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A smiling Ming the Merry offers you this expensive-looking yet slapdash 1970s fanzine. ENJOY. – Heritage: Flash Gordon 1b

March 8, 2012

Ming looks rather cheery in this Al Williamson/Gray Morrow cover, right? Maybe he’s gloating in a most sinister manner, but that’s not the vibe I’m picking up.

I admit that I’m no great Flash Gordon fan (though I sometimes see him in strange places), so I’m perhaps the last person in the world who should own this meaty 1970s Flash Gordon fanzine. Yet here it sits on my desk. There’s a short, pointless story about how it came into my possession, and I shall favor you with it. I was at a small local show, perusing a deeply discounted bin of magazines. I found this mag. It’s listed price was $150, which I found, to put it mildly, insane. But, thanks to the discount, it’s actual cost was low two-figures. But I wasn’t going to get it. I had taken it out to look at its contents, and I was about to slip it back into its protective sleeve and its place in the bin, when one of the old alter kocker artists that frequents the show (I don’t know his name) came over and asked if he could see it. I handed it to him, he flipped through it, muttered “Beautiful stuff” or something similar, handed it back to me, and asked me if I was going to get it. I said I wasn’t sure. He said I should, and then walked away. I put it in the pile of things I was going to buy from this particular dealer. And here it sits.

I guess the point is that I’m far too malleable. Anyway, onto the magazine.

The first thing you notice about it is its physical aspect. Its paper is that thick, shiny stuff that you’d find in a catalog that goes along with a museum exhibit, and has the feel of something the I-drink-with-my-pinky-sticking-out set would deign to read. CLASSY, BABY. But this is offset by print that looks to be mimeographed from a typewriter original, a standard feature of most fanzines, which normally look like they were printed in a guy’s basement right next to where he keeps the lime for the dead bodies. C’est la vie.

We won’t even discuss the odd 1a/1b numbering of the respective editions.

But content is king, and is all that truly matters. The insides are filled with brief retrospectives and artwork from people who toiled on the Flash Gordon strip over the years, from the 1930s down to the (1972) present. One of the most stunning aspects of this ‘zine’s art is the sheer number of bare boobs on display. Maybe it’s the prudish American in me noting it, but this must stand as one of the more jugalicious Flash Gordon publications ever put out. Seriously, there are a metric ton of aureolas per capita. Not that I’m complaining. Just saying.

Though this makes many of the images NSFW, there are plenty that would pass the censors in the breast patrol and give you a sense of what’s going on. I don’t have immediate recall of Queen Azura or her fictional biography, but since she’s rather hot, and since the same image is repeated twice in these pages (another demerit in the mag’s quality), I offer you this very slinky, very chesty Mike Royer selection from “The Girls of Mongo”:

Nice slippies.

I was odly taken with this non-erotic page from Stanley Pitt, which has a Sherwood Forest/Robin Hood/Maid Marian feel — and a space squirrel:

Doesn’t Flash know that if you feed one, hundreds more besiege you?

One of the most noteworthy features (also printed twice) is a one-page look at the work and private lives of Flash Gordon creator/artist Alex Raymond. (Sorry that some of the text on the right is obscured. I’m afraid I have neither the time nor the will to transcribe the blurred words, though I’m fairly certain you can get the gist.) I thought it was a rather charming look at a craftsman plying his trade, and then I looked closer at the model work in the upper half:

The girl is 17. The girl whose spread legs Raymond is closely inspecting is 17. It looks like he’s giving her a gynecological exam. Get the stirrups! Once again, my ingrained prudish American sensibilities may be coming out here, and I’m sure Mr. Raymond was a fine, upstanding member of his community, and was only posing her, but THIS IS CREEPY TO ME.

Ickiness aside, there are also some Neal Adams pages that I’m sure would throw Adamsophiles that are also Flash Gordonophiles into throes of sublime ecstasy. There’s an incentive for folks to try to track down a copy.

So the codger at the show was right. The art, of which I’ve barely scraped the surface, is fantastic, and it’s lovingly reproduced on paper that feels like it’ll last for about a thousand years. These things elevate the mag above its fanzine cousins. I have no regrets about buying it, though it’s too bad the folks publishing it couldn’t perform a little quality control, what with the repeated material and all. What, did they think they were working on a blog or something?

I’ll leave you with this back cover illustration by Wally Wood, which is about as Wally Woody a Flash Gordon pic as you can get:

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