down to! Don’t be too shocked).

We decided to go with the vintage Zodac first since this was Classics after all, and we wanted to celebrate the vintage line. Also, he was a head, armor and a gun. Very little tooling and for the first six (and eight) figures that was very key. In the beginning we had so little resources and tooling budget that anything we could do with minimal tooling would help.

But anticipating that we would eventually get to Zodak with a K, we decided to tool up his staff with Zodac so it would be “paid” for, giving us a free repaint, non-tool figure for the future. I’ll get into this more when I get to Zodak. Much like Faker, when we did release Zodak, it was more as a PR test to see if we could release more than one figure a month. As the test figure for this program (much like Goddess), he wound up not getting any tooling assigned to him. Had he been a regular monthly figure (Zodak) we would totally have done a second head, too. I’m actually trying to find a way to get this second head into the line much as we did with the extra comic book head for Skeletor that came with Demo-Man. Just gotta find the right figure to include this with!

Anyway, I digress. Back to Zodac, Caucasian guy and Cosmic Guy.

With a plan in place that he would most definitely be a separate character from Zodak (if for no other reason than to sell more toys), he was easily sculpted up using the same shared parts that the vintage figure had (come on, you gotta love that he has that hairy beast-man chest with the human flesh tones!).

We also talked a lot about how to handle his boots and gloves since the figure and the comic book art (not to mention Filmation) had a few variations of how his boots and gloves worked. In the end, we went with straight-up classic toy configuration of shared parts. A few years late,r when the opportunity came to put Zodac in a TRU two-pack with Green Lantern, we went with a more comic book/Filmation version with white gloves and human boots (and yes, we know this is still not 100% accurate to Filmation without other details like the white stripe on his helmet).

When we got the paintmasters in from the Horsemen, this was actually one of the only figures I had a deco comment on. For MOTU Classics, I really wanted to show that this was the vintage line updated with better articulation and better paint ops. Much as we had added deco arm bracelets to He-Man (the vintage toy had flesh colored arm bands for the Most Powerful Man in the Universe!), I wanted to apply this increased deco and modern standard to all the figures.

Taking a look at Zodac’s red blaster, I asked Terry to please add a small ring of silver to the barrel. While it wasn’t a shocking addition, I was actually REALLY proud of this. At the time, this was my first “influence” on the line (beyond helping to pick out the role and write the bio outline, etc.). As the years went on, I would be given many more opportunities to add a few suggestions to the line (such as Panthor’s helmet and, well, I don’t think he qualifies as a “suggestion” but I did get to add a new character into the MOTU 30th Anniversary line called The Mighty Spector. But more on him when we get there.)

At the time, this was the most influence I had on the design of a figure. And adding that small silver deco hit on the end of his blaster was one of the coolest things I ever got to do. I still have his gun on my computer at work. It was a little thing, but at the time it was my little thumbprint on the line. (For the record, this was never Scott Neitlich’s line, but I did think it fair I could make small suggestions like this, as long as Terry and his design team were okay with them).

So there you have it. Zodac was ready to go and we tooled up his counterpart Zodak’s staff at the same, giving us a cool deco-only figure for a later release (planning ahead wound up being a huge boon for us in the line after uncontrollable delay after delay would happen over time).

His bio confirmed he was indeed a Cosmic Enforcer and we purposely kept out any reference to the other Zodak version so that we could put all of that info into the potential future figure’s bio (if we ever got to him).

Oh, I should also add that adding in “Zur” as Zodac’s “real name” surname was not in anyway a reference to Green Lantern’s Abin Sur. This was one of those crazy coincidences. Fans and customers like to point out how much a Cosmic Enforcer and a Green Lantern have in common and it was thought this name was a deliberate reference. It was not. But we did obviously see this connection as well and logically paired them up down the line in that TRU two-pack.

The idea that a MOTU figure will have something in common with a comic character actually should not be that shocking. Fans are quick to point out similarities between Zodac and GL, or Spector and Deadpool (just based on visual look), but the same could be said of He-Man and Tarzan or Kazar, Ram Man and Juggernaut, Mer-Man and Aquaman, etc.

MOTU characters are based on archetypes from mythology, just as comic book characters are. Of course, thematically there will be similarities. But it doesn’t mean we are ripping each other off. If anything, DC, Marvel and MOTU all rip off from mythology of ancient cultures. So if anyone should be suing, I’d call up Homer and the Classic Poets. They have a better case. ;-)

So that was about it for Zodac. Another awesome classic character. I do really want to find a way to get to his chair one day. One of those characters that really is defined by his mode of transportation. There was obviously no way to include that with this basic figure. We are doing a DCU Metron figure with his chair, but needed to make that a deluxe subscription sku. Perhaps in time we can revisit this cosmic character and do a new release with his trademark transport. Time will tell!

Until next time,

Scott

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