Flash Fridays – The Flash #272 April 1979
posted on April 9, 2021
So, picking up where I left off, something like the change in editorship of a comic magazine usually means that the current writer and artist will be broomed in favor of the new editor’s hand picked team. Julie Schwartz’s replacement Ross Andru shows some restraint here by only replacing the art team. Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin are out and Rich Buckler is in. Sort of. In the previous issue, Buckler was inked by the veteran Jack Able. Here, the art is attributed to John Calnan and Buckler with inking by Vince Coletta. Calnan is a name or pseudonym that I’m encountering here for the first time. My suspicion is that Buckler wasn’t keeping up with deadlines and pulled in some help to get this issue finished. It’s not a good combination and the art suffers for it. Coletta’s inking helps to pull things together to a degree, but, in truth, it’s not his best work either. I’ve never been a big Coletta fan, but I recently saw a newspaper strip sample that he worked on with Stan Lee and it was astonishingly beautiful work that would have held it’s own with any other strip in the newspapers. Apparently, when he wanted to Coletta could really knock it out of the park, but, here, he settles for a bunt.
What keeps the continuity of the book intact is that Cary Bates stays on as the writer, so at least we’re not dealing with a wholesale overhaul of the character. That being said, there’s a problem with the story. There isn’t one. Now I’ve never been a big adherent of proscribed storytelling techniques such as those presented in Robert McKee’s legendary tome on how to write stories, oddly enough called Story. But there needs to be something that resembles a beginning, middle, and end, and we have none of that here. What we have here are a string of unrelated incidents which are: the Flash saving himself and the others trapped on the high wire with him and capturing the Clown who was trying to get revenge for his family of aerialists who died in the power outage at the circus… the Flash being observed by the mysterious woman as he does this… Barry visiting the controversial NEPHRON at the penitentiary and becoming concerned about what they’re doing there… Barry discovering the heroin that had been stashed in his lab (frankly, I’d totally forgotten that one)… the man with the goatee spying on Barry again… Iris preparing a romantic dinner for Barry that he has to rush off from to check on a break-in at his lab… and as he runs to the lab, something takes over his mind forcing him to run into a brick wall… and finally the Flash lying unconscious at the feet of the mysterious woman. Seven dangling plot threads. Lot’s of stuff happening there, but a story isn’t one of them. Cary Bates has shown he can tell a good story, but, here, he’s like the vaudeville guy who used to keep all of the plates spinning on those long sticks. At some point, he needs to stop spinning plates, and, instead spin a good yarn. Nice looking Garcia Lopez cover though.
Pebble in the Sky
posted on April 6, 2021
Pebble in the Sky is the third of Asimov’s empire novels in terms of timeline, but the first in chronologically written order, and, in my humble opinion, the best. It had originally been written as a novella called Grow Old Along With Me, the title of Robert Browning’s paean to old age (Interesting to have read this when I was young, and to be reading it now in my youthful old age. Makes you pause). Anyway, the novella was rejected a couple of times and nearly lost to the dustbin of history when Asimov received an offer for it to be published if he would turn it into a novel, which he did.
This is the place where Asimov first established the fact that the Earth was radioactive (chronologically) and something he had to account for in the other robot and empire novels until he finally retconned the thing and provided the explanation in Robots and Empire. In the timeline order, it brings us a step closer to the Foundation books. The Empire is still growing and has yet to show signs of decay.
And it’s a time travel novel that also considers the practice of euthanasia on a population neutral zero sum Earth. Also, Earth as the origin of mankind has not been lost to history yet. All of this is folded into a great tale Asimovianally told. Just for grins, I read the original Grow Old Along With Me and it’s a fascinatingly different piece and kind of instructive about the art of writing if, like me, you’re into that sort of thing. The original can be found in a book called The Alternate Asimov’s. Next up on my march with Asimov through the galaxy… Prelude to Foundation.