Flash Fridays – The Flash #136 May 1963
posted on June 3, 2016
In the summer of 1963, I was still dyed-in-the-wool DC Comics fan. I may have been sneaking a peek or four at what Stan Lee was doing over at Marvel, but this cover with its lush Murphy Anderson inking was still right in my wheelhouse. Back when summers were still lazy and hazy without the crazy, I remember sitting in a lawn chair one afternoon taking in this gem of an issue. It opens with Barry and his girlfriend Iris heading down the street to make an appointment for Barry with a man who runs a motivational seminar. Iris feels that Barry, nice guy that he is, could use a little more ambition. As they wait in a reception area, Barry hears on the radio that the Mirror Master has escaped from jail, and we’re (or at least Barry is) off and running. The Mirror Master had finished third in the prison newspaper’s “Most Successful Criminal” poll and so escaped to pull off some spectacular heists and boost himself back up in the ratings. The Flash tracks him down and is waylaid by the two mirror images that MM creates in their first encounter, and, when MM checks the prison rag to see his standings (which for all the world looks like he’s doing it online), he finds that he’s topping the poll once again. However, when the Flash tracks MM to his mirror cave hideout, he bests the reflective villain by using his super vibration ability to create some multiple images of his own to foil his mirror counterparts. The tale ends with Iris and Barry having dinner and Iris telling her beau that despite his running off, she still signed him up for the motivational seminar.
The second story “Barry Allen..You’re the Flash!..and I Can Prove It!” is the far superior of the two. It opens Barry going out to the state prison to meet a prisoner named Rod Pagin who’s being released that day. The man declares that he knows Barry is the Flash, but that he won’t reveal his secret if the Flash steers clear of his criminal schemes. Barry refuses to be blackmailed and the Flash busts up a bunch of decoy jewelry robberies set up by the villain. In the midst of all this, Barry and Iris put on a mind reading act for charity during which Barry comes to realize that the previous jewelry store robberies had a pattern. The first letter of each store’s name spelled out the first four letters of the word Flash. The last remaining store in the pattern has to start with an H. In the middle of the act Barry takes off to locate the store and ends up catching Pagin in the act. And then Barry returns to his act without anyone realizing head was gone. The next day Pagin promptly tells reporters that the Flash is Barry Allen. He says that at his trial, at which the Flash testified, he put the Flash in a hypnotic trance telling him to turn up at the prison in his civilian identity on the day Pagin was released and reveal who he was. However the reporters, including Iris, know that Barry was at the charity event and Pagin is disgraced. He rationalizes that perhaps at his trial, the hypnotic command he sent out must have hit the police scientist Barry Allen instead of the Flash. Props to writer John Broome for a cleverly involved little story. Not a bad way to pass a summer afternoon.