I never had the Flash Gordon comic strip in my local paper, and my first introduction wasn’t the cult hit movie or the old serials. It came from two sources. This cartoon:

…and the book I’m about to review. I suppose this is, by textbook definition, a “graphic novel”. It’s a comic book in novel form, although it’s actually three short stories. I picked this one up at my school’s book fair (which I think was my favorite thing about school since I loved to read even back then) when I was in elementary school, and I’m thinking that despite when the book was published it had to be around the same time as the cartoon. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what drew me to it. Then you have a guy battling a giant lizard with a sword while some tribal girl tried to not die. Third or fourth grade me? SOLD!

Flash Gordon Ice Monster

Doesn’t actually happen in the book, which is too bad.

Flash Gordon: The Ice Monster

Tom Doherty Associates (1966, 1968?)

WRITER/ARTIST: Al Williamson

For those of you not in the know, the Flash Gordon comic strip, created by Alex Raymond, involves the title character and his friends battling evil on the planet Mongo, mainly dealing with Ming the Merciless to stop his invasion of Earth. Their plan was to unite the various kingdoms against Ming. This story takes place after they succeeded and Mongo was at peace. You can learn more about the strip thanks to a review by my colleague at Reviewers Unknown, the Comic Strip Critic.

Being at peace doesn’t mean that evil doesn’t pop up, however. Flash, Dale, and Dr. Zarkov have two adventures on Mongo, with a third on Earth. From the Wikipedia article on Williamson linked to above I learned that at least one of these stories appeared in a King Features-produced comic book, publishing date Sept. 1966. (King Features Syndicate owns the rights to the characters and still circulates reprints of the comic strip since no new ones are being produced as of this writing.) So I’m guessing that this book was published closer to ’68, the other date listed. Williamson was influenced by Raymond’s comic strip so I’m betting working on it was a dream come true. As I said, this book features three stories:

  1. I’m going to assume that this one’s title is the same as the book, although there isn’t a title given, unlike the other two. It starts with a recap of the series up to this point before getting into the main story. Our heroes had returned to Earth and many of Mongo’s scientific secrets helped turned the tide of the war. However, they require radium to make some of them work, which is more plentiful on Mongo. So our trio returns there, only for Flash and Dale to get caught up in a coup attempt against their friends in Frigia. The “ice monster” is barely a plot device in the whole story unless the title refers to the traitor.
  2. The Mole Machine/Krenkelium: Flash and Zarkov learn that the fantastic isn’t reserved to Mongo. Back on Earth, Zarkov invents a drilling transport and the boys test it out. What they find is the underground world for Krenkelium, where they must fight to return to the surface world. It’s an interesting story as nobody is technically evil but the king is trying to protect his kingdom and people. And of course the princess falls for Flash because he’s Flash Gordon.
  3. The Death Trap of Mongo: The crew returns to Mongo when a warrior wants to restore the old ways before Flash came to Mongo. His plan is to have Dale kidnapped with the help of his scientist, Wizard, forcing Flash into a confrontation with the hopes of disgracing the hero and turning Mongo away from the new ruler of Mongo, the rightful king, Barin. This story also features the return of the dethroned Ming, which I’m betting would set up Williamson’s future tales.

This is a book that I enjoy as much now as I did as a kid. The artwork, the monster designs, the fight scene–all of it leads to a great story for an eight-year-old boy to read. As an adult and aspiring comic creator I appreciate it as well for the imagination brought into the world of Mongo as depicted in this book. You can tell by looking at it that this is a book that has been read more than once and I still read it to this day.

This book hasn’t seen print in a long time but you can find it for rather decent prices on eBay. For fans of pulp sci-fi, Al Williamson, or Flash Gordon, this would make a great addition to your collection.

Flash Gordon Ice Monster heroes