Monday, October 29, 2012

Blogging Austin Briggs’ Flash Gordon, Part Six “The Radium Mines of Electra”

“The Radium Mines of Electra” was the sixth installment of Austin Briggs’ daily Flash Gordon comic strip serial for King Features Syndicate. Originally published between April 27 and July 11, 1942, “The Radium Mines of Electra” is the closest the daily strip has yet come to seeming like authentic Flash Gordon. While Briggs has not yet matched his mentor’s illustrative splendor in depicting Mongo, the storyline is one that might have been found in the Sunday strip. The story kicks off with Flash, Dale, Zarkov, and Rodan thrown into prison by Colonel Banto upon returning King Radiol to the Kingdom of Electra. The King intercedes on his friends’ behalf informing the Colonel they are his guests, not his prisoners and ordering their release. Banto remains suspicious of the foreigners for they did take the King hostage originally. A nice bit of romantic intrigue develops with the introduction of Princess Jolia, the King’s daughter, who is immediately smitten with Flash. When Dale spies Flash dancing with the Princess at a ball thrown in honor of the King’s homecoming, she retaliates by making out with Rodan on the balcony. The King takes his guests out on the balcony to view the Electra lights which emanate from the radium mines. Flash realizes the radium mines could power their return to Earth and provide fuel for the weapons needed to combat the Red Sword. There is a nicely provocative scene of the Princess alone in her room admiring herself in a mirror dressed only in bra and panties while she thinks of Flash. Sexuality has always been a key appeal to the series and it is nice to see Briggs finally taking advantage of that fact with the character of Jolia. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Blogging Austin Briggs’ Flash Gordon – “Disaster in Space” / “Shipwrecked”

“Disaster in Space” was the fourth installment of Austin Briggs’ daily Flash Gordon comic strip serial for King Features Syndicate. Originally published between December 15, 1941 and January 17, 1942, “Disaster in Space” follows on directly from “War on Earth” and is a very brief storyline depicting the danger-fraught attempt by Flash, Dale, and Zarkov to return to Mongo to acquire more weapons to combat the Red Sword which has plunged Earth into a Second World War. Several rockets fail on re-entry into Mongo’s atmosphere trapping their ship in perpetual orbit around the planet. Flash bravely ventures outside the ship to attempt to repair the damaged rockets only to discover that no power remains. Despite the glaring omission that this should have been detected by the monitors on the console, there is more real science at work in this strip than has been demonstrated in the series up to this point. The use of the airlock and Flash’s dangerous repair work in space are particularly well done. Dale suggests sending an S.O.S. to Mongo with what power remains as it is only a matter of time before their oxygen is depleted. The message is received by their old ally Prince Barin, now President of Mongo. His chief scientist, Dr. Zolov uses a magnetic ray to pull the rocketship out of orbit but loses control and sends the ship plummeting towards Mongo. Major Rodan pilots a Mongo warship on a seeming suicide mission to intercept the out of control rocketship and alter its trajectory. He succeeds, but at the risk of his own safety as both ships plunge into the sea. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Blogging Austin Briggs’ Flash Gordon, Part Three - “War on Earth”

“War on Earth” was the third installment of Austin Briggs’ daily Flash Gordon comic strip serial for King Features Syndicate. Originally published between August 22 and December 13, 1941, “War on Earth” was the third story in the daily companion to Alex Raymond’s celebrated Sunday strip. The storyline is due to be reprinted in 2013 as part of Titan Books’ ambitious Flash Gordon reprint series. “War on Earth” runs on a parallel path to Raymond’s contemporaneous Sunday strip with the story opening with Flash, Dale, and Zarkov traveling from Mongo via rocketship back to Earth to deal with the dictator who has plunged their home into a Second World War. While Alex Raymond dealt with the Red Sword in the Sunday strip, “War on Earth” sees their rocketship touch down in Scandinavia where our heroes quickly befriend refugees from the ruthless unnamed dictator who has invaded their homeland. The refugees are attacked by enemy bombers. Flash perches on the edge of a cliff and easily picks the planes off with a disintegrator rifle they have brought from Ming’s armory. This act of bravery earns Flash the military leadership of the villagers. The Prussian-looking Colonel Ruvich of the Red Sword orders further bombardment by plane and tanks until the mountain pass is cleared. The siege drags out for several days with Flash successfully holding off the bombers with Mongo’s superior military technology. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Evangelizing for Pulp Fiction

David Lee White is an accomplished contemporary playwright in the Tri-State area who is also a man with a fervent mission. Through his publishing imprint, Beltham House he has brought a number of obscure works back into print after many decades. L. T. Meade and Robert Eustace’s The Sorceress of the Strand (1902) and The Brotherhood of the Seven Kings (1899), a pair of obscure yet influential mysteries involving Madame Blavatsky-like female criminal masterminds are two prime examples. However, it is with Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain’s Fantomas crime series that White has truly made the greatest impact. It is unlikely that any American has done more for bringing Fantomas back in the public eye in the United States than Mr. White. Beltham House has been responsible for reissuing six long out-of-print titles in the series for the first time in decades only to have numerous copycat public domain publishers quickly throw together their own knockoff editions. Since Beltham House is published through Lulu Press and not all of their titles are readily available on, it is likely that most of the specialized audience for the series is not even aware that Beltham House is the one-man operation who rediscovered these lost classics of the thriller genre. White also adapted a long-lost 1920 Fantomas serial for a novelization for Black Coat Press a few years back entitled, Fantomas in America. The book was the first new Fantomas novel in nearly fifty years and its historical significance was even greater for preserving a story that was otherwise lost to the ravages of time as no extant print of the serial has yet been recovered. So it was that I approached Beltham House’s contribution to Fantomas’ centennial last year with a degree of skepticism. I already owned the nine original books that were back in print and White’s novelization of the serial so why would I shell out the extra money for The Collected Fantomas, an omnibus edition collecting the first seven books in the series? I already owned the books, it could not possibly be of interest to me, right? Wrong. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.