Wednesday, June 17, 2009


As the sort of anti-Flash Gordon and comedy relief character in Flash Gordon's Trip To Mars, "Happy" Hapgood became one of those "new arrival" characters that are half reviled and ignored and half loved by otherwise alienated fans. Such characters allow people who don't "get" or like an original work to "get" it via the prism of a new character, usually quite alien to the original intent of the original creators- much like the ever-irritating (to me) characters of Berenice Summerfield and Iris Wildthyme in the Doctor Who mythos. To me such characters seem utterly unnecessary and a total copout- rather than deal with the original material respectfully and appropriately, people shoehorn new characters in.

Well then I started trying to redo the public domain Flash Gordon works as animated films, didn't I?

Being too arrogant or too creative to ever normally stoop to use the characters of others except in explicit pastiche, I was struck by the potential for hypocrisy (or at least accusations thereof) in my use of Flash Gordon. That being so, I did some exhaustive scholarship on the man and his (fictional) times. And so arose my strange bump of intuition in relation to Hapgood, the unloved reporter.

In point of fact as a character he's fine. As acted by Donald Kerr he's also a well rounded and finely drawn character, and probably Kerr's finest moment -certainly the actor's only moment "in the sun" as it were.

As such he seemed a perfect subject to use to extend the Flash Gordon mythos.

This is because, despite 75 (count 'em) 75 years of existence, and other than the Filmation 1979 cartoon series (first season anyway) Flash Gordon languishes in the same cyclical storytelling purgatory as the legion of comicbook characters who are his imitators in almost every way. In the original comic strip there is no closure and very little advancement, certainly no character arc to speak of. There is validation of the characters we encounter, but not actual growth, unless we count Zarkov's miraculous transformation from raving potentially homicidal and suicidal lunatic to good-aligned version of Lex Luthor.

My purpose in trying to empower this mythos is to give it its life and its growth. At some point in the unfolding text of the films and other media I intend to create and have others create the story has to be passed from the original protagonists to their successors. The heroes all want to settle down and marry and reproduce. Even my version of Zarkov, with his robot girlfriend, will probably create some unholy engram-imprinted robot child or children at some point- with no doubt disastrous results.

Enter Hapgood. He is the anti-Flash Gordon, a nosy self-centered and "typical" human, not a spit-curled demigod or alien aristocrat. He's also no genius. He is the flip side of heroes like Flash Gordon or John Carter of Mars- antiheroic not by alignment- he's a "good guy"- but in attributes. He is not capable of the fighting prowess of the classic interplanetary hero. He is not capable of the feats of "blue magic" or science of the scientists of Mongo (or Earth). He is in fact almost the eidolon of journalist- a life support system for a point of view.

At least when we first encounter him in my version.

So to the few Hapgood fans out there- please embrace my vision, and when in coming weeks you see the new creation emerge, please PLEASE tell me what you think of my salvaging (and salvation?) of "Happy" Hapgood.