Sunday, May 29, 2011


Back in 1980, around the time of the Dino DeLaurentis/Mike Hodges Flash Gordon feature film and the Filmation Flash Gordon animated series, Tempo Books published a six-volume series of original Flash Gordon novels, written by aviation/military thriller author David Hagberg.

Massacre in The 22nd Century
War of The Citadels
Crisis on Citadel II
Forces from The Federation
These books are not, specifically, tie-ins with movie or cartoon, nor do they adapt any stories from the long-running newspaper comic strip. They are large-scale, futuristic space operas that involve Flash, Dale and Dr. Zarkov in an intergalactic conflict between ancient civilizations called the Citadels. The titles of the six volumes are: Massacre in The 22nd Century, War of The Citadels, Crisis on Citadel II, Forces from The Federation, Citadels Under Attack and Citadels on Earth. I didn't buy the books when they originally came out - although I had seen them in the bookstore, and very much wanted to. I actually only started collecting them in the last year or so, thanks to some of you Space: 1970 readers, who gave me the name of the uncredited author and helped me track down copies online.

They're okay space opera, and enjoyable enough, even though Hagberg has tweaked the characters considerably (Dale is now Zarkov's niece, for instance), and completely ignores the comic strip backstory. There's no Mongo or Ming, and the stories are set in a cold, culturally sterile, highly-automated 22nd century, with our heroes - initially - operating as special agents for the Earth government. Oddly, the characters and set-up (though not the scope of the story) most resembles the 1950s TV incarnation of the property, which starred model/actor Steve Holland as Flash, who was portrayed as an agent of the Intergalactic Bureau of Investigation along with Zarkov and Dale.

Like I said, they're entertaining novels and fairly well-written. But the best thing about them are the cover paintings, the first four of which were the work of acclaimed fantasy artist Boris Vallejo. The covers have a great, classic pulp sci-fi flavor, and, interestingly, costume Flash in tank tops reminiscent of those given to Sam J. Jones to wear in the DeLaurentis film. I also find it notable that Vallejo's Flash resembles the aforementioned Steve Holland from the 50s show. Holland was a popular artist's model and posed for many, many paperback cover artists throughout the years, well into the 90s. I wonder if Vallejo employed him for these covers? According to the artist's book, Fantasy Art Techniques, he usually hired bodybuilders to model for him - or used himself for a model - so I suppose it's a possiblity.

Anyway, I have four of the six paperbacks now, and will order the last two soon. Then, I'll start working on completing my collection of the Buck Rogers paperback novel series plotted by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (but actually written by a handful of other writers) for Ace Books around the same time....


  1. Ironically, Boris was the only artist not to use Steve Holland as his Doc Savage cover model.
    He used himself.

    And the Ace Buck books are very well-done followups to the Niven-Pournelle update.
    The two middle ones Warriors' Blood and Warriors' World by Richard McEnroe are the best.

  2. Yeah - I thought that Boris usually posed for his own stuff, but that face - especially on the second and third paintings - really resembles Holland.

  3. Loved these books as a kid, and have long thought I was the only one who ever knew of them. Like you, Christopher, I always admired the cover art. I don't recall ever hearing about the Niven/Pournelle Buck Rogers novels... looking forward to more information about those.

  4. There were four books...
    In chronological order
    Mordred (John Eric Holmes)
    Warrior's Blood & Warrior's World (actually a two-parter by Richard McEnroe)
    and Rogers' Rangers (John Silbersack)
    Unfortunately, they were released over the space of four years (1980-83), and weren't grouped together the way Star Wars or other series books are in the stores.
    Note: Niven and Pournelle did a rewrite of Armageddon 2419 AD whch was released in 78-79 as "the Seminal 'Buck Rogers' Novel" in order to establish a new copyright. (Note that this version has not been reprinted.)

    Notice of new copyright...

  5. Britt - I have Mordred and Warrior's World already; I need the other two, plus the Niven/Pournelle rewrite of Armageddon.

    Once I'm finished with the Flash Gordon books (I still have the last two of those to get), I'll hunt down the Buck volumes.