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Flash Fridays – The Flash #163 August 1966

posted on April 21, 2017

Sometime you just had to feel a bit sorry for John Broome having to come up with a decent story based on one of Julie Schwartz’s gimmick cover ideas. I’ve read that Julie loved this cover, but I was never a fan of it. I suppose my biggest complaint was its breaking of the fourth wall which would pretty much destroy a story for me. Which is ironic because, when I began Funky, I would break the fourth wall on a daily basis. Interestingly, however, when I “grew-up” and started telling stories, I reverted to form, I guess, because I stopped breaking wall number four completely.

None the less, the gimmick covers didn’t seem to bother John Broome in the slightest because he came up with a fine story in spite of it. In the proverbial nutshell: the story is about a scientist, Ben Haddon, who discovers a radiation that can cause people to forget about the existence of something. Broome kicks off the story down at the docks where the Flash saves a little girl’s doll from floating away. The grateful young lady promises to never  forget the Flash. The Flash then begins to discover that Haddon has spread his “forget the Flash” radiation over the city no one in the city remembers him and he starts to gradually fade away. Eventually he uncovers what has happened and has to rely on the promise of the little girl to never forget him to save himself. It works and he and the girl start a campaign to get Central City to remember the Flash thus allowing Broome to work the cover in. But, more importantly, he tells a story with heart and this is what truly distinguishes him some of the other DC Comics writers. From the struggling actor Dexter Miles, to Daphne Dean with her childhood crush on Barry, to the forgetful Professor West, Broome peoples his stories with, well, people. Real people. Real people with realistic feelings. Again, it was duly noted by yours truly, for future reference when my turn came.

Had DC’s line followed Broome’s lead, they might have provided a more viable option to the insurgency that Stan Lee was leading over at Marvel. But DC’s mind set as to how to attract young readers was pretty much summed up by a house ad that ran that in their comics that summer. It was a sad limerick that read: “Said a cat suffocating in squaresville, ‘I have moved to the wide-open-airsville, ‘Cause those mags from DC, set me off on a spree, They are strictly from none-can-comparesville.” It would be hard to come up with a better definition of totally clueless.

The Flash continued his purple cover summer with an appearance with Batman in The Brave and the Bold, once again illustrated by Carmine Infantino. For fans of the Flash, the summer of ’66 was indeed a Flashapalooza.