Your Handy Field Guide to the Spandex Set, Volume I: Space Guy or Speedster? : Monkey See Normals! With our Gaffe-B-Gon Guide to the Nomenclature of Nerddom, you need no longer suffer withering stares from the geeks in your life.
NPR logo Your Handy Field Guide to the Spandex Set, Volume I: Space Guy or Speedster?

Your Handy Field Guide to the Spandex Set, Volume I: Space Guy or Speedster?

Don't confuse this guy with The Flash. (For one thing, The Flash's main squeeze doesn't parade around in sportswear by Cruella de Vil.) Dark Horse Comics hide caption

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Dark Horse Comics

Let me set the scene.

You're out on the town with a known nerdling of your acquaintance. Somehow, doesn't matter just how, the subject of Flash Gordon comes up, and ....

Well, we don't need to rehash the gory details here. The upshot is, you make a mistake. An honest mistake. It's perfectly understandable; I mean, who can keep all those names straight? They're so similar.

We hear you. We sympathize. Which is why we've produced this, the first entry in a new semi-regular feature, the Official Monkey See GAFFE-B-GON (tm) Guide to the Nomenclature of Nerddom. Just clip this post out of your computer monitor with safety scissors and keep it handy — you need never again fear offending the geeks in your life.

...Though to be honest, we probably shouldn't make any guarantees on that score. They're a pretty thin-skinned bunch, you know?

Flash Gordon or The Flash?

Name: Flash Gordon

Schtick: King of the Space-Ways!

History: First appeared in a 1934 comic strip by Alex Raymond,which was followed by Republic  Universal movie serials starring Buster Crabbe, and many decades worth of comic books. (In August, Dark Horse Comics published a hardcover archive of the first Flash Gordon adventures ever written specifically for the comic book medium. Volume 2 (pictured above) will be released in December.)

Distinguishing Features: Raygun. Rocket. Blondness.

Look For: Two-fisted adventure. Lotsa zapping with the raygun. Robots. A rockin' Queen soundtrack. Ming the Merciless.


Name: The Flash

Schtick: The Fastest Man Alive!

History: Hoo boy. Long story. The first Flash came along in 1940 — college kid, inhaled "hard water vapors" (college, am I right? Uptop!), gained super-speed. He hung around for 11 years. In 1956, DC decided to revamp the character, giving him a different alter ego (police scientist, got doused in chemicals and struck by lightning), a different costume, and a more modern/space-age feel. Since then, well. There's been a Kid Flash or two, it was revealed that the old, 1940s Flash was still around and just living in an alternate dimension, and then ... Yeah, you know what? That'll suffice, for now.

Distinguishing Features: Red bodysuit, lightning insignia. Can vibrate his molecules through walls, except when the writers decide he can't. A gallery of rogues who should, by all rights, seem silly (Captain Boomerang! The Pied Piper! The Top! Captain Cold! Heat Wave! The Trickster!) but who are, in point of fact, completely awesome.

Look For: The Flash Museum. "Flash Facts." John Wesley Shipp in a foam muscle-suit. A great honkin' ring with a huge lightning symbol on it, wherein hides his Flash costume. (Which, really, come on. You don't see Peter Parker carrying around a gym bag with SPIDER-SUIT GOES HERE! in big red letters, do you?) Boot treads like the side of a ziggurat.


In an upcoming entry: Green Arrow vs. Green Hornet vs. Green Lantern vs. Mr. Greenjeans vs. Bob Greene vs. The Reverend Al Green vs. SOYLENT GREEN IS PEEEEEOPLE. IT'S PEEEEEEOPLE.

Feel free to suggest subjects for future entries, if you haven't already.