- Series: Flash Gordon Comic-Book Archives (Book 1)
- Hardcover: 312 pages
- Publisher: Dark Horse (August 24, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1595825592
- ISBN-13: 978-1595825599
- Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 6.9 x 1.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,487,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Flash Gordon Comic Book Archives Volume 1 Hardcover – August 24, 2010
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Dark Horse has so far put out a wonderful edition with the first of the two Flash Gordon Archive series. This edition covers the Dell "Four Color Comic" books and several comic strip reprints from the late 40s to mid 50s.
BACKGROUND: Why are these stories worth archiving?
This archive is important for several reasons. It acts as a bridge between the earlier comic strips by Raymond and his successors (like Austin Briggs or Mac Rayboy) and Flash's transition into the comic book format. These were among the first, large-format books to give Flash a bigger canvas for his adventures.
Another reason is accessibility. These are perhaps not as well remembered or known as the earlier Alex Raymond or later Al Williamson books, and it's great to see Norris and Thorne's given a worthy republishing after so long. Their stories are a much welcome addition to the long list of contributors to Gordon's saga.
The book is in fine form with crisp, clear, full-color reprints on glossy paper that likely out-do any existing copies still remaining (from a readability standpoint).
There are seven issues "Four Color Comic" issues collected and one standalone "Flash Gordon" comic included. I suggest you take a look at comic book artist Batton Lash's intro in Amazon's "Look Inside" feature. He covers highlights on the stories themselves (which I won't repeat here). I will say that my personal favorite sci-fi gimmic introduced in these books are the bug-eyed "radar helmets" which expands beyond the traditional Flash Gordon fantasy story tropes tropes (evil overlords, ray guns, spaceships, dinosaur-like monsters, etc.). It's nice to see writers playing with the Flash Gordon formula and inventing new ideas to give Gordon a real sci-fi feel.
**Four Color Comics #173 "Adventure in Opto"
**Four Color Comics #190 "The Adventure of the Flyings Saucers"
**Four Color Comics #204 "Adventure in Orano"
**Four Color Comics #247 "Adventure in Artico"
**Four Color Comics #424 "Test Flight in Space"
**Flash Gordon #2 untitled
**Four Color Comics #512 untitled
Again, the restoration to bring these panels back to print is amazing. The pencil work is very fluid and exciting, and the ink work is exceptionally colorful, though typically "high key" when it comes to mood. The elegant but straight forward penciling of Raymond (who wrote dialogue in caption boxes) melds with the fun, pulp-action feel of Rayboy. The result is more than a hybrid, but a true comic book (with word balloons) and a new style of art for Flash's stories that I think echos the more gonzo "Weird Tales" and other similar comics of the era.
Dark Horse had a lot of fun playing with B/W as well as 2-color reproductions throughout the book plus a few single-color "hero shot" portraits (Flash, Dale, et. al.). Beautiful reproductions of the orignal covers are also included.
Between several collected are reprints of a build-your-own spaceship activity included in several issues where readers were encouraged to tear the sheet out of the book, glue it to cardboard, and put together their own model spaceships. It was a fascinating if not gimmicky ploy to turn the stories into toys, but it works for great nostalgia to be included in the book. I'm tempted to make a color copy of one of the pages and try it myself!
I was pleasantly surprised when I read through the archive. I'd imagined I'd get to read some long forgotten stories, but I had not idea that they would be treated so well. The art has likely not seen as good a treatment. I also enjoyed the stories a good deal more than I thought. Though simplistic by current day standards, it's great fun to see Flash cavorting with danger and Dale by his side once more!
If this first book in the series is any indication of how the next will look, I'm on board!
Dark Horse, for their part, has made a valiant effort to collect these comic book odds and ends, and they've done an outstanding job with their Flash Gordon Comic Book Archives series, finding and republishing comics and back-up pages from a variety of different publishers, all of it in relative order. It's really a completist's dream come true. At this point in the Archives series, Dark Horse has begun to explore the Bronze Age Flash Gordon comics of the 1970s, as originally published by Gold Key.
Flash Gordon, in all of his many forms, has also been drawn and written by a veritable who's who of the classic comic world. During Flash Gordon's time at Gold Key, the series didn't have the luxury of employing the field's most well-known creators (many of whom were working for Marvel or DC), but they still managed to create some wonderful comics. This particular cluster of issues concerns Flash returning to the planet Mongo after three years of adventures, only to find that it's once again been subjugated by Ming the Merciless. True to the science fiction comic book traditions of the day, these are presented as a sequential narrative, broken up by visits to a different alien race with each issue, each ruled over by a new dictator, but all serving Ming in one way or another. Sure, it's formulaic, but if anything needs to be given a little extra leeway for presenting itself in serial fashion, it's Flash Gordon.
Dark Horse has revitalized these pages by remastering their colors so they brightly project from the page, far brighter then the pulpy originals. The art is reliably capable, though the two issues by Frank Bolle stand out for their use of detail and excellent ability to capture scene and action. Carlos Garzon's artwork is more sketchy and less perfect, losing details here and there, but still demonstrates moments of total beauty. These stories, about enormous science towers and unnaturally evolved lizard queens, lava men, and Ming's unending quest to steal Flash Gordon's girlfriend, are full of imagination and inspiration and show off the best of the Bronze Age. They don't bother trying to explain away too much, which is something that both enlivens and bogs down today's science fiction, so the calm weirdness is always charming.
Due to the age and nature of these comics, they're great for all ages. Even after 40 years, they still feel fresh and exciting, and are completely readable, in addition to being full of nostalgia.
Reviewed by Collin David