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Flash Fridays – The Flash #283 March 1980

posted on July 23, 2021

Okay, maybe it’s the fact that it’s summer and that I have always associated comic books with summer. Lying on my bed as a kid reading comics waiting for something to happen (For a fuller explanation, lister to Sonic Boom by the Gear Daddies and you’ll get it). Whatever the reason, I loved this issue of The Flash! The Don Heck art continues to shine in support of one of Cary Bates best issues so far. Maybe it’s because he uses the entire issue to tell a single story, or maybe it’s the fact that he’s tying up loose ends like a worker in a garment factory. All I know is that these is one nicely done issue.

The story opens with the Reverse Flash hiding in Barry’s house as Barry as the Flash triggers a bomb set by RF on the Cosmic treadmill. Thinking that he’s knocked off his rival, he starts making a recording that leads to several expository pages where he admits to killing the Flash, being the brains behind the police department drug cartel, drugging the Flash with angel dust the night of the masquerade ball, and, when she wouldn’t agree to marry him, killing Iris. Aside from the fact that it’s a little sicko… it certainly keeps the book moving in a new direction. And it finally elevates the Reverse Flash to number one on the arch villain list.

As it turns out, and, as you probably already figured, the Flash didn’t die in the treadmill explosion. He scattered his body’s molecules a split second before the explosion, which gave him control over them so he could pull them back together. He then confronts the Reverse Flash and they battle across the rest of the story until RF tries to return to the future in his time capsule. The Flash KO’s him, and, absent the cosmic treadmill, attempts to guide the time capsule himself, but only succeeds in sending it back to “beyond the brink of time”. The Flash bails out into the time stream leaving the Reverse Flash to his fate. As to the Flash himself…? I’ll let you know.

Forward the Foundation

posted on July 22, 2021

As with Prelude to Foundation, Asimov continues to lay the foundation groundwork for all of the Empire books to come. This time the final focus is on the development of the mentalics process that becomes the key to the success of the Second Foundation. The ability to read and influence minds is the final puzzle piece that opens the door to the implementation of the Seldon Plan. It’s here that Asimov will stretch real science to the breaking point. As if telepathy and being able to influence the minds of others isn’t leap enough at this point, it will eventually be stretched (and I do mean stretched) by allowing it to happen over parsecs of space. As we all know, with great power comes great responsibility, and Asimov will prove to be masterful and judicious in its application.

I’ve mentioned before in the reading of the earlier books in this biblical march through the oeuvre how I find that my perception of them changes on the second reading. Always it seems, for the better. It’s surprise how differently I see some of them on the second pass. I’ve wondered what I could chalk this up to, but, in this particular case, I know exactly what has changed. As the last chronological book that he wrote for this series, Asimov was writing from the perspective of an old man. Reading it now in my still youthful old age, I can pick up on the large and small losses he writes about that age affords as a natural consequence. He writes from the experience that he knows, and, if you’ve followed him for a lifetime as I have, his humanity touches you as distinctly now as it did in your youth. This subtext that runs under his fascinating science speculation and storytelling is part of the glue that he employs to bond with his readers.


Match to Flame 154

posted on July 20, 2021

When Funky began, I felt my charge was to transform the teen comic strip genre by being more topical and relevant. By moving the work a year ahead, topicality in the specific sense went out the window and I no longer felt tightly bound to current events. I slipped the work out of the time stream and began playing by rules that only I could read. My stories started becoming more personal and, interestingly enough, more universal at the same time. Some could be told over a cup of coffee; others would require a full-on Roman feast. Waiting for me in the not-too-distant future was a story whose gravity was already pulling me in. Along with everything else, I began working on some shadow strips. There are Easter eggs that appear in this volume that foreshadow the work to come and that, upon rereading the strips collected here, had surprised even me in regard to how early this secret work had started. I had worked hard to use the freedom I’d created for myself to tell stories that had more substance and that spoke to the times that my characters and I were living through. But by the last year of this volume, I was already finished with that kind of storytelling. I had looked around me and tried to record and incorporate what I saw in, hopefully, an interesting and entertaining way. But, off to the side, I was working on a more reflective and personal story. It seemed that art should aspire to something more than mere entertainment, and that it should also be about what it is to be a human being (I realize that art has done this foor-ever, but we’re talking about in “the funnies” here, folks). Instead of holding up a mirror for my readers, this new work would hold up a window. Reflecting your readers’ lives back to them (and backward at that) only shows you what happened. A window permits you to look inside and try to figure out why it happened. This shadow work would lead to a new suite of strips that, instead of trying to transform “the funnies,” would attempt—with hard work, inspiration, and a little luck—to transcend them. Stories that would set fire to that little sticky note on which the Cartooning Commandments were written. Which reminds me that there was a fourth and final commandment on that sticky note:

The Fourth Commandment: If you should choose to ignore the three prior commandments, at least don’t screw it up!

There exists a (slightly charred) relic of which all cartoonists know, but none will speak.

From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 9