A graduate of the Kubert School, Jim started his career as the head colorist in the King Features Syndicate comic art department, coloring such world-renowned strips as Blondie, Beetle Bailey and Hagar the Horrible.
From 1996-2003 he was the writer and artist of Flash Gordon for King Features Syndicate.
Teaching and speaking engagements include the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, Hofstra’s UCCE Youth Programs in Long Island, New York, the University of Minnesota – and most recently as an Adjunct Teacher at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
Keefe currently is the artist of the Sally Forth comic strip, written by Francesco Marciuliano. Sally Forth is syndicated worldwide by King Features and appears in nearly 700 newspapers.
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Old Superheroes Never Die, They Join the Real World
By Alex Beam
BOSTON IS UNDER ATTACK!
That’s right, Ming the Merciless has unleashed his hideous Gorkons on Boston Common, and they are wreaking havoc from the harbor all the way to Copley Square. President Clinton has authorized a full-bore aerial attack on Ming’s minions, which gives Flash Gordon just enough time to reenter the space portal and, next week: RETURN TO MONGO!
Flash Gordon – August 29, 1999
What brings Flash Gordon riding to the defense of the aptly named Hub of the Universe, you might ask? For one thing, current Flash Gordon artist Jim Keefe has an aunt here, and he plans to draw her a cameo role when the Boston story concludes next month. But perhaps more important, Boston is the last major city in America to carry the 65-year-old strip. ”Flash appears in just a handful of US papers,” explains Keefe, the ninth in a distinguished series of ”Flash” artists. ”Adventure strips are not as prominent as they used to be.”
What happened? What didn’t happen might be a more appropriate question. Television; ”Star Trek”; ”Star Wars”; declining newspaper circulation. The great stories that command the attention of children and adults alike just don’t run on the comics pages any more.
But in 1934, all the great adventure stories ran on the comic pages, and the powerful King Features Syndicate had a cosmic problem: His name was Buck Rogers, and he belonged to a competitor. King decided to vaporize Buck with a Sunday page, featuring two new adventure stories, both drawn by the legendary Alex Raymond: ”Jungle Jim,” a knockoff of the popular ”Tarzan” strip, and ”Flash Gordon.” King also assigned Raymond a daily strip, ”Secret Agent X-9,” written by Dashiell Hammett.
The agent and the ersatz ape-man didn’t last long, but Flash caught on. The art was bold, and the stories pitting the ”renowned polo player and Yale graduate,” his lady companion Dale Arden, and scientist pal Dr. Hans Zarkov against Ming, the tyrannical emperor of Mongo, won Flash a huge following. Within just a few years, Flash was a multimedia hero, boasting a daily comic strip, a novel, and three famous movie serials, starring Buster Crabbe as Flash and Charles Middleton as Ming. There was also a radio program and a television series.
Raymond quit the strip to join the Marines during World War II, then returned stateside to place yet another star in the comic strip firmament: ”Rip Kirby.” A fast-car aficionado, Raymond died tragically at age 46, behind the wheel of a Corvette belonging to Stan Drake, who drew ”Blondie” and ”The Heart of Juliet Jones.” But Flash was well launched into a life of his own. George Lucas has acknowledged that he borrowed the famous ”Star Wars” opening screen crawl (”A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away … ”) from the movie serial ”Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe.” And insiders know that Princess Leia’s honey-bun hairdo really belongs to Princess Fria, queen of the arctic kingdom Frigia, who was once hot to separate Flash from Dale.
So … will Boston survive? ”There’s a lot of damage, and the Common is pretty badly trampled,” Keefe says from the shelter of his Long Island home. ”But Boston will be saved.” And Flash? It turns out he has quite a following overseas, and King Features has no plans to decommission him.
What’s funny about the preceding article is that when it originally ran in the Boston Globe it didn’t include the Flash Gordon Sunday page. Flash Gordon ran in the Boston Herald, and so fierce was the rivalry between the Globe and the Herald that the Herald wouldn’t give the Globe the rights to run it – even though the Boston Globe was in essence promoting a comic strip in the Boston Herald.
Fun fact: The reason I picked Boston for this Flash Gordon story was that my Uncle Whit and Aunt Pat lived there. When I was 13 my Aunt Pat – who had always encouraged my interest in drawing – had clipped the Spider-Man comic strip from their local paper and mailed it to me in Minneapolis for years. This after a letter sent to my local paper voicing my displeasure that the Spider-Man strip had been dropped wound up being printed in their “Letters to the Editor” page.
To say thanks years later, I gave her and my Uncle Whit a cameo in the strip. Hint: They’re the elderly couple in the last few panels.
Full Disclosure: This was a post done for CBR.com back in 2008 by Joe Rice titled,Definitive List of the Five Best Flashes Ever Anywhere. The only reason I’m reposting/reformatting it here is because the archived link is formatted a little wonky in its current form – plus he used a drawing I did for the pic of Flash Gordon (which I got a big kick out of).
Comics and nerd “culture” have long been blessed with awesome characters named “Flash.” In the usual CSBG style of pentatonic lists, I will now display the absolute facts as to who is best.
5. Funky Flashman
First off, he was made by Jack Kirby, so that’s got him some cred right there. Secondly, he’s a parody of Stan the Man after Stan totally screwed Jack over. Thirdly, he wears a toupee on his head . . .AND ONE ON HIS FACE. The beard is fake! That’s so awesome that I can’t get over it. But it’s not nearly as awesome as that cravat. Goddam, I love a good cravat.
4. Flash Gordon
Just look at that guy. I want you to tell me right now that he won’t stone laser your face off. You can’t tell me that because he obviously will. His shirt’s all ripped and he is hard. Look at those eyes. Are they a killer’s eyes? They are an awesome laserer’s eyes I know that much. You only wish you had the cajones to step to a man like Flash Gordon. You don’t. NO ONE DOES.
Except maybe for this dude here!
3. Sgt. Flash
Awwww, yeah. GI Joe’s original laser trooper expert. You always knew he was cool because he had red pads and a weapon that doesn’t really make sense in any battlefield sense. You know what I would give for slacks like that? A few babies, that’s what (any ethnicity). I always liked Flash, and that makes him awesome.
Almost as awesome as this man right here.
2. Flash Thompson
Look at him. He’s got a sweet sweater with his last initial on it. The ladies love him. And he gives that unbelievable tool Parker just what he deserves. And please don’t think I’m being sarcastic here. Can you imagine having to deal with that whining ninny in high school? I bet you can because you did. That’s because school’s don’t have proper alpha males like Flash Thompson anymore. Sure, Steve Ditko played him as a bad guy, but that’s because Ditko was a nerdy freak, too. Flash Thompson is frickin cool.
And the greatest Flash of all time?
This guy with his name misspelled. Seriously, screw all those red and yellow fast crapfaces. Barry’s boring, Wally’s a former Teen Titan and therefore a giant entitled Gen X/Boomer whiner. And Jay is old and therefore probably a Republican. And running really fast is dumb as a power, so they give them everything else in the world.