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Blogging Mac Raboy’s Flash Gordon, Part One – “Polaria”

Friday, May 17th, 2013 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Flash Gordon 4Flash Gordon 3Mac Raboy succeeded Austin Briggs in illustrating the Flash Gordon Sunday strip from 1948 until his death in 1967. As an artist, Raboy was heavily influenced by the strip’s creator, Alex Raymond, and did a fine job of continuing the series. Dark Horse reprinted the entire Mac Raboy run in four oversized monochrome trade paperbacks a few years ago. Titan Books will reprint the series in full color as part of their ongoing hardcover reprints of the entire run of the series. At present, I have only two Mac Raboy stories (one early and one late-period) as a sample of his two decade run on the strip.

“Polaria” was serialized by King Features Syndicate from September 18, 1949 to January 1, 1950. Raboy’s artwork never approached the grandeur of Alex Raymond’s vistas (to be fair, he wasn’t allotted the space), but the realism of his characters (particularly their windswept hair) exceeded the originals. Don Moore’s scripts remained unchanged fifteen years after the fact, as the storyline concerned yet another regional monarch’s desire to become Emperor of Mongo and follow in the footsteps of both Ming the Merciless and Kang the Cruel.

The story begins with Zarkov recalling Flash and Dale from their vacation at sea because of a distress call, from the suspiciously-named Sneek, that giant beasts are hunting humans in the ice kingdom of Polaria. Sneek claims his wife was eaten by a giant rat. Zarkov places a call to the regent, Prince Polon, who assures him that all is well in the kingdom. Flash decides to investigate.

Flash Gordon 2Flash Gordon 1Prince Polon uses a polar magnet to bring Flash, Dale, and Zarkov’s rocketship in for a crash-landing where they are set upon by a pack of giant rabbits. While fleeing the pack of lepus, Flash stumbles upon Sneek at a ham radio in an ice cave and realizes they were duped as part of a plot by Prince Polon.

The trio is captured by Polon’s cavalry following a dramatic chase. The cavalry hunt them down while riding on the backs of giant wolves. Brought before the regent, they learn Prince Polon’s plot is to force Flash to abdicate and allow the prince to usurp the throne of Mongo. When Flash refuses, Polon has Dale subjected to a ray device that shrinks her to the size of a field mouse. Flash reluctantly agrees in exchange for Dale being restored to her proper size.

Polon’s teenage nymphomaniac niece, Princess Pola, lusts after Flash and has him brought to her under armed guard. Her attempts to make love to him are turned around on her when Flash overpowers her guard and takes the princess hostage. Polon arrives and shoots Flash with an ice gun that freezes him. The prince then tells Dale to marry him and let him rule Mongo as her royal consort or Flash will remain frozen. Dale reluctantly agrees.

Zarkov is working with Polon’s chief scientist, Dr. Ranta, and convinces him to unfreeze Flash as proof of his genius. Together, Flash and Zarkov overpower Dr. Ranta and his guard and take Princess Pola hostage once more. Zarkov gets the chance to be the hero for a change by turning Prince Polon and his royal guard to the size of field mice using Dr. Ranta’s shrinking ray. Flash leaves Zarkov in charge to set up a new government in Polaria that will try Prince Polon and Dr. Ranta for treason as the story zips to a rapid conclusion.

 


William Patrick Maynard was authorized to continue Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu thrillers beginning with The Terror of Fu Manchu (2009; Black Coat Press) and The Destiny of Fu Manchu (2012; Black Coat Press). Next up is a collection of short stories featuring an original Edwardian detective, The Occult Case Book of Shankar Hardwicke, The Triumph of Fu Manchu, and a hardboiled detective novel, Lawhead. To see additional articles by William, visit his blog at SetiSays.blogspot.com

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