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Flash Fridays – The Flash #272 April 1979

posted on April 9, 2021

So, picking up where I left off, something like the change in editorship of a comic magazine usually means that the current writer and artist will be broomed in favor of the new editor’s hand picked team. Julie Schwartz’s replacement Ross Andru shows some restraint here by only replacing the art team. Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin are out and Rich Buckler is in. Sort of. In the previous issue, Buckler was inked by the veteran Jack Able. Here, the art is attributed to John Calnan and Buckler with inking by Vince Coletta. Calnan is a name or pseudonym that I’m encountering here for the first time. My suspicion is that Buckler wasn’t keeping up with deadlines and pulled in some help to get this issue finished. It’s not a good combination and the art suffers for it. Coletta’s inking helps to pull things together to a degree, but, in truth, it’s not his best work either. I’ve never been a big Coletta fan, but I recently saw a newspaper strip sample that he worked on with Stan Lee and it was astonishingly beautiful work that would have held it’s own with any other strip in the newspapers. Apparently, when he wanted to Coletta could really knock it out of the park, but, here, he settles for a bunt.

What keeps the continuity of the book intact is that Cary Bates stays on as the writer, so at least we’re not dealing with a wholesale overhaul of the character. That being said, there’s a problem with the story. There isn’t one. Now I’ve never been a big adherent of proscribed storytelling techniques such as those presented in Robert McKee’s legendary tome on how to write stories, oddly enough called Story. But there needs to be something that resembles a beginning, middle, and end, and we have none of that here. What we have here are a string of unrelated incidents which are: the Flash saving himself and the others trapped on the high wire with him and capturing the Clown who was trying to get revenge for his family of aerialists who died in the power outage at the circus… the Flash being observed by the mysterious woman as he does this… Barry visiting the  controversial NEPHRON at the penitentiary and becoming concerned about what they’re doing there… Barry discovering the heroin that had been stashed in his lab (frankly, I’d totally forgotten that one)… the man with the goatee spying on Barry again… Iris preparing a romantic dinner for Barry that he has to rush off from to check on a break-in at his lab… and as he runs to the lab, something takes over his mind forcing him to run into a brick wall… and finally the Flash lying unconscious at the feet of the mysterious woman. Seven dangling plot threads. Lot’s of stuff happening there, but a story isn’t one of them. Cary Bates has shown he can tell a good story, but, here, he’s like the vaudeville guy who used to keep all of the plates spinning on those long sticks. At some point, he needs to stop spinning plates, and, instead spin a good yarn. Nice looking Garcia Lopez cover though.

Flash Fridays -The Flash #271

posted on April 2, 2021

This is a seismic issue of The Flash, and not because the opening splash page shows the Flash stuck in a brick wall as six explosive tipped rockets are heading straight for him. The rockets hit, blasting a hole in the wall and leaving no sign of the Flash. Three squad cars pull up and surround the villain I was calling the Clown, and who the police are now calling the Clown as well, so a point for me. The Clown threatens to suffocate the police by spraying them with an expanding cotton candy. Just as that’s about to happen, the Flash emerges from the pile of bricks with shards of the wall still stuck his body. He saves the policemen and then runs home to try to vibrate the shards from his body out of view of the public.

At home as he’s doing this, Iris, who wants them to ride to work together, gets impatient and stomps out of the house. Writer Cary Bates has been seeding the recent stories with incidents like these obviously setting up signs of marital discord paving the way for an explosion in a coming issue. The writer doubles down with Barry having to cancel a dinner date so he can go witness an aversion therapy session with the  Nephron project at the penitentiary. As he does this, a strange bearded man is seen following him. As long as we’re seeding mysteries here, we also see the mysterious girl from last issue collecting shards of bricks from the brick wall where the Flash had been stuck saying as she does this that each memento that she collects make her stronger and brings him closer to her grasp.

Meanwhile, the Clown is busy capturing executives from the power company and local officials all seemingly related to an event at circus where several trapeze artists died in a tragic fall when the power at the circus failed. The Clown succeeds in capturing the Flash as well and the story ends in a cliff hanger with the Flash, his powers suitably nullified, and the others suspended in chairs atop power lines supported by gyros that will fail and let them fall to their deaths if the power is cut off.

But what really make the issue seismic is that it’s the last issue for Julius Schwartz as editor. Julie had been the only editor of the Silver Age Flash and had helped to usher in said Silver Age when he brought the Flash back in an updated version. Plus, if you’ve been following this blog, you know what Julie meant to fandom and to this fan in particular.  I was off at college at this point and focusing on other things, so the change wasn’t quite as traumatic as it could have been. There are other reasons as well, and I’ll go into more about what they are in the next Flash Friday.

 

Flash Fridays – The Flash # 270 February 1979

posted on March 5, 2021

The cover to #270 shows the Flash caught in a montage of incidents, all reflecting various elements from the interior story. Still the most interesting thing to me is the burst in the upper right hand corner alerting viewers to the fact that DC has backed off from the 50 cent price the book had been sporting only a couple issues back. It’s hard to imagine that back in the days that I was only paying a dime for a comic book that I would one day celebrate the fact that comics were ONLY forty cents. And don’t get me started on the fact that I’m plunking down $4.00 for a comic today. Makes me wonder what I’ll be accepting as normal down the road someday. Did I hear someone say omnibus editions?

Okay, enough of talking cash with the Flash, and onto the Flashy issue in front of us. Cary Bates opens with a wonderful splash page showing the Flash circumnavigating the globe… just out for his morning jog. I salute that very nifty touch. Before he can make it home, however, the Flash runs across (pun not intended, it just happened) a clown escaping a bank robbery on a pogo stick. The Flash gives chase as the clown escapes in a funky Ford flivver. The model T later turns into a racing car and, just as the Flash is about to catch it, the clown hits him in the face with a drugged pie. We aren’t told exactly who this clown character is, so I’ll just call him the Clown for simplicity’s sake. The appearances of the Clown bookend the story, and, in between, we are treated to a series of set-ups for next issue and perhaps beyond. The cover box did say that “Flash’s life begins to change and it will never be the same again!!”

In order they are: Barry being late for dinner and having Iris throw a tantrum… a mysterious villain’s lair where we see the mysterious villain with long strawberry blond hair plotting to unmask the Flash… an aversion to crime therapy program being started at the penitentiary based on a college thesis of Barry’s… and two bad guys disguised as cops breaking into the police station and moving a stash of impounded heroin to a hiding place in Barry’s lab. As the current vernacular likes to say, that’s quite a bit to unpack there.

All of the above is followed by the second appearance of the Clown who sets off an explosion that forces the Flash to vibrate through a brick wall to escape. But there’s a problem. As the Flash vibrates out of the wall his legs get stuck. He needs some time to recover his energy before he can vibrate all of the way out. Meanwhile the Clown fires a triple brace of rockets at him from his rolling calliope clown car leading to a closing comic book panel for the ages. Zowie!

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