Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Flash Gordon is a science fiction comic strip originally drawn by Alex Raymond, first published on January 7, 1934. Although created to compete with Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon had much more sophisticated art and outlasted its inspiration.
The comics followed the adventures of Flash Gordon, for whom the series was named, and his companions Dr. Hans Zarkov and Dale Arden. The story begins with Dr. Zarkov's invention of a rocket ship, in which the three of them make a journey to the planet Mongo, where they are stranded. Mongo is inhabited by a number of different cultures, some quite technologically advanced, that have been falling one by one under the domination of the vicious tyrant Ming the Merciless.
The three Earthpeople are befriended shortly after their arrival by Prince Barin, rightful heir to the throne that Ming has taken. Ming banishes Prince Barin and his followers — including Ming's own daughter, Aura, Barin's bride — to the forest realm of Arboria, and the three join in Barin's quest to topple Ming.
Adaptations and other versions
A 1957 film adaptation starred Steve Holland , who also starred in a 1954-1955 TV series which ran for 39 episodes and is, to date, the only live-action series based upon the character. The series had the distinction of being filmed in West Berlin, less than a decade after the end of World War II.
In 1979, Filmation produced an animated series based on the comic strip and the first season is remembered as one of the better efforts on the studio. In the 1986 cartoon Defenders of the Earth, Flash teamed up with fellow King Features heroes The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician.
The 1980 film adaptation stars Sam J. Jones in the title role and also features Melody Anderson as Dale Arden, Topol as Dr. Zarkov, Max von Sydow as Ming, Timothy Dalton as Prince Barin, and Ornella Muti as Aura. Although not a critical success, the film is also noted for its musical score, which was composed and performed by Queen. It also contained a quote which probably sums up the whole Flash Gordon plotline: "Flash, I love you, but we've only got fourteen hours to save the Earth."
In 1988, DC Comics produced a modernized version of the comic strip. It featured a Flash as washed up basketball player who finds new purpose in life on Mongo, which is no threat to Earth, a Dale who is an adventurous reporter who is just as capable as Flash, and a gray-skinned Ming who is less of an Asian stereotype.
In 1996, Hearst Entertainment premiered a Flash Gordon animated television series.
In his youth, George Lucas was a fan of the Flash Gordon serials, and once wanted to adapt it to the screen as part of his modern-day myth. Dino De Laurentiis, who owned the rights, was not interested in Lucas's interpretation, so Lucas wrote Star Wars instead, which borrowed liberally from the serials. The opening expository roll-up that appeared in episodes of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe became the now-famous opening crawl of each Star Wars episode. Flash Gordon and Dale Arden inspired not only Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, but also their parents, Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala.
- Flash Gordon at King Features
- Big Cartoon DataBase: The New Adventures of Flash Gordon
- Toonopedia entry
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