East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Space Operetta

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A friend asked me if flash fiction stories take place on Mongo.
Well played.

And Flash Gordon is particularly on topic, considering there is a Kickstarter going on for the Savage Worlds version of Flash Gordon.
You find the details here.


Flash Gordon, just like Buck Rogers (the comic series whose success Flash was launched to duplicate), were before my time, and when I was a kid I never caught them in their original form.
I discovered Buck Rogers thanks to the TV series (that is to this day a guilty pleasure of mine, except for two or three episodes I find insufferable), and Flash Gordon thanks to the 1979 Filmation cartoons.
I did not like the De Laurentiis movie, that I caught in a seaside drive-in well after it had premiered, and while I can appreciate its cult status, it was never my cup of tea.


By that time, in my country, vintage comics like Flash, Buck, Prince Valiant, Mandrake etc were being published in expensive hardback collections for an audience of collectors.
The fact that Federico Fellini did possibly write a few Flash Gordon apocrypha drawn by Guido Fantoni when the Fascist Regime banned the originals, lent to Flash Gordon an aura of highbrow, arthouse dignity with a certain public.


Fellini’s passion for Mandrake the Magician was also well documented, and the director had tried a number of times to do a movie about Mandrake, and had considered David Niven first and Marcello Mastroianni next for the title character.
All this to say those old comics were not kids’ stuff when I was a kid.
They were very grown up.

So, I got to Flash Gordon, the Alex Raymond character and comic, in my late twenties. And I was positively impressed by the artwork, and by the variety of the story.
And by the price tag of the volumes!


Alex Raymond’s creation is obviously related to ERB’s John Carter, but Mongo is a much more varied venue than Carter’s Mars, and if the stories are “sword & planet”, I always got the impression that Flash Gordon is more influenced by things like Hope’s Zenda novels than by Burrough’s Oriental-ish exoticism.
Raymond has an evident love for the uniforms, the cloaks and the dresses of a certain Middle-European brand of history.
This is the reason why I usually imagine Flash Gordon as an operetta, a light musical entertainment, with wild costumes, swordplay and romance, and music by Strauss or Offenbach.


Space Operetta, if you will.
And it would be fun to take some tropes from one genre or medium, and translate them into the other.
An idea that might be worth exploring in future posts. And maybe, stories.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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