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Flash Fridays – The Flash #267 November 1978

posted on January 22, 2021

The Flash #267 is graced by another less than stellar cover. The recent run of Rich Buckler covers seemed to lack… umm, something. There’s just a certain oddness about them. It’s really hard to put your finger on just where they go south. But as your resident Flash Friday spokesperson, I feel that it’s incumbent upon me to do the finger putting on when it comes to this sort of thing. However, I’m just a bit baffled. The drawing isn’t all that bad really, it just doesn’t work as a cover. Turns out that I’m not alone in thinking this. In the Flash Grams letter cols, readers had kicked up a bit of dust leading to a minor cover controversy. One reader commented that the covers continually show the Flash in abject defeat. Well, sure… but haven’t they always done that? The Flash being turned into a mirror, tub of lard, a puppet and so on has always been de rigueur and that never seemed to be a problem. Another reader suggested getting rid of Rich Buckler and replacing him with Ditko, Heath, Kaluta, Kubert, Starlin and Wrightson much as I did in a letter to the editor way back when. I’m sure that suggestion was met with an equally big yawn… but it would have been fun. There is one thing on the cover that caught my attention, and that was the blurb billboarding the never before revealed origin of the Flash’s uniform. My curiosity as a fan and a writer was properly piqued.

But first, we need to cover the main story where we pick up with Heat Wave having just ensconced the Flash in a cryogenic cocoon. HW then departs having done a good days work leaving the Flash to face his fate. And so the Flash vibrated out of it right? Eh, sort of. Writer Cary Bates thought that was a bit too easy, too overused, take your pick. So, instead he came up with this little piece of work. As he lapses into frozen unconsciousness Barry thinks: “Shooting molecules… that’s it! What I’m thinking of is an incredible long shot… but what have I got to lose? Got to focus all my will power on discharging molecules from the underside of my body in hopes one of them will collide with one of the molecules in the cryogenic cocoon at just the right velocity and trajectory setting up a molecular chain reaction sort of like a game of atomic billiards! If this works out, the molecules in the cocoon will collide into each other so rapidly, a violent wave of vibration will begin, strong enough to spread from the base of the cocoon to the surrounding floor!” In short, he vibrates his way out off it. And, may I add, those of you who snickered at the phrase “discharging molecules from the underside of my body” should be ashamed of yourselves and will have to stay after school and clean erasers sanitize desks. The flash eventually defeats Heat Wave but only after he’s shot into space, turns himself into pure light, and bounces off of a mirrored satellite to return to Earth. The only disquieting thought is that before he froze the Flash, Heat Wave unmasked him, so he now knows what the Flash looks like sans mask. I’m sure Bates has some plans for that.

And now on to the origin of the Flash’s uniform. But, wait, I’ve already wasted more of your time today than I should have and I have a lot to say about this gem of a story. So what say we pick this at our next Flash Friday club meeting, okay? I forget… who’s turn is it to bring snacks?

Flash Friday – The Flash #266 October 1978

posted on January 15, 2021

Behind one of the dopier covers in the Flash Silver Age run lies a reasonably cool and clever story with one dopey part. Where to begin? Well the beginning seems like a good place. On the opening page we see some third-rate crooks sitting in the dark grumbling about a heist they are about to pull. Then it’s revealed that Heat Wave is in there with them. Then it’s revealed that they are all sitting inside of a faux pyramid sitting on a flatbed truck that’s delivering it to an exhibition of Egyptian artifacts. A Trojan pyramid as it were (he said mixing something or other).

Cut to the exhibit where we find Barry and Iris. Barry has accompanied Iris who is reporting on the exhibit when out jumps Heat Wave and the crooks. Iris sees Barry disappear followed by a cute panel where wife Iris is impatiently wondering where the hell the Flash is already. The Flash does show up and quickly dispatches the third-rate-thugs, and then its to the basement of the building where he battles Heaty in the midst of the building’s mechanicals. During the course of the battle, a Heat Wave blast destroys the huge air-conditioning unit. That blast shoots out chunks of ice, one of which knocks the Flash out. Heat Wave, instead of dispatching the Flash on the spot and making this the final Flash Friday, instead slinks away shivering and fearful amid the mini glaciers that have formed everywhere. Okay, we’ve reached the dopey part. Heat Wave has destroyed the air-conditioning unit causing ice to fly around and form everywhere in the basement. Why is this dopey? BECAUSE HEAT WAVE HAS DESTROYED THE AIR-CONDITIONER! Apparently writer Cary Bates thinks that the way air-conditioners work is that they have big blocks of ice inside. That can happen, of course and I’ve seen it, but not after you’ve DESTROYED THE AIR-CONDITIONER!

Okay, here comes the clever part. The next scene we see is Mick Rory aka Heat Wave lying on a couch discussing his problem with Doc Synett the shrink to the underworld. It turns out that Mick was accidentally locked in a meat locker as a child and that traumatic experience caused him to forever seek out heat and warmth going forward (and possibly become a vegetarian). This is a nice bit of business as Bates reveals the trauma behind Heat Wave’s pathological behavior that drives his criminal activities. Obviously HW has other compulsions as well since he could have solved his need for heat by moving to Arizona. But all joking aside (and may I say here that I could have added that he became a heat seeking misanthrope, but chose not to outside of this unctuous parenthetical, and things in parentheticals, as we all know, don’t count), I like the way Bates provides a very human underpinning for the character. Which raises an interesting point.

At some point it the nineties (I think), I was in my local comics emporium pursing a pool table of comics (I’ll explain that at some other time) when I spotted this stunning Flash cover showing a house in flames and a young boy with some matches kneeling in the foreground. That cover did what a cover is suppose to do (for a fuller explanation, see the Cover Me section of this blog) which is to make you have to have it and grab it off the rack or pool table (never mind, I just explained it). Needless to say, in this story Heat Wave’s obsession comes from the fact that he torched his house killing his family in the process. Don’t know who did the cover or who wrote the story, but I have to tell you that I like this version much much better. Since this cover is a perfect candidate for Cover Me, I have searched for it endlessly on the Grand Comics Data Base (a half hour) with no success. Obviously, I’m probably misremembering the time period, but if this cover rings any bells with any of you Flashinados out there, I’d love to get a scan to post. In return, you’ll get my undying gratitude.

I almost forget, the story we started this post with ends with Heat Wave tricking the Flash and trapping him in a cryogenic chamber (see how just one counseling session can help you overcome your fears?) and turning our hero into a corpsicle. Stay tuned.

 

 

Flash Fridays – The Flash # 265 September 1978

posted on December 4, 2020

Following their perilous adventure with the Golden Glider, Barry and Iris embark on a second honeymoon and run smack into a nest of aliens hiding out in a remote hotel. What are the chances? Well, apparently they’re pretty good when an irresistible power locks onto your mind as Barry describes happening to him. It seems that the aliens have been on Earth for awhile disguised as humans while they went about their work of planting four cosmictron power rods. Having not so long ago finished Robots and Empire as part of my journey through Asimov’s empire novels where devices are planted across the Earth in an effort to destroy it, these actions by the aliens appear to bode ill intent. Which is exactly what Barry suspects as he begins to investigate things and the aliens come after him with seemingly menacing weapons. I say seemingly because, when the Flash finally confronts the aliens, it turns out that they’re here to do the population of Earth a good turn. So maybe the menacing weapons were just cosmic super soakers of some kind.

Long story short (because I’d still like to do some reading tonight), it seems that the aliens home world passed through the tail of a comet with the result that all disease on their world was wiped out. Since their planet was about to experience the comet crossing again, the cosmitron power rods  the aliens were planting were intended to have the Earth and the alien planet momentarily swap places so that the human race (and I assume the pigs and the bunnies et al) could experience the same good fortune as the Earth passed through the comet’s tail. All without anyone knowing. At the end, the Flash ponders about how everyone on Earth just got a split second “vaccination” from a passing comet. I don’t think I need to point out the irony of this story turning-up at this particular point in time do I? Kind of makes you want to go out into the backyard and ignore the current conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, and, instead look for passing comments.

PS The Kids Flash also involved and alien who was here to clean-up an irradiated lake. Apparently it was aliens do a a good turn month.

 

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