Hard Master (2008)
By Past Nastification
One of the early 25th Anniversary Comic Pack figures, the Hard Master came packaged with a ninja-in-training Snake-Eyes figure.
The Hard Master first appeared in Marvel Comics, as the co-head of the Arashikage ninja clan alongside his brother, the Soft Master. Both of them wore traditional gi uniforms.
But here, this figure sports a recolored a Snake-Eyes body (Paine Brothers uniform, with some new lower arms) in red with white gear. The figure itself was Hasbro’s gift kit to customizers: a Hard Master head to put on a Storm Shadow body and a red/white body to make into Lifeline.
Why didn’t Hasbro just put this head on a red Storm Shadow body, where it belonged? It’s not as if Hasbro has ever been shy about needlessly reusing Storm Shadow bodies, over and over and over. And then over again and again, just because. Even a Storm Shadow body wouldn’t have really been a perfect match for the Hard Master as he appeared in Marvel Comics, but it would have been much closer than what we got.
To justify the jumpsuit style uniform, the Hard Master wore it in the included comic. The justification doesn’t quite justify, because it’s out of sync. The Arashikage have always been depicted as wearing traditional uniforms (at least how pop culture has shown us how they would have looked). A quilted vest, decorative arm piping, textured kneepads, and jackboots? Too fancy, Hasbro. Too fancy. Shoehorning the character into an out-of-character outfit was a poor idea.
Using the body also leaves a hole right over the sternum. The hole was originally intended for that Snake-Eyes’ chest knives. Sure, you can plug an arrow into it, but the hole is too obvious. A hole over a black strap might have worked, but it doesn’t on a snow white one.
Another problem with the figure is the headsculpt. It’s highly detailed and very realistic, but it’s too young to match the Marvel depiction. In his Marvel appearances, the Hard Master appeared to be pushing 70. A lean and fit 70, but 70 nonetheless. The figure is maybe pushing 50. I’d throw out the argument that Hasbro didn’t think they could sell a figure that old-looking. But it was packed with Snake-Eyes, so it would have sold even if they had made it look like a 100 year old. I am nitpicking, but only because this is a Marvel-sourced character. The head is just a smidge too small, too.
The figure doesn’t work too well, but it includes some decent gear. There’s a mask, a headband (which now feels like it’s glued on, but I didn’t remember it being that way- this could be a long term storage issue), a set of swords/scabbards, a bow and arrow, and even a sword rack. The bow is a decorative recurve bow, instead of a more modern compound one- and the hands are sculpted to hold it. That’s a nice touch. Another nice touch? The sword rack has decorative candles, which would probably be citrus-scented if the Hard Master likes to politely disguise his dojo farts the way we all know he does. The sword rack, I supposed could be either figure’s accessory. But I tossed it in with Hard Master, because when will the character get another version? Never. I also thought the swords belonged more to the sword rack than either figure because the sword rack is an “atmosphere piece”, as far as accessories go. Yojoe.com assigns one sword and the sword rack to Snake-Eyes. That may be a more accurate way of thinking about the pieces.
I’m probably being too critical of the figure because it’s not exactly what I wanted. That said, it’s not a horrible figure, if you expect it to line up with the character. If you can untether the character from the Marvel material, it’s probably just fine.