Flash Gordon Figures by Biff Bang Pow!, Part 1

Folks, I love the 1980 Flash Gordon movie. I really don’t want to turn this into a movie review, but I feel that to really communicate how much I was looking forward to these figures I needed to tell you that. I first saw it when I was a wee lad and was almost immediately smitten. It has an unabashed cheesy charm that makes it one of my all time favorite comic book to film adaptations. It doesn’t take itself seriously, and it doesn’t waste a lot of time on origins bullshit or anything like that, nor does it make any apologies for what it is. It has some pretty good special effects for the time, some amazing sets and costumes, and from a purely artistic standpoint (as opposed to technical) it looks exactly one thousand times more interesting and visually appealing than any one of the original Star Wars trilogy. So, yeah, I love the movie. When the Special Edition DVD came out, I snapped it up only to be crushed by some of the commentary of the crew ragging on it. Boo!

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I’ve really wanted figures from this movie for a long, long time. As a kid, I would have killed for an extensive line of 3 3/4″ figures, like Star Wars, where every character that had a second of screen time got a figure. I would have bought all those crazy palace guards and soldiers, and hawkmen and rocket sleds and ships and playsets. Alas, the movie didn’t garner nearly enough interest to solicit a lot of merchandising, which sucks because even friggin Buck Rogers got a toyline. Instead, I had to wait until last year for an upstart toy company called Biff Bang Pow! to put out a small series of figures based on the film. This series consisted of five unique sculpts, spread out into two full waves by way of variants, repaints and slight remolds. I’ve had four of these figures for a little while now, but only recently was I able to complete my set of one of each character. Now, the figures we got were not exactly what I had in mind. They consist of only a handful of the principle characters, and in keeping with the traditions of companies like NECA and McFarlane, some of these pieces barely qualify as figures, rather than semi-articulated statues. Nonetheless, this is what we got, so today we’ll take a look at the good guys (and gal): Flash Gordon, Dale Arden, and Prince Barin.
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Sorry, I don’t have any in-package shots, but I’ll note that the packaging on these figures was all over the place. Two of them were packaged in full blister packs with printed inserts, while the others came on crappy and horribly bent cardbacks with enormous bubbles. I know some of these figures were exclusives, so maybe the ones in blisters were the exclusives. I just don’t know. The only point worth stressing here is that if you are a MOC collector, you may be hard pressed to find good cards, because the figures are so heavy.

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Of the five figures, Flash Gordon is without a doubt the best action figure as he has both a fantastic sculpt and fairly good articulation. This figure was released three times with three different t-shirts and three different weapons. Of the three, this one is my favorite because of his signature “Flash” shirt and he’s holding the conveniently football-shaped alien artifact that he used to brain a bunch of Ming’s incompetant soldiers with before taking one on the noggin himself. The “football” is pegged to fit securely into a hole in Flash’s right hand. Sure, when you get down to it, this is just a dude in khaki pants and a t-shirt, but it really captures actor Sam Jones’ likeness very well. The paint apps on the sneakers are nice, and the “Flash” logo is applied to his shirt with crisp precision. I like this figure’s sculpt enough that somewhere down the road I may pick up at least one of the other two variants.

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As for articulation… Flash has a ball jointed neck and shoulders, hinged elbows, swivel cuts in the biceps, swivels at the waist, his legs rotate at the pelvis and he has hinged knees. Lateral movement in the hips and a few extra swivel cuts in his thighs would have been nice, but all in all the articulation works fine for me.

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Prince Barin comes up second in terms of sculpt vs articulation. Truth be told, this figure’s overall design doesn’t do a lot for me, but he is a good likeness of Timothy Dalton and he is the only other figure in this set that BBP actually tried to make a bonafide action figure and not just a statue. Barin’s outfit is nicely detailed, especially the weave patterns in his tunic and the ornamentation on his belt. Without his laser cannon, he looks like he belongs in a Robin Hood film, which is fitting, since he was the Prince of a moon of forests and swamps.

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Barin has the same basic articulation as Flash, with just a few differences. His ball jointed shoulders are inhibited by the sculpted flares on his tunic, so they can pretty much just rotate and not really move laterally. He’s missing the swivel in the waist, but he does have additional hinges in his ankles.

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Prince Barin comes with a laser cannon that he grabbed off a tripod before going all Rambo on Ming’s forces. This figure’s variant was a battle damaged version with a whip depicting his fight with Flash at the Hawkmen’s city. The cannon is a nice accessory, although it does feel a bit delicate, like the ornamentation on the back might snap off at any moment.

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Dale Arden comes up bottom of the barrel. This figure depicts her in the wedding gown for her pending and non-concentual marriage to Ming. BBP did a fine job sculpting her costume and body, but they really flubbed it on the face, which looks nothing like actress Melody Anderson, and isn’t even remotely attractive either. To be brutally honest, it’s a man face with make-up on. On the other hand, the detailing on her headpiece and her shoulders is really nice as is the sparkling flakes applied to her gown. I was pleasently surprised to see that these sparklies don’t come off on my hands either. Crappy face sculpt aside, at least the rest of this figure is really nice looking. The variant of this figure features a white wedding gown.

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Unfortunately, Dale is also the worst articulated of all the figures. Part of the problem is that her tight fitting gown acts like a teepee and inhibits whatever leg articulation she might have had. It appears as if her shoulders have rotating joints, but the joints on my figure won’t move at all and I’m not willing to force them. Her right arm has an elbow hinge, which allows only a small amount of movement. Her left arm is preposed to place her hand on her hip, and despite the elbow hinge, it just doesn’t move at all. This, folks, is a statue.

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All three of these figures retailed for around $16.99 but eventually made it to the clearance bins at many E-tailers. I know that Toys R Us carried these figures and has recently began unloading them for around half of that. I picked up Flash and Barin back when they were full price and based on their scale, articulation and sculpts I was pretty happy with my purchases. Fortunately, I waited on Dale until she hit the bargain bins. Truth be told, she probably wasn’t worth it other than just to complete my set.

Next time, we’ll look at Ming the Merciless and General Klytus.

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