Tuesday, June 29, 2010

In Memory of Al Williamson: Flash Gordon 1 (Sept. 1966)

Flash Gordon 1, published in 1966 by King Features, was a much-lauded comic book by the international mid-60s readership, according to an interview with Al Williamson that I was reading in a back issue of The Comics Journal. Issue #1 of Flash Gordon caused a lot of stir, and looking at the artwork it's not hard to see why. Flash Gordon, with the gorgeous Dale, and their chaperone, Zarkov, is that fearless, dashing male hero traversing the universe in search of adventure and multiple situations in which he can rescue his damsel in distress. There are other classics of the same ilk - John Carter of Mars, Buck Rogers. Adam Strange in DC's Mystery in Space from the late 50s/early 60s, edited by Julius Schwartz, written by Gardner Fox, and penciled by Carmine Infantino (with Murphy Anderson inks) is, for me, the best later clone, but Flash Gordon goes way, way back. Al Williamson's 1966 revival captured the feel of the Alex Raymond original.

Flash Gordon is a decidedly chauvinistic heterosexual male hero, one that innocently embodies the fantasies of patriarchal males of the early and mid-20th century. Ultra-heroic, masculine, the savior and protector of womanhood. Although undeniably appealing to males of my generation and older, it is an image that does not sit comfortably alongside the reality of exploitation and abuse of women at the hands of controlling and domineering men. When the Women's Movement took steps to expose and challenge the latter, the classic swashbuckling, maiden-rescuing hero also faded somewhat into cultural history. A modern Dale would probably have to be kicking some serious butt and pulling incredible ninja moves to satisfy today's consumers, unless a Flash Gordon comic or movie was set up as a deliberate piece of retro.

Anyway, enough of me rambling on. Here's the sumptuous artwork of the wonderful Al Williamson from the first story in Flash Gordon 1:

Those were the days my friends. The days when artists like Al Williamson could take our minds Out Of This World!

1 comment:

  1. I have this comic without lids and Spanish. Is Sept. , 1966? That means Flash Gordon 1?