For those who grew up in the mid-eighties, Defenders of The Earth was an animated series which united King Features Syndicate characters Flash Gordon, Mandrake The Magician (with his sidekick, Lothar), and The Phantom; who have joined forces against Ming The Merciless.
This first wave features Flash, Ming, and The Phantom, with each character standing a healthy 7″. The first flaw is that the figures are far too overly muscled physiques, in particular Flash and The Phantom. All of the figures come with faux bullet/ray gun bursts and multiple hands.
Flash’s likeness pays homage to actor Buster Crabbe and comes with additional hands, a sword and his laser pistol. Additional accessories include blue tinted clear plug-ins you can use to simulate the shooting of a ray gun. Flash himself, wears a fairly traditional classic look; but that’s soured a bit by the far too defined musculature. His design borders on caricature, reminiscent of the bulging Masters of The Universe line. Nevertheless, the figure does a great job paying homage to the classic comic strip character.
Ming The Merciless is without a doubt the best looking figure of the line. Like Flash Gordon, this figure is reminiscent of the original serial actor, Charles Middleton. The character was always depicted as an East Asian stereotype and was portrayed by a white actor. By the time Defenders of The Earth aired, Ming was tweaked, now featuring a more alien depiction; with green skin and clawed fingers. Again, the physical body is a bit too much, but his ornate costume and cape do a great job distracting the rest of the sculpt.
Also included is the same raygun as the Flash figure, multiple hands, the faux laser bolts, a sword and his Mongor staff (seen in the above photograph). Again, there’s room for improvement, but overall a nice looking figure.
The first wave concludes with Lee Falk’s creation, The Phantom. Once again the figure suffers from an overly designed and defined musculature that apparently has a costume over it. The figure’s head also seems slightly too small and the neck ridiculously thick.
Duplicate hands and laser blasts are included (and one that plugs into an alternate hand with the Phantom’s skull ring). Also included is the same pistol as Flash and Ming (they couldn’t have provided an alternate Earth based pistol?). The last accessory is a small figure of Zuffy, The Phantom’s Defenders of The Earth sidekick that provides a deep contrast to this overly detailed figure.
None of the figures are as articulated as they could be. As a matter of fact, it’s frustrating that none of these figures has the ability to stand on it’s own. I’ve used a NECA figure stand with no luck. They fall over immediately.
So, the final verdict? There aren’t many classic comic strip figures out there, so if you’re a Flash Gordon or The Phantom fan, they are quite neat. The overly rendered sculpts are strictly a matter of taste and preference. Stiff joints can be loosened by a hair dryer and for display purposes, a NECA base and a small amount of adhesive will ensure that it’s pose will stay in place.
All in all, a mixed bag.
The Flash and Ming figures look pretty great and The Phantom could use a bit of improvement. The fact that they can’t stand up without extra support is disappointing.
But, as always, nostalgia wins, and you could do far worse than add these to your collection.