When it comes to nerd culture, Alex Raymond is arguably one of the sources. His lush, detailed art inspired comic book artists from Jack Kirby to Gene Colan to John Romita. And Flash Gordon, of course, was one of the inspirations for Star Wars.
But finding Raymond's strips, especially in full size, is, at best, difficult. These weren't little three-panel strips. These were huge, gorgeous Sunday strips that took up a third of the page, and many reprints are simply cash-ins that offer muddy, shrunken copies of Raymond's work. Which is why this book, a continuation of the effort to preserve the Flash Gordon strips, is particularly welcome.
These strips are restored from the original art itself, and it shows. Raymond was always a detail-focused artist, and the restoration pops every carefully inked line. Importantly, the art is properly sized to what it was intended to be: Too often well-meaning attempts to present Raymond's work shrink it.
It must be said that Raymond was not necessary a masterful writer: You really don't read these strips for their complex plots or emotional resonance. You read them to take in Raymond's art and to look for how it influenced other great comic artists. It's rewarding to grab a few graphic novels from your collection, and compare, say, Alex Ross or Joe Kubert to the art in Flash Gordon, and it can make for a fun nerdy afternoon.
Here are a few of the strips to judge for yourself, but if you have a comic book nerd in your life (or are one), this book is essential. Pick it up ASAP.