Flash Fridays – The Flash #73 September 1967
posted on July 21, 2017
By 1967 I was careening towards adulthood and plotting how I was going to go to New York to make my stand in a few short years, so my focus was elsewhere. Which means that this issue fell outside of my golden hour, that halcyon period when this comic book was impacting me like a meteor strike and I had all the time I needed to absorb it. So it’s fun to encounter this particular issue down the road apiece and rediscover its wonder. Had this book shown up during the aforementioned golden period, it would have completely blown me away. If seeing all three Flashes on the same cover wasn’t enough to make your geek flag fly, the story and art inside certainly would.
The tale opens with Jay Garrick and his wife Joan of Earth Two coming to visit Barry Allen on Earth One because Joan wants to tell Barry that he should let his wife Iris know that he’s the Flash. When they arrive at the Allen’s apartment, only Iris is there. She explains that Barry and her nephew Wally have gone out to a movie. Later, Wally shows up alone and tells Jay in private that Barry disappeared when they were trying to capture the Domino (not to be confused with the pizza franchise of the future) Gang. When they don their Flash uniforms to track Barry down, the same fate befalls Kid Flash. We then learn that the Flash and Kid Flash have been transported to the planet Vorvan in the Andromeda Galaxy where a mutant called the Golden Man resides as the only highly evolved humanoid on a planet of barbarians. GM want to bring the barbarians up to his level so that ruling over his fellow Vorvans will be more meaningful and fun. He’s developed an evolutionary machine to do just that but he needs the Flash’s speed energy to power. Eventually all three of the Flash’s come under his thrall and are about to overcome him when he turns on the evolving machine to bring the other Vorvans up to his speed to help him battle the three Flash’s. But instead of evolving the other Vorvans, it boomerangs and devolves him to the barbarians level. Bummer. As if we needed it, yet another example of the “be careful what you wish for” SF trope.
Later, before Jay and Joan return home, Joan extracts from Barry a promise to tell Iris that he’s the Flash and he agrees to do that on their anniversary which is next month. In an editorial aside, we’re told that will happen next month. So stay tuned.
Flash Fridays – The Flash # 172 August 1967
posted on July 14, 2017
Now this is what I call a great comic book cover! Why is it a great comic book cover? Because there’s a gorilla on the cover that’s why! This is the kind of cover I’ve been talking about, a great villain smack dab on the front of the book. And a gorilla villain to boot. I’ve mentioned before how DC Comics came to realize that a comic book with a gorilla on the cover always seemed to sell better. Well, duh. I also read recently in Back Issue that the wheels at DC likewise subscribed to the notion that sales also went up with purple covers (well, that at long last explains that), fire, dinosaurs, motorcycles, a hero crying, or a question to the readers. So now we have some insight into why we’ve been encountering so many of those latter kinds of covers in our little journey here, not one of which does anything for me at all. But, put a gorilla on the cover, and you can slap me silly and call me Willy, but I’m gonna buy-that-book! Why those gorilla covers are so in my wheelhouse I don’t know, and it’s probably best to save to that investigation for a future Flash Friday, but the fact remains that I find them to be incredibly cool. And this cover is a beauty in the genre.
So how’s the story? It’s not bad at all. A nice little John Clean Sweep Broome tale about time speeding up for the denizens of Central City to the point that they will live out their lifetimes before the end of the day. Then the Flash receives a mental command from Grodd saying that he’s responsible and that, if the Flash frees him from prison, he’ll slow time back down. So the Flash paroles him from his escape-proof cell in Gorilla City in deepest-darkest Africa and, after keeping his end of the deal and slowing time back down, Grodd sets about taking over the world as he usually does when he has some free time. The thing is that the speed-up in time was caused, not by Grodd, but by a burst of radiation from the Sun that eventually slowed down all by itself. So Grodd’s bluff is called, and, after a brief tussle where the Flash vibrates out of Grodd’s grip and his own uniform to capture him, Grodd is back in his cell in Gorilla City. So, in the end, it was all for naught and Grodd’s little escapade only succeeded in one thing… he got lot of folks to buy that comic book.
Flash Fridays – The Flash #71 June 1967
posted on July 7, 2017
June 1967. Yes, fellow, Flashionados, the summer of love has finally arrived. Now I realize that the dating of comic books back in the day was usually a bit ahead of the pub date displayed on the cover, but that’s merely a technicality. I’m sure this book was sitting on the desk in my room when the big summer of love bang exploded, which, by the way, happened at the stroke of midnight on June 1st. How do I know that with such exquisite precision? Because June 1st was the day that the Beatles magnum opus Sgt. Pepper went on sale. A mere two weeks later, the Monterey Pop Festival took place and the confluence of these two events changed everything. Pepper was on the radio everywhere and the seismic changes that were about to take place in the world suddenly had a soundtrack. If I may, allow me to drive the point home with a brief digression about my personal intersection with Pepper. It was finals week at Kent and one particular final in my philosophy class just happened to land on the morning of June 1st. The final exam in the class was at 10:00… which was also the same time that the record store in downtown Kent opened. And inside that store the very first copies of Sgt. Pepper would be for sale. So I found myself faced with an immoral dilemma (when someone else is paying for your college education, trust me, it’s an immoral dilemma even if I did pay some of it back down the road). Do I go to my philosophy final and drive the final nail into a course that was going rather sadly for me educationally speaking, or, do I listen to what my heart, head and every fiber in my being was telling me to do and go get that copy of Pepper. I was a walking cultural war. On the one hand was the accumulated wisdom of generations of deep philosophical thinkers, and on the other hand was my thinking. I made a call and chose popular culture over established culture and never looked back. So instead of kicking back with Kant and Kierkegaard, I was in my dorm room rockin’ with Rita and Rigby. It would have been an even braver decision if, when the incomplete showed up on my grade report, I hadn’t called up the philosophy department and lied about being at the exam. They were very nice and allowed me to return after a couple of weeks to “retake” the exam. I used those two weeks to actually read the textbook (while listening to Sgt.Pepper of course) which turned out to enhance my understanding of philosophy considerably. Happy ending. I went back and this time aced the exam. Talk about having your cultural cake and eating it too.
Sometime, while all of this transpired, The Flash #171 showed-up and turned in a well above average Flash tale featuring Dr. Light (who should have been featured on the cover). Digression number two: Dr. Light, even with a uniform that was slightly retro even then, was a classic character-you-like-to-hate Silver Age villain. The fate that awaits him in the future at the hands of modern writers is truly disgusting. But, that’s not the purview with which this blog has been charged. Anyway, the tale was a classic romp between the Flash and Dr. Light and even brought in Dexter Miles the curator of the Flash Museum for a killer splash page showing him shooting the Flash (it was really Dr. Light in disguise). The story even includes some flashback sequences showing Dr. Light battling the Justice League in JLA #12, the Atom in Atom #8, and Green Lantern #33 (with Carmine turning in a very credible Gil Kane GL pose). A classic Silver Age story very well done. Nowhere in site, however, do the middle-aged men who created this gem make any reference to the cultural maelstrom unfolding outside their office windows on Earth Prime. I frankly doubt they were listening to Sgt. Pepper’s call to arms.