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Flash Fridays – The Flash #220 February-March 1973

posted on March 15, 2019

Despite the best efforts of editor Julie Schwartz et al, The Flash at this point has been bumped to bi-monthly status which is never a good sign for a book. A large part of the appeal of these pamphlets is following the story arcs from book to book and the anticipation of what’s coming next, and, when you throw a two month gap into the mix, you make it much tougher to keep reader interest alive. Admittedly, it’s nothing compared to the half year gaps that can happen with books these days and which are real buzz killers (there’s nothing like having something show up in your pull list that you can no longer even remember ordering), but, at least these days, you can trade-wait the collections if you still aren’t fed-up with the company, and artists/writers. But, back in the GOD (good old days), a two month wait was only going to cost you sales, not increase them. However, as I’ve already discussed in previous posts, DC was fighting a rear guard action at that point in time, not leading the charge.

And this is notwithstanding the fact that Cary Bates is/was (I can’t keep this tense stuff straight) writing some very appealing stories. Presented for your consideration is the Flash tale in this issue where Bates reaches back to the Flash’s origin story “Mystery of the Human Thunderbolt” to bring back the Flash’s very first villain, the Turtle. He’s the one who inadvertently causes the Flash and Kid Flash to fuse thus creating  that very disturbing cover. Apparently the Turtle calculated that the Earth was slowing down and causing him to slow down and eventually die, so he invents a device to speedup the Earth which naturally attracts the attention of our Flashes and leads to their fusing. After they unfuse and slow down the Earth again, they capture the Turtle, and, in order to not lose the Turtle to the dreaded fate he feared, Bates has the Flash say: “I checked and found hid calculations way off!“. The story gets high marks for trying to tie the Flash oeuvre together… somewhat lower ones for execution.

The Green Lantern back-up story is pretty much eight and a half pages of set-up, followed by continued next issue… in two long long months.

Flash Fridays – The Flash #219

posted on March 1, 2019

Once again it’s nice to see some Flash villains featured on the cover. The Flashinados had been clamoring for more such appearances and editor Julie Schwartz was apparently paying heed. He was aided and abetted by Flash letters page graduate and writer Cary Bates. The Million Dollar Death Trap yarn would have been right at home with the Flash tales from early in the Silver Age run. The Mirror Master cons (pun, of course, intended) his cellmate the Top into betting a million dollars that not only will he, MM, escape from prison, but that he’ll have the Flash trapped in the same prison cell within twenty-four hours. The Mirror Master shining his shoes to a mirror-like and escape-enabling finish using his earwax and oil from his hair is gross but clever (and to think that the prison authorities could have kept him around as a guest with just a little more attention to proper hygiene). Once outside the walls, Bates provides MM with a solar powered reflector racer which nicely serves the purpose of allowing him to keep pace with and keep away from our Flashy friend as he goes after the Top’s million dollar stash. Mirror Master succeeds in landing the Flash in the calaboose with the Top as he manipulates things from a tiny computer and tech filled compartment beneath the cell block (so apparently it wasn’t just the earwax and hair oil). He even rigs things so that if the Flash vibrates even a teeny weeny little bit, it will detonate a concealed bomb. This next bit is where Bates really earns his spurs by having the Top team-up with the Flash so that he can spin to counter the Flash’s vibrations allowing The Flash to escape thus preventing the prison and and the Top himself from being blown to smithereens. Why the Top couldn’t have just vibrated himself out of jail any time he wanted prior to that has yet to be addressed.

The Green Lantern/Green Arrow story in the book wraps up the longer story from their own book and I’ve already spent two posts raving about it, so just go back and read those if you need to.

Speaking of prior posts, on the Flash-Grams page, a Flashinado takes writer Bates to task for having the Flash travel in outer space, something I expressed annoyance with myself in said prior post. Bates is given the opportunity to respond and proceeds to get a little testy with the reader, citing prior instances where the Flash had ventured into and survived in space, as his defense. The only problem is… those were dumb too. It was interesting to see Bates get all spunky with with the reader like that. I wonder what he would have thought if he’d known that the internet coming.

Flash Fridays – The Flash #218 October-November 1972

posted on February 15, 2019

This issue issue pulls one of the Flash’s oldest villains, the Pied Piper, back into the fold, and yet there’s no sign of him on the cover. Not the way I would have handled it, but Cary Bates does do a nice job with the Piper one we’re inside the book. PP comes up with psychic pipe attuned to Flash’s mental wave length and basically spends the better part of fourteen pages making him totally miserable to the point of even questioning his own identity. With this story, Bates has really gathered his feet under himself and is ready to take off on a long run with this character. Artist Irv Novick is right there with him every step of the way as he truly begins to make the character his own and feel right to the reader.

The Green Lantern/Green Arrow story that rounds out the issue continues wrapping up the classic run by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams on the characters, and what more is there to be said about that really? Well, as it turns out there’s a good bit more to be said and it’s said by Flash letter-hack Guy H. Lillian III in the issue’s Flash Grams column. I was going to try to encapsulate what Guy had to say, but decided instead to just let him say it as he did back in 1972. Herewith:

Dear Editor:

What a character Green Lantern is! I remember buying that first Showcase issue wherein the anonymous and characterless madman tried to destroy Coast City with a yellow missile, wherein Abin Sur passed on his power ring, and Hal Jordan began the schizoid rivalry with Green Lantern that ended only a few months ago… after ten, eleven, twelve? years of self hatred.

Amazing the changes in a character, and a comic, and an audience, and a country. Even before “Easy Rider” hit the screen and Denny O’Neil took over the scripting of GL, Hal had discovered-because, of course, National Periodicals had discovered-that the glamor job of test piloting was not sufficient to the demands of a newly humanistic, social thought of the new decade, the 60’s. So he became an insurance investigator, a toy salesman, mundane jobs but jobs in which he could encounter people-and be a person himself. Hal grew even before the O’Neil take-over.

Denny got the strip at a time in America when everything was alive with the fires of the late 60’s. It was appropriate That GL should be the ‘zine which DC chose to meet the new ideas and new experiments, the new responsibilities. So for 14 issues DC tried, Denny tried, Adams tried, and the whole field was changed. Now it’s over, more or less, and things are somewhat back to “normal”, in the real as well as the comix world… and people, editors, writers, audience, almost everyone, is anxious to forget the flames and ideas and all the rest of what the 60’s meant in its own field. So the ‘zine ceased to sell, and since comix people have to eat the same as you or I, off the stands it went. 89 issues. I read every one of them.

And a last slap or two of applause. Because even though the last phase of stories had their faults (though I don’t subscribe to the anti-relevancy gripes of many fans as being one of those faults), it represented courage on the part of a business enterprise. Like  GL in his last scene of his own comic, the bland stupidity of the world has at times caused in me a violent and vengeful response, mental if not physical, repressed if not overt. But the fact of Green Lantern/Green Arrow, the fact of the magazine’s being here when it was needed… it’s something to remember and some small piece of a victory to save. – Guy H. Lillian III

All I have to add to that is an amen. I didn’t know Guy H. Lillian III except through the lettercol of the The Flash, but it seems to me he would have been a great “guy” to have a cup of coffee with.

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