Every super-hero needs an arch-nemesis, and every toy manufacture knows that too! Action figure giant Mego, the company behind some of the most collectible action figures made during the 1970s, even released an 8-inch “Super Foes” line in 1974 to mirror its Super-Heroes line. And when Mego launched a new 10-inch figure design in 1976 with a stunning Flash Gordon playset, one of the finest characters in the series, aside from Flash himself of course, was the big baddie in all three of the 1930s Flash Gordon sci-fi film serials – Ming the Merciless.
First appearing in the Flash Gordon comic strip in 1934, Ming is the tyrannical emperor of the planet Mongo, and has been the constant enemy of Flash Gordon in every reincarnation of the franchise. The Mego version was based on the 1930s movies and Ming the Merciless as he was portrayed by actor Charles B. Middleton. Curiously, he also bears a striking resemblance to Max von Sydow’s Ming – a performance clearly inspired by Middleton – from the later 1980 movie.
The attention to detail in the facial sculpt is extremely impressive – the furrowed forehead, raised eyebrows, slightly hollowed cheeks, pointed ears, and even his evil sneer, have all been carefully reproduced. The costume too is a fine example of Mego at the very top of their game, with the usual one piece nylon suit embellished through plastic additions that are integral elements of the suit, rather than merely glued-on decals, with a large yellow insignia on his chest, striped arm markings, and shoulder epaulettes. The high collar too, is a nice touch, and is made out of a slightly stiffer material allowing it to frame Ming’s face; it is velvety to the touch, giving him that extra regal air! My Ming is in excellent condition, although the green colour on the bottom half of the suit has faded a little (a common issue with Mego greens).
Ming was issued with a huge assortment of weapons and accessories, and my loose figure has lost most of his, although I was delighted to find him still wearing his black rubber boots, and brown bandolier with plastic belt still attached. Best of all, he was wearing one of his two headpieces – the striking red-orange helmet with a yellow dragon-like creature on top. None of the accessories have been factory made so I’m thankful to have found a figure that already has enough accessories to make a wonderful display piece. And thanks to Mego’s usual generous 14 points of articulation he can be posed beautifully. An absolute gem of a vintage find!