Hero HACKS: Flash Gordon by Boss Fight Studios

Folks, I freaking love the 1980 Flash Gordon movie. I’m not talking I love to laugh at it, or I dig it in an ironic way. I mean, I adore it in the most honest and unapologetic way imaginable. I was only 8 years old when it hit theaters and I was robbed of that experience. But I made my parents rent the hell out of it when it hit VHS and I’ve probably owned every home release of the movie since. I have the movie poster, I have the soundtrack on vinyl, and I have picked up just about every bit of merchandising I could get. The film is so rich with amazing character and costume designs, my dream has always been that it get an action figure treatment as exhaustive as Star Wars. Like, give me a figure of every character on screen! I would army build the hell out of half the denizens of Ming’s Court. Alas, a definitive toy line continues to elude me. Bif Bang Pow did some decent 7-inch figures (which I reviewed OVER TEN YEARS AGO!) as well as some MEGO style versions, but that’s about it. UNTIL NOW! Boss Fight Studios has been branching out their HACKS line beyond just the Greek Mythology and Swords and Sorcery with a number of different licenses and the 1980 Dino De Laurentiis Opus is one of them. They have revealed a few figures, but Flash himself is heralding the line with a special tin lunchbox release.

If you were a child of the 70s or 80s, you no doubt remember it as the Era of Licensed Lunchboxes! Getting ready for the new school year involved my poor parents pouring money into clothes and shoes and books, but all I cared about was who I was going to represent this year on my lunchbox. That was always the question. What would it be this year? Would I be drinking my chocolate milk out of an ALF Thermos? Spectacular! I’ll confess, I never had a Flash Gordon one, but I would have been proud to tote my bologna and cheese to school in a sacred tin tabernacle with the visage of Max Von Sydow and Sam Jones printed on it. And here  it is! The front of this collector’s tin has some artwork inspired by the poster and it is absolutely outstanding. I wish I could say the same for the rest of the box.

Holy Hot Hail, what happened to the rest of it? The disconnect between the art on the front and the other sides is really quite palpable. I suppose you could argue that some of those vintage lunchboxes didn’t always have the best quality art, but this stuff is pretty dreadful. Is it intentionally bad? I just don’t know. Flash and Dale on the back panel are particularly offensive. Prince Barin and Prince Vultan aren’t quite as bad. Klytus is there on the other side panel along with some fellas from Ming’s Court. With the front panel looking so great, this tote is certainly displayable, but I wish they had done a better job on the rest of it. If you’re going to go for special presentation, I’m not sure that this is the way to do it.

Inside, Flash and his extra bits are laid out on a clear plastic tray that fits perfectly inside the tote. I really like the way they did this, especially with the branded figure stand in lieu of any kind of interior packaging art. On the downside there is a hell of a lot of empty space in there, which kind of showcases how light this figure is on the accessories. I’ve been collecting HACKS since the original Kickstarter, and it seemed like most of the figures came with an abundance of extras, so all that open air on the tray is pretty conspicuous here. Well, let’s get Flash out and have a look.

HACKS is billed as a 1:18 scale line, which generally puts Flash here in the 3 3/4 to 4-inch range. However, HACKS figures tend to be a little chunkier and so I find that Flash looks a little oversized when displayed with most Hasbro figures in this scale. I think some of the reason for that is because these figures are designed to be modular to allow for customization. Whatever the case, This figure is based on Flash’s appearance early in the film, and it was a good choice for the debut figure. He dons his self-promoting white T-shirt, a pair of khaki slacks, and some sneakers. In terms of sculpt and paint, I think everything about this figure is excellent. Sure, the outfit doesn’t require anything complex, but it nails the look of the character perfectly. The printing on the shirt is crisp, as is the red borders on the neck and sleeves. I love the way the pants cuffs fall about the sneakers, and the sneakers themselves showcase a ridiculous attention to detail. Flash is even wearing a removable silver watch on his left wrist. The only thing here to mar the look of the figure is the peg hole in the back, which doesn’t serve a purpose on Flash, and the screw in his butt that holds the figure together.

You get three head sculpts, all of which are decent likenesses for Sam Jones in this scale. The figure comes wearing a smiling expression, and that’s my favorite of the bunch. I just think it captures Flash the best. The other two convey more aggression or determination. Quite frankly, I don’t think there’s a big enough difference between the other two heads to warrant including both of them. It’s nice to have options, but I would much rather that plastic had gone into a weapon or other accessory.

HACKS articulation is pretty solid, but I wouldn’t call these guys super articulated. The arms have hinged pegs for the shoulders, elbows, and hands. It’s not bad, but you can only get about a 90-degree bend in those elbows. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, have double-hinges in the knees, and sadly no swivels in the thighs. The ankles seem to be on rotating hinges, but with the cuffs sculpted the way they are, the best I can get out of them is a swivel. That’s a shame, because the ankles won’t allow the feet to go perpendicular with his legs. As a result, Flash always wants to fall backwards, which is why I’m using a stand in all of the pictures. Why not use the official HACKS stand? I’ll get to that in a bit. Finally, you get a ball joint under the chest and a double ball joint in the neck. The joints on this guy all feel great and he is fun to play around with, but some points could have used a little fine tuning. And that brings us to the rest of the extras! In addition to the two extra heads, Flash comes with a total of five hands. You get a pair of fists, a pair of accessory holding hands, and a left hand that is pegged for the one accessory he comes with. If you want to get any use out of those generic accessory hands, you’ll have to provide your own guns or swords or whatever you want to arm him with.

That one accessory is the football-shaped tribute to Ming that Flash uses to run his Quarterback moves during the fight in the Court.  The piece is very well done, with an excellent sculpt and great looking paint. I also appreciate the way they designed it to peg into the open hand. But as good as it is, it really doesn’t feel like enough to round out this package. I realize that Flash was wearing a different costume when he brandished the sword and went full on freedom fighter, but I still feel like they should have given him a gun or something. How about that gold gauntlet that one of the guards shot at him. It could have been sculpted to go around his neck with an effect part. That would have been cool.

And finally you get the branded figure stand, which doesn’t work because the pegs are way too thick for the holes in his feet. This is weird, because all my HACKS figures have come with similar stands, and I’ve never had a problem with them before. With four different pegs on the stand, you’d think at least one of them would work with the figure. Bundling a stand with a figure that doesn’t fit the figure seems like a pretty big mess up to me. It’s especially vexing when the figure won’t stand up by itself.

Obviously, I had some issues with Flash, but truth be told, there’s a lot to like about this figure. He looks great, he’s fun to play with, and I’m always going to be happy to have a new figure from this film. But here’s the thing, this little guy cost $45 and that’s just crazy. The overall lack of quality found in the artwork on the lunchbox doesn’t make it worth the extra cost. I would have much rather had this figure carded and given him a few more extras. Or round it up to $50 and make it a two-pack with the red and black tank top version of Flash they’re releasing. Heck, even with the regular carded releases coming in at $28 a pop, I’m still going to support this line because I’d like to see it go the distance. Alas, my fear is that we’re just going to get a handful of figures before this line fizzles. I certainly don’t expect to get any of the cool guards or soldiers, that kind of depth would be something better suited to Super7’s ReAction line. Still, it would be nice to see pre-orders up for Vultan, Dale, Zarkov, or Princess Aura. Right now the only other figures up for pre-order are Flash v2 and Prince Barin. Come on, guys, at least get Ming and Klytus in there. Ah well. I guess time will tell.

Flash Gordon Figures by Biff Bang Pow!, Part 2

Ok, cue up the Queen CD, because I’m ready for some more Flash Gordon action figure goodness. Last time we looked at Flash, Dale and Barin, so this time we’ll wrap things up with the two principle assholes of the picture: General Klytus and Ming the Merciless.

General Klytus was an awesome character in the film. He was Ming’s right hand man and all around sleezeball and wonderfully portrayed by Peter Wyngarde. He’s been compared to Boba Fett, based on the claim that all of his appeal comes from his cool looking mask, but I disagree. He had a lot of dialogue and was far from just a bit character that stood around as set dressing. But, sure, I’ll certainly grant that he has a great character design that really lends itself well to an action figure and that makes him my favorite looking figure of the bunch. Because he’s wearing a mask, BBP didn’t have to contend as much with getting the facial features of an actor right, and that probably goes a long way to help this character’s sculpt as well.
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The mask is not only really well done, but I love the fact that BBP sculpted the eyes in the eyesockets. That nice work combined with some excellent paint apps make the mask look like its a separate and removable piece when it really isn’t. All the folds and ruffles in Klytus’ cloak are nicely executed as is the texture work on his tunic, which also makes use of the same sparkly flakes that we saw applied to Dale’s wedding dress.
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The articulation on this figure takes quite a few steps back from what we saw on Flash and Barin, but it isn’t terrible. Klytus’ neck appears to be jointed, but because of the sculpted hood, it doesn’t really turn. He does have rotating shoulders and a hinge in his right, gold arm. Lastly, his legs rotate at the pelvis. The fact that he doesn’t have any knee articulation doesn’t bother me, since his robes would really make them useless. I am disappointed that BBP didn’t add a hinge to his left elbow. They may have felt it would have interfered with the sleeve sculpt, but I would have preferred it. A ball joint to the right shoulder would have been welcome too. Ok, so I take it back… his articulation is pretty terrible.

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Klytus doesn’t come with any accessories, but I still love him. This figure captures the character perfectly and its obvious that BBP tried to work with his sculpt to add a decent amount of articulation. The variant of this figure featured his eyes and tongue protruding from his mask during his death scene when he was tossed onto a platform of spikes. Its a cool variant, but I’ll stick with this one, thank you very much.

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And that brings us to the big baddy himself, Ming the Merciless. Now Ming was issued in both red and black robes, and I have to admit it was a real trying decision on which one to go with in order to complete my collection. Ultimately, I will probably hunt down the red one, but for now I went with his black garb, just because I really liked how the black and gold looked and I thought he matched Klytus better. This figure is also considerably easier to find than the red one.

The first thing you should know about this guy is that he is a statue, not a figure. His head will turn from side to side, and he does actually have the ability to rotate his arms at the shoulders, but that poses two problems. The first is in the design, where the sculpt has the long sleeves hanging down so that if you move his arms, it looks like his robe is defying gravity. The second problem is, granted, unique to my figure, as his right arm broke clean off as I was removing him from the package and had to be glued back on. Normally I would be furious with BBP at what is clearly some shitty quality control, but honestly, if it had to happen to any of these figures, I’m glad it happened with Ming as his arm articulation was useless to begin with. I’m not going to be all that critical about the articulation on this figure, because any time you have to fashion a figure with sculpted plastic robes, you have an uphill battle when it comes to articulation.

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With all that out of the way, this is one fantastic looking figure… er, statue. Not only did BBG capture the likeness of Max Von Sadow perfectly, the combination of sculpting and gold paint apps on the robes is just awesome. The pre-pose is really effective as he has his right arm held up with his hand forming a powerful fist. His left arm is held close to his chest and shows off his ring, which was showcased so prominantly in the final scene of the film. Once again, BBP makes use of the sparkly flakes on a few appropriate parts of Ming’s costume. The fact that I am raving about this guy even with his crap articulation and the fact that he actually broke coming out the package should tell you a lot. Its a downright amazing sculpt.

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And that wraps up my look at Biff Bang Pow’s Flash Gordon figures. I’m really glad to own this set, even if they aren’t what I hoped they would be. I think the biggest problem with this little series is the inconsistancy. They are mostly great sculpts, with the one albeit big exception being Dale Arden’s face. But they really run the gamut on articulation from great to practically non-existant. They look damn nice on the shelf, though, and they gave me an opportunity to try out the products from a toy company that was previously completely unknown to me. For a company that seems to mainly makes bobbleheads and novelties, this was a good early effort into the realm of licensed action figures.

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.