"FLASH! AAAaaahhh Saviour of the UNIVERSE! FLASH AAAaaahhh He stands for every one of us! "
- – The motherfucking Queen
Flash Gordon is a fictional character originating from a comic book series from 1930s but is more famous due to the eponymous movie from the 80s. Along with Buck Rogers he is the most prominent representative of the american sci-fi space-opera laserpunk/atompunk, though in Flash's case there is also a dose of science fantasy (think Thundarr the Barbarian or Conan in space-age).
Flash Gordon as a comic is is a respectable piece of 30s sci-fi adventure, but where the character really shines is in the 1980 movie, which combines the best aspects of the aforementioned atompunk space-opera science fantasy and over the top 80s aesthetics and music (also, the entire soundtrack for the movie was done by Queen, which automatically raises it's badassery by at least 50%.
Both the movie and the comic largely take place on the fictional planet Mongo. The location of the planet differs based on the version of the comic you read but is generally extrasolar, being located either within Milky Way but far from Earth or being in another galaxy/dimension entirely. Mongo has earth-like conditions and is capable of supporting earth-based life. Although Mongo is only about half of the Earth's diameter, it is much denser so the gravity is in total only slightly weaker. The planet is also young so geological and atmospheric forces could not yet smooth over it's features, giving rise to jagged mountains and many craters.
On Mongo there are multiple inhabited biomes, including oceans and deep caverns, so the relative small size is compensated by more liveable space overall (remember that most of the Earth is oceans as an example). There exists lush flora and developed fauna, some of which's prominent members include huge dinosaur-like beings.
Civilization-wise there are multiple intelligent races of humanoids such as lion-men, tree-men (basically humans larping as elves) and the famous hawk-men, making Mongo quite manly overall Template:Bzzzappp! Puns aside, the various sentients range in sophistication from stone-age to surpassing 21st century Earth. The planet is initially organised as a global empire ruled by an absolutist monarch - Emperor Ming who in turn has subordinated kings like Vultan of the hawk-men and Barin of Arboria ruling their respective kingdoms directly while giving tribute to Ming who is based in the metropolis and capital of Mingo-city.
While the movie and the comics differ somewhat with how Mongo and the main characters are presented, the movie can and should be watched first since it covers Flash & co.'s arrival on Mongo up to the deposing of Ming.
So, Flash Gordon - world famous american football player is on a plane with a travel agent Dale Arden when strange things start happening around them, meteorites start falling from the sky which turns crimson and as a sinister laugh is heard, the pilots vanish. Ming and Dale manage to crash-land into a greenhouse of doctor Hans Zarkov, a crackpot scientist. After a bit of introduction and kidnapping, the trio are catapulted into space by the rocket Zarkov built and start raveling to a strange wormhole that the doctor detected over the Earth.
The wormhole turns out to be leading of the source of the strange natural disasters that have begun to plague the Earth, as it turns out, Emperor Ming, ruler of mongo was bored and decided to troll the Earth with some good old apocalypse. Flash, Dale and Hans are taken to the capital of Mingo-city where after an audience with the emperor and an entertaining but sadly short-lived impromptu football match, Flash is sentenced to death, Hans is brainwashed into the secret police and Dale is fated to become Ming's concubine for the hour (all creatures are to make merry under the pain of death, hail Ming!). Flash however gets rescued by Ming's daughter Aura while Hans and Dale escape separately.
After a number of shenanigans involving the tree-men of Arboria and the king of Hawk-men, who is fittingly Brian Blessed, the gang with their newfound allies all converge on Mingo-city just in time to prevent Dale's wedding to Ming (Dale being re-captured by Ming earlier in the story). Flash and hawk-men commandeer the war-rocket Ajax after a kickass battle, Flash crashes the rocket into the throne room and pierces Ming with it's nose spike. After Ming dies, everyone celebrates and Barin is made the new ruler of Mongo. The last scene has Ming's ring of power taken up by a mysterious gloved hand while a sinister laugh echoes through the scene and ¨The End ?¨ appears at the end.
After this point one can turn to the comics for further continuation of the plot and story. Flash, Dale and Hans continue their adventures on Mongo as well as Earth and other worlds, battling the forces of Ming and other sinister figures. The overall story and plot is varied and involves many adventures typical for the genre and the time it was written in.
Influences and legacy
Flash Gordon provided some of the basis and codification for a variety of genres like space-fantasy, space opera and science-fantasy, not definitively like Tolkien may have with the Fantasy genre, but more as a sort of wellspring of ideas and general aesthetics now found within them.
While the comics are remembered, the movie arguably outshined them due to the shere over-the-top presentation, campiness and badassery that aged like fine wine, and the music score done by the Queen added another legendary dimension.
In terms of /tg/'s interest, the movie and comics can provide some inspiration if you feel like doing some atom-punk science-fantasy space opera, for an example see Batman TBATB episode ¨Mystery in Space!¨ as something clearly inspired by Flash Gordon.