Paper dolls and cut-out toy models are centuries-old, but the format was a natural fit for the modern newspaper comic from its beginnings. We tend to identify the comic strip paper doll with “women’s strips” from the great fashionistas, Jackie “Torchy” Ormes or Gladys “Mopsy” Parker. But in 1934, Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon got into the act with a series that ran in every Sunday from August 18 to December 16. While Raymond focused mainly on Dale Arden as well as the various princesses and other female characters the still-young strip had amassed by then, he covers most of the cast, from Zarkov in a tuxedo to Ming the Merciless’ collection of flamboyant collars.Continue reading
Tag Archives: Flash Gordon
Flash and Dale: “Go On. Fight Your Magic Men!”
A little intergalactic lovers’ quarrel. Planning a wedding is hard enough without waves of alien foes gumming up the calendar.
Fleshy Gordon: Alex Raymond’s Pop Erotica
Alex Raymond loved bodies. Male bodies, female bodies, animal and alien bodies. He couldn’t wait to disrobe them, pop on loincloths or skin-hugging gossamer robes and bras, put them on show, flex their muscles. And this made his 1930s space opera Flash Gordon (1934) a masterpiece of subverted sexual energy. Two of the most famous satires of the great strip, Harvey Kurtzman’s MAD magazine parody, Flesh Garden (May, 1954) and the software porn cult classic Flesh Gordon (1974) got this about Raymond’s work. In many ways, Flash Gordon was laughable. Its dialogue and plotting were sub-literate. Its conceptions of aliens (Lionmen, Sharkmen, Powermen) pedestrian. Its conceptions of technology (Disolvo-Rays, Oxo-Liquifiers) paled beside even Buck Rogers. And its even sillier sexual politics (alien princesses pursuing the irresistible Flash and the forever jealous, swooning, fawning, nagging Dale Arden) were embarrassingly adolescent. And yet it was a fetishist’s delight, and certainly the most erotic mainstream comic strip of all time.
The special genius of Flash Gordon is Alex Raymond’s talent for visualizing primal urges and tired tropes with such detail, energy, operatic extravagance that they registered deeply with the viewer. His mastery of bodily form, facial expression and panel composition supercharged visually the familiar adolescent fantasies and fetishes that he and co-writer Don Moore lifted from pulp fiction magazines of the era. Xenophobia, hyper-masculinity, emasculation, dominatrices, bondage, miscegenation – all of the fodder of adventure pulp stories were dialed up to eleven by Raymond’s art.Continue reading
Ming the Merciless: Cruelty is the Point
Alex Raymond, Flash Gordon