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Flash Fridays – The Flash #190 August 1969

posted on March 2, 2018

This issue expands on a run of pretty sweet covers that will continue for just a bit (I peeked ahead). If Joe Kubert has ever done a bad cover, I don’t think I’ve see it. Continuing his run on the inside, John Broome serves up a brace of solid stories. In the first The Super Speed Agent of the Flash, the Flash breaks his leg battling a tornado and is told he may never run again. He still manages to battle crime using and inflatable Flash dummy and a miniature transistor system he creates. At the end of the story, it turns out that the vibrations he had to maintain while manipulating the dummy Flash, caused his leg to heal just fine. Yea.

Broome segues very nicely into the second story by having the Flash turn up at the Flash Museum and hands his cast and crutches over to, now, curator Dexter Miles. With Broome back on board, we get to see some of the secondary cast members that he had created playing contributing roles again. He even introduces us to a new one, Joel Travis, a young assistant to Dexter. Joel gets himself into trouble when he decides to impersonate the Flash and crosses paths with an old between books one-off foe of the Flash who is out for revenge. The Flash, of course, rescues him and returns his former foe to jail. It’s the sort of Flash tale that we Flashinados had grown used to over Broome’s long and esteemed tenure.

At the time this issue was on the stands (we still hand stands back then), my focus was decidedly elsewhere. Well, not elsewhere exactly. That August I took my first run at trying to secure a career for myself in comics. So, rather than reading The Flash, I was at the home of The Flash in New York City. I don’t know if DC Comics was my first stop because I figured they needed the most help or because they were closest to the Port Authority bus terminal, all that matters is that I was there being sliced, diced and fed to the mice by an editor who shall remain nameless (his name is the same as a city in Florida). He was pretty brutal, not only with the work I brought to him, but just in general with my temerity for even darkening the door to his office. He was absolutely correct, of course, but he wasted no time in ripping the bandaid off and watching me bleed. It was, to say the least, both frighting and enlightening. I think in the end he felt a little bad because, as I was leaving, he gave me a couple of Jerry Lewis pages saying: “Here! At least do the work at the right size!” (I had drawn mine the same size as the originals Julie Schwartz and sent me a few years earlier for my award winning letter, but, in the interim, the industry norm had shrunk a good bit in size.) Then he immediately reverted to form and said: “And don’t go telling everybody that (name of a city in Florida) is giving out free art!”

Over lunch I put a lot of his suggestions to use revising my treatments to try to make them more professional and then went over to Marvel Comics to see if they had gotten any better. I met with fellow Flash Grams letters page alum Roy Thomas (Roy to this day denies that meeting with neophyte artist/writers was a part of his responsibility and, maybe so, but I met with RT, folks) who came out to the small lobby area so sit on a couch and go over my work with me. His assessment was pretty much the same as the DC editor (whose name was the same as a city in Florida… near Disney World), but he was much nicer and wiser beyond his youthful years. Instead of crushing my soul, he fed me a line that was much kinder, deftly calculated to enlighten but not destroy, and which I gratefully swallowed hook line and sinker. He said my writing was as good as some of the things they were doing, but that what they needed was writing that was better. And he invited me to come back with more work, and work that didn’t violate the Comics Code Authority every other sentence. It was so slick I never felt the knife, but it was also a very generous and thoughtful letdown that I’ve never forgotten (even if Roy has). He helped me understand that my work wasn’t very good (at that point!), and allowed me to walk away with my pride and confidence intact and with the door left open for my return. I went home fully intending to do that very thing… but, I got sidetracked…

Sidebar: While Roy and I sat there, Stan the Man came in. He looked down at us sitting there on that couch with the same expression that you might get if you walked into a room and saw something moving in your wastebasket. Jim Steranko also came in. I’ve got a wonderful Steranko story to tell you too, but I’m running late and it will have to wait for another day.