Part One of a Series

If I was Flash Gordon I’d Save the World

Depicted are the covers of the author’s full five volume set of the complete original Flash Gordon comic strips of artist Alex Raymond, originator of the series.
Author’s full five volume set of the complete original Flash Gordon comic strips of artist Alex Raymond, author photo

It started with artist Alex Raymond (1909–1956) creator of the original Flash Gordon comic strip for King Features Syndicate in 1934, later adapted into three Universal movie serials (1936’s Flash Gordon, 1938’s Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars, and 1940’s Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe). What’s a “serial” you ask? A series of episodic short films including the same characters, with a progressive plot, each episode ending with a “cliff hanger” that is, some form of catastrophe, or so it appears on screen. These serials, one chapter on any given week, combined with cartoons, newsreels, and usually a “double feature” (two regular movies) constituted the Saturday matinee enjoyed by many, especially the younger generation in its day.

There was no way you weren’t coming back the very next Saturday to see if Dale Arden, Flash Gordon’s distaff intergalactic partner — and she was precisely that, for while in Raymond’s comic strips she was more often than not a damsel in distress, in Universal’s version of Arden, for the times the portrayal actually was trail-blazing for a female character — and you wanted to see if she survived the avalanche, the attack of some horrible monster, or the savagery of Ming the Merciless, the archetype villain.

1936 Film poster from the Flash Gordon serial, depicting a montage of various scenes from selected episodes. Public domain.
1936 Film poster from the Flash Gordon serial, public domain

It should be duly noted, that Star Wars creator George Lucas wanted the rights to Flash Gordon, but couldn’t acquire them, and the rest is film and pop culture history.

Here’s the point. The impressions made in these mythic adventures can be significant. Yes it’s the good-versus-evil theme. But isn’t that at the core of our real world experience? There are lessons to be learned, just as the ancients through the stories told in the oral tradition passed on values and expected norms thereby, our guiding stars can be seen through wars in space as viewed on the silver or other such screen. Let’s look at what’s happening today in light of what Flash fought for and against.

End Part One. More soon to come, stay tuned.

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Recipient, 2015 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards, his chapbook Political is the 2021 American Writing Awards winner in poetry; see https://bit.ly/3MHXYQO

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Howard Richard Debs

Howard Richard Debs

Recipient, 2015 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards, his chapbook Political is the 2021 American Writing Awards winner in poetry; see https://bit.ly/3MHXYQO

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