Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Complete Works of Dr. K: Coda

The last letter I had published, which appeared in Flash 7, was written in the summer of 1987, just after I graduated from high school. That summer, I was laid up for about two months with mono, and I wrote that letter and one unpublished letter to Wonder Woman on the birthday present I had received that year: a newfangled thermal typewriter that looked something like this: (Image from Mr. Martin's Typewriter Museum)
This replaced a portable manual typewriter I had been using for writing in previous years. The thermal typewriter was, in all, a pretty crappy invention. It operated on a principle still used in some cash registers, where the typewriter actually burned the text onto specially coated paper. The paper was incredibly expensive, and it deterioriated rapidly--after a few months, the type would fade into illegibility and the paper would turn yellow. Leaving the paper exposed to light hastened the deterioration significantly. The other, more stable option was to buy these incredibly expensive ink cassettes that never lasted very long, nor did they print very clearly.

I'm sure I wrote those letters as a means of relieving the boredom of my mono-induced isolation. But, by the time the Flash letter saw print, I had moved away from home and was already starting my freshman year of college.

While I was gone, a package was delivered to my home address with the following letter enclosed:

I had been specially selected to receive a xeroxed preview of Flash Gordon 1, written and drawn by Dan Jurgens. This was, indeed, a great honor, but, unfortunately, I never got to write a response letter.

(Cover image from the Grand Comics Database)

You see, DC sent the package to my home address, and my mom, for some reason, did not deem a package from DC Comics as being sufficiently important for her to forward to me. Therefore, I never received the preview of Flash Gordon until spring break, well after the March 3 deadline stated in the letter. I've always felt a strong sense of regret about missing this opportunity.

I did, however, buy the 9-issue miniseries when it came out, and though it's no longer a part of my comic collection, I do remember it fondly. Looking over the photocopied preview, which I still have, I'm struck by how Dan Jurgens played with a lot of the ideas and themes of the vastly underrated 1980 film. In the comic, Jurgens makes him a washed-up former NBA star for the Boston Celtics rather than a pro football quarterback, as he is in the film. The sexuality is also surprisingly overt: when we first see Ming, he's informing a poor farmer that he will be having his way with the farmer's new bride, and Ming smoothly shifts his amorous attention to Dale Arden. I love the design of Ming with the badass skull tattoo over his left eye. I also find myself using that exact same dialogue in almost every faculty meeting I attend.

Flash and Dale also exhibit a sexual tension reminiscent of David and Maddie on Moonlighting, which was in the process of jumping the shark when this comic came out.

The first issue ends in a scene similar to one early in the movie, where Ming puts Flash to the test by sending him up against some men in an elaborate fighting arena.
I love Ming's response to Flash's face-kick.

So, my apologies, twenty years late, to Mike Gold and Dan Jurgens for not responding to this request for a letter. But it was totally my mom's fault.


Siskoid said...

Wow, you remind me that I *did* receive an "ashcan edition" once... For Clive Barker's Razorline comics.

I don't think I responded either, but that's probably for the best.

So are we going to see the Flash letter?

Siskoid said...

Ooops, never mind. I'd forgotten we already had.