|Beginning life as a comic strip character in 1934, American astronaut Flash Gordon proved to be so popular that in 1936, Universal Pictures produced a 15-episode serial about the intrepid space traveler. Further serials in the 30's and 50's cemented Gordon's reputation as America's favorite space traveler (before John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, et al).
In 1979, The New Adventures of Flash Gordon appeared, partly as a reaction to the mammoth success of 1977's Star Wars. More of an homage to the original cartoon than an actual updated 70's version, the series featured all of the original characters, including Flash' girlfriend Dale Arden and the scientist Hans Zarkov.
Flash and company had traveled to the planet Mongo, where they were forced into battle by its ruler, Ming the Merciless, and his army of robots. To help their cause, the heroes formed an alliance with King Thun, leader of the Lion People, Prince Barin, leader of Aboria, and King Vultan, ruler of the Hawkmen. The only new addition was the pet dragon Gremlin, an artist in nose-blown smoke.
A year after this series appeared, a live-action movie was released, starring Sam A. Jones, Max Van Sydow, Brian Blessed, Timothy Dalton, and Topol (a.k.a. Tevye, from Fiddler on the Roof). The rock band Queen provided the catchy theme song (“He’ll save every one of us!”)
In 1986, Flash returned to TV yet again as one of four heroes on the cartoon Defenders of the Earth. This time, Flash played second banana to his son Rick, proving that old space heroes never die; they just get upstaged by their kids.