Thursday, June 19, 2008

Retro Cartoon Corner: Flash Gordon

This is the first entry in a new series of articles spotlighting forgotten cartoons, primarily from the 70's and 80's...but there are really no limits.

Flash! Ah-AAAAhhhh....oh wait, it's not that Flash Gordon. Too bad, I love Queen.

To start off, I really must admit I don't remember this cartoon. According to Wikipedia, it aired from 1979-1980. That means it should have been on in the prime of my sleepy-eyed cereal crunching Saturday morning euphoria, but I missed it. Must have been on the same time as SuperFriends. I never missed SuperFriends. But I digress....

Although "Flash Gordon" is the actual title, it gets referred to as "The New Adventures of Flash Gordon" to avoid confusion. 32 episodes over two seasons was all they had. The first season was originally a TV movie that got cut up into chapters. All of this info is readily available on Wikipedia for those who are interested.

Now the opinion portion of the review. After all, isn't that what the internet is all about? People voicing meaningless opinions in the vain hope someone will listen? Anyway, here's my story: I've had my eye on this series since it was released on DVD, but I didn't want to pay for it. Jump ahead to last Saturday--I stopped by my favorite new and used book/movie/music bargain store, Half Price Books, and after picking up some cheap used vinyl and graphic novels, I noticed a shelf of DVDs. There it was: Flash Gordon, the complete series. Not even used...brand new! And best of was only $6.48! Needless to say, I snatched it up.

So after viewing the first disc (yeah, I know, I should watch it all before reviewing...sue wait, don't....I'm broke...) I have to say that I'm enjoying the show, but it is fairly limited. It's a familiar style Filmation project, so fans of Blackstar, Tarzan, Lone Ranger, etc. will know what to expect. The animation appeals to me, but some find it simple. It's an opinion thing...I'd rather watch this than any anime, but that's me. The story is decent and involves some subtle commentary on cooperation, racism, sexism, and general problem solving. My four-year old daughter thought it was great, so doesn't that say it all?

As with all great shows, there were action figures. They were very simple 3.75" figures that seem to be fairly easy to find on ebay, but not always cheap. I don't own any of them, so I can't really comment on them.

So there's the first quick review. Fans of this site (Fans...ha!...I crack myself up sometimes...) should look forward to future articles on cartoons, action figures, and whatever else crosses my mind. I should also mention that in addition to Flash, Half Price Books also had BlackStar, SpaceSentinels, and Defenders of the Earth available. I went to three locations, and all three had a different selection. Prices ranged from $6.48 to $9.98 for the different shows. I strongly encourage all classic cartoon fans to find a nearby location and check it out. No, I don't work for's just one of my favorite stores.


NoelCT said...

Hey, I've got your blog flagged for updates. Granted, I wouldn't exactly call myself a fan. How about a fellow blogger in search of an audience?

I really, really want to give this series a watch, but that damned obsessive completism itch has me wanting to wait until I read the strips first.

That said, I have picked up several other Filmation titles BCI put out. Is it just me, or do these half-forgotten animated series get higher quality DVD sets than some of the top shows currently on air? I'm not complaining. Just wish every show could be treated with such care.

Ever see the animated series from the 90s? Flash and Dale were turned into rebellious skateboarding teenagers, but my memories from way back then say it was good.

The recent live-action show on the other hand ... urg.

rebelwookiee said...

I agree about the recent series. Ugh. I really, really wanted to like it...but it was hopeless.

I don't remember the 90's series that well. I remember seeing some action figures, I think. By then I was drifting away from cartoons to more "mature" endeavors. But I'm feeling much better now.

As for quality, I agree that some of these semi-obscure cartoons are really getting the royal treatment. I love it, but I wonder if it's profitable, especially after finding all these in the discount store. I'd rather see simple no-frills releases than see the company stop producing them, especially since there are a lot of shows still unavailable.

I'm working on some ideas for more blog updates. I think I'll review some obscure action figures next.

NoelCT said...

I stuck with the new show for a dozen episode, pleading wit it to get better. The strange thing is, I've regularly followed lesser shows in the past (still watch POWER RANGERS), but the title FLASH GORDON alone just brings with it a certain level of expectation. Maybe that's unfair, but it is what it is.

Digging through some snippets on youtube, the 90s series really is quite fun. Despite the hip, teenage versions of Flash and Dale (which works better than you'd think), they pretty much nailed all the various clans and political factions of Mongo and set up some wonderfully epic stories. Shame it didn't last long.

As for obscure animation DVDs, I think BCI gets away with it because a) I believe they don't press as many copies as a big studio release, and b) most of the extras are freely donated by fans and crew who seem all too happy to share their memories.

Not to go off topic, but did you stick with cartoon in the 90s long enough to catch MIGHY MAX? Love that show.