EP0059: The Flash: The Silver Age, Volume 2

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Barry Allen and Wally West continue their groundbreaking adventures as they travel through time and battle epic villains like Captain Boomerang for the first time and a team up with the Green Lantern.

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Graham: The Flash is tied to a giant boomerang, twice and Kid Flash travels back to pre-historic times, twice. We’ll talk about it, straight ahead in The Flash: The Silver Age Volume 2.

Announcer: Welcome to the Classy Comics podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise Idaho, here is your host Adam Graham.

Graham: As I discussed in a previous episode after many of the great superhero franchises of the Golden Age flamed out in the late 40s and early 50s, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman remain the really only consistent games in town when it came to superheroes. However, that changed when D.C. introduced Barry Allen as the Flash in Showcase number 4. The Flash was successful and with the Scarlet Speedster’s success, many more superheroes would be added to the roster of the D.C. Universe.

To understand what made the Flash successful, it’s important to understand what the Flash didn’t have. There wasn’t great characterization or much characterization at all. That would be something really that Marvel would bring to superheroes with the emergence of the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man later on in the 1960s. What the Flash brought was mind-blowing imagination, when it came to the use of the Flash’s super speed as well as the rogues he fought. In fact, the colorful rogues of the Flash, Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Weather Wizard and the Prankster, remain popular to this day and they were really cranked out in the early years of the Flash’s comeback.

The Flash: The Silver Age Volume 2, comes after the Flash’s initial three trial appearances and his first thirteen issues have introduced so much but there’s even more that gets introduced in this volume and we’re going to discuss it. This particular volume collects issues 117 to 132. I won’t try and cover everything in this book. It’s a 400-page book plus, unlike say a modern comic where you have plots that take place over multiple issues, these are all self-contained or in many cases, they are two stories in a single issue so I won’t try and cover everything. I will say that these are pretty lengthy issues when you take a look at them. Generally you’re looking at about 23 to 25 pages, which is a good length for the early Silver Age books. They get a lot shorter during the Bronze Age.

The first big milestone comes in issue 117 of the Flash, the first issue collected in this book and it introduces Captain Boomerang. The story begins when a corporate honcho has the idea that his company could make a really big trend out of selling boomerangs, as yo-yos had recently been a big deal and they need to hire someone who is experienced throwing the boomerang. And so our villain is hired and uses the name Captain Boomerang. That’s part of the plan and instead of taking this cushy corporate job, it’ll be like being the Marlboro Man. With plenty money coming his way, he instead turns to a life of crime using incredibly clever boomerangs in order to commit his crimes.
Flash actually thinks he’s spotted Captain Boomerang at the scene of a crime but Captain Boomerang convinces him that he’s innocent and that it would do harm to his elderly parents, who aren’t his parents but two actors playing them and gets the Flash to go away but realizes he has to get rid of the Flash and how is he going to do that? He’s going to tie him to a rocket-powered boomerang. Now when I asked my wife about this, she pointed out shouldn’t a boomerang return back to where it was thrown and that’s a good question.
However, this time the Flash to a boomerang solution is actually used by Captain Boomerang again but it’s entirely different because this time it was a green boomerang. Later on in the book, it was a brown giant boomerang so it’s completely different. But the idea is illustrative of how the imagination of writer John Broome, just really runs wild in this book.
Sometimes it’s imaginative and fantastic. Sometimes it’s imaginative and ludicrous but if you like it, you go with it and you just enjoy, not knowing quite what they’re going to come up with the next for either the Flash’s powers or the villain’s schemes.

One exception to this, that’s kind of an oddity, is the appearance of Winky Blinky and Noddy. These were actually three characters from The Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick’s book and they were frequent recurring characters who got into various trouble and he had to deal with it. They were just kind of bumbling idiots, kind of based a little bit on the three stooges, that sort of team but by the time this was published, you’re getting into the 1960s so they’re about 20 years out of date. They never really turn in the Flash comic book and I think that’s a good thing.

You also have an interesting plot with skulduggery going on the set of a movie about the Flash and it turns out an evil movie actor is behind it with his plans to continue to pretend to be the Flash and collect big endorsement deals, based on the image of being the Flash and he has to get rid of the real Flash in order to do that and his plan to actually be able to replicate the Flash’s super speed once he gets rid of him, is, well, it’s actually non-existent so that one didn’t quite work as well.
Mirror Master is great in this book. Mirror Master comes up with the most challenging schemes when it comes to battling the Flash. It’s surprising because I tend to remember Captain Cold as being stronger but Mirror Master really provides some extreme things and he is just really over the top as a villain in a most delightful way. He managed to come up with a way to control the Flash and he put him in a tube and made smoke come out and have him come out like a genie and say “What is your wish my master”. I mean that is somebody who is just totally committed.

You also have the Trickster. He has a pretty good outing where he’s stealing from other criminals who the Flash has stopped and it kind of leaves the Flash in a difficult situation because if he takes the criminal in he’s not going to be able to go after the trickster, who just really quickly comes in here and steals. Though, of course, the Flash does get the better of him in the end.

You also get the Top introduced in this book and I don’t think he is probably very good villain from for the Flash but he comes up with a pretty clever death trap. Trapping the Flash inside a spinning atomic grenade and he has made an ultimatum to the world for ransom to be payed or he’ll detonate the grenade with the Flash inside and it will blow up half the world but he’ll be on the other half of the world, so he’ll be Ok. And the Flash does a good job with this. I think the challenge with the Top is that his powers are, in many ways, very speed based themselves so it’s speed versus speed and it is not ultimately as big a challenge as you think for the Flash to win.

You then also have a couple stories with the Flash and Kid Flash time traveling. In this book, Barry does reveal his secret identity to Wally West, Kid Flash. Still had not revealed it to Iris West, would not do that until after the wedding because that’s not something you need to know when you’re getting married. In one story, they end up on kind of a lost world island and end up going back into the past. It’s kind of fun and interesting but I prefer the later story, which is essentially the Flash learns of an alien invasion in the 23rd century and the way that the aliens are planning their invasion in the 23rd century is that they are removing all radiation from the earth in 100000 B.C. so that when they invade in the 23rd century, there won’t be any atomic weapons and so Barry has to go to the future and Wally West, the Kid Flash has to go to the past. And there are some really strange and weird creatures in the past that really makes this a lot of fun and I like the idea of it.

It’s also worth noting that there are quite a few a Kid Flash stories in the book. The Flash stories in this book, which aren’t book length are often accompanied by a backup feature. Sometimes those are just another Flash story but I think about half of them are Kid Flash stories and these are really fun little tales. Essentially they are stories of him dealing with kid-sized problems in his hometown of Blue Valley. And I think Kid Flash is great even though he doesn’t have the iconic traditional Kid Flash costume which won’t come along until the next volume. In this volume he’s still wearing his first costume, which is a duplicate of Barry’s but there’s not much confusion in stories in which they both don’t feature and even in those they do, they can kind of show the difference in size, though the eventual decision to give them a different costume really works a lot better.

The teenage sidekick is something in superhero comics that I think some people have over analyzed. Really what it’s about is giving the reader a kind of chance to enter a fantasy of getting superpowers and fighting crime beside your favorite hero and I could imagine if you’re a boy in the 1960s, wanting to be anyone else other than Wally West, it’s really a bunch of fun stories and just enjoyable fare. Again keeping in mind the original target audience.

Of course, the book also features the landmark story The Flash of Two Worlds where the Flash, Barry Allen, accidentally vibrates himself into another dimension where he meets Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash. Someone he had read about in comics but it turns out that Gardner Fox, when he got those stories, was actually kind of tuning in on another dimension. It’s worth noting that the Jay Garrick Earth two stories are really the only stories that Gardener Fox wrote in here but this is really important. It would establish the basis of the D.C. multi-verse and also all the great team ups that I was talking about in a previous episode.

So to the story itself finds Jay dealing with three villains after a bit of a layoff and Barry teams up to help him deal with the Thinker, the Fiddler, and Shade. Even with three villains, the real joy of this story is just the establishment of the multiverse and seeing the Golden Age and Silver Age Flash interact, it would set a standard that would be followed for quite a while to come. Flash number 129 would see Jay Garrick come to Earth 1 in search of a meteor that he needs to save his home, earth, but Captain Cold and the Prankster team up, which creates some problems for the Flashes as they are far stronger together than they ever would be alone.

There’s also an appearance by Gorilla Grodd, who has returned with stronger mental powers that has everyone singing his praises and if the Flash gets close to him, he’s not able to capture Grodd. We also get the appearance of Abra Kadabra, a magician from the future who becomes a foe of the Flash and has strange powers and strange abilities that come from his knowledge of the future. In fact, his highlight in this book is the scene where he actually sends Barry out into space and the comic tells us that because of his speed powers, Barry has a protective aura that manages to stop him from being killed from going in space. So Barry is out there thinking about well this can be a bit of an inconvenience but on the other hand, I am just thrilled to be a human being traveling this far out into space. So yeah, that’s some of the more absurd imagination but I still enjoy it.

Then you have a great team-up between the Flash and the Green Lantern as they are distracted as aliens take over the world and then threaten them to surrender and it seems like they’re beaten but our two heroes have a plan. This is a really fun story. It does kind of act like the Flash and the Green Lantern are the only heroes on the face of the earth and that the alien invaders can rest secure with them gone which shows that the whole idea of the shared D.C. Universe hadn’t fully taken hold. And the book wraps up with Flash having another visit to Dimension 24, where an unethical television producer, challenged by the fact that there was nothing newsworthy going on Earth in the 1960s, decides to create some disasters of his own but the Flash gets in his way and he decides to deploy some high tech weaponry against Barry to make him the heaviest man alive.

That’s kind of a brief overview of the plots of the book. I’m not going to spoil it. If as you’ve listened to this kind you’ve kinds of once said “I wonder how that turned out”, then this is the type a book you’d enjoy. If you’re like, “This book sounds totally ludicrous”, then maybe not so much but as for me, I’m going to give it a rating of the very classy. It is still continuing to tell tales that have really defined the D.C. Universe. I also have to appreciate that there’s enough science fact in here to really peak people’s interest in actual science and give the science fiction just a little bit more weight so this is a very solid read.

Alright, that’s all for now. If you like the show, be sure and rate us on iTunes. Send your comments to classycomicsguy@gmail.com. Check out the website classycomicsguy.com. From Boise Idaho, this is your host Adam Graham signing off.

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