Comic Strip: Flash Gordon
is a classic science fiction comic written and drawn by Alex Raymond in the year 1934 and published by King Features Syndicate
. It tells the story of Flash Gordon, an athlete who travels with reporter Dale Arden and Dr Hans Zarkov in a rocket Zarkov built to the planet Mongo, ruled by Ming the Merciless
(Fu Manchu IN SPACE
). Flash sets to incite revolution. But wait! Dale is in love with him, and so is Princess Aura!
They are aided by Prince Barin of Arboria, Prince Vultan of the Hawkmen and Queen Desira of Tropica. Later stories featured Flash and company traveling to other planets, but the Mongo story arc is by far the most famous.
Although originally a comic strip, there have been several adaptations of the story: first was the 1936 serial starring Buster Crabbe as Flash
, which was widely acclaimed and one of the more popular serials of its time. There were several animated series
, a 1950s live-action series, and a 2007 live-action series
by the Sci-Fi Channel, which is basically Smallville
hampered by the fact that Flash Gordon is no Superman
. (And let's face it: you know
you're in trouble when people say you're not as good as Smallville
.) The series arguably improved after a mid-season retool
and concluded its first season in January 2008. Sci-Fi ultimately declined to renew it, however, effectively ending the series on an unresolved cliffhanger.
None of these are nearly as well known or as fun as the 1980 live-action movie adaptation, aptly titled Flash Gordon
. Starring Sam J Jones as Flash, Max von Sydow
as Ming the Merciless, Topol as Dr Zarkov, Timothy Dalton
as Prince Barin, BRIAN BLESSED
as Prince Vultan, and, if you look carefully, you'll spot Richard O'Brien (aka Riff Raff
) as one of Barin's men. Widely considered a cult classic
and enormously popular in Great Britain
, the movie is pretty much exactly
what would have happened if King Features had ten times the budget, big-name actors and better special effects, and the exact same script
, down to Asian stereotyping and completely insane dialogue.
And then you have the animated adaptations... including one in advance of the 1980 movie by Filmation
, the people who did Star Trek: The Animated Series
. Perhaps best described as a children's version of a sketchy rock album cover
come to life, with lion-men
instead of ligers
Flash had comic adaptations as well, including DC Comics' Flash Gordon (1988)
miniseries. There is also a 2011 comic book adaptation called Flash Gordon Zeitgeist
, which takes elements from all incarnations of Flash and adds its own twists and turns.
Trope codifier for Space Opera
and Raygun Gothic
, along with Buck Rogers
of course. Famous for the serials' Opening Scroll
An enormous influence on Star Wars
: indeed, George Lucas wanted to make a Flash Gordon movie until Dino De Laurentiis, who held the rights, said no. Considering the massive flop the movie was, Dino might have done better if he'd taken George up on the offer.
Adaptations with their own trope pages include:
The classic comic strip provides examples of:
- Art Evolution: Alex Raymond's method of drawing notably evolved and improved as the series progressed. For a time he used a dry-brush drawing style with lots of hatching, as was common in Pulp Magazine black-and-white interior illustrations. Later, he switched to a clearer line style, used in conjunction with Prince Valiant-esque still images that mimicked paintings.
- When the strip began, the people on planet Mongo all had yellow skin (most of the time, anyway). Plus, Princess Aura was a redhead, and Prince Barin was bald. A few years in, the yellow skin-tone was dropped and the humanoid denizens of Mongo started being drawn as white. At the same time, Aura became a blonde and Barin suddenly sprouted a full head of black hair (which the strip lampshaded as him defying Ming's decrees on proper court fashion).
- And Now You Must Marry Me
- Badass Normal
- Bald of Awesome: Barin (until he defies Ming's fashion decrees by growing his hair out)
- Bald of Evil: Ming
- Bathe Her and Bring Her to Me
- Bare Your Midriff
- Beard of Evil
- Beast Man: Several races of Mongo, including Lion Men, Hawk Men, Fang Men, Ape Man (red and not), Blue Dragon men, Panther Men and so on.
- Beneath Mongo: The Cavern World of Syk.
- Betty and Veronica: Dale Arden and Princess Aura, both of whom love Flash.
- Big Damn Heroes
- Big Fun: Vultan's got a belly on him.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Vultan
- Cliffhanger: Every single strip
- Damsel in Distress: Dale
- Dark Action Girl: Aura
- Distressed Dude: Flash, especially when the captors are women.
- Egopolis: Mingo City
- The Emperor: Ming the Merciless.
- The Empire: Mongo.
- Everything's Better with Princesses: Aura, among others
- Evil Laugh
- Femme Fatale: Aura, though she does a Heel-Face Turn.
- Five-Man Band: In the first volumes at least, there's the following scheme:
- Follow the Leader: The original comic strip was only created to cash in on the popularity of Buck Rogers. Thankfully, it never resorted to outright stealing any of Buck's storylines, and managed to carve out its own niche.
- Game Changer: Flash Gordon is the game changer in his series: before he arrived on Mongo, various worlds under Ming's thumb were fighting each other. Flash slowly convinced the various worlds to set aside their differences and concentrate instead on overthrowing Ming the Merciless.
- Gladiator Games: Flash is often forced into these.
- Good Hair, Evil Hair
- Green-Eyed Monster: From the hawkmen's king's wife, when he decides to add Dale to his harem
- Green-Skinned Space Babe: Yellow-skinned, here. For the first several years at least.
- Hard Head: Thun. Flash can even confidently assert he'll come to in a few seconds.
- Heel-Face Turn: Vultan, Aura, Azura... actually, a lot of Flash's allies started out as antagonists.
- I Gave My Word
- Inevitable Waterfall: When Flash, Dale, and Thun are swept away in an underground river.
- It's Up to You: Only a wayward athlete can save the earth.
- Ivy League: Flash is a Yale man.
- Kaiju: Mongo just wouldn't be Mongo without giant monsters everywhere.
- In one istance, Gordon gets randomly attacked by a giant snake while walking around with Azura.
- Lizard Folk: The Lizard Men. They try to capture and cook Gordon, but are quickly dispatched by the Hawkmen.
- Love at First Sight: In the original comic, Flash starts declaring his love for Dale very early on, after maybe a few hours, and practically no conversation or time to breathe. Ming also wants to marry her on sight, but that's a different trope...
- Love Dodecahedron: Flash loves Dale, Dale loves Flash, Aura loves Flash, Barin loves Aura, Ming lusts after Dale. (Aura eventually switches to Barin, though)
- Mad Scientist: He's a nice guy, but Zarkov's got more than a touch of this, at least in the beginning.
- Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Not so much Mad Scientist as Emperor, but still a major influence.
- Men Act, Women Are: The caption for the very first panel Flash and Dale appear in:
"Aboard an eastbound transcontinental plane we have Flash Gordon, Yale graduate and world-renowned polo player, and Dale Arden, a passenger."
- Mirror Morality Machine: Azura brainwashes Flash for a while.
- Mix-and-Match Critters
- Ms Fan Service: Aura
- Multicultural Alien Planet: Because the comic is set entirely on Mongo and doesn't do any standard planet hopping (at least, not until the strip's later years), Mongo is an incredibly diverse planet.
- Murder the Hypotenuse: The king's favorite toward Dale in the city of the hawkmen
- My Breasts Are Down Here: Princess Aura's at the beginning used to wear this kind of garments.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Ming the Merciless.
- Petting Zoo People: Lion Men, among others.
- Planet of Hats
- Planetary Romance: For one thing, Aura and the various moons of Mongo.
- Power Trio: Flash, Dale and Zarkov
- Protagonist Title
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Lots of them, but Thun's probably the most notable.
- Puny Earthlings: Who can save you now?
- Random Events Plot: Unsurprising, in view of the need for a cliffhanger.
- Raygun Gothic: The entire concept of Flash Gordon embodies the trope.
- Retro Rockets: Your classic cigar-shaped rockets with tail fins. In the film serials, they actually puff smoke!
- Reality Subtext: As World War II loomed on the horizon, strips featuring Ming's concentration camps appeared.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: ...and as World War II creeped even closer, Ming the Merciless got mercilessly and unceremoniously killed off so that Flash and friends could return to Earth and lend a hand in the war effort.
- Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves
- Robin Hood: The obvious visual inspiration for Barin and the Arborians.
- Rule 34: There is porn of it. Specifically, Flesh Gordon, a '70s softcore romp which has a cult following of its own, largely due to this. (Yes, it's work safe, as long as your boss doesn't hear the expletives.)
- Schizo Tech: So much! But totally justified by Rule of Cool.
- Shock and Awe: Part of the arc in the Snow Kingdom is dedicated to hunting down a colossal monster that blows people up with his electrified tentacles.
- Space Opera: Trope Codifier.
- Tap on the Head: Aura uses one on Flash to let her father carry off Dale.
- Twenty Minutes into the Future: Until the 1980 movie, Flash was always from the future. In the comics, prior to WWII, there was no date given. Following WWII, they were set "ten years into the future".
- The Filmation 1970s animated movie (on which the '70s animated TV series was based) has Flash, Dale, and Zarkov leave Earth in the 1940s—which explains the period hairdos on the three Earthlings in the '70s series.
- The 1950s TV show was set over a thousand years in the future.
- Underwater City: Corallia
- The Vamp: Queens Azura and Desira.
- We ARE Struggling Together: This is why Ming isn't overthrown; the races of Mongo are busy fighting amongst themselves.
- Weird Science
- White Anglo-Saxon Protestant: Flash Gordon is a Yale man and champion polo player.
- Would Not Shoot a Civilian: Flash objects at the notion of killing an unarmed Aura.
- Winged Humanoid: The Hawkmen, although not the delicate beings you'd expect...
- Yellow Peril: Ming, Ming, Ming! Oddly enough, the theme song to the movie became incredibly popular in Japan. It helps a lot that Ming looks Chinese rather Japanese; that the two were at war at the time; and Max von Sydow basically plays himself in oriental drag (in the 1980 film).