Mongo (fictional planet)
Map of the planet Mongo
|Notable races||Hawkmen, Lion Men, Gillmen|
Mongo is a fictional planet where the comic strip (and later movie serials) of Flash Gordon takes place. Mongo was created by the comics artist Alex Raymond in 1934, with the assistance of Raymond's ghostwriter Don Moore.  Mongo depicted as being ruled by a usurper named Ming the Merciless, who is shown as ruling Mongo in a harsh and oppressive manner.
Mongo is shown as being inhabited by different cultures. Some are technologically advanced, but almost all of them are falling under the domination of the tyrant Ming. In all the versions of the Flash Gordon story, Flash Gordon is shown as unifying the peoples of Mongo against Ming, and eventually removes him from power. Later stories depict Mongo under the rule of its rightful leader, Prince Barin.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Alex Raymond's Depiction of Mongo
- 3 Later Depictions of Mongo
- 4 Cartography
- 5 Mongo in other media
- 5.1 Radio
- 5.2 Film
- 5.3 Television
- 5.4 Role-Playing Games
- 6 Critical Analysis
- 7 References
- 8 External links
In the Flash Gordon comic strips and comic books, Mongo is usually depicted as Earth-like. Its atmosphere is compatible with Terran life, and the dominant species on Mongo are human-like, such as Ming's people and the Arborians. Other peoples of Mongo have evolved into different forms, such as the winged Hawkmen, the tailed Lion Men, and the underwater dwelling Coralians. Mongo is about half the diameter of Earth but is considerably denser, so its gravity is only slightly weaker than the Earth's, though it still allows Flash Gordon to put his gymnastics skills to good use. Mongo has a variety of climates, and is inhabited by enormous, dinosaur-like monsters.
Alex Raymond's Depiction of Mongo
Mongo was first introduced in the comic strip as a "rogue planet", threatening to collide with Earth. After Hans Zarkov abducted Flash Gordon and Dale Arden, they crash-landed Zarkov's rocket ship on Mongo near Mingo City, Ming's capital. Mingo City is near the equator of the planet. Under Mingo City is a power station where the Power Men of Mongo, a group of electrical engineers led by Ergon, work. In some versions of the comic strip, Mingo City is renamed "Alania" after Ming's overthrow. Part of the planet is covered by the forest kingdom of Arboria, ruled by Prince Barin. Arboria has enormous trees resembling giant redwoods. An area of mountains and caverns makes up the frozen kingdom of Frigia, ruled by Barin's cousin, Queen Fria. Frigia has enormous, ostrich-like "snowbirds" that the inhabitants ride. To the west is the Sea of Mystery, location of the underwater kingdom of Coralia, ruled by Queen Undina. Nearby is the city of the Shark Men, led by Ming supporter King Kala. Bordering the sea is the Land of the Lion Men, ruled by King Thun.
East of the Lion Men's kingdom are the Magnetic Mountains, where Ming the Merciless established a new base of operations after he was defeated and removed from Mongo's throne. North of this is the Sky City of the Hawkmen, led by Vultan. To the South it is claimed the Monkey Men live. Between Mingo City and Sky City is the land of the Brown Dwarves. Across the eastern ocean there are two island continents. One is the jungle continent of Tropica, ruled by Queen Desira, which also contains the Fire Lands, home of Gundar the Desert Hawk and his Bedouin-like tribe. To the north-west of Tropica is an "Unexplored Continent". Mongo also has extensive underground domains. One of these domains is Kira the Cave World. Kira's capital is Syk, ruled by the evil Queen Azura, ruler of the Blue Magic Men. Kira is also inhabited by Lizard Men who capture and eat the other inhabitants of Mongo. In the volcanoes near Kira dwell the Fire People, who wear suits of asbestos armour. The Fire People are led by Ming's ally King Orax.
Mongo is ruled from Mingo City. Mongo's political structure is portrayed as exclusively monarchical. Each realm Flash Gordon visits has its own king or queen. At the start of the strip, most of the kingdoms of Mongo are under Ming's suzerainty, and their rulers always follow Ming's commands. The exceptions are Prince Barin and Thun, ruler of the Lion Men.
Thun informs Flash Gordon that Barin should be the emperor, but he adds that in his view this would be no improvement. Ming's authority appears to be based as much on his vast military power as on his legal position. A reference is made to legends that Ming once was the high priest of an ancient Mongovian king, and that he (Ming) launched invasions 'long and long ago'. Ming claims to be immortal, and these tales may be meant to support this.
When Flash Gordon arrives on Mongo, he finds Prince Barin is leading a guerrilla war against Ming from Arboria. Thun the Lion Man is also Ming's active enemy. However, Prince Barin is at odds with the Lion Men and almost everyone else. Gordon learns that "every race on Mongo is an enemy to every other race" and "each man stands alone on Mongo". Much of Gordon's effort is directed toward overcoming this mutual antipathy.
The social structure of Mongo is oppressive. Ming uses slave labor to mine radioactive elements for power and industry. Thun tells Gordon that one week in the mines can damage your health, and 100 days is the life span of the workers. Ming's beautiful daughter Aura hunts people for excitement. In Tropica, the villain Brazor usurps the rightful ruler Queen Desira and becomes' the area's tyrannical despot. Flash leads a rebellion against Brazor (who briefly replaced Ming as the comic strip's main antagonist) and eventually defeats him.
The lesser rulers of Mongo also practice slavery. The Hawkmen of King Vultan use slave labor from rival states in high-radiation work, and even Prince Barin hunts political enemies for sport. King Vultan of the flying Hawkmen has ambitions of becoming Ming's son-in-law by a forced marriage to Ming's daughter Aura. The various nations view all outsiders as enemies to be slain or exploited. Of all the rulers Flash meets, Thun is consistently the most honorable, loyal, and decent.
Later Depictions of Mongo
After Raymond left the Flash Gordon strip in 1944, his successors would add new characters and locations to Mongo. Austin Briggs created Kang the Cruel, the son of Ming. Kang would depose Barin and take over Mongo, resulting in Flash leading another rebellion. Mac Raboy created several new elements for the fictional planet's mythology, including giving Mongo two moons, Lunita and Exilia, as well as the ice kingdom of Polaria, ruled by the tyrant Polon, (who has the power to shrink or enlarge living things). Jim Keefe made the Unexplored Continent the location where the villain Garakahn had his fortress.
In the 2011 Dynamite Comics Flash Gordon:Zeitgeist, Ming opens a portal between dimensions to enable Mongo to attack Earth in the year 1934. This story also describes Mongo as the "Crossroads of the Known Universes". The prequel, Merciless:The Rise of Ming depicts Ming's ascent to power over Mongo. In this version Emperor Krang, wishes to unite Mongo's five warring realms (Arboria, Ardentia, Aerie, Aquaria, and Frigia). Krang's song, Ming, eventually does so by force. In the later Dynamite Flash Gordon series, Mongo is the base of Ming's empire. Mongo harbours a "Valley of Portals" which contains portals which lead to the other worlds Ming rules, including Arboria and Coralia.
Arlene Williamson (the first wife of Al Williamson) and Jim Keefe both drew maps of the planet Mongo, based closely on Raymond's stories. The game Flash Gordon & the Warriors of Mongo (see below), also featured Lin Carter's map of the planet, similar to the Arlene Williamson version.
Mongo in other media
Starting April 22, 1935, the radio serial The Amazing Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon, began aired. The series featured stories set on Mongo, closely following the plot of the comic strip.
Flash Gordon (1936 serial)
Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe
The second Flash Gordon serial was set on Mars, but the third returned to Mongo. In Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe Flash and his friends travel to Mongo's land of Frigia to find a cure for the Purple Death, which is ravishing Earth.
Flash Gordon (1980 film)
In the Flash Gordon film from 1980, Mongo is depicted as a barren world covered with tall, very slender hills that look like spikes, but with a very colorful extended atmosphere that is capable of supporting the weight of various miles-wide chunks of rock that are called "moons", including Arboria and Frigia. The people of Mongo resemble humans but with slight differences, such as having blue or green blood, or having their bodies undergo rapid disintegration when killed.
The New Adventures of Flash Gordon
This 1979 version depicted a planet Mongo similar to Raymond's original comic strips, featuring the kingdoms and peoples, and rulers who feature prominently in the 1930s stories. However, some minor changes were made (the Lion Men had the heads of lions in addition to tails, and Brazor was renamed "Braznor"). It also featured a storyline involving the underground caverns of the Witch Kingdom of Sykland. Queen Azura, the ruler, becomes convinced that Gordan is the reincarnation of Ghor-Dhan, the legendary founder of Syk.
Defenders of the Earth
Flash Gordon (1996 TV series)
In this animated version, Flash, Dale and Zarkov arrive on Mongo through a dimensional portal. They are trapped on the planet after sealing the portal to stop Ming using it to invade earth. This version renamed the Hawkmen "Birdmen" and the Lion Men "Leonids".
Flash Gordon (2007 TV series)
In the Scifi Channel series Flash Gordon, Mongo is a planet, "in another dimension" (i.e. parallel universe). It is explained that "the dimensional shift" is "quite small" and that there is an inherent connection between Earth and Mongo, where the quantum mechanics of Bell's theorem and EPR paradox are working on a planetary scale. That is why there are so many similarities between both worlds, including language and Homo Sapiens evolving on both planets. It is theorized that at some point in time and space, the two planets were much closer. Mongo's government is called the "United Peoples of Mongo", ruled by Emperor Ming.
In the episode Sorrow, it is revealed that Mongo was once a prosperous blue and green planet; it relied on a glowing red ore called zerilium that was mined on the moon. Mongo's inhabitants even built two small artificial moons named Arkaylia and Surd to process zerilium and shelter the miners. An accident on Mongo released poisonous zerilium gas into the air, which caused acid rain, killed wildlife, and contaminated Mongo's water.  The planet became uninhabitable. A small portion of Mongo's people emigrated to Arkaylia. After three generations on the artificial moon, Mongo's environment partially repaired itself. As a result, the people returned to the planet. Clean water, known as "source water", still remained scarce and came from underground. Centuries later, Ming seized power and began his rule.
The 1977 Fantasy Games Unlimited role-playing game Flash Gordon & the Warriors of Mongo used the planet Mongo as its setting. The game was designed by science fiction writer Lin Carter and game designer Scott Bizar. Players took the role of rebels attempting to recruit the various peoples of Mongo to rebel against Ming. The game had information describing the various realms of the planet.
Comics historian Ron Goulart suggests that the plot of Mongo threatening to collide with Earth was inspired by the novel When Worlds Collide by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer, while the societies on the planet were informed by the works of popular science fiction writers Edgar Rice Burroughs and Abraham Merritt.  Film historian Michael Benson describes Mongo as "as a combination of the futuristic and the primitive. Though their technology is advanced, their Hollywood costumes resemble those of the Roman Empire. Mongonian soldiers, despite their superior arsenal, would prefer to draw swords for battle". Academic John Cheng identifies themes of yellow peril in depictions of Mongo's politics. Cheng calls these themes "different and more radical", as Ming's control of Mongo is absolute and openly acknowledged instead of a secret and shadowy conspiracy. Though they are the invaders, Flash Gordon and his friends are depicted as liberators of planet Mongo. Cheng states that their use of excorporation in order to weaken and ultimately unseat Ming reinforces his nature as "familiarly Asian".
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