Monday, January 01, 2018

Real Name: Flash Gordon
First Appearance: Flash Gordon S001 (January, 1934)
Fight Club Ranking: #DNR

Featured Fights:
- Yet To Be Featured on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths.

What is it about the holiday season and the start to a new year? There's just something in the air that inevitably sends me running to the warm embrace of something a little bit different.

A carefree couple of weeks to indulge in strings-free pleasures and entertainment is a nice way to recharge! Last year I talked about the Eastern influences I often enjoy around this time of year [see; Son Goku, Chinese Hero]. This year I was a little closer to home: venturing back in time for a fusion of bold early '80s cinema, and pulp comic strip adventures. Our hero of the week: Flash Gordon!

I suppose it's a dirty little secret that if I really ventured to pick my Top 10 comic book movies, there wouldn't be more than one from Marvel Studios. As a comics fan and cinephile, I find their formulaic offerings are just too flavourless to elicit genuine passion. If you're a regular reader of Hero of the Week, you'll know my grievances with the shocking lack of visual aesthetic in contemporary comic book adaptations, both in cinema and television. No such problem with 1980's Flash Gordon.

Director Mike Hodges affectionately attributes the lavish sets and extravagant wardrobe to a cavalier, artisanal approach of producer Dino De Laurentiis. The chaotic confluence of artists and artisans is a far cry from the frugal, regimented reputation of modern Hollywood. By all accounts, it wasn't a very sustainable model, but I lament the magic we so rarely see on the big screen now.

The overwhelming wave of primary colours in Flash Gordon borders on the deranged, but I wonder if it isn't exactly what modern cinema is crying out for! Glimmers of a visual spirit in Thor: Ragnarok seem to have revived a type of interest modern audiences have lacked. I'm not sure if an all-out camp colour assault like Flash Gordon, or even 1990's Dick Tracy, would find the box office they'd need, but I'd sure love to see somebody try!

It surprises me, on reflection, how much of the original Flash Gordon comic strip is actually present in the film version. I'd forgotten the use of Alex Raymond's art in the opening credits. What follows is a camp summary of much of the first adventures, with surprisingly less disrobing than the comic strip Flash seemed to do.

The most significant addition to the film version is armor-plated Klytus, who both puts every live-action version of Doctor Doom to shame, and is one of the brightest sparks in the movie! Not as bright as Max von Sydow's total commitment to the role of Ming the Merciless - but right up there!

Intriguingly, as much as I'm motivated by self-indulgent reasons -- there is a topical reason for making Gordon Hero of the Week, too! As Newsarama reported last week; King Features Syndicate has appointed CJ Kettler to the role of president, who overtures to reevaluating their stable of intellectual properties in a divided, digital marketplace. That includes another personal favourite, The Phantom, with Mandrake The Magician, Lothar, and others.

I haven't really made an effort to investigate the comic book offerings from Dynamite Entertainment, but I'm intrigued what new may come from the company's appointment. It makes me wonder if Flash Gordon could actually return to the big (or small) screen sometime in the near future. I dare not imagine it could be as a jolt to the modern pop culture landscape, but you never know!

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