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Ray Guns and Savage Planets: The Amazing Adventures of Flash Gordon

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Amazing Adventues of Flash Gordon 4-small The Amazing Adventues of Flash Gordon 5-small The Amazing Adventues of Flash Gordon 6-small

I know this is going to seem strange to some of you, but not that long ago, newspapers used to run adventure serials on the comics page. Like Calvin and Hobbes and Dilbert, but with a plot (and not funny). See, I told you it would sound strange.

It was a uniquely American art form, and it was popular through most of the last century. Dick Tracy, Spider-Man, Prince Valiant, Brenda Starr… you shared their fabulous adventures over breakfast every morning, parceled out in compact three panel segments. The most popular strips were collected in paperback, and these were treasures indeed — they included complete adventures (sometimes two). If it sounds strange to read comic strips in a paperback book… well, you’re right, it is. Fantasy is a strange genre; best you come to grips with it.

Flash Gordon, which ran from January 7, 1934 until March 16, 2003,¬†was one of the most popular adventure strips on the market. It was collected in six paperback volumes from Tempo Books as The Amazing Adventures of Flash Gordon, written by Dan Barry and drawn by the incredible Bob Fujitani. All six were published in 1979-1980, and they collected storylines from the mid-70s. They’re still fun today — the dialog (and characters) are simplistic, sure, but the artwork is a marvel, and the stories move at a rocket’s pace. I bought the books above for less than four dollars each on eBay; copies are generally available for $5-10 each when purchased individually.


  1. I remember a while back there was a revival of Terry and the Pirates, with art by the Hildebrants. It was running in the Houston Chronicle, IIRC, and then one day it had been replaced with a standard humor strip because apparently some fuddy-duddy had complained that it was too violent and sexy (that Dragon Lady in her full-body leather suit, you see) for wholesome newspapers. This is why we can’t have nice things.

    Comment by andy - October 29, 2014 9:13 am

  2. Not a completely unique American art form. Check out the fantastic Modesty Blaise series from England.

    Comment by MichaelPenkas - October 29, 2014 7:23 pm

  3. Andy,

    Ah, what a tale! Truthfully, I had not realized that anyone had revived Milton Caniff’s classic TERRY AND THE PIRATES. Really, art by the Brothers Hildebrant? That would certainly be worth a look.

    Very sorry to hear it was replaced in Houston. Perhaps it continued in other newspapers?

    I just checked Wikipedia, and it looks like the strip ended after two years. Here’s the entry on the revived strip:

    “On March 26, 1995, the Brothers Hildebrandt did a revised, updated version of the strip under the direction of Michael Uslan. The Dragon Lady was a Vietnam war orphan in this update. The Hildebrandt/Uslan team left the strip and was replaced on April 1, 1996 with Dan Spiegel taking over as artist and Jim Clark as writer. The strip ended on July 27, 1997.”

    Comment by John ONeill - October 30, 2014 3:30 pm

  4. > Not a completely unique American art form. Check out the fantastic Modesty Blaise series from England.


    I should have realized “Modesty Blaise” wasn’t an American strip. :)

    Years ago, a Black Gate fan sent me a Modesty Blaise collection as a gift, thinking I might enjoy the book. I didn’t have time to read the whole thing, but it sat by my desk for months, for those rare moments when I could put my feet up (they were few, I’m afraid).

    Comment by John ONeill - October 30, 2014 3:32 pm

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