A Line that Begged for Another Wave
May 2, 2008

Filmation closed out the 70′s with one of their finest cartoons: The Adventures of Flash Gordon. Unfortunately, it lasted only 2 seasons. That may have been for the best given the wrong turn NBC forced it to take, ie: abandoning the serial format and adding Gremlin the Dragon. Recently, I rewatched most of the series. At times I squirmed. At times I was surprised by segments of beautiful animation. Whether you loved it or hated it one thing was for certain – there was great potential for toys!

Mattel picked up the property (probably hoping to capitalize on Star Wars’s success) and released 3 waves of figures and two vehicles. Here’s a site that has images from Mattel’s 1980 catalog. The first wave of figures consisted of: Flash Gordon, Ming the Merciless, Lizard Woman, and Thun the Lion Man. Wave two included: Dr. Zarkov and Beastman. Finally, wave three presented Captain Arak and Vultan. From the first wave to the third the figures are increasingly rare. For instance, Vultan with original, unbroken wings has sold on eBay from a low of $40 to a high of $120. (I was fortunate to get mine on the low side!) In this writer’s opinion the sculpts were outstanding for the time. I’m still of the mind that some of the face sculpts rival those found on 3 3/4" scale figures on the pegs today. Articulation ranged from 4 to 5 points depending on whether or not the figure had a swivel neck.

Wave 1: Thun, Lizard Woman, Flash Gordon, Ming:

 

Wave 2: Beastman, Dr. Zarkov:

 

Wave 3: Vultan, Captain Arak:

 

These first 3 waves were a great start. There was a good combination of main and secondary characters. But, dang, if it couldn’t have kept going. Besides the many intersting residents of Mongo that played smaller roles there were a few main characters that are sadly missing from this short lived line. Most notably: Dale Arden, Prince Barin, and Prncess Aura.

Dale Arden is Flash’s companion from Earth and is a main character that appears in every episode. This despite the fact that Flash flirted with just about every race’s female leader he encountered! She certainly deserves a figure for that fact alone. Prince Barin is the leader of the people of Arboria and, although he got off to a shaky start, became one of Flash’s closest allies and friends. Princess Aura is Ming’s daughter and forms an amusing love triangle with Flash and Prince Barin who eventually wins her love. She’s one of those characters that really makes us feel like geeks because even though she is just a cartoon we think she’s hot. Definitely needed a figure. I would add Metal Man to an imaginary fourth wave as these robot soldiers of Ming showed up often.

CantinaDan’s Picks for a wave 4: Dale Arden, Prince Baron, Princess Aura, Metal Man:

Early in the cartoon series the heroes (Flash, Thun, King Vultan, and Prince Baron) form an alliance in their struggle against Ming. I don’t know about you, but I get collector’s melancholy knowing one of the four, Prince Barin, will never grace the shelf that displays the other heroes.

 

 

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Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann
Action figure anthropologist, Professor Cantina Dan Neumann has been a scholastic contributor to the online community studying the complex world of parumplasticus populus {little plastic people} since the turn of this millenium. His primary focus is the visual cataloging of species exhibits through photo-journalism.
Read other articles by Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann.

 

 

 

9 Comments »

  • Jeff Cope says:

    I dug that toon back in the day. I think they even debuted the premiere in prime time which was unheard of back then.

    I don’t know why, but I never got the figures except for the Beastman. Someday…

    I agree about Mattel’s headsculpts back then. Rock solid. The Battlestar Galactica figures face sculpts were terrific, as was the 4″ Mork from Ork.

  • Jim Abell Jim Abell says:

    I really don’t remember much about the cartoon, but Thun and the Lizard Woman (which I always thought was a strange choice for the line even when I was a kid) were patrons of my cantina and/or Jabba’s palace for years.

    Jeff, I agree that Mattel’s headsculpts were good but the deco always left much to be desired. My personal choice for best 3 3/4″ headsculpts goes to Galoob. The quality of the plastic/toys may not have been the best but the likenesses were always dead-on…

  • Jeff Cope says:

    Jim, are you referring to Galoob’s TNG line?

    That line not continuing still bums me out to this day. I wanted that Romulan fig so bad! Loved their TNG line.

  • Anubis8 says:

    Just for you Dan

  • Texgnome1 says:

    I loved this line – I made sure to get every figure. And you’re dead on with your pics for the fourth wave. Thanks for the memory lane trip. :D

  • Lt. Clutch says:

    Great post. I never had any of these guys as a kid, but I remember seeing them advertised on the old Sears/Wards/Penney’s catalogs. Like Battlestar Galactica, they did complement the Star Wars figures quite well.

    Prince Barin looks very Green Arrow-ish in the cartoon. The only version of him I’d seen up to now was Timothy Dalton’s Movie interpretation. Princess Aura reminds me of Teela from Filmation’s later classic, MOTU.

    Cool line-up for a fourth wave, though!

  • Jim Abell Jim Abell says:

    Yeah, Jeff. Galoob’s ST:TNG is the main one, but the head sculpts for A-Team were excellent, too. Don’t think anyone has ever nailed likenesses in 3 3/4″ like Galoob did. Mego came close considering the limitations of 70′s but Galoob was still the best.

  • Caesius says:

    It may be 6 years (oy) after the post, but I just came across it, while watching the Flash Gordon Filmatiin movie (which became the series) on YouTube. I am so glad I did. Oddly enough, or perhaps typical for us kids, I never fad the Flash figure but did have three others. I may even still have Ming and Thun, as I’ve seen them pop up every now and then when I moving/packing.

    I would have loved those robot sentries as figures. Given the coat tails of Star Wars, it seemed a no-brsiner of a figure. I like the way they always fell against a wall when they were hit in the show.

    Can’t wait to read more by you Dan. Well, I can wait. And I likely will (at least until after breakfast). But I am still looking forward to them.

    • Caesius says:

      Addendum: Well, so much for auto correct. And to think my phone’s keyboard kept bleeping, indicating it was correcting my typing… Ha!

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