Radium Mines of Electra–1940s Flash Gordon comic strips available today for first time in new volume

Review by C.J. Bunce

Nine years ago here at borg we featured the first of what would become an eight-volume library of full-sized comic strips featuring Flash Gordon, the impetus for all science fiction and space fantasy heroes to come.  Rarely can you so precisely identify the source of “the modern.”  In science fiction film it is Georges Méliès’s 1902 French movie A Trip to the Moon.  For science fiction novels you much reach back further to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein all the way back in 1818.  For the intersecting genre of “science fiction-fantasy” you must turn to January 1934 and a detail-oriented artist with an eye toward realism named Alex Raymond, and his new creation, Flash Gordon.  In Titan Comics’ Flash Gordon Dailies: Austin Briggs: Radium Mines Of Electra, readers will find all the daily adventures of Flash written by Don Moore and illustrated by Austin Briggs from May 27, 1940, to November 7, 1942, all reprinted for the first time, and available today here at Amazon and at comic shops everywhere.

Don Moore wrote Flash Gordon stories for more than 20 years, taking over from strip creator Alex Raymond in August 1935.  Moore was a former pulp editor who founded the Nassau News Bureau and later worked as the fiction editor for Cosmopolitan magazine and story editor for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Screen Gems television.  He went on to have a long career as a writer for television, writing for Captain Video, Rawhide, Sea Hunt, and more.

Artist Austin Briggs began providing illustrations for the classic pulp magazine Blue Book before becoming an assistant to Alex Raymond on Flash Gordon.  In 1940 he took over the daily Flash Gordon strip from Raymond and continued until 1944.  He was a profile illustrator and created illustrations for books and magazines such as Readers Digest and The Saturday Evening Post.

With both men already enmeshed in the Sunday strips behind the scenes with Raymond, bringing Flash to a daily black and white comic strip in the newspapers was a practically seamless transition.  That same breakneck pace of the Saturday matinee movie serials continued.  The story begins with Flash and Dale attempting to find a place to live on Mongo outside the reach of Ming, who had put a bounty on Flash’s head.  Readers who are also fans of George Lucas’s Star Wars will lose track of references and specific ideas he would borrow for him films 30 years later.

Those familiar with the previous Flash artwork will notice a shift from more elaborate backgrounds to more character-centric stories, thanks in part to the switch from color to black and white.  In many ways the look and feel may be similar to that of the James Bond comic strips (reviewed in reprint editions here at borg).  You may also notice the origin of that propensity of science fiction hero males on television and in movies to be found shirtless.

Fans of the 1980 movie will appreciate the entrance of Zarkov in this volume, which contains five story arcs.  It represents the first half of Briggs’ run of these daily strips, the second coming in Titan’s next volume.

An introduction is supplied by Allen Lane, and Dennis Willcut wrote a short biography of Briggs as an appendix, along with a quick checklist of stories.

Half of The Complete Flash Gordon Library of hardcover reprints is complete with this edition.  Find the previous editions, most still available at Amazon, here: Volume 1, On the Planet Mongo; Volume 2, The Tyrant of Mongo; Volume 3, The Fall of Ming; Volume 4, The Storm Queen of Valkir;, Volume 5, The City of Ice; Volume 6, The Lost Continent; and Volume 7, The Death PlanetFlash Gordon Dailies: Austin Briggs: Radium Mines Of Electra arrives today.




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