Sunday, 19 January 2014

Flash Gordon turns 80! Happy Birthday, Flash!

This year (back on January 7th to be exact) is the 80th anniversary of Flash Gordon, and it's stuff like this - damn big hero stories - that got me into classic science fiction.

I used to watch the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials on television in the 1980s, all the classic Larry 'Buster' Crabbe adventures, along with others such as Radar Men from the Moon (that's where 'Commander Cody' comes from, Star Wars fans!) and The Phantom Empire. I love them, especially Flash, as it's straight forward no-nonsense adventure, where you get to explore strange lands and meet new friends and enemies. Flash Gordon isn't some tortured soul or reluctant hero, he's a fists-first adventurous man who fights for what he knows is right. There's no messing around with Flash - if he sees injustice he'll fight, no matter the odds, and he never gives up. Big damn hero, indeed.

The first Flash Gordon strip, January 7th 1934
When Alex Raymond wrote and illustrated his first Flash Gordon strip to appear under his Jungle Jim, I wonder if he knew what he'd started? I wonder if he realised how Flash would become a huge hit and, even decades down the line and into the next century, there'd still be fans in love with the guy? Most people these days will know him from 'FLASH! OO-AAAA-AAAAAAHHH!!' But they still know him.

I have a few of the Alex Raymond strips but my first love was always the 'Buster' Crabbe serials, followed closely by the Filmation cartoon which captured the atmosphere and adventure of the 1930s serials wonderfully. Along with a 1950s series, the 1980 movie and the television show a few years ago, Flash Gordon has popped up every few years to remind us that we need heroes. Now I want to fully read all of the original strips and fully realise what Flash is all about.

Hopefully something will happen this year and we'll get another dose of Flash Gordon. The world needs to be reminded what a big damn hero is, and we all need our heroes.

Dum dum dum dum dum dum dum...