A couple years back, Jeff Parker caught a lot of people off-guard with a particularly fresh take on the classic Flash Gordon characters. If you missed it, it’s collected in Flash Gordon Omnibus Vol 1.: The Man From Earth and it’s well worth your time. Parker is returning to the property (and to the greater King Features Syndicate universe) with November’s Flash Gordon: Kings Cross.
The Beat spoke with Parker about his homecoming.
The Beat: This is a bit of a home coming for you since you launched the King line with King’s Watch back in ’13 and then followed it up with the first volume of Flash Gordon. With Mandrake and the Phantom(s) in tow, the first cover suggests a sequel to King’s Watch. How much have the characters changed since you set the initial set the table?
Jeff Parker: It follows Kings Watch AND the excellent Kings Quest, the most recent mini. Everyone is still true to what you saw in the early stories, though Dale has been through a lot taking on the rule of planet Mongo! Lothar has filled the boots of The Phantom very well since the first series, and he’s training Jenn to be the next to wear the mask.
The Beat: One of the things that really stood out with your last run on Flash Gordon was the sense of fun. It’s a slightly different take on the character than is frequently seen. At what point in the story development process do you start working on that distinctive tone?
Jeff Parker: Not until actual scripting, my outlines are mostly plot with whatever good dialogue occurs to me at that stage. Usually the premise is fairly serious, it’s how the characters choose to react and face the situations that the opportunity for fun comes in. And it’s the chance to show their personality by how they each approach a conflict, so they aren’t interchangeable. But you don’t take out the consequences and threats, to me it’s more about not letting a story get depressing. I really think most of the time a reader tells me the story was fun, they really mean ‘it didn’t depress me.’
The Beat: In the original comic strip, Flash Gordon eventually left Mongo and became more of a space opera. In the comic books, TV shows and movies, Flash Gordon is pretty firmly tied to that Mongo origin story. How intertwined do you find Flash, Dale and Zarkof to be with Mongo?
Jeff Parker: Well it was a pretty long time before he left Mongo, still. Years! Mongo was like Flash’s personal war. I think Flash, Dale and Zarkov bring out the best in each other, it makes them a team to reckon with. And my take on Ming has been that (not so) secretly admires Flash. Flash presents the first real challenge or foe he’s had in ages- it reminds him of his glory days building his colonial empire. Ming is disarming because he has a lot of personality and enthusiasm along with all his evil goals.
The Beat: Jesse Hamm’s co-writing, as well as drawing Kings Cross. How does the co-writing process typical work on an issue?
Jeff Parker: At first I couldn’t remember how to share, and I just wrote a whole script because it was coming to me pretty fast. After Jesse wagged his finger and reminded me we were supposed to team up on the writing duties, I figured out how to back off and let him show off his skill at pacing, staging and dialogue. He came up with some great and bizarre scenes that I wouldn’t have, and it makes the series really engaging. He tailored a lot to allow for some cool imagery he wanted to draw, so it feels very different than other books on the shelves.
The Beat: Where does Flash Gordon fit inside the greater King universe?
Jeff Parker: He is essentially THE spirit of adventure. Flash stands at the Superman position if this were DC. Then he leaps and swings a sword and fires a ray gun and rides off on a lizard horse.
The Beat: About 12 years ago, some guy named Steve Leiber gave me the hard sell on a graphic novel you wrote and drew called the Interman. It was pretty good, but I’m still waiting on volume 2 when is it coming out?
Jeff Parker: You know, I recently started drawing again so the idea of Volume 2 isn’t as unlikely as it was a couple years ago. I’ll just give up some roles like lettering and coloring though.