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Flash Fridays – #205 May 1971

posted on September 14, 2018

Issue #205 is another Flash summer annual with reprints of issues already covered here. The exceptions are a Golden Age Flash story and a Johnny Quick tale. These Golden Age stories were always a real treat to come across because, unlike today when publishers have pretty much strip-mined the past and reprinted almost every older super hero that you’d want to see (along with a few you wish you hadn’t seen), those older stories came from what seemed like a long lost mysterious era, which it really was to us children of the Silver Age. There was very little access to that material because there was no internet and no comics shops. This is why The Flash #123 with the appearance the original Flash was such a bombshell because it opens things up to a world I didn’t know existed. I know the Golden Age Flash was mentioned in the Silver Age Flash origin story, but if you never saw that issue when it came out…

So these reprints in the Flash Annuals were a little peek into that earlier era. The Flash story is penciled by Carmine Infantino in a still developing style that would have been unrecognizable if not for the fact that he and inker Bernard Sachs were credited on the splash page. His Milton Caniff/Noel Sickles influences are readily apparent and, seeing this work, it’s no surprise that Caniff once approached him for help with the art chores on Steve Canyon. It’s still quite a long ways from his Silver Age style. The artist Ralph Mayo who was likewise credited on the splash of the Johnny Quick tale is totally unfamiliar to me. No writer credits are given although I suspect the Flash story was a Gardner Fox job (I know I could probably go to the Grand Comics Database and look it up, but that’s work and the charge of this blog is to have fun). Speaking of which, these stories were so fun to see that I hardly felt gypped have to pay twenty-five cents for a book with stories that I’d already read. Little did I realize that I’d be buying them all over again down the road as Archive, Showcase Presents and finally (hopefully finally) the beautiful Omnibus editions. Who knew?

 

Flash Fridays – #204 March 1971

posted on September 7, 2018

As this issue’s lead story opens, both Barry and Iris are performing their morning ablutions (I read that in Tarzan and the Ant Men as a kid and have been waiting some sixty years to find a place to use it – feel free to google it or go look it up in a dictionary like I had to way back when… I’ll wait) and nowhere do we hear that Iris’s being born in 2945 is a dream. In fact, writer Bob Kanigher doubles down by taking the first two pages to reprise last issue’s story. This is worth noting because to paraphrase the old saying: anything that doubles down in the first act always shows up in the third. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As the actual story unfolds, we find that Iris is suddenly able to read minds as she foils a couple of crimes in the act, or more correctly put, just prior to the act. Later, in a courtroom where the Justice League is testifying, she starts to blurt out their secret identities before the Flash whisks her away just in the nick of time. And it turns that time itself is the solution/cause of Iris’s problem. The Flash feels that the only safe place for Iris is in the future where she was born, and in the process of jumping on the cosmic treadmill to make the trip they find that the locket that Iris’s parent in the future gave her (see the post for issue #203) starts to glow. They surmise that time travel unlocks an unknown element in the locket that turns Iris’s mind into an unconscious transmitter of people’s thoughts. So they take it off and what do you know, problem solved.

Ironically, the Steve Skeates Kid Flash story also involves a spirit that temporarily inhabits peoples’ minds. Both stories are well told and well drawn. I do find myself warming to Irv Novick’s and Dick Dillin’s art primarily because of the Murphy Anderson inking. I’m sure that when these came out and, had I been paying more attention at the time, I would have felt the same way back then. But the The Flash had done its work in inspiring me and teaching what I need to know. I had taken, and now it was my turn to give back because, on March 27th of that year, my hour struck and Funky Winkerbean showed up to take its place on the comic pages.

Flash Fridays – #203 February 1971

posted on August 24, 2018

Well, sports fans, this is where the fewmits hit the windmill! It’s the issue where we find out that Barry’s wife Iris is really from the future, 2945 to be precise. For those Flashinados who were depressed about Barry’s hair being longer with the onset of Irv Novick’s pencilling, this news probably sent them right over the proverbial edge. The big whoosh you can hear is John Broome’s exquisitely thoughtful continuity going right out the window. These days, of course, books get retconned and rebooted in the middle of an issue and nobody bats an eyelash, but, back in 1971, this was cause for a Defcon 4 existential crisis.

The goofy looking cover was a clue that some sort of shenanigans were in the offing when an ok Neal Adams cover becomes an odd photo montage. Not only that, but the guy in the photo looks strangely like Stan Lee with a beard. I’m not sure who was to blame for the Iris from the future idea, but, since Kanigher wrote it, Kanigher gets the credit/blame. He basically apes the Superman origin story which he cops to at the story’s end. It seems that Eric and Fran (Fran?) Russell sent baby Iris into the past to avoid being caught up in a nuclear war where she showed-up on the patio (I’m not kidding) of Ira West and his wife. She also came with a locket with the name Iris Russell and it’s the finding of this locket with it’s recorded message from her parents of the future that begins the unravelling of Iris’s life. In a modest nod to what John Broome had established, Kanigher allows that Professor West’s absent mindedness may have stemmed from his trying to suppress all of this craziness. As she calls Barry the to tell him the news (Hey, guess what, honey…) her “time-vibrations”  become unstable and she’s zipped to the future. Oy. She meets her real parents who recognize her from the locket, and then the Flash follows her (thank God for the cosmic treadmill!) to the future and saves her from the evil Sirik the Supreme. Even though this particular future comes about eight hundred years after that of Professor Zoom/The Reverse Flash, it’s still a bit disquieting that it’s nothing like that earlier future. The absence of Infantino’s futuristic buildings are certainly a big part of that. Let’s just say that Novick’s feel for the future leaves a lot to be desired. In the end, Eric and Fran (okay, I can’t stand it! Has there ever in the history of super hero comics or the entire body of science fiction been a character named Fran? I’m thinking probably not, but… it is a big fictional universe out there) decide that Iris’s life should be with her husband in the past, so they part ways with the Flash and Iris promising to visit. The Flash qualifies things by saying “from time to time”, and so the door is left open, but not too open. I really can’t wait to read the Flash-Grams letters page two issue from now.

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