What do you think of when I say the name Flash Gordon?
Of course you do. The movie seems to have taken the name in the public eye. However, Alex Raymond’s newspaper strip, once reviewed by friend and Reviewers Unknown colleague The Comic Strip Critic, has appeared in numerous serials and TV shows over the years. Some of them are pretty good and some of them are…well, let’s just focus on happy things, right?
I have two other experiences with the champion of Mongo besides the live-action movie you all know. There was a compilation of the comic strips I reviewed over at The Clutter Reports, and there’s this one…which doubles as MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE SATURDAY MORNING CARTOON OF ALL-TIME! Produced in 1979 by Filmation, it was a must-watch show and, like Jason Of Star Command, is one of the reasons I’m a fan of movie serials. And I can think of no better way to end a tribute to the late Lou Scheimer’s legacy than this one.
When Lou Scheimer listed his inspirations in cartooning, Flash Gordon was among them so getting the rights to produce a TV movie (which WILL be a Video Review someday) must have made him happier than when he first co-founded Filmation. NBC liked it so much that they had it changed into a full TV series. The first season was made into a 16-part serial and I loved it! Lunch could wait or be eaten by the TV because I wanted to know how Flash, Dale, Zarkov, and their friends were getting out of this one. But that’s not the only thing that drew me.
Complain about the people animation if you must, but look at the rotoscoping in the vehicles, the laser effects, the special effects used for the “veil” Ming walks through, and the way the characters’ hair moves with the wind at times. Of all the Filmation shows, this is the one with the most effort put towards it–for an obvious reason. Of all the versions of Flash Gordon I’ve seen, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen them all on TV and in movies except for the black & white TV show, this is the most faithful to Raymond’ vision of the comic, much like they did with Tarzan.
The writing and voice acting is also top-notch. Melendy Britt and Alan Oppenheimer should be immediately well know to He-Fans. Robert Ridgely is the voice of Flash in my head as Diane Pershing is Dale Arden. Everything about this cartoon shows a level of love and dedication seldom seen in a Saturday morning cartoon show.
Then some idiot in marketing had to screw everything up in season two. (Falsely listed as the first season on Hulu, starting with “episode 17”.) “Oh, kids don’t want a serialized show” (Or “I can’t play theme week or other marketing games with a show that needs to stay in a certain order”.) They also insisted they add in a cute kiddie character. Folks, I have defended the likes of Daniel Witwicky, Godzooki, Scrappy-Doo, and other such characters on this site before and I will again…but Gremlin the dragon serve no purpose in this show, and the change of format (to two stories an episode, the opposite of what they were doing) combined with this little thing killed the season and the series. I hope they fired that fool! He clearly didn’t understand that everything he (or she) complained about was the reason the series worked so well! I hope Lou took it well, but I’m still trying to finish his autobiograpy.
And if you’re going to watch this series, Hulu used your best bet, unless you find the out-of-print BCI release of the series (under the official name, The New Adventures (or just The Adventures) Of Flash Gordon, so it stands out among the other versions). I hear the Mill Creek version is only 14 episodes, two short of the serialized season, and has none of the special features the BCI release does. However, I’ve re-edited this paragraph to point to Comics Kingdom’s YouTube channel, which has this available as well as other shows based on their comic strip. And I can’t recommend this show enough for fans of Flash Gordon and friends, or anyone wanting to get a glimpse into my head. I bought the BCI release as soon as I saw it and it’s one of my favorite things in my media library. With SatAM TV all but gone there will never be any competition for this show’s place in my heart…although I doubt there ever will be.
Thank you, Lou Scheimer, for this show and all of the others you brought us over the years. Filmation had a strong, positive place in my childhood and I will always be grateful for your work. I’m sorry I’ll never get to meet you but you’ll always be a part of me just the same.
(October 19, 1928 – October 17, 2013)
Rest In Peace…and thank you
Lou Scheimer’s autobiography is available from Amazon, although out of stock as of this writing. Search elsewhere if you must. I just have an Affiliate account with Amazon. But even if you go with Barnes & Noble or some other dealer, you should still get it. Learn how his dad actually DID punch Hitler, and what made him and Filmation a part of many a childhood in his own words.