Dr. Hans Zarkov is scientist, first shown wanting to build a rocket ship in an observatory. His reason for doing so is that Earth is on a collision course with the planet Mongo and Emperor Ming the Merciless must be stopped. Flash Gordon and Dale Arden arrive at the observatory to find Dr. Zarkov in a agitated state, bordering on insanity. Dr. Zarkov tricks Flash Gordon and Dale Arden into getting onto the rocket, and upon entering the rocket, it takes off and crash lands on planet Mongo. Dr. Zarkov is assumed dead in the crash by Flash Gordon (which only serves to add to the madness inside the doctor) but in actuality Emperor Ming's goons rescue him and take him to their city.
Roughly three months later Dr. Zarkov appears again with another invention, this time it is an atomic light-soldifier. This item is needed to prevent the Sky City of the Hawkmen from falling out of the sky, and it works. As thanks for his help, the ruler of Sky City King Vulture bestows upon Dr. Zarkov a title fit for royalty and to show that he is a friend of the Hawkmen, "Prince Zarkov of the Hawkmen, and Supreme Lord of All Scientists."
In future stories, Flash and Dale find Dr. Zarkov to be more willing to be a team-player and work together to achieve a common goal, like fighting against Ming the Merciless.
Alex Raymond created and drew the character of Dr. Hans Zarkov for use in King Features Syndicate. He first appears in Flash Gordon Strange Adventure Magazine, released in 1936. It is has not been verified but there is speculation that Dr. Hans Zarkov could have been the inspiration for the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi in George Lucas' Star Wars franchise. Lucas has stated he got the inspiration for Star Wars from watching Flash Gordon serials, and Dr. Zarkov in time becomes a mentor or sorts, not unlike Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Powers and Abilities
Dr. Zarkov has no innate super-powers; however, he is a tremendously intelligent scientist and inventor. Some of his inventions include a rocket ship capable of space travel, a ray which can turn someone invisible and an atomic light-solidifier that can stabilize a city about to fall out of the sky.
Universal released three Flash Gordon cliffhanger serials in the 1930's and 40's. Frank Shannon was cast as the actor. He remained on the series for over three years.
Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars
In Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars, Zarkov's first name is Alexis; changed from Hans for an unknown reason.
Flash Gordon (1980)
In the 1980 Flash Gordon film, Dr. Zarkov was portrayed by actor Chaim Topol. Zarkov's origin story is still the same, believing that Earth's environmental problems are the result of the planet Mongo, and builds a rocket ship to take himself, Flash Gordon, and Dale Arden to the planet.
Flash Gordon Television Series
The Sci-Fi Channel series titled "Flash Gordon" features the character of Dr. Zarkov being played by actor Jody Racicot.