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Flash Fridays – The Flash #188 May 1969

posted on February 16, 2018

This issue features a brief return of scribe John Broome to the pages of The Flash. By this time, Broome had decamped to France and was living as an expat in Paris with his wife Peggy and daughter Ricky. His forays into writing The Flash would soon be coming to an end, but not for a bit. The story he wrote had to somehow explain why everything in the world had turned green, which it managed to do after a rather odd opening interlude.

On the opening splash page, Barry and Iris are about to head out on the town to a Colorama show that Iris has to review when Barry’s police scanner announces that the Mirror Master has escaped. In a clever switch, as Barry releases his uniform from his ring, the usual expository dialog box is replaced by Iris describing the scene in her thought balloons. A nice little first time turn there to which I stand and salute. This time however the ring explodes and suddenly everything in the world looks green to Barry and Iris. Barry takes off after the Mirror Master (the ability of superheroes to shrug off things that would drive most of us insane never ceases… ) and finds him at the Mt. Vista Astronomical Observatory (interesting to discover that there’s a pretty good sized mountain near Central City). What follows is a bizarre episode where the Flash is sent to battle MM’s avatar on a planet at the “rim of the galaxy”. After defeating the avatar, the Flash “swims” back to Earth on the same beam of radiation that sent him away. He then defeats the real MM and returns him to jail after which we go back to the story of the color change. It’s as if the Mirror Master was simply a nonessential  part of the story. While it’s nice to see Broome back on board with one of the old villains, the Mirror Master is barely a B plot here.

The A plot concerns concerns a Dr. Maybrook who puts on a sensational display of colors by play a color organ. After the show, everything is turned green and a stage hand and some associates rob the homes of the wealthy people at the show. I say wealthy because someone had a Vermeer stolen. The Flash captures the crooks and as the story wraps, it’s explained that radiation from the color organ caused the temporary effect and even caused Barry’s ring to explode.

It’s interesting to note that writer Broome seemed to be much more comfortable with the shorter story format in which he wrote for so long. This issue’s story really seemed to be two shorter stories pasted together… the Mirror Master battle on the world at the rim of the galaxy, and the Dr. Maybrook color organ story. I’m sure that after so many years of just nailing the beats in those short pieces, doing it for an entire book probably took a little getting used to, even for as good a writer as John Broome.

 

 

Flash Fridays – The Flash #187 April 1969

posted on February 9, 2018

This Giant Flash is simply the 1969 summer annual, except that it’s an entire reprint book with no new stories or even stand-alone art pages or features. It even eschews the reprinting of a Golden Age Flash story which had been the recent norm. Beautiful art and stories for sure, but we’ve already seen them all. It was a great jumping on point for newbies to the The Flash, and also a great way to catch-up on the schedule for Editor Schwartz and crew. No shame there. When things would start to collapse on me with Funky, I would resort to things like writing the talking leaves on the tree to help help me recoup a little time on the dreaded deadline doom. Written as they were out of complete and utter desperation, it would always amuse me when readers would cite them as some of their favorite strips. Much of that probably stems from their cyclical nature when they, much like Charlie Brown’s football, would return each year to announce the arrival of Fall. Kind of like a summer catch-up annual.

Flash Fridays – The Flash # 186 March 1969

posted on February 2, 2018

As much as I’m not a fan of Julie Schwartz’s “dire situation” covers, as has been amply noted in this space before, this one is a pretty good looking piece of art. Had it been the only one of its ilk, it would have been a nice change of pace and perhaps a standout, but, when you’re hit with them one after another, their impact is severely blunted. Especially when you consider that one of the Flash’s on the rise villains, the Reverse Flash, is featured in this issues’s book length story. It would have made a lot more sense to have displayed him on the cover. The stories are all book length by this time by the way, but they’ve yet to become the ongoing serial that was the purview of every Marvel comics on the stands.

Another of Julie’s Flash Flash-Gram alumni, Mike Friedrich, makes his debut as a Flash scribe and it’s a so-so outing at best. He’s seems to be doing his best to be Frank Robbins trying to be Stan Lee. Presented for your consideration is the credit box from the title page:

The Flash-Reverse Flash plus a mysterious new-old character in… Time Time Three Equals…? How’s that for an appetizer? Now take two slices of the typewriter of Mike Friedrich, slap on a piece of the pencil of Ross Andru and top it off with a layer of ink from Mike Esposito and you have the secret recipe for a story sandwich! Proceed to the next page and enjoy your snack!

Wow, far out groovy and heavy, man. The story sandwich, much like the credit box, is a little hard to swallow as a sorcerer named Sargon (so named so you can write Sargon the Sorcerer thus fulfilling your readers’s need for annoying adolescent alliteration) (see what I did there?) brings Eobard Thwayne, AKA Professor Zoom, AKA the Reverse Flash (you pick the one you like… they’re all pretty dumb) from the future so that ET PZ RF can teach him about time travel. However to do that he has to convince ET PZ RF that the Flash is dead (and bingo the cover is worked-in), but ET PZ RF tricks Sargon and sends SS to the nether world of Chimano (?) where the Flash, who everyone thinks is dead, has to go rescue SS so the Flash can then send ET PZ RF back to the future and get home in time to see Iris who, even though she thought Barry was dead, can now only think about going on the vacation she was promised. Now, lest you think it’s only me being a little hard on the writing here, let me once again turn to the Flash-Grams letters page where one Peter Sanderson writes:

Dear Editor: Now Let’s see… in “The Flash’s Dead Ringer” this guy Frog for some reason suspected that Barry Allen was the fearless Flash. So Allen, somehow, learning about Frog’s suspicions, poses as a poverty-stricken actor whom Frog,  for some reason, asks to pose as The Flash. Then Frog, for some other reason, orders his man to bump off The Flash, but to leave Allen alone if he’s The Flash, which he might be. So Allen, to throw Frog off the track, has his wife masquerade as himself. And a man in a black shirt and dark glasses, and looking for all the world like a Mafia hood, pretends to be a policeman. Oh, and the assassin’s bullet made no noise because it luckily dropped into the thick soup. Aw, c’mon. Well, fans, there’s our plot aside from Frog stealing Captain Cold’s thunder. I hope you misunderstood it as well as I did.

Thank you, Peter, I rest my (our) case.

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