Flash Gordon

Flash_Gordon
First Flash Gordon comic strip

Flash Gordon is the hero of a space opera adventure comic strip created by and originally drawn by Alex Raymond. First published January 7, 1934, the strip was inspired by and created to compete with the already established Buck Rogers adventure strip.

The Flash Gordon comic strip has been translated into a wide variety of media, including motion pictures, television and animated series’.

Radio Serials

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. The series ended on October 26, 1935 with Flash and Dale’s marriage. The following week, The Adventures of Jungle Jim (another Alex Raymond character) picked up in that Saturday time slot.

Two days later, on October 28, 1935, The Further Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon debuted as a daily show, running five days a week. This series strayed further from Raymond’s strip, involving Flash, Dale and Zarkov in an adventure in Atlantis. The series aired 74 episodes, ending on February 6, 1936.

Novels

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, but “was almost certainly ghost-written”.

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
  • The War of the Cybernauts

Although the books were credited to Alex Raymond, the first three were written by SF writer Ron Goulart, (under the “house name” “Con Steffanson”) and the other three novels were by Bruce Cassiday (the first under the “Steffanson” name, and the latter two under the pseudonym “Carson Bingham”).

In 1980, Tempo books released a series by David Hagberg:

  • Massacre in the 22nd Century
  • War of the Citadels
  • Crisis on Citadel II
  • Forces from the Federation
  • Citadels under Attack
  • 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.

Film Serials

Flash Gordon was featured in three serial films starring Buster Crabbe:

  • Flash Gordon (1936)
  • Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938)
  • Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940)

The first Flash Gordon serial remains copyrighted, but the compilation made of the second serial, and the third serial itself are in the public domain.

In the 1950s, the three serials were broadcast on American television. To avoid confusion with a made-for-TV Flash Gordon series airing at the same time, they were retitled, becoming respectively Space Soldiers, Space Soldiers’ Trip to Mars, and Space Soldiers Conquer the Universe.

Flash Gordon (1936)

Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938)

RED-BLOODED YOUTH AGAINST MONSTERS OF SCIENCE!

Flash_Gordon's_Trip_To_MarsFlash Gordon’s Trip to Mars is a Universal Pictures 15 chapter movie serial, based on the syndicated newspaper comic strip Flash Gordon. It is the second of the three Flash Gordon serials made by Universal and episode one premiered in US cinemas on March 21, 1938. The main cast from the first serial reprise their roles:

  • Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon
  • Jean Rogers as Dale Arden
  • Frank Shannon as Dr. Alexis Zarkov
  • Charles B. Middleton as Ming the Merciless
  • Richard Alexander as Prince Barin

Also in the principal cast are:

  • Beatrice Roberts as Queen Azura
  • Donald Kerr as Happy Hapgood
  • Montague Shaw as the Clay King
  • Wheeler Oakman as Ming’s chief henchman

When a mysterious beam of light starts disrupting and destroying the Earth’s atmosphere, Flash Gordon, Dr. Zarkov, and Dale Arden – accidentally accompanied by wisecracking reporter Happy Hapgood – swing into action in Zarkov’s rocketship, believing that it could be coming from the planet Mongo. Once in space, however, they discover that the ray is originating from Mars.

This serial was based on the 1936 “Big Little Book” adaptation of the strip “Flash Gordon and the Witch Queen of Mongo”. The location was apparently changed to Mars to capitalise on Orson Welles’ famous War of the Worlds broadcast. According to Stedman, this serial preceded that broadcast, which made Universal hastily release a feature version of the serial as Mars Attacks the World (November 7, 1938, US) to capitalise on the publicity. The film was a box office success. The original title for this feature had been Rocket Ship, which was subsequently used for reissues of the first Flash Gordon serial’s feature version.

Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940)

Television

Flash Gordon (1954)

Steve Holland starred in a 1954–55 live-action Flash Gordon television series which ran for 39 episodes. In this series, Flash, Dale and Dr. Zarkov work for the Galactic Bureau of Investigation in the year 3203.

Flash Gordon (1979)

In 1979, Filmation produced an animated series, often referred to as The New Adventures of Flash Gordon, though it is actually titled Flash Gordon. The expanded title was used to distinguish it from previous versions. The project was originally designed as a TV film but NBC decided to change it into an animated series.

Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All (1982)

Filmation produced this successful animated television movie, Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All, 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.

Defenders of the Earth (1986)

In the 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 super-computer based in the Defenders’ Headquarters.

Flash Gordon (1996)

Hearst Entertainment premiered an animated Flash Gordon television series. In this version, Alex “Flash” Gordon and Dale Arden are hoverboarding teenagers,who become trapped on Mongo after stopping Ming’s attempt to invade Earth.

Feature Film (1980)

Producer Dino De Laurentiis hired Mike Hodges to direct the Flash Gordon the 1980 Flash Gordon film, which stars Sam J. Jones in the title role. Its plot is based loosely on the first few years of the comic strip revising Flash’s backstory by making him the quarterback of the New York Jets instead of a polo player. Raymond’s drawings feature heavily in the opening credits, as does the signature theme-song “Flash!” by rock band Queen, who composed and performed the entire musical score.

Theatre (1989)

Lee Ahlin and Gary Gordon wrote a musical for children, Flash Gordon, based on the comic. The musical premiered in Oak Hall Performing Arts Theater in Gainesville, Florida and starred Brian LeDuc as Flash, Kim Ehrich as Dale Arden, John Pelkey as Ming, and Julie Hamric as Princess Aura.

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