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Flash Fridays – The Flash Spectacular 1978

posted on September 11, 2020

DC Comics did quite a bit of flailing around at this time trying to find price points that not only worked for them but also for their readers. Hoping that their readers would plunk down a dollar for a comic book was a big ask. To justify that cost they decided to (with apologies to Donna Summer) work hard for the money. First, you got 80 pages of new work. In order to pull that off, that recruited some big names from among earlier Flash artists and beyond. They included in no particular pecking order: Jose Garcia Lopez, Irv Novick, Joe Giella, Wally Wood, Kurt Schaffenberger and Murphy Anderson, with the writing chores ably handled by the then current Flash scripture, Cary Bates. So right away, there was a lot to like. The art is simply wonderful.

The framing sequence involved the gorilla Grodd, which then, as the cover suggests, segued into individual stories involving Kid Flash, and the Flashes from Earths One and Two, with Johnny Quick thrown into the Earth Two Flash tale. We begin by seeing the execution of Grodd in Gorilla City. (A digression if I may. During the DC explosion/implosion there was a book prepared called Gorilla City of which I’ve only seen tantalizing snatches. I would have traded any number of my Silver Age comic books for a copy of that book. End digression). The individual stories all centered around each speedster having to attain a certain velocity to solve their particular predicament. Grodd’s atoms were scattered in another dimension and to bring himself back, he needed certain escape velocities of the combined speedsters to pull it off… which he does. He comes back better than ever and is only defeated in the end by the three Flashes and Johnny Quick combining briefly into a single speedster to do him in.

So, in the end, Grodd died but he got better. No change there. However, along the way Bates does something kind of stunning. He has Kid Flash reveal his secret identity to his parents, Jay Garrick reveal his secret identity to all of Earth Two, and on the final page Wally announces to Barry that his graduation from college will mark his last day as Kid Flash. That’s a lot of change for one book and it will be interesting to see how it plays out. All in all, not a bad return for a dollar.

Flash Fridays – The Flash #258 February 1978

posted on August 28, 2020

The Flash takes on Green Lantern foe Black Hand in this issue, and writer Cary Bates hues very closely to the John Broome version of the villain. He even has Black Hand breaking the fourth wall and directly addressing the reader as Broome did in the black blackguard’s origin story. I’m not much of a fan of breaking the fourth wall in stories (or real life for that matter), but it does cut done on the need for a lot of awkward expository dialog. I sometimes wonder how comic book writers could tell their stories if villains didn’t talk to themselves so much.

Black Hand derives his powers by draining the energy from sites where Green Lantern has recently used his power ring. BH uses his “power-lite” to strip Flash of his aura so that the unprotected Flash will combust at high speed. Which he’s seen doing on the cover and in the second to last panel in the story, leaving us to wait until next issue to find if the Flash makes it or not. I’m betting he does because the Silver Age book still has a pretty nice stretch ahead of it. Which is even more remarkable when you consider the context surrounding it. The infamous DC Explosion/Implosion is about to take place wherein the line of books was hit with a big expansion of new characters followed almost immediately by a big owner dictated slashing of the line. It says a lot about the character and quality (not to mention sales I would guess) of The Flash that it was able to survive the ax during that period. In fact, in the book there is a full page ad for newbies Power Girl and Firestorm, along with a Jenette Kahn editorial extolling the virtues of coming up with newly minted comic book characters as opposed to simply producing books based on creations from another medium. (Anyone thinking Marvel and Star Wars here?).

The comparison to the present and to AT&T’s ransacking of DC Comics cannot help but come to mind. Much like the hedge funds ravaging of newspapers, DC is being throttled by an entity that doesn’t give a flying fig about comic books. They only care about the juice they can squeeze from DC before nothing is left but the shriveled husk. The predators it seems have laid siege to the castle of dreams. A castle that was built on the backs dreams of two kids from Cleveland.

Flash Fridays – The Flash #257 January 1978

posted on August 21, 2020

As promised in the previous ish, the Golden Glider makes a return and it’s a doozy (I don’t throw the word doozy around casually, so trust me on this)! This is really a great bottle story where everything takes place in a contained and controlled setting. There are no cutaways to other subplots or to some action taking place on the other side of the planet, or galaxy, or universe or even multiverse. Nope, it’s just a tight taut tale tensely told (That one was for Stan). The Golden Glider, who seeks revenge on the Flash for his role in the unintentional death of her lover Roscoe Dillon AKA the Top, performs her opening gambit as Barry and Iris are driving in the country on their way to celebrate his parent’s 50th anniversary. She causes a tree to fall on their car as they’re driving. Barry vibrates himself, the car, and Iris thought the tree thus confirming the Glider’s suspicion that Barry is the Flash.

Later, she lures Barry, as the Flash, out of the house and while he’s gone she causes his parents and Iris to contract a fatal disease and then puts a force field around the house that only the Flash can penetrate. EMS doctors can’t get in, and the family can’t get out. The Flash’s fear is palpable as he realizes he is helpless to save them. He leaves to do battle with the Glider, but she holds all of the cards and is unbending in her desire to make him suffer the loss of his loved ones just as she did with Roscoe. When the the Flash realizes that every weapon the Glider used against him was some kind of jewel, he runs back to his parent’s house to rid it of any jewels. There’s a cute panel where the Flash is seen adding to a mound of jewels in the backyard. The Allens were apparently the Gotrocks of the neighborhood. The Flash saves the day when he finally spots some small diamonds that the GG had placed on Iris’s briefcase. The folks and Iris return to health, and The Golden Glider leaves a note behind vowing future revenge.

The story shows that you don’t have to have massive explosions, time travel, dimensional forays or any other outsized comic book trope to devise a story that grips the reader’s emotions and captures their imagination. In walking away from the traditional comic book superhero motif’s, a really super comic book story was told.

 

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