Back in the 1970s, there were numerous books published featuring the collected strips of famous newspaper characters: Little Orphan Annie, Dick Tracy and Flash Gordon among others. With the advent of Star Wars in 1977, it was no time at all before such nostalgic properties became fodder for the newly discovered fan base.
I’d seen a few chapters of the original Flash Gordon serial starring Buster Crabbe, but most of my exposure to the character came by way of the Saturday morning cartoon. The 1980 live action film debuted, and spoiled it for me. Today, many fans look upon the film with fondness, celebrating its cheesy goodness as one interpretation among many.
So when handed Kings Quest to review, I expected a rehash of the Defenders of the Earth cartoon, which united perennial stars of the King Features syndicated comic strips – Flash Gordon, the Phantom, and Mandrake the Magician. Prince Valiant is included as well, surprisingly.
With Dale Arden stranded back on Mongo, the men enlist the magic sword of Prince Valiant to transport them back to that distant planet, accompanied by Jen Harris, Dale’s assistant and supposedly, the true Phantom.
On Mongo, they discover a fellow Earthman known as Jungle Jim, who has power over the flora and fauna of the already-hostile world. They also learn that while only a few days have elapsed in their time, Valiant’s sword had kept them in limbo, during which two years have passed. During this time, Dale has risen to the position of Empress of the Universe alongside Ming.
A nice touch during this sequence is the verbatim dialogue of the wedding ceremony from the 1980 Flash Gordon movie. It speaks to the respect newer writers will pay the history of the Flash Gordon franchise, including its cheesier elements. Kind of like depicting a can of shark repellant in the bat-copter, or featuring Lt. Arex in a Star Trek comic (look him up).
I really enjoyed Kings Quest, and I have to wonder how I didn’t come to this series sooner. I love what Dynamite has done with other properties, such as The Shadow and the Lone Ranger. So why should the King Features characters be any different?