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Flash Fridays – The Flash #182

posted on November 3, 2017

This issue features two stories by John Broome the first of which features the return of Abra Kadabra who would have better served the issue by being featured on the cover. AK once again returns from the future seeking recognition and applause, and, when he doesn’t get it at a magicians convention that he crashes and is outed as instead as a law breaker, he turns everyone there into a thief. The Flash figures out what has happened, but then he himself is affected by AK and finally breaks free by force of will after which he hops on the cosmic treadmill and returns the magical miscreant to the future where authorities there  assure the Flash that he’ll never escape again. Uh, huh.

The second story is pretty much an exercise in justifying the Schwartz gimmick cover. The Flash hits his head foiling a bank robbery and proceeds to get dizzy spells when he tries to use his super speed. So he has to stop the crooks with brawn and guile instead. It’s a good serviceable Broome story in the service of a tired premise. I’d say that it doesn’t matter because it sells comic books, but it wasn’t doing that. Marvel was rapidly gaining ground on DC at that point, and the numbers on the Flash (as well as most of DC’s other books) were slipping into an ominous decline with DC pretty much clueless as to why it was happening.

The Flash-Grams page features offerings from two future comics pros Carl Gafford and Mark Evanier. Evanier rips an earlier issue’s offering by fellow letters page graduate Cary Bates. Apparently there’s not much love or loyalty amongst the Flash letter hacks. Luckily, comics fandom would outgrow their immaturity and everyone would opt for the golden rule going forward. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, hoo!

Flash Fridays – The Flash #181 August 1968

posted on October 20, 2017

I pretty much said all I have to say about this issue in my previous post since this book is a continuation of that story and nothing much happens here to redeem it. There is a profile of writer Frank Robbins at the end of the comic, but it pretty much carries on in the same vein as the issue itself which, again, is unfortunate.

One thing that I didn’t mention before is that, almost as if they wanted to make the post Carmine issues as jarring as possible, there’s even a new letterer on the book. Which brings me to Gaspar Saladino the letterer of the early Silver Age Flash run. Even as a twelve-year-old kid, I could appreciate the fact that his lettering was truly something special that it was a part of what made those early books so special. It perfectly complimented  Carmine’s futuristic art. I realize that my love for those early Flash issues colors my thinking on all aspects of the book, but, even given that, I still realized that Saladino’s elegant lettering was a cut far above the rest. So, apparently,  did Julius Schwartz. According to Mark Evanier, in a memorial in Alter Ego, Schwartz turned down Saladino’s art portfolio, but kept him on for his lettering. With Carmine Infantino’s move into management, Saladino became the companies chief cover letterer and logo designer along with work on those tantalizing I’ve-got-to-get-my-hands-on-that-book DC in-house ads. That and the fact that he moved over to the Batman titles with Schwartz no doubt explains his absence in this  Flash issue.

Gaspar Saladino passed away in 2016, and, with that, another star in the Flash firmament blinked out.

 

 

Flash Fridays – The Flash #180 June 1968

posted on September 15, 2017

Where to start, where to start? This issue of the Flash and the one that follows are without any counterargument the nadir of the entire Flash Silver Age run. This time the the problems I have with the art pales in comparison to the writing which ping pongs between risible to racist through both issues. Frank Robbins jumps on board as the writer and pretty much makes a hash of everything that’s come before. I admire Robbins as an artist and enjoy the reprints of his Jonny Hazard newspaper strip, but I’m baffled to this day about the performance he turns in here. So let’s see if we can deconstruct this mess a little, shall we?

For openers, Robbins has even less feel for the character than the artists do. His Flash spouts dialog such as: “Y’ ain’t seen anything, Swifty!” which makes the intelligent scientist that John Broome developed into a jive talking street punk. I suspect that Robbins was trying to capture some of Stan Lee’s Spider-Man magical word play, but the Flash was never one to spout snappy, sassy patter in the midst of a fight with a villain. This unfortunate tendency carries over into the narrative boxes such as this one that appears on the opening splash page samurais sword fight: “Quite a way to split the scene, eh, cats? Or should we say what an eye opener? Any way you slice (emphasized  here in bold so the pun isn’t missed) it, this is one time Fearless Flash (did Robbins even read the stories that preceded his?) come up against more than pointed remarks! Now… flip the page before you flip lid…” The attempts at humor are simply sad, and in trying to sound like a kid of the sixties he’s using the language of the beats from the fifties. The end result is that he misses the mark by a mile and only looks foolish instead. Both of these examples are what results when you are trying to imitate something that you don’t really understand. And then it gets worse.

Robbins then has his Japanese characters (did I forget to mention that this story takes place in Japan to provide an excuse for the Flash to fight samurais? Sorry, it does. I’m no expert on samurais, but, based on everything else here, I wouldn’t be surprised if Robbins got some or all of that wrong too.) spout dialog that can only be described as embarrassing. Herewith are a dialog balloon and narrative box that pretty much say it all: ” Ha! is esteemed ferrow criminorogist Barry Arren-san*! Wercome to Japan!” *”Difficurty of pronouncing L’s in Japanese ranguage” I rest my case, and try typing that with auto correct sometime. Robbins then doubles down on the racism with this little beauty…  as the Flash battles a samurais  he says: “You first… my twin bladed baboon!” I couldn’t read this issue at the time and I still can’t. Racism aside, it’s just lousy writing. The final and most baffling thing of all was how Julie Schwartz ever allowed this to happen.

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