Flash Gordon is a space adventure franchise that began as a King Features Syndicate comic strip in 1934 before being adapted to other media.
Flash is a hero who protects the Earth from alien menaces, most often the evil Emperor Ming the Merciless of Mongo.
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 (one in the 1970s and another in the 1990s), a 1950s live-action series, and a 2007 live-action series by the Sci-Fi Channel.
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 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.
Flash had comic adaptations as well, including DC Comics' Flash Gordon (1988) miniseries, and a 2011 comic book adaptation called Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist. The most recent Flash Gordon series was written by Jeff Parker with Doc Shaner on art, spinning out of Parker's King's Watch miniseries, a crossover with The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician. It ran eight issues and was popular enough to kick off an expanded "King-Dynamite" universe, with follow-up miniseries for Flash, The Phantom, Jungle Jim, Prince Valiant and Mandrake the Magician.
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.
Entries in the franchise include:
- Flash Gordon, the comic strip
- Flash Gordon (serial), the 1930s film serials
- The Amazing Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon, a 1935 radio serial
- Flash Gordon (1954), the 1950s live-action television series
- The Man Who Hated Laughter, a 1972 animated special featuring all King Features' characters, including Flash
- Flash Gordon (1979), the 1979 animated series
- Flash Gordon (1980), the 1980 movie
- Flash Gordon pinball table
- Defenders of the Earth, a 1986 animated series teaming Flash with King Features' other action heroes, The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician
- Flash Gordon (1988), Dan Jurgens' 1988 comic book miniseries
- Flash Gordon (1996), the 1996 animated series
- Flash Gordon (2007), the 2007 live-action television series
- Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist, the 2011 comic book series
- Flash Forward, a second comic strip with revolving creators, starting in 2020