The Flash | Origins | Elongated Man | Early Robert Kanigher tales in Showcase | Carmine Infantino and Art Deco | Carmine Infantino's Art Techniques | Kid Flash | Flash's Younger Life | Professor T. H. West | Jay Garrick and the Parallel Earth | Flash Tales written by Gardner Fox | Reverse-Flash | Revelations about Flash's ID | The Ex-Flash Stories
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These best stories of the comic books are preceded by their issue number. They were edited by Julius Schwartz.
There is also a separate article about the original, Golden Age Flash of the 1940's.
This story emphasizes Flash's ability to do very fine work in slow motion, controlling intricate events. By contrast, Gardner Fox's origin story for the Golden Age Flash (1940) stressed Flash's tremendous speed. The Silver Age Flash here seems extremely thoughtful. The villain in this story, The Turtle, had previously appeared in Golden Age Flash stories, such as "The Slow Motion Crimes" (Comic Cavalcade #24, November-December 1947), a story possibly written by Kanigher, as well.
The Flash origin is an extraordinarily vivid story. It relates to personal traditions of Kanigher and Infantino. Kanigher's heroes often discover that they are different from other people. They are unique types, and do not fit into standard social or biological categories. Barry Allen's discovery of his unique speed is an example of this. This helps give the story emotional resonance. It can be read as exploring the emotions of a discovery of personal uniqueness or difference. Barry Allen becomes a character, like Johnny Thunder or Tin in the Metal Men, whose life is a metaphor for difference.
Kanigher wrote several tales in which he shows what it might be like to experience some movie scenario in real life. Often times, these are story films, such as a film noir or monster movie. The Flash origin recalls high tech films showing extreme slow motion. Such films regularly amazed people. Here, Flash is living such an experience in his own life. His perceptions match those of high speed films. The story shows what it might be like to extend such a motion picture experience into our personal lives.
The Coldest Man on Earth (1957). The origin of Captain Cold: small time crook Len Snart becomes a super-villain after he finds a gun that can freeze everything around him. This is the first of a series of super-villains that Broome created for The Flash. The stories in The Flash often revolve around new superpowered characters the Flash meets, both heroes and villains. Often times, we are treated to a full "origin" of these characters, with descriptions of how they got their powers. The Flash was born in Showcase magazine, a DC comic that specialized in trying out new super heroes, to see if they met with reader approval. The successful ones, like the Flash, would go on to get their own magazines. This process of new super being creation continued in a transformed form in The Flash magazine itself, with all the stories it ran about new super beings. It is as if the business/reader communication aspect of Showcase became the main artistic/storytelling content of The Flash. There is something reflexive or recursive about this.
Broome especially concentrated on origin tales during the period September 1959 to September 1960. This was the period in which he built and put into place all the main elements of his Silver Age Green Lantern revival: Green Lantern himself, Carol Ferris, the Guardians of the Universe, and Thomas Kamalku. These Green Lantern tales appeared in Showcase and Green Lantern. During this same period, he was prolifically inventive in adding new characters in The Flash.
Origin stories during this period include the first appearance of Kid Flash in "The Flash Meets Kid Flash" (#110, 1959-1960), Elongated Man in "The Mystery of Elongated Man" (1960), The Trickster in "Danger in the Air" (#113, 1960), and a return of Captain Cold in "The Big Freeze" (#114, 1960). Both The Trickster and Captain Cold will make appearances in The Flash TV show of 1990-1991. Many of these characters seem to be able to control the weather, or have affinities with the elements. Flash himself owes his origin to a lightning bolt that spilled chemicals over him; there are lightning symbols on his costume. Captain Cold's gun in this story also has the power to cause hallucinations. Such hallucinations would be a common feature of Broome's stories in Green Lantern.
John Broome had written about both the Golden Age Flash and Green Lantern, as part of his Justice Society of America tales in All Star Comics. Broome's stories appeared in issues 35 and 39-57 (1947 - 1951). So Broome's duties as the principal Silver Age revivalist of Flash and Green Lantern were something of a return to old home week. When the Flash was revived in 1956, Broome had retired from the characters for just a little over five years. Captain Cold shows some similarities to a Golden Age villain Broome had written about, the Icicle. Both men have the ability to shoot cold at objects, freezing them. The Icicle appeared in Broome's Justice Society story, "The Case of the Patriotic Crimes" (All Star Comics #41, June-July 1948).
The Flash would often go on to have battles or contests with the new super powered characters. This anticipated the Marvel comics stories of the 1960's, in which such battles were one of the main plot lines.
This story contains a cyclotron. Broome liked to include the latest scientific devices in his stories. They are usually depicted intelligently and with accuracy - Broome clearly must have read many articles on the science of his day.
There is perhaps an in-joke in the art of this tale. Len Snart, the crook who becomes Captain Cold, seems to be drawn by Infantino using John Broome as a model. One can compare the art here to Infantino's portrait of Broome in "The Secret War of the Phantom General" (Detective Comics #343, September 1965). The resemblance is especially close in the flashback sequence showing Len Snart before he became Captain Cold. Broome frequently used flashback sequences in his tales. They are clearly marked, as in this tale, by a panel consisting of nothing but text narration, alerting the reader to the flashback that follows.
Master of the Elements (1958). The origin of Mr. Element, a villain who uses various pure elements, such as gold and silicon, to battle the Flash and commit robberies. DC comics loved stories about the various elements. One suspects that the writers and editors were trying to convey some chemistry lessons to their young readers. One also suspects that they were trying to create role models, to show young readers what a powerful thing science was, and what might happen if one took an interest in it. The finale of this tale also uses astronomy; it is one of the most sf oriented of the early Flash stories.
Broome's super-powered characters all tend to develop their powers based on their own efforts - rarely do they get them by pure accident. It is a life time quest. Broome typically shows them searching after their powers right from childhood, in flashback sequences. They are completely self made men. They also design their own costumes - what self made super character would be without one?
Mr. Element's henchmen also have costumes. These look surprisingly similar to that of the Flash himself. They are different colors from his, and they also have a cap over the ears, where the Flash has winged appendages. Still, they have the form fitting cowl that goes half way over the head, just like the Flash.
The Man Who Changed the Earth (1958). Mr. Element discovers the Philosopher's Stone, which allows him to change one element into another; he adopts the new identity of Dr. Alchemy. One of his devices leads to especially good Infantino art: he changes the walls of a cave to crystal, causing the Flash to see dozens of replicas of himself.
I particularly liked the bank in this story. It is the first of Infantino's "modern" interiors in The Flash. It is the last word in elegant 1950's design, looking sophisticated and affluent. It also has the large windows made up of many small panels that would become an Infantino trademark. The banker we see also looks very dressed up, in a spiffy suit. This is also the first Flash story to show us the interior of Iris West's Picture News office.
The Master of Mirrors (#105, February-March 1959). The origin of the Mirror-Master, a criminal who can project mirror images of people as part of his robbery schemes. I think that this is a minor story; the earliest issues of The Flash show a decline in inventiveness from the Showcase issues. There is an interesting scene where Barry detects that something is wrong with the images because they have been reversed from left to right. Broome would reuse these ideas in "The Amazing Theft of the Power Lamp" (Green Lantern #3 , November-December 1960). In the Green Lantern tale, it is aliens who have the mirror image projection capability, and they use it in much larger and more systematic ways, projecting a whole copy of an air base. Another anticipation in this story: the scene on page 7, showing multiple mirror images arranged in a polygonal pattern, anticipates Infantino's art for a similar shadow trap in "The Deadly Shadows of Adam Strange" (Mystery in Space #80, December 1962).
Infantino is careful to depict floor surfaces. In the bank, the floor is shiny, polished, and full of reflections. In the old house, the hardwood floor is full of separate boards. The lines of the boards give a strong perspective effect to these scenes. Also, at the bank, the marble panels between the teller cages are drawn by Infantino as being full of irregular zigzag lines. These lines make beautiful abstract patterns within the composition. The panels form rectangular sub-areas within the surrounding frame. Throughout this tale, Infantino breaks his panels up into a series of rectangular sub-regions. He uses many different techniques to do this: using walls, floors and windows, incorporating the villains' television monitor into the panels, mirrors, bits of machinery, bookcases and doors.
Infantino's speed lines trailing behind the Flash are full of irregular white waves crossing from top to bottom of the bands. These speed lines with their waves create a tremendous illusion of speed. But they can also be considered as abstract art. Infantino often found ways to incorporate both abstract and representational patterns into his designs. The beautiful image at the top of the last page shows Flash running along side a rail road track. The speed lines are pure abstraction; the tracks and an outlined rail sign are Constructivist style geometric objects; the rock adds a beautiful curve to the composition, almost biomorphic, and the image of the Flash, the crook he is carrying, and the tree and foliage are all representational.
Also beautiful on this last page is the panel showing the Flash and the crook in the dark. Night scenes are rare in Infantino, but they always convey special moods. This one is modeled with bright chiaroscuro, with the front of the two men in bright light, their sides and back in total darkness. The yellow trim on the ears and arms of Flash' costume are also highlighted, against the black. The scene is "motivated" by the story - only by turning off the lights can the Flash neutralize the Mirror-Master's powers - but the feelings it conveys go far beyond this.
The Mirror-Master's Magic Bullet (1961). The Mirror-Master tries to steal from an exhibit of classic mirrors owned by the Duke of Ferrand; he hypnotizes the Flash, and makes him into a servant to do his bidding, like a genie in a bottle. Broome had written about hypnosis before, in his Justice Society tale "The Case of the Patriotic Crimes" (All Star Comics #41, June-July 1948). In both stories, the bad guys use hypnosis to make the heroes into their servants. Both tales conclude with the heroes breaking out of their hypnotic trances. The earlier story is especially moving, with Green Lantern struggling to restore his sense of self worth. The struggle of Broome's heroes to believe in themselves, and to see themselves as worthwhile people despite what society says about them, is one of Broome's persistent themes.
Carmine Infantino's art is especially beautiful in this tale. The art often is made in series, with different panels displaying different angles on the same location. The two external shots of the museum are striking: their different angles reveal different facets of the architecture, and create two interesting compositions. The museum interiors throughout the story are the height of chic, some of the most elegant settings in the whole Flash series. These show a mastery of composition, based on rectangles and occasionally trapezoids. The museum here somewhat recalls the futuristic Space Museum series drawn by Infantino in Strange Adventures. Also noteworthy: the fairy tale like frieze on page 7, showing the country cottage surrounded by trees. Infantino also makes beautiful compositions out of the curved mirrors on this page.
Barry meets the Duke's charming daughter here, and Iris gets jealous, in a funny scene. This is one of the few times in the whole series that the middle class Barry meets anyone in high society, unlike Broome's other hero, Green Lantern, who is always hanging around with cafe society. Barry seems like a remarkably contented person. He seems to like his job as police scientist. And he and Iris are totally devoted to each other. Barry does like to make friends with people, and he especially likes hanging out with other super-heroes. These, such as Elongated Man and Jay Garrick, the Flash of Earth-Two, seem to be just as middle class as himself.
We see the books in Barry Allen's lab here. They are mainly biographies of great, paradigm-breaking scientists: Newton, Einstein, Copernicus, Darwin.
In Broome's Green Lantern tales, he liked to dream up new feats and new ways of GL to use his power in each story. Similarly here, Flash's scene with the key is a one time stunt, not found in any other Broome Flash story before or since.
Here Comes Captain Boomerang (1960). The origin of Captain Boomerang, an Australian villain who uses boomerangs to commit thefts. The Captain is a comic character, and much less sinister than many of the villains in The Flash. Broome's story pokes fun at such commercial crazes as the hula-hoop, taking us back stage to the board room of a toy company. Young readers of the magazine probably enjoyed this inside look at and satire of the toy industry, something which they were familiar with as consumers. The story is in the tradition of such business spoofs as Frank Tashlin's film Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter (1957). As in that film, the business types here are presented as a bunch of driven, gung-ho organization men, energetic, conformist and lacking in individuality. Infantino has them all dressed in a series of nearly identical, expensive looking but very dull suits. There is little sense here that being rich will lead to a more fulfilling life. Instead, it looks like a world of stifling conformity.
Infantino does a good job with the boomerang art. The art here is quite diagrammatic, showing us the paths of the boomerangs. The comic book medium is uniquely well suited to explain boomerangs, and other scientific devices. It can illustrate every detail of their operation, explaining in both words and pictures how they work. Broome and Infantino take full advantage of this, giving their readers a real educational experience.
Many of the continuing villains in The Flash work with "everyday objects based on the laws of physics". These include the boomerangs of Captain Boomerang, the mirrors of the Mirror-Master, the tops of the Top, and the refrigerators of Captain Cold. This gives a chance for the world of physics to be included in the tales. The stories featuring the characters tend to be science oriented. They are science fiction in the literal sense in that they are fictional stories based in science. They are also deeply terrestrial: all of these objects are related to present day life on Earth, and the villains' activities tend to extend daily life in odd ways. Many of these objects are used in children's toys, also making them of interest to the many kid readers of the magazine.
Origin of the Flash's Masked Identity (#126, 1962). Soon after getting his super-powers, the Flash wonders whether he should wear a mask or reveal his identity to the world. This is basically an Imaginary story, something that is very rare in the comic books edited by Julius Schwartz. It is presented as a daydream of Barry Allen's. In the daydream, Barry makes a public sensation both in the scientific community, and in the world at large. The whole story is related to the many tales Broome wrote, about villains who become world-famous celebrities, then turn to a life of crime. Fame and celebrity is presented as the start of a slippery slope, that leads an initially decent man into corruption and crime. Barry clearly finds such daydreams gratifying. But he also realizes it would interfere with his serious work as the Flash.
Even in this tale of the dangers of celebrity, Barry's big temptation is not public fame, but applause from his scientific colleagues. Barry has no desire to be part of café society or the beautiful people. Instead, what he would enjoy is being hailed as a major scientist. Broome's story suggests that this can be just as self-defeating as any other craving for fame.
The Heat is On...For Captain Cold (1963). To help ensure that Central City's poor get a charitable bequest, Flash looks for a missing heiress; meanwhile, Captain Cold meets his opposite number, a heat using crook known as Heat Wave. The origin of Heat Wave.
Flash develops a social conscience in this tale for the first time. This extends to the story in the next issue as well, "The Mystery of Flash's Third Identity" (1963). In both stories, Flash tries to help the poor in Central City. Broome also continues his attack on dictators here. This time, he is satirical, showing what happens to dictators after their fall from power. Broome's stories, like those of other Silver Age writers, often have considerable political and social realism.
Infantino uses sketchy art to depict unusual states with his typical creativity again here. This time, it is used to depict Flash vibrating (p 13). The art showing Infantino's characters in a car under the stars a the end is also one of his romantic night scapes.
Barry is in a jet black tuxedo in this tale, while Iris is wearing a high fashion gown after a night on the town. Both look sensational. Later, the Flash will be in a fancy lawyer's office, wearing his brilliant scarlet costume. Flash looks utterly dignified and at home, wearing a costume that is utterly different from the high-priced lawyer's suit. In real life, it would be difficult to pull something like this off: businessmen all try to look as well dressed as possible. The fact that Flash is a real hero clearly helps him to dress as he pleases, and to look like himself at all times. There is a strong "be yourself" lesson in all of this.
The Mystery of Flash's Third Identity (1963). In a slum area, Flash intercepts a costume being sent to the Top; it leads him to Paul Gambi, the villainous tailor who makes the fancy outfits for costumed crooks. The origin of Paul Gambi. This witty tale provides an explanation of how the crooks in Flash's Rogues Gallery get their fancy uniforms. The whole story in pleasantly tongue in cheek. It answers the sort of "realistic" questions posed by fans, such as "just where do these crooks get all their snazzy clothes?" Broome comes up with surprisingly logical answers to such questions.
In terms of story construction, this tale is analogous to Broome's perennial process of science fictionalizing previous stories. Broome often comes up with a new plot by taking some plot aspect of a previous tale, and developing it into a whole science fictional concept in a new story. Here Broome has taken a part of previous tales that had always been taken for granted - the fact that his series villains had always worn colorful costumes - and come up with a whole logical explanation for it. The explanation in this case does not involve science fiction - Paul Gambi is an ordinary mortal with no science fictional powers - but his story is functionally equivalent to the science fiction explanations that Broome often uses in other tales.
Broome had used science fictionalizing to create the Guardians of the Universe in his Green Lantern stories. In his own comic way, Paul Gambi is a somewhat similar character. He is a person who works behind the scenes, supporting much more visible super-characters who are in the front lines of operations: Paul Gambi supports the costumed crooks, just as the Guardians back up Green Lantern. Both behind the scenes characters are older men, and have serious technical skills: the Guardians have awesome powers, while Gambi is a skilled tailor. Gambi is like a low rent, comic, partly spoof equivalent of the Guardians. He is as evil as they are good, and is definitely a two bit character. For all his villainy, his humor makes him oddly endearing.
The Flash goes undercover in the underworld in a new identity in this tale. Years before, Broome's newspaper detective hero, Steve Wilson, had done similar undercover assignments in new identities: see "The Man Who Stole Steve Wilson's Face" (Big Town #39, May-June 1956) and "Masked Monarch of the Underworld" (Big Town #42, November-December 1956).
Infantino has Barry in a checked shirt. Its black grid lines over a white background echo Infantino's love for such grid lines in his art. The Top's costume is full of horizontal lines. They underline the curvature of his musculature. Infantino also makes a notable picture of the spinning cops (p8), rigid in their uniforms.
Broome had a gift for introducing new characters into The Flash. At first these were largely villains, but soon he was creating new heroes as well. First he introduced Kid Flash, then Elongated Man. While Elongated Man is a 100% good guy, this tale has structural features making it similar to the origins of the Flash's series villains. We get a complete life history for the protagonist. We see the origin of his interest in some subject, here stretching, and his gradual development of this interest into a super-power capability. The new characters always start small, building up their technique and control of their powers to help them in their work. Then they finally branch out into full powered superheroes or super-villains. Broome loved a gradualist approach, both here and in his sf comic book tales. He typically shows how some extreme event gradually evolved, in a series of small, logical steps.
There are differences between Broome's heroes and his villains. His heroes in The Flash, such as Kid Flash and Elongated Man, have their powers grounded in biology. Something has actually changed in their bodies. By contrast, his villains tend to be the inventors of machines, typically machines based in physics.
This story is also notable for its non-stereotyped Chinese characters. It reminds one that Broome was one of the first Silver Age writers to include non-white characters in his stories, such as Green Lantern's Eskimo assistant Thomas Kamalku.
Both Elongated Man, and Jimmy Olsen's super-hero identity of Elastic Lad, are in the tradition of Jack Cole's Golden Age hero Plastic Man. All are beings who can stretch their bodies into various shapes. Otto Binder wrote the first Elastic Lad tale, "The E-L-A-S-T-I-C Lad" (Jimmy Olsen #31, September 1958).
The Flash develops the concern for public reputation, and jealousy of others, that are usually the marks of Broome villains. Fortunately, he does not go all the way down this road. The interesting finale shows him learning to accept sharing public attention with others.
The tale's second mystery is a crime puzzle, how a series of robberies are being committed, and by who. These involve aspects of the "impossible crime".
The Elongated Man's Secret Weapons (1960).
The Elongated Man's Undersea Trap (#118, February 1961). On his honeymoon, Elongated Man is kidnapped by members of an undersea civilization. Far and away the best part of this tale is its opening, which announces the marriage of Ralph Dibny and Sue Dearborn. This is a landmark in the history of this happy couple, who are still sleuthing today in the comics.
The undersea plot is yet another Broome story about humans who are enslaved, and who eventually revolt against their masters. The scene where the humans are fished for by aliens recalls the many Broome stories in which humans are treated like animals. Both of these Broome themes have found better treatments elsewhere.
Infantino depicts the Flash building one of Infantino's Art Deco houses (p9). It is unusual to see such a dwelling under construction.
Space Boomerang Trap (1961). The villainous Captain Boomerang temporarily joins forces with the Flash and the Elongated Man to stave off an alien invasion. Delightful tale that takes full advantage of the special powers of all its characters. Both Elongated Man and Captain Boomerang are basically comic characters. The Flash himself is a light-hearted figure, full of the life force, and the joy of running.
The aliens in the story are not really sinister. They do not kill anyone, and their invasion of Earth is based on fear and paranoia, not malice or a desire for conquest. There is a bit of Cold War allegory here: the story is warning how easy it is to let fears of an enemy goad one into rash action. During the Cold War, commentators were constantly warning about this, urging government leaders to use level headed calm. The Hot Lines were installed in the White House and Kremlin just to prevent the sort of problem shown in this story.
The Man Who Mastered Absolute Zero (1963). Flash and Elongated Man fight Captain Cold. The Elongated Man tales are among the best Flash stories. This is partly because of the friendship between the two heroes. Broome is strongly oriented as a plotter to tales in which Flash interacts with a friend. These tales are also the epitome of exciting, light-hearted adventure. The presence of Elongated Man in the stories seems to trigger some vein of creative storytelling in Broome.
Infantino's art for Elongated Man is also strikingly inventive. Elongated Man is continuously stretching. His body is stretched out to a unique shape in every panel. This is different from Jimmy Olsen's Elastic Lad, who tends to perform separate, discrete "feats" of elasticity in his tales, such as reaching his arm through a long tube, or stretching up to a great height. Jimmy will be normal looking in some panels, then in a complex shape while performing some feat. Curt Swan often drew Jimmy's body in some overall, symmetrically designed geometric pattern. By contrast, Infantino often shows nearly every part of Elongated Man's body stretched out to some degree in an unusual direction. Elongated Man is often doing this for the most casual reasons in every panel, to get a better look at some object over a wall or around a corner, or to bend in closer to another person to hear them better. He is a casual, friendly guy. His stretching reminds one of people who have informal, even sloppy posture, and who are typically leaning against a wall, sprawling in a chair, or who are otherwise all over in their position. Such people tend to be good-natured and informal, and that is precisely Ralph's mode. He is not a heroic figure. Instead, he reminds one of some guy in the neighborhood. This is a comic, friendly characterization.
The villains in Flash's Rogues Gallery are always escaping from prison at the start of their stories. By this time, the warden of the State Prison seems to be a frequently recurring character in The Flash. It is not clear if all of these warden figures are the same person, or whether they are supposed to be wardens of different prisons. The warden often shows up at the beginning of the story, explaining to Flash how Captain Cold or whomever has broken jail. The warden's appearance is always brief, just a few panels, and none of the wardens are given a name. Infantino always depicts these wardens as handsome, macho men in good suits. They look like serious authority figures. Their portraiture is often visually striking. They are much younger looking than most of the wardens shown in movies, and much better dressed. They are usually in the height of fashion, for the serious executive look. The warden in "The Man Who Mastered Absolute Zero" is especially young looking, and wears a light gray suit. He looks somewhat different from the warden Infantino drew in "The Plight of the Puppet-Flash" (# 133, December 1962), in the previous issue. That warden is perhaps the best dressed authority figure in all of The Flash, an executive type done up to the nines in a dark suit.
Mystery of the Millionaire Cowboy (1965). Ralph and Sue attend a hit musical, but the theater is mysteriously empty of spectators.
The musical theater aspects recall the way Broome liked to science-fictionalize plot situations, to create his plots. The musical play itself takes place in outer space, with the leads singing on-stage in space suits. Such sf backgrounds were rare in real life Broadway shows. Broome has taken the concept of the Broadway musical, then added science fiction elements.
And the mystery in the theater, with strange goings on among the audience, gives a "fantasized" version of how a theater audience traditionally behaves. It is a "science-fictionalized" version of a theater audience.
The millionaire cowboy's mansion shows Infantino's skill with Art Deco architecture (bottom of page 4). It looks like something one might see on another planet, or in the far future. I don't know of any real-life homes, however Art Deco, that actually look this futuristic.
The Elongated Man's Change-of-Face (1965). Writer: Gardner Fox. The Elongated Man travels to the small mining town of Powderkeg, where his deeds are attributed in the press to a local man, rather than to himself.
The deeds referred to are actual cases of the Elongated Man, from previous issues. They were all also written by Fox.
Fox liked to transform his "Fox cycles" of plot, by putting new protagonists in them, different from the original hero. Soemthing a bit analogous is going on in this tale. We have real, pre-existing cases of the Elongated Man, but with their actions ascribed to a new character.
It is in this story that we first learn that Flash's girl friend Iris West is a reporter, and works for the Picture News. Iris had previously appeared in Kanigher's origin tale for the Flash, "Mystery of the Human Thunderbolt" (1956). Iris is absent in Broome's first two Flash tales, which appeared in the same issues of Showcase as Kanigher's.
As a character, Iris bears a certain similarity to reporter Vilma Hobart in Kanigher and Infantino's King Faraday story, "Thunder Over Thailand" (Danger Trail #3, November-December 1950). Vilma also works for a publication called Picture News. Iris is much more haughty than Vilma, however. There are other reporter girl friends in the comics: the tradition started with Superman's girl friend Lois Lane in the 1930's, and before that women reporters were common in the movies: see the Loretta Young character in Frank Capra's Platinum Blonde (1931), for instance.
This story is related to a series of tales Kanigher wrote, in which a laughing villain taunts and torments the hero. These tales include the first Knights of the Galaxy tale, "Nine Worlds to Conquer" (Mystery in Space #1, April-May 1951). As in that story, the villain has an identical looking brother.
Around the World in 80 Minutes (1958). Writer: Robert Kanigher. The Flash deals with four emergencies in Paris, the Sahara, Tibet and the Pacific Ocean, while circling the globe in 80 minutes. Delightful story with terrific art by Infantino. The tale resembles the Adam Strange stories to come, with Flash battling menaces against visually spectacular backgrounds. The scene of the tidal wave in Tibet looks a bit like Hokusai's "The Great Wave Off Kanagawa" (circa 1831), and is presumably Infantino's homage to traditional Japanese woodblock prints.
This story has a factory building in which blocks of windows wrap around a corner. This wrapping is a feature of Art Deco. These windows have the typical Infantino construction of a rectangular grid of smaller panes. Otherwise, there is still little sign of any Art Deco architecture in the Flash tales.
This story is constructed episodically, as a series of challenges to the Flash. Kanigher used a similar construction in the Flash's origin story, "Mystery of the Human Thunderbolt" (1956). Kanigher seems especially awed by the Flash's powers, and wants to show them off to the readers. The great variety of challenges helps display a similar diversity of Flash's techniques. Both stories have a scene in which Flash walks on water. Both stories also have a scene where bad guys use techniques to nullify the Flash's capabilities. These are followed by a scene in which the Flash ingeniously overcomes this limitation.
Giants of the Time World (1958). Writer: Robert Kanigher. Science fiction story involving aliens from another dimension, who start out very tiny, and who grow into giants. This story has spectacular art by Infantino.
Page 5 shows a sequence, a series of illustrations which reveal the progression of a series of events. In these pictures, the Flash is chasing the speeding rocket ship. Both are moving at tremendous rates of speed. At first, the ship is just an invisible blur, but gradually its outlines become clearer and clearer as Flash catches up with it. It is a virtuosic sequence.
Return of the Super-Gorilla (1959). The Flash journeys to Gorilla-City in Africa, and to the underground world of the bird-men inside the hollow Earth. This is the most science fiction oriented of all the gorilla tales in The Flash, and the most imaginative. The use of vibrational frequencies to communicate by the gorillas is also an impressive sf idea. There are other sf concepts debuting in this tale, such as the boring machines and the devolution ray; all in all, this story seems like an episode of Mystery in Space, Julius Schwartz's companion sf magazine. The way in which Gorilla-City is first concealed, then revealed, is one of the most magical moments in The Flash. It anticipates many scenes in Green Lantern, in which large complexes of buildings are made visible or invisible.
Broome has taken his original concept of Gorilla-City from the previous issue, and made it much more science fictional. This is a typical approach to story development in Broome: the science fictionalization of previous ideas. Broome frequently employed this approach in his Green Lantern saga.
This science fiction tale has some of the most detailed high tech cities in the early Flash books. These cityscapes by Infantino show the influence of Art Deco. Some of the buildings have elaborate terraces on them, which project just like the nautical ledges on actual Art Deco buildings. The buildings show many diagonal lines. Rings envelop several large towers; the rings are often consistently angled to slope upward from left to right. The buildings are a riot of geometric forms, in the Deco tradition - circles and spheres, diagonal lines, buttresses. Their geometric forms also recall Erich Mendelsohn's expressionist Einstein Tower in Potsdam near Berlin (1920 -1921). So do their abruptly rising towers and lack of symmetry. Infantino also designed the scientists' equipment in the story to look Deco, both the good guy's lab machinery and the ray gun used by the villain. There are actually two cities by non-human races in the story, both in a Deco style. Gorilla-City, owned by a race of intelligent gorillas, is the most spectacular, but there is also the city of the underground bird men. At first glance, the two cities look much alike, and I actually mistook one for the other. However, the bird city is less "advanced" looking than the Gorilla-City. The buildings are smaller, the towers are shorter, the buildings hug much closer to the ground, and there are no rings around any of the towers in the bird city. This perhaps corresponds with the lower degree of civilization attained by the bird people, compared to super intellects of the Gorillas.
It is not only scientific aliens who have Art Deco buildings in The Flash. The lab of the noble scientist in "The Challenge of the Weather Wizard" (#110, 1959-1960) is also a triumph of Infantino's futuristic Art Deco. So is the new school being built for the kids in "Danger on Wheels" (#112, 1960). This is the least exotic of any of these buildings in location: it is just a new high school being built in a typical USA small town. All of these futuristic buildings are associated with science: the gorillas have an advanced scientific civilization beyond current humans, the lab is a building for research, and the high school is where young people get education. Science and education were treated as being of the highest value in the DC books, the most valuable thing in life and human society.
Infantino's work shows a direct continuity with earlier Deco traditions of the 1930's and 1940's. He shows little interest in the International Style sweeping the US in the post war period and the 1950's, and treated by most real life architects as the Only Permissible Style for new buildings. Infantino's buildings are quite similar to George Papp's Krypton architecture in the Superboy tales. Just as the plots of the DC comics in the period are the direct descendants of pulp magazine tales of the 1930's, so is the art a living heir to early American traditions in design. Art Deco is a vague term, referring to several related styles of the 1920's and 30's. Infantino's and Papp's is closest to what I have called "The Moderne Deco Style". This flourished during 1935-1941, and formed the core of Miami Beach Deco buildings, and many other cities' residential structures, small hotels, and bus stations. It was revived for more buildings after World War II ended in 1945, but gradually gave way to the International Style of the Bauhaus, which is NOT an Art Deco style of architecture. Please see my article on Art Deco for more details.
Infantino's interiors are often very 1960's. Barry's apartment has a curving coffee table, like a Miro biomorphic form, that was very popular in the era. It is also full of trapezoidal chairs, low divans, tables and chairs, and running low book cases. It is startlingly vivid, and evokes an era in US interior design. Infantino loved trapezoids, and we often see tilting angles of the "vertical" walls of his futuristic buildings. Infantino also got much mileage out of the hanging lamps in the Picture News office where Iris West worked, with their sloping shades.
Super-Gorilla's Secret Identity (1959). Super-Gorilla escapes from captivity once again, and uses his evolution machine to turn himself into an advanced human of the future, under which new identity he becomes a famous Earth businessman. This businessman becomes a famous celebrity on Earth; he is a recurring type of Broome villain who comes out of nowhere, has awesome powers, and becomes a very famous public sensation. Super-Gorilla is an early attempt by John Broome to create a super-villain that recurs from story to story. In this he resembles Sinestro, the classic Broome villain of Green Lantern tales to come (1961 - 1963). Like Sinestro, Super-Gorilla is a renegade representative of an advanced, decent group of beings, the Gorilla-City here, the Green Lanterns of Multiple Worlds in Sinestro's case. Also like Sinestro, at the end of each story Super-Gorilla is captured and placed in an "escape-proof" cage; at the start of the next tale, we learn how Super-Gorilla or Sinestro ingeniously escaped again. Both Sinestro and Super-Gorilla are awesomely powerful, with a wide range of skills and devices; both are very intelligent; and both villain's main motive is power: each wants to conquer the world.
While this story was running, a non-series tale about gorillas by Broome and Infantino also appeared: "The Human Pet of Gorilla Land" (Strange Adventures #108, September 1959). Infantino was very good at drawing gorillas. He could make them seem very sensitive. They had a wide variety of facial expressions, indicating thought and intelligence.
The Day Flash Weighed 1000 Pounds (1960). There are other features of Infantino's work that seem influenced by Art Deco. Infantino liked large windows made up of many small square panes. This is a typical style of Deco windowing. We often see such windows from the inside, especially in Barry's apartment, and in the large prestigious offices occupied by authority figures in the series. Infantino loved large rooms, in general. Occasionally, we see such windows from the outside of buildings, such as the factory in "The Day Flash Weighed 1000 Pounds". This building also has such Deco features as windows without elaborate frames, windows that wrap around corners, and irregularly spaced windows. The building is also built up of a large central building and two smaller flanking additions, showing the classic Deco "Rule of Threes".
The Reign of the Super-Gorilla (1962). The villainous Super-Gorilla develops a radiation that makes him irresistible to everyone who sees him. This story extends the hypnosis of "The Mirror-Master's Magic Bullet" (1961). In that tale, the Mirror-Master hypnotized the Flash to make him his servant. Here, Super-Gorilla creates huge masses of devoted slaves.
This story is both comic and disturbing. Everywhere Super-Gorilla goes, masses of people proclaim their love for him. Super-Gorilla uses this ability to get into politics, hoping to become first President of the United States, then world dictator. The tale is a satire on the cults of personality that surround dictators in totalitarian societies. Broome was deeply anti-totalitarian, and wrote many stories about the menace such governments posed. Here the scenes of Super-Gorilla's adulation are hilarious. They form a satire on all such real life scenes. But they also have a deeply troubling quality. They remind one exactly of newsreels, showing crowds of people surrounding Hitler, worship and adoration in their eyes. There is something extremely frightening in the ability of human beings to give such love and devotion to the most evil dictators. This story confronts us head on with this sinister phenomenon.
This story continues Broome's links between celebrity and villainy. Many of Broome's villains, such as Sinestro in his green Lantern tales, want the adulation of crowds of people. This is exactly what Super-Gorilla receives here.
The later stages of the story show the Flash investigating the properties of Super-Gorilla's new powers. These sections are in the Schwartz comics tradition of the scientific investigation of a mystery. Both Broome and Gardner Fox wrote such stories. They are always fascinating. They give readers a model of how a scientific investigation works. Among Broome's tales, this is perhaps closest to "The Fish-Men of Earth" (Strange Adventures #56, May 1955). Flash's initial desire to step back from the events and think things out is a key step here. It suggests that the best way to react to a bad situation is to cool it, and start thinking instead. This seems to me to be profoundly good advice. It shows considerable psychological realism on Broome's part. The stepping back actually helps the Flash break through and solve the mystery here, in the most literal way possible. This is an ingenious allegory.
The Amazing Race Against Time (#107, July 1959). A costumed man with amnesia mysteriously appears near Central City who is much faster than the Flash; the Flash tries to help this good guy solve the mystery of his origin. This story is more science fictional than much of the material in The Flash; it appeared in the same issue as the equally sf oriented "Return of the Super-Gorilla".
Iris West arranges a public competition between Flash and the new speedster, through her newspaper. Similarly, in "Super-Gorilla's Secret Identity", her paper will pit the Flash and the new businessman in the tale against each other in a contest for "Man of the Year". Iris is often at the fringes of the stories in this way. Her newspaper interviews the characters near the start of the story, and then she is with Barry Allen at the end for the wrap-up. She is a sort of "framing" character, but she does not take part in the actual adventure itself, which is for the Flash alone. In this she is different from Lois Lane, who is often at the center of the action throughout the story. Broome's stories tend to be constructed in different zones. One scene will contain Iris, and involve the heroes' romantic relationship; others will be science fictional. This adds a great deal of variety to each story. Broome's Green Lantern scripts often involve a similar episodic construction.
There is a sharp separation between Barry Allen's private life, and his career as the Flash. Barry dates Iris, holds a job, and leads an uneventful life. The Flash fights crime. The Flash rarely encounters Iris, and their is little interaction between Barry's police job and Flash's cases. Broome actually gave Barry his richest personal life in his team-ups with the Green Lantern, in GL's magazine. Barry gets to pal around with Hal Jordan in these stories, and Barry's knowledge of advanced technology as a police scientist actually is of use in the Flash's adventures.
Like other comic artists of the period, Infantino sometimes included multi-media material that was not conventional "illustration". This tale has artwork depicting the "photo-finish" of a race between the Flash and the new character. This is a black and white illustration of a "photograph" of the two characters, on which have been superimposed Muybridge style grid lines, representing the results of a high-speed camera of the day. It is very interesting, and recalls all the Deco square paneled window grids of his other illustrations. Similarly, the first Flash Showcase #4 cover depicts the Flash on a loop of high speed film; we see each black and white photograph of the Flash in motion. According to Schwartz, Infantino thought up this cover on his own, without input from anyone else. This incorporation of high speed photography is a personal Infantino trademark.
The Speed of Doom (1959). The Flash battles a gang of thieves from another dimension who use super-speed to commit their crimes. As in "The Amazing Race Against Time" in the previous issue, this story involves the Flash with beings who are fast as he is. This makes super-speed itself the main subject of these tales. In both stories, scientists perform frightening experiments on their heroes. The other dimensional world, Mohru, anticipates the dimension of Qward soon to come in Broome's Green Lantern tales.
Broome loved flashbacks in his stories. This story contains a flashback within a flashback. This is not a record: the motion picture The Locket (1946) became famous for having a flashback within a flashback within a flashback. Still, Broome's storytelling here is pretty tricky. Broome also uses the Flash as a narrator here, guiding the reader through the flashbacks. This too is similar to the film noir thrillers of the 1940's: their flashbacks frequently employed a character in the story as a narrator as well.
The art in this story is especially beautiful. Page 7 is very rich: the storm scene at the top; the beautiful curving line representing motion in the middle panel, the curved surfaces of the Flash' mask below, and the abstract patterns of the museum exhibits at bottom.
Danger in the Air (1960). The origin story of the Trickster, a perennial Flash villain. This tale has an interesting close up of a face filled with cross hatched shadow. This story also has a "progressive" series of three panels, each showing a different stage of the Flash's ascent of a circus platform. Such progressions recall both Muybridge's photographs, and the comic strips of Winsor McCay. Unlike McCay, however, each panel is taken from a slightly different distance, offering a rich effect of new compositions, a pulling back point of view, and a sense of Flash's ascent. I'm not sure if this is a full, accurate description of Infantino's effect here. It is an effect impossible to achieve in any other medium than the narrative art of the comics.
The Big Freeze (1960). Captain Cold returns. This story extends the properties of Flash's ring, showing how his costume gets back into the ring. It also explains how Flash deals with his street clothes while wearing his costume.
This tale is related to the transformed city stories Broome wrote for Green Lantern, such as "The Day 1000,000 People Vanished" (Green Lantern #7, July-August 1961), "The Origin of Green Lantern's Oath" (Green Lantern #10, January 1962) and "Zero Hour in Silent City" (Green Lantern #12, April 1962). As in those tales, a villain causes everyone in the city to be transformed. This Flash story is earlier than any of the Green Lantern stories.
One can look at such a story in two ways. It can be seen as a story about Captain Cold, or as a tale about a transformed city. In the one case, this tale is about a battle with a costumed villain; looked at the other way, it is about an adventure in a science fictional landscape. Many of Broome's best stories about costumed villains have this ambiguity. One might note that while the villains return in a series of stories, the sf background their appearance triggers varies from tale to tale. Simply classifying these tales as being "about their series villains" ignores the often highly imaginative science fictional content of these tales.
Iris West plays a major role in this story. Broome had nothing to do with her creation, but he did have a major role in depicting her as a character through the huge number of Flash tales he wrote. One becomes impressed with how straightforward Iris West is throughout these tales. She never plays games or launches any sort of schemes. She always tells everybody the exact truth. She is serious about her job, and seems to be a good reporter. She can be awfully bossy towards Barry, demanding he take her places and wait for her. But she is otherwise completely decent in her relationship, never being manipulative or unfaithful. She is virtually the only comic strip girlfriend to like the hero's secret identity, not that of the hero. This somehow raises the stakes on her relationship. This is a real woman in love with a man, not someone with a crush on a super-hero.
Infantino liked to experiment with diagonal shaped panels in the comic book. His jungle foliage seems modeled on that of Burne Hogarth ("Tarzan"), but is cleaner and more simple. Infantino also liked panels shaped like horizontal friezes, using these for landscape pictures - also for cloudscapes seen from airplanes. Some of his richest landscape work is in "The Big Freeze". These landscapes are often seen in the background, and from a distance, like the landscapes in Renaissance altar pieces.
Just as his interiors are very chic, Infantino's uniformed characters are often duded up to the max. The forest ranger in "Return of the Super-Gorilla" (1959) wears an elaborate, vaguely World War I style uniform complete with a Marine Corps drill instructor's Smoky the Bear type hat. The prison guards in "The Big Freeze" have fancy blue police uniforms, complete with officers' peaked caps and flapped holsters for their guns. Both uniforms involve a shirt and tie, as well. The 1960-era civilian clothes the men get to wear normally in the series are fairly square looking, so clearly men relished a chance to wear something flashier back then. The men do often wear hats, though; this was in the last stages of the era before JFK made hats unfashionable for men in the early 1960's. Speaking of flash, the Flash's costume is one of the most spectacular of any superhero's of the period, being a pure bright red. It is nearly blinding. It also has yellow boots, and some sort of yellow trim on the ears.
Trail of the False Green Lanterns (#143, March 1964). Writer: Gardner Fox. In this team-up story with Green Lantern, Flash and GL combat three duplicate Green Lanterns created by villain T.O. Morrow. The idea of fighting three duplicates of yourself had been explored in "The Plot Against Jimmy Olsen" (Jimmy Olsen #71, September 1963), a story whose author is currently not known. Fox loved doubles, so it was natural he'd do his own version of this idea. This is a minor tale, notable mainly for some felicities in Infantino's art. These include the frieze of policemen on page 2, and the cop at the water fountain above it; the close-up and full figure portraits of Barry Allen at the bottom of page 3, the vertical landscape on page 5 showing the speed lines of GL in the air and Flash on the ground; the encounter with the arrogant Green Lanterns on the bottom of page 5 and page 6; GL's encounter with the yellow balls and the water on pages 15 - 17; the two panels of overhead artwork showing the tiled floor on page 24, and the doubling effect of Carol Ferris and Iris West on page 25.
The bow-tied Barry Allen depicted here is both striking and obsolete. Grown men typically did not wear bow ties in the early 1960's; for Barry to dress this way marks him out immediately. This might be part of the idea: most comic book figures had their own personal style of dressing that made them instantly recognizable to readers. However, Barry also looks astonishingly elegant. Barry does come across as an individualist, someone with a unique place in society. The fact that he is a lone scientist attached to a squad of uniformed policemen also emphasizes his unique position.
The Man Who Stole Central City (1960). A teacher from another dimension creates a miniature duplicate of Central City, so his students can study it in class. This story gives a fascinating forward glimpse at where the future of photography might lie. It can be compared with the Virtual Reality tales Broome wrote in the 1950's, such as "Explorers of the Crystal Moon" (Strange Adventures #56, May 1955). The duplicate is essentially a "snapshot" of the city, complete with all its inhabitants. The story has the city-wide point of view of many of Broome's tales, an event that happens to everyone in a city. The tale also recalls Broome's Green Lantern story "The Amazing Theft of the Power Lamp" (Green Lantern #3 , November-December 1960). As in that tale, the virtual reality duplicate is out of temporal synch with the real original, in both cases by around an hour. This is an unusual idea that gives Broome a good deal of room to create plots. Like many of Broome's best works, this is highly science fictional.
The small size of the duplicate recalls the bottled city of Kandor, created by Otto Binder in the Superman mythos.
The teacher and student scenes relate to other Broome themes. The students show the sort of male bonding among high school and college age men that is an important Broome theme. Their teacher acts as their mentor, in a way similar to Flash's mentoring of Kid Flash. The duplicate city here is perhaps related to the simultaneity effects in other Broome bonding stories: see the discussion under. "The Midnight Peril" below.
The beautiful splash shows a contemporary house in close-up side view. This is similar in structure the side views of Art Deco houses Infantino often shows in his future cities. However, this 20th Century house is not Deco; instead it looks like a combination of Contemporary and Gothic. Such side views both show the main details of the architecture, and created an intriguing 2D graphical form in the image.
The Big Board in the brokerage house (p7) is one of Infantino's trademark grids. We also get a look at Flash's apartment (p 10); it is book filled, like that of Adam Strange. It is most pleasant, but a bit more middle class that Adam Strange's more elaborate New York City spread. Infantino contrasts this with the villain's luxurious mansion, one of Infantino's most ostentatious digs (p8). Infantino is clearly satirizing dreams of luxury here. He makes them seem pointless and over-elaborated.
The Doomed Scarecrow (1961). Flash is in Hollywood as a consultant on a Flash film made for charity. Hollywood tales were more common in the Superman family books, that in the Schwartz sf magazines. As in this tale, the super-hero cooperates with the filming because the proceeds are going to charity. Hollywood might appear more often in Superman tales because Superman had actually been the star of movie serials, animated cartoons, and a hit TV series. I think that DC was always on the lookout for more Hollywood Superman opportunities, and this is reflected in the stories. By contrast, none of the Schwartz super-heroes ever appeared in mass media form, until the production of the short-lived Flash TV series in 1990, long after Schwartz and his talent pool had left the series. Schwartz and company would get their big Hollywood break later, when their work with the New Look Batman would help inspire the classic Batman TV series.
Infantino does a delightful job on the Hollywood and L.A. atmosphere. Whether he is going down palm lined streets, or in a studio projection room, he conveys a rich image of this glamorous environment.
Infantino's cover shows a sf scene involving a scarecrow. Broome probably was given the job, as usual, of creating a story around this cover. I'm sure Broome could have come up with something, and developed some sort of sf plot that would give a rational explanation about why a bunch of bad guys are shooting at a scarecrow. However, instead of this typical comic book approach, Broome set this story in Hollywood, and had the cover depict an episode in a movie made about the Flash. Broome makes no attempt in the story to "explain" this cover by giving us the plot of the film as a whole. Instead, this scene with the scarecrow simply pops up as the subject of one day's shooting on the film-within-the-story. This evades the issue entirely, and Broome has no need to put the scarecrow scene into any logical context! The scarecrow scene is also made the title of the story, "The Doomed Scarecrow", gratuitously but poetically. Broome used a similar approach in "The Skyscraper that Came to Life" (Strange Adventures #72, September 1956), where he also treated Gil Kane's cover simply as a scene in an sf movie being shot by characters in the tale.
Carmine Infantino, the artist of both the cover and the story, also got into the spirit of the switch as well. Infantino's scarecrow cover is Gothic and sinister. But his story is a sun-soaked, glamorous picture of Hollywood. While the cover shows dark Gothic fantasies from the inner world of dreams, the art in the story seems unusually real. One feels one can reach out and touch the furniture and buildings in the story. One scene with the Flash seated by himself in a studio projection room watching rushes is incredibly tactile. Like the Flash, one can almost feel the furniture he is sitting on, the backs of the chairs, and the walls of the room. Infantino imagines what it might actually be like to be in Hollywood, a strange, exotic, but hyper-real place in the actual world.
Vengeance Via Television (1961). A villain kidnaps people using television broadcasts. Broome had earlier explored science fiction ideas involving television and brain waves in his Captain Comet tale, "Beware the Synthetic Men" (Strange Adventures #17, February 1952). The two tales are part of a common science fictional imagining. Broome tales never see anything positive about TV. It is closely allied to the celebrity machine that Broome finds so sinister in modern society. Broome also sees TV as a way of spreading lies in society- people often cannot trust what they are hearing on TV in his tales.
The end of the story shows Flash doing detective work, and tracking down the villain. Broome regularly included such detective scenes in his stories. He always includes a logical way for the hero to track down the villain's trail and find his lair. The Flash, like Broome's other detective heroes, often comes up with an ingenious scheme at this point of the tale as well, to aid him in his detective work. Both the trailing and the clever scheme elements are present in this tale. Other Broome detective stories include his Star Hawkins tales.
This story has beautiful art by Carmine Infantino. Many of the panels involve complex rectilinear compositions. Infantino often constructs these out of several rectangular regions, each one containing a different kind of image. One region might contain a TV screen broadcasting from a studio; another region might show a lab. A third region might contain curtains or a door. These regions combine to make an over-all rectilinear collage.
Other panels (p 10) show Flash running over curving hills. This is the sort of view of fields that one might get from an airplane. The fields are interspersed with regions that contain dense growths of trees. The whole image forms a beautiful abstract pattern.
Other noteworthy images: the beautiful repeating windows on the building (p3). Infantino does a good job with his policemen here, as he also does in "Beware the Atomic Grenade" (1961).
The Doom of the Mirror Flash (1962). The Mirror-Master goes into another dimension by traveling through a mirror. Well done science fiction tale that recalls the previous Broome Flash tale about other dimensions, "The Man Who Stole Central City" (1960). In both stories, the relationship between the dimensions was asymmetric, in some aspect or other. In both, communication between the two dimensions plays a key role in the plot.
The splash shows the two dimensions, ours and the dimension through the mirror. Each has one of Infantino's trademark cityscapes. In ours, the skyscrapers form a pure rectilinear pattern; in the mirror dimension, everything is one of Infantino's futuristic Art Deco cityscapes. There are vast semi-circular curves on these buildings. The large scale of the splash allows Infantino to draw these cityscapes at a higher resolution than usual, showing more detail on the buildings.
Infantino's cover shows one of his Mondrian like walls, composed of rectilinear but irregularly arranged blocks.
The Case of the Real-Gone Flash (#128, May 1962). Abra Kadabra, a magician from AD 6363, when the art of magic is dying out, goes back to the 20th Century and takes up a life of crime to get publicity for his act. The origin of Abra Kadabra. Abra Kadabra is more pathetic than sinister. His various thefts are done not for gain, but to try to publicize his stage act. His need for applause and public celebrity strikes a familiar Broome theme, the corrupting side of the search for fame. Abra Kadabra's motives anticipate those of Green Lantern's comic nemesis Sonar, a man who steals not for his own profit, but to try to get publicity for his otherwise obscure Balkan nation. Sonar debuted two months after this tale in Broome's "The Man Who Conquered Sound" (Green Lantern #14, July 1962). Both characters are essentially comic.
This is a pretty minor tale until its second part, when the Flash is unexpectedly put into a small outer space adventure. This three page sequence is really neat. In this sequence, and the story finale that follows it, Broome tells us a lot about Flash's powers we never knew before. It is a burst of imagination. Flash gets involved in the sort of scientific situation we associate more with Gardner Fox's Adam Strange tales, such as the Aurora Borealis sequence in "The Planet That Came to a Standstill" (Mystery in Space #75, May 1962). In both stories were learn about mechanisms that might protect the protagonist during extreme conditions, such as the upper atmosphere or outer space. In Adam Strange's case, that is his spacesuit; for Flash, it is his aura, something being introduced here for the first time. These two stories appeared during the same month; one wonders if editor Julius Schwartz played a role in extending both hero's capabilities.
Broome includes a statue in Central City celebrating American Freedom here. This is consistent with Broome's anti-totalitarian views.
Infantino's art is also good during this sequence, including one of his outstanding starscapes (p13). Later (p 16) we see Central City and its skyscrapers from above. There is also a fine portrait of a young man in a blue suit on the street (p5). Infantino loved to draw background crowds, and they are full of well characterized individuals of all types.
The Heaviest Man Alive (1962).
The Mirror Master's Magic Stroke (1964). Both the Mirror Master and Barry Allen are coincidentally enrolled in Prof. Dobill's Success course. Broome's characters are often struggling to fit into society, and find professions in which they can succeed. It was inevitable that they would wind up in a Success course like this one. Barry is here against his will - he was enrolled there by Iris West in the previous Mirror Master adventure, "The Mirror Master's Invisible Bodyguards" (1963), and Barry's reluctance has its humorous side. However, Broome does not satirize such courses. Rather, he takes them seriously. The advice of Prof. Dobill seems quite plausible here, and benefits both Flash and his mirror nemesis. The tale actually made me wonder if such advice might be helpful in real life. The story does have humorous touches - the fact that Barry and the Mirror Master are both there under their secret ID's, and neither is aware of each other's true identity - but it takes the basic premise of Success courses straight. The secret ID aspects continue the tradition of "The Mystery of the Flash's Third Identity" (1963), in showing us more of the personal lives of Broome's Rogue's Gallery.
This is the closest Barry and one of the continuing villains have ever been without fighting. It gives them a chance for a calm encounter, something that is very interesting.
This story is unusual in several ways. Both the story's location and its plot structure form a welcome change of pace. Apart from a few flashbacks, it takes place entirely within the classroom and adjoining areas. This is a far more geographically restricted area than most Flash tales. Secondly, it has a format that partly recalls that of a mystery tale. We see the Mirror Master do his nefarious deeds, then we see Flash unravel them. This is essentially the same structure as the "inverted" mystery story, a structure pioneered by British mystery writer R. Austin Freeman. Flash's detective work also resembles the fascinating model scientific investigations that often pop up in Schwartz comic books.
The Flash Meets Kid Flash (1960). Teenager Wally West, Iris West's nephew, becomes Kid Flash after an accident similar to the original Flash's gives him super-speed. The origin of Kid Flash.
The relationship between Flash and Kid Flash is described consistently in the tales. The word used most often to characterize it is that the Flash is Kid Flash's "mentor". The idea is that Flash is advising Kid Flash, training him in the use of his super-powers, and in general helping him grow up and take on the job they both share. This suggests a number of things. The relationship between Flash and Kid Flash is a universal one, one in which an experienced person mentors a younger one. This relationship is a positive one, and one that is part of standard human experience. Mentoring is often done by one person teaching another a job or profession. Here both Flash's have the common job of being super-fast super-heroes. But mentoring is also used between members of a minority group, with an older member of the group guiding a younger one. Here the two Flash's are members of a minority group with just two members, that of super-fast humans. Both keep their membership in this group secret. In many ways, they are both "passing" as non-fast human beings. This too is a common experience for many minority group members. There is a huge literature dealing with passing. The recent film School Ties (1992) gives a powerful look at passing.
The Race to Thunder Hill (#116, November 1960). Wally West (Kid Flash) and his Dad Bob West take part in a car rally-race that is infiltrated by escaping criminals. This minor tale anticipates the sf sports stories that Broome would later write for the short-lived Strange Sports Stories, although the only sf element here is Kid Flash's powers. The tale explains rally-races in detail. The story describes them as something new and innovative at that time. This is typical of the Schwartz magazines interest in the new and innovative, especially it if involved science or technology.
Bob West is an engineer in an appliance factory in Blue Valley. He is one of many sympathetic scientist characters in the Schwartz comic books. Friends of Mr. West who are also taking part in the race are Mr. Cooper and Mr. Gardner. I do not know if "Cooper" is a reference to anything, but Gardner is clearly a tongue in cheek tribute to Broome's fellow writer Gardner Fox.
Many of the solo Kid Flash tales suffer from Broome's incorporation of the clichés of juvenile boys adventure stories. The Big Auto Race Threatened by Crooks has been done to death. Wally lives in an upper class suburb, and always seems to be the sort of proper, upper crust young man one finds in massed produced boy's fiction of the 1930's and before. By contrast, Supergirl took the lead in the same sort of complex, grown-up adventures that her cousin Superman did. Such an approach was explicitly feminist, proving that Supergirl was Superman's equal. It also led to adventures that were a lot more exiting than most of Wally West's. Kid Flash was the only juvenile sidekick in any of the Schwartz titles, and the creators clearly didn't have a good idea at first about what to do with him.
The Midnight Peril (1961). Kid Flash spends the night in an allegedly haunted house, as part of his fraternity initiation. Such haunted house stories are common in children's mysteries, but this tale is pleasant.
This is one on many Flash stories emphasizing friendship between men. Here we see Kid Flash hanging out with a close friend, Pete Willard. We also see both trying to get into the Eta Pi fraternity, an organization devoted to male bonding. The name Eta Pi (say it out loud) suggests Broome is burlesquing such institutions, which is partly true. He often takes a humorous, satirical tone to his material. But the feelings driving his hero seem strong here, and are echoed in other Broome stories. One thinks of a tale involving the adult Flash, "Secret of the Stolen Blueprint" (1961), and Broome's Strange Sports Stories work, "Warriors of the Weightless World" (The Brave and the Bold #49, August-September 1963). All of these stories deal with friendships between young men who are students together. In both of the latter two tales, the men are college roommates. They share their entire lives together. The men have close personal and emotional bonds.
Kid Flash gives a special demonstration of his speed powers here, playing all the instruments in a band at once. This sort of experience can be described as simultaneity, the apparent creation of a multiple number of people by a single person. The adult Flash does a similar stunt in "Secret of the Stolen Blueprint". These stories stress male brotherhood. Here the hero himself seems to become a number of men. He is part of a very close group of men, all of whom are literally expressions of himself. The image here is related to and derived from ideas and feelings of male bonding.
The band episode recalls a famous similar scene in Buster Keaton's film comedy, The Playhouse (1922), although Buster used trick photography, not super-powers, to build his scene.
Infantino has the fraternity members all dress alike here, in sweaters with the initials of Blue Valley on them. Infantino draws Wally's friend Pete Willard to look like a younger Barry Allen. This gives an echo of the Flash-Kid Flash relationship in the friendship between Wally and Pete.
The lightning scenes in this story recall Infantino's skill at drawing lightning. He often makes the lightning form complex patterns, in the tradition of abstract art. See also his Space Museum tale, "Secret of the Tick-Tock World" (Strange Adventures #109, October 1959).
Land of the Golden Giants (1961). Flash and Kid Flash have a joint adventure in South America, where they help a scientist prove his theories about Continental Drift. This science fiction tale is full of unexpected twists and turns. In many ways, it starts out as another tale in the tradition of Conan Doyle's prose sf novel The Lost World (1912), with a scientific expedition going to the Guyana Highlands, just as in Doyle's novel. But Broome develops his plot in innovative ways. This is the only sf story I can ever remember reading about Continental Drift, and it is hard to imagine a more exciting or dramatic one. Continental Drift is now a well established scientific theory, and the subject of huge interest to both geologists, and to zoologists and botanists, who are eager to integrate it into the evolutionary history of plants and animals. I think it was less well established at the time of Broome's story, and that people were still gathering preliminary evidence for it, just like the scientist in his tale. Broome does an excellent job with his science in the story. This tale would make a terrific reading experience for students, teaching them about an interesting topic.
Two panels here shows Infantino's use of sketchy lines for innovative experiences. The caveman art (p 13) shows wavy lives in its outlines of animals. All the borders of these figures are fascinatingly waved, they are still very recognizable portraits of animals.
The Face Behind the Mask (1961). Kid Flash helps out teen age singing idol the Silver Mask when he is threatened by a gang of crooks.
Broome refers to the teenage singer here as a "bobby sox idol". This term dates from the 1940's, when it was applied to Frank Sinatra, and other young singers who were the idols of teen age girls. The story never explicitly refers to rock and roll. Broome sees continuity between the 1940's and the 1960's, with no essential change of character. By contrast, many rock fans tend to see Rock music as Something Unique and Special, something without historical precedent, and something that marks a complete change-over from all musical and social traditions of the past. I think Broome's depiction is largely accurate, at least sociologically: the crowds of young screaming fans that pursued singers were largely the same in the 1940's and 1960's, however different the music they sang was.
Broome does a closer look at male bonding here, with Kid Flash and the Silver Mask forming a "mutual admiration society", as the story puts it. This anticipates the later friendship between the adult Flash and Green Lantern.
We see the house of Wally West and his parents here. It is more Early American in style that most of Infantino's interiors, which tend to be either elegantly modernistic (when set in the 20th Century) or positively Art Deco (on other planets or the future). The West home is in a small suburban town, and its Colonial style decoration was in fact typical of many American middle class houses of the era. Wally West is one of the few genuinely suburban characters anywhere in the Schwartz comics. Most others tend to live in apartments in big cities, such as the Flash or Adam Strange, or in a rooming house near their work, such as Green Lantern. The Atom lives near Ivy University, where he works. Wally West's suburban lifestyle is shared by Snapper Carr, the other teenage character in the Schwartz world (Snapper is the teenage chronicler of the Justice League of America tales). Perhaps there was something about teenagers that triggered suburban settings in these series. There is something protective about the Schwartz treatment of kids. When young kids showed up in the Schwartz sf comic books, they were always in gentle, non-threatening tales. Similarly, both Wally and Snapper are in the most protective, secure environments possible, with comfortable and comforting suburban homes, safe communities in which to live, and a generally well-buffered environment.
The Silver Mask wears a string tie for some of his stage appearances. Infantino favored such ties as part of a "suit and tie" look in many of his futuristic tales, such as his Space Museum stories. It looks dignified, elegant and middle class, without any hint of ostentation or upper class mannerisms: all criteria used by Infantino when creating clothes. In other scenes, the Silver Mask is in a green gaucho costume, something I cannot recall being worn by any other Infantino hero. It looks terrific.
Mystery of the Troubled Boy (1962). Kid Flash assists Tommy Elkin, a Cherokee teenager, to track down a ring of spies. This is one of the most important Flash stories. It is one of the first, perhaps the first, Silver Age comic book tales to confront the reality of racial prejudice. Broome was a pioneer in racially integrating the Silver Age comics. His stories about Green Lantern's Eskimo assistant Thomas Kamalku included the first non-white characters in a super-hero comic book. Tommy Elkin in this story has to endure racial prejudice. His family moves from Stoneville, a racist community where Tommy is refused social acceptance by the other kids, to Blue Valley, the more accepting community where Kid Flash lives.
Thomas Kamalku was a highly skilled and admirable person, and deeply integrated in all senses of the word into Green Lantern's world. But he never had to confront actual racial prejudice, in any of the stories. This tale is different. It explicitly explores one of society's most important issues.
A key scene in this tale has Tommy's father talking seriously to Wally West. There are suggestions that he is crossing some line that separates children and adults here. In the rigid, tradition oriented 1950's and early 1960's, this was perhaps Not Done. It is a measure of how serious the father views the situation that he is willing to take this step. It also puts Wally in a role where he has to take on adult responsibility. There was a similar scene in "Land of the Golden Giants" (1961) of Barry Allen pulling Wally aside for a serious conversation. Both scenes have emotional reverberations that far transcend any action scenes in the tales. Both of these conversations are seen as positive, necessary steps that produce good results. But both are also seen as daring ventures, ones that perhaps break social traditions and barriers.
Secret of the Handicapped Boys (1962). Kid Flash visits a summer camp devoted to disabled boys. This is one of the most dignified looks at the handicapped in the popular culture of the era. It treats these teenagers with great respect, depicting them as people of ability and skill. Broome's previous "Mystery of the Troubled Boy" (1962) had included a Cherokee teenager and the problem of racial prejudice into the world of the Flash; here Broome looks at another often-invisible minority.
This tale suffers from the fact that it never actually builds up a story. It is more a succession of disconnected incidents at the camp. However, it does focus on its subject matter throughout, the lives of the disabled, and manages to pack a lot of different characters into its brief length.
Mystery of the Matinee Idol (1963). During the Summer Arts Festival in Blue Valley, Kid Flash befriends a now forgotten elderly Shakespearean actor, Dexter Miles. The veteran Shakespearean actor, now fallen on hard times, is a fairly familiar figure in popular culture. Film directors as diverse as John Ford (My Darling Clementine, 1946) and Curtis Harrington (What's the Matter With Helen?, 1971) have included such men in their works. These men are intellectual, wonderfully articulate, good natured, and possessed of hugely colorful personalities and life experiences. They are eager to share their gifts with everyone they meet, but are often rejected by society around them. Their lives are ending in poverty and neglect. These men typify the fate of many artists in our society. Their stories have strong pathos. There is also a sense of triumph to them: they show what can be accomplished by a life devoted to art.
Broome includes his thoughts on fame and success here, subjects on which he has frequently expressed great skepticism. Dexter Miles points out that it is much easier to go down the ladder of success than up it. Unlike many of Broome's characters that have achieved celebrity status, Dexter Miles has mercifully not been corrupted by his experiences. He is still a good guy. Miles also fits in with another Broome hero type, the man who has trouble finding a role and occupation for himself in society. Typically, these men who don't fit in and who cannot find suitable work are young men, just starting out in adult life. Here we see an older man experiencing the same problems. Broome is suggesting that these problems do not automatically solve themselves with age. People of all age groups have trouble finding a place for themselves and their talents in society. Broome's stories consistently find fault with society over this. Her and elsewhere, Broome suggests that society is often wasting the talents of its members.
This tale shows us much of the civic life of Blue Valley. Its opening festival is presided over by the mayor and police commissioner of the town, and at the end Flash meets the young sheriff of the city. We also see a great deal of daily life in the community. All this seems very interesting and appealing to me. It is fairly rare in the Flash to see its characters having any contact with government officials at all. Barry Allen has no boss or colleagues on the police force, for example, and rarely if ever carries out missions for the US government.
Infantino depicts the sheriff as one of his leading men. It is one of the best portraits in the series. He looks very young to be a sheriff, and is very friendly and mild mannered looking. He is more a welcoming presence of a small town, than a ferocious figure of the law.
Gangster Masquerade (1965). The Flash encounters the now destitute aging Shakespearean actor Dexter Miles in Central City. Dexter Miles had previously met Kid Flash in "Mystery of the Matinee Idol" (1963). He is a wholly likable character.
This story is a nicely constructed detective story, without any sf aspects. It reminds one of the detective tales that Broome used to write for the newspaper comic book Big Town. As in several of the Big Town works, this story involves actors and doubles. As usual, Broome exploits the possibilities of these concepts to create a complex tale. Crooks are always finding ways of distracting people from their criminal schemes in Broome tales. This tale comes up with new ideas in this regard.
As a later letters column pointed out, Infantino has included portraits in profile of himself and Schwartz as pictures on the wall behind the restaurant table holding Barry and Iris.
Infantino has one of his major architectural triumphs with the building in this tale. It is not much like any other I know of, whether real life or fictional. The building has some Art Deco features, like much of Infantino's work, but in other ways it is unique.
Secret of the Stolen Blueprint (1961). At a class reunion, Barry helps out his old college roommate Pete Forester, whose physics invention is the target of spies.
The Flash carried a number of stories that appeared in the back of the magazine, after the main Flash adventure. Some of these dealt with continuing secondary characters, such as Elongated Man and Kid Flash. But the magazine also published some stories dealing with Barry Allen's personal life, especially when he was a younger man. These tales are not flashbacks. They are set in modern times, and feature the adult Flash. But they also have him meeting people again who were important to him in his earlier life.
During 1961-1962, many of the best Flash stories dealt with the personal lives of Broome's characters. The web of personal relationships that form, and the feelings experienced by his characters, form the central elements of the tales. This concern starts right away in #118 (February 1961) and persists throughout this period. Broome was working on his most important science fiction stories during this same period, the Green Lanterns of Multiple Worlds stories that appeared in Green Lantern. This was a period of major creativity for him. It is interesting that Broome's science fiction imagination would soar in one of his series, while in the other, he would be producing an up close, personal look into his characters' lives and friendships. At least on the surface, these seem like two completely different kinds of stories. But in practice, the two types of imagination seem to be going hand in hand, producing stories that are deeply absorbing as reading experiences.
This story takes place in Sun City, Florida, where Barry Allen got his college degree at Sun City University in 1951. This is an imaginary city Broome has invented for the tale. It resembles Coast City, Green Lantern's home town, which is clearly set somewhere in California. Broome loved Sun Belt locations. It was clearly a romantic dream for him to have his characters live in such glamour filled locations. He also associated such scenes with male friendships for the Flash. Here, Flash is reunited with his college roommate; in the Coast City set "The Duel of the Super-Heroes" (Green Lantern #13, June 1962), Flash and Green Lantern meet and exchange secret identities, forming an important friendship in their lives. Flash also went to Guyana with Kid Flash in "Land of the Golden Giants" (1961), as well as Los Angeles and Hollywood in "The Doomed Scarecrow" (1961), not to mention his trip to Keystone City to meet Jay Garrick in Gardner Fox's "Flash of Two Worlds" (1961). The traveling seems linked to the personal relationships. Usually when he goes somewhere, he also has an important meeting with somebody.
Infantino's art is very beautiful here. The reunion (p2) is full of balloons; there are circles everywhere in the composition. The Florida landscape is full of palm trees; Infantino likes to draw them in a windswept mode, with the branches turned up. A landscape is full of telephone poles and wires (p 7). Barry Allen wears an unusually sophisticated blue suit and red tie here. His friend Pete is also in a sharp three piece suit at the reunion. The other story in the same issue, "The Trickster Strikes Back", had shown Barry and other men in sharp tuxedos. This issue is a highlight for spiffy clothes in The Flash.
Beware the Atomic Grenade (1961). The Flash meets the Top, a crook who uses top-like devices for his crimes; meanwhile, Iris gets a fashion make-over from Barry's old friend Anton Previn, now a famous Parisian fashion designer. The origin of the Top. Infantino's cover shows a giant spinning grenade; such imagery probably has much to do with the genesis of the Top and his devices in the actual tale. In the story, Barry eventually gets trapped inside the grenade; this is consistent with Broome's interest in room-size traps that physically enclose his heroes.
Anton Previn is a man Barry met and became good friends with five years ago; he has since become a famous designer. This pattern will recur elsewhere in the Flash, with Barry's old friends becoming famous. Celebrity in Broome stories often leads to corruption; it is a favorite Broome theme. But Previn is a 100% good guy, and has not succumbed to any such temptations.
There are no explicitly homosexual characters in Silver Age comic books. But Anton Previn comes close. Both Broome's writing and Infantino's art suggest that Previn is gay. The fact that Previn is an entirely sympathetic character is also interesting. This is very different from movies of the era, in which gay people were often villains or stereotyped losers. Also notable: the close friendship between Barry and Anton. The Flash stories are full of male bonding between Barry and other men. Here this bonding is extended to a man who seems obviously gay.
The relationship that develops between Iris and Anton is very detailed in the story. There is no hint of attraction between the two people, who become close friends. Instead, Iris is thrilled to meet such a talented and celebrated designer, and Anton is thrilled to be able to dress such a beautiful woman. This is a sympathetic view of a relationship that often exists between designers and their women clients.
The finale shows Iris in her Parisian finery. Infantino would give a similar Paris couture look to his heroine Alanna in the Adam Strange tale, "The Robot-Wraith of Rann" (Mystery in Space #88, December 1963). Barry himself looks sharp earlier in the tale in his suit and overcoat.
The prison wall (p9) is made up of irregular stone blocks. Such rectilinear walls are an Infantino trademark; they recall the earlier abstractions of Mondrian. This one combines such an approach with some irregularly waving, squiggle like lines. Also notable: the aerial view of the city (p10). Such views also recall the rectilinear abstractions of earlier 20th Century art.
Snare of the Headline Huntress (1962). Flash meets his first love again on a return trip to his home town, who has since become a rising young actress in Hollywood. This tale repeats Broome's concerns about the dangers of fame, which is seen as corrupting. Once again, a friend of Barry Allen's has become famous, although Barry and the friend met while both were unknowns.
The whole approach somewhat recalls the series about the Jordan Brothers that appeared in Green Lantern, simultaneously with these Flash tales, from 1961 on. As in that series, we meet the hero's family, in this case, his parents. Those tales had a tongue in cheek quality; so does this one. Both feature parodies of the Superman mythos. This tale features a spoof of Superman's hometown, Smallville, the Green Lantern series has a character who burlesques Lois Lane. Like "My Brother, Green Lantern" (1962), which offered a movie satire of The Maltese Falcon, this tale spoofs Hollywood pics about the Old South. Broome would go on to do a pastiche of silent movie comedians in his New Look Batman story, "The Joker's Comedy Capers" (Detective Comics #341, July 1965), but that tale is much less successful than this earlier one. When Broome actually sent his characters to Hollywood in "The Doomed Scarecrow" (1961), he included no movie satire at all. That tale plays it absolutely straight. Instead, all of Broome's movie take-offs occur in daily life, among towns set in regular America. There is a sense of the absurd about having movie situations suddenly erupt among the events of ordinary daily life.
Broome includes a costume party here, just as he will in the best Jordan Brothers tale, "Dual Masquerade of the Jordan Brothers" (Green Lantern #22, July 1963), as well as in "Secret of Green Lantern's Mask" (Green Lantern #4, January-February 1961). Costume parties were a natural for comic books, and were frequent in both the Schwartz and Weisinger magazines. They gave the artists a chance to create a wealth of interesting clothes for all the characters. They also allow both costumed super-heroes and villains to mingle with crowds of people that are also brilliantly costumed.
The splash panel contains a dream sequence. It is similar in its power and gripping logic to the dreams that Broome included in two early Green Lantern tales, "The Creature That Couldn't Die" (Showcase #24, 1960) and "Wings of Destiny" (Green Lantern #7, July-August 1961). All of these dreams involve the hero and someone close to him. They also tend to involve transformations - people turning into something else. Some of them also have direct real life consequences for the dreamer - here Barry is sleepwalking while his has his dream. Infantino's portrait of the sleep walking Barry is excellent. It is one of Infantino's moody, evocative night scenes. Such scenes always seem to convey delicate, rich emotions.
Infantino includes several outstanding portraits of Barry here. In addition to the sleep walking scene, we see a grown up Barry shown from below (p4), and another portrait (p8).
The forest scene includes many small dots representing leaves on trees (p10). The dots form a beautiful abstract pattern. An aerial view (p11) combines dots on the ground with the S curve of a road. It too is a beautiful composition. Infantino excelled at starscapes, in which the stars formed patterns made up of small spheres and dots of light; here Infantino is doing something analogous with a day time nature scene.
Captives of the Cosmic Ray (1962). Flash and Green Lantern deal with an alien invasion of Earth. Broome often wrote anti-totalitarian tales, depicting people revolting against dictatorships. This story is in that tradition. It deals not with the military conquest of Earth, but by a revolt by Flash and Green Lantern after that conquest has taken place.
This is the second team-up of Green Lantern and Flash, and the first in Flash's own magazine: their original meeting took place three months earlier in Broome's "The Duel of the Super-Heroes" (Green Lantern #13, June 1962). The story is the last in the series of Broome tales about meetings between Flash and his old friends. Like most of these stories, this one centers on the warm male bonding that takes place between Flash and his buddy. Green Lantern is not a truly old friend of the Flash, the two men having met fairly recently, but otherwise, the tale fits well into the series. The story makes it clear that Green Lantern and Kid Flash are the only two people to know Flash's secret identity of Barry Allen.
This story also recalls the earliest of the friendship tales, "Secret of the Stolen Blueprint" (1961), in its technical look at the deeds Flash pulls off. In that earlier tale, Flash seemed to be in two places at once. Broome builds on that concept here in rich and complex ways.
Like "The Duel of the Super-Heroes", the Earth sections in this tale take place in California, and show the glamorous outdoor sporting life of that state. Here we are near Carol Ferris' estate; the tale makes explicit what has been obvious all along, that all of the Green Lantern stories are based in California.
This book length tale has its open and closing sections on Earth, and its middle section on another planet. Unlike Green Lantern, Flash only rarely went into outer space. This second chapter is considerably weaker than the two Earth sections, which are very good. It does contain a good idea about Flash practicing.
The Threat of the Absent-Minded Professor (1963). Barry meets Iris' father, professor T. H. West, a famous physicist. The best part of this story is its opening, which sets up the character of the professor, and his relationship with Barry.
After the opening, the tale turns into one of a series of tales Broome wrote about how Flash has to perform some super-fast task in a blink of an eye, right under the nose of someone who is standing right next to him. I always found such tales to be a bit labored and uninteresting.
Slowdown in Time (1963). Iris' father, professor T. H. West, investigates when Barry's watch begins to run slowly. This logically constructed tale is one of the best Flash stories. It sticks to a single plot, all the way through, and develops it with story telling grace. Like earlier Flash tales, such as "The Speed of Doom" (1959), it shows that Broome is thinking seriously about Flash's powers, and their logical implications.
Big Blast in Rocket City (1966). On a visit to Florida, Professor West mistakenly helps crooks, who he thinks are space scientists. Broome regularly set stories in Florida: he seemed to like sunshine areas. Rocket City was a fictitious Florida town, somewhat based on the Cape Canaveral region, home of America's space program. Broome had sent Green Lantern to this town in "Zero Hour in Rocket City" (Green Lantern #15, September 1962).
Broome had written other stories about professors who fall into the hands of crooks, and whose technological know-how is exploited by them. "Big Town's Amazing Manhunt" (Big Town #20, March-April 1953) deals with the kidnapped Dr. Gomar Homik, a genius physicist who seems to be based on Albert Einstein. This minor tale is dead serious. Its best part is its finale, in which Dr. Homik "forecasts a new scientific age", typical of Broome's excitement about scientific innovation. Another Broome tale about a kidnapped scientist: "The Diamonds of Peril" (Big Town #47, September-October 1957). Much more comic is Broome's "Case of the Explosive Vegetables" (Flash #152, May 1965). This is a heavy-handed and slapstick satire about Soviet spies who get ahold of the absent minded Professor West. Broome finally gets his tone exactly right here, in the light hearted "Big Blast in Rocket City". West, like Dr. Homik, is a great physicist, and his inventions are physics based.
Infantino does a wonderful job with the architecture of Rocket City. Many of the buildings are constructed on outer space themes. Such novelty buildings are associated with Hollywood, but Infantino has them here in Florida. The whole effect is richly comic. It is like a visit to an entire other world. Infantino also does a good job with the bad guys' house. It has mild Art Deco features, such as multi-paned, frameless windows, but it also looks like a typical beach shack. It also has an oddly sloping roof-wall, giving the structure a trapezoidal effect. A tower completes the unusual ensemble, giving a building that looks both low key and yet utterly different. The colorist has underlined everything by making the building a light green. It is very conspicuous.
Infantino also scores with the circular chair in which Barry Allen sits in the motel lobby. Its geometric effect is enhanced by its isolation within the lobby, making it a solitary construction in a sea of empty space. Barry is the laziest, floppingest hero in the comics, and he has reached a new degree of creature comfort here. He and the chair make a vivid contrast with the standing Iris West, and Infantino gets some striking compositions out of this. The whole effect is both comic and visually exciting.
Flash of Two Worlds (1961). Writer: Gardner Fox. This is the story in which it is revealed that the original Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick, actually exists on an Earth parallel to that of Barry Allen's, known as Earth-Two. This is an astonishingly poetic concept, one with few ancestors in the comics. It turns the entire "fictional" world of the 1940's into part of the "reality" of the modern day Flash. It also reconciles the differences between the two characters into a single universe. While Fox is the author of this story, editor Julius Schwartz has stated that he is largely the creator of this concept - see his introduction to The Greatest Team-Up Stories Ever Told (1989), a book that reprints this story.
Most of the good ideas in this tale are in its first third. After this, the story settles into a routine tale of good guys versus villains. Most of the good ideas here are repeated directly in the follow up tale, "Vengeance of the Immortal Villain" (1963), a story which is much better written as a whole. Despite the serious weaknesses of "Flash of Two Worlds" as storytelling, its original plot concepts demand its inclusion on any list of significant Flash stories.
There is a separate article dealing with Golden Age Flash.
On Barry Allen's Earth-One, Barry has grown up reading comic book stories about Jay Garrick, stories he and everyone else has always believed to be fiction. Now it turns out that those stories have been true accounts of a parallel world, Earth-Two. Fox accounts for this by introducing himself as a character! Gardner Fox, the character, is referred to as the author of the Jay Garrick tales; he claims the stories came to him in dreams. He and everyone else had always regarded them as fiction: now we learn that these dreams are really telepathic visions of Earth-Two. There is a long history in the sf comic books edited by Julius Schwartz of tales about authors whose telepathic visions are the source of their "fiction", but which turn out to be real accounts of other planets, or of the future. Gardner Fox wrote one of these himself, "Menace of the Shrinking Bomb" (Strange Adventures #113, February 1960), a delightful comic tale which includes thinly fictionalized versions of Schwartz and himself as characters. Fox has modified this comic book tradition somewhat. First, the authors in the earlier stories tend to be protagonists of the tales. By contrast, the character "Gardner Fox" in "Flash of Two Worlds" is only referred to by name, in the dialogue of the tale. He does not put in an actual physical appearance in the story. Secondly, most of the author characters in the earlier tales had actual telepathic visions during their waking hours. This has been softened here to dreams by "Gardner Fox". One can see a process of both strengthening and weakening of the tradition here. "Flash of Two Worlds" is stronger than tradition because it includes Gardner Fox himself as a character, whereas the earlier stories all dealt with fictional author-characters. But since a real person, Gardner Fox, is now a character in the story, there has been some softening of the tradition. "Fox" is only referred to by name, and not dragged on-stage, thus preserving his privacy; and the claim is only that "Fox" dreams, a universal human activity, not that he is having visions, a much rarer and more unusual one. Other stories in this tradition include Otto Binder's "The Day I Became a Martian" (Strange Adventures #90, March 1958), Binder's "The Impossible World Named Earth" (Mystery in Space #30, February 1956).
Fox had long had a penchant for doubles. Here Fox's original Flash, Jay Garrick, and the Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen, function as doubles.
The letter column of Flash #123 suggests that this story had its origin in multiple reader requests to see a panel showing the costume of the original Golden Age Flash. This is a very tiny seed to grow into such a creative pearl. In this same letter column, Schwartz is already proposing that this tale will have a sequel. The tale was instantly acclaimed a classic by comics fans, winning a major award as best comic book story of the year.
Double Danger on Earth (#129, June 1962). Writer: Gardner Fox. Barry and Jay work to excavate the meteor in Meteor Crater, the only antidote to a cosmic catastrophe facing Earth-2; both the Trickster and Captain Cold give them trouble. This is a very minor follow-up to the original Barry-Jay teaming. The existence of the other Earth and Jay Garrick is revealed to the press and public in this tale.
Vengeance of the Immortal Villain (1963). Writer: Gardner Fox. The Flash returns to Earth-Two, where he and the original Flash Jay Garrick fight against the immortal Vandal Savage, and rescue the original Justice Society of America. Fox expresses a huge amount of nostalgia for the old Golden Age of comic books here. This tale is a return to his and Infantino's 1940's past. Much of the plot is based on references to details of the original Justice Society, their powers and their attributes. Barry is shown reading an old issue of All Star Comics right in the story, a neat reflexive touch. This recalls his origin story, where he is also reading an old comic book about Jay Garrick. Infantino does a good job drawing these old heroes. He makes some of them look like his elegant, dreamy leading men: see Johnny Thunder on page 12, or the original Green Lantern on page 24. Fox immediately followed up this story with a two issue sequel, in which the Justice Society of Earth-Two meets the Justice League of Earth-One: "Crisis on Earth-One" (Justice League #21, August 1963) and "Crisis on Earth-Two" (Justice League #22, September 1963). These follow-up tales seem minor, with much routine good guys versus villains fighting; their main interest is the glimpses they give us of the original Justice Society.
Some of Gardner's pacifistic attitudes can be seen, in his making Savage be the secret identity of some of the worst generals and military men of history.
When the city is blacked out at the start of the tale, Barry gallantly walks Iris West home. Barry is often shown walking in the stories, and much less frequently driving. As the Flash, of course, he runs everywhere. Later, much of the story takes place in the air. Even though the Flash cannot fly, this is the locale in which Fox and Infantino feel most comfortable: it recalls the many Adam Strange stories they created set in the sky. The lights in the sky at the start of the story recall the several Adam Strange tales that open with unusual celestial phenomena.
Barry-Flash' ability to travel to Earth-Two and back recalls Adam Strange's similar ability to transport himself to another world, and return. It is a cycle, in the Fox sense: a repeatable series of events that leave its protagonist in the same state at the start as at the beginning. Please see the article on Adam Strange for a detailed discussion of Fox cycles, one of the fundamental building blocks of his stories. Many Adam Strange stories often have a separate cycle, one performed by the villain that menaces all the good characters. In "Immortal Villain" this cycle is the sequence of events that start out with the lights in the sky, continuing on to the trap at the machine, capture, imprisonment in a glass box, and final release from the box. This cycle is repeated over and over again, once for each Justice Society member the villain traps. In the Adam Strange stories, it is the anomalous presence of Adam Strange on Rann that interferes with the villain's cycle, causing it to be defeated. Similarly, it is only the unexpected presence of Barry Allen on Earth-Two that finally defeats the villain's cycle of capture and imprisonment here. It had already worked perfectly well six times on other Justice Society members before the story opened; it would have worked successfully again to trap Jay Garrick, had not Barry Allen been present to interfere.
The Pied Piper's Double Doom (1963). Writer: Gardner Fox. The Pied Piper hypnotizes both Flash and Elongated Man, and uses them to commit crimes. This ingeniously constructed crime tale resembles several of the mystery stories Fox wrote for the Atom. The amnesia aspects of the plot recall "The Case of the Innocent Thief" (Atom #4, December 1962 - January 1963).
The Metal-Eater from the Stars (1963). Writer: Gardner Fox. Flash tries to prevent a gaseous creature from outer space from absorbing all the metals on Earth. Ingenious tale that packs a complex, logically constructed plot into a few pages. The amorphous creature here resembles the Dust Devil in Fox's Adam Strange stories, and the tale as a whole reminds one of the many tales in which Adam Strange ingeniously defeats some menace.
Menace of the Man-Missile (1964). Writer: Gardner Fox. Radiation affects an escaped convict, so that he can transform himself into any form he wishes. The origin of Luke Elrod. Fox sets up the rules of Elrod's transformations early in the story. They form a Fox cycle, a set of fixed, repeatable events that Elrod goes through every time he converts himself to another form. As is his story-telling construction approach, Fox then finds ingenious ways to vary this transformation cycle throughout the story.
Fatal Fingers of the Flash (1964). Writer: Gardner Fox. Flash travels to the far future, when the Sun is about to go nova; when he returns, his fingers cause everything they touch to age. H.G. Wells' The Time Machine (1895) sent its visitor to a far future, showing a barren Earth under a red sun; this tale goes one step further, showing the last stages of Earth before it is destroyed by the Sun's going nova. Fox had done other stories in the Wells tradition in the sf comics, such as and "The Man Who Lived Forever" (Strange Adventures #145, October 1962), as well as the Golden Age Flash tale, "The Race Through Time" (Comic Cavalcade #19, February-March 1947).
When Superman was exposed to Red Kryptonite, he underwent unexpected transformations, with which he then had to cope. There was no equivalent of Red K in the Schwartz comic books, but this tale comes close. It has the same structure as many Superman Red K tales: first we see the ingenious transformation of the hero; then we see him trying to perform his duties, without letting his transformation appear. Fox's transformation idea is original here: I do not recall Superman undergoing anything like it. This tale is nicely done. However, I'm not sure if I like seeing the Flash wander around in Superman territory. He should perhaps be sticking to his own traditions, and not having adventures appropriate to other super-heroes.
Captain Cold's Polar Peril (#150, February 1965). Writer: Gardner Fox. Captain Cold falls in love with the Maharanee of Jodapur, visiting royalty who requests Barry Allen to be her police escort during her stay in Central City. Like all of Captain Cold's crushes, this one is entirely unrequited: the Maharanee is a wholly honest and extremely respectable person who has little understanding of Captain Cold's criminal past. The Maharanee is one of several examples of visiting Indian royalty who showed up in DC comics in the 1960's; they were clearly part of an attempt to integrate the magazines by introducing Asian characters. She is also part of Gardner Fox's fascination with exotic places: several of his Adam Strange tales open in South Asia.
The story is most notable for Infantino's depiction of Barry Allen in extreme formal dress. He is in a tail coat and top hat, but instead of a white tie he is in black tie. The whole story is light hearted, but a little bit on the minor side. The basic plot resembles Broome's "The Mirror-Master's Magic Bullet" (1961), in which Barry also gets involved as a policeman with beautiful visiting female royalty. Such a theme is played as slightly comic tale of romance and jealousy on Iris West's part.
As usual, Fox includes alliteration in his title. Fox's stories for The Flash typically have alliterative titles, while Broome's do not.
Who Stole Flash's Super-Speed? (1965). Writer: Gardner Fox. Flash loses his speed abilities. This is one of Fox's intricately plotted sf stories. It builds up complex explanations about the speed abilities of its various characters. These plot ideas are woven by Fox into a pleasing pattern. Fox specialized in this sort of complex plot. The tale is no classic, but it makes for nice reading.
The best part of this story is its opening, in which Flash has some surrealist encounters. These recall a little bit the opening of Harold Q. Masur's mystery novel, The Big Money (1954).
The Day Flash Aged 100 Years (1965). Writer: Gardner Fox. The Top steals a newly invented chemical that can cause aging, intending to use it on the Flash.
The aging drug here has no antidote. Being exposed to it causes permanent aging. This is very unusual in Fox's work. Most of his stories involve cycles, step by step transformations that leave their protagonist in the same state as in the beginning. So the aging drug is actually a violation of Fox's fundamental paradigms. This gives it a sinister, ominous edge. Fox understands the implications of this: Flash has to avoid the drug; he cannot be exposed to it, then reverse its effects.
Fox immediately brings in Flash's friend Dexter Miles here, recently seen in Broome's "Gangster Masquerade" (1965) three issues previously. Dexter Miles is an appealing character. Fox has him be a positive assistant to the Flash, not just someone the Flash encounters. This is in keeping with Fox's positive, humane views of people. He sees their potential. Dexter here resembles Ellery Queen's character Drury Lane.
There is another top shaped building here: the Modern Art Gallery. Fox had been including spiral shaped structures in his stories since the 1940's. This one recalls the real life Gugenheim Museum, also a modern art museum. Fox loved museums; this one also recalls his Space Museum tales in the sf comic book Strange Adventures. Fox's narration pays tribute to "Picasso, Pollack and Still". Abstract painter Clyfford Still was still alive at this story's publication. Fox sounds as well informed about modern painting as he is on many other subjects.
The One-Man Justice League (1966). Writer: Gardner Fox. Machinations by the villainous Professor Ivo inadvertently cause the Flash to turn into various members of the Justice League, one after another. Delightful and deceptively simple story that shows much good craftsmanship in its details. Fox was the main scriptwriter for many of the members of the Justice League, and he knows all the details of their powers and characteristics very well. He is able to integrate these carefully into his plot. The reader is able to experience what it might be like to turn into Green Lantern or the Atom. The tale has an aspect of a day dream come to life. It is easy to sit there wondering what it might be like to be Hawkman, say, and this relaxed, upbeat tale keeps to this mood of pleasant fantasizing.
Fox's depictions of the various heroes also seem "accurate": they jibe exactly with what we know about these characters from previous stories. It occurs to me for the first time that it must have shown considerable skill on Fox's part to keep his various heroes straight across so many different magazines.
Infantino also does a terrific job at portraying Barry Allen in the uniforms of the various super-heroes. His depiction of Barry dressed as Green Lantern is a classic. His opening portrait of Barry streched full length along a couch is also outstanding.
The Mirror with 20-20 Vision (1966). Writer: Gardner Fox. The Mirror Master invents a mirror that shows events a few minutes in the future. Fox has fun with this science fiction idea, which resembles Isaac Asimov's series of prose sf tales about thiotimoline, the chemical that transforms ten minutes before you add water to it. Fox clearly liked Asimov's stories, and one occasionally finds stray echoes of his work's in Fox' writing.
Fox had written a number of classic time travel tales in 1962, for the sf comic book Strange Adventures. This story can be seen as a late appendage to them.
The Flash had the ability to time travel himself, using his cosmic treadmill, an ability established in previous John Broome stories. He could return to his own time at any moment, by ending the special molecular vibrations in his body set up by the time travel. This is formally similar to Fox's tales about Adam Strange, who travels from Earth to Rann and back using the zeta-beam. Fox uses Flash's time travel abilities here in a way that recalls his plots involving Adam Strange and the zeta-beam. There is a similar sort of story construction in both tales. Fox did not invent Flash's time abilities, but he is more than capable of recognizing them as a Fox cycle, and incorporating them into his own creative approaches to plot construction.
Menace of the Reverse-Flash (1963). When Flash's costume is sent into the future, it is used by a villain of 2463 who has Flash's powers of super-speed. The origin of Reverse-Flash, a crook of the future who is as fast as the Flash, and who dresses in a costume whose yellow and red colors are exactly the reverse of the Flash.
Our Enemy, the Flash (#147, September 1964). Reverse-Flash returns from the future, and tries to force the reformed Mr. Element to take up his life of crime again. Al Desmond, Mr. Element, is the first crook to reform in Flash's Rogue's Gallery, as the tale points out. He becomes a friend of Barry's, and this element of friendship is the strongest aspect of the tale. Barry has a gift for friendship, and he goes to bat for Al with the same intensity as he did for his youthful friends in the earlier stories of 1961/1962.
Now that Al Desmond has reformed, he has found a girl friend, the very nice Rita. Only good guys in The Flash have girl friends - the villains are always single. Captain Cold always wants a girl friend - he is always in love with some woman from afar - but she never returns his affection. I think that the absence of crooks' girl friends in The Flash is designed to suggest that "crime does not pay". If The Flash had given its crooks glamorous gangsters' molls, the comic book could have been accused of promoting crime. Such accusations had been leveled at the comic book industry in the early 1950's, and it is plain that Schwartz and DC are trying to do everything possible to avoid glamorizing crime. This is not just a marketing ploy, however: I think that the creators honestly believed this themselves.
Al Desmond had long been absent from The Flash, despite numerous pleas from readers in the letter column to return. He originally had two different identities, Mr. Element and Dr. Alchemy. His return was exclusively in the persona of Mr. Element, presumably because this science-oriented character was in tune with the pro-science point of view of the Schwartz magazines.
The Mightiest Punch of All Time (1965). The Flash and villainous Reverse-Flash continue their battle for Al Desmond, the former Mr. Element, trying to steer him away or towards a life of crime. This is a sequel to "Our Enemy, the Flash" (#147, September 1964), and it is much better than the original. It is rich in plot inventions of all types.
In the previous tale, Reverse-Flash had used physical force to coerce Al Desmond, who was virtually his hostage. This second tale is much more science fictional: it involves 25th Century mental control rays designed to influence people towards or away from a life of crime. This is typical of Broome's approach, in that he takes ideas from an earlier tale, and science-fictionalizes them to construct subsequent story premises.
Broome shows skepticism about the infallibility of advanced scientific machines. He had written many tales in the sf magazines criticizing computers, and these stories are in those traditions.
The Super-Hero Who Betrayed the World (1965). Based on a cover by Carmine Infantino. Flash is accused of treason to the Earth, after he refuses to surrender himself to an alien who demands Flash's capture.
This is a rich, inventive story. Broome's plot has many features that build on previous tales. The time travel ideas recall earlier Broome works involving Flash's cosmic treadmill. Broome extends these ideas further. Broome often developed plots by science fictionalizing his previous ideas: taking a concept, and adding new dimensions of sf imagining to them. This story is a case in point.
This tale also recalls Broome's "The Man Who Mastered Absolute Zero" (1963). Both tales involve Flash with high speed electronic machinery. Flash has an ability to get himself in sync with such machinery, a concept that is fascinating.
This story is Broome's last truly major work for The Flash. He had a successful later outing with the light-hearted comic tale "Big Blast in Rocket City" (1966). But this story and "Gangster Masquerade" (1965) are his last Flash stories in which he was hitting on all four cylinders.
Flash's Final Fling (1966). Writer: Gardner Fox. The Flash quits his job in disgust, leaving his costume by a tree in the countryside. Based on a cover scene drawn by Carmine Infantino, with cover story idea by Julius Schwartz.
This is one of two stories based on the same cover. As the story itself points out, this is a unique comic book experiment. It is an anti-illusionist device: it underscores that the events in comic books are not real, but made up by artists and writers. However, comics have always seemed slightly more artificial than other media, somehow. Their contents seem like the personal products of their creators' imaginations. This makes this experiment somehow seem more normal in comics than it would be on film or print. The fact that there has always been an obviously artificial relationship between covers and stories helps here as well.
The two tales in fact stick very closely to the cover, treating it literally, and as a central part of the story: something not always found in other stories. Both writers' works seem completely sincere, as well. Both writers' works are utterly different, and one suspects that they worked independently, without comparing notes.
Fox's tale is calm and rationalistic. When Flash quits, he gives a long, logically reasoned, intelligently stated series of reasons for being dissatisfied with his job. This is in keeping with Fox's good-natured personality, one in which all details of a story are carefully thought through. Much of what Flash says has pith, especially his denunciation of his relationship to Iris West. This section is very funny.
Kid Flash helps Flash here. Although Flash is supposed to be Kid Flash's mentor, in actual practice Kid Flash does more to help Flash than the other way around: see "The Super-Hero Who Betrayed the World" (1965). Kid Flash in general is genuinely helpful to other people. He is a service oriented person, in the way Superman is. By contrast, Flash spends a lot more time fighting menaces and bad guys.
Fox's tale is full of science fictional invention. The part of the tale when Flash is hypnotized recalls other Fox tales involving hypnosis, including those he wrote for the Atom and Adam Strange. Fox describes the Flash as being in a "narco-synthetic state". This is typical of Fox's interest in advanced science.
Barry Allen's clothes here are great looking: a hat, white sports coat, black bow tie. This elegant look is almost like a white tuxedo. Men absolutely did not dress this way in 1966, so Barry's costume is almost a science fiction one. Men had almost entirely stopped wearing hats and bow ties by this era.
Infantino creates a fascinating cart (p6). It consists of small circles, joined by polygonal lines. It is an example of Infantino incorporating abstract art into his designs.
Case of the Curious Costume (1966). Writer: Robert Kanigher. The Flash quits his job in disgust, leaving his costume by a tree in the countryside. Based on a cover scene drawn by Carmine Infantino, with cover story idea by Julius Schwartz.
Kanigher's story is as intensely emotional, as Fox's was calm and rational. Kanigher's tale is positively operatic in its emotions. Kanigher pulls out all the stops. His story reflects two other kinds of tales in which he specialized: the war story and the romance comic book. The war aspect: Kanigher compares Flash's feeling for his costume to a soldier's for his gun. Both have an actual love for this part of their life, at least according to Kanigher. I've always been very skeptical of Kanigher's war fiction, regarding it as a bunch of dubious macho fantasies. But this metaphor does allow Kanigher to introduce a passionate torrent of feelings the Flash has to his costume. These serve as metaphors, for several things. They can represent the love men have for their work. For their tools. For personas they assume. Flash's costume is a whole other role, one that allows him to function successfully in a way he never could as Barry Allen. It is another life, an extension of himself in unique ways, one that allows Barry a whole other existence. The story recalls Kanigher's Johnny Thunder tales. In them, schoolteacher John Taine develops a whole new life when he assumes the extra persona of Johnny Thunder. This allows him to express feelings and talents that were completely repressed before. Barry similarly has an opportunity given him by his costume to become the Flash. In both stories, there is a sign of deep need. Neither Barry nor John would know how to express central aspects of their being and lives, without the other identities they have created. There is a sense in both tales of desperate personal expression.
A late line in the tale describes Flash's feelings for his costume as "the love a man has for his uniform". This too invokes a whole world of imagery.
The later stages of the story involve Flash with Iris West. They are in the direct tradition of the romance tales Kanigher often wrote for the comics. A line of dialogue at the end is echoed in the later "Hard to Handle" (Love Stories #150, June - July 1973), a story probably written by Kanigher, and drawn by Art Saaf.
This is Kanigher's first Flash script since his Showcase tales. It revives one aspect of them: Iris is attracted to the Flash, and the Flash becomes Barry's rival. This has been a comic book staple since the days of Lois Lane and Superman, and it recalls similar triangles in Kanigher's Johnny Thunder tales. But it is a bit of a faux pas in Flash's world. Broome's Flash stories had always clearly established that Iris had no romantic interest in the Flash whatsoever, although she admired his work as a super-hero. This is not a big problem, and if it is inconsistent with most Flash tales, it does return to Kanigher's original conception. The turtle in the story, a nice comic conceit, also echoes the villainous Turtle in Kanigher's origin of the Flash.