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Flash Fridays – The Flash #289 September 1980

posted on September 3, 2021

The Flash #289 gets a price rise to 50 cents and an extra feature in the back of the book. DC was doing a lot of playing around with prices, sizes and packages of features back then, but, even with the half dollar tag, they still seem cheap compared to today’s prices. But enough with the economics, we’ve got a pretty cool story to contend with here. In a tale titled The Good… the Bad… and the Unexpected we find a three way tussle between the Flash, the evil Al Desmond as Dr. Alchemy, and the good Al Desmond as Mr. Element. It opens with Dr. Alchemy tracking down the escaped Al Desmond only to discover when he finds him in an abandoned warehouse that the good Al has resumed his Mr. Element role and is set upon taking Dr. A. down. Their battle sets the warehouse on fire which allows Mr. Element to take a powder when he finds that things aren’t going his way.

The Flash visits Rita, the wife of the good Al Desmond, who tells him the her husband had a mental flash as to the whereabouts of Dr. A., and that he was going there to bring him in. We next see Mr. Element entering an abandoned salt mine where we find that Dr. A. is planning to use the philosopher stone to turn the nuclear waste stored in the mine into desmondium, a gas that will allow him to control everyone and take over the world. It’s then that we find out that it’s really the Flash disguised as Mr. Element at which point Dr. A. uses his stone to shoot the Flash into space for the umpteenth time by turning him into cavorite, an anti-gravity element (If I may be allowed a short digression… I wonder if back when Julie Schwartz was editing the book and John Broome was writing it that the thought of turning Mr. Element into Dr. Alchemy came about because they found it a bit too restrictive to have to keep coming up with ploys using actual elements, and so they turned him into Dr.Alchemy so they could just transmute things to any phony element they needed at the moment… i.e. if you’re in a cave, then just make up something called cavorite that can repel gravity).

Not to be out pseudo scienced, as the Flash is rocketing through space, he wills his molecules to become anti-matter to repel the cavorite, and then wills them back into regular matter so that instead of being pushed away from the Earth, he’s pulled back. The Flash then returns to the mine and captures Dr. Alchemy. The story ends with the two friends, Flash and Mr. Element hauling the unconscious Dr. A. off to jail.

Ok, I lied. In the past two issues, the writer has dropped in two instances in which Barry has been tiring to ingratiate himself with his elusive but stand-offish neighbor, the beautiful Fiona. In each case he’s angrily rebuffed. This issue actually ends with Fiona at a police station reporting the Barry Allen wants to kill her. Had to include that because I’m sure it’s coming back to haunt both us and Barry.

Flash Fridays – The Flash #288 August 1980

posted on August 27, 2021

As a young fan of The Flash from the beginning of the Silver Age, editor Len Wein is obviously bringing his fan sensibility and love for the character to the book. It’s hard to imagine the he wasn’t an influence on writer Cary Bates reaching back to tap Dr. Alchemy back into the ring. The result is a mix of the basic elements that contributed to the success of the early Flash along with a more modern and less formulaic approach to the writing. And it works especially well with the Don Heck art.

The nuts and bolts of this issue concerns the Flash dealing with an act of destruction by Dr. Alchemy that endangers lives to cover for a robbery that he’s committing, and the backstory of the “new” Al Desmond who has assumed the guise of Dr. Alchemy. In the first instance the Flash takes care of the problem, and, in the second, we find out that the two Al Desmonds are astral twins, that is, twins born of separate parents but with at the same time down to the second, and the same date on the calendar. Personally, I think that a split personalty coming to life would have been pretty interesting as well.

The new Dr. Alchemy then lures the Flash to a park where he turns him into water vapor and watches as the Flash goes floating off into the air. Remember in my last post how I said the Flash running through different colored cars to regin his color was a little hard to swallow? Well, here’s another one to choke on. The Flash vibrates his molecules to cause the cloud to rain and as it rains it reassembles him into the Flash. Double oy.

However, Bates makes up for that head spinner with a sweet writerly move…  on the last panel on the last page… we see that the reformed Al Desmond having escaped from Dr. Alchemy’s hideout, is getting dressed into his Mr. Element gear.



Flash Fridays – The Flash #287 July 1980

posted on August 20, 2021

Cary Bates dips way back into the archives to resurrect one of the Flash’s earliest villains from the Showcase days, Dr. Alchemy. The story centers as much on Dr. Alchemy’s alter ego Al Desmond as it does on the bad Doctor himself. Bates take us back to his origins as we see how Desmond was unique among Flash villains given that he emerged from his time in prison completely reformed, and has generally remained so except for a couple of extremely bad hair days if you get my drift. Barry and Desmond’s wife Rita are baffled as to why he would return to crime. As the Flash, Barry hunts down Dr. Alchemy only to discover that, when the Flash catches and unmasks his opponent, it turn out to only be someone hired by Desmond to play the role. On the final page, in Dr. Alchemy’s hideout, we see that the real Al Desmond is the prisoner of and being framed by a new Dr. A who happens to also be named… Al Desmond. Total lack of imagination or something more cooly Freudian like a split personality come to life? We’ll see next issue.

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