“Fiery Desert of Mongo” was the nineteenth installment of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon Sunday comic strip serial for King Features Syndicate. Originally published between November 8, 1942 and July 11, 1943, “Fiery Desert of Mongo” picks up where the preceding installment, “Jungles of Mongo” left off with Prince Brazor trailing Queen Desira to the border of Tropica’s Flaming Desert.
Flash causes an avalanche to delay Brazor’s men. The river of lava and the fire dragon that lurks within menace the fugitives as they proceed into the increasingly unbearable heat of the Flaming Desert. A volcanic eruption nearly finishes them off. Flash escapes to safety by managing a broad jump of over thirty feet. Alex Raymond and script writer Don Moore make the escape from the volcanic eruption a tension-filled drama that makes one forgive the implausibility of Flash’s near-superhuman feat.
As they near the edge of the Flaming Desert, the fugitives run out of water. A delirious Flash sees pixies emerge from a volcano and float through the air and set upon him, beating him senseless. On the verge of collapse, they are rescued by desert raiders.
Their chieftain, Gundar plans on ransoming Desira to King Brazor and then selling the others into slavery. Gundar is portrayed as a noble rogue in spite of his intentions and treats his captive to every luxury possible in his stronghold fortress. Gundar sends an emissary to Brazor to negotiate a price for Desira. Brazor agrees to send a blindfolded lieutenant back with the emissary to claim the deposed princess.
Of course, Brazor has a trick up his sleeve as the lieutenant’s steed has phosphorescent paint on its hooves allowing Brazor and his men to follow their trail to the raiders’ desert stronghold. This betrayal is enough for Gundar to switch sides and aid Flash and Desira, if only temporarily. A vicious battle breaks out between the desert raiders and Brazor’s men with the King taken hostage.
The raiders’ victory proves short-lived as King Brazor’s superior weaponry batters against their stronghold, rocking it to its foundation. Gundar is forced to order a retreat to the hidden passage through the mountain tunnel. Flash stays behind as a saboteur and detonates an explosive charge to bury Brazor’s men beneath rubble once they penetrate the stronghold. Unfortunately, Flash is also caught by the explosion and buried beneath rubble.
Dale, Zarkov, and Gundar courageously risk their own lives under a collapsing roof to pull Flash free of the rubble. Rendezvousing with Desira and the rest of the desert raiders, the party makes their way clear of the mountain. Don Moore’s script develops a romantic triangle between Gundar, his mistress, Pequit, and Desira. As the band of raiders and their former captives emerge into the forests of Tropica, Flash tells Gundar that the moment is upon him to decide whether or not he will continue to fight to restore Desira to the throne of her kingdom. Flash and eager newspaper readers breathlessly awaited Gundar’s answer in the next installment of the epic-length Tropica story arc.
William Patrick Maynard was authorized to continue Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu thrillers beginning with The Terror of Fu Manchu (2009; Black Coat Press). A sequel, The Destiny of Fu Manchu will be published in April by Black Coat Press. Also forthcoming is a collection of short stories featuring an original Edwardian detective, The Occult Case Book of Shankar Hardwicke and an original hardboiled detective novel, Lawhead. To see additional articles by William, visit his blog at SetiSays.blogspot.com