I made the Ming the Merciless print in 1998, around the same time I had been creating antagonistic, cautionary portraits of communist dictators like Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. The print’s subject, Ming, was often mistaken for Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, perhaps because Ming, the fictional villain, seems pretty sinister…or because Ming’s look may have inspired LaVey! Ming the Merciless was a character from the Flash Gordon comics during the 1930s when there was a lot of paranoia about communism in China and Russia. It seems like world politics often dictate what the villains look like in the entertainment media. I found that concept amusing but disturbing on a deeper level and worth exploring artistically. Images, symbols, and aesthetics are often used to generate fear and manipulate people based on what is going on in the moment, culturally and politically, but it is always important to examine the underlying agenda. On an artistic level, the Ming portrait was a step forward for me because it used two illustrated layers to create the mid-tones and deepest shadows in the image. Up to that point, almost all of my portraits were one-color illustrations overlayed on a flat color background. I liked the iconic graphic nature of the very simple illustrations, but some portraits called for more dimension. The Ming was a pivotal evolutionary moment because it turned out well and motivated me to work more with the two-layer portraits and red, gold, and black color scheme. -Shepard
The subject of this image was often mistaken as Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, perhaps just because it seems so sinister. Ming the Merciless was a character from the Flash Gordon comics during the – ˜30s, a period when there was a lot of paranoia about communism in China. It seems like world politics often dictate what the villains look like in the entertainment media. It’s another example of the use of symbols to manipulate people, in this instance to generate fear.
18 x 24 inch screen print. Signed and numbered edition of 100.