Alex Raymond (1909–1956): The Legendary Cartoonist Behind Flash Gordon and Rip Kirby

Alex Raymond aka Alexander Gillespie Raymond (1909–1956)

Alexander Gillespie Raymond Jr. aka Alex Raymond (October 2, 1909 – September 6, 1956) was a renowned American cartoonist and illustrator celebrated for creating the iconic Flash Gordon comic strip under King Features Syndicate in 1934. Flash Gordon’s popularity led to adaptations across various media, including three Universal movie serials (1936’s Flash Gordon, 1938’s Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars, and 1940’s Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe), a 1950s television series, and a 1980 feature film.

Raymond’s artistic journey began with his father’s early encouragement of his drawing talents. In the early 1930s, he commenced his career as an assistant illustrator on strips like Tillie the Toiler and Tim Tyler’s Luck. Towards the end of 1933, Raymond embarked on the epic science fiction adventure of Flash Gordon, intended to rival the famous Buck Rogers comic strip. Soon, Flash Gordon soared in popularity, becoming the favored strip.

In addition to Flash Gordon, Raymond concurrently worked on the thrilling jungle adventure saga Jungle Jim and the espionage-filled Secret Agent X-9. However, his increasing workload led him to hand over Secret Agent X-9 to another artist by 1935. In 1944, Raymond left these strips to join the Marines, serving in combat in the Pacific Ocean theater in 1945 and receiving his demobilization in 1946.

Upon returning to civilian life, Raymond unveiled the highly acclaimed Rip Kirby, a private detective comic strip he created and illustrated. Tragically, in 1956, at 46, Raymond died in a car accident.

He earned the moniker “the artist’s artist,” and his distinctive style became a source of inspiration for numerous artists. Raymond’s work was marked using live models provided by Manhattan’s Walter Thornton Agency. This approach was illustrated in “Modern Jules Verne,” a profile of Raymond published in the Dell Four-Color Flash Gordon #10 (1942), showcasing how Patricia Quinn from Thornton Agency posed as a character in the strip.

Many prominent comic artists, including Jack Kirby, Bob Kane, Russ Manning, and Al Williamson, acknowledged Raymond as a significant influence on their work. George Lucas even cited Raymond as a major inspiration for the creation of Star Wars. In 1996, Raymond was rightfully inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. Maurice Horn praised Raymond for possessing “the most versatile talent” among all comic strip creators and described his style as “precise, clear, and incisive.” Carl Barks also commended Raymond for his ability to blend craftsmanship, emotion, and adventure in his strips. Raymond’s enduring influence on cartoonists continued long after his passing, a testament to the lasting impact of his work.

Alex Raymond

Alex Raymond

Born: October 2, 1909

Died: September 6, 1956

Nationality: American

Occupation: Cartoonist, Illustrator

Known For: Flash Gordon, Rip Kirby

Awards: Reuben Award (1949), Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame (1996)

Early Life and Artistic Beginnings

Alexander Raymond’s journey into art was greatly influenced by his father, a civil engineer and road builder who recognized and nurtured his son’s early drawing talent. Young Alex’s artistic inclination led him to the Grand Central School of Art in New York City, where he honed his skills. He initially worked as an order clerk in Wall Street but soon realized his true passion lay in illustration.

Raymond’s introduction to the world of comic art came through his work with Russ Westover on the “Tillie the Toiler” strip. This opportunity opened doors, eventually leading him to join King Features Syndicate as a staff artist. Here, he would produce some of the most iconic comic art of the era.


Cartoonist and comic strip artist. Worked at a Wall Street brokerage house, c. 1929; served as assistant to cartoonist Russ Westover on Tillie the Toiler, 1930–31; King Features Syndicate, New York, NY, an assistant on such comic strips as Tim Tyler’s Luck and Blondie, 1931–33, artist on the comic trip secret Agent X-9 (with writer Dashiell Hammett), 1934–35, creator (with Don Moore) and artist on the comic strip Flash Gordon, 1934–44, creator (with Don Moore) and artist on the comic strip Jungle Jim, 1934–44, creator and artist on the comic strip Rip Kirby, 1946–56. Military service: U.S. Marine Corps, 1944–46; served as a public information officer and combat artist; became major.

4 Flash - Alex Raymond (1909–1956): The Legendary Cartoonist Behind Flash Gordon and Rip Kirby

Military Service

In 1944, as World War II raged on, Raymond left the comic world temporarily to join the U.S. Marine Corps. Commissioned as a captain, he served in the public relations arm. His patriotic spirit and artistic talents found an outlet as he created powerful wartime imagery, including the iconic “Marines at Prayer” and the official 1944 Marine Corps Christmas card.

Raymond’s fellow Marines, avid “Flash Gordon” fans, treated him like a celebrity. He saw combat in the Pacific Ocean theater and was made an honorary member of VMTB-143, known as “The Rocket Raiders,” for his design of their squadron patch.

Return to Civilian Life: Rip Kirby

Demobilized as a major in 1946, Raymond returned to civilian life. However, he couldn’t immediately return to “Flash Gordon.” King Features Syndicate had moved on with another artist, leaving Raymond somewhat cast aside. Instead, he was offered the opportunity to create a new strip.

And so, in 1946, “Rip Kirby” was born. This police daily strip featured J. Remington “Rip” Kirby, an ex-Marine turned private detective. Unlike the stereotypical detectives of the time, Rip Kirby was modern and intellectual and smoked a leisurely pipe while solving cases. The strip showcased Raymond’s ability to adapt to changing times and introduced readers to a more sophisticated, contemporary world of detective work.

Alex Raymond

The Birth of Flash Gordon

In the early 1930s, King Features Syndicate assigned Raymond the task of creating a new Sunday page that could rival the success of the Buck Rogers comic strip. Alongside writer Don Moore, Raymond unleashed “Flash Gordon” upon the world in 1934. This science fiction epic introduced readers to the world-famous polo player Flash Gordon, who, alongside Dale Arden and Dr. Hans Zarkov, embarked on thrilling space adventures on Mongo, ruled by the menacing Emperor Ming. The strip’s wit and pacing quickly made it a fan favorite, surpassing the popularity of Buck Rogers.

Alex Raymond aka Alexander Gillespie Raymond (1909–1956)


National Cartoonists Society (president, 1950–51).

Awards and Recognition

Raymond received numerous accolades throughout his career, including a Reuben Award from the National Cartoonists Society in 1949 for his work on “Rip Kirby.” He also served as the society’s president from 1950 to 1952. In 1996, he was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame, cementing his status as one of the greats in the comic world. In 2014, he was further honored with induction into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.


Comic Strips

  1. Secret Agent X-9, in collaboration with Dashiell Hammett, was published by King Features Syndicate from 1934 to 1935.
  2. Flash Gordon was featured in King Features Syndicate’s publications from 1934 to 1944.
  3. Rip Kirby graced the pages of King Features Syndicate’s publications from 1946 to 1956.

Comic Strip Collections

Books by Alex Raymond:

“Secret Agent X-9” (with Dashiell Hammett)

Original Publisher: David McKay (Philadelphia, PA), 1934

Reprint Publisher: Kitchen Sink Press (Princeton, WI), 1990

“Flash Gordon in the Caverns of Mongo”

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 1937

“Flash Gordon”

Publisher: Nostalgia Press (New York, NY), 1967

“Scuttle Watch” (Illustrator)

Publisher: W.S. Sullwold (Taunton, MA), 1970

“Flash Gordon into the Water World of Mongo”

Publisher: Nostalgia Press (New York, NY), 1971

“Secret Agent X-9: The Detective Classic from the Comics’ Golden Age” (with Dashiell Hammett)

Publisher: Nostalgia Press (New York, NY), 1976

“Dashiell Hammett’s Secret Agent X-9” (with Dashiell Hammett)

Publisher: International Polygonics (New York, NY), 1983

“Flash Gordon: Mongo, Planet of Doom”

Publisher: Kitchen Sink Press (Princeton, WI), 1990

“Flash Gordon: Three against Ming”

Publisher: Kitchen Sink Press (Princeton, WI), 1991

“Flash Gordon: Tides of Battle”

Publisher: Kitchen Sink Press (Princeton, WI), 1991

“Flash Gordon: Fall of Ming”

Publisher: Kitchen Sink Press (Princeton, WI), 1992

“Flash Gordon: 1941–1943, Between Worlds at War”

Publisher: Kitchen Sink Press (Princeton, WI), 1993

“Flash Gordon: 1943–1944, Triumph in Tropica”

Publisher: Kitchen Sink Press (Princeton, WI), 1994

“Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon”

Publisher: Checker Book Publishing Group (Miamisburg, OH), 2003

“Alex Raymond: His Life and Art” (by Tom Roberts, with foreword by George Lucas and introduction by James Bama)

Publisher: Adventure House Publishing (Silver Spring, MD), 2004

Collections of Flash Gordon Comics:

  • “Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon” (Multiple Volumes)
    • Publisher: Checker Book Publishing (Miamisburg, OH)
    • Volume 1, 2004
    • Volume 2, 2004
    • Volume 3, 2005
    • Volume 4, 2006
    • Volume 5, 2005

Other Flash Gordon Books:

  • “Flash Gordon in the Ice Kingdom of Mongo,” 1967
  • “Flash Gordon: The Planet Mongo,” 1974
  • “Flash Gordon in the Underwater World of Mongo,” 1975
  • “Time Trap of Ming,” 1976
  • “Flash Gordon Escapes to Arboria,” 1978
  • “Flash Gordon versus Frozen Horrors,” 1978
  • “Flash Gordon Joins the Power Men,” 1978
  • “Flash Gordon: Mongo, the Planet of Doom,” 1990


  • Contributor of illustrations to periodicals, including Life and Esquire.


  • Flash Gordon has appeared in either reprint form or new adventures from several comic book publishers, including Dell Comics, Harvey Comics, Gold Key Comics, King Comics, Charlton Comics, Marvel Comics, and DC Comics.
  • A novel titled “Flash Gordon in The Caverns of Mongo,” credited to Alex Raymond and published by Grosset & Dunlap, appeared in 1936.

Alex Raymond aka Alexander Gillespie Raymond (1909–1956)


Raymond’s literary works have been adapted into various films and television productions. Notable among these are the movie serials, such as Flash Gordon (1936, Universal, thirteen episodes), Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938, Universal, fifteen episodes), and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940, Universal, twelve episodes), all featuring Buster Crabbe in the lead role. The radio serial, The Amazing Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon, debuted in 1935.

Raymond’s creative universe also extended to the big screen with adaptations like the Jungle Jim films, including Killer Ape (1954, Columbia) and Jungle Man-Eaters (1954, Columbia). In 1980, Universal released a film titled Flash Gordon.

Furthermore, the enduring appeal of the Flash Gordon concept has given rise to parodies, exemplified by Flesh Gordon (1974) and its sequel, Flesh Gordon Meets the Cosmic Cheerleaders (1989).

On the small screen, Raymond’s works found a place in television productions like Flash Gordon (1953, Inter-Continental Film Productions), The New Animated Adventures of Flash Gordon (1979, Filmation), Defenders of the Earth (1986, King Features), and Flash Gordon (1996, Hearst Entertainment).

Raymond’s creations also made their mark in the realm of sound recordings, with titles like Flash Gordon (1973, Mark 56 Records), Jungle Jim (1973, Mark 56 Records), and Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars, narrated by Buster Crabbe (1976, Pelican Records).

Notably 2004, director Stephen Sommers acquired the film rights to Flash Gordon, signaling the enduring legacy of Raymond’s imaginative world on the silver screen.

Alex Raymond

Parallel Adventures and Influence

Raymond was content with more than one successful strip. In addition to “Flash Gordon,” he concurrently worked on “Jungle Jim” and “Secret Agent X-9.” “Jungle Jim” was an adventurous saga set in Southeast Asia, and it was not just a topper but a narrative gem in its own right. Raymond’s versatility and dedication to detail shone through in these strips.

His influence profoundly inspired a generation of comic artists, including Jack Kirby, Bob Kane, Russ Manning, and Al Williamson. Notably, George Lucas cited Raymond as a significant influence on “Star Wars,” showcasing the enduring impact of his work.

Alex Raymond


Alex Raymond is celebrated as the iconic cartoonist behind the creation of the beloved comic strip Flash Gordon. With a profound influence on subsequent generations of comic artists, he pioneered a distinctive “dry-brush” style characterized by intricately rendered characters and finely detailed settings. Raymond’s journey in cartooning began with his ghostwriting for Tillie the Toiler in 1930 and 1931. Subsequently, he collaborated with Lyman Young on Tim Tyler’s Luck and joined forces with Lyman’s brother, Chic Young, for Blondie.

In 1933, Raymond created two iconic strips, Flash Gordon and the jungle adventure series Jungle Jim, in partnership with Don Moore. Flash Gordon, a science-fiction adventure inspired by the wildly successful Buck Rogers, debuted in 1934 and quickly became a sensation.

Although the storytelling in Flash Gordon was criticized as “abysmal,” as noted by Richard Marschall in America’s Great Comic-Strip Artists, Raymond’s visual storytelling transcended these narrative limitations. Marschall remarked that his work evolved into a potent, opulent style characterized by intense character portrayals, majestic poses, dramatic compositions, and a unique approach to realization that brought romanticism to the comics.

Reviewing a collection of these iconic strips in Flash Gordon: The Planet Mongo, a critic from Time marveled that even after forty years, Raymond “still seems to be some sort of genius.”

Alex Raymond aka Alexander Gillespie Raymond (1909–1956)

Raymond’s Flash Gordon comic strips were meticulously reprinted chronologically within the multi-volume series “Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon.” The inaugural Volume 1 commenced with the strip’s debut in 1934, encompassing content from the latter part of that year to 1935. These reprints faithfully resurrected the characters in their original incarnations, notably the internationally acclaimed Polo player and Ivy-League Yale graduate Flash Gordon. This presentation of Gordon portrayed him as a considerably more intellectual character than some later adaptations depicted.

Critics consistently commented on the pulpy and campy nature of the writing while simultaneously extolling the sophisticated, illustration-quality artwork crafted by Raymond. A reviewer from Publishers Weekly, though critical of the reproduction size and quality, lauded Raymond’s work for its “lavish drawings” and “lush renderings and stylized fantasy.”

In Volume 2, comprising strips from 1935 to 1936, readers followed Flash, Dale, and Dr. Zarkov on their swashbuckling escapades against the formidable Ming the Merciless on the enigmatic planet Mongo. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted, “Outstanding art overcomes weak scripts in this sci-fi classic.” They also praised Raymond’s ability to breathe life into the characters with his “wonderful brushed ink illustrations.” Gordon Flagg, a Booklist critic, acknowledged that the writing by Don Moore leaned towards the pulpy and unsophisticated, yet pointed out that Flash Gordon, despite its lineage with Buck Rogers, outshone its predecessor due to Raymond’s marvelous artwork.

With Volume 3, encompassing the 1936–38 strips, Raymond honed his “lush, romantic style,” which would influence subsequent generations of comic artists. In another Booklist review, Flagg commented on the expansion of the storyline to more exotic regions of Mongo and the introduction of pivotal characters like King Barin of Arboria. While modern critics often derided Flash Gordon as somewhat ludicrous, Flagg concluded that the strip’s actual value lay not in its writing or narrative but in Raymond’s exquisite artistry, which elevated its aesthetic appeal.

Alex Raymond aka Alexander Gillespie Raymond (1909–1956)

Raymond collaborated with mystery writer Dashiell Hammett to develop the comic strip Secret Agent X-9, which ran from early 1934 to late 1935. During this period, Flash Gordon was undergoing adaptations for radio and film serials featuring Olympic gold medal swimmer Buster Crabbe. Following a tour with the Marine Corps, where Raymond served in the Pacific theater as a combat artist, he introduced the detective strip Rip Kirby.

Unlike Flash Gordon, which seemed influenced by Buck Rogers, Rip Kirby emerged as a distinctive comic-strip hero. In contrast to the rugged, hardboiled detective characters like Dick Tracy, Rip Kirby was a cerebral crime-solver who valued intellect over physical strength. However, given his Marine background, he was proficient in combat when circumstances demanded it.

Raymond’s artistic prowess reached its zenith with Rip Kirby, a strip described by Marschall as “his most mature work.” Departing from his earlier approaches, Raymond brought a dynamic perspective to the strip, skillfully manipulating the point-of-view camera.

Unfortunately, Raymond’s illustrious career was tragically cut short by a fatal automobile accident. Nevertheless, many of his comic strips have been meticulously preserved and compiled into books. Marschall aptly noted that Raymond, who served as a teacher through his exemplary work, remained a dedicated student of the comic strip until his last day. His continuous dedication to advancing comics as an art form solidified his status as one of America’s preeminent comic strip artists.

Alex Raymond aka Alexander Gillespie Raymond (1909–1956)

Biographical and Critical Sources


  1. Clute, John, and Peter Nicholls (Editors). “Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.” Published by St. Martin’s Press, New York, NY in 1993.
  2. Falk, Peter Hastings (Editor). “Who Was Who in American Art.” Published by Sound View Press, Madison, CT in 1985.
  3. Marschall, Richard. “America’s Great Comic-Strip Artists.” Published by Abbeville Press, New York, NY in 1989.
Alexraymond by origa
Alex Raymond by Origa


In Booklist:

  • October 1, 2004: Gordon Flagg’s review of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, Volume 2 on page 320.
  • April 15, 2005: Gordon Flagg’s review of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, Volume 3 on page 1444.
  • September 15, 2005: Gordon Flagg’s review of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, Volume 4 on page 40.

In Choice:

  • January 1975: A review of Flash Gordon: The Planet Mongo on page 1592.

In Library Journal:

  • April 1, 1972: A review of Flash Gordon in the Ice Kingdom of Mongo on page 1312.
  • April 1, 1990: A review of Flash Gordon in the Underwater Kingdom of Mongo on page 113.
  • March 15, 2005: Steve Raiteri’s “Graphic Novels” review of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, Volume 2 on page 64.

In Publishers Weekly:

  • November 3, 2003: A review of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, Volume 1 on page 56.
  • October 4, 2004: A review of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, Volume 2 on page 72.

In Time:

  • December 16, 1974: A review of Flash Gordon: The Planet Mongo on page 97.

Legacy and Influence

Alex Raymond’s legacy in the world of comic art is immeasurable. His distinctive style, characterized by photorealistic artistry, elegant linework, and meticulous attention to detail, set new standards in the industry. Using “pools of quiet” in black areas added depth and emotion to his strips.

Raymond’s influence extended beyond comics into other art forms. He inspired not only fellow comic artists but also filmmakers like George Lucas. His impact on the medium is often likened to that of Hal Foster and Milton Caniff.

Alex Raymond

Personal Life and Tragic End

In his personal life, Raymond married Helen Frances Williams in 1930, with whom he had five children. Interestingly, the names of his three daughters found their way into his comic work, notably in the character Judith Lynne “Honey” Dorian.

Sadly, Raymond’s life was cut short at 46 in a tragic automobile accident in Westport, Connecticut 1956. The circumstances surrounding his death remain a subject of speculation, but his enduring artistic contributions continue to captivate audiences to this day.

Alexander Gillespie Raymond Jr. blazed a trail in the world of comic art, leaving an indelible mark on the medium that continues to inspire artists today. His innovative storytelling, artistic prowess, and commitment to excellence have secured his place as one of the most celebrated comic artists ever. While his life may have been tragically short, his legacy lives on in his creations’ timeless beauty and storytelling power.

Read also: William Ellis Green (1923 – 2008)

FAQs about Alex Raymond

Who was Alex Raymond? 

Alex Raymond was a renowned American cartoonist and illustrator best known for creating the iconic Flash Gordon comic strip.

What is Flash Gordon, and why is it famous? 

Flash Gordon is a science fiction comic strip created by Alex Raymond in 1934. It became famous for its adventurous storytelling and visually stunning artwork.

What other comic strips did Alex Raymond work on? 

In addition to Flash Gordon, Raymond worked on comic strips like Jungle Jim and Secret Agent X-9.

Did Alex Raymond receive any awards for his work? 

He received the Reuben Award from the National Cartoonists Society in 1949 and was inducted into the Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1996.

What was Rip Kirby, and why is it significant? 

Rip Kirby was a private detective comic strip created by Alex Raymond. It is significant for its modern and intellectual approach to detective stories.

How did Alex Raymond’s art style influence other cartoonists? 

Raymond’s art style, characterized by its photorealistic quality, influenced many comic artists, including George Lucas, Jack Kirby, and Al Williamson.

What is the legacy of Alex Raymond’s work in the comics industry? 

Alex Raymond’s legacy includes setting artistic standards for adventure strips and inspiring generations of cartoonists with his unique style.

What led to Alex Raymond’s tragic death in 1956? 

Raymond died in a car crash at the age of 46. There has been speculation about the circumstances, including suggestions of suicide, but the exact cause remains unclear.

Did Alex Raymond work on any other projects besides comic strips? 

Besides comic strips, he also created illustrations for magazines like Blue Book, Look, Collier’s, and Cosmopolitan.

What is Alex Raymond’s place in the history of American comics? 

Alex Raymond is considered one of the most celebrated comic artists of all time, known for his contributions to the medium and his influence on future generations of cartoonists.

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