You might be familiar with Flash Gordon from the 1980 cult movie (humorously referenced in the recent film "Ted") or the 1970s Filmation animated series -- but the story all began back in January 1934 in the newspapers. Created by Alex Raymond, the original "Flash Gordon" had a quality of art more akin to the lush quality of book illustrations than serialized comic strips. What followed through the many years of its run would inspire several generations of comic artists including Alex Ross. Writes Ross in the introduction to Titan's new stellar collection of the earliest Raymond strips, "Flash Gordon On The Planet Mongo":
"For my own part, his work was a fundamental career influence, and his baton of illustrative realism as passed on to many artists who, like me, apply his same principles to the comics we produce today."
But let's get to the real reason you'd want to read "Flash Gordon On The Planet Mongo" -- the unbelievably wild and sensual illos by Raymond of such characters as Flash, Dale Arden, Princess Allura, and others (even middle-aged Dr. Zarkov rocks his loin-cloth surprisingly well). This is just page after page of psychedelic space ships, exotic costuming in chain mail and silks, and beautiful people cavorting with (and attacking) each other across a seemingly never-ending landscape dotted by fantastic creatures. Working on two levels by Raymond and writer Don Moore -- childlike adventure and erotic subtext -- these early years of "Flash Gordon" are virtually a playbook for the entire Golden Age of comics that arrived soon after (some might also say it was a literal playbook, as many of the figures from the strips were "swiped" by comic artists for decades to come).
Titan Books gives this collection the star treatment it deserves, faithfully reproducing the original strips on a high-quality stock of gently off-white paper that avoids the too-bright reproduction of other collections. If you don't have the time to read all 200+ pages of this "coffee-table" book in one sitting, merely dig in at any point and be wowed by Raymond's phantasmal world called Mongo.
"Flash Gordon On The Planet Mongo," Volume One of the "Flash Gordon Library," is available right now from Titan Books.