MOTUC Director’s Commentary – Mer-Man

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#9 Mer-Man originally posted 03.20.2012

[box style=”doc”]Mer-Man and Hordak were added to the line after the success of the first few figures, although delays would cause a little bit of shake-up in their release schedule. But man, how cool was it to get so many of the core figures right off the bat.

Mer-Man to this day is still one of my favorite figures in the line (and Eric’s too). Now, I never had him in the vintage days, so I didn’t have as much of an emotional connection to him as I did to other figures like Webstor, Roboto and Buzz-Off that I did have. But wow, from head to foot, this was a figure that I credit the Horsemen 100% for knocking him out of the park.

Mer-Man used basic shared parts. But small additions like new hands and a slip-on glued on neck piece really made him look so visually different. And the final paint job that Terry did really knocked him out of the park. It really was the perfect mix of wash and base coat to give Mer-Man just the right amount of pop.

I’m sure, in no small way, Mer-Man was and is such an amazing figure because of how much Eric loved him. He has told this story a few times, but I’ll repeat it here since it is key to why this figure was done as he was.

When Mer-Man was released in the vintage line he had a VERY different head compared to the cross-sell, a head that would also later go on to be repainted as Stinkor. I honestly have no idea why this change was made, but as Eric likes to say, he was very disappointed when he got the figure, seeing how little compared to the mini comic Mer-Man and the painted cross-sell.

In the 200X line, when it came time to redesign the characters, the Horsemen very deliberately went for a look much closer to the original cross-sell look. It was 100% accurate, but it clearly took a leap in this direction. A lot of the managers at Mattel didn’t actually like Mer-Man’s 200X look as it was dubbed too cartoony. But I digress.

When it came time to bring him into the Classics line, doing both a vintage toy head and a vintage cross-sell head was a no-brainer. We definitely did not want to go overboard with the double heads. Not only because it was a huge amount of resources, but we wanted to preserve the novelty to the second heads and use them when there was a compelling reason to do so. (And for the record, a 200X styled head was not a compelling reason as that interpretation of the vintage line was and is currently retired).

Mer-Man also got some really cool new parts. New fishy hands (which later got used on Slushhead as well) and a cool new neck piece that was glued in place to, again, replicate the vintage cross-sell art.

Getting the cross-sell head on a finished Mer-Man figures was absolutely one of those “wow” moments in the line. At long last here was the Mer-Man we (or at least some of us, including Eric) always wanted.

His additional accessories were fleshed out with his vintage corncob sword and his 200X Trident. While some customers noted he couldn’t hold the trident with both hands due to the open palm, I never saw this as a major loss. The Horsemen also thought ahead to ensure the sword could be put away in his back, letting you pose Mer-Man on your shelf with all the accessories.

Mer-Man was also one of the first figures where the Horsemen really wanted to “over sculpt.” In no way do we like to block or limit their creativity, but many times their eagerness to do accessories comes into conflict with our tooling budget. In particular, I remember Eric asking to do a few little mean fish buddies for Mer-Man and I had to deliver the bad news that we couldn’t do that. Yes, totally would have been cool. But 1) we just couldn’t afford it, and 2) we didn’t want to set this standard or fans and customers would have asked for this type of treatment with all figures. (Hey, again for the record I would have loved if all figures could have come with little buddies, but at the end of the day there is a financial number we have to hit on these figures — we can’t just give them away and more parts drives that up!)

So mean little fishy buddy aside, Mer-Man really became one of the (and still is) best figures in the line. The wash on his paint scheme was particularly good, hitting just the right amount of shadow and light. The colors really popped and with the double heads this was truly the ultimate Mer-Man figure.

Mer-Man also has the honor of being one of the early figures that ran late. He was actually sculpted very early, but wound up being slotted in later than some other figures for release. I honestly don’t remember why, but I do remember the huge headache this caused. Due to him running late, it not only meant we wouldn’t have a monthly figure, but it threw off the entire rest of the year. In particular, Scareglow was going to be the October figure for Halloween but because of the Mer-Man delay, it bumped all of the remaining figures and Scareglow wound up missing All Hallows’ Eve by 16 days to be released instead in mid November.

Our fishy friend was also another example of a real name that had mixed reactions. But for the record, there was kinda a precedent. We never liked the idea of just making up a name with no rationale. Beastman’s real name was intended to sound like the language of his people and be vicious sounding like a mean beast. For Mer-Man, in the 200X series (which always formed the background of the bios), he mentions having an “Uncle Squidee” in episode 32. So calling him Squidish Rex felt in line with established protocol for Mer-Man’s species, with Rex being added to note he was from a royal line.

Having multiple heads, Mer-Man also set a bit of a precedent for how pack-outs would work. Although the “cross-sell” head might have been more popular, we very deliberately went with the vintage head for the pack-out (while keeping the cross-sell head in the new cross-sell!). We know fans and customers like certain “rules” to maintain standardization in collector lines and as a self-imposed rule we decided around the time of Mer-Man that ALL figures going forward would be packed out in the same pose as the vintage figure. Not only was this a nod to the vintage line, but it gave us a second cool pack-out for a potential re-release of Classics if they ever went to retail that would make the figure look different a hypothetical second time around. We never did this for He-Man, but starting with Mer-Man we tried out best to ensure the pack-out on the card front matched the vintage pack-out as best we could.

Outside of these little stories, that is about it on Mer-Man. Now that we are past the conception of the line and the research/bios these blogs might start to get a bit shorter. But hey, I’ll keep writing them as long as the customers and fans enjoy them.

Until next time.


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