By Todd Allen
Flash Gordon is a media property has been around long enough that people know it from a few different sources. The original comic strip, may be the least common exposure. You’ve got the 1936 movie serial which has been rerun on TV at regular intervals to this day (and holds up better than a lot of serials from the ’30s). You’ve got the 1979 Saturday morning cartoon from Filmation, which ran a few years. You’ve got the campy 1980 film version with the Queen soundtrack. Yes, I’m leaving out a few things like the more recent SciFi Channel adaption — I don’t think many people paid much attention to that.
When you have some (comparatively) more recent media takes on a property, you’re never sure where the new version is going to skew. Dynamite’s Flash Gordon revival, going by the title “Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist,” is a little unusual in that it seeks to merge the various versions.
The opening of the book is pretty much the opening of the 1980 film. “…Klytus, I’m bored,” is the first line of dialogue.
The setting goes back to the original comic strip. It’s Pre-WWII Europe and there are meteor showers. The explanation of how Mongo/Ming is causing the showers is tweaked a hair, but nothing to get excited about — a bit easier on the physics and suspension of disbelief. Flash is back to being a professional polo player, not a quarterback. (Sorry, Mark Sanchez.)
Dr. Zarkov’s spaceship, on the other hand, is straight out of the Filmation cartoon. Also from the cartoon, or rather the feature length pilot version of the cartoon, is the concept of Ming loaning Hitler some new technology.
And that’s basically how this book goes, a little bit from the original. Cherry pick some of the interesting tweaks from the later adaptions, shake well and pour.
It’s the first issue of a Flash Gordon series. You know what’s going to happen: Flash and Dale Arden have the plane get hit by a meteor show and get hijacked to Mongo by Dr. Zarkov. That’s what’s happening here with a little Ming face time than you normally see in the first chapter, plus it looks like they’re intending to do a little bit more with the Ming/Hitler alliance. It isn’t until the last pages that you see a large variation from the classic story, a variation that involves a little more direct Mongo influence on Earth.
It’s co-plotted by Alex Ross and Eric Trottman. Everything checks fine on the writing side, so far.
Ross “art directs,” and the art is by Daniel Indro. The art has a nice, pulpy feel to it. I’d call it Alex Raymond by way of Gary Gianni.
You may not be aware of this, but Alex Ross really likes his Flash Gordon. He also likes his Queen (as in the band that did the soundtrack for the 1980 film). His personal logo is a variation on the logo for that movie. The back matter in the first issue includes a drawing he did as a child when the movie came out. I can’t help but think this book is going to have a little extra love put into.
As far as first issues of a Flash Gordon comic go, this one is well enough put together, but we won’t see the personality of this edition really come to the front until issue number 2. The first issue is only $1.00 and it’s a well-spent buck. It’s enough to get me to show up for the second issue (at regular price) and see where this one is going. Strong recommendation for issue #1, partially based on price. Optimistic outlook for issue 2, when the introduction wanes and the creative team shows where they’re taking things.
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.