Toy Review: The Original Superheroes Series 1 by NECA

NECA‘s The Original Superheroes line, at least for the moment, features variants of their Defenders of the Earth figures, which is an interesting backwards way to go about it. Defenders is a tribute line to a cartoon and toy series that updated old King Features comic heroes. Now NECA’s using those figure sculpts to create figures for the original characters those were based on in the first place. Sort of.

See, while the Phantom figure in this line is more comic based, the Flash Gordon and Ming figures look the most like the 1979 Filmation cartoon, and the Mattel toys based on it. Ming sports his all-green outfit with a cape and a fin on his head, while Flash has the stripes down the side of his legs, and red shirt/black pants combo. Two exclusive redecoes, meant as Comic-Con exclusives but sold by the NECA store online and Target, reproduce the old Mattel action figure cards, and feature the figures in paint jobs based on the actual Mattel toys. (Like the old Star Wars figures, a lot of toys back then treated the source color guides as suggestions only.)

And this is where it gets a bit weird. The Mattel Ming figure originally featured a very washed out olive green with a slight flesh tone. It didn’t distinguish between Ming’s skin color and his clothes color. NECA’s looks like all flesh, and as a result Ming basically appears naked. To save on paint, Flash had a red crotch, as it was part of his torso piece, with blue legs. NECA reproduced that faithfully too. Rather than simply include just the original laser pistol, however, they do include a bonus trigger-finger right hand that can switch out for a fist.

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To make that Ming look less naked, you can always pop on a head from the other Ming, which features a different skin coloration. And thus makes the Caucasian flesh-colored suit look more like clothes again.

The actual cartoon had color schemes like the regular versions of these figures. Both also include the laser pistols, multiple hands, modified versions of the Defenders blast effects to fit on these new guns, swords, and bonus heads. Flash’s extra head features his aviator headgear, while Ming’s is unadorned and bald, in a Max von Sydow tribute appearance. Though his regular head is new too — the Defenders figure did not wear that finned helmet.

Flash’s extra hands only include a left sword-hand, while Ming is ambidextrous and has a right one too. Mings fist-hands are gloved, while the rest are bare. Both Flash and Ming use the same superhero base body, save for the forearms — Ming has glove hems sculpted. (Phantom has cuffs, which are different.) Scabbards for both pop on and off the belt, and Ming’s even gets a tiny metal chain. Thanks to the laser pistol’s targeting sight, the blast effects are a beast to attach, as one has to match up a tiny notch in the blast with the sight. Once attached, the short flash stays well, and the longer one stays…for a while. The pistol is the same for both versions — silver for the Mattel style, gun-metal for the Filmation/comic.

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Due credit to NECA for listening to complaints — the pegs on the hands don’t have the same paint rub issue as before. And Phantom’s limbs are fine. Comic/Filmation Flash had awkward shoulder joints; the kind that felt like they might twist off when forced. But boiling in water and popping them off and on solved that issue. The gun holsters close easier without the guns inside — stretch a bit and they might close with, but it’s testy.

The Phantom is a whole different deal. Now with more highlights on his costume, actual realistic guns (with li’l silver skulls on the handles!), custom blasts for these pistols, a whip, and his sacred skull, this is the comic version. The guns fit loosely in two side holsters. His eyes and belt buckle also glow in the dark. As a bonus, he comes with a whip, the entire length of which is a bendable wire for action poses. Considering the character’s kind of a white savior in Africa, the whip may feel a bit cringey, but it’s baked into the mythology, for better or worse. And his Speedo be stripey.

The skull even works as a bonus head, with a hinged jaw. It’s not clear why fans might want that, but it can display disintegration at the hand of Ming, perhaps. NECA’s Randy Falk once tossed Zorro’s name around as a future entry in the line, which may mean some horses in the future. Meanwhile, McFarlane’s horses for The Dark Knight Returns and The Witcher ought to scale right for the Ghost Who Walks (or, er, rides sometimes). Anyway, unless NECA ever does a Billy Zane movie version (pleaseplease! But unlikely) this is probably the best Phantom figure we’ll get. And we can probbaly expect comics-based Mandrake and Lothar before Zorro.

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Assuming the source material is of no issue, while Phantom is definitely better than the Defenders of the Earth version, Flash Gordon is about even money, and Ming…well, Defenders Ming is easily the fanciest Ming.

These classic Flashes have really baby blue eyes compared to the previous one. The aviator helmet face actually reins in the ridiculously square jaw a bit.

Now, the interesting part is the prices. For the Mattel-carded figures, you’ll have to luck out at Target or pay eBay scalpers. For the boxed: because figures have gone up quite a bit over the past two years, they cost more than the Defenders of the Earth versions, even though they don’t really come with a lot more besides the bonus head. Entertainment Earth has the Defenders set of Flash, Ming, and Phantom for $89.99, and The Original Superheroes versions of those three for $104.99 — a $25 markup. It’s hard to say they’re worth that much extra, unless the particular color schemes are more meaningful. The Phantom by himself? Yes. Unlees you’re a big Defenders fan who wanted the Zuffy pack-in minifig, or prefer his rings to blast lasers, this Phantom has the correct accessories.

[Note: Entertainment Earth is an affiliate partner of Superhero Hype, and this site may earn fees from purchases made through our links.]

NECA originally created this body for DC superheroes. On King Features heroes it looks a little odd, since nobody back in the ’30s and ’40s drew super steroided-up physiques like this. Nobody had them in real life, either. It’s a modern touch, similar to Mattel trying to give He-Man the most powerful physique in the universe. And like Masters of the Universe, adapting that muscle physique to everyone in the line. As a marketing touch to kids, it’s genius. Will kids buy these? Who knows. Adults buy more action figures nowadays anyway. You decide if the hybrid look is right for you. Check out the gallery below for more.

Then let us know in comments what you think.

Recommended Purchase: Defenders of the Earth – The Complete 65 Episode Series

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