Tag Archive: Flash Gordon

Review by C.J. Bunce

Re-think all you know about Flash Gordon.  Volume One of the eagerly awaited library edition of the original Flash Gordon color newspaper comic strip, Flash Gordon: On the Planet Mongo: The Complete Flash Gordon Library (Vol. 1), is now available and it will cause you to second guess what you think you know about science fiction and fantasy in its infancy.  And question just how innovative George Lucas actually was with the Star Wars series.

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, from 1902.  For science fiction novels you much reach back further to its Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein all the way back in 1818.  For the intersecting genre of “science fiction-fantasy”–our key focus at borg.com–you must turn to January 1934 and a detail-oriented artist with an eye toward realism named Alex Raymond, and his new character, Flash Gordon.  Whether or not you are a fan like I am of the 1980 movie Flash Gordon with Timothy Dalton and a host of other cult favorite actors and an excellent soundtrack by Queen, or Alex Ross’s Dynamite Comics series Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist, or even a fan of the old black and white Buster Crabbe TV serials, you should check out the original source material.

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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?

C.J. Bunce



From time to time you hear of references to an artist as THE cover artist, the most sought after, etc., but no artist can touch what Alex Ross has been able to do with his paintbrushes.  His work is instantly recognizable from its sweeping heroic themes, idealistic and optimistic characterization, and an elevation of the human form to not only superhero but from superhero to godlike magnificence.  His use of color, tricks of light, chromes, reflections and high contrast imagery include themes of hope, confidence, power, pride and sometimes even fear.  So with the above pantheon of DC Comics Gods-of-sorts from the cover to the Justice series as #15 and the below Marvel Comics “Avengers Assemble” print sold at San Diego Comic-Con International in 2010 as #14, we introduce a sequence from #15 to #1 of the most striking, stunning, and powerful creations to be featured on comic book covers, posters and marketing materials by Alex Ross–and our “just plain favorites”–created over his standout career so far.

13.  THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST.  Ross created this work for the 70th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz and it is currently on display at the Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.  Those monkeys are… still creepy and Margaret Hamilton’s witch is still one of the best villains of all time.

12.  PRINCE NAMOR, THE SUB-MARINER, AND HIS CREATOR, BILL EVERETT.  Ross created this piece for the 60th anniversary of the classic Marvel character and his artist gets equal billing, in black and white and reminiscent of Norman Rockwell’s self portrait work.

11.  FLASH GORDON DVD COVER.  Created by Ross for the 2007 special edition release of the DVD, Ross has said Flash Gordon was his favorite movie.  A photograph of Max Von Sydow as Ming, the nemesis of Flash, couldn’t look any better than this painting.

10.  SUPERMAN, STRENGTH #1 COVER.  This Ross homage to Action Comics #1 features Ross’s most painted superhero, Superman, the man of steel, doing what he does best.  If only filmmakers would get an actor to play Superman that actually looks like Ross’s vision of Superman!

9.  PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA.  A 2008 print and Wizard magazine cover of the 44th president of the United States–an homage to Ross’ own similar Superman design.  An artist that can make even a president look cool.  Obama is known as a comic book fan, and was featured on a cover of Spider-man, among other books.

8.  KRYPTO, COVER FOR SUPERMAN, ISSUE #680.  Ross features heroes of all sorts in his designs, but often elevates the underdog to supreme being, and with Superman’s dog here he is shown atop a marble lion.

7.  CAPTAIN MARVEL FROM ROSS’S GRAPHIC NOVEL “KINGDOM COME.”  I once spoke to a friend of Alex Ross.  A close friend.  Who amazingly looked just like Captain Marvel.  Not a coincidence, as Ross regularly paints heroes using his friends as models.  This page showing Superman kneeling before him, best shows what Ross could do with even a standard catalog hero of the past.  He restored the legendary “Earth’s Mightiest Mortal” to exactly that status.

6.  THE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA.  This pantheon piece was used individually and as shown below on numerous posters and books.  I love it because, with all the incarnations of the JLA, Ross gets the team exactly right with every member that should be on the team.  From the mightily small Atom to Superman, this is who I also think of as DC’s main fighting force.  Could these guys be more cocky?

5.  THE JOKER AND HARLEY QUINN, FROM GRAPHIC NOVEL “BATMAN: HARLEY QUINN” COVER.  Here we get to see the dark side of Ross–his exquisitely frightening Joker, in a dance with his best gal, the homicidal Ms. Quinn.  What a couple they make, especially as illustrated by Ross.

4.  GATCHAMAN DVD COVER.  Like Ross’s ability to make Captain Marvel and other classic superheroes appear great once again, Ross can take nostalgic series, movies, characters, darned near anything and make us want to revisit these characters.  Whether you saw this Japanese earliest modern incarnation of anime as G-Force or as Battle of the Planets, these kids turned heroes are as familiar as old friends.

3.  SPACE GHOST ISSUE #1.  When I saw this issue hit the stands I had to have it.  The one problem with Ross only working cover art is that you expect the interior pages to be just as good as the cover art, which is why Justice and Marvels are such great treats to the eye.  With Space Ghost, Ross takes an obscure hero that we best know as a TV show host and makes him every bit the counterpart to Superman & Co.

2.  WIZARD COMICS COVER ART, BATMAN’s ENEMIES.  This is one of Ross’s most univerally acclaimed images and rightly so.  Everyone is too close for comfort and Batman goes toward the baddest baddie’s throat first, his #1 foe, The Joker.

1.  SESAME STREET’S SUPER GROVER, PACKAGING ART FOR PALISADES TOYS 2005 ACTION FIGURE.  How can you beat this painting?  If you don’t remember Grover from Sesame Street, dig around You Tube and watch some old episodes.  Before Elmo… there was Grover.  The muppet who loved everyone, meek and mild, he’s the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and more.  And when times are tough, and there’s no one to protect us all, who will rise to meet the challenge?  It is Super Grover.  When I saw this print at a con a few years ago I froze in my tracks and just couldn’t believe it.  It’s not just the art, sometimes it is the choice of subject matter that tells half the story.  Kudos to Ross for thinking of this one.

Well that’s my list.  Please drop us a comment if you think I have any glaring omission or if you just want to chime in with your list.

*All images above Copyright by Alex Ross or his publishers.  Many of these prints and original art are for sale on his website at www.alexrossart.com.

C.J. Bunce

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