Blogging Dan Barry’s Flash Gordon, Part Nine

Blogging Dan Barry’s Flash Gordon, Part Nine

kurtzman_flash_gordon_cvr110892184892961“The Martian Baby” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from November 15, 1954 to February 5, 1955.

The story gets underway in another tranquil setting with Flash and Dale enjoying a picnic in the country (Dale is supporting a very short, but stylish new haircut) only to have their peaceful interlude disturbed by a flying saucer that buzzes them so closely they are forced to run for cover. The saucer lands and reveals its occupant is a Martian baby crying for its mother.

The baby is far heavier than it appears, absorbs all moisture (staying dry during rain), and munches away happily on flowers. Apart from that, the little tyke with the Mohawk seems human. While Dale’s maternal instincts quickly come to the fore, another saucer appears and obliterates the baby’s ship with a death ray beam. Flash, Dale, and the baby seek shelter in the woods. Dan Barry gives readers a glimpse of the exotic and beautiful alien female piloting the saucer and immediately diffuses the threat in accordance with the gender politics of the 1950s.

Flash and Dale resolve to return the infant to Mars and, with Dr. Zarkov’s help, they blast off in a rocketship from his laboratory en route to Mars. The mysterious flying saucer is again spotted on their radar tracking them. The saucer attempts to force them back down to Earth. Flash recklessly hurtles the rocketship at the saucer in order to activate the magnetizer and allow the rocketship to attach to the saucer’s bottom undetected, a trick familiar to fans of The Empire Strikes Back.

0892186512971Flash then spacewalks and boards the saucer, getting the drop on the beautiful Martian pilot. She explains she is Princess Zora of the planet Ruuvia and that her baby brother, Prince Hanro, is heir to the throne. Their evil uncle Duke Tazzid seeks to usurp the throne by killing his nephew. The Princess has been trying to save his life by letting him be adopted on Earth.

No sooner does the reader understand the dilemma, then the evil Duke comes along in his own saucer and opens fire. Inexplicably, Dan Barry depicts the Duke as the exact likeness (in appearance and dress) of Ming the Merciless. As is commonly a weakness in Barry’s stories, Flash fails to meet the villain in person so this startling resemblance is never commented upon.

1157aFlash instructs Dale to demagnetize the rocketship and flee to save the Prince’s life while he and the Princess take shelter in a meteor shower (another move familiar to viewers of The Empire Strikes Back). Flash arrives on Mars (or Ruuvia as the natives call it in a nice nod to Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Mars/Barsoom), only to have the Princess’s saucer shot down by the Duke’s men.

Escaping the wreckage of the saucer, Flash overcomes a soldier outside the Duke’s stronghold just as the Duke’s saucer comes in for a landing and spies them. The Duke opens fire, heedless of killing his own men, in his determination to see his niece dead.

The climax is unexpectedly swift as Flash commandeers a cannon and overrides the safety to allow him to shoot down the Duke’s saucer, killing the occupants and liberating Ruuvia in the process. Dale lands on Ruuvia with the Prince safely in tow. We quickly meet Captain Nikko, who has remained loyal to the Princess and with the royal line safe once more, Flash and Dale hurriedly blast off to return home.


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). The Triumph of Fu Manchu is scheduled for publication in April 2014.

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