Flash Gordon over the years

[I’m not entirely sure which of my blogs this belongs in, but since it continues a thread on gay men and masculinity, begun in “Images of masculinity” (on this blog, here) and doesn’t have material that would require it to go in my X blog, I’m posting it here. But it has nothing of significance about language in it.]

The history began yesterday, when Steven Levine passed on to me a copy of Les Daniels’s Superman, The Complete History: The Life and Times of the Man of Steel (a Chronicle Books reprint of the 1998 original), which I received with delight because a project of mine on gay men and masculinity (described in that earlier posting) had taken me (thanks to Bea Sanford, now Beatrice Sanford Russell) into considering masculinity as presented in material — especially movies — on cartoon(ish) heroes and superheroes.

Superman led us briefly to Batman (which was Bea’s entry point into this material) and then to Flash Gordon, and we recollected with pleasure some of the film presentations of the story of Flash and Dale (and Doctor Zarkov and Ming the Merciless, the evil ruler of the planet Mongo, and the other characters): in particular, the film serials, which I saw on tv as a child, on Saturday mornings (and which presented me with some of my earliest experiences of identification combined with homoerotic desire, for Flash in the person of Buster Crabbe; I now have them on DVD); the 1974 X-rated takeoff Flesh Gordon; and the (to my mind) wonderfully campy 1980 movie version. (These three are starred in the list below.)

We were having some trouble getting the chronology right (many items were re-released, or transferred to other forms), so I spent some time this morning mining the resources of Wikipedia, primarily the main entry on Flash Gordon and the one on Flesh Gordon (where you can find lots of links and more details about Flash Gordon in popular culture).

Here’s a summary of the highlights, in list form:

1a. Flash Gordon, comic strip originally drawn by Alex Raymond, first published on January 7, 1934; further comic strips over the years

1b. pulp magazine adaptation of the original strips: Flash Gordon Strange Adventure Magazine (1936)

1c. novelizations over the years, beginning with Flash Gordon in the Caverns of Mongo (1936)

2a. starting April 22, 1935, the strip was adapted into The Amazing Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon, a 26-episode weekly radio serial, with Gale Gordon as Flash

2b. followed by daily radio serial The Further Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon (1935-36)

*3a. Flash Gordon, 1936 movie serial starring Buster Crabbe as Flash and Jean Rogers as Dale (13 episodes)

3b. sequels: Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938), Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940)

3c. the 1936 Flash Gordon serial was also condensed into a feature-length film titled Flash Gordon or Rocket Ship or (tv title) Space Soldiers

4a. Flash Gordon (1954-55 live-action tv series, with Steve Holland as Flash

4b. Flash Gordon (1979-80 animated tv series, aka The New Adventures of Flash Gordon)

*5a. Flesh Gordon, a 1974 erotic spoof of the Flash Gordon serial films from the 1930s, with Jason Williams as Flesh Gordon and Suzanne Fields as Dale Ardor

5b. 1989 sequel: Flesh Gordon Meets the Cosmic Cheerleaders, with Vince Murdocco as Flesh and Robyn Kelly as Dale

5c. four-issue comic book miniseries by Aircel Comics, published in 1992

*6. Flash Gordon, campy 1980 film starring Sam J. Jones (as Flash), Melody Anderson (as Dale), Chaim Topol, Max von Sydow, Timothy Dalton, Brian Blessed and Ornella Muti; music by Queen

7a. Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All (1982), animated tv movie

7b. Defenders of the Earth (1986), a Flash Gordon cartoon show

7c. Flash Gordon (1996 animated tv series)

8. Flash Gordon (2007-08 live-action tv series, with Eric Johnson as Steven “Flash” Gordon)

One Response to “Flash Gordon over the years”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Michael Palmer on Facebook:
    Getting back to Flash Gordon, 20+ of the episodes of the 1954-1955 TV series were filmed in Berlin. We watched it religiously, since my grandmother, who was raised in Berlin and hadn’t been back since 1937, wanted to see if she recognized any of her old haunts among the rubble. Only the four leads spoke English, and all the other actors delivered their lines phonetically. I remember finding it very odd that no matter *where* Flash and his companions landed, the natives *always* spoke with a German accent. I vaguely recall another TV series, a few years later, also on a space theme and also filmed in Germany, in which the lead male spent a lot of time taking off his shirt.

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