Flash Fridays – The Flash #141 December 1963
posted on August 5, 2016
What we have here on the cover, good and gentle readers, is another Julie Schwartz gimmick cover idea which posits the notion that the Flash has a third identity. If I wasn’t already a subscriber, I suppose that might have been enough to get me to pick up the issue, but what John Broome does with the idea in his story is something else altogether. The yarn starts with the return of the Top who escapes form the Flash by using a uniform that breaks away as the Flash tires to grab him. This starts us thinking about uniforms and the seed is neatly planted. Then as Barry Allen is watching TV for news about the Top he spots a young boy about to be buried by debris from a falling brick wall. He changes to the Flash and rushes to save the boy. As he is about to leave, he notices that the delivery box contains one of the Top’s uniforms. The boy was supposed to meet a man by the building and deliver his package, but, since no one else is there, the Flash tells him to return it to the tailor. And he asks for the name of the tailor. Once the boy is gone we see the Flash wondering about where the villains he faces get their nicely (and, if you’ll pardon the pun, over the top) tailored duds. So he decides to visit the tailor in question as, not Barry Allen, not the Flash, but as a small time hood named Trigger Joe, hence the creation of the third identity and the also all time Silver Age Flash trivia question.
The tailor he’s paying a visit to is named Paul Gambi which Julie always said he chose as his way of recognizing prolific letter hack Paul Gambaccini who was a regular in the letter cols of all of Julie’s comic books. It certainly made all of the regular Flash readers immediately jealous, but we all also had to admit that it was one cool move. The top and tailor Gambi cop to Barry’s act and end up putting him in a uniform to basically finish him off. The Flash of course escapes the trap and sends Gambi and the Top to jail, but the whole conceit of the villains getting their garments from one source is a very nifty touch and, no doubt, led to the thought of them one day teaming up as a rogues gallery.
The second story involves the return of Iris West’s father Professor West who unsuccessfully tries to prove that Barry is the Flash because of the way time slows Barry’s watch every time the Flash is involved in some kind of super speed action. As a scientist himself, Barry realizes what the professor is doing and makes the proper adjustments. So we not only get some appreciated continuity with an interesting returning character in a cleverly told tale, but a nice sidebar on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity as well. We’re shown that not every superhero tale has to be a punch-out to capture our imaginations. Not a bad deal for twelve cents.