Thursday, January 19, 2012

Blogging Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, Part Seventeen – “Queen Desira”

“Queen Desira” was the seventeenth installment of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon Sunday comic strip serial for King Features Syndicate. Originally published between January 4 and June 14, 1942, “Queen Desira” gets off to a rollicking start with Colonel Gordon called to a meeting with the Defense Department in Washington DC. The US needs Dr. Zarkov’s ray beams for national defense (a subtle reference to the Second World War that the US had recently entered), but the radium shortage prevents the realization of the project. Flash and Zarkov convince the Defense Department to allow them to build a rocketship to return to Mongo to mine more radium. Flash tells Dale that he is going off on a secret mission, but cannot tell her where. Suspicious, Dale pays a visit to Zarkov and snoops around his house for clues. Confronting him with the truth, Zarkov admits their mission is to return to Mongo. Dale pleads with Zarkov to take her with him and he agrees to smuggle her aboard the rocketship in a trunk.

Reunited at last, Flash is overjoyed to have Dale with him once more. However, they experience electrical problems once in Mongo’s orbit and the rocketship is forced to crashland on the uncharted continent of Tropica. Zarkov is seriously injured in the crash. The three of them are soon taken captive by soldiers and come face to face with the exotic Queen Desira of Tropica. Don Moore expands Flash’s backstory a bit by making the renowned polo player a former college football star while Alex Raymond’s artwork is as stunning as ever. His depiction of Dale in this installment may be the most beautiful rendition yet. Desira is portrayed more in the tradition of H. Rider Haggard’s She or Edgar Rice Burroughs’ La of Opar rather than Raymond’s Princess Aura. Burne Hogarth’s run illustrating the Tarzan strip may be the only serious rival that Raymond had at this juncture. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous throughout.


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