DC’s Greatest Imaginary Stories


By Otto Binder, Bill Finger, Jerry Siegel, John Broome, Leo Dorfman, Edmond Hamilton, Jim Shooter, C.C. Beck, Dick Sprang, Kurt Schaffenberger, Curt Swan, Carmine Infantino, Bob Kane & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-0534-8

Alan Moore’s infamous epigram notwithstanding, not all comics tales are “Imaginary Stories.”

When DC Editor Mort Weisinger was expanding the Superman continuity and building the legend, he realised that each new tale was an event that added to a nigh-sacred canon: that what was written and drawn mattered to the readers. But as a big concept guy he wasn’t going to let that aggregated “history” stifle a good idea, nor would he allow his eager yet sophisticated audience to endure clichéd deus ex machina cop-outs to mar the sheer enjoyment of a captivating concept.

The mantra known to every baby-boomer fan was “Not a Dream! Not a Hoax! Not a Robot!” boldly emblazoned on covers depicting scenes that couldn’t possibly be true… even if it was only a comicbook.

Imaginary Stories were conceived as a way of exploring non-continuity plots and scenarios devised at a time when editors believed entertainment trumped consistency and knew that every comic read was somebody’s first …or potentially last.

This jolly little compilation celebrates that period when whimsy and imagination were king and stretches the point by leading with a fanciful tale of the World’s Mightiest Mortal as ‘Captain Marvel and the Atomic War’ (Captain Marvel Adventures #66, October 1946) actually hoaxes the public with a demonstration of how the world could end in the new era of Nuclear Proliferation, courtesy of Otto Binder & CC Beck.

‘The Second Life of Batman’ (Batman #127 October 1959) by Bill Finger, Dick Sprang & Charles Paris doesn’t really fit the strict definition either, but the tale of a device that predicts how Bruce Wayne’s life would have run if his parents had not been killed is superb and engaging all the same.

‘Mr. and Mrs. Clark (Superman) Kent!’ by Binder and the brilliant Kurt Schaffenberger, was the first tale of an occasional series that began in Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #9 (August 1960); depicting the laughter and tears that might result if the plucky news-hen secretly married the Man of Steel. From an era uncomfortably parochial and patronizing to women, there’s actually plenty of genuine heart and understanding in this tale and a minimum of snide sniping about “silly, empty-headed girls”…

Eventually the concepts became so bold that Imaginary Stories could command book-length status. ‘Lex Luthor, Hero!’ (Superman #149, November 1961) by Jerry Siegel, Curt Swan & Sheldon Moldoff details the mad scientist’s greatest master-plan and ultimate victory in a tale as powerful now as it ever was. In many ways this is what the whole concept was made for…

No prizes for guessing what ‘Jimmy Olsen Marries Supergirl!’ (Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, #57, December 1961) is about, but the story is truly a charming delight, beautifully realized by Siegel, Swan & Stan Kaye.

Once more stretching the point ‘The Origin of Flash’s Masked Identity!’ (The Flash# 128, May 1962) by John Broome, Carmine Infantino & Joe Giella, although highly entertaining, is more an enthusiastic day-dream than alternate reality, and, I suspect, added to bring variety to the mix – as is the intriguing ‘Batman’s New Secret Identity’ (Batman #151, November 1961, by Finger, Bob Kane & Paris).

‘The Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue!’ (Superman #162, July 1963) is possibly the most influential tale of this entire sub-genre. Written by Leo Dorfman, with art from Swan & George Klein, this startling utopian classic was so well-received that decades later it influenced and flavoured the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Superman continuity for years. The plot involves the Action Ace being divided into two equal wonder men who promptly solve all universal problems and even the love rivalry between Lois Lane and Lana Lang!

The writer of ‘The Three Wives of Superman!’ is currently unknown to us but the ever-excellent Schaffenberger can at least be congratulated for this enchanting tragedy of missed chances that originally saw print in Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #51, from August 1964.

‘The Fantastic Story of Superman’s Sons’ (Superman #166, November 1964) by Edmond Hamilton, Swan & Klein is a solid thriller built on a tragic premise (what if only one of Superman’s children inherited his powers?), and this bright and breezy book closes with the stirring and hard-hitting ‘Superman and Batman… Brothers!’, wherein orphaned Bruce Wayne is adopted by the Kents, but cannot escape a destiny of tragedy and darkness.

Written by Jim Shooter, with art from Swan & Klein for World’s Finest Comics # 172 (cover-dated December 1967) this moody thriller in many ways signalled the end of the carefree days and the beginning of a grittier, more cohesive DC universe for a less whimsical, fan-based audience.

This collection is a glorious slice of fancy, augmented by an informative introduction from columnist Craig Shutt, and bolstered with mini-cover reproductions of many tales that tragically never made it into the collection, but I do have one minor quibble: No other type of tale was more dependent on an eye-catching, conceptually intriguing cover, so why couldn’t those belonging to these collected classics have been included here, too?

Surely, it’s time for a re-issue in either print or eBook format with all those arresting covers included. Yes, it is… and don’t call me Shirley…
© 1946, 1959-1964, 1967, 2005 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Flash: The Silver Age volume 2


By John Broome, Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-7088-9

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Timeless Fun, Quick as You Like… 10/10

The second Flash triggered the Silver Age of American comicbooks and, for the first ten years or so, in terms of creative quality and sheer originality – it was always the book to watch.

Following his debut in Showcase #4 (October 1956), police scientist Barry Allen – transformed by a lightning strike and accidental chemical bath into a human thunderbolt of unparalleled velocity and ingenuity – was uncharacteristically slow in winning his own title, but finally (after three more trial issues) finally stood on his own wing-tipped feet in The Flash#105 (February-March 1959).

He never looked back, and by the time of this second commemorative compilation was very much the innovation mainstay of DC/National Comics burgeoning superhero universe. This second Trade Paperback (and digital) collection re-presents Flash #117-132 – spanning December 1960 through November 1962 – and tracks the Vizier of Velocity as he becomes the key figure in a stunning renaissance of comicbook super-heroics.

Shepherding the Scarlet Speedster’s meteoric rise to prominence, the majority of stories are written by the brilliant John Broome and all are pencilled by the infinitely impressive Carmine Infantino: slickly polished, coolly sophisticated rapid-fire short stories set in a comfortingly suburbanite milieu constantly threatened by super-thieves, sinister spies and marauding aliens with our affable new superhero always triumphant whilst ever expanding and establishing the broad parameters of an increasingly cohesive narrative universe.

The magic begins here with ‘Here Comes Captain Boomerang’ (inked by Murphy Anderson), introducing a mercenary Australian marauder who turns a legitimate job opportunity into a criminal career in what is still one of the most original origin tales ever concocted.

The ‘The Madcap Inventors of Central City’ then sees Gardner Fox (creator of the Golden Age Flash) join the creative bullpen with a perhaps ill-considered attempt to reintroduce 1940s comedy sidekicks Winky, Blinky and Noddy to the modern fans. The fact that you’ve never heard of them should indicate how well that went although the yarn, illustrated by Infantino & Joe Giella, is a fast, witty and enjoyably silly change of pace.

The Flash #118 highlighted the period’s (and DC’s) fascination with Hollywood in ‘The Doomed Scarecrow!’ (Anderson inks); a sharp, smart thriller featuring a minor villain with a unique reason to get rid of our hero. after which Wally West and a friend have to spend the night in a “haunted house” in Kid Flash chiller ‘The Midnight Peril!’

The pre-teenaged nephew of Barry’s fiancée Iris West, Wally had been caught in a bizarre and suspicious replay of the lightning strike that created the Monarch of Motion. He naturally became a junior version of the Fastest Man Alive and – when not being mentored by the human thunderbolt – enjoyed his own, smaller-scaled junior adventures in and around the rural township of Blue Valley, Nebraska….

In #119, Broome, Infantino & Anderson relate the adventure of ‘The Mirror-Master’s Magic Bullet’, which our hero narrowly evades, before ‘The Elongated Man’s Undersea Trap’ debuts vivacious newlywed Sue Dibny – calling our hero’s attention to a missing spouse and alien sub-sea slavers in a mysterious and stirring tale.

These earliest tales were historically vital to the development of our industry but, quite frankly, so what? The first exploits of The Flash should be judged solely on their merit, and on those terms, they are punchy, awe-inspiring, beautifully illustrated and captivating thrillers that amuse, amaze and enthral both new readers and old devotees. The title had gelled into a comfortable pattern of two tales per issue alternating with semi-regular book-length thrillers such as the glorious example from Flash #120 (May 1961).

‘Land of Golden Giants!’ is a minor masterpiece: a fanciful science fiction drama wherein a small expedition of explorers – including Iris, Barry and his protégé Wally – are catapulted back millennia to the very moment when the primal super-continent (or at least the parts that would become Africa and South America) begin splitting apart.

Flash stories always found a way to make cutting-edge science integral and interesting. A regular filler-feature was the speed-themed “Flash-Facts” which became a component of the stories themselves via quirky little footnotes.

How many fan-boys turned a “C” to a “B” by dint of their recreational reading? I know I certainly impressed the heck out of a few nuns at the convent school I attended! (But let’s not visualise; simply move on…)

Issue #121 saw the return of a novel old foe on another robbery rampage when ‘The Trickster Strikes Back!’ after which costumed criminality is counterbalanced by Cold War skulduggery in the gripping thriller ‘Secret of the Stolen Blueprint!’ (inked by Anderson).

Another contemporary zeitgeist undoubtedly led to ‘Beware the Atomic Grenade!’, a witty yarn which premiered a new member of Flash’s burgeoning Rogues Gallery when career criminal Roscoe Dillon graduates from second-rate thief to global extortionist The Top by means of a rather baroque thermonuclear device…

In counterpoint, Kid Flash deals with smaller scale catastrophe in ‘The Face Behind the Mask!’ A pop-star with a secret identity (based on a young David Soul who began his showbiz career as a folk singer known as “the Covered Man” because he performed wearing a mask) is blackmailed by a villainous gang of old school friends until whizz kid Wally steps in…

Gardner Fox didn’t write many Flash scripts at this time, but those few he did were all dynamite. None more so than the full-length epic that literally changed the scope of American comics forever.

‘Flash of Two Worlds’ introduced the theory of alternate Earths to the continuity and by extension resulted in the pivotal multiversal structure of the DCU; Crisis on Infinite Earths and all the succeeding cosmos-shaking crossover sagas that grew from it. And, of course, where DC led, others followed…

During a charity benefit gig Flash accidentally slips into another dimension where he finds that the comicbook hero he’s based his own superhero identity upon actually exists. Every adventure Barry had absorbed as an eager child was grim reality to Jay Garrick and his mystery-men comrades on (the controversially designated) Earth-2. Locating his idol, Barry convinces the elder to come out of retirement just as three Golden Age villains – The Shade, Thinker and The Fiddler – make their own wicked comeback. And above all else, Flash #123 is a great read that still stands up today.

Still utterly unaware of the stir that was brewing in fandom’s ranks, it was business as usual with #124’s alien invasion romp ‘Space Boomerang Trap!’ featuring an uneasy alliance between the Scarlet Speedster, Elongated Man and opportunistic Captain Boomerang, before back-up ‘Vengeance Via Television!’ tests Flash’s wits after a mad scientist uses TV waves to expose his secret identity.

‘The Conquerors of Time!’ (Flash #125 December, 1961) is another mind-boggling classic exposing time-travelling aliens’ attempt to subjugate Earth in 2287AD by preventing fissionable elements from forming in 100,842,246 BC. Antediluvian lost races, another key role for Kid Flash (easily the most trusted and responsible sidekick of the Silver Age), the introduction of the insanely cool Cosmic Treadmill plus spectacular action make this a benchmark and landmark of quality graphic narrative.

The drama continues unabated in the next issue as Mirror Master resurfaces in ‘The Doom of the Mirror Flash!’ resulting in another shocking metamorphosis for the Monarch of Motion whilst the second story looks into Barry Allen’s past in ‘Snare of the Headline Huntress!’ Here childhood sweetheart Daphne Dean tries to rekindle Barry’s love to boost her flagging Hollywood profile….

In #127 ‘Reign of the Super-Gorilla!’ Grodd returns to Central City, using his telepathy to run for Governor (not as daft as it sounds, honest!) whilst Kid Flash resolved parental problems in ‘The Mystery of the Troubled Boy!’ after which Flash #128 sees the spectacular debut of time-travelling magician and psychotic egotist Abra Kadabra in ‘The Case of the Real-Gone Flash!’ yet still finds room for intriguing revelatory vignette ‘The Origin of Flash’s Masked Identity!’

Fox and Earth-2 returned in #129’s ‘Double Danger on Earth!’ as Jay Garrick ventures to Earth-1 to save his own world from a doom comet, only to fall foul of Captain Cold and the Trickster. As well as double Flash action, this tale pictorially reintroduces veteran Justice Society stalwarts Wonder Woman, Atom, Hawkman, Green Lantern, Doctor Mid-Nite and Black Canary. Clearly Editor Schwartz had something in mind…

For the meantime though it was back to basics in #130 with ‘Who Doomed the Flash?’; an intriguing mystery seemingly pooling the talents and threats of Trickster, Captain Cold, the Top, Captain Boomerang and the Mirror Master in a superb comic-conundrum, brilliantly solved by the Vizier of Velocity even as his junior partner endures his own problems with the Weather Wizard in ‘Kid Flash Meets the Elongated Man!’

RSVPing to a trendsetting guest-shot in Green Lantern #13 (‘Duel of the Super-Heroes!’ and not included here), the Emerald Crusader again joins with The Flash to defeat alien invaders in the engrossing feature-length epic ‘Captives of the Cosmic Ray!’ before this compelling compilation concludes with #132’s ‘The Heaviest Man Alive!’ – with the speedster revisiting the dimension of Gobdor (see ‘The Man Who Stole Central City’ from #116 and the previous volume).

As well as action adventure and mystery, this tense, super-scientific teaser enjoys a sly poke at the new Television generation and leads into second tale ‘The Farewell Appearance of Daphne Dean’ as the repentant starlet returns to make amends in a quirky little tearjerker…

As always in tales of this vintage, the emphasis is on brains and learning, not gimmicks or abilities, which is why these tales still work nearly half-a-century later. Coupled with the astounding Infantino art, these tales are a captivating snap-shot of when science was our friend and the universe(s) was a place of infinite possibility.

These tales were crucial to the development of our art-form, but, more importantly they are brilliant, awe-inspiring, beautifully realised thrillers to amuse, amaze and enthral both new readers and old lags. This splendid selection is another must-read item for anybody in love with the world of words-in-pictures.
© 1960, 1961, 1962, 2017 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

The Flash by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar


By Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Ron Marz, Chuck Dixon, Paul Ryan, Ron Wagner, John Nyberg, Paul Pelletier, John Lowe, Will Rosado, Sal Buscema, Pop Mhan, Joshua Hood, Chris Ivy, Ariel Olivetti & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-6102-3

There are many super-speedsters in the DCU and most of them congregate in the conjoined metropolis of Keystone and Central City. Wally West, third incarnation of The Flash, lives there with his true love Linda Park, his Aunt Iris and fellow fast-fighters such as Jay Garrick. Impulse (a juvenile speedster from the future) and his mentor/keeper Max Mercury – the Zen Master of hyper-velocity – live in Alabama but often visit as they only live picoseconds away…

Created by Gardner Fox & Harry Lampert, Garrick debuted as the very first Scarlet Speedster in Flash Comics #1 (January 1940). “The Fastest Man Alive” wowed readers for over a decade before changing tastes benched him in 1951. The concept of speedsters, and indeed, superheroes in general were revived in 1956 by Julie Schwartz in Showcase #4 where and when police scientist Barry Allen became the second hero to run with the concept.

The Silver Age Flash, whose creation ushered in a new and seemingly unstoppable era of costumed crusaders, died heroically during Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985-1986) and was promptly succeeded by his sidekick Kid Flash. Of course, Allen later returned from the dead – but doesn’t everyone?

Initially Wally West struggled to fill the boots of his predecessor, both in sheer ability and, more tellingly, in confidence. Feeling a fraud, he nonetheless persevered and eventually overcame, becoming the greatest to carry the name.

At the end of the 1990s the grand, old-fashioned Fights and Tights mythology and methodology was given a bit of post-modern gloss when Caledonian wizards Grant Morrison and Mark Millar turned their considerable talents to the third incarnation of the Fastest Man Alive. Reprinting Flash (volume 2) #130-141, crossover episodes Green Arrow #130, Green Lantern #96, plus portions of The Flash 80-Page Giant #1 and JLA Secret Files #1, this rousing paperback collection (also available digitally) begins with Wally living with his one true love Linda Park, and enjoying a celebrity life as the current Scarlet Speedster.

Triptych ‘Emergency Stop’ (illustrated by Paul Ryan & John Nyberg) kicks off as a disembodied costume targets old villains. Absorbing their powers – and eventually their lives – it undertakes a sinister master-plan.

Continuing its grisly campaign in ‘Threads’ The Suit – ghost, pre-programmed super-technology or something else – proves more than a match for Keystone’s peace officers and even her superhuman guardians. Max Mercury, Jay Garrick and Impulse are not enough to save West from crippling injuries, and it takes a quantum leap in his abilities before Wally can save everybody from certain death in astounding conclusion ‘Fashion Victims’

Following that superb saga, the Celtic lads get a chance to show American writers how it’s pronounced as Scottish villain Mirror Master attacks the recuperating hero and kidnaps his lady in ‘Flash Through the Looking Glass’.

As ever the understated excellence of Ryan & Nyberg act as the perfect vehicle for all those high-speed thrills, never better than when Garrick takes centre-stage for the moving ‘Still-Life in the Fast Lane’, a poignant parable that shows how even the swiftest men can’t outrun old age and death…

During this period DC was keen on recreating and reviving old heroes, with “legacy” versions of many old stars popping up. After Hal Jordan and John Stewart stopped being Green Lantern new kid Kyle Rayner picked up the ring just as Connor Hawke inherited his father’s role as Green Arrow and Wally followed Barry Allen.

‘Death at the Top of the World’ was a 3-chapter company crossover from March 1998 that began in Green Lantern #96 with ‘Three of a Kind’ (by Ron Marz, Paul Pelletier & John Lowe). The three heirs – who don’t particularly like each – other opt for a communal Arctic cruise to break the ice (sorry!) only to stumble into a plot by super-villains Sonar, Heat Wave and Hatchet that culminates in a devastating and murderous attack on the other passengers by world-class menace Dr. Polaris in Green Arrow #130, (Chuck Dixon, Will Rosado & Sal Buscema).

The concluding chapter by Morrison, Millar, Ryan & Nyberg – played as a classic courtroom drama – tops off this thoroughly readable tale in fine style and offers a chilling prologue and cliffhanger for the next astounding epic…

‘The Human Race’ commences with ‘Radio Days’ as 10-year-old Wally plays with his Ham Radio kit, chatting to an imaginary friend before we sprint into the present-day to find the Flash seconds after his last exploit, cradling an alien super-speedster who has crashed at his feet, gasping out a warning with his dying breath…

When two god-like alien gamblers materialise and demand Earth’s fastest inhabitant replaces the dead runner in a race across all time and space the entire planet learns that if a contestant isn’t provided Earth is forfeit and will be destroyed…

With the Justice League unable to defeat the cosmic gamesters, Wally has no choice but to compete, but almost falls apart when he discovers his opponent is Krakkl, a radio-wave lifeform who used to talk to him across the cosmic ether when he was a kid.

Now Wally has to beat a cherished childhood memory he thought a mere childhood fancy to save his homeworld… and if he does, Krakkl’s entire species will die…

Ron Wagner steps in as penciller for ‘Runner’ and ‘Home Run’, as, pushed to the limits of endurance and imagination, Flash criss-crosses all reality before despondently realising he’s in a match he cannot win… until valiant, self-sacrificing radio-racer Krakkl shares a deadly and world-saving secret…

Cosmic, clever and deeply sentimental in the fashion comics fans are suckers for, this stunning saga ends with Earth enduring after a spectacular ‘Home Run’ with its victorious but ultimately oblivious hero on course for the ultimate finish…

The drama escalates in tense thriller trilogy ‘The Black Flash’ (Miller, Pop Mhan & Chris Ivy, with additional pencils from Joshua Hood) as a demonic entity that abides beyond the velocity-fuelling energy field dubbed the Speed Force comes for the exhausted, jubilant hero in ‘The Late Wally West’.

Over the decades, elder speedsters have noticed that their ultra-swift comrades have all been hunted and taken by a supernal beast before their lives ended and when the creature is captured in photos apparently stalking Wally they do all they can to thwart it. Tragically, they succeed…

Unable to kill the Flash, the thing destroys his beloved Linda instead…

Jesse Quick, second-generation hero and a legacy who lost her dad to the Black Flash, takes over Wally’s role as crushed, depressed and broken he loses his connection to the Speed Force, following Linda’s funeral. However, after weeks of shell-shocked mourning he moves on, planning a new life in a foreign country, but the Black Flash is spiteful and never gives up…

Thus, when the beast attacks powerless Wally at the airport in ‘The End’ Max Mercury, Garrick, Impulse and Jesse all confront the creature until the true Scarlet Speedster rediscovers the inner fire necessary to not only face and defeat the thing, but also bring back Linda from the Great Unknown.

That would be a perfect ending to this tumultuous tome, but there’s still hidden gem ‘Your Life is My Business’ – by Millar & Ariel Olivetti – as Wally has a few drinks in a pub with the author while laying out the next fictionalised episode of his comic book and even a Who’s Who fact page detailing the secrets of ‘The Fastest Man Alive’ to bring the high-octane fun to a close.

Fast, furious and utterly fabulous, the Flash has always epitomised the very best in costumed comic thrills and these tales are among the very best. If you haven’t seen them yet, run – do not walk – to your nearest emporium or vendor-site and catch all the breathless action you can handle, A.S.A.P!
© 1997, 1998, 2016 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

DC Comics Classics Library: The Flash of Two Worlds


By Gardner Fox, John Broome, Carmine Infantino, Joe Giella, Sid Greene & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2298-7

There’s a lot of truly splendid vintage comics material around these days in a lot of impressive formats and one of the most welcoming was DC’s Comics Classics Library. A series of top-end hardbacks, the portmanteau range was a remarkably accessible and collectible range of products, and one of the best is this stunning collection gathering some of the most influential and beloved stories of the Silver Age of American comicbooks.

Super-Editor Julius Schwartz ushered in that epoch with his Showcase successes Flash, Adam Strange and Green Lantern, directly leading to the Justice League of America – and more revivals – which in turn inspired Fantastic Four and the whole Marvel Empire, and changed the way comics were made and read…

Whereas 1940s tales were about magic and macho, the Silver Age polished everything with a thick veneer of SCIENCE and a wave of implausible rationalistic concepts quickly filtered into the dawning mass-consciousness of a generation of baby-boomer kids.

The most intriguing and rewarding was, of course, the notion of parallel worlds: the very crux of this celebration gathering the first half dozen Barry Allen team-ups with his predecessor Jay Garrick; specifically the contents of The Flash #123, 129, 137, 151, 170 and 173, originally seen between September 1961 and September 1967…

The continuing adventures of the Scarlet Speedster were the bedrock of the Silver Age Revolution. After ushering in the triumphant return of the costumed superhero concept, the Crimson Comet – with key writers John Broome and Gardner Fox at the reins – set an unbelievably high standard for superhero adventure in sharp, witty tales of technology and imagination, illustrated with captivating style and clean simplicity by Carmine Infantino.

Fox didn’t write many Flash scripts at this time, but the few he did were all dynamite; none more so than the full-length epic which literally changed the scope of American comics forever, and following an Introduction from Flash-Fanatic Geoff Johns you can see why…

‘Flash of Two Worlds’ (Flash #123, September 1961 and inked by Joe Giella) introduced the theory of alternate Earths to the continuity which grew by careful extension into a multiversal structure comprising Infinite Earths. Once established as a cornerstone of a newly integrated DCU through a wealth of team-ups and escalating succession of cosmos-shaking crossover sagas, a glorious pattern was set which would, after joyous decades, eventually culminate in a spectacular Crisis on Infinite Earths

During a benefit gig Flash (police scientist Barry Allen) accidentally slips into another dimension where he finds the comicbook hero upon whom he based his own superhero identity actually exists.

Every ripping yarn he had avidly absorbed as an eager child was grim reality to Jay Garrick and his comrades on the controversially designated “Earth-2”. Locating his idol, Barry convinces the elder to come out of retirement just as three Golden Age villains make their own criminal comeback…

The floodgates were opened, and over the following months and years many Earth-1 stalwarts met their counterparts either via annual collaborations in the pages of Justice League of America or in their own series. Schwartz even had a game go at reviving a cadre of the older titans in their own titles. Public approval was decidedly vocal and he used DC’s try-out magazines to take the next step: stories set on Earth-2 exclusively featuring Golden Age characters. Of those bold sallies only The Spectre graduated to his own title…

Received with tumultuous acclaim by the readership, the Earth-2 concept was revisited months later in #129’s ‘Double Danger on Earth!’ (June 1962) which also teasingly reintroduced evergreen stalwarts Wonder Woman, Atom, Hawkman, Green Lantern, Doctor Mid-Nite and Black Canary. Clearly Editor Schwartz had something in mind…

‘Vengeance of the Immortal Villain!’ from #137 (June 1963) was the third incredible Earth-2 crossover, and saw both Flashes in action against 50,000-year-old tyrant Vandal Savage to save the shanghaied Justice Society of America: a tale which directly led into the veteran team’s first meeting with the Justice League of America and the subsequent creation of an annual team-up tradition.

When ‘Flash of Two Worlds’ introduced the concept of Infinite Earths and multiple versions of costumed crusaders, public pressure had begun almost instantly to agitate for the return of the Greats of the “Golden Age” but Editorial powers-that-be were hesitant, fearing too many heroes would be silly and unmanageable, or worse yet, put readers off. If they could see us now…

A less well-known but superbly gripping team-up tale is ‘Invader from the Dark Dimension!’ (Flash #151, March 1965,): another full-length shocker wherein demonic super-bandit The Shade ambitiously invades Earth-1 as the first step in an avaricious attempt to plunder both worlds…

Flash #170 (May 1967) was scripted by John Broome and inked by the sublime Sid Greene, reuniting the Speedsters after a gap of two years to face the ‘The See-Nothing Spells of Abra Kadabra!’ with the Earth-1 Vizier of Velocity hexed by the cunning conjuror and rendered unable to detect the villain’s actions or presence.

Sadly for the sinister spellbinder, Jay Garrick is visiting and calls on the services of JSA pals Doctors Fate and Mid-Nite to counteract the wicked wizard’s wiles…

Promptly following and concluding this cornucopia of cosmic chills, Flash #173 (September 1967, by Broome, Infantino & Greene again) featured a titanic triple team-up as Barry, Wally “Kid Flash” West and Jay were sequentially shanghaied to another galaxy as putative prey for alien hunter Golden Man in ‘Doomward Flight of the Flashes!’

However, the sneaky script slowly reveals devilish layers of intrigue since the sinister stalker’s Andromedan super-safari conceals a far more scurrilous purpose for the three speedy pawns before the wayward wanderers finally fight free and find their way home again…

Still irresistible and compellingly beautiful after all these years, the stories collected here shaped American comics for decades and are still influencing not only today’s funnybooks but also the wave of animated shows, movies and TV series which grew from them. These are tales and this is a book you simply must have.
© 1961, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1967, 2009 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

The Flash: The Silver Age volume 1


By John Broome, Robert Kanigher, Carmine Infantino & various (DE Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-6110-8

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Timeless Wholesome Entertainment… 9/10

No matter which way you look at it, the Silver Age of the American comic book began with The Flash. It’s an unjust but true fact that being first is not enough; it also helps to be best and people have to notice. MLJ’s The Shield beat Captain America to the news-stands by over a year yet the former is all but forgotten today.

America’s comicbook industry had never really stopped trying to revive the superhero genre when Showcase #4 was released in late summer of 1956. The newsstands had already been blessed – but were left generally unruffled – by such tentative precursors as The Avenger (February-September 1955), Captain Flash (November 1954-July 1955), a revival of Marvel’s Human Torch, Sub-Mariner and the aforementioned Captain America (December 1953-October 1955). Both DC’s own Captain Comet (December 1953-October 1955) and Manhunter from Mars (November 1955 until the end of the 1960’s and almost the end of superheroes again!) had come and made little mark. What made the new Fastest Man Alive stand out and stick was … well, everything!

Once DC’s powers-that-be decided to serious try superheroes once more, they moved pretty fast themselves. Editor Julie Schwartz asked office partner, fellow editor and Golden-Age Flash scripter Robert Kanigher to recreate a speedster for the Space Age: aided and abetted by Carmine Infantino and Joe Kubert, who had also worked on the previous incarnation.

The new Flash was Barry Allen, a forensic scientist simultaneously struck by lightning and bathed in exploding chemicals from his lab. Supercharged by the accident, Barry took his superhero identity from a comicbook featuring his predecessor (a scientist named Jay Garrick who was exposed to the mutagenic fumes of “Hard Water”). Designing a sleek, streamlined bodysuit (courtesy of Infantino – a major talent rapidly approaching his artistic and creative peak), Barry Allen became point man for the spectacular revival of a genre and an entire industry.

This splendidly economical full colour paperback compilation superbly compliments Infantino’s talents and the tone of the times. These stories have been gathered many times but here the package – matt-white, dense paper stock – offers punch, clarity and the ineffably comforting texture of the original newsprint pulp pamphlets.

This is what a big book of comics ought to feel like in your eager, sweaty hands…

Collecting all four Showcase tryout issues – #4, 8, 13 and 14 – and the first full dozen issues of his own title (The Flash volume 1 #105-116, October 1956 to November 1960) the high-speed thrills begin with the epochal debut tales from Showcase #4.

‘Mystery of the Human Thunderbolt’ (scripted by Kanigher) sees Barry endure his electrical metamorphosis and promptly goes on to subdue bizarre criminal mastermind Turtle Man after which ‘The Man Who Broke the Time Barrier!’ – written by the brilliant John Broome – finds the newly-minted Scarlet Speedster batting a criminal from the future before returning criminal exile Mazdan to his own century, proving the new Flash was a protagonist of keen insight and sharp wits as well as overwhelming power. These are slickly polished, coolly sophisticated short stories introducing the comfortingly suburbanite new superhero and firmly establishing the broad parameters of his universe.

Showcase #8 (June 1957) led with another Kanigher tale. ‘The Secret of the Empty Box’, a perplexing if pedestrian mystery, saw veteran Frank Giacoia return as inker, but the real landmark was the Broome thriller ‘The Coldest Man on Earth’.

With this yarn the author confirmed and consolidated the new costumed character phenomenon by introducing the first of a Rogues Gallery of outlandish super-villains. Unlike the Golden Age, these new super-heroes would face predominantly costumed foes rather than thugs and spies. Bad guys would henceforth be as memorable as the champions of justice. Captain Cold would return time and again. Broome would go on to create every single member of Flash’s pantheon of classic super-foes.

Joe Giella inked the two adventures in Showcase #13 (April 1958). ‘Around the World in 80 Minutes’ was written by Kanigher and displayed Flash’s versatility as he tackled atomic terrorists, battled Arabian bandits, counteracted an avalanche on Mount Everest and scuttled submarine pirates in the specified time slot.

Broome’s ‘Master of the Elements’ then premiered the outlandish Mr. Element, who utilised the periodic table as his arsenal.

Showcase #14 (June 1958) opened with Kanigher’s eerie ‘Giants of the Time-World!’: a masterful fantasy thriller and a worthy effort to bow out on as Flash and girlfriend Iris West encounter extra-dimensional invaders with the strangest life-cycle imaginable.

The issue closed with a return engagement for Mr. Element sporting a new M.O. and identity – Doctor Alchemy. ‘The Man Who Changed the Earth!’ is a classic crime-caper with serious psychological underpinnings, as Flash struggles to overcome the villain’s latest weapon: mystic transmutational talisman the Philosopher’s Stone…

When the Scarlet Speedster graduated to his own title John Broome was the lead writer, supplemented eventually by Gardner Fox. Kanigher would return briefly in the mid-1960s and would later write a number of tales during DC’s ‘Relevancy’ period.

Taking its own sweet time, The Flash #105 launched with a February-March 1959 cover-date (so it was out for Christmas 1958) and opened with Broome, Infantino and Giella’s sci-fi chiller ‘Conqueror From 8 Million B.C.!’ before introducing yet another money-mad super-villain in ‘The Master of Mirrors!’

Issue #106 introduced one of the most charismatic and memorable baddies in comics history. Gorilla Grodd and his hidden race of telepathic super-simians instantly captured the fan’s attentions in ‘Menace of the Super-Gorilla!’ and even after Flash thrashed the hairy hooligan Grodd promptly returned in the next two issues.

Presumably this early confidence was fuelled by DC’s inexplicable but commercially sound pro-Gorilla editorial stance (for some reason any comic with a substantial simian in it spectacularly outsold those that didn’t in those far-ago days) but these tales are also packed with tension, action and engagingly challenging fantasy concepts.

Offering an encore here is ‘The Pied Piper of Peril!’: a mesmerising musical criminal mastermind, stealing for fun and attention rather than profit…

Issue #107 led with the ‘Return of the Super-Gorilla!’ by regular team Broome, Infantino and Giella, a multi-layered fantasy thriller that took our hero from the African (invisible) city of the Super-Gorillas to the subterranean citadel of antediluvian Ornitho-Men, and closed with ‘The Amazing Race Against Time’ which featured an amnesiac who could outrun the Fastest Man Alive in a desperate dash to save all of creation from obliteration. With every issue the stakes got higher whilst the dramatic quality and narrative ingenuity got better!

Frank Giacoia inked #108’s high-tech death-trap thriller ‘The Speed of Doom!’ featuring trans-dimensional raiders stealing fulgurites (look it up, if you want) but Giella was back for ‘The Super-Gorilla’s Secret Identity!’ wherein Grodd devises a scheme to outwit evolution itself by turning himself into a human…

The next issue saw ‘The Return of the Mirror-Master’ with the first in a series of bizarre physical transformations that would increasingly become a signature device for Flash stories, whilst the contemporary Space Race provided an evocative maguffin for a fantastic undersea adventure in the ‘Secret of the Sunken Satellite’. Here Flash encountered an unsuspected sub-sea race on the edge of extinction whilst enquiring after the impossible survival of an astronaut trapped at the bottom of the sea.

The Flash #110 was a major landmark, not so much for the debut of another worthy addition to the burgeoning Rogues Gallery in ‘The Challenge of the Weather Wizard’ (inked by Schwartz’s artistic top-gun Murphy Anderson) but rather for the introduction of Wally West, who in a bizarre and suspicious replay of the lightning strike that created the Vizier of Velocity became a junior version of the Fastest Man Alive.

Inked by Giella, ‘Meet Kid Flash!’ introduced the first teenaged sidekick of the Silver Age (cover dated December 1959-January 1960 and just pipping Aqualad who premiered in Adventure Comics #269 which had a February off-sale date).

Not only would Kid Flash begin his own series of back-up tales from the very next issue (a sure sign of the confidence the creators had in the character) but he would eventually inherit the mantle of the Flash himself – one of the few occasions in comics where the torch-passing actually stuck.

Anderson also inked ‘The Invasion of the Cloud Creatures’ in # 111, which successfully overcomes its frankly daft premise to deliver a taut, tense sci-fi thriller which nicely counterpoints the first solo outing for Kid Flash in ‘The Challenge of the Crimson Crows!’

This folksy parable has small-town kid Wally use his new powers to rescue a bunch of kids on the slippery slope to juvenile delinquency. Perhaps a tad paternalistic and heavy-handed by today’s standards, in the opening months of 1960 this was a strip about a boy heroically dealing with a kid’s real dilemmas, and the occasional series would remain concerned with human-scaled problems, leaving super-menaces and world saving for team-ups with his mentor.

In Flash #112 ‘The Mystery of the Elongated Man’ introduced an intriguing super stretchable newcomer to the DC universe – who might have been hero or villain – in a beguiling tantaliser whilst Kid Flash tackled juvenile Go-Carters and corrupt school-contractors in the surprisingly gripping ‘Danger on Wheels!’

Mercurial mania The Trickster launched his crime career in #113’s lead tale ‘Danger in the Air!’ and the second-generation speedster took a break so that his senior partner could defeat ‘The Man Who Claimed the Earth!’: a full-on cosmic epic wherein the ancient alien Po-Siden attempts to bring the lost colony of Earth back into the galaxy-spanning Empire of Zus.

Captain Cold and Murphy Anderson returned for ‘The Big Freeze’, where the smitten villain turns Central City into a glacier just to impress Barry’s girlfriend Iris. Meanwhile her nephew Wally saves a boy unjustly accused of cheating from a life of crime when he falls under the influence of the ‘King of the Beatniks!’

Then Flash #115 offered another bizarre transformation, courtesy of Gorilla Grodd in ‘The Day Flash Weighed 1000 Pounds!’, and when aliens attempt to conquer Earth the slimmed down champion needs ‘The Elongated Man’s Secret Weapon’ as well as the guest-star himself to save the day. Once again Murphy Anderson’s inking gave the over-taxed Joe Giella a breather whilst taking art-lovers’ breath away in this beautiful, fast-paced thriller.

This gloriously rewarding volume concludes with Flash #116 as ‘The Man Who Stole Central City’ sees a seemingly fool-proof way of killing the valiant hero, which took both time-tinkering and serious outwitting to avoid whilst Kid Flash returned in ‘The Race to Thunder Hill’; a father-son tale of rally driving, but with car-stealing bandits and a young love interest for Wally to complicate the proceedings.

These earliest tales were historically vital to the development of our industry but, quite frankly, so what? The first exploits of The Flash should be judged solely on their merit, and on those terms they are punchy, awe-inspiring, beautifully illustrated and captivating thrillers that amuse, amaze and enthral both new readers and old devotees. This lovely collection is a must-read item for anybody in love with our art-form and especially for anyone just now encountering the hero for the first time through his TV incarnation.
© 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 2016 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Crisis on Multiple Earths: the Team-Ups volume 2


By John Broome, Gardner Fox, Mike Friedrich, Neal Adams, Murphy Anderson, Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1228-5

Super-Editor Julius Schwartz ushered in the Silver Age of American Comics with his Showcase successes Flash, Adam Strange and Green Lantern, directly leading to the Justice League of America which in turn inspired Fantastic Four and the whole Marvel Empire and changed the way comics were made and read…

Whereas the 1940s were about magic and macho, the Silver Age polished everything with a thick veneer of SCIENCE and a wave of implausible rationalistic concepts quickly filtered into the dawning mass-consciousness of a generation of baby-boomer kids.

The most intriguing and rewarding was, of course, the notion of parallel worlds…

It all began, naturally enough, in The Flash, flagship title of the Silver Age Revolution. After ushering in the triumphant return of the costumed superhero concept, the Crimson Comet, with key writers Gardner Fox and John Broome at the reins, set an unbelievably high standard for superhero adventure in sharp, witty tales of technology and imagination, illustrated with captivating style and clean simplicity by Carmine Infantino.

Fox didn’t write many Flash scripts at this time, but those few he did were all dynamite; none more so than the full-length epic which literally changed the scope of American comics forever.

‘Flash of Two Worlds’ (Flash #123, September 1961) introduced the theory of alternate Earths to the continuity which grew by careful extension into a multiversal structure comprising Infinite Earths. Once established as a cornerstone of a newly integrated DCU through a wealth of team-ups and escalating succession of cosmos-shaking crossover sagas, a glorious pattern was set which would, after joyous decades, eventually culminate in a spectacular Crisis on Infinite Earths

During a benefit gig Flash (police scientist Barry Allen) accidentally slips into another dimension where he finds the comic-book hero upon whom he based his own superhero identity actually exists. Every adventure he had absorbed as an eager child was grim reality to Jay Garrick and his comrades on the controversially designated “Earth-2”. Locating his idol, Barry convinced the elder to come out of retirement just as three Golden Age villains were making their own wicked comeback…

The floodgates were opened, as over the months that followed many Earth-1 stalwarts met their counterparts either in annual collaborations in the pages of Justice League of America or in their own series. Schwartz even had a game go at reviving a cadre of the older titans in their own titles. Public approval was decidedly vocal and he used DC’s try-out magazines to take the next step: stories set on Earth-2 exclusively featuring Golden Age characters.

Showcase #55 and 56 saw Doctor Fate and Hourman as a dynamic duo battling Solomon Grundy and the Psycho-Pirate and, still searching for an concept that would support its own series, Schwartz, Fox and Murphy Anderson debuted the team of Starman and Black Canary in The Brave and the Bold #61 (September-October 1965); the first of two stunning sagas which somehow led to nothing…

All those stories can be found in the previous edition (Crisis on Multiple Earths: the Team-Ups volume 1) whilst this second splendid collection – chronologically re-presenting The Atom #29 & 36, Flash #170 & 173, Green Lantern #45 & 52 and The Spectre #3 , cumulatively spanning October/November 1965 to April/May 1968 – opens with Brave & Bold #62 and a second Starman/Black Canary case wherein the resurgent champions ferociously face off against husband-and-wife criminals Huntress and Sportsmaster who had been stalking superheroes for kicks and profit. By the time Feline Fury Wildcat became their victim our heroes were on the case and ready for anything…

This compelling thriller was originally augmented by a text feature biography of the original Starman and that is reprinted here before Earth-2 Emerald Gladiator Alan Scott reunites with “our” Hal Jordan (Green Lantern #45, June 1966, by Broome, Gil Kane & Sid Greene) to thwart ‘Prince Peril’s Power Play’ as Scott’s comedy foil Doiby Dickles was romanced by an alien princess. The only fly in their ointment was a gigantic and ambitious space warrior who needed her to cement his own plans for conquest, but judicious use of green energies soon taught him that nobody likes a pushy tyrant…

Earth-2’s Tiny Titan was Al Pratt, a short man with super-strength, whilst we had size changing physicist Ray Palmer. When they met in Atom #27 (February/March 1967, by Fox, Kane & Greene) it was for an all-out cataclysmic clash between the Mighty Mites and one of the most dangerous villains of DC’s Golden Age in ‘The Thinker’s Earth-Shaking Robberies!’

With Green Lantern #52 (Broome & Kane, April 1967) Alan Scott and Doiby popped over from Earth-2 to aid Hal against the scurrilous return of his arch nemesis Sinestro in camp-crazed and frankly rather peculiar fight-frenzied fist-fest ‘Our Mastermind, the Car!’ after which a brace of Scarlet Speedsters at long last reunited in Flash #170 to face the ‘The See-Nothing Spells of Abra Kadabra!’ (May 1967 by Broome, Infantino & Greene) which found the Vizier of Velocity hexed by the cunning conjuror and rendered unable to detect the villain’s actions or presence.

Sadly for the sinister spellbinder, Jay Garrick was visiting and called on the services of JSA pals Doctors Fate and Mid-Nite to counteract the wicked wizard’s wiles…

Promptly following, Flash #173 (September 1967 by Broome, Infantino & Greene again) featured a titanic team-up as Barry, Wally “Kid Flash” West and Jay were sequentially shanghaied to another galaxy as putative prey for alien hunter Golden Man in ‘Doomward Flight of the Flashes!’

However, the sneaky script slowly revealed devilish layers of intrigue and his Andromedan super-safari concealed a far more arcane purpose for the three speedy pawns, before the wayward wanderers finally fought free and found their way home again…

Eventually Schwartz finally achieved the ambition of launching a Golden Age hero into his own title; sadly just as the superhero bubble was bursting and supernatural stories were again on the rise…

After three Showcase appearances and many guest-shots, The Spectre won his own book at the end of 1967. From #3 (March/April 1968) comes this all Earth-2 team-up by neophyte scripter Mike Friedrich and artistic iconoclast Neal Adams which exposed the ‘Menace of the Mystic Mastermind’ wherein pugilistic paragon Wildcat confronted head-on the inevitable prospect of age and infirmity even as an inconceivable force from another universe possessed petty thug Sad Jack Dold and turned him into a nigh-unstoppable force of cosmic chaos…

This fabulous peek into forgotten worlds and times concludes with one of the very best team-up tales of the Silver Age as the Earth-2 Atom returns in ‘Duel Between the Dual Atoms’ (April/May 1968, by Fox, Kane & Greene) wherein a radiation plague plays hob with victim’s ages on both worlds simultaneously. Sadly the deadly situation also turns normally hyper-rational Ray Palmer into an enraged maniac and almost more than his aging counterpart can handle…

Still irresistible and compellingly beautiful after all these years, the stories collected here shaped the American comics industry for decades and are still influencing not only today’s funnybooks but also the wave animated shows, movies and TV series which grew from them. These are tales and this is a book you simply must have.

© 1965-1968, 2007 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Showcase Presents the Trial of the Flash


By Cary Bates, Carmine Infantino, Frank McLaughlin, Dennis Jensen & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3182-8

Barry Allen was the second comicbook comet to carry the name of Flash, and his debut was the Big Bang which finally triggered the Silver Age of American comicbooks after a series of abortive remnant revivals (Stuntman in 1954 and Marvel’s “Big Three”, Human Torch, Sub-Mariner and Captain America from 1953 to 1955). There were also a few all-original attempts such as Captain Flash, The Avenger and Strongman from 1954-1955.

Although none of those – or other less high-profile efforts – had restored or renewed the popularity of masked mystery-men, they had presumably piqued readers’ consciousness, even at conservative National/DC. Thus the revived human rocket wasn’t quite the innovation he seemed: after all, alien crusader Martian Manhunter had already cracked open the company floodgates with his low-key launch in Detective Comics #225, November 1955.

However in terms of creative quality, originality and sheer style The Flash was an irresistible spark and after his landmark first appearance in Showcase #4 (October 1956) the series – eventually – became a benchmark by which every successive launch or reboot across the industry was measured.

Police Scientist – we’d call him a CSI today – Allen was transformed by a simultaneous lightning strike and chemical bath into a human thunderbolt of unparalleled velocity and ingenuity. Yet with characteristic indolence the new Fastest Man Alive took three more try-out issues and almost as many years to win his own title. However when he finally stood on his own wing-tipped feet in The Flash #105 (February-March 1959), he never looked back…

The comics business back then was a faddy, slavishly trend-beset affair, however, and following a manic boom for superhero tales prompted by the Batman TV show the fickle global consciousness moved on to a fixation with supernatural themes and merely mortal tales, triggering a huge revival of spooky films, shows, books and periodicals. With horror on the rise again, many superhero titles faced cancellation and even the most revered and popular were threatened. It was time to adapt or die: a process repeated every few years until the mid-1980s when DC’s powers-that-be decided to rationalise and downsize the sprawling multi-dimensional multiverse the Flash had innocently sparked into existence decades previously…

Barry had been through the wringer before: in 1979 (Flash #275 to be precise) his beloved wife Iris was brutally murdered and thereafter the Scarlet Speedster became a darker, grittier, truly careworn hero. Gradually over four years the lonely bachelor recovered and even found love again but a harshly evolving comics industry, changing fashions and jaded fan tastes were about to end his long run at the top…

The Vizier of Velocity was still a favoured, undisputed icon of the apparently unstoppable Superhero meme and a mighty pillar of the costumed establishment, but in times of precarious sales and with very little in the way of presence in other media like films, TV or merchandise, that just made him a bright red target for a company desperate to attract a larger readership.

It soon became an open secret that he was to be one of the major casualties of the reality-rending Crisis on Infinite Earths. The epic maxi-series was conceived as an attention-grabbing spectacle on every level and to truly succeed it needed a few sacrifices which would make the public really sit up and take notice…

With such knowledge commonplace, long-time scripter Cary Bates went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that the Crimson Comet and the comic title which inspired a super-heroic revolution went out in a totally absorbing blaze of glory…

This momentously massive stand-alone monochrome collection gathers the pertinent chapters of an astonishingly extended and supremely gripping serial which charted the triumphs and tragedies of the Monarch of Motion’s last months and savoured the final moments of the paramount hero and symbol of the Silver Age.

Contained herein are Flash #323-327, 329-336 and 340-350, spanning July 1983 to October 1985, written throughout by Bates and pencilled by originating artist Carmine Infantino, opening on the day Barry is supposed to marry his new sweetheart Fiona Webb.

As the nervous groom dresses for the ceremony, however, an Oan Guardian of the Universe appears with appalling news. Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash has escaped from the timeless hell the vengeful Vizier of Velocity banished him to for murdering Iris…

Inked by Rodin Rodriguez, ‘Run Flash – Run for your Wife!’ sees the distraught hero pursuing and battling his ultimate enemy on the run all over he world as the clock ticks down, culminating in #324’s ‘The Slayer and the Slain’ (Dennis Jensen inks) with the police issuing a missing persons alert for the vanished Barry Allen.

Crushed Fiona finally gives up on her man and is leaving the church just as Zoom dashes in with Flash hard on his winged heels. The maniac has boasted that he will repeat himself by slaughtering his archenemy’s second love, but with femto-seconds to spare Barry goes into overdrive and grabs his foe by the neck…

When the dust settles the wedding guests see Flash trying to comfort the bride-to-be but Police Captain Darryl Frye and Detective Frank Curtis are distracted by something the speedster has not noticed: Zoom’s lifeless corpse…

The media circus begins in #325 as ‘Dead Reckoning’ sees the guilt-racked speedster go into heroic overdrive all around the world but somehow never quite outrunning the Press or his own remorse.

As friends and allies wonder where they stand, the vile miscreants of The Flash Rogues’ Gallery come together to steal Zoom’s cadaver. Captains Cold and Boomerang, Pied Piper, Weather Wizard and The Trickster actually despised the Reverse-Flash and need to desecrate his corpse for the utter embarrassment he has brought upon their association: letting himself get killed by the scarlet Boy Scout…

Their heartbroken foe meanwhile has stopped running, and Barry visits Fiona where she lies in hospital. The shock of Barry’s abandonment has traumatised and perhaps even deranged her, but worse is in store. After leaving her room in his Flash persona, the hero is reluctantly arrested by Captain Frye on a charge of Manslaughter…

‘Shame in Scarlet’ (inked by Gary Martin) opens on the arrest and arraignment but the madhouse of raving pressmen and downhearted cops is just what the recently captured Weather Wizard needs to mask a bold getaway scheme.

Ever dutiful, Flash eludes custody long enough to stop the rogue before surrendering himself again…

Fiona’s doctors refuse to believe the still-missing Barry Allen came to see her and diagnose a delusional breakdown, whilst out on the streets Frank Curtis is further distracted by teenaged Angelo Torres; a kid barely surviving in a tough gang-controlled area of Central City

Released on his own recognizance, Flash sneaks into his own apartment but as the realisation of his destroyed life finally sinks in, he loses control and trashes the place in an explosive outburst. By the time his terrified neighbours break in he has gone and the suspicion that someone has targeted the missing Police Scientist seems confirmed…

Roaming the streets the Crimson Comet sees Angelo fleeing from a mugging but is appalled to realise he has tackled the wrong guy. Torres was chasing the real thief…

Still reeling at how far he has fallen, the shell-shocked speedster is barely aware that he is bleeding badly (from self-inflicted wounds incurred when destroying his home), and allows a cop to take him to hospital. The good deed does not go unpunished. When he arrives, Fiona is there and suddenly flares into a state of total hysteria…

The horrors pile on in ‘Burnout’ (#327, inked by Jensen) as Flash reconciles with Angelo, unaware that the kid has been targeted by the malign Super-Gorilla Grodd as part of a convoluted vengeance scheme.

Flash is too preoccupied by his next personal crisis as the Justice League of America holds a special session to judge his actions and conduct. A nail-bitingly close vote of his crestfallen best friends will determine whether he can remain a member of the august group…

Flash #328 is a partial reprint exploring the Flash/Professor Zoom vendetta and not included here, so the saga resumes with ‘What is the Sinister Secret of Simian and Son?’ (#329, with new regular inker Frank McLaughlin picking up the pens the brushes). Grodd uses Angelo and other kids to perpetrate series of bold raids even as, in front of the maddened media cameras, unscrupulous, publicity-hungry celebrity criminal defense attorney Nicholas D. Redik attempts to insert himself into the “Case of the Century”, claiming to be Flash’s lawyer and only chance of acquittal…

The oblivious, troubled human thunderbolt has other ideas. He has already contacted “Barry’s” old friend Peter Farley to act on his behalf, blithely unaware that back home Grodd has taken over Angelo and Fiona has succumbed to a total mental breakdown…

The final confrontation with the über-ape begins in ‘Beware the Land of Grodd!’ (scripted by Joey Cavalieri over Bates’ plot) as Redik manipulates the media to force Flash to switch lawyers and Captain Frye pushes the ongoing search for the missing Barry to new heights. With all these distractions the Vizier of Velocity is easily ambushed by Grodd before Angelo, at the moment of truth in #331’s ‘Dead Heat!’, has a change of heart and mind. With a supreme effort of will the remorseful lad breaks the super-ape’s conditioning, allowing the speedster to triumph.

Returning the renegade to futuristic Gorilla City, Flash leaves the mental monster in the custody of his old comrade Solovar, returning to America just in time to hear Farley being murdered during a phone conference…

Bates rejoins Infantino & McLaughlin as ‘Defend the Flash… and Die?’ sees the Scarlet Speedster hurtle across the country to save his lawyer from a colossal explosion, but even he is not fast enough to prevent the victim incurring massive injuries.

As speculation runs riot in the media that someone is targeting Flash’s defenders, old enemy Rainbow Raider take advantage of the chaos to instigate a string of robberies, but even at his lowest ebb the hero is too much for the multicoloured malefactor…

Redik is now publicly offering to take the case for free, but Farley’s absentee business partner has already taken up her ailing associate’s celebrity caseload…

In issue #333, as inexplicably hostile attorney Cecile Horton confers with her newly inherited client, ‘Down with the Flash!’ reveals how certain elements of Central City have seemingly turned on their former champion. Fiona too is still drawing trouble, as a petty thug and his crazy brother break into the asylum treating her, looking for a little one-stop emergency therapy. Sadly for them the Monarch of Motion is still keeping an eye on his tragic fiancée…

N.D. Redik then attempts to bribe and/or bully Horton off the case, but despite clearly despising her crimson client, Cecile is determined to honour Peter’s wishes and save the speedster.

The mastermind stirring up anti-Flash sentiment is revealed in ‘Flash-Freak-Out!’ Just as the pre-trial manoeuvrings begin, the formerly supportive Mayor suddenly becomes the disgraced hero’s biggest detractor.

Pied Piper’s mind-altering influence even manages to make the hero apparently go berserk on live TV in ‘How to Trash a Flash!’, leaving even his most devoted fans wondering if their beloved champion has in fact gone crazy…

…And whilst Flash is trying to save the Mayor, at her secluded retreat Cecile Horton is caught in an explosive blast like the one that took out her partner…

‘Murder on the Rocks’ in #336 finds Flash arriving too late for once, but the ecstatic speedster is astounded to discover his lawyer has saved herself through sheer quick thinking – although another woman has been killed. The tabloid reporter had been bugging the supposed “safe house” and accidentally fallen foul of a couple of killers-for-hire…

The trail of death leads the forensically trained Flash inexorably to a man whose arrogant determination to be a star in the tragedy costs him everything…

Rather annoyingly the next three chapters are absent here. They would have shown how Flash finally finished the Piper and incurred the wrath of the Rogues who subsequently turned a hulking simpleton into a programmed super killer dubbed Big Sir before unleashing him on the Scarlet Speedster…

We rejoin the story with Flash #340 to ‘Reach Out and Waste Someone!’ as the hurtling hero turns the tables on Cold, Boomerang, Weather Wizard, Trickster and Mirror Master by befriending Big Sir. The danger averted, the Flash then surrenders himself to the courts.

After many months #341 sees proceedings finally open in ‘Trial and Tribulation!’ only for the weary defendant to discover that go-getting District Attorney Anton Slater has dropped the charges. The wily attention-seeker has abandoned his manslaughter case in favour of a charge of Second Degree Murder…

With the still at-large Rogues rampaging through the city, the opening arguments quickly start to make the stunned Flash appear like a cunning killer and, whilst he reels in court, Captain Cold and Co again brainwash the now docile Big Sir. When the shattered speedster leaves after his first bruising day the Brobdingnagian brute ambushes him, wrecking his face with a massive mace…

Maimed, dazed and reeling Flash flees in unconscious panic leaving Sir to assault the gathered media in ‘Smash-Up!’ Barely thinking, the wounded warrior heads for Gorilla City where the super simians’ miraculous medical technology saves his life. Recovered and ready to return, Flash is certain he has made the right decision by asking Solovar to use their advanced science to enact a certain alteration for him…

Upon his return the Vizier of Velocity again deprograms Big Sir and the odd couple make sure the Rogues can’t hurt anyone any more…

Flash #343 kicks the drama into even higher gear in ‘Revenge and Revelations!’ as the secret of why Cecile hates her crimson-clad client is exposed and merciless mobster monster Goldface attacks, even as in the far future another Flash foe escapes an unbeatable prison and heads for the present, intent on adding to the doomed hero’s historic woes…

‘Betrayal!’ in #344 is a partial reprint (by Bates & John Broome, Infantino, McLaughlin & Joe Giella) which combines the first appearance and an early exploit of Kid Flash with that devoted protégé’s devastating expert testimony under oath on the witness stand.

The reluctant lad’s damaging evidence is then compounded when Cecile makes an explosive mistake which exposes ‘The Secret Face of the Flash!’ to the courtroom and the world…

Confusion reigns in #346 as the shocking revelation is upstaged by reports that the actual victim might not be dead. A merciless yellow-and-red blur has been spotted all over Central City attacking civilians and destroying police records in ‘Dead Man’s Bluff!’

The Reverse-Flash has escaped certain death many times before but as he mercilessly attacks the other Rogues – with even the Jurors narrowly escaping certain doom – there is a sure and certain feeling that something is not right…

The trial concludes in #347’s ‘Back from the Dead!’ but even with the thoroughly thrashed Rogues and Police Captain Fry attesting the victim is still alive, more than one malign presence in the courtroom is affecting the jurors and ‘The Final Verdict!’ comes back “guilty”…

However the story is not over and #349 unleashes a cascade of staggering revelations revealing clandestine agents acting both for and against the harried Human Hurricane in ‘…And the Truth Shall Set him Free!’ before the extended extravaganza of #350 begins by declaring ‘Flash Flees’ and thereafter shows the Scarlet Speedster defeating his ultimate nemesis, clearing his name and even living happily ever after… until that fore-destined final moment in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Staggering in scope, gripping in execution and astoundingly suspenseful, these last days of a legend make for stunning reading: a perfect example of the kind of plot-driven Fights ‘n’ Tights fiction we just don’t see enough of these days.

If you feel a need for a traditionally thrilling kind of speed reading, this is a chronicle you must not miss.

© 1983, 1984, 1985, 2011 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Showcase Presents DC Comics Presents Superman Team-up volume 2


By Gerry Conway, Len Wein, Martin Pasko, Roy Thomas, Paul Levitz, Jim Starlin, Curt Swan, José Luis García-López, Rick Buckler, Irv Novick, Kurt Schaffenberger, Joe Staton & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-4048-6

From the moment a kid first sees his second superhero the only thing he/she wants is to see how the new gaudy gladiator stacks up against the first. From the earliest days of the funnybook industry (and, according to DC Comics Presents editor Julie Schwartz, it was the same with the pulps and dime novels that preceded it) we’ve wanted our entertainment idols to meet, associate, battle together – and, if you follow the Timely/Marvel model, that means against each other – far more than we want to see them trounce their archenemies together…

The concept of team-up books – an established star pairing or fighting (usually both) with less well-selling company characters – was far from new when DC awarded their then biggest gun (it was the publicity-drenched weeks before the release of Superman: the Movie, and Tim Burton’s Batman was over a decade away) a regular arena to have adventures with other stars of their firmament, just as Batman had been doing since the middle of the 1960s in The Brave and the Bold.

Actually the Man of Steel had already embraced the regular sharing experience at the beginning of the decade when World’s Finest Comics briefly ejected the Caped Crusader and Superman battled beside a coterie of heroes including Flash, Robin, Martian Manhunter, Teen Titans, Dr. Fate and others (WF #198-214, November 1970 to October/November 1972) before the immortal status quo was re-established.

This second stout and superbly economical monochrome collection re-presents DC Comics Presents #27-50 and the first Annual (spanning November 1980 to October 1982) of the star-studded monthly, and opens the show with a trilogy of interlinked thrillers.

Unlike The Brave and the Bold, which boasted a regular artist for most of its Batman-starring team-up run, a veritable merry-go-round of creative talent contributed to DCCP and #27 proved the value of such tactics when Len Wein, Jim Starlin, Dick Giordano & Frank McLaughlin collaboratively changed the shape of Superman mythology by introducing alien marauder Mongul in ‘The Key that Unlocked Chaos!’

The deposed despot of a far away planet kidnapped Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Steve Lombard to force Superman to attack former JLA member J’onn J’onzz. This was because the Martian Manhunter had successfully driven off the rapacious fiend when he attacked New Mars in search of an artefact that would grant the possessor control of the universe’s most terrible weapon…

Now Mongul wanted the Man of Steel to get it for him and, although the resulting planet-shaking clash between old allies did result in the salvation of his friends, Superman subsequently failed to keep the crystal key out of the villain’s gigantic hands…

The tale continued in #28 as Supergirl joined her Kryptonian cousin in scouring the cosmos for the vanished tyrant and ancient doom weapon ‘Warworld!’ (Wein, Starlin & Romeo Tanghal).

Unfortunately, once they found it, Mongul unleashed all its resources to destroy his annoying adversaries and in the resultant cataclysm the mobile gun-planet was demolished. The resultant detonation blasted Kara Zor-El out of existence…

The triptych concluded a month later as The Spectre intervened to stop the heartsick Man of Tomorrow following his cousin ‘Where No Superman Has Gone Before!’ Happily after the customary clash of egos and flexing of muscles the nigh-omnipotent Ghostly Guardian set things right and restored the lost girl to the land of the living…

Courtesy of Gerry Conway, Curt Swan & Vince Colletta, DC Comics Presents #30 saw Black Canary plagued by nightmares starring her deceased husband, but upon closer investigation Superman showed that the diabolical Dr. Destiny was behind ‘A Dream of Demons!’, whilst in ‘The Deadliest Show on Earth!’ (Conway, José Luis García-López & Giordano) Man of Steel and original Robin, the Teen Wonder Dick Grayson conclusively crushed a perfidious psychic vampire predating the performers at the troubled Sterling Circus…

Wonder Woman spurned amorous godling Eros in #32’s ‘The Super-Prisoners of Love’ (Conway, Kurt Schaffenberger & Colletta) leading to the frustrated brat using his arrows to make her and Superman fall passionately in lust. It took the intervention of goddess Aphrodite and a quest into the realms of myth to set their head and hearts aright again…

Conway, Roy Thomas, Rich Buckler & Giordano then began a 2-part epic in DCCP #33 as ‘Man and Supermarvel!’ found the Action Ace and Captain Marvel helplessly swapping powers, costumes and Earths, thanks to the mirthless machinations of Fifth dimensional imp Mr. Mxyzptlk and malevolent alien worm Mr. Mind.

Despite the intervention of Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Junior in the next issue the villains’ sinister manipulations allowed antediluvian revenant King Kull to become ‘The Beast-Man that Shouted “Hate” at the Heart of the U.N.!’ (Thomas, Buckler & Giordano). The consequent battle across myriad dimensions only went the heroes’ way after they stumbled upon the garish homeworld of Lepine Avenger Hoppy the Captain Marvel Bunny

Some semblance of sanity returned in #35 as Superman and Man-Bat hunted for ‘The Metamorphosis Machine!’ (Martin Pasko, Swan & Colletta) which might save Chiropterist Kirk Langstrom’s baby daughter from death. All they had to do was beat murderous maniac Atomic Skull and his minions to the device…

Paul Levitz & Starlin then revealed ‘Whatever Happened to Starman?’ as Mongul turned his nefarious attention to Gavyn, ruler of a distant alien empire and a stellar powered crusader. After snatching the monarch’s beloved Merria, Mongul tried to take over the masked hero’s interplanetary empire but was thwarted again by the timely arrival of the Man of Steel and the vengeful fury of the Starman…

Hawkgirl got a rare chance at some solo action in #37 as ‘The Stars Like Moths…’ (Thomas & Starlin) saw the Thanagarian cop-turned-archaeologist uncover an ancient Kryptonian vault, solve a baffling mystery that had vexed the House of El for generations and save its last son from the dimensional doom which killed Superman’s great-grandfather…

DC Comics Presents #38 united the Man of Steel and The Flash as an extra-dimensional tyrant attempted to foment a high velocity war between Earth’s fastest heroes in ‘Stop the World – I Want to Get Off Go Home!’ (Pasko & Don Heck), after which #39 catapulted Superman into the weirdest case of his career as he and Plastic Man trailed ‘The Thing That Goes Woof in the Night!’ (Pasko, Joe Staton & Bob Smith) to a Toymakers Convention where third-rate super-villains Fliptop and Dollface were trying to rob freshly reformed, barely recovering maniac Toyman

In DCCP #40 Metamorpho the Element Man seemed to be the logical culprit for uncanny disasters occurring on ‘The Day the Elements Went Wild!’ (Conway, Irv Novick & McLaughlin), but when Superman tried to bring him in the real menace proved to be the least likely person possible…

In #41, ‘The Terrible Tinseltown Treasure-Trap Treachery!’ (Pasko, García-López & McLaughlin) proved that the Man of Tomorrow’s powers were no match for the lethal Hollywood hi-jinks perpetrated by The Joker and Prankster as they callously duelled for the props and effects of a dead comedy legend…

Immortal espionage ace and unsung war hero The Unknown Soldier haunted the shadows of issue #42, subtly guiding Superman towards saving Earth from imminent nuclear Armageddon in ‘The Specter of War!’ by Levitz, Novick & McLaughlin, whilst The Legion of Super-Heroes joined the Metropolis Marvel ‘In Final Battle’ against remorseless Mongul and his captive Sun-Eater in an all-action exploit by Levitz, Swan & Dave Hunt from DCCP #43.

Bob Rozakis, E. Nelson Bridwell, Novick & McLaughlin added to the ongoing mystery of New England town Fairfax, when Clark Kent was assigned to discover why so many heroes, villains and monsters appeared there. What Superman found was teenagers Chris King and Vicki Grant (who used mysterious artefacts to Dial “H” for Hero and transform into most of the Fairfax freak and champion community) under attack by ‘The Man Who Created Villains!’

Firestorm the Nuclear Man stole the show in #45 as Conway, Buckler & Smith teamed him and the Man of Steel against terrorist Kriss-Kross who took over the nation’s electronic military defences to implement ‘The Chaos Network’, after which international heroes united as The Global Guardians at the command of enigmatic Doctor Mist to defeat a coalition of magic foes and prevent the resurrection of ‘The Wizard Who Wouldn’t Stay Dead!’ (Bridwell, Alex Saviuk & Pablo Marcos).

A franchising bonanza occurred in DC Comics Presents #47 as Superman met the toy/cartoon sensations of Masters of the Universe: travelling to another dimension and aiding He-Man and his comrades against wicked Skeletor in the exceedingly kid-friendly yarn ‘From Eternia – with Death!’ by Paul Kupperberg, Swan & Mike DeCarlo.

Aquaman resurfaced in #48 seeking the Man of Tomorrow’s aid against a mysterious plague of sub-sea mutations, only to discover an alien wielding ‘Eight Arms of Conquest!’ (Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn, Novick & McLaughlin), after which ‘Superman and Shazam!’ (Thomas, Kupperberg, Buckler & John Calnan) saw the immortal wizard enlist the Action Ace’s assistance to create a Captain Marvel for Earth -1.

When it didn’t work out the original had to step in from his own world to stop the depredations of devil-hearted Black Adam

DC Comics Presents Annual #1 then reintroduced the world where good and evil are transposed as ‘Crisis on Three Earths!’ by Marv Wolfman, Buckler & Hunt saw the Supermen of Earth-1 and Earth-2 again thrash their respective nemeses Lex and/or Alexei Luthor only to have the villains flee to another universe…

In Case You Were Wondering: soon after the Silver Age brought back an army of costumed heroes, ‘Flash of Two Worlds’ (Flash #123 September 1961) introduced alternate Earths to the continuity which resulted in the multiversal structure of the DCU, Crisis on Infinite Earths and all succeeding cosmos-shaking crossover sagas since.

During a benefit gig Flash (police scientist Barry Allen) accidentally slipped into another dimension where he discovered the 1940s comicbook hero upon whom he’d based his own superhero identity actually existed.

Every adventure he’d avidly absorbed as an eager child was grim reality to Jay Garrick and his mystery-men comrades on the controversially named Earth-2. Locating his idol, Barry convinced the elder to come out of retirement just as three vintage villains Shade, Thinker and the Fiddler made their own wicked comeback…

The story generated an avalanche of popular and critical approval (big sales figures, too) so after a few more trans-dimensional test runs the ultimate team-up was delivered to slavering fans. ‘Crisis on Earth-One’ (Justice League of America #21, August 1963) and ‘Crisis on Earth-Two’ (in #22) became one of the most important stories in DC history and arguably one of the most important tales in American comics.

When ‘Flash of Two Worlds’ introduced the concept of Infinite Earths and multiple heroes to the public, pressure had begun almost instantly to bring back the actual heroes of the “Golden Age”. Editorial powers-that-be were hesitant, though, fearing too many heroes would be silly and unmanageable, or worse yet put readers off. If they could see us now…

Most importantly there was no reason to stop at two Earths.

Justice League of America #29-30 featured Crisis on Earth-Three’ and ‘The Most Dangerous Earth of All!’ which reprised the team-up of Justice League and Justice Society of America, when the super-beings of yet another alternate Earth discovered the secret of multiversal travel.

Unfortunately Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman, Johnny Quick and Power Ring were super-criminals on a world without heroes and they saw the costumed champions of the JLA and JSA as living practise dummies to sharpen their evil skills upon.

With this cracking two-part thriller the annual summer team-up became solidly entrenched in heroic lore, giving fans endless joys for years to come and making the approaching end of school holidays less gloomy than they could have been…

Back at the DCCP annual, the vanished Luthors reappeared on Earth-3 and began trans-dimensional attacks on their arch enemies: even tentatively affiliating with Ultraman of the Crime Syndicate of Amerika, whilst treacherously planning to destroy all three Earths…

This potential cosmic catastrophe prompted the brilliant and noble Alex Luthor of Earth-3 to abandon his laboratory, turn himself into his world’s very first superhero and join the hard-pressed Supermen in saving humanity three times over…

This power-packed black and white compilation concludes with the anniversary DC Comics Presents Annual #50 wherein ‘When You Wish Upon a Planetoid!’ (Mishkin, Cohn, Swan & Schaffenberger) saw a cosmic calamity split Superman and Clark Kent into separate entities…

Designed as introductions to lesser known DC stars, these tales are wonderfully accessible to newcomers and readers unfamiliar with the minutia of burdensome continuity and provide an ideal jumping on point for anybody who just wants a few moments of easy comicbook fun and thrills.

These short, pithy adventures are a perfect shop window for DC’s fascinating catalogue of characters and creators; delivering a breadth and variety of self-contained, exciting and satisfying entertainments ranging from the merely excellent all the way to utterly indispensable, making this book the perfect introduction to the DC Universe for every kid of any age and another delightful slice of ideal Costumed Dramas from simpler, more inviting times…
© 1980, 1981, 1982, 2013 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

The Flash: The Dastardly Death of the Rogues – a Brightest Day tie-in volume


By Geoff Johns, Francis Manapul, Scott Kolins & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3195-8

In the aftermath of the intergalactic Zombie Apocalypse known as Blackest Night, a number of heroes and villains were mysteriously resurrected. Just prior to that, Barry Allen, the second Flash and scarlet herald of the Silver Age of American comicbooks, also returned from the dead to play a pivotal part in the long-prophesied Crisis.

Once back, however, his life became increasingly complicated…

This first volume of his post-revival exploits collects The Flash volume 3 #1-7 (June-December 2010) and portions of The Flash Secret Files and Origins 2010, revealing how the hero’s desire to return to a normal life proves a forlorn hope in a world still reeling from a swift succession of cosmic upheavals…

The high-octane rush begins in the six-part ‘Case One: The Dastardly Deaths of the Rogues’ by Geoff Johns & Francis Manapul, as Barry returns to his old job as a CSI at Central City’s Crime Lab.

His old friend Captain Darryl Frye is happy he’s back and believes the returnee’s claim that he’s been in Witness Protection, but is far too busy to chat. Recently the City’s been swamped with nuisance crimes committed by the costumed crazies of Flash’s Rogues Gallery as well as lesser, more pedestrian felons …

Barry knows all about it: his trip to the office has already been interrupted stopping a bank job by the new Trickster

Before he has a chance to settle in, and already missing his old lab partner Patty Spivot, Barry is then dispatched to examine a body in East Park. Apparently somebody has murdered the Mirror Master

As his wife Iris joins the Press-pack behind the police tape, Barry makes a disturbing discovery: the ravaged corpse is neither of the two criminals to have operated as the Reflective Rogue but a mysterious unknown third…

This cadaver apparently appeared in a blaze of light and, when a second flare occurs, the Scarlet Speedster suits up and races across town to be greeted by five more strangers tricked out as his greatest foes…

The second issue finds Flash reeling at an incredible accusation. The costumed newcomers – Commander Cold, Weather Warlock, Top, Heatstroke and Trixster – are from the 25th century; a special law-keeping unit dubbed The Renegades come back in time to apprehend him for the murder of Mirror Monarch – an act he will commit in eighty-four days hence…

The team have been trained to tackle their own era’s greatest menace – Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash – and have no qualms about testing their tactics on his 21st century inspiration. Moreover, reasoned debate and the fact that he is still innocent of any crime are wasted on the future cops. The ensuing cataclysmic clash sees the Vizier of Velocity drive off his attackers, but only at the cost of an entire apartment building…

After diligently rebuilding the dwelling, Barry talks things over with Iris and decides to check on Zoom, currently incarcerated in the forbidding Iron Heights super-penitentiary, where at that very moment Digger Harkness – one of the dozen dead metahumans resurrected in the aftermath of the Blackest Night – is being confronted by the true Rogues.

Captain Cold and Co. have decided not to free their old ally, preferring to see if Captain Boomerang still has the necessary grit and class to be one of them…

At the harassed, stressed and over-worked Crime Lab, Barry has just annoyed his boss by reopening a cold case nobody has time for, when DNA evidence comes back that irrefutably proves that he is the murderer of the anachronistically expired Mirror Monarch…

Pressure mounts in the third chapter as Barry is understandably accused of contaminating a crime scene. His worry however, is that perhaps he is – or will be – the actual killer…

When Boomerang discovers he has returned to life with a new and deadly super power he murderously busts out of prison, arriving back in Central City just as the Renegades attack Barry and Iris.

Whether out of mistaken identity or sheer bloody-mindedness, Harkness joins the blockbusting battle, targeting the tomorrow cops and leaving Flash to frantically save the endangered bystanders…

Despite the bad odds and mounting chaos, Barry is subduing the riotous Rogue and Renegades when Top delivers a chilling warning and ultimatum. Unless Flash surrenders, Iris will die and the rest of the Rogues will unleash a horrific menace from the Mirror Dimensions

Afetr Top apparently switches sides, the speedster is propelled into an all-out attack on Captain Cold’s crew. The battle is soon wildly out of control but is interrupted when Boomerang is contacted by the White Entity responsible for bringing back the Dead Dozen…

His response ends the street war in an unpredictable manner which allows Flash to divine the true nature and target of all the time shenanigans – and stop the real architect of all his present woes.

…At least he would have, if the Renegades hadn’t used that moment to shanghai him into the future to face trial for murder…

The epic encounter concludes with the resurgent Scarlet Speedster deducing the reason for all the temporal turmoil, foiling his secret foe and heading home to Iris, utterly unaware that a mystery rider from the unknown is heading for him bearing a warning of a coming splintering time stream and an oncoming “Flashpoint”…

The Flash #7 shifts focus to Captain Boomerang as ‘What Goes Around, Comes Around’ (with art by Scott Kolins) reveals the origins and offers career highlights of the Ozzie outlaw, culminating in portentous meeting with the incalculably dangerous Zoom and an ominous confrontation with Captain Cold’s Rogues…

Perhaps narratively parked in the wrong place, ‘Running to the Past’ – also illustrated by Scott Kolins – then offers insights into Barry Allen’s troubled past as the hero dreams again of his mother’s murder and rededicates himself to one day closing that particularly painful cold case, before being welcomed back to the fold of his Speed Force Family, whilst across town the Rogues find the final legacy of Sam Scudder, the original Mirror Master…

Also included are a 2-page preview teaser for upcoming publishing event Flashpoint (inked by Paul Neary), a selection of wry and pithy Flash Facts (‘How Does a Boomerang Work?’, ‘How Do Captain Boomerang’s Boomerangs Work?’, ‘How Does a Mirror Work?’ and ‘How Do Mirror Master’s Mirrors Work?’) plus a mesmerising covers-&-variants gallery by Manapul & Brian Buccellato, Tony Harris, Ryan Sook, Greg Horn, Kolins & Michael Atiyeh, Fernando Pasarin, Joel Gomez, Randy Mayor & Carrie Strachan, Alé Garcia, Sandra Hope & Alex Sinclair and Darwyn Cooke.

The Flash has always been the epitome and paradigm of Fights ‘n’ Tights comics adventure and this blistering – if short-lived – iteration offers so much more than the requisite dose of thrills, chills and spills to satisfy the craving of every tension tripper, suspense junkie and (super) speed freak. Catch it if you can!
© 2011 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Golden Age Flash Archives Volume II


By Gardner F. Fox, E.E. Hibbard, Hal Sharp & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-0784-7

The innovative array of companies that became DC published a number of iconic “Firsts” in the early years of the industry. Associated outfit All-American Publications (who were bought out and acquired by National in 1946) were responsible for the first comicbook super-speedster as well as the iconic Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and many others who became mainstays of DC’s pantheon of stars.

Devised, created and written by Gardner Fox and first drawn by Harry Lampert, Jay Garrick debuted as the very first Monarch of Motion in Flash Comics #1 and quickly – how else? – became a veritable sensation.

“The Fastest Man Alive” wowed readers in anthologies Flash Comics, Comics Cavalcade, All Star Comics and others – as well as his own solo vehicle All-Flash Quarterly – for just over a decade before changing tastes benched him and most other Mystery Man heroes in the early1950s.

His invention as a strictly single-power superhero created a new trend in the burgeoning action-adventure funnybook marketplace, and his particular riff was specifically replicated many times at various companies where myriad Fast Furies sprang up.

After over half a decade of mostly interchangeable cops, cowboys and cosmic invaders, the concept of human rockets and superheroes in general was spectacularly revived in 1956 by Julie Schwartz in Showcase #4 when police scientist Barry Allen became the second hero to run with the concept. It’s been non-stop ever since …

This charmingly seductive deluxe Archive edition collects the Fastest Yarns Alive from Flash Comics #18-24, covering June-December 1941, as well as the first two issues of the irrepressible Garrick’s whimsically eccentric full-length exploits from All-Flash Quarterly (Summer and Fall of that same fateful year), all written by the apparently inexhaustible Gardner Fox.

After another informative Introduction from comicbook everyman Jim Amash, the rollercoaster of fun and thrills gathers steam with ‘The Restaurant Protective Association’ (illustrated by Hal Sharp), with Jay and girlfriend/confidante Joan Williams stumbling upon a pack of extortionists and exposing a treacherous viper preying on Joan’s best gal-pal, after which ‘The Fall Guy’ in #19 revealed how a gang of agile fraudsters were faking motor accidents to fleece insurance companies.

Both cases gave Garrick ample opportunity to display the hilarious and humiliating bag of super-speed tricks and punishing pranks which astounded playful kids of the day and still delight decades later.

Flash Comics #20 led with ‘The Adventure of the Auctioned Utility Company’ wherein Joan accidentally bought a regional power outfit and Jay used all his energies to reconcile a feuding family whilst teaching a miserly embezzler an unforgettable lesson…

Sharp had been doing such splendid artistic service on the monthly tales because regular illustrator E. E. Hibbard had presumably been devoting all his creative energies to the contents of the forthcoming 64-page All-Flash Quarterly #1.

The epic premiere issue opened with a tantalising frontispiece ‘The JSA Bid Farewell to the Flash’, celebrating the fact that The Fastest Man Alive was the third character to win his own solo comic – after Superman and Batman – and would therefore be “too busy for Justice Society get-togethers”…

‘The Origin of the Flash’ was then retold by Fox & Hibbard revealing again how some years previously college student Garrick had passed out in the lab at Midwestern University, only to awaken hyper-charged and the fastest creature on Earth thanks to the “hard water fumes” he had inhaled whilst unconscious.

After weeks recovering in hospital, the formerly-frail apprentice chemist realised the exposure had given him super-speed and endurance, so he promptly sought to impress his sort-of girlfriend Joan Williams by becoming an unstoppable football player. Eventually the kids graduated and Garrick moved to New York where, appalled by rampant criminality, he decided to use his gifts to fight it.

The Flash operated mostly in secret, as much hindered as helped by wilful, headstrong Joan who began her own lifetime obsession of pesky do-gooding here…

‘The Men Who Turned to Stone’ plunged us back to the present as one of Garrick’s colleagues at Chemical Research Incorporated discovered an instant petrification process and was abducted by criminals who saw a chance to make lots of illegal money…

Hibbard also illustrated the uncredited fun-fact featurette ‘The Flash Presents his Hall of Speed Records’ before ‘Meet the Author and Artist of the Flash’ offered an intimate introduction to the creative team, after which ‘The Adventure of the Monocle and his Garden of Gems’ saw the debut of a rare returning villain with an unwise addiction to other people’s jewels, but enough brains to counter The Flash’s speed – if not Jay’s courage and ingenuity.

When Flash prevented the murder of a cowboy performer in New York ‘The Rodeo Mystery’ soon took Jay and Joan to Oklahoma and a crooked ploy to steal a newly discovered oil well before the issue closed with Flash smashing a gambler trying to take over the sport of Ice Hockey in ‘Menace of the Racket King’.

In Flash Comics #21 gambling was still a problem as ‘The Lottery’ (illustrated by Sharp) saw the Speedster expose a cunning criminal scheme to bilk theatre patrons and carnival-goers whilst in #22 ‘The Hatchet Cult’ took an uncustomarily dark walk on the wild side as the Flash became involved in a Chinatown Tong war and exposed the incredible secret of modern Mongol mastermind Mighty Kong

Hibbard & Sharp collaborated on issue #23’s ‘A Millionaire’s Revenge’ wherein wealthy plutocrat Leffingwell Funk decided to avenge an imagined slight by a poor but happy man. His method was unique: it began with engineering unsuspecting shoe store owner Jim Sewell’s inheritance of half a million dollars and would have ended with leg-breaking thugs, disgrace and prison had not Jim counted Jay Garrick amongst his circle of friends…

The Fall 1941 All-Flash Quarterly (#2 and again an all Fox/Hibbard production) kicked off with a spectacular all-action ‘Title Page’ and informative recap in ‘A Short History of the Flash’ before the creators ambitiously undertook a massive four-chapter saga of vengeance and justice.

In an era where story was paramount this oddly time-skewed tale might jar slightly with modern continuity-freaks, spanning as it does nearly a lifetime in the telling, but trust me just go with it…

‘The Threat: Part One – The Adventure of Roy Revenge!’ opens as brilliant young criminal Joe Connor is sentenced to ten years in jail and swears vengeance on DA Jim Kelley. The convict means it too, spending every waking moment inside improving himself educationally, becoming a trustee to foster the illusion of rehabilitation.

On his release Connor befriends Kelley, who is pursuing a political career, and orchestrates the abduction of the lawyer’s newborn son…

Years later a bold young thug dubbed Roy Revenge begins a campaign of terror against Mayor Jim Kelley which even the Flash is hard-pressed to stop. When the bandit is at last apprehended Kelley pushes hard to have the boy jailed, unaware of his biological connection to the savage youth.

In the intervening years Connor had truly reformed – until his angelic wife died leaving him to care for their little girl Ann and “adopted” son Roy. Without his wife’s influence Connor again turned to crime and raised the stolen boy to hate his real father…

‘The Flash Presents his Hall of Speed Records’ and ‘How to Develop Your Speed by the Flash’ break up the melodrama before the saga continues in ‘The Threat: Part Two – Adventure of the Blood-Red Ray’ as Connor rises in the Underworld and plans to take over the country. Ann has grown up a decent and upstanding – if oblivious – citizen whose only weakness is her constant concealment of her brother Roy, who has been hiding from the law for years…

Even when the elder master criminal’s plan to destroy the Kelleys with a heat-ray is scotched by the Flash the canny crook convinces the Speedster that he is merely a henchman and escapes the full force of justice…

‘The Threat: Part Three – The Wrecker Racket’ sees a new gang plaguing the city, led by a monstrous disfigured albino. Nobody realises this is Connor who escaped custody by a method which physically ruined his body and only increased his hatred of Kelley.

Locating Roy, who has since found peace in rural isolation, the malign menace again draws the young man into his maniacal schemes. When the boy nearly kills his “sister” Ann in pursuance of Connor’s ambitions only the Flash can save the day, leading to a swathe of revelation and a shocking conclusion in ‘The Threat: Part Four – The End of the Threat’

After that monumental generational saga this splendid selection closes with a full-on alien extravaganza from Flash Comics #24 as Garrick investigates a series of abductions and foils a madman’s plot to forcibly colonise the Red Planet. Unfortunately when inventor Jennings and his gangster backer reached their destination with Jay a helpless prisoner, nobody expected the arid world to be already occupied by belligerent insectoids. ‘The Flash and the Spider-Man of Mars’ by Hibbard & Sharp ends the book on a gloriously madcap, spectacular fantasy high note…

Amazing, exciting and quirkily captivating – even if not to every modern fan’s taste – the sheer exuberance, light-hearted tone and constant narrative invention in the tales of a brilliant nerd who became a social crusader and justice-dispensing human meteor are addictively appealing, and with covers by Sharp, Sheldon Moldoff & Hibbard, this book is another utter delight for lovers of early Fights ‘n’ Tights fantasy.

Of course, with such straightforward thrills on show any reader with an open mind could find his opinion changed in a flash.
© 1941, 2005 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.