After re-watching Flash Gordon (1936), I couldn't avoid noticing Ming the Merciless' moustache that have always reminded me of the one wore by Boris Karloff in The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932).

According to the American Mustache Institute:

A Fu Manchu moustache or simply Fu Manchu, is a full, straight moustache extending from under the nose past the corners of the mouth and growing downward past the clean-shaven lips and chin in two tapered "tendrils", often extending past the jawline.

I also found in Wikipedia [Entry: Fu Manchu moustache] that:

...the facial hair style is often used to stereotype Asian, more specifically Chinese, ethnicity. Many caricatures of Chinese in the 19th and early 20th century depict Chinese with such facial hair.

Knowing that Sax Rohmer, who created Dr. Fu Manchu in 1913, never adorned Fu Manchu's face with a drooping, chin-length moustache, I did some research about the origin of Fu Manchu's moustache and found that the first film adaptation showing the famous moustache was worn by Boris Karloff in The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) which predates the Flash Gordon movie by 4 years.

Given the similar moustache alongside the obvious similitude between Fu Manchu and Ming as archetypes of the evil criminal genius and mad scientist, I wonder if Ming's moustache was inspired by Karloff's portrait of Fu Manchu with the long, droopy moustache.

Still picture composition of The Mask of Fu Manchu and Flash Gordon

  • 1
    I think it's very likely although there may not be a specific quote from Ming's creator Alex Raymond that says so--see the comment on this page (originally from this article) about how Ming is "Asian-coded" in multiple ways, and the Flash Gordon comic premiered in 1934 so it could have been influenced by the movie.
    – Hypnosifl
    Apr 14, 2022 at 16:20
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    Ming's first appearance in the comic in 1934 can be seen here, and there's another 1934 image more clearly showing the long moustache here
    – Hypnosifl
    Apr 14, 2022 at 16:24
  • Though as pointed out in the comments on that facebook post with the first appearance of Ming, Alex Raymond's depiction of Ming and the people of Mongo may also have been influenced by the "Buck Rogers" comic strip that premiered in 1929, whose story also featured futuristic Asian villains (specifically called 'Mongols'), a strip from 1929 or 1930 here shows a similar moustache style
    – Hypnosifl
    Apr 14, 2022 at 18:28
  • And the Buck Rogers comic was pretty popular so if "Mongol" villains with these sorts of long moustaches were recurring characters in the strip (other examples here and here), then it could be that the strip also influenced the depiction of Fu Manchu in the 1932 movie, or influenced other pulp depictions of Asian villains which influenced the movie.
    – Hypnosifl
    Apr 14, 2022 at 18:35


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