Space adventurers come in all shapes and sizes, but perhaps none are as inspiring as that King of the Impossible, Flash Gordon. The iconic Earthman in the stars, Flash returns to comics this April courtesy of a new ongoing series launching from Dynamite Entertainment by the creative team of Jeff Parker, Evan ‘Doc’ Shaner and Jordie Bellaire.
Following the recent announcement of the series — which will coincide with the eightieth anniversary of the character’s first appearance — CBR spoke with Parker about what readers can expect from the new series, who’ll be showing up and exactly how merciless Flash’s legendary archvillain Ming will prove to be.
CBR News: One thing fans of your work need to know is that Jeff Parker loves a bit of Flash Gordon. What do you think is it about the character which has had such a lasting impact?
Jeff Parker: I think people like the idea of someone from Earth going to another world and becoming very important there, crucial to overthrowing a tyrant. And of course the gorgeous backdrop of Mongo and the creatures, which is all thanks to Alex Raymond.
How did you first get involved with writing the character for Dynamite, with “King’s Watch” and now with the ongoing series?
I was originally offered the chance to write Flash, and then it quickly was asked if I could make the first story have Phantom and Mandrake in it, as a team-up. I realized that wouldn’t interfere with how I wanted to handle Flash, and I liked the idea of writing the other guys.
Will this be rebooting the Flash Gordon character from scratch, starting from the very beginning of his space-adventuring career?
Yes. We begin with him at a point nobody is aware of him, and his rise to greatness. The Hero from Earth.
What do you think defines your take on Flash himself? What kind of a man is he?
He is someone excited about life and its possibilities, relentlessly positive. He probably could take things a bit more serious. But he is very much the kind of person who will act as fast as it takes, go that extra mile to make something happen. A man of action.
What sort of things can he expect to go up against as we head into the first arc?
Flash and ‘friends’ (there’s trouble there as you’ll see) have a hard landing in Arboria, so they’ll deal with the Forest Folk.
Who else can we expect to show up? Will Timothy Dalton be in there somewhere, sticking his arms in logs?
Dalton is so good in that role. Man, what a suave guy he was! But our Barin is closer to the original.
In “King’s Watch,” Dale Arden in particular got a bit of an overhaul — will this new series be continuing on with science-buff Arden?
Yes. It makes the dynamic between the three work well, for me. She understands what Zarkov’s talking about most of the time, Flash doesn’t. But she’s a woman of action, and relates to Flash on that level.
Ming the Merciless will be around from the start of the new series. What are his goals moving forwards? Just how merciless will he be?
Ming starts off furious, and just gets angrier from there. Thanks to a small group of heroes — Flash, The Phantom, Lothar and Mandrake, the invasion of Earth has been thwarted, which is unthinkable in the history of Mongo. All these other worlds have fallen to them, and this upstart planet didn’t.
Even worse, one of those heroes is loose among the colonies of Mongo, spreading the idea that Mongo can be defeated. Flash represents Ming’s worst fear, and the longer he stays alive, the more that idea grows. Flash Gordon must die!
You have Evan Shaner alongside you for this new series. What can we expect from the book in terms of his art and design work?
Perfection! Evan really knows how to get the feel and look for this book, and he’s tailor made for the fun spirit in the stories. He’s got a very Alex Toth approach to most of his drawing, but loves the fantastic stuff that [Alex] Raymond or [Al] Williamson would draw in “Flash Gordon.” I was giddy when I saw his first Flash sketches; he got the right attitude, the air of youth, everything, right away.
I try to ask him what he wants to draw often, because a comic like this hangs on its visuals, and he should direct that course as much as he has time for.
Jordie Bellaire is also working on the series as colorist. What does she bring specifically to the comic?
It was already wonderful, and then Jordie came aboard and it became flawless victory. Jordie is a very bold color artist, and that’s perfect for our story which goes through alien worlds and bizarre imagery, larger than life stuff everywhere. I’ve been a fan of hers for a while and I delight at being able to drive her mad with my notes.
The film is a big influence on how people see the character, but he was a comic book character before that. What other runs of “Flash Gordon” comics would you recommend people also try out, if they’re interested in the character?
There were a few issues Al Williamson did in the ’60s comic you should seek out. Definitely grab up the Fantagraphics reprints of the original strips — they’re amazing and they’re comics history.
“Flash Gordon,” by Jeff Parker, Evan ‘Doc’ Shaner and Jordie Bellaire, debuts from Dynamite Entertainment in April 2014.