For almost 75 years, the intergalactic hero Flash Gordon has been featured in comic strips, comic books, movie serials, feature films and even on a U.S. postage stamp. He’s also had more than a few television series. It looks like he’s about to get one more.
Flash Gordon was created back in 1934 by comic strip visionary Alex Raymond. The popular King Features strip centered around the exploits of the heroic Flash, his beautiful girlfriend Dale Arden, and the brilliant Dr. Hans Zarkov. The three are marooned on the distant planet Mongo as they attempt to stop an invasion of Earth by the evil dictator Ming the Merciless.
Olympic swimmer Buster Crabbe played Flash Gordon in three movie serials in 1936, 1938 and 1940. The 1936 serial was later condensed and released as a feature film. Flash returned to theaters in 1980 in a camp movie best known for its Queen soundtrack. The film featured Sam J. Jones as Flash, Melody Anderson, Topol, Max von Sedow, Timothy Dalton, Brian Blessed and Ornella Muti.
The character’s television career began back in 1954 and starred Steve Holland (who was the model for pulp-comics hero, Doc Savage). The live-action series lasted one season of 39 episodes and was later re-edited and issued as a movie in 1957.
Flash returned to his comic roots in 1979 with an animated series called The New Adventures of Flash Gordon on NBC. The series drew from the comic strip’s early material and lasted two seasons. Around that time, Crabbe paid homage to the hero on an episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, playing veteran fighter pilot Brigadier Gordon.
In 1986, Flash became part of The Defenders of the Earth animated series that lasted 65 episodes. This series teamed our hero with other King Features heroes like The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, Lothar and their prodigy teenage children.
In 1996, a new Flash Gordon series depicted Flash as a teenager himself. Flash and girlfriend Dale teamed up with an older Dr. Zarkov as they attempted to rescue Flash’s astronaut parents who had been sucked into a “dimensional hole” in space. The hole was created by Ming who intended to use it to send invading forces to Earth.
Now, over 50 years after the first Flash Gordon live-action series, Sci Fi is beginning production on a new show in Vancouver. Eric Johnson has been cast as the lead character but the roles of Dale, Zarkov and Ming have yet to be filled.
Most will know Johnson for his work as Lana Lang’s boyfriend Whitney in the first season of Smallville. Rick Rosenthal (who has directed episodes of shows like Smallville, Tru Calling, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer) will helm the initial two episodes of the new series. They’ll be written by Peter Hume (Charmed) who is executive producer alongside Robert Halmi Sr. and Robert Halmi Jr. (Legend of Earthsea).
The series will update the classic Flash theme and has been described as: “Ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances, they find themselves as Earth’s last line of defense against the forces of the merciless dictator Ming.” While the tone of the series won’t be as dark as that of Battlestar Galactica, it won’t be campy like previous versions either. The series has a 22-episode commitment and is scheduled to begin airing in August on Sci Fi. Stay tuned!