“The Undersea Kingdom of Mongo“ was the seventh installment of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon Sunday comic strip serial for King Features Syndicate. Originally printed between April 12 and October 11, 1936, “The Undersea Kingdom of Mongo” picks up the storyline where the sixth installment, “At War with Ming” left off with Flash, Dale, and Zarkov’s rocketship eluding Ming’s air fleet in the heavy fog known as the Sea of Mystery.
A magneto-ray from the ocean brings the rocketship down, our heroes bail out, but only Zarkov and Dale come ashore on an island with Flash presumed drowned at sea. In fact, the magneto-ray has brought the unconscious Flash below the ocean to the undersea kingdom of Coralia where Queen Undina takes an immediate fancy to Flash.
Undina is the latest in Alex Raymond’s line of femme fatales. It seems that while Mongo has honorable males to offset the many villainous fiends and monstrous creatures, the females of Mongo are all scheming nymphomaniacs. Queen Undina has her chief scientist Triton subject Flash to the lung machine which converts him into a water-breather like her people. Consequently, he is now unable to survive on land. Flash joins Undina, Triton, and a scavenger party in looting the sunken rocketship that brought him to their world when they are attacked by a plesiosaur that Raymond amusingly re-christens a devourosaurus.
Flash vanquishes the beast by manning the rocketship’s cannon. Unfortunately, the explosion backfires and destroys the rocketship as well. Flash survives the explosion and surfaces long enough to spot Zarkov and Dale roasting a pig on the beach, but he is unable to speak or breathe air now that he has been converted into a water-breather.
As if the tragedy of his separation from his friends isn’t enough, Flash is immediately attacked by an octopus (or octoclaw as Raymond or ghost writer Don Moore would prefer to call the beast). Zarkov shows surprising courage in these episodes, twice coming to Flash’s rescue. The octoclaw is stabbed to death, but Flash is forced to leave Dale and Zarkov on the island and return to Coralia in order to survive.
Flash is welcomed back by Undina who makes him a nobleman of Coralia for having saved her from the devourosaurus. A Bacchanalian feast is held in his honor. Afterwards, Undina, Flash and Triton don water-helmets and mount giant sea horses to hunt the survivors – Dale and Zarkov for a jealous Undina has declared that the other survivors must die. Flash succeeds in warning Dale and Zarkov who hide in a tree, but they are soon spotted by the hunting party. Flash takes Undina hostage to insure their safety, but they are quickly overcome by Undina’s soldiers.
Back in Coralia, Lord Pluton the Royal Sheriff convicts the trio of treason. Dale and Zarkov are likewise converted by the lung machine and all three are imprisoned in Pluton’s dungeon. The brutal Lord Pluton intends to wed Dale. Flash overcomes Pluton and frees Zarkov and Dale. Zarkov is recaptured, but Flash and Dale stumble upon the arsenal and arm themselves. Pluton releases the sharkons (Mongo-speak for sharks) to guard Zarkov. Flash gets past the sharkons and the electrified cell to rescue Zarkov.
Undina extends an offer of clemency to the trio after Ming declares war on Coralia. Flash, Dale, and Zarkov agree to fight on Undina’s side. While Triton and Undina are sincere, Lord Pluton is outraged at this turn of events and swears revenge on Flash. Ming orders Admiral Chiung to dispatch his submarine fleet to devastate Coralia.
Zarkov manipulates Coralia’s HVAC unit to boil the water around the kingdom and force Chiung’s navy to retreat. Coralia’s victory celebrations are cut short when Lord Pluton imprisons Undina and Triton and declares himself the new ruler of Coralia. Flash manages to save the day. Undina realizes that her true love is Triton, not Flash. While the couple hurriedly plans their wedding, Undina agrees to Triton’s suggestion to reverse the lung machine conversion so that Flash, Dale and Zarkov can return to the surface once more.
Triton behaves honorably throughout the storyline and Undina seems genuinely sincere in her reformation (unlike Aura). Interestingly, Triton rules as King of Coralia and not merely a Prince Consort. Undina supplies our heroes with a captured rocketship from Ming’s airfleet to enable them to leave the island.
No sooner do they clear the sea fog then they are set upon by one of Ming’s scouts while en route to Arboria. While Flash shoots down Ming’s scout ship (after failing to convince the pilot that he is Chiung since the Admiral was killed in the war with Coralia), Ming orders their ship intercepted at all costs as the serial comes to an abrupt finish.
The introduction of another kingdom of Mongo with the colorful characters of Triton and Undina are the main attraction here. Sadly, the artwork, while never disappointing, doesn’t measure up to Alex Raymond’s best work on the serial and the script by Raymond and Don Moore is a bit lackluster despite the possibilities presented by the characters and setting. Further and better use of Coralia would be made at a later date. In the meantime, eager readers in 1936 were anxiously awaiting the next installment.
William Patrick Maynard was authorized to continue Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu thrillers beginning with The Terror of Fu Manchu (2009; Black Coat Press). He is currently working on a sequel, The Destiny of Fu Manchu as well as The Occult Case Book of Sherlock Holmes. To see additional articles by William, visit his blog at SetiSays.blogspot.com