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John Darling – Take 36

posted on October 27, 2016

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Can’t imagine what I thought was shocking and graphic back in ’79, but I’m sure it pales by comparison.

Batom Comics – The Untold History Part 11

posted on October 22, 2016

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It was a snowy Saturday afternoon outside the Batom Comics offices on West Third Street. Inside, Mitch Knox had just finished with his weekly dressing-down from Brady Wentworth and was impatiently fidgeting as he waited for his mother to return from shopping at Higbees so she could take him home and he could get to work on his latest Tank Thompson World War Two Tale. Flash Freeman was there working with Phil Holt wrapping up an already late Starbuck Jones issue when he decided to lighten the mood in the room by positing a question to those assembled. As the cars slushed by on the street below, Freeman asked, “If someone were to offer you two thousand  dollars to create a hero based in Africa, what’s the first thing that you would do?”

With barely any hesitation, Phil Holt said that he’d use some of the money to go to Africa where he’d live for a couple of months in the shadow of Kilimanjaro sketching and taking photographs in an effort to study the life there and soak up as much of the African mythos as he could before returning home to begin work on the story.

Without reaction, Freeman then turned to young Mitch who seemed pleased to be distracted by the query. After a few thoughtful seconds, Mitch declared that since he still needed a ride from his parents to go anywhere, visiting Africa was out of the question, so instead he’d have them drop him off for a Saturday at the downtown Cleveland Library where he’d spend the day researching all he could about the dark continent so that, when he began to write, all of the details would ring true and could be backed-up by his usual encyclopedic research. And then he said, “What would you do, Mr. Freeman?

Flash waited a beat and then said, “I would put the two thousand dollars in the bank first, and then I’d go home and write the whole story from my imagination.”

Flash Fridays – The Flash #148 – November 1964

posted on October 21, 2016

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“The Day Flash went into Orbit” pretty much says it all. Captain Boomerang is on the loose again and he plans to use a boomerang to shoot the Flash into orbit. This trope was beginning to wear just a little thin by this point and I don’t think it was the writer John Broome’s fault. He obviously had to deal with a cover idea from his editor Julie “Be original” Schwartz who was failing to heed his own advice at this point. This time the boomerang isn’t on a catapult, or rocket propelled, but is simple laying on the ground one second and launching itself into space the next. Broome dutifully worked the cover in by slapping the sequence onto the end of a clever little story of his own. A vengeful former cellmate go the good Captain decides to get even with him when they are both out of prison by feeding him crime targets as he sleeps and then beating him to the punch each time. It was a nice little mystery for CB to solve but he never really gets the chance because he has to go try to launch the Flash into space for the umpteenth time. But it’s hard to be grumpy about it when you look at that beautiful Infantino/Anderson art which always went a long way towards smoothing out any rough spots for me.

The second story “The Doorway to the Unknown!”, about a dead man who appears to the Flash in an effort to save an innocent man, would receive a lot of comment from Flash readers in the lettercols in future issues. This sort of fantasy element was different to the Flash for sure. Julie’s books were generally grounded in a scientific reality no matter how fantastic the science became. I think the response the story got was due more to its uniqueness in the context of the Flash than anything else because it it didn’t amount to much more than a very average Twilight Zone episode. The ending where the writer invokes the invincible spirit of man to get you to believe in the story leaves you with the feeling that he didn’t really believe it himself.