Flash Fridays – The Flash #180 June 1968
posted on September 15, 2017
Where to start, where to start? This issue of the Flash and the one that follows are without any counterargument the nadir of the entire Flash Silver Age run. This time the the problems I have with the art pales in comparison to the writing which ping pongs between risible to racist through both issues. Frank Robbins jumps on board as the writer and pretty much makes a hash of everything that’s come before. I admire Robbins as an artist and enjoy the reprints of his Jonny Hazard newspaper strip, but I’m baffled to this day about the performance he turns in here. So let’s see if we can deconstruct this mess a little, shall we?
For openers, Robbins has even less feel for the character than the artists do. His Flash spouts dialog such as: “Y’ ain’t seen anything, Swifty!” which makes the intelligent scientist that John Broome developed into a jive talking street punk. I suspect that Robbins was trying to capture some of Stan Lee’s Spider-Man magical word play, but the Flash was never one to spout snappy, sassy patter in the midst of a fight with a villain. This unfortunate tendency carries over into the narrative boxes such as this one that appears on the opening splash page samurais sword fight: “Quite a way to split the scene, eh, cats? Or should we say what an eye opener? Any way you slice (emphasized here in bold so the pun isn’t missed) it, this is one time Fearless Flash (did Robbins even read the stories that preceded his?) come up against more than pointed remarks! Now… flip the page before you flip lid…” The attempts at humor are simply sad, and in trying to sound like a kid of the sixties he’s using the language of the beats from the fifties. The end result is that he misses the mark by a mile and only looks foolish instead. Both of these examples are what results when you are trying to imitate something that you don’t really understand. And then it gets worse.
Robbins then has his Japanese characters (did I forget to mention that this story takes place in Japan to provide an excuse for the Flash to fight samurais? Sorry, it does. I’m no expert on samurais, but, based on everything else here, I wouldn’t be surprised if Robbins got some or all of that wrong too.) spout dialog that can only be described as embarrassing. Herewith are a dialog balloon and narrative box that pretty much say it all: ” Ha! is esteemed ferrow criminorogist Barry Arren-san*! Wercome to Japan!” *”Difficurty of pronouncing L’s in Japanese ranguage” I rest my case, and try typing that with auto correct sometime. Robbins then doubles down on the racism with this little beauty… as the Flash battles a samurais he says: “You first… my twin bladed baboon!” I couldn’t read this issue at the time and I still can’t. Racism aside, it’s just lousy writing. The final and most baffling thing of all was how Julie Schwartz ever allowed this to happen.