Friday, February 8, 2013

Review- FLASH GORDON: SUNDAYS 1934-1937- ON THE PLANET MONGO

FLASH GORDON: SUNDAYS 1934-1937- ON THE PLANET MONGO (Titan, 2012; Hardcover)
Collects the Flash Gordon Sunday strips from January 1, 1934- April 18, 1937
Writer: Don Moore
Artist: Alex Raymond
The impact that Flash Gordon has had on comic books, the world of science fiction, and on popular culture as a whole is immense. While the character lives on in a new series from Dynamite Entertainment, most people these days seem to know Flash Gordon best from the Queen song Flash from the 1980 feature film. That's how it started for me at least. Flash Gordon started out as a copycat competitor to Buck Rogers, but Alex Raymond's brilliant artwork quickly set it apart. 
There is a great introduction in this book which gives the reader context of America at the time. Bear in mind that this strip predates television and all comic book superheroes. All of these wild scenarios, locales, aliens, and characters are without precedent. You had pulp heroes around this time such as the Shadow, Tarzan, and Doc Samson, but none of them flew around in spaceships, battled Hawkmen, or met and fought entire undersea kingdoms. Kingdoms that predate both the Sub-Mariner and his clone, Aquaman, by the way. 
The writing and artwork are both excellent, especially for the era. This was a tough read for the first third of the book. I had a hard time getting into it. The artwork was great and kept getting better, but the story was dry. Once the writing clicked and there was a serial arc-driven continuity, I couldn't put the book down. If you can look past the faulty science and seemingly cheesy animal names and bear in mind how groundbreaking this stuff was you'll enjoy it. If you read it strictly by 2013 standards you might be disappointed in the story but not the artwork. Alex Raymond is, if not the greatest, in the top five greatest comic book artists of all time. No brag, just the facts. 
One thing that I find kind of funny is how honor bound all of these primitive kingdoms are. Flash usually makes some sort of challenge, beats their king or top warrior, and is granted his freedom or the kingdom. These strips are quaint and fun, especially when taken in their proper historical context. 
For decades these strips were in the hands of private collectors, lost to the mists of time. You could spend a lifetime trying to collect them all and still wind up empty handed. Here you can get high quality presentation at an affordable price, considering the restoration and high production values of this book. I give thanks to the original science fiction fans who saved these strips from oblivion. 
I was surprised at how many scenarios from the 1980 movie were taken from these vintage strips. It makes sense, but it was still surprising since Hollywood always knows best. Now sing it with me: Flash! Aaah-aaaahhh!! Saviour of the universe!
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

The OCD zone- This material has been issued several times over the years from various publishers. Many fans seem to prefer the IDW books, but I am happy with this book.
BUYER BEWARE NOTICE: There is a recalled version of this book making the rounds. Titan originally published this in May of 2012 and the book omitted two strips and repeated two others. These were recalled and given out to retailers as comp copies. Many of these were dumped onto the secondary market and eBay. Compounding this problem is that the corrected edition, which was released in October of 2012, also states in the indicia that it was published in May of 2012. Titan did everything within their power to remove this inferior, defective book from the market. They should have pulped the run rather than give them out to dealers, as I have read multiple reports of people getting defective copies, even from the almighty Amazon.com.
Linework restoration rating: 4 out of 5. These are straight up scans of the original strips. The first half of the book has a few rough patches, the result of inferior source material. It's not bad by any stretch but is not as clear as the latter half of the book. This is not Prince Valiant quality, but those are sourced from pristine printer proofs. There are a few pages that are iffy but the high quality of the rest of the scans lifts the rating up to a 4.
Color restoration rating: 5 out of 5. Coloring can't get any more authentic than the original material. Since these are scans, this qualifies since they only filtered out the excess yellowing of the pulp paper. I am really impressed with the print quality given the primitive oil based ink four color printing process. Clearly newspapers used superior printing processes than the comic books of the Golden Age, as line bleed is at an absolute minimum here.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. Beautiful, thick uncoated stock. Plus it has that glorious toxic Chinese ink aroma.
Binding rating: 5 out of 5. Wonderful sewn binding with the casing not glued square to the spine, allowing the book to lay perfectly flat as god intended.
Hardback cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. There is no dustjacket for this book. The image is screen printed on the hardback itself with a reasonably thick coating. I found no scuffs or marks on it after reading the book. The gold color dye in the cover stamping is a nice touch.

2 comments:

  1. "Many fans seem to prefer the IDW books, but I am happy with this book....until I look at John's and then I will change my mind."

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    1. Ha! We'll see. I have like 3 month's worth of Previews sitting over here for you...come and get 'em.

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