"I Grew Up With The Defenders Of The Earth" – Ben Acker Talks Flash Gordon

As part of Dynamite's new King Features launch next year, Ben Acker will be taking on Flash Gordon. Byron Brewer chatted with the writer about the new series and how all of the characters tie together leading into the crossover event.

KingFlash01-Cov-CookeColBYRON BREWER: First off, Ben, how does it feel to be part of such an important event as the 100th anniversary of King Feature Syndicate, and seeing all these iconic characters coming together?

BEN ACKER: Thank you for asking. It feels great! I love iconic characters and I love these iconic characters more than a little. I grew up on the movie Queen made about Flash Gordon and I grew up with The Defenders of the Earth. I read Lee Falk's Phantom in the comics section of the paper after The Far Side but before Calvin and Hobbes. I love that I get to play in the worlds I saw back then and even then, I felt that there was a history behind them. That kids all over the 20th century got Flash Gordon and how cool is it to shepherd him here in the 21st century? It's so cool.

BB: How did you become part of the Flash Gordon mini-series, and how will you and Ben Blacker be sharing the writing responsibilities?

BA: All roads lead to The Thrilling Adventure Hour, which is the monthly stage show and podcast in the style of old time radio Ben Blacker and I write and produce for years and years (check it out wherever fine pods are cast). We recently did an anthology graphic novel of the show (check it out wherever fine graphic novels are sold). Doc Shaner drew one of the stories in there (check it out in The Thrilling Adventure Hour graphic novel). So that's how I first met Doc and knew his art to be beautiful. We worked with him again at Marvel because we are lucky. When I heard Doc was drawing Flash Gordon, I about flipped out, because what a perfect fit. Then I read that Flash Gordon #1 and did flip out because it was so so great. I tweeted a congrats about it to him and Jeff Parker who I knew less well, but admired especially after reading that Flash Gordon #1. Two emails later, and Nate Cosby, the esteemed editor of Flash Gordon #1 and the rest was asking if we cared to take over when Jeff Parker left the book. The answer was "shut up, of course." I found out later that Nate had been thinking of us for the book independently of my tweet, due to his recognizing that The Thrilling Adventure Hour is cut from real Flash Gordon-y cloth. Blacker and I will share writing responsibilities like we always do — seamlessly. We outline together, then we go back and forth with drafts until it's done.

BB: Does this story spin off the Flash Gordon series that Dynamite has been publishing, or is this self-contained as far as that previous book?

BA: In my view, it's the best of both worlds. We love the Parker/Shaner run and we're definitely inspired by it, but if this is your first Flash Gordon story, it will feel totally self-contained.

BB: Tell us your interpretation of Flash as a character. Will his supporting cast be a part of the mini?

BA: Our Flash is a hero for sure. He's a two-fisted space adventurer with a clear sense of right and wrong. These worlds he visits, the things he faces, the evil has already triumphed over the good. It's institutionalized. Ming won. And he's merciless. So it takes more than a sense of justice and a blaster and some real solid punching work and maybe sometimes a sword and can we get jetpacks in there? Anyway, it takes more than that to overthrow a space dictator. It takes perspective and understanding and shrewd thinking and real drunk science. Dale and Zarkov are going to prove necessary to team Flash. Flash is the face of the revolution – the one with the bullseye right on it. Dale and Zarkov are the engineers.

BB: Flash's adventures have always had an element of fun, usually stemming from Flash's character. Is it hard to keep that element while telling a good sci-fi story as well?

BA: No way, man! If you're telling a Flash story without a sense of fun, what are you even doing? For sci-fi to be relatable, the characters have to be. In Flash you have three characters united in purpose, stuck in the same situation, but they are all strong personalities with conflicting points of view. This is the surest recipe for fun. Three characters who all know in their bones they're right. They're the hero. What if none of them are right? What if all of them are? This is the stuff of fun.

BB: Are you looking forward to working with artist Lee Ferguson?

BA: I am looking forward to working with Lee Ferguson so much! We did a story about a Shark Princess for the Flash Gordon Annual that Lee drew and he killed it. So great. When his first images came in, we were all like "this could be the guy" (to draw Flash). By the end of the Shark Princess story, we were sure. I'd get these emails from Lee about how excited he was to work on this part of Flash Gordon's universe. He LOVES Flash. And I was bursting to tell him "buckle up, because you're gonna get the chance to do Flash himself," but we needed to dot i's and cross t's before anybody offered anybody anything. But when he got the call to do Flash… he doesn't live in the same part of the country as I do, but I heard the cheer from where I was. So yeah. He's not only excited, he's really great. He's perfect for the job. He's going to kill it.

BB: Elephant in the room: Is Ming a part of this limited series?

BA: Is that the elephant in the room? Yes, of course Ming is a part of this limited series. What you should be asking is … is the Shark Princess?

BB: Can you give us any hint at how the King minis will dovetail in May?

BA: I can tell you straight out. But I won't.

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Dan WicklineAbout Dan Wickline

Has quietly been working at Bleeding Cool for over three years. He has written comics for Image, Top Cow, Shadowline, Avatar, IDW, Dynamite, Moonstone, Humanoids and Zenescope. He is the author of the Lucius Fogg series of novels and a published photographer.
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