Blogging Dan Barry’s Flash Gordon, Part Six
“The Lost Continent” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from October 26, 1953 to March 20, 1954. This is the story where Dan Barry finally realized his potential and would serve as the model for his best work on the strip over the next four decades. His art and plotting are reminiscent of the classic original work by Alex Raymond and rank alongside Al Williamson’s later work as the most faithful interpretations of Raymond’s unique style.
The story gets underway with Flash, Dale, and Zarkov enjoying a deep sea fishing trip in the West Indies when they are caught in a hurricane. Their yacht strikes a bathysphere in the storm and is washed ashore with it on the island of Bimini. A panel on the bathysphere opens and Flash, Dale, and Zarkov enter to find a pair of Neanderthals who quickly suffocate in the open air. The dying Neanderthals manage to speak a few words in their strange language and Zarkov makes out “Poseidon” and concludes they hail from the legendary capitol of the lost continent of Atlantis.
Dale discovers a cache of gold coins in the flooring while Zarkov discovers a recording machine that translates thoughts. The device translates the Atlan language into several different languages including English through which they learn the Neanderthals were on a mission to flood the markets of the surface world with the cache of gold in order to destroy the world economy to pave the way for an invasion. The trio resolves to pilot the bathysphere down to Atlantis to sabotage their plan after giving the Neanderthals a proper burial on Bimini.
The journey to the ocean floor is made more exciting as Zarkov discovers the covering of the bathysphere can be made transparent because of the sub-spectrum light ray metallic covering. They witness an attack on the bathysphere by a giant squid. The creature is repelled by means of the bathysphere’s electrical field. An undersea whirlpool pulls them into a channel leading to a huge cavern where the wreckage of galleons and pirate ships are salvaged by the Atlans. This is the source for the cache of gold they uncovered in the bathysphere.
The seemingly primitive Neanderthals who welcome them demonstrate their command of many languages and soon switch to English, welcoming their visitors (whom they mistakenly believe are gods) to the fabulous city of Poseidon. They are taken by atomic chariot before the Emperor of Atlantis, Noachim the Elder. Their gracious welcome is interrupted by a protester who declares the Emperor to be a tyrant. He is quickly silenced by a disintegrating heat ray.
Dan Barry’s concept of Atlantis borrows greatly from the Theosophical works of Madame Blavatsky, but his portrayal of Noachim owes a direct line to Ming the Merciless. His beautiful sister, Princess Danitra, shows Dale to her quarters, where she will be outfitted as befits a goddess. Noachim reveals to Flash and Zarkov that he does not believe in gods like his subjects and is aware of the visitors’ identities from the recording machine in the bathysphere.
Noachim tells them he will hold Dale hostage unless they will complete the mission of destroying the surface world’s economies. The Emperor generously offers to share the spoils of the conquered world with them, as the people will worship them as gods and they can thereby divinely sanction his rule. Noachim also hopes Flash will marry his sister, Danitra, which will allow him to make Dale his royal consort.
During a private meeting with Danitra, Flash and Zarkov reveal they are not gods and promise to take her to the surface world if she will help them rescue Dale. During the evening’s banquet prepared in their honor, Flash and Zarkov discover Dale has been drugged into submission. Noachim presents archival film reels showing the splendor of the lost continent before the cataclysm. They learn that Atlantis was the most advanced nation in the world, whose levitation machines built the pyramids of Egypt and Peru until floods and earthquakes destroyed their civilization 15,000 years before the time of Christ. The survivors have done their best to rebuild Atlantean civilization beneath the sea.
Flash and Zarkov agree to complete the mission for Noachim. They undergo a week of intense instructions on how to carry out the Emperor’s plans for weakening the surface world for a successful invasion. All is going according to Flash’s plan until Danitra betrays them by drugging Dale and gloating that she will marry Flash. When Flash refuses to leave Dale behind, a scornful Danitra orders the guards to shoot and kill the fugitives while she steals the bathysphere and plans to reach the surface world on her own. A distraught Dale recovers and informs Noachim that Flash and Zarkov have betrayed him and abandoned her to run off with the Princess. Noachim orders the fugitives to be apprehended.
Flash and Zarkov are rescued by the underground resistance movement that seeks to unseat the Emperor. Flash and Zarkov reveal the truth that they are not gods and tell the resistance about the surface world and Noachim’s plans for conquest. Meanwhile, the Emperor declares six citizens will be sent to the gas chamber each day until the resistance movement is quashed. Noachim also uses the manmade whirlpool to retrieve the bathysphere and demonstrates to his sister that her rebellion was pointless.
Flash and Zarkov give themselves up in order to prevent the slaughter of innocents. The outraged citizens threaten to riot when they see their gods taken prisoner. Noachim declares he will prove they are not gods by subjecting them to the tournament. Flash and Zarkov are given oxygen tanks and tridents to defend themselves in the tournament, where they are placed in an underwater tank with a great white shark and a giant octopus. Flash fends off the shark with a blow to the snout, but is rescued from the octopus by Zarkov, who embeds his trident in the octopus’s tongue so that the spikes enter the roof of its mouth and into the creature’s brain, killing it in a surprisingly grisly sequence.
When the citizens of Poseidon see Flash and Zarkov survive the tournament, they riot and burn the Emperor’s palace to the ground. The Emperor turns off the oxygen supply in the city, killing most of the populace in the process. Flash confronts Noachim as he attempts to escape with Dale in the bathysphere, but a dying Danitra shoots and kills her brother.
Flash, Dale, and Zarkov return to the surface in the bathysphere with the few survivors, intending to rebuild the destroyed city. Dan Barry blunders badly with a continuity error of whether or not Atlans can breathe oxygen, but apart from this flaw, “The Lost Continent” is a rousing adventure that is finally worthy of Alex Raymond’s legacy.
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
Sounds like a terrific story. I especially like the idea of the sunken ships in the underwater cavern from which the Atlanteans took the gold with which they plan to wreck the surface world’s economy. Parts of the plot are similar to the original Alex Raymond strip and the 1936 Universal serial. I wish you had included more images of Barry’s strip, but perhaps they are simply not available? Has this strip been reissued in any of the reprint collections?
Noachim the Elder is very much a Ming clone, but I didn’t want to dwell on it being an Alex Raymond pastiche because the quality of the story marked a quantum leap forward for Dan Barry on the strip. “The Lost Continent” is included in the STAR OVER ATLANTIS collection that illustrates the article. I rely on Google images for illustrations so it is simply a matter of what is available.