NECA Flash Gordon 1980 Movie Figures Wave 1 Toy Review

FLASH! AHHHHHHHH-ah! If you’ve ever seen and loved the 1980 Flash Gordon movie directed by Mike Hodges featuring a soundtrack by Queen, that tune is already going through your head looking at these pictures. As well it should. The movie is a genre classic, with a script by Batman 1966 writer Lorenzo Semple Jr. that’s equally good at playing as high adventure for the kids and innuendo-laden parody for adults. If you enjoyed it first as a kid, it revealed more layers as the years went by.

NECA’s been making various Flash Gordon action figures for a while now, but they’ve been building up to this. First, they made Flash Gordon figures based on the Defenders of the Earth cartoon. Then, the Filmation cartoon colors. After that, exclusive variants based on classic Mattel toy colors and costumes that mostly resembled the movie designs but were actually kitbashes of the previous figures without actor likenesses. Now, finally, they have obtained the likenesses of at least three key actors to make a wave of figures truly worthy to be called Ultimates.

Gordon’s Alive!

BifBangPow made Flash Gordon movie figures with designs by Alex Ross in the 7-inch scale previously, but they had some issues with breakage and a lackluster second wave that wasn’t as good at capturing the supporting players. And while Big Chief Studios made 12-inch versions of movie Flash and Ming, these should become the definitive versions. Vultan has rarely been made as a figure before, and never with a dead-on Brian Blessed likeness. As the most charismatic hunk of ham in the film, he certainly deserves it at last.

First, the burning question: can the extra heads that come with each figure fit on the previous comic and cartoon-styled Flash and Ming figures. The answer is yes, mostly. Flash’s heads switch out with no problem. The proportions are slightly different, but not in a way that’s implausible.

Ming’s new Max von Sydow heads are larger, however, and sit loosely on the previous throne-room Ming head peg. If all you want to do is display them, they’ll stay on fine, but the moment you lay them flat, the head will roll off. Customizers probably know the perfect material to fill the socket with. As for the Filmation and Mattel-styled Mings, the back collar makes it harder to fit the heads on. It can be done, but a true customizer would probably want to do some sanding and filling first. Or, if you don’t care about articulation, just glue it.

Ming Dynasty

Folks who’ve been collecting NECA Flash and Ming figures all along really benefit here. Assuming wave 1 sells, NECA will probably make Ming in his throne room robes more specifically based on movie reference, but if not, the previous version (which uses recolored Defenders of the Earth parts) looks great with an extra von Sydow head on it. Want to see movie variants that never were, like some of Kenner’s Batman figures in the ’90s? Now you can give Sam J. Jones a comics-accurate costume, or give him a Defenders of the Earth outfit he might have had in a sequel that never was.

Realistically, Jones is considerably less jacked than NECA’s superhuman bodybuilder buck for the previous iterations — but the new movie one does have chest hair painted on if you look closely.

Articulation on these figures is different, favoring the single disc-and-pin elbows and knees of most recent NECA movie fare (Alex Murphy was an odd, welcome departure from this). Ming’s costume overlay keeps his upper torso rigid, and Flash doesn’t seem to have any mid-torso joint, but Vultan definitely does.

Vultan’s wings are strictly cut joints, not disc-and-pin like Gargoyles. They attach to a flat, gold colored plank across his back.


Vultan includes one un-helmeted head and three with giant blocks on the top of the cranium to attach the helmet. Here’s where it pays to be very careful — as I switched heads, the helmet came off, fell about three feet, and broke one of the horns. The helmet is a rigid, brittle plastic, so it will absolutely maintain its shape and never droop, but it will also break if the figure falls off your shelf.

Or, as Vultan would say, takes a shelf “DYIIIIIIIIIIVE!” (NECA has promised a replacement helmet as soon as they get spare parts in.)

As far as stands, the McFarlane flight stand will hold him long enough for photos, but as it barely reaches halfway around his wrist, don’t count on it as a long term grip.

Icons on Icons?

Something noticeable on the toys is seemingly a Star of David etched on both Vultan’s helmet and Flash’s sword. If they have you curious, I already looked to compare — in the movie, it’s less visible, and a more bulging-out piece than flat, with a circle/hemisphere in the middle. Onscreen it looks more like the shape of a tub of Nickelodeon Gak. That said, if this helps younger Jewish collectors secure these as Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah gifts, why not?

Vultan also comes with his club, and both right and left hands that can grab it. Other accessories include the ice jewel of Frigia, which is translucent, and the remote control for his dueling platform. Both come with hands specifically shaped to hold them.

Flash comes with a gun, a sword (the same one that came with the previous movie-costume-ish Flash), and the hands to hold them, though he only has a right trigger-finger hand. The sword by rights ought to be held two-handed, but the handle’s not long enough. NECA maybe should have cheated there and stretched it a bit, but now he can hold sword and gun simultaneously. He gets a grenade as well, which you probably won’t pose him with.

Throw Yourself on Your Sword

Ming includes his sword, which fits in the sheath permanently attached to his costume. He has many interchangeable hands, though his sword hands seem generic, as the left one is the only one of his left hands not to wear his ring.

Each figure has a different package insert backdrop. For Flash, it’s the palace room where War Rocket Ajax has crashed. For Ming, it’s the room with the mind-wipe cannon. Vultan gets a bright sky full of his flying Hawkmen in the distance.

NECA wants to do more of these if sales permit, and that would certainly be a dream come true for many of us if so. The incredible production design produced many amazing toy possibilities — Ming’s various masked troopers alone are worth doing even if no other actors sign on. But we’re also owed a good Klytus, as BifBangPow’s was a letdown. A comprehensive movie line would make many fans very happy.

Value Added

It looks like each figure will cost around $36.99, which is normal for NECA. When you consider that the extra Flash and Ming heads transform previous figures into new variants, those two have extra value for folks who collect ’em all.

Take a look through our gallery below for many more images and angles: