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Flash Fridays – The Flash #180 June 1968

posted on September 15, 2017

Where to start, where to start? This issue of the Flash and the one that follows are without any counterargument the nadir of the entire Flash Silver Age run. This time the the problems I have with the art pales in comparison to the writing which ping pongs between risible to racist through both issues. Frank Robbins jumps on board as the writer and pretty much makes a hash of everything that’s come before. I admire Robbins as an artist and enjoy the reprints of his Jonny Hazard newspaper strip, but I’m baffled to this day about the performance he turns in here. So let’s see if we can deconstruct this mess a little, shall we?

For openers, Robbins has even less feel for the character than the artists do. His Flash spouts dialog such as: “Y’ ain’t seen anything, Swifty!” which makes the intelligent scientist that John Broome developed into a jive talking street punk. I suspect that Robbins was trying to capture some of Stan Lee’s Spider-Man magical word play, but the Flash was never one to spout snappy, sassy patter in the midst of a fight with a villain. This unfortunate tendency carries over into the narrative boxes such as this one that appears on the opening splash page samurais sword fight: “Quite a way to split the scene, eh, cats? Or should we say what an eye opener? Any way you slice (emphasized  here in bold so the pun isn’t missed) it, this is one time Fearless Flash (did Robbins even read the stories that preceded his?) come up against more than pointed remarks! Now… flip the page before you flip lid…” The attempts at humor are simply sad, and in trying to sound like a kid of the sixties he’s using the language of the beats from the fifties. The end result is that he misses the mark by a mile and only looks foolish instead. Both of these examples are what results when you are trying to imitate something that you don’t really understand. And then it gets worse.

Robbins then has his Japanese characters (did I forget to mention that this story takes place in Japan to provide an excuse for the Flash to fight samurais? Sorry, it does. I’m no expert on samurais, but, based on everything else here, I wouldn’t be surprised if Robbins got some or all of that wrong too.) spout dialog that can only be described as embarrassing. Herewith are a dialog balloon and narrative box that pretty much say it all: ” Ha! is esteemed ferrow criminorogist Barry Arren-san*! Wercome to Japan!” *”Difficurty of pronouncing L’s in Japanese ranguage” I rest my case, and try typing that with auto correct sometime. Robbins then doubles down on the racism with this little beauty…  as the Flash battles a samurais  he says: “You first… my twin bladed baboon!” I couldn’t read this issue at the time and I still can’t. Racism aside, it’s just lousy writing. The final and most baffling thing of all was how Julie Schwartz ever allowed this to happen.

Flash Fridays – The Flash #179 May 1968

posted on September 8, 2017

The Flash Grams Extra letters page in this issue was completely devoted to the change in artists that had rocked the Flash world. While a few readers actually said that they liked it, the majority were upset that the book was losing the magical talents of Carmine Infantino. Changing artists has always been endemic in the comics world, but somehow Carmine had really established himself as not only the artist for the book, but as the only artist who should ever be involved with it. They say that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but a comic book fan who’s just lost their favorite artist comes pretty close. It was a magical run and many were mourning the loss.

Another very interesting thing that occurred in this issue is that the first graduate of editor Julie Schwartz’s letters page slips into the writing reins on the Flash. Cary Bates from Dayton, Ohio shows up for his moment and demonstrates that he’s ready by turning in a fairly credible job. The tale he spins has the Flash battling a colorful alien tornado creature that had escaped from an alien hunter. The alien named Nok sends the Flash to another dimension like Earth 2 but not Earth 2 where the Flash discovers that he’s the star of a comic book being written there. He goes to the book’s editorial offices at 575 Lexington Ave. in New York City where he meets Julie Schwartz who helps him build a cosmic treadmill so he can return to his own dimension. He also discovers that the alien is feeding on his aura so he also devises a special radiation gun based on his aura to placate the creature. The cosmic treadmill and the radiation gun both work and Barry is home in time for supper.

So, let’s see, in his first Flash tale Cary Bates riffs on the comic book inspired origin of the Flash, destroys part of the Flash Museum, creates a new dimension and starts DC Comics on the slippery slope that will eventually lead to Crises on Infinite Earths, puts editor Julie Schwartz in the book, and expands the cosmic treadmill from a time traveling machine to a dimension hopping machine as well. Pretty ballsy if you ask me. Not a bad day’s start for a young twenty-year-old writer.

Flash Fridays – The Flash #178 April/May 1968

posted on September 1, 2017

This issue was an 80 Page Giant reprint issue in which I think, for the first time, I had been on board for all of the stories. So there’s nothing much new to add here except for one small thing. In a previous post I had talked about one of the opening pages of the Captives of the Cosmic Ray story which featured Barry Allen and Hal Jordan sitting on a park bench chatting like a couple of buddies. I, for whatever reason, was absolutely enchanted by this particular page, so you can imagine my delight when I was able to pick it up at Comic-Con in San Diego a few years back. Today as I look across from my drawing table at the beautiful Carmine Infantino/Joe Giella mini masterwork, it never fails to ignite the same familiar feelings I experienced the very first time I saw it. It’s what makes these books so magical.

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