Flash Gordon made his debut in newspaper comic strips drawn by Alex Raymond in the early 1930s, and was initially conceived explicitly as competition for the then very popular Buck Rogers. Gordon was a polo playing Yale graduate who, with companions Dale Arden and Dr Hans Zarkov, initially headed into space to find the source of some meteors bombarding Earth. Their first encounter with Ming The Merciless – the alien menace behind the meteors – would not be their last, and their continuing adventures on the planet Mongo would see them also encountering hawk-man Prince Vultan and the rulers of various jungle, ice and undersea kingdoms.
Gordon was immediately picked up for three Saturday morning film serials starring Buster Crabbe (who also appeared briefly as Buck Rogers and Tarzan) between 1936 and 1940. More recently, and perhaps most famously, was Mike Hodges camp and gaudy 1980 movie with the mad Queen soundtrack, starring Sam J. Jones as Gordon, Max Von Sydow as Ming, and a particularly mental Brian Blessed as Vultan.
Payne and McKay's connection to J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot includes adapting the novel Boilerplate as well as their work on the third Star Trek sequel, but whether Flash has a home there, or elsewhere, or is merely a speculative script the pair have developed on their own is unclear at the moment. They also have action scripts Goliath and Deadliest Warrior floating in development at, respectively, Temple Hill and Paramount Pictures.
Their take on Flash Gordon is apparently to rescue him from his current reputation as something stupid but much loved (see Sam Jones' recent turn in Ted), and restore his reputation as a more serious space adventurer.
The world didn't seem quite ready for John Carter (2012). Are we ready for a new Flash Gordon? As always, watch this space.