31 Days of Comics Challenge: Day 3

Great Adaptation or Remake of Another Work

In 1988, Dan Jurgens created a nine-issue “maxi-series,” re-imagining the Flash Gordon newspaper strip for DC Comics.  He changed Flash from a famous polo player to a basketball has-been; Dale from a devoted partner to a hardball journalist; Ming from an extraterrestrial Fu Manchu to a politically complex, grey-skinned despot.  Initially, Flash is uninterested in helping the people of the planet Mongo.  He only wants to help himself and get back to earth.  He displays a selfishness that rankles Dale to no end.

Jurgens’ maxi-series is about Flash’s transformation from a self-pitying former star, sulking in the shadows of past glories, to a hero and revolutionary.  Likewise, we see Dale gradually falling in love with a man she initially despises.  The series takes the idealistic portrayals of these characters from the old newspaper strips, and asks, how would real people turn into those heroic figures?  What kind of experiences would it take to fundamentally transform them, to give them a vision larger than themselves?

Flash Gordon is one of my all-time favorite characters.  While I have loved various adaptations of the property, including the short-lived cartoon and the 1980 film, the newspaper strip will always remain official canon for me, the one true account of Flash’s adventures on Mongo.  That said, I appreciate Dan Jurgens’ thoughtful take on the character.  The story has shape: a beginning, a middle and an end.  The characters go through full arcs.  Those transformations are not appropriate for a serialized newspaper strip, where the story must continue, continue, continue.  But it makes sense for a self-contained nine-issue series.

That’s why Dan Jurgen’s Flash Gordon is a successful and great adaptation.

Tomorrow: First Comic You Seriously Pursued