The Confusion of Comic Books: Flash Gordon 2007 (TV Showcase #39)

Now, this show is in some ways a remake, but don’t freak out. I tried my very best to watch the original “Flash Gordon” first, the one from 1954. But even though all 39 episodes of that series seem to be still existent, only fifteen have ever surfaced to the public eye, for purchase, Internet streaming, or anything else. And despite my best efforts to locate the remaining episodes (including a phone call to ABC in New York, who now owns the episodes), I have had no success in watching the remaining episodes. If I ever do watch the whole thing, I’ll write a Showcase for it. But this remake isn’t so bad, although I’ll be taking this opportunity to talk about a more broad topic that stretches outside of the show. But, for what it’s worth, let’s take a look at “Flash Gordon” 2007.

“Flash Gordon” 2007 (FG for short) was created in 2007 and ran for 22 hour-long episodes over one season, ending in 2008. The series focused on Flash Gordon, a modern-day college-age guy who strangely meets with an oddball scientist named Dr. Hans Zarkoff. Zarkoff explains that he and Flash’s dad used to work together, but dangerous science experiments caused involvement from the government, which, unbeknownst to Flash, was why his father disappeared. The experiments had to do with crossing an interdimensional boundary to an unknown planet called Mongo, and together, Flash and Zarkoff complete the experiment and find themselves accidentally stuck in Mongo, with an evil ruler. Flash’s half-girlfriend Dale Arden finds out about this, and soon all three of them are involved in a complicated adventure.

The Flash Gordon franchise started as comic books in the 1930s, and soon they were adapted into several series’ of theater shorts in the 40s. When the TV show came along in 1954, the producers wanted the show to be simple to understand, so they removed Mongo from the whole plot, even though it was part of the comics. Then came the movie in 1980, which tried to do justice to the original comics, but was essentially laughed off the screen and is still regarded as one of the worst movies ever made. And that quieted any more attempts on Flash Gordon until this series in 2007.

What I just wrote out is a history that took me ages to figure out, piece by piece, as I became more confused by the 2007 series. While it was self-contained, I still got the feeling that I was out of the loop for not having read the comics or at least watching either the theater shorts or the movie. There were probably many references that I missed. But I also had no idea what the new series added that wasn’t in the comic books, meaning that I probably don’t have a solid grasp on the original story, because I’ve never read the comics. And that leads me to my main point.

One thing I do know that FG must have added was the twenty-first century in the real world. And even though the show was decent by itself, it was probably really awful at remaking the comic series, further enforced by its cliff-hanger ending and subsequent cancellation. But this isn’t a problem only displayed by FG.

Superheroes are on the rise again, taking over the movies and television alike, most of which is by Marvel. But the problem is that even though I’ve never read a majority of the comics, it doesn’t take much to see that these movies and shows aren’t doing the originals justice. When reading the comics, or listening to the radio shows alot of them spawned in the 1940s, you might observe that most of them take place in the early twentieth century, before the Internet and iDevices, and it usually takes place in some alternate form of earth; there’s something to tip off the reader that this isn’t the real world.

By putting superheroes into the real world, the show or movie can be as good as it gets, but if the point is to do justice to the original comics, or bring modern-day interest to them, and it’s not doing that, then what’s the point? Are the Avengers movies full of awesome special effects, fighting scenes, and maybe an emotional moment or two? Sure. But they’re all for show: the more Marvel puts out and the better it looks, the more people will buy it. But there’s Stan Lee, making a cameo in every movie, so apparently he’s fine with it. The superhero craze is a money-sucker. It may have started as genuine adaptions or attempts to make the old comics seem cool again, but now it’s become a way to just get people to buy anything with a comic book character’s face on it. And it works.

It might not be so bad if the movies had an okay message. But why bring superheroes into the modern world at all? Why not just keep them in that alternate universe? Why give the good guys all these personal flaws and checkered pasts? The message of these movies and shows, which FG falls under, is that you can be your own hero. You can do anything you want. No matter how bad you are, you can save yourself from absolutely anything. It might take teamwork, or sacrifice, but you are your own saviour. Is that true though? I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel like I can save myself from every problem I face.

In the end, then, “Flash Gordon” 2007 was alright in terms of acting and effects and even plot development, but does it do justice to the comic? Does any superhero movie/show? And what is the message we’re really being fed from these special effects shows? What do you think?

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