Random Retro

Merciless Ming and Betamax
July 22, 2009
Welcome to my first article here at RetroJunk. I plan on doing more like this and hopefully some people will enjoy reading them. I am probably doing this more for myself than anything else though. I have so much stuff that never really gets attention (from me) and I thought this might be a good way for me to enjoy my own stuff even more. I'm not here to say "I am the only one in the world to have this..." or "Drool over my ultra rare whatever..." I could are less about that, most of my stuff isn't rare, isn't expensive and isn't drool worthy. It is just retro stuff that I want to appreciate more.

Random Retro[/align]

In 1986 King Features Syndicate took three of its comic characters; Flash Gordon, the Phantom, and Mandrake the Magician; and put them together in an animated series called Defenders of the Earth. Lothar, another character from the Mandrake comic strip, and their children (or in the case of Mandrake, an apprentice) joined them in their battles against Ming the Merciless.
Ming, another Flash Gordon character, is the target of this retrovestigation. More specifically, instead of focusing on the character, this article will deal with the Ming action figure from the Defenders of the Earth toy line.

The figure itself is not bad looking. The design is cool enough that back in the day I knew this was a bad guy even though I didn't know his history. He has a decent amount of articulation for the time, though nothing by the standards of today.
His green skin made him a little more alien looking than some of the past designs for the character but as a child at the time this was released that made this figure even better. Imagination could take him from being a Flash Gordon baddy to being the leader of a new group of Cobras against the heroic GI Joes, or maybe he was a powerful wizard who controlled the Inhumanoids. All I knew back then was that he looked cool and he was obviously merciless.

The back of the card featured a short description of Ming along with...

...pictures of some cool and weird looking vehicles. The sword/spaceships are really unique. It was a vehicle for the figures as well as a small toy weapon for you, it even had a handle/grip on the back.
Also included was a picture of the other figures in the line.

The rest of the line wasn't bad but most of the figures were somewhat generic looking, especially Flash Gordon. The Phantom was an average, slightly generic looking figure that could have been a superhero character to fight any of your bad guy figures laying around. Mandrake was really lame compared to your other options of the time. Who do you think got picked from the toybox, Superman or some magician most kids hadn't heard of before? I believe Superman probably won out while Mandrake was eventually lost under the bed. Lothar was decent for a tough guy to help in any fight and Garax could have been a nameless monster brought forth to help anybody from Beastman to Destro, it all depended on your mood that day.
Overall the line wasn't horrible. The downfalls were the characters themselves. I think the Phantom and Flash Gordon are awesome and it was really cool to bring them together but as a kid I didn't know anything about them and I just knew that they were action figures from a show with a cool theme song. I am glad I managed to rustle up this Ming figure in the days since my childhood. He is pretty cool looking in my opinion and definitely the best looking figure from this line.

The year was 1975. Sony had just released a new videocassette format called Betamax. A year later JVC would release their format, the VHS, leading to a war similar to the recent, yet brief Blu-ray/HD DVD battle. We all know who won the war and without knowing any details you can probably guess it was because of the superior specs of VHS. That doesn't take away the fact that something about Betamax, or simply Beta, is just plain cool.
The second part of this Random Retro article is going to focus on this type of videocassette and to pinpoint it even more, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

I would imagine that no one here needs a lesson on what this great movie is about but you can read the back of the box this beta cassette comes in for those few who might need a reminder.

Beta tapes are much smaller than VHS and are actually quite odd to look at after spending close to a few decades looking only at the VHS variety.
The back of a Beta tape looks similar to the average VHS tape.

The difference is more notable from the front, especially when compared side by side with the more and more forgotten VHS tape.

The Wrath of Khan was released on home video in 1983 and appeared in both formats at the time. Eventually the Beta version of the film became obsolete as VHS won the war but of course the real winners are those who can watch this movie in any format.
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