Thursday, 29 March 2012

Review: Defenders of the Earth

Before the Avengers there were....The Defenders of the Earth!

Actually, that's not true. The Avengers came before the DotE by quite a long way, but I bring the Marvel superteam up because a) there's a blockbuster movie about to be released, and b) the premise is very similar: a bunch of comic book characters team up to defend the Earth.

And with quite a catchy theme written by comics legend Stan Lee, who was also co-creator of the Avengers, funnily enough.

While I said the Avengers beat the Defenders in terms of team-up date, many of the individual Defenders characters were on the scene before the constituent Avengers. Mandrake the Magician and Lothar appeared in 1934 and The Phantom in 1936 - all creations of Lee Falk. Flash Gordon, created by Alex Raymond, was first published in 1934. It was in 1986, however, when all four characters were put together (along with their new offspring) into a cartoon series to face off against Ming the Merciless (who turned green for the cartoon to prevent any possible accusations of racism).

The cartoon is quite interesting. Unlike a lot of cartoons where such topics are forbidden, Flash's wife 'dies' (in fact she is 'murdered' by Ming), and there were episodes focusing on alcoholism and drug addition.

The toyline wasn't extensive. There were figures for the adult protagonists, Ming & his henchman Garax, plus the dragon-like Mongor and a few vehicles. The figures bare reasonable likenesses to their cartoon counterparts, are solidly built (I've never seen any broken figures) and I love the bright colours, however they are let down by the problem of the eara: action features.

All the figures share the same action feature: turn the knob in their back and their arms rise and fall. Their lower arms are metal to give weight and help them drop as they move and 'fight'. The feature works well, however it makes the arms completely unposeable. You can't have Flash hold his gun up to shoot an enemy as it's so lose it doesn't even pretend like it's going to stay in position.

My Mongor is broken due to the action feature. The centre section is supposed to rise and fall as it moves forward, however the connection was very quickly snapped meaning it now lies flat. Opening him up, I found it simple to fix, however it soon broke again. My figure claim of 'solidly built' obviously doesn't extend to the rest of the toys in the line.

You may be able to see from the photo that one side of the hinge holding the cockpit cover of the helicopter is broken. Not too long ago I picked up the helicopter and that bit of plastic simply disintegrated in my hand. This was odd as previously there didn't appear to be a thing wrong with it (and still doesn't appear to be on the other side) and I don't know whether some accident had occurred when I wasn't looking, or it was simply bad luck.

The Defenders aren't common sight on ebay. Figures come up every now and again, and vehicles even more rarely. They aren't in particularly high demand, however, and if an item comes you you're more than likely to the sole bidder. I can testify to this by the skull-copter and sword ship I won yesterday and are now winging their way to me in the post.

My main complaint about this line - action feature aside - is the lack of an Ice Robot figure. As the main troops of Ming, these scream 'army builder' and something every kid would need to buy a hundred of. Okay, so you'd have to figure out the whole 'four arms' thing, but how about the frost men? You could just rerelease the existing figures but all in white. I'm sure no one would notice. Probably.

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