Comics institution Flash Gordon has returned to newspapers after a 20 year break, with cartoonist Dan Schkade taking over the strip.

King Features Syndicate brought back the strip earlier this month, teaming with the Eisner and Ringo Award-nominated Schkade to make it happen. Schkade has picked up right where the last strip left off, following the overthrow of Flash’s long-time villain, Ming The Merciless.

This all comes as the iconic strip — originally drawn by Alex Raymond — gets ready to celebrate its 90th birthday next year. Recently, Dan Schkade was also kind enough to take some time out to discuss this all with The Beat. You can find our conversation below … enjoy! 

INTERVIEW: Dan Schkade takes over FLASH GORDON

ZACK QUAINTANCE: What was your relationship to Flash Gordon before getting involved with the strip?

DAN SCHKADE: As a kid I only had a vague knowledge of Flash Gordon from pop culture osmosis and the short-lived ’90s cartoon, the rad one with all the skateboarding. I finally checked out the original strip once I started seriously studying comics history and was stunned by just how much of the artform descends from it. The physicality, the spectacle. It was like finding the Rosetta Stone. Aside from Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman, nobody comes close to Alex Raymond. 

Dan Schkade
Credit: Dan Schkade / King Features Syndicate

ZACK: How are you approaching translating such a long-time character for today’s audience?

DAN: Flash Gordon the comic has been around for almost a hundred years, but Flash Gordon the character doesn’t know that. He’s a 23 year-old athlete just trying to do right by his friends. I’m modernizing some aspects that don’t belong in the 21st Century and streamlining some lore to make it accessible to a new audience, but there’s a reason this property has been around this long and I’m not trying to reinvent that wheel. This isn’t “not your dad’s Flash Gordon,” it’s a Flash Gordon for every one of us. Dads included. 

Credit: Dan Schkade / King Features Syndicate

ZACK: What can you tell us about where the strip will go with Flash Gordon’s long-time foe, Ming The Merciless, defeated?

DAN: Ming is the most evil man in the universe. His Star Wars equivalent is Darth Vader’s boss, that’s how bad Ming is. So once you unite to overthrow the biggest of the bad guys, what next? Can your high-minded ideals survive when there’s no longer this ultimate enemy to rally against? For an altruistic, aspirational character like Flash, that’s a fascinating problem to face. The legacy of Ming haunts the whole series, both the trauma of his dictatorship and the vacuum now left by its absence. It’s something his daughter Aura especially has to confront; how does she replace her father’s rule without ending up just like him? It’s a complicated question, and one that makes for some very interesting conflict. 

Dan Schkade
Credit: Dan Schkade / King Features Syndicate

ZACK: How are you managing the demands of a daily strip, timewise?

DAN: I’m a couple months in and I’m still finding the right rhythm. Beginnings are always hard — you’re learning how to draw a bunch of new characters, adjusting to a new format, getting your sea legs. Seeing people respond so positively to the strip has been an enormous boost, though. I really like what I’m doing on Flash Gordon, and knowing other people are vibing with it too feels amazing.

Dan Schkade – Headshot

ZACK: Finally, can you give us some hints about new things — characters or ideas or anything else — you plan to bring to Flash Gordon?

DAN: We’ll be travelling all across Mongo in the wake of this global revolution. We’ll spend time with the familiar royal characters of course, like Prince Vultan, Witch-Queen Azura, and Queen Fria, who I find particularly interesting. But we’ll also dig into the lives of people who weren’t born to royalty — workers, prisoners, soldiers without a war to fight in. Flash Gordon is a guy who’ll try to make friends with anybody, and we’re going to use that to tell some personal, human stories, even if the subjects of those stories are literal aliens. We’ll also have death matches, high-atmosphere dogfights, murder mysteries, and at least one enormous betrayal. Not a single day will be wasted.

Read Flash Gordon by Dan Schkade now via Comics Kingdom.


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