Flash Gordon: The Lost Continent by Dan Barry While the celebrated EC science fiction comics of the 1950s, Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, Weird Science-Fantasy and the short-lived Incredible Science Fiction are generally held to be the high water mark of the genre, they do have their rivals – there is the equally short-lived Jack Kirby title Race for the Moon, of course, and the books that in terms of narrative invention and artistic achievement rival the impressive entries listed above: DC’s SF comics, Mystery in Space and Strange Adventures. Interestingly enough, although one artist worked only infrequently for the latter duo, he was in many ways the most important name behind them. And the name of that artist – and the answer to this paradox? It’s the multitalented Dan Barry, with his remarkable decades-long career. And the reason for his importance? Barry’s clean, efficient style — with its impeccable figure drawing and particularly notable use of design — was held up for DC artists as an exemplar for the company’s house style, a style that they were encouraged to adopt. While some artists (such as Gil Kane) found this restricting, he and others nevertheless produced some of their very best work in this period, and the Dan Barry template was highly influential. However, the artist’s own work was not primarily to be found in these books, but in his remarkable long-running stint on the most celebrated of all space heroes, Flash Gordon. And the latest volume in Titan’s splendid release of all the Barry strips of the earth-born space adventurer, The Lost Continent, is an absolutely essential purchase for anyone interested in the best illustrated science-fiction. As before, the production values of Titan’s Flash ‘dailies’ series are nonpareil in this large format, beautifully produced volume. These deceptively straightforward adventures are actually rather complex SF tales with Flash, Dale Arden (and, of course, Dr Zarkov) encountering a variety of menaces on beautifully drawn alien worlds (the planet Mongo – perhaps through overuse – has been retired in these tales). If the individual strips might have profited from being reproduced here at a larger size (as in earlier reissues of this material), that’s a small caveat, given the exemplary reproduction we are given here. What’s more, the strips are so well drawn and written that one even forgives the appearance of occasional boy companions for the hero, with little of the cosy sentimentality that one might expect. Those who have been eagerly consuming this series need not hesitate.
Titan books have also put admirers of the best graphic work in their debt with other volumes, such as a new addition to the Tarzan series in its celebrated Burne Hogarth period. Volume 4 is Tarzan and the Lost Tribes, with Hogarth’s art (admittedly not to every taste) splendidly showcased; the artist at his most stylised and individual. And from a Titan-related imprint, Quirk Books, comes two enjoyable collections put together with a marked sense of humour: John Morris’ The Legion of Regrettable Villains and Hope Nicholson’s The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen, both exploring the more quirky byways of the superhero world. Production values, as in the Dan Barry book discussed above, are exemplary, and the writing in these two volumes has a nice balance of scholarship and sardonic .
Flash Gordon: The Lost Continent by Dan Barry, Titan Books
Tarzan and the Lost Tribes by with Burne Hogarth, Titan Books
The Legion of Regrettable Villains by John Morris, Quirk Books
The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen by Hope Nicholson, Quirk Books