Flash to the Past
You should probably realize this about me by now or at least suspect it, but I am not a fan of reboots or changes to something solely to make a point. Wait, back up, what the heck am I trying to say here. In a nutshell, I see much of the bs that they have done in movies and comics of late, a bit of a sad departure from anything creative. I tend to call them what ifs, like the old What If comics that came out in the 80s.
Instead of doing something creative and new, they have been solely doing cosmetic changes and calling it progress. Now, I won’t get into the politics of all that, and it really is a political quagmire (but I will say if you turn it solely into politics you really have left the ranch of creativity).
So what is it I am leading up to with these thoughts? I’ll tell ya, though I might beat around the bush for a bit longer. See, it all goes back to the 1980s for me with this one.
I grew up with a love for the Flash Gordon Stories. I especially loved the movie that came out in 1980. I mean, seriously, Queen did the soundtrack for it. It was cheesy, it was corny, it was everything you could expect from horrible science fiction stories. The whole thing had a feel of the old Flash Gordon serials. To this day I still watch the movie as well as other things pertaining to the stories.
Which brings us to now. I took the plunge a bit ago and signed on for the Comixology Unlimited service. Similar to Kindle Unlimited, it allows you to borrow a bunch of comics every month. Personally, I don’t read regular books fast enough (tend to read too many at once) so Kindle Unlimited never really sparked any interest for me. Comics and graphic novels on the other hand are a huge part of my daily reading. I can whip right through those (they may be losing money with people like me).
I ran into two different comic series for Flash Gordon not too long ago so you know what I had to do. And in the process, I discovered some great reading. I can’t think of what the first series was titled as right off hand but it isn’t quite as important to the discussion today. When you think about it, the first series I read fell into line with more of the older serials so it fit the bill of just generalized Flash Gordon Stories.
It was the second series that sent me on a nostalgic trip through the years. This series was titled as Flash Gordon Zeitgeist (Dynamite Entertainment 2013). It took place during Hitler’s rise to power and the war years of World War 2. Knowing this gives us some historical context of an alternate history story. But even that isn’t the important thing. See, where this comic really dug into me was at the very beginning.
Through all the comic book art and hoopla we have some very important words, “Klytus, I’m bored. What plaything can you offer me today?” For anyone who knows the movies those were the memorable lines of Max Von Sydow as Ming in the 1980 movie adaptation. This story line played along the lines of that movie with expansions and changes that fleshed out the story so much further than a movie will allow.
Through all the noise, through all the hoopla, through all the arguments, we all know that when we try to port a book over to a movie, some things from the book will change. There are things that work better in either form that don’t work at all in the other. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sure it can ruffle feathers and cause some of us to rage quit, but in the end it is what it is (and I really hate that phrase). And that is exactly what I find with this comic series. They basically took the story line from the movie and created a fleshed out story that works great in a graphic novel. To tell this entire story as a movie would take so much time that we would have to break it down into 3 or 4 separate movies. I mean seriously, who has the time or the energy to watch all that (twiddles his thumbs and whistles).
But yeah, reading through the collected volume of these comics was an up and down roller coaster of nostalgia and new images to add to the list of what makes the worlds and stories of Flash Gordon great. They brought in so much from so many sources that it was a cornucopia (see that, big words) of fun and I couldn’t put the thing down.
Actually, that last bit there, it’s a bit of a fib really. I mean I did put it down at some point. I am usually reading about three different comics at a time plus some prose as well as nonfiction stuff. I don’t really read a single thing straight through on any given day… except for Dresden. When the new Harry Dresden books come out I set everything else aside for a couple days. But I digress…
So where were we? The comic and the movie, yep. Like I might have said, this was a huge find and it consumed me for a short bit there. For me personally, this is how you tie a series together. You can have all sorts of versions out there but there are always some important bits that fans of each iteration look for within the story, and when you have those little Easter eggs buried inside it gives the fans, old and new alike, something that they never expected while at the same time they hope endlessly that it’s there.
Sure there are times something like this can backfire, and we have all seen a horrible interpretation of a well-loved story or two. But sometimes when we find a connection, a spark, within a new telling, we find something that makes all the other drivel slip away. Flash Gordon Zeitgeist was that for me. It was the story I hoped it could be as well as something more.
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