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Flash Fridays – The Flash #111

posted on September 4, 2015

The Flash no.111

Issue #111’s cover story, The Invasion Of the Cloud Creatures once again featured the masterful inking of Murphy Anderson over Infantino’s ever better pencilling. Let’s just pause a moment to appreciate that. Amen. I actually liked both of the Flash inkers Anderson and Giella and, in fact, Giella’s lighter more angular touch was in many ways better suited to Infantio’s pencilling and to the character. Each issue was a box of chocolates and I enjoyed the variety. Okay, this story takes pseudo science to new heights (pun always intended) as a scientist, Dr. Wiley Summers, encounters some cloud creatures emerging from a volcano. Along with being another civilization from inner Earth, they, of course, want to take over the world. I was willing to ignore this skinny premise simply because the art on the opening pages is so amazing. Personally, I rank it right up there along with Caniff, Sickles, Raymond and Foster… oh, and Crane too. It’s that good. In order to fight these cloud creatures, Broome has the Flash run up a mountain and leap from cloud to cloud punching them in in their highly sensitive nucleus. Apparently clouds can’t take a punch because it works. The more interesting aspect is Dr. Summers himself. He’s intelligent and heroic in his own right and this fact doesn’t go unnoticed by the fickle Iris who is planning to go out on a date with him as the story wraps. As thin as the story is, the art hauls it up a couple of floors and turns it into a nicely entertaining tale.

The second story is a Kid Flash story. Although undoubtedly following Julie Schwartz’s instructions to feature the kid hero, rather than have him tag along with the Flash, the story is set in Wally West’s hometown of Blue Valley (I would one day use the town of Blue Valley as a rival school for the Westview Scapegoats in Funky) as the Kid takes on a solo adventure. The stories aren’t that bad in themselves and focus on down-to Earth teen issues rather than alien cloud life forms which now that I think about it maybe wasn’t so bad after all. The most jarring thing is Broome’s unfortunate attempts to be au courant by using current teen slang which he then seeks to explain to us as if embarrassed by the whole idea of it. With the half-life of a Higgs Boson, most slang will never be fresh enough to make it to the printed page without sounding sadly dated and such is the case here. It’s no doubt the reason that even early on in Funky, I chose to eschew using current slang as much as possible. There was a lot of good that I picked up from watching Broome at work, but his attempt to be a hep cool cat wasn’t one of them. I was going to school here and learning my lesson’s.

Match to Flame 3

posted on September 1, 2015

Hopalong Cassidy

I’ve long had a theory that there’s a certain golden window of opportunity when you’re wide open and vulnerable to falling under the magic spell of an art form or a sport or almost any other type of pursuit. Had I been exposed to DeBussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” at that golden moment, I might have become a composer . . . or a painter, had I seen Monet’s luminous Rouen Cathedral paintings. Instead, I walked into that elementary school auditorium and straight into The Phantom Empire. Years later, reading a biography of the comics artist Murphy Anderson, I saw that he also mentioned The Phantom Empire as an influence. Apparently, if you were of a certain bent, that baby was right in your wheelhouse.
The clincher came when I got my hands on my first comic book. My dad always deflected my early attempts to buy comic books when I’d spot them on the drugstore spinner racks by saying they were too violent. However, one day on a visit to our family dentist, there they were—scattered across a table in his waiting room. My eye was caught by a Hopalong Cassidy cover that showed Hoppy on horseback riding after two bandits escaping on rocking horses. Rocking horses! Now, I had seen Hopalong Cassidy on television, but never like this. Once again it was the juxtaposition of the real and the fantastic that captured my imagination. I just had to know what was going on there. Unfortunately, I was ushered in to see the dentist before I could read it and find how the writer resolved that seemingly insoluble conundrum. (I wasn’t to see that book again until many years later at a comics convention when there it was, just as I’d remembered it. It was late in the con weekend, and the dealer, a purveyor of only western comics, had obviously not been selling too many. I saw an opportunity to pick up that holy grail book at a reasonably inexpensive price. Unfortunately, as I was thinking that thought, I heard myself saying aloud, “I don’t believe it! I’ve been looking for this book my whole life!” The dealer was kind enough to at least let me keep my wallet.)

* From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Vol. One

Flash Fridays – The Flash #110

posted on August 28, 2015

The Flash no.110

The cover of The Flash #110 shows the Flash windmilling his arms to hold back a tsunami of rushing water, and the it billboards the coming of the Weather Wizard. Somehow you get the idea that the two are connected. Inside we are presented with the introduction of a new Flash foe along with a new Flash inker Murphy Anderson. Let me just state right out front that I think Murphy Anderson is, was and forever will be the best inker in the solar system. It was love at first sight. His lush mannered style really hit my sweet spot. Again, this issue came out before I officially came on board so it was great to discover when it was reprinted in The Flash Archives.

It’s interesting to note that a panel from this story was used for a DC house ad at that time which piqued my nascent comic book interest considerably. Had I come across this book I would have snapped it up immediately and thus my love affair with the Flash would have begun five issues sooner than it did. The only thing I can attribute that lapse to is the spotty distribution in those days coupled with my infrequent appearances at the Brown Street Rexall Drugstore near my grandparents house. The issue is a killer in a couple of ways. First it introduces another cool villain in the Weather Wizard complete with the Broome backstory and character development that we’ve come to expect. The Infantino/Anderson art is gorgeous serves the piece well as the Flash battles the various effects of the wily weather wastrel (I think I just came up with an alliteration that John Broome actually missed). Although much of the story is given over to the backstory, there’s plenty of space for the Flash to battle and defeat the Weather Wizard and to show off some new super speed skills.

Broome was on quite a creative roll at that point because he not only introduced another new villain in this ish, but he also introduces Kid Flash. Unfortunately, editors at that time felt at that time that superheroes needed a young partner so that we young readers would have someone to identify with. If they would have only asked us, we would have said: “No we don’t!”, but they didn’t and so we have this rather contrived origin story of a young Flash partner. I say contrived because we’re asked to believe that a lightning bolt (on a perfectly sunny day this time) would come through a window and cause the exact same chemicals to land on Iris West’s nephew Wally West endowing him with super speed. I’m sorry, this story has so many holes in it that the swiss cheese award would be too kind. Kid Flash was something I felt these books didn’t need. John Broome would later make me change my mind… a little.

This story showcased an especially nice inking job by Joe Giella. He shared the inking duties on The Flash with Murphy Anderson and, if memory serves, was the only one to ink the Kid Flash stories. He definitely made them his own.