Flash Gordon. When I was a kid, I was introduced to the character the same way as most of my generation. The film from 1980. It was outlandish and campy but it was a specticle to behold for my childhood eyes, watching intently on a Sunday afternoon in the mid-eighties, finding it by chance on t.v. I couldn’t tell you how the film ended. But I know that I enjoyed it at the time. It was years later before I found out anything more about the character aside from a reference here or then in popular culture. I admit I was surprised to find out that not only did he have a storied history in multiple mediums but also that this character had such a huge influence on science fiction that it is still visible to this day. There are many characters and ideas that might not have come to fruition without the existence of Flash Gordon. Star Wars, for instance. Lucas’ original intention was to make a Flash Gordon film but was unable to get the rights. It still can be sensed in the finished product. The galaxy far, far away might as well have housed Mongo and Ming the Merciless could very well have ruled the Empire. It’s easy to imagine Flash leading the rebel alliance. But that’s just one franchise that has benefited from this long lasting character.
Flash Gordon got his start as a comic strip character. Originally drawn by Alex Raymond, the strip was first published on January 7 1934 for King Features. The characters and concepts of the strip were created by Raymond but the scripting of the stories was handled by Don Moore. He was hired by King to give the strip a more experienced writer. The two would go on to create some fantastic adventures. A collection of these stories can be found in the latest edition to the Flash Gordon Library, The Tyrant of Mongo. This beautiful hardcover book reproduces every Sunday installment of the series from April 1937 to January 1941, a time that many fans consider the peek period of Raymond’s career. This collection was printed from the original tearsheets of the work. It’s vibrant, clear, and is presented as it was originally intended.
This collection is jam packed with story as we get to see Flash fight with Ape-Men, outlaws, superhumans and even save his friends’ kingdom from missiles and explosions. Needless to say, some of the story is dated. Dale, his love interest and companion, is your typical damsel in distress. She faints and swoons at the slightest possibilty that her man has been captured, hurt or killed. But through it all, she is dutifully at his side. The villain of the piece, Ming himself, is one dementional in his bloodlust to rule Mongo with an iron fist and to see Flash destroyed. But the classic tropes of most science fiction and fantasy are strongly represented here and by maintaining a simplistic narrative, the book has a mass appeal to large variety of demographics. And when you look at the artwork of Raymond, he gives you such a visual buffet to feast on that it’s hard not get dragged into the beauty of it all.
The best feature of this collection is that with this reprint, you get to enjoy the immense detail that Alex Raymond put into each strip. A detail that would have been lost when it was originally printed in the newspapers. This book is possibly the first time that one can really appreciated and analyse the fine line work on display. Add to that a beautiful reproduction of the colours and it’s easy to see why this comic hero was such a popular one.
Flash Gordon: The Tyrant of Mongo: The Complete Flash Gordon Library 1937-41 is available now through Titan Books, just in time for the holidays. This Hardcover Edition would make the perfect gift for the Sci-Fi fan in your home. Fantastic stories and breath taking art await in this beautiful reproduction of one of the original heroes of one of our favourite genres. Buy a copy today.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!