I have a confession to make. I am one of the apparently six or seven people on the planet who really liked the Flash Gordon movie when it came out in 1980. I was a young teenager at the time and I and my friends loved every minute of the admittedly campy film. (My friends apparently made up the other five or six people who liked the movie.) I bought the novel and read it quickly after seeing the movie and forty-three years later (wow, that’s a big number) I just reread it and enjoyed it a second time.
The novelization is not perfect. It sets a tone that is a little too serious for what was such a lighthearted film. But what Cover does really well is build some backstory to Flash that I simply don’t remember being in the movie. We learn about his childhood and his growing love of football and of the big Super Bowl win that makes Flash a household name in the United States. And then he gets pulled into the thick of the movie plot trying to save the world.
Cover’s Flash Gordon has a bit of zen to him and a healthy dose of old-fashioned patriotism. He believes in human rights (and alien rights for the people of Mongo). And he really hates totalitarian amoral bad guys. Add in a fun supporting cast (Dale Arden, Vultan, Zarkov and Barin) and you have the makings of a good story. Yes, it’s cheesy but it’s a purposefully humorous take on the early sf film genre whose special effects make it very hard for modern audiences to take seriously. I’d love to see someone serious play with this franchise again whether on television or in books.