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Flash Fridays – The Flash #296 April 1981

posted on January 14, 2022

The big news about this issue of The Flash is that the book returns to the drawing board of Carmine Infantino, the artist who helped launch the Silver Age Flash twenty years earlier. For those of us who grew up with and were inspired by those  books (including among them this issue’s writer Cary Bates), Infantino’s work holds a special place in our lives. With his body of work on The Flash as well as Adam Strange, Infantino practically was the Silver Age for a time. So it’s nice to see that elegant style back in the service of a Flash story, and it had to have been a thrill for Cary Bates. I’m not sure how Infantino felt returning to penciling after having been the boss of DC all those years, but the life of a comics pro has never been anything less than Darwinean.

Having the Ralph Dibney the Elongated man join the Flash on this occasion merely adds to the nostalgia. Cary Bates story is a simple one that somehow just feels right for the moment with its call back to the work of the Flash’s early writer John Broom. It’s both short, sweet and reminiscent. In the elevator pitch, the Elongated Man has been on the trail of three circus performers across Europe as they committed robberies at various drug manufactures. It turns out that they’re stealing the medical supplies for a fourth performer whose extreme Elephant Man deformities have resigned him to the circus’s freak show. The Flash stops Ralph as he’s about to capture them, and once he understands the situation, Ralph figures out that one of the stolen ingrediants is gingold, the thing that gives him his stretching ability. He then susses out that the cure needs to be administered along with his specific type O blood. A transfusion takes place, the cure works, and the circus performers are given leniency. In the end, it’s nice to see the two old superhero pals together again as they walk off on into a promising dawn (literally).

So with the return of Infantino, all is good and perfect again, right? Well, good certainly… but, perfect? Mmmm… let’s not spoil the moment. More on that later.

Flash Fridays – The Flash #295 March 1981

posted on December 17, 2021

When we Flashinados last gathered to celebrate the Silver Aged (as opposed to the Golden Aged, Bronze Aged and Dark Aged) Flash, the Gorilla Grodd had tweaked the mytronic beacon at the North Pole to not only remove all memory of the super gorillas from existence, but all memory of himself as well. And, as long as he was there, added a little something to doom not only Solivar, the leader of the gorillas, but the Flash in the bargain.

Both Solivar and the Flash have dreams where they battle each other, but apparently these were just practice runs and anticipation of the real thing. In the dreams, they each end up being killed by one another. Once awake, they both independently head to the North Pole so see if the mytronic beacon is the source of their nightmares. They each suspect each other of monkeying (intended) with the beam and a battle royal between the two ensues. When Grodd shows up in a flyer to check on the action, the Flash captures his ship in a super speed tornado which tears apart the flyer leaving Grodd in a tornado of white snow crystals. Solivar then uses his force of mind to freeze Grodd in a block of ice.

It’s only later when they’ve returned that they can identify Grodd and put him on ice (ha!) in a gorilla hoosegow. The key to the Flash and Solivar realizing that they were duped is that the Flash dreams in super speed, and his Grodd induced dream was “far too slow to be authentic”.

The art by Don Heck makes this one of the top five Grodd stories ever. Almost twenty years into its run, The Flash has returned to form in a big way. And it looks like the transformation isn’t over since the next issue billboard at the bottom of the page announces not only the return of the Elongated Man (the reason I have a source of the stretching serum ginkgo tree in my yard, remember?), but the return of the most formidable Flash artist of all, Carmine Infantino!

Flash Fridays – The Flash #294 February 1981

posted on December 10, 2021

Writer Cary Bates’ march through the Flash’s rogues gallery as well as his recent string of top shelf stories continues with the reappearance of Grodd the super gorilla. We get another focused and terrifically told tale which trusts the source material to carry it without any intrusive gimmicks thrown into the mix. The story opens at the Gorilla City embassy (nicely designed by artist Don Heck) in New York City where we see some of the gorilla delegates enjoying some leisure time. As we jump to Gorilla City itself, we find their leader Solivar lamenting the influence that humans are having on their fellow gorillas in New York. He explains that the super gorillas have no concept of leisure time since they’re are using all of their brain at all times as opposed to humans who use only about 20%. He attributes the lack of leisure time to the gorillas’ successful rise, and, with the acquiescence of the Flash, plans to install a worldwash device at the pole to remove all knowledge of the super gorillas’ existence from the minds of humans.

While this is going on, the jailers of the villainous Grodd open his prison cell to find a human in there named William Dawson. They set Dawson free not realizing that Dawson is really Grodd himself. A helpful footnote informs us that Grodd first turned into Dawson in issue #106, but it turns out that the helpful footnote is not really all that helpful. Allow me a brief digression here:

The helpful footnote is wrong because Grodd turned into Dawson in issue #115. I happen to know this not because I have a stellar memory (far from it), but because issue #115 was the very first issue of The Flash that your faithful blogger ever bought. And you never forget your first one. Moral: If you’re going to have a helpful footnote, try to make sure it’s actually helpful.

Okay, moving on, Grodd slowly turns back into the Grodd we all know and love and he makes a beeline for the worldwash device also known as the mytronic beacon (I always like to use the actual scientific names when I can) where he tinkers with it to erase knowledge of himself from the minds of all of the gorillas as well as the humans. He then makes a special tweak which he gloats will doom both Solivar and the Flash. However, editorial informs us that, to find out what he did, we’ll have to wait until next issue for the story entitled In Grodd We Trust! Cute.




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