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Flash Fridays – The Flash # 303 November 1981

posted on June 3, 2022

So… there are a couple of things bothering me here. One I’ve been putting off, and another that I’m going to dig into first. For a Flashinado from the way-back-when days, seeing Barry’s father dressed as the Top holding a gun to his head and about to commit suicide is a bit jarring. Compared to what’s perfectly fine to do in comics these days, this is nothing really. And perhaps this is the beginning of what would eventually become today’s Dark Age of comics. Things change, I get it, but when is it ever a good idea to show somebody about to commit suicide on a comic book cover? Obviously, the soon to be doomed Comics Code Authority, was pretty diluted by this point, but, given their charge, it seems that they would have questioned this.

At any rate, we finally get the wrap-up to this bizarre story arc. In a nutshell, the young boy who caused the accident that put Barry’s mother into the hospital meets him there where he says that Barry’s father suffered a heart attack during the accident. As the boy performed CPR, he said that Doctor Allen was dead for about thirty-seconds. As he lay there dead, the astral form of the deceased Top entered his body. How the Top knew there was going to be an accident and that Doctor Allen would be dead for a few seconds is never explained. So the Top enters Doctor Allen’s body while he’s dead, effectively switching places with him in the astral plane, then plans with Lisa Snart/Golden Glider to kill the Flash so the he can enter the dead Flash’s body and live happily ever after with Lisa. Can I go back and change “bizarre story arc” to something more bizarre than that? In a final showdown, the Flash prevents the Top’s astral form from entering his body, while his father returns to the form of his old body. Nothing is mentioned as to whether Lisa/Glider was captured or not. The story ends as if the writer lost track of the page count and had to suddenly wrap things up in the last three panels.

The other thing that concerns me, at the time as well as now, is the change in Carmine Infantino’s art since he return to the book. The artist, whose lithe runner look made the Flash look fast standing still, is suddenly drawing him like a steroid infused football player.

Tight shot of Barry before.

 

Tight shot of Barry after the return.

Slim lithe Flash and Golden Age Flash.

Chunked out Flashes.

I have a personal theory about this based on nothing but a hunch. The hunch is this: When Infantino was the head honcho at DC, he was responsible for bringing Jack Kirby over to DC. Apparently the wheels at DC thought that Kirby’s chunky anatomy was the secret to the Marvel magic, and the reason that Marvel was kicking DC’s butt. This thought apparently never left Carmine’s head, and, when he returned to the drawing board, he eschewed the elegant and graceful look he had formerly given to the Flash in favor of the blockier style. This would be how he would approach figures to the very end of his career. What worked so well for Kirby, unfortunately didn’t work as well for Infantino, especially if you had seen the former chic sophistication that he had brought to the character.

Flash Fridays – The Flash # 302 October 1981

posted on April 29, 2022

I know what you’re thinking… this is one shocking Flash cover. No, I’m not talking about seeing the Flash making out with the Golden Glider aka Lisa Snart. I’m talking about the sticker shock of seeing that DC was now charging 60 cents for their comic books. I realize that in the age where a current issue of The Flash sets you back $3.99, 60 cents seems like quite a bargain, but when you started out at 10 cents… trust me, it was a shock. Just think, if comic books were still 10 cents, $3.99 would probably buy me the entire DC line for this month (Don’t try that in your comic shop BTW).

Okay, as Stan would say: “Before you think you happened onto an economics lecture, let’s get back to seeing what the Flash is up to in this issue!” (Stan always used a lot of exclamation points). So the story opens with Barry finally revealing to his dad dad? that he’s the Flash, and his father seems appropriately surprised. Except that we know that his dad isn’t really his dad. He’s Roscoe Dillon aka the Top! Okay, I let that slip didn’t I? In my defense, I’m not sure you really need to provide a spoiler warning on a forty-one year old comic book. Let’s just say that much was revealed this issue. You could also say that the Top inhabiting Dr. Allen’s body is impossible. Plus, you could double down by pointing out that the Top is dead. Both pretty good reasons. However, we’re three hundred and two issues into this project, so nothing should really surprise us anymore.

On the other hand, things are finally falling into place. Apparently, Lisa and Roscoe are the mysterious pair who have been plotting to do away with the Flash by having Roscoe take over Dr. Allen’s body with the plan to have Roscoe eventually take over the Flash’s mortal coil. This makes sense because they both really hate the Flash for having killed (although accidentally) the Top, but it also leaves us with some questions yet to be answered. How does the Top pull off the trick of taking over bodies? And what happens to the person who was the previous inhabitant of that body? And why does the Top look so old and say that the Flash killed him (accidentally) in the prime of his youth? Finally, why does the captured Golden Glider tell the Flash to enjoy the triumph of catching her while he can? Surely, as the Flash muses at the end, that’s more than just sour grapes. The editor Mike Barr says in the letter col that everything wraps in the next issue, so it appears that we’ll all find out together in the next Flash Friday.

Oh, I should also point out that the Flash is only kissing the Golden Glider on the cover and in the story because a hypno-gem in her mask made him do that. But you probably suspected that.

 

Flash Fridays – The Flash #301 September 1981

posted on April 15, 2022

So in the first two pages, Barry Allen’s boss Captain Frye is kidnapped, Barry finds a note in his locker from Captain Frye saying that he’s been fired, and Barry gets a call saying that his mother has come out of the coma that she’s been in for the last three issues with no discernible after affects. That’s a busy two pages, but the pace doesn’t slow down. First, Barry’s father Dr. Allen is seen talking on a pay phone (remember those?) to an unidentified paramour, then Barry meets a mysterious blind man in the elevator as he rushes off from a visit to his mom to change to the Flash and track down Captain  Frye’s kidnappers. He goes to Frye’s house to check out the scene and overhears Frye’s wife telling investigators that her husband has a pacemaker that’s less than five years old. A quick check of a medical supple place and the Flash learns that Frye had a model with a radium micro battery. By tuning his vibrations to the electrical frequency of the battery, the Flash takes off to check on the whereabouts of everyone who had one of those pacemakers installed in the past five years.

Patient number three turns out to be the actor Lester McKay who’s staying in town and who looks suspiciously like the blind man we saw in the hospital elevator. Probably more on that later. The Flash eventually finds Frye who has been drugged but seems fine otherwise. Whew… hang on there’s more. Once the Flash has deposited Frye back at the police station, we learn that the good captain is the head of a task force on nuclear terrorism, and that a known nuclear terrorist has just been arrested. Upon hearing this Barry/Flash puts two and two together and whisks Frye away from the city where a micro nuclear device implanted in Frye’s chest explodes just like we saw on the cover. What we didn’t see (and it’s really hard to see in a comic book so we just have to take the writer’s word for it) is the Flash vibrating both of them in such a way so as to cause the explosion to pass harmlessly through them. The Flash then explains that Barry/him had checked Frye’s recent EKG readings and compared them with earlier ones and spotted a telltale difference alerting him to the nuclear implant. So a grateful Frye gives Barry his job back.

So all’s well that ends well, except…. in the last panel we see Dr. Allen romancing a redhead and telling her that Barry’s days are numbered and that the Flash will soon be “as dead as we left his real father”. As the box at the bottom of the final panel says: More on the baffling mystery of Dr. Allen — next issue.

In a final note, this issue marks the editorial debut of Mike W Barr as editor of the Flash. Mike and I probably started reading The Flash at about the same time in our Ohio tot-hood. So the kids have now fully taken over the clubhouse.

 

 

 

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