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Flash Fridays – The Flash #194 February 1970

posted on April 20, 2018

The incomparable Neal Adams, who was doing a ton of work for DC during this period, turns in a terrific cover for this issue of The Flash. Neal’s hyperrealistic style was bringing a new look to the way super heroes were depicted that continues to this day. Allow me to get a little art nerdy here and point out the clearly delineated collarbone on the figure of the Flash. That sort of thing just wasn’t done much prior to Neal’s arrival, but would soon become de rigueur for future superhero artists.

As much as I was not a fan of Julie Schwartz’s gimmick covers, this one actually works pretty well. Coming so closely on the heels of the previous wedding cover and wanting to know why this is happening again probably gives it that extra bit of punch. The John Broome story inside is a supernatural/mystical tale that, while not Broome’s forte, is still a tale well told. The bride in question is a woman whose body is invaded by a female from the Realm of Shades (hence the casting of the two shadows) (don’t ask me to explain that – you can’t). This apparently happens every one hundred years and in a previous visit the alien visitor was slated to marry someone who looked like Barry Allen. So now she’s after the Flash whose uniform she can apparently see through. To help exorcise the the alien from the woman, the Flash travels to the Realm of Shades to go through with the sham marriage in order to satisfy the invading spirit. It succeeds, but only after the Flash has to battle his way back to his dimension through a hoard of demons all bent on keeping him there.

A nice little touch to this issue was the inclusion of a short story from Strange Adventures #13 from 1951. The story is by Gardner Fox and the art by Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella. Seeing that art team in a Flash comic alongside the current one certainly invites an immediate and inevitable comparison and once again elicits a nostalgic pang of loss for longtime fans of the book. Which is interesting because on the Flash Grams page Julie throws in the editorial towel and announces in response to yet another complaint about the art that Andru and Esposito will be departing for other DC pastures, and that he’ll be bringing on a stalwart from his artists stable. To quote Julie: “His name – and we’re shouting it from the rooftops – GIL KANE!”

Flash Fridays – The Flash #192 November 1969

posted on March 23, 2018

The Flash #192 starts of with a cover conundrum of sorts. I see Murphy Anderson inking and possibly drawing the main foreground figures, and Andru and Esposito drawing and inking the background. But that’s as far as I can take it. Let’s check in with the Grand Comics Database and see what thy have to say:

According to Julius Schwartz’ pay records, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito were first paid for the cover to this issue, then Murphy Anderson was. It is likely that some of Andru & Esposito’s work survives in the background characters with the main characters rendered by Anderson. However, there is also original artwork with the same background characters and Joe Kubert-drawn main characters in similar (but different) poses to the final cover. It is unclear if the Anderson and Kubert main characters are renditions of the original or in some way related directly. Most art-spotters also see Anderson in some elements of the background characters, so he may have re-worked some of Andru & Esposito’s work.

Okay, so, while they have a few more details (okay, they have a lot more details), on the uncertainty scale from one to “Was there a shooter on the grassy knoll?” they still seem to be as lost in the woods as I am. As they say at the end of every program on the Science Channel: perhaps we’ll never know.

What we do know is that Bob Kanigher is the writer this issue which is his first appearance since his work on the origin of the Silver Age Flash. Here he immediately addresses the question of why the Flash is getting a high five to the face, and than settles down to write the war story he really wanted to write. In a nutshell: the Flash is late showing up for the launching a nuclear submarine, the sub disappears and everyone blames the Flash which leads to the aforementioned slap to the Flash face. Then we switch to a totally different story about a lighthouse keeper and his wife (Phil and Phyllis – I’m not kidding) who had been in the service together. While in Vietnam Phil jumps on a grenade to save his buddies – and lives (okaaaaay…). Once out of the service, they decide to run a lighthouse and Phyllis says that, if they’re ever separated, the lighthouse light will lead her back to him. The Flash and Iris arrive just as Phyllis has gone missing, the Flash hunts for her underwater while Phil has a heart attack (hey, the guy’s upset), finds her and the missing sub in a James Bondish underwater cavern that houses a secret Soviet sub base. The Flash rescues the sub and Phyllis but she inhales some poison gas. Phil and Phyllis both die, but their spirits are reunited in the light from the lighthouse. Whew! A very Kanigherish story to say the least. In the last panel the Flash says and I quote: “I guess there are things we’ll never find out!” proving that when his running days are over, he can always get a job writing for the Science Channel.

Flash Fridays – The Flash #191 September 1969

posted on March 9, 2018

This is a classically bad example of the Julie Schwartz gimmick cover. First, it’s a terrible waste of the talents of the incomparable Joe Kubert. Second, it totally buries the lead. The story inside happens to be a wonderful John Broome SF crossover featuring Green Lantern that isn’t even hinted at on the cover. This cover all by itself would not have made me buy this issue. What would have made me buy this issue is a kick ass Kubert cover showing Flash and Green Lantern battling some really awesome aliens like they do in the story inside. But alas…

John Broome’s writing had an incalculable influence on me as I grew up reading his work. It was an impeccable blend of plot and character driven writing that was both inspiring and yet accessible, and I studied his work like I was going to school, which in a way I was. I’ve been fortunate to have been able to meet some of my heroes from back then and even work with one, but the fates decreed otherwise as far as Broome was concerned. In 1998, I was invited to Comic-Con in San Diego where I would later learn I was to be honored with an Inkpot Award. It just so happened that John Broome was an invited guest that year in what was to be his only convention appearance (For the full story of how fans worked behind the scenes to get Silver Age creators to San Diego, I’d highly recommend issue #142 of Roy Thomas’s invaluable and evocative Alter Ego magazine). It also just so happened that I ended up in the hospital with an emergency appendectomy a week before the convention. So I missed the convention and my chance to meet John Broome. My last chance as it turned out because John passed away quite suddenly the following year thus closing that door forever.

However, the fates were kind and they made up for it, because the terrific folks at Comic-Con invited me back the following year to finally receive my Inkpot… where, at a photo shoot following the awards ceremony, I found myself standing  next to fellow award winner and former Flash artist Murphy Anderson. The twelve-year-0ld Flash fan inside me was spinning like a top.



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