The Saturday Comics: Flash Gordon by Alex Raymond

30 Dec

December 31, 2011

This is an undisputed classic character, in a classic strip, by a classic illustrator, Alex Raymond. Get the hint? This man CREATED Flash Gordon, among many other characters, and spawned legions of imitators, followers, and in fact nearly a whole genre.

I assume you know Flash Gordon. He has been constantly reinvented for every generation.

Alex Raymond’s “influence on other cartoonists was considerable during his lifetime and did not diminish after his death.” George Lucas has cited Raymond’s Flash Gordon as a major influence on his Star Wars films (which, cyclically, inspired the 1980 Flash Gordon film), while Raymond’s long shadow has fallen across the comics industry ever since his work saw print. Comics artists who have cited Raymond as a particularly significant influence on their work include Murphy Anderson, Jim Aparo, Frank Brunner, John Buscema, Gene Colan, Dick Dillin, José Luis García-López, Frank Giacoia, Bob Haney, Jack Katz, Joe Kubert, Mort Meskin, Sheldon Moldoff, Luis Garcia Mozos, Joe Orlando, John Romita Jr., Kurt Schaffenberger, Joe Sinnott, Dick Sprang and Alex Toth, among many others.

In particular, Raymond has been named as a key influence by many of the most influential and important comic book artists of all time. EC Comics-staple Al Williamson cites Raymond as a major influence, and is quoted as saying that Raymond was “the reason I became an artist”. Indeed, Williamson ultimately assisted on the Flash Gordon strips in the mid-1950s, and Rip Kirby in the mid-1960s (all post-Raymond). Key Golden Age artists credit Raymond with influencing their work. The artistic creators of Batman (Bob Kane) and Superman (Joe Shuster) credit him (alongside Milton Caniff, Billy DeBeck and Roy Crane) as having had a strong influence on their artistic development. Decades later, the herald of the Silver Age (and co-creator of most of Marvel Comics’s pantheon of heroes), Jack “King” Kirby also credits Raymond, alongside fellow strip artist Hal Foster, as a particular influence and inspiration.

I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that without this man, pop culture would be very, very different. Take for example the serials based on Flash Gordon. Their impact on films is almost as significant as the comic strip’s effect on that medium. By proxy, Alex Raymond is responsible for much of modern movie sci-fi.

Yet for someone whose impact is so far-reaching, his body of work is known more by reputation than actual first-hand knowledge. So in the name of education, enjoy this gallery of Alex Raymond’s work, focusing primarily on Flash Gordon.

Please click on the thumbnails to enlarge.


7 Responses to “The Saturday Comics: Flash Gordon by Alex Raymond”

  1. Mac of BIOnighT December 30, 2011 at 11:29 pm #

    While personally I do consider Flash Gordon an incredibly dumb story that hasn’t aged gracefully (there, I said it), even though I did enjoy both the serial (they didn’t have the money to create and construct the dumbest parts) and the OTR (you weren’t forced to see the dumb parts), I thoroughly agree with you on the absolute importance of both the character and the artist. His drawings were so beautiful one could just stare at them for hours.
    And darn it, now without my mustache I don’t look like Ming anymore. How cruel can life be? 😦


    • bmj2k December 31, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

      Story-wise the serial is a zero but the strip was deeper. I watched the Buck Rogers serial recently and the plot was less than zero.


      • Mac of BIOnighT December 31, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

        True, a lot of serials have a non-existant plot, but that’s part of the fun (most of the time, not always). As a matter of fact, I can’t remember Buck Roger’s plot at all…
        Anyway, what I don’t like about Gordon is the too-much-stuff aspect: the lion men, the bird men, etc, everything, it’s like merging nine or ten different bedtime stories (like Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Pinocchio and so on) into one huge, silly, unbelievable story. Other than that, it’s OK. And, as I said, its importance is out of question.


        • bmj2k December 31, 2011 at 10:09 pm #

          Plot is of little importance in serials but in Buck Rogers the plot was about Killer Kane trying to take over Earth. However, all that happened was the Buck would fly in an Earth ship and get shot at by Kane’s forces, fly in a Kane ship and get shot at by Earth forces, then Earth ship, Kane ship, etc. It got repetitive and boring. I think the too-mcu aspect of Flash Gordon at least kept it visually interesting.


          • Mac of BIOnighT December 31, 2011 at 10:31 pm #

            Yeah, I know what you mean… Phantom Creeps is like that, but fortunately it’s got Lugosi in it. Undersea Kingdom (apart from being an obvious copy of Flash Gordon) is like that as well, and it doesn’t even have Lugosi (just a lot of scenes that look as if they were shot at some gay pride parade… amazing what escaped censorship back then). I think there were a lot of serials constructed in that way.
            Fortunately, there were some good ones, too – Captain Marvel, Phantom, Radio Patrol, Superman, Batman…


  2. Thomas Stazyk December 31, 2011 at 12:09 am #

    Love those Flash Gordon movies–and who can forget Flesh Gordon??


    • bmj2k December 31, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

      I did, but it fits into something upcomming so stay tuned.


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