He never stood a chance. And he owes it all to Buck Rogers.
Buck, of course, was a sci fi hero who first appeared in a 1928 edition of Amazing Stories, a classic mag of the genre. Well, when I say "was," I suppose I should correct myself. There are rampant rumors out there right now that there's yet another movie on the way in the next half decade.
But because of Buck, we have Flash. Flash Gordon was a polo player who unwittingly is forced to save the earth from destruction (yes, in the 1980s movie he was changed over to the quarterback of the New York Jets, and the way the Jets are playing these days, he could probably still start for them 30 years later). Flash first hit the funnies on January 7, 1934 as a direct competitor to Buck. At that time, Donald Gordon was a young man of three or four. Can't you hear it now, all these years later? First day of kindergarten: "Wait, your last name is Gordon? Well, I'm gonna call you Flash."
Popular culture can be a cruel thing, even crueler than Ming the Merciless. But if he put it on his tombstone, I guess that says he rolled with it, embraced it, and became Flash Gordon. Good for him.