Friday, August 11, 2017


by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

“Jungles of Mongo” is a relatively short arc compared with Flash’s other recent adventures. It picks up, naturally, directly where “Queen Desira” left off, with Flash, Dale, Zarkov, and Desira having escaped Prince Brazor’s castle into the jungle of Desira’s kingdom. They fight off wild animals and make their way through a bizarre underground cavern where gravity is flipped in reverse, before finding an outpost of Desira’s army. There, they’re nearly turned over to Brazor, who has convinced Desira’s subjects that she died and that anyone claiming to be her is an imposter, but manage an escape into the “Fiery Desert of Mongo”.

This story arc opens with Flash and company fighting against nature in Mongo’s harshest locale yet. The desert presents a dragon, a lava river, and even a “waterfall” of fire as obstacles for the group. Eventually, low on water and supplies, their mounts dead from heat and exhaustion, things look bad for our heroes — until they’re found by a bandit king named Gundar.

This leads into yet another pastiche for Raymond to explore. It’s not quite as overt as some of the previous ones, but the castle inhabited by Gundar and his men carries a sort of “Arabian Knights” vibe. Gundar proves to be an honorable villain as, even while openly planning to turn Flash and Desira over to Brazor, he has the prisoners looked after by his personal physician, fed, and quartered in some very nice guest rooms.

When Gundar offers his prisoners to Brazor, the evil king makes plans to wipe out the entire lot — Gundar and his bandits included. This puts Flash and Gundar on the same side and leads to a siege of Gundar’s castle by Brazor and his forces. Flash captures Brazor during the fight, but Gundar’s stronghold is unable to hold off an invasion. Our heroes escape with their prisoner into secret caverns known only to Gundar, and eventually emerge back into Tropica. Along the way, we learn that Desira has a romantic interest in Gundar — a nice change of pace from every woman falling head over heels for Flash, even if that did happen briefly as well when the excursion to Tropica began — and she begins a rivalry with Gundar’s girlfriend, Pequit.

I’ll say this for Raymond (and for Moore’s scripts): even though they pretty consistently portray women as either unpredictable balls of emotion or scheming temptresses, they at least make them fairly strong in those roles. Dale received an entire strip to herself during the climax of “Fiery Desert” in which she goes back for Flash, who remained behind to hold off Brazor’s forces, and attempts to dig him free from a landslide. And Desira has a handful of moments as well during this saga in which she asserts herself against Flash (which is often even more than Dale ever did) and/or Gundar.

Once our heroes emerge from the caves, Flash convinces Gundar to join forces in an attempt to recover Desira’s kingdom — for even though Brazor is their prisoner, his ruthless generals continue to rule Tropica in his stead, and still refuse to recognize Desira as the true queen. But the people of Tropica want Desira back, and Flash and company find sanctuary in a nearby town. Brazor’s forces soon raze the community, however, giving the people of Tropica even more of a reason to fight back.

In the meantime, Pequit, spurned by Gundar in favor of Desira, helps Brazor escape imprisonment and kidnap Desira. Flash and Gundar give chase into Tropica’s wetlands, and we get one of the cooler action setpieces seen to date in the FLASH series as our heroes have a high speed boat chase across the water, which soon comes to include Dale and Gundar’s lieutenant Konal, both having followed separately in another boat. Ultimately Brazor escapes with Desira, but not before briefly capturing Gundar as well, then cutting him loose to distract Flash, who is injured in the rescue.

“Battle For Tropica” concludes by setting up the finale of Raymond’s time on the FLASH GORDON strip, as Flash and Dale continue on to the capitol in search of Desira while Gundar returns to the group’s base and schemes with Zarkov to invade Brazor’s stronghold.

These strips run from mid-1943 to early 1944, and somewhere around December of ’43, an odd development can be seen with the artwork. Raymond suddenly begins drawing in a much plainer style. The character poses and expressions are still good, but the lushness vanishes from his work, and the strip begins to look like pretty much any other newspaper comic in terms of shadows and color. I’m not sure why this is, but it’s unfortunate in any case. We’ll find out next week if this style change remains in place through the rest of Raymond’s run, or if he will return to his more familiar (and far superior) techniques before departing the strip.

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