When it comes to 80s toy properties, the comic books associated with them were sometimes pretty intense. The G.I. Joe comic written by Larry Hama took a real-world approach to the often far-out material. The mini-comics that came packaged with Masters of the Universe figures took the subject matter pretty seriously as well. The ones that I remember, particularly the first issue, were clearly inspired by Frank Frazetta’s fantasy imagery, filled with big mean barbarians, scantily clad ladies, and ferocious beasts. People who regard these properties as campy are remembering the cartoons, not the comics. As an adult I can go back and read the old comics and genuinely enjoy them. When it comes to re-watching the Joe, Transformer, and MOTU cartoons from the 80s, well that’s a bit tougher. The toons were intended for children and were probably under much stricter guidelines when it came to violence and subject matter. Evil henchmen like the Joe’s Dreadnoks or MOTU’s Beastman, who were written as threatening in the comics, became bumbling buffoons on the TV screen. Villainous leaders like Cobra Commander and Skeletor were often portrayed as cowardly and incompetent, and episodes always ended with the good guys laughing and patting each other on the back. One of the main reasons that people remember these properties as campy is because of their goofy brand of comedy. Silly sidekicks like the Thundercats Snarf or She-Ra’s Kowl were often created to provide comic relief. Of all the silly cartoon sidekicks from the 80s, Orko is probably the one most remembered.
The Masters of the Universe cartoon debuted in 1983. It was based on the MOTU toy line released by Mattel a year earlier. Orko did not originally appear in the toy line and was created specifically for the show. He was one of the main characters and was featured in most of the episodes. A figure of him was eventually released in 1984. Neither my brother Doug or I ever owned Orko as a kid. Neither of us ever really cared for him. I was pretty young back when the cartoon was on and I was probably the demographic that Orko was supposed to appeal to but he didn’t do anything but get on my nerves. He was always messing up spells and hogging screen time that could have been devoted to cool characters like Buzz Off and Stratos.
Not only did Orko kind of suck in the cartoon but his toy sucked as well. He was very stiff and awkward looking and his scale was off. He did not blend in very well at all with the other MOTU figures.
When Mattel relaunched MOTU with a new cartoon and toy line in 2002 they recruited toy designers extraordinaire, the Four Horsemen, to redesign the characters with cool, contemporary new looks. Not to take anything away from the Horsemen but I would say that for most of the characters the redesign process would have been relatively easy. I mean, how hard could it be to make characters like Skeletor, Roboto, and Mer-Man cool? They were already super cool. I imagine the challenge would lie in reimaging crap characters like Orko. So how did the Horsemen fare in the endeavor? I’d say they did the best they could with what they had to work with.
The 2002 Orko figure is a way better toy than the ’84 figure, that much is obvious. The issues of awkward stiffness and being out of scale with the rest of the line have been rectified. He’s got way more articulation with joints at the neck, shoulders, wrists, and waist. Like all of the figures in the 2002 line Orko is sculpted in a dynamic action pose. His cloak is swishing with plenty of detail and realistic folds. Nice sculpting can be found throughout the mold. His hands are sculpted to look as though he’s about to conjure, and probably bungle, a magical spell. His scarf is molded to look as though it’s in motion and his lower half is sculpted in such a way that it appears as though he has an invisible knee up. There’s a nice “energy” to this figure.
One of the biggest improvements over the original is the translucent green base that’s been added. In the cartoons, the diminutive Orko always levitated at He-Man’s eye-level. The original legless toy just sat on the floor at He-Man’s groin level. With this version the scale of Orko is much better and the added base of “floating magic” or whatever brings his eye level up to that of the other figures. It’s a clever fix and it looks great, though I do wish that the figure could be popped off of the magic base.
The only place where this figure maybe falls flat is in the eyes. He retains the same big googly floating yellow eyes that he’s always had. If he had been given small , solid color eyes, maybe with some light-piping to give a glow effect, then Orko would have actually been cool. As it is, the big eyes keep him from being cool in the bad-ass sense but at least they’re true to the character’s original design and comedic appeal. I guess I can’t fault the Horsemen and Mattel for wanting to keep the updated Orko on the lighter side of things. After all his portrayal in the 2002 cartoon was about the same as it was in the 1980s cartoon. This is a nice figure of a goofy character. 6 out of 10.