A Quick Flash!A column article by: Regie Rigby
I have to apologise. I’ve been gone a while, and there should be an interview here, but there isn’t. I was* going to interview the inimitable Richard Emms, head honcho of Ardden Entertainment about the recent launch of Flash Gordon, but my life rather irritatingly got in the way and I just never managed to get the questions to him. Actually there should be two interviews here, because I was going to interview Paul Green, artist of Flash Gordon, Sunset and Starship Troopers too, but that interview has also been swallowed up by the insanity of my return to school. Seriously, I’ve been snowed under to a quite extraordinary degree. Even as I type I’m rather painfully aware that there are at least four things I need to get done before school tomorrow. Sucks to be me, eh? Of course that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to talk about Flash. It’s a project that interests me on several levels. For a start, I’ve always been a fan of Gordon. As a kid I remember the old RKO serials being shown on BBC2 during the summer holidays, and of course my ninth summer was dominated by the astonishingly camp movie from 1980 – Queen soundtrack and all. In fact, whilst it almost makes me a cultural traitor to admit it, Flash Gordon was much more of a feature in my early life than Dan Dare. I guess that’s the way with American culture – for better or for worse it’s so much louder and easier to spot. And there’s no question that Flash Gordon as a character is well worth paying attention to. There is an awful lot about Flash that I can’t help but like. He’s a fish out of water for a start – an Earthman stuck on the bizarre planet of Mongo, constantly dealing with culture shock. I work with teenagers, and I know how he feels. So, when Richard Emms contacted me to say that he wanted to get in touch with Paul Green after seeing some of the prelim work he’d done for Sunset with a view to getting him to work on a new version of Flash, I was really rather pleased. You may have seen Flash Gordon by now of course - it’s been out for a while, my lack of time issues have simply prevented mw from getting down to my LCS to check it out. Oh boy. I just picked up issue one and two. They are made almost entirely of awesome with a bit of stunning and a dash of wooooooooooooooohooooooooooooooooooooooo! This is what I’m talking about. Now obviously, I need to declare an interest here. Paul is not just a great artist**, he’s the artist who has made my Sunset project possible.*** I confess that I’m not entirely unbiased, or objective in any way about his work. Except that there is a reason for that of course. I first came across Paul’s art when a colleague at work showed it to me and asked if I could show it to any contacts I might have in the wonderful world of comics. I was happy to – because frankly, I’d never seen anything like at and couldn’t believe he wasn’t already a published artist – I loved it from the word go. So yes, I’m biased about Paul’s art. But I’m also right. So, anyway. The new Flash. I really don’t envy writer Brendan Deneen the job of bringing such an icon back to the page. It’s a huge responsibility, and whatever you do you’re almost bound to piss off somebody. Characters like Flash, Dale, Zarkov and Ming live in the collective imagination every bit as much as Dan Dare, Robin Hood or the Lone Ranger and you mess with them at your peril. At the same time, you can’t re-launch something like this without putting a bit of a re-vamp on the whole concept. The RKO Serial version of Flash was very much of his time, as was the 1980 version and all the versions in-between. However much those versions are loved (or loathed), the character has to evolve and be a Flash for our present decade. Dale Arden can’t just be a pretty girl for Flash to rescue anymore, and things can’t be as purely black and white as they used to be. It’s a difficult balance to strike. You know what? I think Deneen might just have pulled it off. His script is tight, slick and pacey with snappy dialogue and closely crafted action. His characters are believable enough to work with but fantastic enough to be exciting and his take on the traditional Flash Gordon Mythos is traditional enough to be recognisable but original enough to make you feel you’re participating in something new. It’s a triumph, and proof that you really can re-invent the classics without destroying them. And of course then there is Paul’s art. Like I said, I’m a fan. But this is exceptional even for Paul. His wonderfully stylized anatomy compliments Deneen’s script beautifully, as well as being uncannily easy on the eye. Despite the cartoony unreality of it though, this is art with a real spark of reality twinkling through it. There is genuine humanity, personality and emotion in the facial expression and physical mannerisms – these characters live and move beneath your very eyes. And then there’s the light. I wish I knew how he does the light. It’s exquisite. Sunsets, rocket glare, explosions, you name it. It must be an optical illusion, surely, but I swear there were some panels that had me squinting into the glare. Genuinely I don’t understand how it works, but it does. I have, in all honesty, never seen anything like it. I’ll be honest. I really, really wanted to like this book. I’ve had high hopes for this project since the moment I first heard of it. As I vaguely watched the thing take shape from the sidelines my expectations kept rising, and I confess that I had begun to worry that in the end the end result couldn’t possibly match up to those expectations. Well it didn’t. It has surpassed them. It has made me very happy indeed. *And hopefully still will. **Although he is that – I’ve heard people who ought to know what they’re talking about describe him as “the most exciting artist to break through in the last ten years”. ***Actually, he’s the entire reason the project exists.