When the heroic Flash Gordon and his friends land on the planet Mongo, they find it ruled by the evil Emperor Ming, a despot who quickly becomes their enemy. He is not named at first, only being known as the Emperor until several issues later.
The capital of his empire is named "Mingo City" in his honour. In addition to his army, Ming has access to a wide variety of science fiction gadgets, ranging from rocket ships to death rays to robots. Though evil, he has his weaknesses, which include a desire to marry Flash's beautiful companion, Dale Arden. Ming's daughter Princess Aura is as evil as he is when the series begins, but is eventually reformed by her love for Flash, and later for Prince Barin of Arboria.
In the Flash Gordon serials of the late 1930s-era, Ming was portrayed by actor Charles B. Middleton. In the first serial, he is apparently killed in a crematorium, in a possible suicide. He returns later in league with a Martian Queen, and using a Nitron Lamp to cause disasters on Earth. In Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, he is once again ruler of Mongo, but is killed when he is locked inside his tower and Flash crashes a ship into it.