Flash Friday – The Flash #266 October 1978
posted on January 15, 2021
Behind one of the dopier covers in the Flash Silver Age run lies a reasonably cool and clever story with one dopey part. Where to begin? Well the beginning seems like a good place. On the opening page we see some third-rate crooks sitting in the dark grumbling about a heist they are about to pull. Then it’s revealed that Heat Wave is in there with them. Then it’s revealed that they are all sitting inside of a faux pyramid sitting on a flatbed truck that’s delivering it to an exhibition of Egyptian artifacts. A Trojan pyramid as it were (he said mixing something or other).
Cut to the exhibit where we find Barry and Iris. Barry has accompanied Iris who is reporting on the exhibit when out jumps Heat Wave and the crooks. Iris sees Barry disappear followed by a cute panel where wife Iris is impatiently wondering where the hell the Flash is already. The Flash does show up and quickly dispatches the third-rate-thugs, and then its to the basement of the building where he battles Heaty in the midst of the building’s mechanicals. During the course of the battle, a Heat Wave blast destroys the huge air-conditioning unit. That blast shoots out chunks of ice, one of which knocks the Flash out. Heat Wave, instead of dispatching the Flash on the spot and making this the final Flash Friday, instead slinks away shivering and fearful amid the mini glaciers that have formed everywhere. Okay, we’ve reached the dopey part. Heat Wave has destroyed the air-conditioning unit causing ice to fly around and form everywhere in the basement. Why is this dopey? BECAUSE HEAT WAVE HAS DESTROYED THE AIR-CONDITIONER! Apparently writer Cary Bates thinks that the way air-conditioners work is that they have big blocks of ice inside. That can happen, of course and I’ve seen it, but not after you’ve DESTROYED THE AIR-CONDITIONER!
Okay, here comes the clever part. The next scene we see is Mick Rory aka Heat Wave lying on a couch discussing his problem with Doc Synett the shrink to the underworld. It turns out that Mick was accidentally locked in a meat locker as a child and that traumatic experience caused him to forever seek out heat and warmth going forward (and possibly become a vegetarian). This is a nice bit of business as Bates reveals the trauma behind Heat Wave’s pathological behavior that drives his criminal activities. Obviously HW has other compulsions as well since he could have solved his need for heat by moving to Arizona. But all joking aside (and may I say here that I could have added that he became a heat seeking misanthrope, but chose not to outside of this unctuous parenthetical, and things in parentheticals, as we all know, don’t count), I like the way Bates provides a very human underpinning for the character. Which raises an interesting point.
At some point it the nineties (I think), I was in my local comics emporium pursing a pool table of comics (I’ll explain that at some other time) when I spotted this stunning Flash cover showing a house in flames and a young boy with some matches kneeling in the foreground. That cover did what a cover is suppose to do (for a fuller explanation, see the Cover Me section of this blog) which is to make you have to have it and grab it off the rack or pool table (never mind, I just explained it). Needless to say, in this story Heat Wave’s obsession comes from the fact that he torched his house killing his family in the process. Don’t know who did the cover or who wrote the story, but I have to tell you that I like this version much much better. Since this cover is a perfect candidate for Cover Me, I have searched for it endlessly on the Grand Comics Data Base (a half hour) with no success. Obviously, I’m probably misremembering the time period, but if this cover rings any bells with any of you Flashinados out there, I’d love to get a scan to post. In return, you’ll get my undying gratitude.
I almost forget, the story we started this post with ends with Heat Wave tricking the Flash and trapping him in a cryogenic chamber (see how just one counseling session can help you overcome your fears?) and turning our hero into a corpsicle. Stay tuned.
Match to Flame 139
posted on January 13, 2021
The First Cartooning Commandment: Thou shalt only do funny comic strips. They’re called the “comics” for a reason.
Which, of course begs the question . . . what reason? Now, before I start to come off like some pedantic schoolmarm from a bitter hollow, I’m going to do my Pontius Pilate bit here and pass the baton off to comic historian R. C. Harvey. He laid it all out in his masterful biography of Milton Caniff. So, here is Comic Strip 101:
Today’s Comic Strip is the lineal descendant of the humorous drawing that first appeared in weekly humor magazines like Puck, Judge, and Life in the 1880s. Offering comical drawings and amusing short essays and droll verse, Life, Judge, and Puck were dubbed “comic weeklies” in common parlance—or, even, “comics”. So when [Joseph Pulitzer’s] the World launched its imitation “comic weekly” in November 1894, it was lumped together in the popular mind as another of the “comics”. And then, once the World had shown the way, papers in other cities began publishing humorous Sunday supplements full of funny drawings in color and risible essays and verse. In a relatively short time, obeying the dictates of demand, newspapers eliminated the essays and verse and concentrated on comical artwork, which was increasingly presented in the form of “strips” of pictures portraying hilarities in narrative sequence. It was but a short step to the use of comics to designate the art-form (comic strips) as distinct from the vehicle in which they appeared (the Sunday supplement itself). Once that bridge was crossed, meaning deteriorated pretty rapidly. Storytelling (or “continuity”) strips arrived soon after, and even when the stories they told were serious, they were called “comics” because they looked like the art-form called comics and they appeared in newspapers with all the others of the breed.
Well, there you have it; they were called comics for a reason alrighty, just not the reason everyone usually thinks. It was more appellation than definition, but the definition that they’re supposed to be funny is pretty much the only thing most folks equate the term “comics” with today. So anyone (ahem, me) wanting to extend the format and broaden the definition during the years collected in this volume was going to be rowing upstream against the prescriptive (and as we now know erroneous) notions of what a comic strip should be.
From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 9