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IN THE PULPS, COMICS, MOVIES AND TV
Flash Gordon is the hero of a science fiction comic strip originally drawn by Alex Raymond, which was first published on January 7, 1934. 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.
The comic strip follows the 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, 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.
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.
The 1936 novelization, Flash Gordon in the Caverns of Mongo, published by Grosset & Dunlap, shared a similar fate with the pulp magazine—it had not been successful enough to result in a continuing series. Also aimed at a juvenile audience, the novel was published as being written by Alex Raymond, though there is no reason to think that he was the actual author. The cover illustration, end pages, and frontispiece were done by an illustrator named Robb Beebe, and the actual author of the book didn't really have a feel for Raymond's characters. At one point, the author appears to be unaware that Hawkmen could fly, and with the (premature) fall of Ming, the author has made Vultan the King of Mongo, whereas Raymond's storyline had made Prince Barin of Arboria the rightful heir.
Flash Gordon is a 1936 film serial which tells the story of three people from Earth who travel to the planet Mongo to fight the evil Emperor Ming the Merciless. Buster Crabbe, Jean Rogers, Charles Middleton, Priscilla Lawson and Frank Shannon played the central roles. This serial has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
This first Flash Gordon serial has been called "the American Siegfried", referring directly to Fritz Lang's 1924 silent movie from the personality of its title character, its costumery, intensity, and special effects, as well as many plot similarities; and indirectly to Richard Wagner's Ring cycle because of its (sensational but admittedly lesser and imperfectly cued) music — a collection of the science fiction and mystery theme music from the feature films of the Universal Studios. The archetypal plot points common to both legends include the personality differences of the two main female characters, the monarch's desire for one of them and her magical seduction, and the hero's invisibility and his fight with a giant lizard.
The Flash Gordon serial was the most expensive of them all, the only serial advertised in some theaters above the name of the feature presentations, and probably the serial with the greatest attendance. It was the only sound serial with sexual tension, and it has become the best-remembered serial of them all.
Years later, in a television appearance in his native Oakland, Crabbe told an inteviewer that he was unhappy when Universal insisted on coloring his hair blonde to match the comic strip character.
Flash Gordon was followed by two more serials, Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938) and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940). During the 1950s, the three serials were shown on American television. To avoid confusion with a made-for-TV Flash Gordon series airing around the same time, they were retitled, becoming respectively Space Soldiers, Space Soldiers' Trip to Mars, and Space Soldiers Conquer the Universe. In the mid-1970s, all three serials were shown by PBS stations across the US, bringing Flash Gordon to a new generation, a full two years before Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind re-ignited interest in the science fiction genre. All three serials were later heavily edited and released on home video.
Opening with Queen singing the Flash theme
song, and a montage of Flash Gordon comic strips, the movie is amazing from
beginning to end. It starts with Ming the Merciless toying with planet Earth,
creating natural disasters before he destroys it. Only scientist Dr. Hans Zarkov
knows what's really going on, and through a series of coincidences kidnaps
football player "Flash" Gordon and chance-met Dale Arden on a
rocketship to stop the attack on earth.
One of the best artists to draw Flash Gordon after Alex Raymond left the strip was Al Williamson. In addition to assisting Dan Barry during his tenure on the Flash Gordon comic strip, Al Williamson is best known for his work on the Flash Gordon comic books. This page presents some exquisite examples of Al Williamson's commercial artwork featuring Flash Gordon.
The first three images are advertisements drawn by Williamson for the Union Carbide Corporation. Williamson has taken situations and characters from the classic Alex Raymond years on the Flash Gordon strip, and has Dr. Zarkov providing devices made from Union Carbide products to help Flash and his friends extricate themselves from some hazardous situations. These commercial pieces are extremely rare, and were apparently distributed within the Union Carbide company and to advertising agencies.
In comic books, Flash starred in an occasional release from Harvey or Dell Comics from the 1940s through the '60s. In 1966, King Features started a comics line of its own, and Flash started appearing regularly alongside such stalwarts as Beetle Bailey and Blondie. The series was initially drawn by Al Williamson, a comics veteran whose major influences include Alex Raymond. The venture proved unsuccessful, however, and in 1969 the line was taken over by Charlton Comics. That series lasted only until 1970. Between 1978 and '82, Flash appeared in a comic book series from Gold Key. DC did a brief one in 1988 and Marvel in 1995 — and in the latter, Al Williamson reprised his role as artist.
Flash Gordon’s classic era in comic books
returns in a new archival collection from Dark Horse! Join the handsome and
fearless Flash, his clever and capable companion Dale Arden, and eccentric
scientist Dr. Zarkov as they face peril and danger in the wild landscapes of the
planet Mongo and go head to head with the villainous despot Ming the Merciless!
This archival collection, reprinting seven complete comics originally published
from 1947 through 1953, makes a fine addition to any comics library. Ray guns,
spaceships, and Silver Age storytelling— it’s all here and it’s all
Four Color 173
FLASH GORDON ARTISTS
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.
Steve Holland 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. Flash Gordon was a pop singer in deleted scenes of the original pilot, fronting a rock band called Flipside Runner.
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.
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.
The Sci Fi Channel premiered its new Flash Gordon series in the United States on August 10, 2007. 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.
NEW FLASH GORDON COMIC
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FLASH GORDON DVDs FOR SALE:
Flash Gordon [Blu-Ray]
Flash Gordon (1980)