We Like To Play With Things Awhile - Before Annihilation
Considering Flash Gordon came out in 1980, the same year as Empire, it made sense that if a glass set HAD been made, it would feature all of these attributes. Now we just had to solve for them.
First up was the glass shape. The trend these days it to take existing art, throw it on a pint glass, and call it "retro." That's lazy. Yes, I get that the primary consumer for these wants to enjoy an adult beverage in them - but those old glasses were also 16 oz.
No, to do this right we had to mimic that rather distinct glass shape. No one else was doing it. Even when ThinkGeek re-released the Empire glasses in 2020 they made them as smaller "juice glasses" because they couldn't find a manufacturer for that old design.
We did a ton of investigating and learned that glass manufacturer Libbey produced the Empire glass 40+ years ago, and we learned the model number by tracking down some old shipping cases for the Empire glasses. We called them to see if they still had the mold, but alas it had been retired years ago. Undaunted, we started reaching out to other glass manufacturers and after a rather long period of time found one who would create the mold from scratch for us. So issue #1 was solved (sort of - there were still months and months of going back and forth to get the weight and thickness just right, but that's a whole other story).
Glass Shape - Check
Now we had to find someone to do the art. We actually tracked down the woman who did the original art for the Empire glasses. It was outsourced to the agency where she worked at the time and the assignment just happened to land on her desk. She's in her 80s now and wasn't ready to commit such a project (although I still hope I can convince her for some other properties down the road).
So we turned to an artist who has a reputation for the irreverent and could certainly capture the campy nature of Flash while also maintaining that distinct art style - Brandon Bird.
Brandon tends to take celebrities and put them in banal situations - whether that's Christopher Walken building hobby robots in his garage, or Harrison Ford wanting to play Sega. He also has an unhealthy obsession with Law & Order and particularly Jerry Orbach. We talked about the project and I immediately knew he was our guy. The hard part was deciding on what characters and scenes to lean in on, because this movie has so many!
For the Flash glass we settled on two iconic moments - the bizarre "football fight" and flying the rocket cycle. For Ming, we decided to focus not just on the ruler of the universe himself, but to really lean into some of the gross-out moments with all the villains (because who doesn't want to enjoy a beverage with an impaled emperor and henchman with his eyes and tongue bulging out of his skull?). For Dale, we added Aura and highlighted some of the more sadomasochistic elements of the film. And we couldn't leave out Barin and Vultan, and their rivalry, while also paying homage to the disc duel between Flash and Barin. I think you'll agree, Brandon nailed it. This art and layout feels very much of that 80s era while admittedly pushing the boundaries of good taste in a few instances.
Throw in a global pandemic that shut down some of our vendors and put that glass shape in jeopardy for awhile, along with issues regarding color matching, packaging and a myriad of other "this shouldn't be this difficult" problems, and suddenly what should have been a six month project ballooned into three years.
In that time we'd developed other Flash products, but it just didn't make sense to release them as one-offs. We wanted to make a brand statement. And now we can.
One of the unfortunate casualties of this is that we now have about a 1000 bags of Sour Gummy "Bore Worms" that we can't sell because they're past the expiration date (although they still taste great!). But if there's an upswell of demand I promise we'll make another batch!
Was it worth it to take this long and difficult road for essentially a set of novelty glasses? Absolutely. Anything else would have been a compromise and it wouldn't have been authentic to the era.
Did we need to create a fake fast food restaurant to pay homage to director Mike Hodges? Yes.
Could we have tried to sell these for an arm and leg considering all the hoops we jumped through? Probably. Other guys are selling those lazy pint glasses for $12-$15 a pop. But we're not them.
As I like to say, we do retro right. I hope you agree.