BATTLE LION (2014)
I’ve loved the Masters of the Universe brand from the first moment I laid eyes on it. It was like the fantasy of Clash of the Titans mixed with the science fiction of Star Wars. It had mermen and cyborgs in flying spaceships doing battling with bee-people and robots riding dinosaur skeletons; how could you not love it? The weak link of the brand, in my opinion, was always the star of the series, He-Man. The barbarian with the bad haircut simply couldn’t compete with his wacky array of allies and enemies. One thing that He-Man did have going for him was that he rode around on an armored green tiger named Battle Cat. Like Urkel on a Harley there was no denying that He-Man was a dork with a cool ride.
The original Battle Cat was far more than just a four-legged means of transportation; he was a full on character in his own right. He spoke, fought in battles, and was essentially treated as just another one of the Masters. Like He-Man had his wimpy alter-ego Prince Adam, Battle Cat spent his days as the cowardly Cringer. The difference between the two was that Prince Adam only pretended to be a wimp whereas Cringer really was a scaredy cat in his day-to-day life. It took a zap from He-Man’s power sword to transform Cringer into Battle Cat both physically and mentally. As Battle Cat he wore crimson armor that made him look like something that belonged in a gladiator arena.
In the 2002 relaunch of the MOTU animated series and toy line Battle Cat’s ability to speak was scrapped and he acted more as a pet than a companion. Yet the overall design of the character, a green tiger with orange stripes, remained basically the same. He still wore red armor but the 2002 armor design was more technology based and less gladiatorial.
I was a fan of the 80s cartoon as a kid but I find it didn’t hold up over time. The 2002 series however holds up very well with its top notch animation and complex storylines. The 2002 series added many new elements to the MOTU mythos including the tale of He-Man’s greatest ancestor King Grayskull. Grayskull looked very similar to He-Man only he was bulkier and his hair was longer. He only appeared in one episode of the series but it was an impactful one. He made such an impression on fans that he was actually the first character ever to be constructed in the Classics format way back in 2008.
If the idea behind telling Greyskull’s origin story in the episode “The Power of Greyskull” was to portray He-Man’s predecessor as a larger-than-life hero whose shoes even He-Man felt he could not fill, than mission accomplished. And while his massive size and his epic victories over the Snake Men and Hordak had a lot to do with it, it was his mount that sealed the deal. What’s more bada** than riding a green tiger? Riding a giant green f**king lion that’s what. Battle Lion was shown to be a hulking beast who wore armor very similar to Battle Cat. He was hella cool looking but I never expected to get an action figure oh him. It was a pleasant surprise when I found out that he was going to be included in the 2014 Classics line-up.
I should’ve known that a Battle Lion figure would be released considering it looks like it was a relatively easy thing to do. His body is the exact same as Battle Cats, minus the orange stripes. The only new pieces that needed to be sculpted were the head and the armor. The head is totally awesome and unique and goes a long way in separating this figure from the other beasts that were made using this exact body (Battle Cat, Panthor, Griffin). The mane is huge and flowing with a ton of detail. The face has a scowl that could easily unnerve Skeletor and there’s a nice texture to the sculpted fur. The jaw is hinged so his mouth can be opened and closed though the movement is hindered by his massive saber-teeth.
The armor is technological yet simple and looks pretty true to what we saw in the animation. One thing that’s kind of cool about the armor is that it fits on Classics Battle Cat. The Classics Battle Cat figure came with the 80s Gladiator style armor, but now you can dress him up in his 2002 techno-look if you prefer.
My only gripe in regards to Battle Lion would be that I think this figure would be way cooler if it was bigger. He was shown in the cartoon to be a truly massive beast that would likely dwarf Battle Cat. Having them the exact same size kind of diminishes Battle Lion’s impact. That being said, had they made him bigger it would have required all new tooling and then he probably would’ve cost twice as much. As it is, I can put up with his smaller stature if it means I have a few more bucks in my wallet.