For Your Consideration: Al Williamson’s Flash Gordon

by Robert Greenberger

Welcome to the latest regular feature here at Westfield Comics. During each order cycle, I’ll be identifying one or two collected editions that merit your attention and try to explain why reading this will be worth your time and money. Having grown up a reader and professional, I know a little something about the field and after years assembling collected editions contents, I think I know what makes for an excellent volume.

Al Williamson's Flash Gordon: A Lifelong Vision of the Heroic cover

This month, Flesk is taking orders for Al Williamson’s Flash Gordon: A Lifelong Vision of the Heroic. While Williamson did not create the legendary science fiction character, in many ways he inherited Alex Raymond’s artistic legacy. The artist was born in 1931, three years before Flash Gordon colorfully hit the Sunday newspapers.

Raymond is considered one of the finest illustrators to work in syndicated comics, along with Hal Foster, with a photorealistic style that brought his world of Mongo and its varied denizens to life. While Buck Rogers was the first SF strip, Flash Gordon was the best as the stories were epic in scope. The landscape of Mongo was unlike any realm seen in comics before and through the years that special feeling evaporated in the hands of others. Until Williamson.

In 256 page, we are treated to the three stories produced for King Comics, the short-lived imprint from King Features Syndicate in addition to the his adaptation of the unfortunate 1980 film that looked better than it played. There’s also Williamson’s last major series work, the miniseries produced for Marvel in 1994. The King material is exceptional because it was the first time original material had been produced for comics with the character that actually resembled the original strip. It’s lush and fast-paced with Williamson actually writing the first story. The other two were penned by his long-time collaborator, Archie Goodwin, one of the most respected people in the field… ever. Their work earned the two a chance to inherit Raymond’s Secret Agent X-9, later renamed Secret Agent Corrigan which they produced from 1967 until 1980.

Williamson’s style was very much like Raymond’s and his settings and characters felt just right. The deering-do is quick-paced and while the stories tread familiar ground, they are still head and shoulders above much other science fiction in comics. The three stories, brief as they were, earned him the National Cartoonist Society’s Best Comic Book Cartoonist award. His movie adaptation didn’t win awards but earned him a new generation of fans who may have only known his name in association with the legendary EC Comics.

Peers hold Williamson in high enough respect that this book features essays from Mark Schultz and Sergio Aragones, which also tells you something about this material and this artist.

DC's Flash Chronicles Volume 1 cover

Short Take: Another book I call to your attention is Flash Chronicles Volume 1 from DC Comics. Many dislike reading black and white reprints, while others complain about the high price of the Archives series. Finally, in full-color and at an affordable price, you can see the birth of the Silver Age. With Flash: Rebirth reimaging Barry Allen for today’s readers, this volume allows you to see how it all began with what may well be the first truly successful reboot in all of comics.

Purchase

Al Williamson’s Flash Gordon: A Lifelong Vision of the Heroic SC

Al Williamson’s Flash Gordon: A Lifelong Vision of the Heroic HC

Flash Chronicles Vol. 1 SC

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