is the hero of a science fiction
adventure comic strip
originally drawn by Alex Raymond
, which was first published on January 7
. The strip, inspired by and created to compete with the already established Buck Rogers
adventure strip, has since surpassed Buck Rogers
for longevity. Also inspired by these series were comics such as Dash Dixon
(1935 to 1939) by H.T. Elmo and Larry Antoinette and Don Dixon and the Hidden Empire
(1935 to 1941) by Carl Pfeufer and Bob Moore.
In Australia, the strip was retitled Speed Gordon . The change was necessary due to the negative meaning of the word "Flash" in 1930's and 1940's Australia, where it refers to someone who is flashy, showy, or vulgar. As Australian usage changed, the original US title was reinstated, certainly by the late 1960's, for the comic strip, though increasingly obscure usage of the term did continue as late as the 1970's.
The Flash Gordon comic strip has been translated into a wide variety of media, including motion pictures, television and animated series. The latest version, a Flash Gordon TV series, has recently finished airing on the US Sci Fi Channel, and has just begun on the United Kingdom Sci Fi channel.
- Sunday, Alex Raymond, 1934 - 1943
- daily, Austin Briggs, 1940 - 1944
- Sunday, Austin Briggs, 1944 - 1948
- Sunday, Mac Raboy, 1948 - 1967
- daily, Dan Barry, 1951 - 1990
- daily, Harry Harrison, writer, 1958 - 1964
- Sunday, Dan Barry, 1967 - 1990
- Sunday and daily, Ralph Reese & Bruce Jones, Gray Morrow, 1990 - 1991
- Sunday and daily, Thomas Warkentin, 1991 - 1992
- Sunday, Richard Bruning, Kevin VanHook, Thomas Warkentin, 1992 - 1996
- Sunday, Jim Keefe, 01/1996 - 03/2003
The comic strip follows the sci-fi adventures of Flash Gordon, a handsome polo
player and Yale
graduate, and his companions Dale Arden
and Dr. Hans Zarkov
. The story begins with Earth bombarded by fiery meteors. Dr. Zarkov believes the meteors are from outer space, and invents a rocket ship to locate their place of origin. Half mad, he kidnaps Flash and Dale, whose plane has crash-landed in the area, and the three travel to the planet Mongo
, where they discover that the meteors are weapons devised by Ming the Merciless
, evil ruler of Mongo.
For many years, the three companions have adventures on Mongo, traveling to the forest kingdom of Arboria, ruled by Prince Barin; the ice kingdom of Frigia, ruled by Queen Fria; the jungle kingdom of Tropica, ruled by Queen Desira; the undersea kingdom of the Shark Men, ruled by King Kala; and the flying city of the Hawkmen, ruled by Prince Vultan. They are joined in several early adventures by Prince Thun of the Lion Men.
After years of adventures on Mongo, with only a short break during World War II to fight the Red Sword invaders back on Earth, the three heroes travel to other planets. They then make Earth their home base, and Flash joins the World Space Council as a pilot and explorer. At this point, the stories are set ten years in the future, so that a 1960 story from the strip will be set in the future year 1970, when our space program has reached most of the planets of our own Solar System.
The long story of the Skorpii War takes Flash to other star systems, using starships that are faster than light. Flash and his friends also frequently return to Mongo, where Ming has been overthrown and Prince Barin, married to Ming's daughter Princess Aura, has established a peaceful rule (except for frequent revolts led by Ming or by one of his many descendants).
Most of the Flash Gordon film and television adaptations retell the early adventures on the planet Mongo.
Flash Gordon was featured in three serials
starring Buster Crabbe
: Flash Gordon
(1936), Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars
(1938), and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe
(1940). The 1936 Flash Gordon
serial was also condensed into a feature-length film.
The 1980 film Flash Gordon
stars Sam J. Jones
in the title role of this camp sci-fi adventure, where Flash Gordon begins the film
as the quarterback
of the New York Jets
instead of a polo
player. It also features Melody Anderson
as Dale Arden, Topol
as Dr. Zarkov, Max von Sydow
as Ming, Timothy Dalton
as Prince Barin, Brian Blessed
in all his shakespearian glory as Prince Vultan, and Ornella Muti
as Aura. Although not a critical success, the film is noted for its musical score, which was composed and performed by Queen
. The stand out work is the theme song
" which many fans consider to be the definitive musical signature of the media franchise.
With extraordinarily ornate production designs and costumes by Danilo Donati, and with Dino De Laurentiis as Producer, the film is noted for over-the-top designs and a reputation for being camp, and as such has acquired a cult status amongst students, sci-fi fans, and others. Many of the film's lines are quotable, and often tongue-in-cheek, and this knowing sense of humor contributes heavily to the collective affection with which the picture is remembered. A good example is the performance of the actor Brian Blessed, who 25 years later is still most often remembered by the British public as the Hawkman character 'Prince Vultan', despite many more serious, dramatic roles in film, theater and television. The plot of the film is based loosely on the first few years of the comic strip, and includes a film version of the famous Alex Raymond Sunday page, "Flight of the Hawkmen".
Flash Gordon (1954-55)
starred in a 1954-1955 live-action TV series
which ran for 39 episodes. The series had the distinction of being filmed in West Berlin
, less than a decade after the end of World War II
. It was recut into a movie in 1957. In this series, Flash, Dale, and Dr. Zarkov worked for the Galaxy Bureau of Investigation, approximately 1200 years in the future. The actual timeline was established in one episode, "Deadline at Noon," in which Flash, Dale, and Dr. Zarkov went back in time to Berlin in the year 1953.
The New Adventures of Flash Gordon (1979-80)
In 1979, Filmation
produced an animated series
, often called The New Adventures of Flash Gordon
, but actually titled simply Flash Gordon
, which reused many of the animated sequences from the as yet unreleased TV movie (over and over again), but removed the subplot involving Adolf Hitler
NBC was unhappy with the serial nature of the first season, as it clashed with their re-run style (details can be found on a documentary included on the DVD), so the second season was much changed and also aimed at a younger audience. Each episode included two stand-alone stories, often featuring a young dragon named Gremlin, introduced for comic relief. Unfortunately, this decision led to a decline in ratings and the show was canceled thereafter.
Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All (1982)
Filmation produced this successful animated television movie, written by Star Trek writer Samuel A. Peeples, before they began their Saturday morning series, but the TV-movie did not actually air until 1982. It was critically well-received, and is considered one of the best film versions of Flash Gordon, though it would never be re-broadcast following its premiere.
This movie has yet to be commercially released in the United States, although off-air bootlegs abound. The only known commercial releases were by VAP Video in Japan (catalog #67019-128), c. 1983, in both laser disc and NTSC VHS videotape formats and in Bulgaria, where it was released on VHS "Van Chris" and "Drakar". The movie also aired numerous times on "Diema" Channel in the late 90s. In the Japanese release it is presented uncut with the original English voice track, with Japanese subtitles added for its intended audience. At the end of the movie is a trailer for the de Laurentis live-action movie, as well as trailers for other titles from the VAP Video library at the time. The covers for both versions feature comic-strip panels, utilizing stills taken from the movie.
Defenders of the Earth (1986)
In the 1986 cartoon Defenders of the Earth
, Flash teamed up with fellow King Features
heroes The Phantom
and Mandrake the Magician
in 65 episodes. This series took extreme liberties with all the characters, revealing that Flash and Dale Arden had conceived a son, Rick Gordon, who is in his mid-teens when the series begins. Dale has her mind torn from her body by Ming in the first episode and is preserved in a crystal, which Rick is able to recover and give to his father. Dale is reborn on Earth as Dynak X, the strategic battle computer of the Defender's base Monitor Earth.
While Flash vows that he will restore Dale to her human form, later episodes of the series see him openly flirting and embracing other women, in one case developing a relationship with the android Kala in the episode "Flesh and Blood". Kala is killed at the conclusion of the episode when she sacrifices her life to save the Defenders.
Flash Gordon (1996)
In 1996, Hearst Entertainment premiered an animated Flash Gordon television series
. This version turned Flash and Dale into hoverboarding
Flash Gordon (2007-08)
The Sci Fi Channel
premiered its new Flash Gordon
series in the United States
on August 10
. On 12 January 2007
at the Television Critics Association
tour, it was announced that the live-action series comprises 22 one-hour episodes, produced in Canada in early 2007. Under an agreement with King Features Syndicate
, the series is being produced by Reunion Pictures of Vancouver. Robert Halmi Sr.
and Robert Halmi Jr.
of RHI Entertainment
served as Executive Producers.
The characters of Ming, Dale Arden, and Dr. Hans Zarkov are present in the series although drastically altered. Eric Johnson, best known for his earlier work on the WB's Smallville, plays the title character of Steven "Flash" Gordon. Gina Holden (who has appeared in Fantastic Four and Aliens vs. Predator) plays Dale Arden, Dr. Hans Zarkov is played by Jody Racicot (Night at the Museum), and John Ralston portrays the arch-villain, Ming.
Advertisements featured a cover version of Queen's "Flash's Theme" (from the 1980 film) performed by the band Louis XIV. The song was not present however in any episode of the show.
The show was canceled officially in early 2008.
Starting April 22, 1935, the strip was adapted into The Amazing Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon
, a 26 episode weekly radio serial. The series followed the strip very closely, amounting to a week-by-week adaptation of the Sunday strip for most of its run.
Flash Gordon was played by Gale Gordon, later famous for his television roles in Our Miss Brooks, Dennis the Menace, The Lucy Show and Here's Lucy (the latter two with Lucille Ball). The cast also included Maurice Franklin as Dr. Zarkov and Bruno Wick as Ming the Merciless.
The radio series broke with the strip continuity in the last two episodes, when Flash, Dale and Zarkov return to Earth. They make a crash landing in Africa, where they meet Jungle Jim, the star of another of Alex Raymond's comic strips.
The series ended on October 26, 1935 with Flash and Dale's marriage. The next week, The Adventures of Jungle Jim picked up in that Saturday timeslot.
Two days later, on October 28th, The Further Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon debuted as a daily show, running five days a week. This series strayed farther afield from Raymond's strip, involving Flash, Dale and Zarkov in an adventure in Atlantis. The series aired 74 episodes, ending on February 6, 1936.
Over the years, several publishers have produced Flash Gordon comics
based on the classic strip.
In 1988, DC Comics produced a modernized version of the comic strip. It featured Flash as washed up basketball player who finds new purpose in life on Mongo, Dale as an adventurous reporter who is just as capable as Flash, and a gray-skinned Ming who is less of an Asian stereotype.
The series ran for a planned nine issues and was left with an open-ended conclusion, probably in hopes that it would have been popular enough to start a regular comic run. Though Mongo was not a threat to Earth in this series, Ming had every intention of conquering Earth once he coerced Dr. Zarkov into designing the needed ships.
In 1995, Marvel Comics did a two-issue series with art by Al Williamson, in the style of the Flash comics he had produced for King and others.
A new comic book series will be released by Ardden Entertainment in August 2008.
Flash Gordon Strange Adventure Magazine
In 1936, one issue of a would-be series, Flash Gordon Strange Adventure Magazine was published, featuring a "novel" about Flash Gordon entitled The Masters of Mars, written by the otherwise unknown James Edison Northford. The pulp was based more or less on the comic strip story lines, and included illustrations reminiscent of Alex Raymond's artwork. On the back pages a second installment, The Sun Men of Saturn, was promised, but never saw print.
Even though the series did not take off, the one issue of Flash Gordon Strange Adventure Magazine has become a much sought-after item for pulp magazine collectors.
The first novel based on the strip, Flash Gordon in the Caverns of Mongo
, was published in 1936 by Grosset & Dunlap
. The credited author was Alex Raymond. Like the pulp magazine of the same year, it failed to launch a series.
In 1973 Avon books launched a six-book series of adult-oriented Flash Gordon novels: The Lion Men of Mongo, The Plague of Sound, The Space Circus, The Time Trap of Ming XIII, The Witch Queen of Mongo, and The War of the Cybernauts.
In 1980 Tempo books released a series: Massacre in the 22nd Century, War of the Citadels, Crisis on Citadel II, Forces from the Federation, Citadels under Attack and Citadels on Earth. Except for the names of the hero and his co-stars of Dale Arden and Dr. Hans Zarkov, this series had little to do with any other version of Flash Gordon.
Theme Park Ride
The name "Flash Gordon" was emblazoned on the proscenium of a ride at the 1939 New York World's Fair. An article in Popular Science
magazine of March 1939, "World's Fair Thrills", states that 150 people at a time could enter a rocket ship (mockup) with a motion picture screen and vibrating seats for a simulated ride to another planet. The ride was located "at the opposite end of the amusement zone from the parachute tower". The fairgoers then walked around a simulation of Venus as a jungle planet inhabited by (mechanical) dinosaurs to enter a 'Martian Headquarters', where "weirdly costumed Martians and mechanically animated models of giant beasts enact[ed] episodes from the adventures of Flash Gordon". The ride's Martians did not look like those in the 1938 serial, however, nor did the rocket ship.
Parodies and references
Ape and Essence
In Aldous Huxley
's 1948 novel Ape and Essence
, one of the characters reads the comic, with the strip's ideals mentioned as being both anachronistic (Flash's gallantry) and counter-anachronistic (the bust size and skimpiness of the damsels Flash saves).
parody called Flesh Gordon
was released in 1974. It became a cult classic
and was followed in 1989 by Flesh Gordon Meets the Cosmic Cheerleaders
Since 2004, every episode of Sesame Street
has ended with Oscar the Grouch
reading to Slimey
, his pet worm, a chapter from their favorite bed-time story, The Adventures of Trash Gordon
. Trash Gordon
is played by Roscoe Orman
's character Gordon.
The 2007 video game The Darkness
allows the player to watch an entire episode of the 1954/1955 TV series.
The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
Umberto Eco's 2004 novel The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
makes references to Flash Gordon, or, as the narrator referred to him as a child, "Gudón", as a heroic model for the narrator as a child.
's novel refers to an expensive racing yacht's "Flash Gordon curves and fancy sheer" (Outerbridge Reach
[New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1992], p. 4).
Step by Step
In the latter part of the 1990s TV sit-com Step by Step
, a character by the name of Jake Gordon had the nickname "Flash", possibly a reference to Flash Gordon.
Tom Paris's Captain Proton. This is similar to Flash Gordon. Lt. Tom plays as Captain Proton, while Ensign Kim plays his assisstant. Dr. Chaotica plays the same role as Ming the Merciless. Also seen in the Computer game Star Trek Voyager Elite Force. In that, the player has to rescue Goodheart from Dr. Chaotica.
The Alex Raymond Sunday strips
have been reprinted by several publishers, notably Nostalgia Press
, Kitchen Sink Press
, and Checker Book Publishing Group
. The Kitchen Sink and Checker versions are in color, Nostalgia Press did one in black and white and the others in color. The Mac Raboy Sundays have been reprinted by Dark Horse
in black and white. The Dan Barry dailies have never been entirely reprinted, but the early years were published by Kitchen Sink
and the stories written by Harry Harrison
are reprinted in Comics Revue
from Manuscript Press
. Tempo Books published 6 massmarket paperbacks reprinting strips from the 1970s in the 1980s. Some of the Austin Briggs dailies were reprinted by Kitchen Sink Press
. A reprint of all of Al Williamson's Flash Gordon comic books is planned from Flesk in 2009.
- Flash Gordon on the Planet Mongo (1934-35), Nostalgia
- Flash Gordon in the Water World (1935-37), Nostalgia
- Flash Gordon Escapes to Arboria (1937-39), Nostalgia
- Flash Gordon vs Frozen Terrors (1939-40), Nostalgia
- Flash Gordon Joins the Power Men (1940-41), Nostalgia
- Mongo, Planet of Doom (1934-35), Kitchen Sink Press ISBN 0-87816-114-7
- Three Against Ming (1935-37), Kitchen Sink Press ISBN 0-87816-120-1
- The Tides of Battle (1937-39), Kitchen Sink Press ISBN 0-87816-162-7
- The Fall of Ming (1939-41), Kitchen Sink Press ISBN 0-87816-168-6
- Between Worlds at War (1941-43), Kitchen Sink Press ISBN 0-87816-177-5
- Triumph in Tropica (1943-44), Kitchen Sink Press ISBN 0-87816-199-6
- Flash Gordon: The Dailies by Austin Briggs 1940-1942 Volume 1, Kitchen Sink Press ISBN 0-87816-172-4 (strips from 1940)
- Flash Gordon: The Dailies by Austin Briggs 1940-1942 Volume 2, Kitchen Sink Press ISBN 0-87816-187-2 (strips from 1941)
- Flash Gordon The Complete Daily Strips 1951-1953, Kitchen Sink Press ISBN 0-87816-035-3
- Flash Gordon - Star Over Atlantis, Dan Barry, Manuscript Press, 2007, ISBN 0-936414-16-2, ISBN 13 978-0-936414-16-4, dailies 1953 - 1954.
- Flash Gordon: Volume 1 (1934-35), Checker Book Publishing Group ISBN 0-9741664-3-X
- Flash Gordon: Volume 2 (1935-36), Checker Book Publishing Group ISBN 0-9741664-6-4
- Flash Gordon: Volume 3 (1936-37), Checker Book Publishing Group ISBN 1-933160-25-X
- Flash Gordon: Volume 4 (1938-40), Checker Book Publishing Group ISBN 1-933160-26-8
- Flash Gordon: Volume 5 (1940-41), Checker Book Publishing Group ISBN 1-933160-27-6
- Flash Gordon: Volume 6 (1941-43), Checker Book Publishing Group ISBN 1-933160-28-4
- Flash Gordon: Volume 7 (1943-45), Checker Book Publishing Group ISBN 1-933160-20-9
- Mac Raboy's Flash Gordon, Volume 1, Dark Horse Comics ISBN 1-56971-882-2 (Sundays, 1948-53)
- Mac Raboy's Flash Gordon, Volume 2, Dark Horse Comics (Sunday, 1953-58)
- Mac Raboy's Flash Gordon, Volume 3, Dark Horse Comics ISBN 1-56971-978-0 (Sundays, 1958-62)
- Mac Raboy's Flash Gordon, Volume 4, Dark Horse Comics (Sundays, 1962-67)
- Amazing Adventures of Flash Gordon, 6 volumes (mix of dailies & Sundays from 1970s, drawn by Dan Barry with Bob Fujitani), Tempo Books
- Al Williamson’s Flash Gordon: A Lifelong Vision of the Heroic, Flesk ISBN 1-93386-513-X
Flash Gordon has been released to DVD under a variety of titles and in both edited and non-edited versions. The serials and 50s TV show have no shortage of public domain DVD releases.
Film Serials (1936-1940)
Flash Gordon (1936)
- Flash Gordon : Space Soldiers. (245 minutes)
- Flash Gordon : Spaceship to the Unknown. Hearst Entertainment, Inc., 2002. (edited to 98 minutes)
Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938)
- Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (2-Discs). (299 minutes)
- Flash Gordon : The Deadly Ray From Mars. Hearst Entertainment, Inc., 2002. (edited to 97 minutes)
Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940)
- Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. (234 minutes)
- Flash Gordon : The Peril from Planet Mongo. Hearst Entertainment, Inc., 2002. (edited to 91 minutes)
Flash Gordon (1954-55)
- Flash Gordon (2-Discs). (180 minutes, only 8 episodes)
The New Adventures of Flash Gordon (1979)
US - BCI Eclipse
- The New Adventures of Flash Gordon : The Complete Series (4-Discs). (600 minutes)
UK - Hollywood DVD LTD
- The Adventures of Flash Gordon - Castaways In Tropica
- The Adventures of Flash Gordon - Blue Magic
Flash Gordon (1980)
On May 6, 1998, Image Home Entertainment released the 1980 film on DVD in North America for DVD Region 1
territories through a contract with Universal, but it quickly went out of print.
Momentum Pictures later released it in the UK for DVD Region 2 territories on October 10, 2005. This edition of the film, the "Silver Anniversary Edition", features an anamorphic widescreen transfer at the film's 2.35:1 aspect ratio, both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio, the original Queen theatrical trailer, an audio commentary by director Mike Hodges, a second audio commentary from actor Brian Blessed, an interview with Mike Hodges, a photo slideshow and an original 1940s Serial, episode one of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe.
Universal released the film on August 7th, 2007 in North America and Region 1 territories once again. The new disc, entitled the "Saviour of the Universe Edition," features a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and an English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track. Extras include an "Alex Ross on Flash Gordon" featurette in which world-renowned comic artist Alex Ross talks about the film and how it has inspired him in his life and work, a "Writing a Classic" featurette with screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, Jr. and a Flash Gordon 1936 serial episode (chapter one of Planet of Peril).
Defenders of the Earth
US - BCI Ecplise
- Defenders of the Earth - Complete Series Volume 1 (5-Discs) 33 Episodes
- Defenders of the Earth - Complete Series Volume 2 (5-Discs) 32 Episodes (Spring 2007)
UK - Hollywood DVD LTD
- Defenders Of The Earth - The Story Begins
UK - Delta Music PLC
- Defenders of the Earth Movie (3-Discs)
- Defenders of the Earth vol 1
- Defenders of the Earth vol 2
- Defenders of the Earth vol 3
- Defenders of the Earth Movie - Prince Of Kro-Tan
- Defenders of the Earth Movie - Necklace Of Oros
- Defenders of the Earth Movie - The Book Of Mysteries
Flash Gordon (1996)
Lion's Gate on September 21st 2004, released 3-4 episode DVDs of Flash Gordon
(1996) and Phantom 2040
- Flash Gordon: Marooned on Mongo - The Animated Movie (97 minutes)
In 1995, the strip was one of 20 included in the Comic Strip Classics
series of commemorative US Postal Service postage stamps
Accusations of anti-Asian stereotyping
Though technically an extraterrestrial
, Ming the Merciless
as originally introduced strongly resembles a stereotypical Asian supervillain
. His resemblance to Dr. Fu Manchu
is especially strong, particularly in his relationship with Aura, which echoes Dr. Fu's relationship with his ambitious, evil daughter, Fah lo Suee.
Moreover, "Ming" (明) is a common personal name in China, and was the name of several historical Chinese emperors, and later of an entire dynasty. The name has clear Chinese associations even for people not versed in the details of Chinese history.
In later adaptations of the story, Ming's Oriental nature has been downplayed, out of sensitivity to criticisms of racial stereotyping. As mentioned, in DC Comics' nine-issue Flash Gordon mini-series, Ming and most of the human-like denizens of Mongo [with some exceptions] were given gray skin in an effort to avoid such stereotyping. In the 1996 animated series, Ming was reptilian in order to avoid this issue. In the 2007-08 series, Ming was a blond Caucasian.