Friday, August 7, 2020

King Comics - Flash Gordon!

Of all of the King Comics heroic offerings I'd have to dub Flash Gordon the most successful. That success is not owed to consistency (that's The Phantom) but to the sheer raw talent of the artists who draw many of the issues.

The series kicks off with a Flash yarn featuring both story and art by Al Williamson. Williamson was the youngest of the old EC crowd, a native of South America who was inspired by the work of Alex Raymond. He brings the dramatic heft of Raymond's later work along with a complete working knowledge of how to tell a story on a comic book page.

Frank Bolle is on the art in the second issue which features a very exciting Gil Kane cover. Bolle is no slacker by any means, but his pedestrian style falls short of the high romance which influences Williamson's take on the character.

Under arguably the finest Williamson cover is a darn fine artistic effort by Ric Estrada who comes through with a very dynamic story written by Bill Pearson to add to the canon.

Al Williamson returns in the next two issues of the run, his final ones for King alas. They are lovely and the scripts by Archie Goodwin are first rate. This a team which will make some of the best comics ever seen.

Apparently Reed Crandall took the artistic helm on the recommendation of Williamson and though his classic style is more static than much of what had gone before, his distinctive finishes create some very handsome pages. Bill Pearson is back on the scripts and stays so for all the new issues of this King run.

With the next issue, as with the other books in the King Comics line-up, the wheels begin to come off the effort as a reprint of Mac Raboy's comic strip is fitted for the comic book page. It's vintage stuff from the early days and good looking but odd.

Reed Crandall is back in the next issue  and does some wonderful work. This is the only issue of the run which I ever bought on my own way back then. Just seeing Crandall's Flash was great stuff and I just assumed the rest was comparable.

That's not the case as the next two issues of the run are again reprints, this time by Alex Raymond from the earliest days of the vintage comic strip. This is the raw stuff and reformatted isn't as effective as it was on the original page, but then that's to be expected.

The series wraps up with another Reed Crandall issue under a Dan Barry cover. The story ends somewhat abruptly, but it would be continued and Crandall would get another crack at the character but over at Charlton Comics. More on that maybe later.

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  1. Have you seen the 1980 Flash Gordon movie? Here in the UK it has been re-released to celebrate its' 40th anniversary.

    1. Have seen it, have bought it and have just recently watched for the umpteenth time. I love this movie more each time I see it as more of the vivid details sing out to me. It's a humdinger!

  2. That cover to 8 looks like John Buscema. The GCD credits Raymond, but... I know Buscema was heavily influenced back when he was, like, Little John, not yet Big John, except... I once got to see a Raymond original and the brushwork on the cover here isn't in the ballpark of the image seared in my memory. I would compare what I saw to Nestor Redondo's brushwork. The brushwork on the cover here is way more Buscema than Redondo. So, like, unless someone can cite the panel from which the cover comes, I'm skeptical.
    As for the Raboy job: I forget when Raboy started doing the Gordon Sundays, but he was doing them at the same time Kind was publishing comic books.

    1. The similarity to a Big John image of that era is remarkable indeed. But this image is a panel from Raymond's 1940 Ice Kingdom of Mongo story line. I just double checked that to be certain.