Flash Fridays – The Flash #254 October 1977
posted on June 26, 2020
Issue #254 kicks things off with a good looking Dick Dillin/Joe Rubinstein cover depicting the apparently now annual gathering of the Flash Rogues Gallery. The story opens with the Flash saving a young girl from a window ledge, and spotting an image of the Mirror Master in a window as he does this. The Mirror Master image then leads the Flash on a chase to a Dutch windmill on the outskirts of town. For a young writer at the time, this choice by Cary Bates of a, by then, somewhat ancient archetype seems anachronistic not to mention downright peculiar. But this is indeed where the gathering of the Flash foes is being held. These two events embody the confusing arc of the story that follows:
The Flash saving the little girl is an illusion. The Flash getting an award called the Roscoe (after deceased Roscoe Dillon aka The Top) by the Rogues who then disappear when the Flash attempts to capture them is real. The Flash as Barry Allen coming home to find their live-in college student Stacy Conwell conjuring up demons in her bedroom is … well, we’re not sure (Stacy has been absent from recent issues, and when Bates suddenly remembers her he writes her absence off as having been in Europe on a student exchange program). The Flash running off to battle the Trickster is real, but his meeting Hawkman and Aquaman there and dancing with them as they turn into a real hawk and a real fish is an illusion (well, duh). And finally the appearance of the Roscoe Award in the Allen kitchen is … wait for it … both. Confused yet?
Okay, so let’s see if we can sort this out. The illusions the Flash encounters were caused by Mazdan a gent from a non specific future time who the Flash first encountered in Showcase #4 eleven years earlier. He did this by targeting the sensory areas of the Flash’s mind in an attempt to get even with the Flash for causing him to be locked up in a future hoosegow for several centuries. As Mazdan says: “The penitentiary hasn’t been built that can hold me prisoner!” Yeah, baby… nobody keeps this guy in jail for three hundred and ONE years. Props to writer Bates, however, for digging deep to return this former one-off character to the fray. I guess I’m just an old softie for internal continuity.
The real event, the windmill gathering, is truly caused by the Rogues, and the Roscoe Award in the kitchen is invisible to Stacy and Iris, but very visible to the Flash. Okay, deep breath, we’re almost to the end … the Trickster reports to the gathered Rogues at the end about the Flash dancing by himself and all and that the scarlet speedster appears to be losing some of his buttons. We also learn that the Roscoe Award is a Trojan Horse and is about to make something bad happen to the Flash. However, that and Stacy Conwell’s conjuring demons will both have to wait until next issue before we’ll truly understand what’s happening … if that’s even possible.
Flash Fridays – The Flash #253 September 1977
posted on June 12, 2020
I don’t know if editor Julie Schwartz’s responsibilities with the Batman books at this time were causing him to take his eye off the ball as far as the Flash was concerned, but this book and the previous one dealing with the Molder seemed to be desperately in need of a stronger editorial hand. Writer Cary Bates had been turning in some very credible work up to this point, but it this book and the previous one he goes right off the rails with a story that’s not only silly but downright confusing. The basic gist of things boils down to this: in the previous issue when the Flash swooped in to snatch the Elongated Man away from his wife Sue, which on its face was a dumb thing to do, the EM was drinking some Gingold, the extract from the Gingo tree that gives him his stretching ability. It turns out that the Flash’s vibrations altered the Gingold causing it to morph the EM into the evil Molder. At the end, the Flash is able to find a Gingo tree with a fungus that’s killing it and he injects the fungus into the Molder to return him to the Elongated Man.
But that’s not the worst of it. Thrown into the mix we get Iris sneaking into a hospital disguised as a nurse to use the paddles of life to bring a puddle of Flash back to life, Iris and Sue Dibny sitting in a diner talking about how the Elongated man has become the Molder while a laughable caricature of a Russian spy just happens to be in the next booth overhears them and decides to use the Molder to discredit a Russian defector. This injection of the Russian spies is a total non sequitur needlessly injected into the story. Oh, and the Molder’s (I’m sorry, I wasn’t going to bring it up along with everything else, but that is one really dumb name) hideout is a junkyard. Again, a more forceful editorial hand could have gone a long way towards focusing and fixing a lot of this. And Irv Novick’s art seems to decline as well, as if the stories were breaking the artist’s will. Not the nadir of the Silver Age Flash’s run, but certainly in the running.
While all of this was going on, in 1977 Funky celebrated five years on the comics pages, or one and a half volume’s worth of The Complete Funky Winkerbean. But who’s counting?
Flash Fridays – The Flash #252 August 1977
posted on June 5, 2020
At first blush this looks like the start of an interesting story with a guest appearance by the Elongated Man wearing the new duds he picked up when he left the The Flash to become a backup feature in Detective Comics. Unfortunately the only dud here is the story itself. I’ve never been a fan of stories with multiple narrators. Call it a personal non preference. The approach just doesn’t work for me. But for some bizarre reason, out of the blue, Cary Bates becomes enamored with the conceit and decides to start using it in this issue. The first narrator is Sue Dibny the wife of Ralph Dibny the Elongated Man. She and her husband have just checked into the Central City Inn so the Elongated Man can investigate some crooks called the Chane Gang. You know, I love puns as much as anyone, but somehow that pun is simply sad rather than clever. When you have to make up a word to make your pun work … it’s just sad. But I digress. What follows is one of the most twisted scenes I’ve ever read in a comic book. Ralph enters the room in disguise and proceeds to hit on his own wife. I mean, who would do something like that? It’s only topped ironically by another Elongated Man scene many years down the road when we see Ralph sitting on a bed with a gun in his mouth because his wife has been raped and murdered by Dr. Light in some pathetic attempt to write the next really shocking thing. But I digress yet again. Ralph’s raison d’être is that he plans to infiltrate the bad pun name gang, hence the disguise. Then EM suddenly disappears and Sue narrates herself over to seek help from Barry and Iris. Then the omniscient narrator takes over for a panel or two, followed by Barry/Flash as narrator and then back to the omniscient guy again. All of this in the service of the following (I am not kidding): Barry says he’ll have the Flash look for Ralph, Sue leaves, Barry tells Iris that he made EM disappear because he had heard that Ralph/EM was in town, went to see him, saw the bad pun gang committing a robbery along the way, scooped up EM making it look like he disappeared, captures one of the bad pun gang members with EM, EM takes off after the other, Flash goes to look for EM, we see EM in his disguise meeting the other gang member, he somehow causes the bad guy’s gun to stretch, the Flash gives up his search and goes home to attempt to boogie with Iris (still not kidding), EM (still in disguise) then shows up at the airport and melts a plane, the Flash sees this on TV at home, the Flash goes to the airport where the disguised EM removes his disguise to reveal that he’s someone called the Molder, and then he melts the Flash, whereupon the editorial narrator invites us back to what happens next issue, which I’m not really sure I want to do that at this point, but I will. The things I do for you.
Oh, did I mention that the scene on the cover has nothing at all to do with the so called story? Well, it doesn’t.