Alex Ross has said repeatedly that his favorite movie of all time is the 1980 movie Flash Gordon, featuring Sam Jones as Flash, Melody Anderson as Dale Arden, Max Von Sydow as Ming, Topol as Dr. Zarkov, Timothy Dalton as Prince Barin, and Brian Blessed as Prince Vultan. It’s no wonder that he has brought Flash Gordon to Dynamite Comics with the new series, Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist.
Ross has gone so far as to say that the Flash Gordon movie inspired him in his life and work. As movies go, it’s a cult classic in every way. Both from the over-the-top action, the soundtrack by Queen, the camp. Yet if you saw it in the theater you had to think it was a fun movie. The costumes were great, the set decoration was bright and unworldly. And the actors, except maybe Jones as Flash, were great at their campy roles. As Ming, von Sydow redefined and highlighted the classic villain from the 1930s movie serials.
In Zeitgeist, Alex Ross has painted some fabulous covers, and he has developed both the plot and art direction for the series. For most of Issue #1 you would think you were reading an adaptation of the 1980 film. The use of reds and yellows to identify Ming’s world, in contrast with the black and white imagery of Earth of 1934 could not be done much better by colorist Slamet Mujiono. Daniel Indro’s page after page of non-stop action is well done, and I almost think Ross could not do much better with the panel work. The story by Eric Trautmann is tight and compelling and has all the components of a story serial trying to get you to come back for the next installment, including the requisite cliffhanger ending.
I was a little surprised Ross’s love of the subject matter didn’t prompt him to take this all on himself, but it’s probably not surprising since he seems to have been juggling several projects in the past year. Luckily it doesn’t matter, as you can pretty much hear the Flash Gordon theme while reading the pages of Trautmann and Indro’s work on Issue #1.
One of the changes from past versions is an apparent intersection coming between the fantasy story of Flash and the real-life era of 1934 Earth. As genre bending goes, this is part fantasy and part sci-fi. But there is also something else. Something of an updated steampunk for the 1930s—with techno gadgets heavily featured in the story. Trautmann has said he and Ross have exchanged several images of technology from the time period to help create the overall look of the series. The result is a style almost of its own.
Look out for several different cover variants, in fact nine for this Issue #1, which seems to be a standard marketing shtick of Dynamite Comics. There is a retro cover by Francesco Francavilla that is particularly cool. What is for certain with Dynamite Comics is that its creators are producing books that are every bit as good in quality as the big two comics publishers. Adding on to titles like Green Hornet, Kato, and Bionic Man, Dynamite is making its own mark in the industry. And to top it off, the best part may be the price. Issue #1 is available with a cover price of $1. How can you beat that?