Flash Gordon (comic strip)

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"FLASH!!! Aaaaaaah-aaaaah! Saviour of-the-universe!"
Queen, in the theme song to the 1980 movie

Flash Gordon is a classic science fiction comic written and drawn by Alex Raymond in the year 1934 and published by King Features. It tells the story of Flash Gordon, an athlete who travels with reporter Dale Arden and Dr Hans Zarkov in a rocket Zarkov built to the planet Mongo, ruled by Ming the Merciless (Fu Manchu IN SPACE). Flash sets to incite revolution. But wait! Dale is in love with him, and so is Princess Aura! They are aided by Prince Barin of Arboria, Prince Vultan of the Hawkmen and Queen Desira of Tropica. Later stories featured Flash and company traveling to other planets, but the Mongo story arc is by far the most famous.

Although originally a comic strip, there have been several adaptations of the story: first was the 1936 serial starring Buster Crabbe as Flash, which was widely acclaimed and one of the more popular serials of its time. There were several animated series, a 1950s live-action series, and a 2007 live-action series by the Sci-Fi Channel, which is basically Smallville hampered by the fact that Flash Gordon is no Superman. (And let's face it: you know you're in trouble when people say you're not as good as Smallville.) The series arguably improved after a mid-season Retool and concluded its first season in January 2008. Sci-Fi ultimately declined to renew it, however, effectively ending the series on an unresolved cliffhanger.

None of these are nearly as well known or as fun as the 1980 live-action movie adaptation, aptly titled Flash Gordon. Starring Sam J Jones as Flash, Max von Sydow as Ming the Merciless, Topol as Dr Zarkov, Timothy Dalton as Prince Barin, Brian Blessed as Prince Vultan, and, if you look carefully, you'll spot Richard O'Brien (aka Riff Raff) as one of Barin's men. Widely considered a Cult Classic and enormously popular in Great Britain, the movie is pretty much exactly what would have happened if King Features had ten times the budget, big-name actors and better special effects, and the exact same script, down to Asian stereotyping and completely insane dialogue.

And then you have the animated adaptations... including one in advance of the 1980 movie by Filmation, the people who did Star Trek the Animated Series. Perhaps best described as a children's version of a sketchy rock album cover come to life, with lion-men instead of ligers.

Trope codifier for Space Opera and Raygun Gothic, along with Buck Rogers of course. Famous for the serials' Opening Scroll.

An enormous influence on Star Wars: indeed, George Lucas wanted to make a Flash Gordon movie until Dino De Laurentiis, who held the rights, said no. Considering the massive flop the movie was, Dino might have done better if he'd taken George up on the offer.

Tropes used in Flash Gordon (comic strip) include:

Other adaptations provide examples of: