Release the Earthman!

Dear readers, there are times when I really wished I only liked tasteful and classical things, those works of art which are a joy that challenges eternity. You know the kind of thing I mean: lines from Milton’s PARADISE LOST or from G.K. Chesterton’s BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE or Tennyson’s ULYSSES.

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.


Hail, holy Light, offspring of Heaven firstborn,
Or of the Eternal coeternal beam
May I express thee unblam’d? since God is light,
And never but in unapproached light
Dwelt from eternity, dwelt then in thee
Bright effluence of bright essence increate.

[…] Thus with the year
Seasons return; but not to me returns
Day, or the sweet approach of even or morn,
Or sight of vernal bloom, or summer’s rose,
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine;
But cloud instead, and ever-during dark
Surrounds me, from the cheerful ways of men
Cut off, and for the book of knowledge fair
Presented with a universal blank
Of nature’s works to me expung’d and ras’d,
And wisdom at one entrance quite shut out.
So much the rather thou, celestial Light,
Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers
Irradiate; there plant eyes, all mist from thence
Purge and disperse, that I may see and tell
Of things invisible to mortal sight.

Okay, no kidding, these things are swell, and will last as long as the English language lasts.

Ah, but unfortunately I also really like Evil Space Princesses, especially if their fathers are tyrant-scientists ruling a world that has both rocket-ships and dinosaurs. And really bad acting. Well, I don’t exactly like bad acting, but you learn to forgive a lot when you are a science fiction fan, because ninety percent of our genre is crud.

Around 1.12 look for the immortal lines “Release the Earthman!” and “How dare you interfere with my plans!”

How will Flash escape the wiles of this outer space she-devil?

For that matter, how will Dale escape the unholy lusts of the space-tyrant Ming?
Ming to Dale: “..your eyes, your hair, your skin…I’ve never seen one like you before…you’re beautiful..”

Keep your slimy hands off her Ming! Why are those darn slanty-eyed Space Tyrants always lusting after our blondes?

For those who prefer a more modern Toon version, here is a clip from the (very true to the source material) 1979 Filmation version. Note particularly around 6.06 to 6.22. “You surprise me, Earthman… and please me too…” Why, Catwoman herself could not deliver an evil space princess line better than that.

For those who prefer the over-the-top with extra cheese Brian Blessed version, note around 2.47, “Don’t kill him yet, Father. I want him.”

I admit FLASH GORDON is probably not going to last forever. If the Sci Fi Channel is not halted in its evil, Flash might not even last out the year. But, in any case, how can one not like the love-triangles of space comics? Barin loves Aura who love Flash who loves Arden who is loved by Ming and Vultan, who also wants to marry Aura.

And what insight into the human condition does this reverential look into FLASH GORDON space opera supreme give us? I can think of two messages (1) Space dinosaurs are dangerous monster and should be killed, preferably with rayguns or swords. (2) Evil women do not faint as often as good women. It is a character alignment thing.

At the risk of starting a debate, I would also add (3) that the women even of 1930’s and 1940’s pulps and serials are simply not as the modern “narrative” demands we think of them as being. Well, I admit Dale Arden fainted when she saw Flash being electrotortured. But Flash fainted too.

In any case, the modern myth is that kick-ass women is a modem idea. As far as I can tell, about half the gals in the old serials were damsels in distress, and the other half were things like agents of The Shadow or the sister of Doc Savage who carried a gun, flew a plane, and knew how to gun down a bad guy.

So, the only modern innovation as far as I can see is the idea that heroines should be just as good at the athletic part of heroing as heroes. That is fine for girls from the planet Krypton, or Amazons from Paradise island, but otherwise, the facts do not seem to bear out this view. In professional atheletics, for examples, I have heard that top-notch fifteen or sixteen year olds competing in track can beat the best times of Olympiad female runners.

Not that I mind seeing Melody Anderson in a silky dress doing a flip and gunning down a soldier with a ray-blaster while bashing in the skull of a space soldier with her gunbutt.

I mean, real life is one thing, immortal art is another, and Space Opera is a third thing really not very related to either one.