Comic book movies may be the new pop culture juggernauts minting money at the box office, but there are still those enthusiasts who appreciate the value of the comics that gave birth to those movies. Recently, the first ever comic strip featuring space-faring adventurer Flash Gordon sold for $480,000, a record for comic strip art.
The pencil-and-ink art by Alex Raymond, published in the 1930s, signaled the arrival of a cultural icon that would go on to influence everything from comics to science fiction movies. In the comic strips that started the franchise, Flash Gordon was an ordinary man from Earth, who was kidnapped and sent to the planet Mongo. There Flash encounters the evil ruler Ming the Merciless and embarks on a series of action-packed adventures to free Mongo from Ming's influence.
The adventures of Flash Gordon were a heady mix of action and interplanetary intrigue. Gordon himself was something of a cross between Indiana Jones and James Bond, quick with a ray gun, but only resorting to violence as a last resort. The character became an instant favorite right from the beginning of his debut on the pages of newspapers. The company that owned the series sold their strip to papers across the world. It is estimated that the Flash Gordon newspaper series was translated into more than eight languages, published in 130 newspapers and read by over 50 million people.
There have been many spin-off movies, tv shows, cartoons, games and action figurines based on Flash Gordon. The original Flash Gordon movie from 1980 is considered a cult classic. So popular was the character and his stories that George Lucas was originally planning to make a movie based on the Flash Gordon franchise. When negotiations over the movie rights broke down, Lucas scratched his Flash Gordon-itch by making a little series called Star Wars instead.
In recent times, Flash Gordon and his contemporaries, The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician and Buck Rogers have largely been relegated to the nostalgia bin, but his influence continues to be felt. Director Taika Waititi named the 1980 Flash Gordon movie as the primary influence behind the creation of Thor: Ragnarok. Waititi has also signed on for an animated Flash Gordon film, although it is unknown so far if he will be writing or directing.
While the thought of paying close to half a million dollars for a comic strip might seem unthinkable to most, the value of such pieces as culturally momentous documents is very high among collectors. In fact, the highest amount paid for a piece of comic art so far is a mind-boggling $5.4 million for the 2019 sale of Frank Frazetta's The Egyptian Queen, a painting that served as the cover for the horror comic magazine Eerie.
If you were looking for some slightly less expensive and more modern comics about the character, Dynamite Entertainment has been printing comics about the new adventures of Flash Gordon since 2011. This comes from The Hollywood Reporter.