A month or two ago, I wrote about Titan's reissuance of ALIEN: THE ILLUSTRATED STORY - saying it was likely the coolest book I've come across all year.
While this may still prove true...I haven't finalized my declaration, as the year isn't over just yet...Titan's brand new release of collected FLASH GORDON comics is most certainly giving it a run for its money.
Presented in hardcover with gold embossed lettering and bordering (the reflectivity of which is not evident in the image above), FLASH GORDON ON THE PLANET MONGO offers Peter Maresca's beautifully presented reprints of the legendary Alex Raymond and Don Moore strips which ran from 1934-1937. This is the first of several such books - Titan's has presently scheduled up to Volume 4, and more entries are pending. With luck, we'll get as much as possible - because this is a blast.
The impact of Raymond and Moore's work on the SF/fantasy genre as a whole can not be overstated. It created a conceptual and visual template which was evident not only in a number of direct adaptations of their material, like this 1936 serial...
...or this dopey but tremendously earnest and fun Dino De Laurentiis-produced big screen adaptation...
...or this short-lived by extremely awesome 1982 cartoon series...
...but impacting a bevy of highly influential genre entries. FORBIDDEN PLANET (kinda/sorta), STAR TREK, the STAR WARS universe, and many other genre are indebted to Raymond and Moore's vision. Their work...mattered...and continues to matter...to people like us. Titan re-issuing these strips so crisply presented and thoroughly considered is a truly lovely turn.
At 203 pages, there's a great deal of information to take in throughout this first volume - but several qualities immediately evident with even a cursory glance. First and foremost? Early FLASH's efficiency of storytelling. Here's a page from the book which pretty much represents the whole of the Gordon character's backstory/origin story. This is how FLASH GORDON begins. (EMBIGGENABLE)
Pretty impressive how succinctly and expeditiously our hero, and by extension, readers are thrown into the action. This same deliberate and efficient pacing persists throughout much of this first book. Here, Raymond and Moore's work often serves as something of a taster...or sampler...rather than a full exploration of any given environment/setting. They afford us glimpses of a bigger whole, and leave us to imagine any further details. A tremendously provocative and effective narrative mechanism in many cases, which works particularly well here.
The second imminently noteworthy element is the story's SIZE. As fun as De Laurentiis' movie was, it only hinted at the scale possible in the FLASH GORDON universe...a vastness which is pointedly and repeatedly evoked herein. FLASH GORDON, on the page, is truly an epic. An epic which no adaption of this material has fully or adequately captured.
Highly recommended for Geeks interested in SF/Fantasy history, or for anyone seeking solid, fast-moving, large-scale adventure. This might make an excellent Christmas gift for the genre fan in your life, or simply be a great treat for anyone even fleetingly interested in getting back in touch with some time-tested genre roots.
This is very much, to borrow the strapline of THE RIGHT STUFF, 'How the future began...'
-- Flash Gordon © 2012 King Features Inc. All Rights Reserved. --