24 July 2021

Listing the Beasts of Mongo and Beyond

Almost immediately upon reading the earliest Flash Gordon comic strips, I started writing down the names of the various beasts of Mongo encountered therein and the dates of their first appearances. This will be the basis of an ongoing list in Savage Arts & Sciences that may be of use to those running and writing adventures for The Savage World of Flash Gordon. As I compile it, I will probably be comparing it to the creatures depicted in the game as well as the motion picture serials, the animated television show, and the 1980 movie (either within the bestiary page itself or as separate articles). This will be a slow process, but I think it has the potential to be fun and informative.

Gordon's alive!

20 June 2021

Flash Gordon Inspiration: The First Serial 1936

Two years after the debut of the comic strip, Flash Gordon burst onto the silver screen as a serial starring Larry "Buster" Crabbe, Charles Middleton, Frank Shannon, and Jean Rogers. As an adaptation it took certain liberties owing to the usual constraints, but it was largely faithful to the source. The PBS show Matinee at the Bijou probably introduced me to the serials, and even though I had seen Star Wars several years earlier, I was nonetheless enraptured by the 1936 spectacle of Flash Gordon's adventures on Mongo.

Today's viewers may find humor where none was intended, and this can be part of the fun of watching it now, but there is much to glean in the serials for those who are running or playing The Savage World of Flash Gordon in terms of pacing, role-playing, and capturing the atmosphere of the setting.

I recently started watching the first serial again, and I can state honestly that I notice more and enjoy it more upon every viewing. I own it on DVD, of course, but I believe it is also available on certain streaming channels. I have also been listening to the Space Soldiers Podcast, which provides a commentary on each episode of the various Flash Gordon serials. These can be played synchronously in MST3K or RiffTrax fashion, but I prefer to listen to them separately.

Flash Gordon the serial from 1936 is still an excellent source of inspiration for one's Savage Worlds games.

N.B. The first Flash Gordon serial is also known as Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers, a later re-titling meant to prevent it from being confused with the 1950s Flash Gordon television show.

20 May 2021

Savage News: Legends of Mongo Booster Box

The Legends of Mongo Booster Box for the Savage World of Flash Gordon role-playing game is currently in the process of being crowdfunded via Game On Tabletop. You can pledge through 3 June 2021. Click on the link for details!

16 May 2021

Flash Gordon Inspiration: The Comic Strips 1934-1937

I first came to appreciate Flash Gordon as a fan of the movie serials starring Larry "Buster" Crabbe and the animated television series by Filmation, but even as an elementary school student, I was well aware that it all began with a comic strip in the 1930s. Created by artist Alex Raymond and ghostwriter Don Moore, it is considered one of the greatest strips in the history of the medium, and its influence on the genre of science fiction adventure is staggering.

To understand the full scope of Flash Gordon — and to appreciate the accuracy or inaccuracy of its various adaptations — one needs to go to the source, so I purchased Flash Gordon: On the Planet Mongo (Sundays 1934-37) and two other volumes spanning the entirety of Alex Raymond's Sunday strips.

I am not even halfway through this volume and will forgo giving a review (other than to state I am very satisfied), but I thought I would share a few initial observations about the earliest strips.

  • Ming is always referred to as "Ming, the Merciless" with a comma after "Ming."
  • Flash Gordon's usual exclamations of surprise are "Great Scott," "Great guns," and "Good heavens."
  • Dale's surname changes from "Arden" to "Ardan" and back again.
  • Mongo is variously referred to as a "strange new planet," a "comet," and back to "planet."
  • Zarkov's original plan was a suicide mission: deflect the course of the runaway planet/comet that was heading to Earth by flying a rocket into it. The fact that it was instead pulled into Mongo's gravity and forced to crash land was (somehow) unanticipated.

Reading the Sunday strips is enormously entertaining, and it is renewing my appreciation for the serial, the animated television show, and the 1980 film.

GORDON'S ALIVE

30 April 2021

Savage Worlds Thought of the Day 2021-04-30

I wish Pinnacle Entertainment Group had waited to release The Savage World of Flash Gordon to coincide with SWADE so we wouldn't have to incorporate the changes ourselves. If they were to release an updated edition, I'd seriously consider buying it just to avoid filling my copy with errata-strewn bookmarks, but I imagine the odds of that happening are slim. I'm grateful that a PDF of the conversion is freely available, but I feel a little sad when I read it knowing how close it was to being a SWADE product. If only they had waited a little longer before releasing it. It was so close to being perfect.

28 March 2021

Savage Worlds Online: Initiative

Until I have a chance to run or play Savage Worlds, the gaming content will be sparse here. In the meantime, I have been thinking about the challenges of running such a component-heavy role-playing game via Zoom, my preferred medium for online gaming. I am particularly interested in trying the initiative system, which looks very promising, but I'm sure it works best when used as intended: with a real deck of playing cards. Deck of Cards is probably the most viable substitute, and I'll report on that once I've tried it. As for other gaming components, I'll address them in the near future.

28 February 2021

Savage Worlds Thought of the Day 2021-02-28

Along the lines of my previous thought, Pinnacle Entertainment Group ought to publish inexpensive softcover (and PDF) player's guides to the various settings (especially The Savage World of Flash Gordon) in order to make it easier to bring new players into both the published settings and Savage Worlds in general. None of my players have ever played Savage Worlds as far as I know, and any introductory product I could give them would be a great boon to sparking their interest and, ideally, lead to some of them running games themselves.

30 January 2021

Flash Gordon Inspiration: Coloring and Activity Book

This is the cover of the Adventures of Flash Gordon Coloring and Activity Book, published in 1979, the same year as the Flash Gordon animated television series. I can't remember if my first exposure to Flash Gordon was the animated series or the film serials starring Buster Crabbe (which I probably watched on Matinee at the Bijou on PBS), but I was a big fan of both. Later, I was equally a fan of the original comic strip and the 1980 film starring Sam Jones. Last year, I bought the The Savage World of Flash Gordon for Savage Worlds, and with any luck I'll be running it for my players this year.

In the meantime, I'll be sharing thoughts and occasional images related to Flash Gordon's universe, such as this coloring book I acquired when I was ten years old and somehow managed to preserve into the 21st century. Being a children's coloring book, it isn't challenging, but perhaps someday its contents will inspire an adventure. (I'd scan it in its entirety, but I'm concerned the process might damage it.)

[Edit: This was originally entitled "Flash Gordon Inspiration 1," but I have since decided to differientiate the articles in this series by subject.]

20 December 2020

Savage Worlds Thought of the Day 2020-12-20

Someday, I hope Pinnacle Entertainment Group publishes an affordable softcover player's guide version of Savage Worlds Adventure Edition so I can give them as gifts. PDFs are fine, but hardcopies are easier to consult when one is gaming via Zoom (in my experience, at least).

30 November 2020

Savage Worlds Thought of the Day 2020-11-30

When I received my Flash Gordon dice set, it came with not one, but two Flash Gordon Wild Dice. One is yellow and one is sort of a yellow and orange marble. The unusual thing is that one uses the Flash Gordon logo in place of the 1, and the other uses it in place of the 6. Is this intentional? (I know this isn't much of an article nor even a thought, but I need to post something this month due to a self-imposed rule.)

Listing the Beasts of Mongo and Beyond

Almost immediately upon reading the earliest Flash Gordon comic strips, I started writing down the names of the various beasts of Mongo en...