#2262: Prince Barin

PRINCE BARIN

FLASH GORDON (BIF BANG POW!)

“Flash! Aaaaaaah!  He’s“–wait, sorry, he’s actually not the subject of today’s review.  Sorry for the slight mislead there.  For what it’s worth, I’m still reviewing *something* from 1980’s Flash Gordon movie, it’s just not the film’s title character.  Instead, it’s his friend and ally against the evil Ming the Merciless (as well as Robin Hood pastiche), Barin, Prince of Arboria, portrayed in the 1980 film by Timothy Dalton.  Dalton’s Errol Flynn-inspired take on the character is amongst the best parts of the movie, which is really saying something, given that this is a movie that has Brian Blessed shouting the line “GORDON’S ALIVE!?!” in all its memetic glory.  As one of the film’s central characters, Barin was well treated by Bif Bang Pow! when they picked up the license for the movie in 2008.  I’ll be looking at one of those figures today.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Prince Barin was released in Series 2 of Bif Bang Pow!’s 7-inch Flash Gordon line from 2008.  This is the standard release, but there was also a battle-damaged exclusive that depicted him from his duel with Flash in the throne room of the hawk people.  Both of the larger Barin figures depicted him in his more battle-ready attire, which is what he spends most of the movie wearing, and is also his more Robin Hood-esque design.  The figure stands 7 inches tall and he has 15 points of articulation.  He’s not amazing articulated by current standards, but he was pretty good for a non-Hasbro/Mattel product at the time of his release.  Barin’s pretty easily posed, and the only truly noticeable omission is some sort of wrist articulation.  As it stands, he has trouble doing too much with his hands.  Barin’s sculpt is a pretty impressive affair.  Bif Bang Pow did a solid job of sticking to the source material, and the level of detail on all of these figures was pretty impressive.  Barin’s costume is very nicely recreated, and there’s plenty of sculpted texturing, especially in the quilted pattern of the shirt and the folds of the pants.  The likeness of Dalton isn’t quite as good as some of the line’s other likenesses, but it’s certainly not a bad attempt, and it’s more instantly recognizable as Dalton than Rassilion was.  I think it’s just the eyes that throw it off; they’re not quite right for Dalton’s steely stare.  The paintwork on Barin is fairly basic work.  It gets them main colors down pretty well, but doesn’t really add much depth beyond that.  Like the articulation, this was pretty decent for this style of figure at the time of his release.  Barin was packed with a laser rifle, based on the one he’s carrying late in the film.  It’s kind of a goofy design, and a little tricky for him to carry due to the limitations of his articulation.  Still, something’s certainly better than nothing.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Oddly, I got this figure several years before seeing all but a few snippets of Flash Gordon.  I was of course familiar with prior incarnations of the franchise and of Barin himself, and I’ve always been a fan of Timothy Dalton, so I certainly liked the idea of him as Barin, especially from the few snippets I’d seen.  However, I bought this figure without the connection to the movie proper, and wouldn’t get around to seeing the movie for another eight years or so after getting this figure.  Whatever the case, I’ve always thought he was a pretty solid offering, and he’s a cool Timothy Dalton toy, if that’s what you’re after.  Curiously, it seems this line has all but vanished from the after market, which is always an interesting occurrence.

#1062: Flash Gordon – Flight Suit

FLASH GORDON – FLIGHT SUIT

FLASH GORDON (PLAYMATES)

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When your name is the same name as the toyline that you’re a part of, it’s pretty much a given that you’ll get at least one more figure than everybody else.  Especially in the ‘90s.  This was the case with Alex “Flash” Gordon of…Flash Gordon.  Yep, in a series of eight total figures, he still managed to get two of them.  He was a whole quarter of the figures released!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

flashspace2Flash is the final figure from the basic assortment of the Playmates’ Flash Gordon line.  He’s the only duplicated character in the set (though, plans were drawn up for a corresponding Dale figure).  Where the last Flash was based on the character’s rather decade-specific main design from the show, this one’s based on his Flight Suit look, which was a bit more, shall we say timeless?  The figure is a little over 5 inches tall and has 6 points of articulation.  Amazingly enough, this figure’s sculpt is 100% unique, sharing no parts with the prior Flash.  Even the head, which looks more or less the same, has a slightly different expression.  I actually prefer this head to the other, just because he looks a little less slack-jawed.  The rest of the body is, obviously, new.  It’s noticeably less pre-posed than the regular Flash, which is both a blessing and a curse.  While the more standard pose is a bit more versatile, when coupled with the articulation, it makes him a bit stiffer looking.  It’s not horrible, but if he could have at least gotten the articulation we saw on Ming, I think he could have been far superior.  The actual design is pretty fun, and it translates well two action figure form.  It’s still a little less detailed than I’d like, but it’s not bad, and at the very least he fits in with the rest of the line.  The paintwork on Flash is pretty good.  As with the Playmates Trek figures, the face stands out from the rest by featuring a surprising amount of detail, especially on the eyes.  The body’s far more basic, but the colors are at the very least pretty exciting.  There’s some bleed over here and there, but nothing truly atrocious.  He’s still really shiny, but doesn’t look quite as glazed as some of the others in the series.  Flash included a helmet, a TriBlaster, a communicator, and an AirSled (in a slightly darker red than the normal Flash’s).

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

This was my third figure from this line.  I got him from Ageless Heroes’ legendary going-out-of-bustiness sale, around the same time as Ming.  I think it was shortly after I got Ming, truth be told, and I know for a fact it was on a school night, as a reward for finishing up my homework early or something like that (I also got a Black Widow figure at the same time.  Score!).  I got a second of this figure in the set of eight that I picked up last summer.  Ultimately, despite some tiny flaws, I think this is the better of the two Flash’s released in this line.  The design is just better overall, and the final execution just barely nudges past the regular version.  All-in-all, the ‘90s Flash Gordon line is kind of an oddity.  It’s based on a cartoon that almost no one remembers, and the figures are at best a mediocre attempt at translating some of the designs.  The thing the line has going for it is that it’s probably the cheapest way to put together a Flash Gordon set-up.  Ultimately, I’m happy to have them all, but I’ll always wish they were just a bit better.

#1061: Kobalt the Mercenary

KOBALT THE MERCENARY

FLASH GORDON (PLAYMATES)

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Flash Gordon is, in many ways, the quintessential space opera.  The characters contained therein pretty much all fit the standard archetypes for such a story. As such, when introducing new characters to the franchise, if you don’t want them to stick out like sore thumbs, they kind of need to fit an archetype too.  Today’s focus, Kobalt, is no exception to that line of thought.  He’s very much the standard villainous gun for hire, sent to chase down the heroes, much in same vein as the likes of Boba Fett and Jubal Early.  So, let’s see how his figure turned out!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

kobalt2Kobalt is yet another of the basic Flash Gordon figures from Playmates.  Also worth noting: he’s the last of the three  villains the line produced.  Yeah, for some strange reason, they didn’t go for the obvious 50/50 split.  The figure stands about 5 1/4 inches tall and has 6 points of articulation.  He’s one of the few figures in the line not to get the stupid v-hips, which is always a good thing.  Kobalt’s sculpt is decent enough, though nothing particularly amazing.  He’s about on par with Flash and Dale.  The proportions are fine, and he looks like his cartoon counterpart.  That said, the details are all on the more basic side, which makes him look a little less impressive than the likes of Ming and General Lynch.  As it stands he’s accurate to the show, but feels lacking as a figure.  Kobalt’s paintwork is fairly decent, and certainly on par with the rest of the series.  His colors match up with those from the show, and the overall application is pretty clean.  He’s still exceptionally shiny, but at this point, at least he’s consistent.  Kobalt was packed with a Transrupter (whatever that is), an Imperial TranScanner, and an AirSled in a dark red color.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Kobalt is yet another figure from the lot of 8 I picked up at a convention last summer.  Like Lynch, he’s not really a character that jumped out at me.  As a matter of fact, I didn’t really remember this guy until I picked up the set of figures.  This figure’s alright, but not anything particularly impressive.   He’s fairly run of the mill for the line.

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#1060: General Lynch

GENERAL LYNCH

FLASH GORDON (PLAYMATES)

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Today we get to the character that is perhaps the first wholesale new character from the ‘90s Flash Gordon, General Lynch.  Lynch fulfilled the role of Ming’s main lackey, which was hardly a unique role to the series.  However, he himself didn’t have any direct counterparts in the earlier iterations.  He’s just sort of a typical big-muscled lackey, of course, so he wasn’t really breaking new ground or anything.  On to the figure!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

generallynch2General Lynch is yet another figure from the basic assortment of Playmates’ Flash Gordon line.  The figure is a little under 5 inches tall (due to his slight hunch), and he has 5 points of articulation. He’s one of the shorter figures in the set, but he’s also the widest, so…good for him?  While his articulation’s more in line with the rest of the series, his sculpt actually has a lot in common with his boss Ming.  There’s a lot more texture and detail, and everything as a whole is just a lot sharper than most of the other figures.  The details of his face and the scaly texture of his skin stand out in particular as very cool.  He still bears a resemblance to his show appearance, but also has a certain degree of added realism, which just puts him above the others.  It’s definitely one of the better sculpts the line had to offer, alongside Ming.  Perhaps the only real downside (apart from the articulation) is his tendency to topple over.  The paint on Lynch is pretty decent as well.  It’s not perfect; there are a few spots of slop and bleed over, but the colors match up with his show appearance pretty well.  The General included the usual AirSled (which is a purple very similar in hue to his boss’s sled), as well as strange, ice cream scoop-looking weapon of some sort.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Hey, do you want to take a guess where Lynch came from?  Yep, same place as the last few figures: a lot I picked up at a convention last summer.  I can’t say he was one of the figures I was particularly looking forward to, since Lynch on the show is ultimately a bit forgettable.  That said, he’s actually one of the nicest figures in the set.  The detail on that sculpt just can’t be beat!  Now, why couldn’t they put this kind of work in on Talon and Thundarr?  It’s unjust!  Unjust, I tell you!

#1059: Princess Thundar

PRINCESS THUNDAR

FLASH GORDON (PLAYMATES)

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Okay, remember yesterday’s discussion of the characters unique to the various incarnations of Flash Gordon.  Well, today’s focus is technically one of those, but only sort of.  See, Princess Thundarr, of the Leonids was a new addition to the cast of the ‘90s cartoon, but she’s effectively just a gender-swapped version of the original strip’s Prince Thun, leader of the Lion Men (who, it should be noted, weren’t actual lion people, unlike the Leonids).  Yes, of the eight figures released from the cartoon, a whole two of them were female.  That’s pretty good for the time!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

princessthundra2Princess Thundar (that’s how it’s spelled on the packaging, but every other reference I’ve found has the two “r”s, so I’m guessing someone goofed) was another of the basic assortment of figures from Playmates’ Flash Gordon line.  The figure stands a little under 5 inches tall (she’s the shortest figure from the line), and has 6 points of articulation, counting her tail.  Not an amazing selection, but at least she doesn’t have those v-hips!  Thundar’s sculpt is pretty decently handled.  She’s a fair translation of the show design into three dimensions, though she does seem a touch…blander?…than her show appearance.  In fact, bland is probably a apt descriptor of her in general.  From a purely technical standpoint, she’s perfectly fine, but she doesn’t really have the spark of character that Flash, Dale, and Ming all had.  Her expression is rather blank, her pose is little more than a simple standing pose (which isn’t inherently bad, but looks off compared to the others in the line), and she just feels a bit meh.  Even the paint is kind of boring.  Her colors aren’t far removed from how they looked on the show, but they do seem a little more washed out than they should be (in contrast to the overly bright Talon figure).  They’re still handled well technically, but it just feels like there could be more pop.  Princess Thundar included a weird bladed disc thing, a rebel VisiPad, and a purple AirSled.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Thundar also came from the lot of eight I picked up last summer.  I can’t say my expectations of her were strongly one way or another.  Ultimately, she feels like something of a counter point to Talon.  Her paint work is sharp, but dull.  Her sculpt is decently detailed and all, but still…dull.  And her pose is very stiff, which seems very contrary to her nature on the show.  Of the two, she’s the superior figure, but that takes her from being bad to being just sort of “meh.”

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#1058: Prince Talon

PRINCE TALON

FLASH GORDON (PLAYMATES)

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Each new iteration of Flash Gordon brings its own unique characters to the table.  The 90s cartoon was no exception.  In some cases, characters were created wholesale, and in others, they were amalgamations or approximations of previously existing characters.  Presumably, after the unforgettable performances of Brian Blessed and Timothy Dalton as Prince Vultan and Prince Barin, respectively, in the 1980 Flash Gordon movie, the makers of the cartoon felt replacing them might be difficult, and instead gave us Prince Talon, who was one of the Hawkmen, just like Vultan, but also was far less antagonistic, and served as a foil to Flash, much like Barin (who would later appear in the cartoon, albeit in a much smaller role).  Today, I’ll be looking at Talon’s one and only action figure.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

princetalon2Talon was one of the basic assortment figures from Playmates’ Flash Gordon line.  The figure is about 5 inches tall and he has 8 points of articulation, counting his wings. After reviewing Ming, Talon feels like quite a step down in terms of movement.  The one pose you see him in for the pictures?  That’s pretty much the only pose you’ll be getting out of him.  Talon is ostensibly based on his cartoon design (well, the second one, since he had a different look in the pilot), but he doesn’t really translate as well as the others in the line did.  On the show he was very angular, classically heroic in built, and had a very rigid stance.  On the figure, he’s round, a little pudgy, and permanently in a weird sort of mid-lunging pose.  Most of the cool details from his costume are just painted on, despite many of them having dimension on the original design, and the others in the set getting all the appropriate details on their sculpts.  And for some reason, they’ve given him a pair of sunglasses.  I guess all black guys in the ‘90s had to have cool shades?  They just end up looking rather hokey, though, since their shape doesn’t fit with anything else about the design.  It feels like the sculptor just got too lazy to actually sculpt his eyes, and did this as a time saver.  The wings can be removed if you so desire (because it was easier to fit him in the package with them off).  They’re rather basic and uninspiring, and once again seem to miss the coolness of his design from the show.  The paint on Talon is also some of the worst the line had to offer.  His colors are rather drab, and don’t really match up with his show design.  The pale green has been replaced by a warm yellow, which just looks even more dorky.  His details are all kind of fuzzy around the edges, and he’s painfully shiny in hue.  He just looks rather fake and cheap.  Talon included a weird bird-shaped blade-gun thing, which has an extending feature, as well as another AirSled, this time in light blue.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Talon is one of the last figures I got from the line.  He came from the lot of 8 I picked up at a convention last summer.  He was actually one of my main reasons for picking up the set, because Talon was one of my favorite parts of the show.  Unfortunately, the Talon figure takes a look at the bar set by yesterday’s Ming figure and just sort of face plants just in front of it.  Somehow, they managed to take the coolest of the show’s designs and turn it into the lamest of the 8 figures released.  It’s a real shame.

#1057: Ming the Merciless

MING THE MERCILESS

FLASH GORDON (PLAYMATES)

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If Dale Arden is the prototypical heroine/love interest, then Ming the Merciless is most definitely the prototypical arch villain.  I mean, c’mon, “Merciless” is part of his name.  Over the years, Ming has run the gamut between alien and human; he’s always just different enough to be clearly of another world, and always human enough to hit close to home with his evil ways, but the exact balance can be anywhere between those points.  In the case of the ‘90s cartoon, he was definitely in the more alien camp.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

ming2Ming was released as part of the basic assortment of Playmates’ Flash Gordon line, which is sensible seeing as he’s, you know, the primary villain (though being a major character was hardly a guarantee of a figure for this line.  Just ask poor Dr. Zarkov…).  The figure stands about 5 1/4 inches tall and he has 7 points of articulation.  Of particular note on the articulation is the presence of knee joints, something no other figure in this line possessed.  Why did Ming get the extra articulation?  Simple.  Playmates also released his throne, and he had to be able to sit on it.  So, rather than give all of the figures this quite useful articulation scheme, they just made Ming that way, which means he doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the line stylistically.  On the plus side, he has one of the nicest sculpts the line produced.  He takes the show design and tweaks it to make it just a bit more realistic, both in level of detail and in overall proportions.  It still makes him seem very different from the others, but that’s kind of okay.  The cape is a separate piece, which is alright, but it has a bit of trouble staying on, and it makes hime slightly difficult to keep balanced. The paintwork on Ming is pretty decent.  The colors are a fair bit less vibrant than the last two figures, but that’s show accurate, and it makes him seem a bit more villainous.  The details are all pretty clean and sharp.  He’s also got a nifty light-piping feature on his eyes, which gives him sort of an eery kind of a gaze.  Ming was packed with an extending staff thingy, and an Airsled, this time in purple.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Ming was my second figure from this particular line.  He was one of the many figures I picked up from Ageless Heroes’ going out of business sale back in ’99.  Ming was then my fourth figure in the line, when I got another as a gift from someone a year or two later.  Another Ming was later acquired as part of the full set of figures I bought last summer, bringing the total Ming number up to three.  That’s a lot of Mings, but I can’t say I totally mind.  The biggest problem this figure faces is being very different from the rest of the line, but that’s less a problem with him and more a problem with the other seven figures.

#1056: Dale Arden

DALE ARDEN

FLASH GORDON (PLAYMATES)

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One of the standard tropes of popular media, especially action and adventure oriented media, is the need for the main hero to have a love interest of sorts. In terms of sci-fi stories, many of these characters are patterned after Flash Gordon’s gal Friday, Dale Arden. Interestingly enough, Dale has rarely been simply a damsel in distress, unlike so many of the characters who followed in her footsteps. Dale has pretty consistently been just one of the team associated with Flash. In many ways, she’s aided by the fact that she’s never really been the sole love interest for Flash, allowing her to be a more fully formed character. The ‘90s cartoon stayed pretty true to form, and, in fact, Dale is probably the best thought-out of the main three characters.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

dale2Dale was released in the basic figure assortment of Playmates’ Flash Gordon line. The figure stands a little under 5 inches tall and has 5 points of articulation. She’s based on Dale’s primary design from the ‘90s cartoon, which isn’t quite as dated as the Flash design, but it’s still got a pretty clear ‘90s bend to it. The sculpt is a pretty decent translation of the show design, though it’s not quite spot-on. Her face in particular seems a bit too wide at the bottom, and the proportions of her body as a whole are far more exaggerated than they were in the show. She’s got a slightly pre-posed nature (which doesn’t really help the slightly off proportions), which kind of makes her articulation kind of pointless. You can sort of mix up the pose, but not a whole lot. It’s worth noting that Dale is probably one of the more attractive female figures from just about any toy company in the ‘90s, which is certainly something Playmates can be proud of. Dale’s paintwork is about on par with Flash’s. The colors are bold and bright (though the green’s a touch too bright for show accuracy), and the application is pretty clean. She’s still really shiny, but it bugs me a bit less here than it did on Flash. Dale includes the same assortment of accessories as Flash: a Triblaster, Rebel Visipad, and an Airsled, this time in a nice bluish green.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I picked up Dale during a somewhat nostalgic period of my Freshmen year of college. I had pulled out a lot of my old 5-inch figures to be put back out on display and was filling a few holes here and there. I already had Flash and Ming, but not Dale, so I got her from a seller on Amazon. She’s a pretty cool little figure. She’s got her flaws, but I like her more than the basic Flash.

#1055: Flash Gordon

FLASH GORDON

FLASH GORDON (PLAYMATES)

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While everyone and their mother is out there celebrating the anniversary of that Star Trek thing, I think its about high time we all looked at the really important September 2016 anniversary: Flash Gordon!  No, not the whole franchise (which, it should be noted is actually 82 this year), or even the original movie serial (which is 80), but rather the 1990s cartoon adaptation, which first aired this month 20 years ago, way back in 1996.  You don’t remember that show you say?  Okay, that’s actually fair.  It only lasted for 26 episodes, never made it to any of the major networks, and the only official home media release was a VHS containing the first five episodes of the show.  It’s not particularly widespread.  However, it did manage to get a nice little toyline in the ‘90s, courtesy of Playmates.  Over the course of the next week, I’ll be looking at those figures, starting with the titular character, Alex “Flash” Gordon.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

flashg2Flash was released as part of the aforementioned Flash Gordon line from Playmates.  As far as I know, there was just the one series (though other figures were planned and scrapped).  This figure stands about 5 inches tall and has 6 points of articulation.  He presents Flash in his main look from the show.  If you thought the ‘80s Flash might be a bit dated, hoo boy, get a load of this guy.  He is the most ‘90s of the ‘90s.  The whole show had something of a ‘90s skateboarder feel to it, but Flash in particular stands out as being the most dated.  The hair, the pants with the weird belt line, the inexplicable choice of a belly shirt.  I’m not sure what they were thinking with this, but, well, here he is.  The sculpt does, at the very least, do a pretty good job of translating the show design into three dimensions.  It’s not spot on, but the animation was a bit inconsistent, so I think this is the best they could have done.  He’s slightly pre-posed, but not too absurdly, especially given that he’s from the era of Total Justice.  The paintwork on Flash is decent enough.  The colors are nice and bright, and everything seems to be pretty clean.  He’s really, really shiny, which bugs me quite a bit, but there it is.  Flash includes a TriBlaster, Rebel VisiPad, and an Air Sled (which really is just a skateboard).

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Flash was the first figure I got from this line, way back in 1996.  I actually had not yet seen the show at the time that I got him, I just knew the character from the ‘30s serials that my dad had on Laserdisc (yes, you read that right).  That figure was lost over the years, and in the mean time, I actually saw the show these guys were based on.  At last summer’s Shore Leave, one of the dealers that I’ve bought stuff from before was selling the whole set of 8 figures for $20, which seemed like a really good deal to me.  Is this figure a great one? Nope, but he’s fun enough.  Really, I bought him because I wanted the rest of the set.  Were they worth it?  You’ll have to keep reading to find out.