ImageTexT: Interdisciplinary Comics Studies

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The Flash

There are two separate and distinct superheroes named “The Flash,” nicknamed “the fastest man alive.” The first Flash began in the winter of 1939 and the second appeared in the summer of 1956, sparking the Silver Age of comic book superheroes. The original Flash debuted in Flash Comics (January 1940) and shared the magazine with such characters as Johnny Thunder, the Whip, and Hawkman. In this ? rst issue, scripted by Gardner Fox and drawn by Harry Lampert, college science student Jay Garrick came by his incredible speed after accidentally inhaling “the deadly fumes of the gas elements of ‘heavy water.’” He adopted a costume of red, blue and yellow, and wore boots and a wing-adorned steel helmet. Garrick’s first move was to join the football team to impress his blonde girlfriend Joan Williams, who quickly realized Garrick and the Flash were one and the same. The Golden Age Flash battled several inventive and offbeat villains such as The Fiddler, who wielded a magical Stradivarius, which could force others to do his bidding. The Fiddler, like the Flash, was also revived during the Silver Age. Flash Comics was published until the February 1940 issue with the Flash appearing in all 104 issues. He also appeared in all 32 issues of All-Flash (Summer 1941 to January 1949) and made appearances in All-Star and Comic Cavalcade.

In 1956, while other comic book editors were contemplating new genres, DC’s Julius Schwartz turned to superheroes. According to Schwartz, “Someone, I don’t know who, said, ‘The Flash was always one of my favorites and maybe we ought to take a crack at putting him out again.’ All eyes turned to me…So I said, ‘OK, I’m stuck.’” Thus the Flash was taken out of mothballs. However, Schwartz decided to do a new Flash with the same power of super speed but having a new costume, new secret identity, and a new origin. The new Flash was police scientist Barry Allen who became a super speedster after being doused by chemicals. This Flash’s costume was more aerodynamic, a more standard superhero costume—a skin-tight red and yellow suit with the Mercury/ Hermes hat replaced by a cowl that covered his head. He was revived in Showcase (October 1956) and received his own title in March 1959.

The definitive creators of this Flash were two veteran Flash artisans, writer John Broome and artist Carmine Infantino (who set the pattern for the illustration of super-speed characters). Over the years, Broome created many memorable villains, including Grodd, a super gorilla; Mirror Master, a felon with a reflection fetish; and Captain Cold, who controlled ice and frost with a cold gun. Under Broome and Infantino, the Flash became the quintessential superhero comic book of the 1960s.

At the same time, Gardner Fox was using Flash to develop an Earth-one and Earth-two theory, which allowed DC to revive all their old 1940s characters (including the heroes of the Justice Society of America) by claiming that they existed on Earth-two. Thus, Broome used Flash for character development, while Fox used Flash for character revival. In Flash #123, the Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick, returned to team up with Barry Allen. In the parallel universe, Garrick was now married to college sweetheart, Joan Williams. Broome and Infantino left DC by the end of 1969, but both versions of the character have continued on. The Flash is also a member of the Justice League of America.

POWER AND WEAPONS (Silver Age)

The Flash possesses the power to move at superhuman speed, and can attain velocities equal to that of the speed of light (186,000 miles per second). His superhuman endurance enables him to run great distances without tiring.

The Flash possesses an aura of unknown energy that protects him from friction heat and the other adverse effects of motion at super-speed. He also has absolute mental control of his body’s atoms and molecules, and most often uses this power to vibrate his atoms at such high speeds that they can slip past the atoms of solid objects, enabling him to pass through such objects without damaging them. The Flash can travel to other dimensions through varying the vibratory rate of his atoms, and can also vibrate his clothing and even another human he is holding through a solid object or into another dimension with him.

The Flash has constructed a device called a “cosmic treadmill.” By running on it, the Flash can set up special internal vibrations within his body that protect him into other time periods. To return to his own time, the Flash need only will these internal vibrations to stop.

Comics on Display

“Duet of Danger,” The Flash 160 (April 1966), pp. 12-24. Reprint of Golden Age Flash

“One of Our Green Lanterns is Missing,” The Flash 168 (March 1967) Story by John Broome; art by Carmine Infantino and Sid Greene

“The Flying Samurai,” The Flash 180 (June 1968) Story by Frank Robbins; art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito

“The Attack of the Samuroids,” The Flash 181 (August 1968) Story by Frank Robbins; art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito

“Threat of the High Rise Buildings,” The Flash 185 (February 1969) Story by Frank Robbins; art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito

“Vengeance of the Immortal Villain,” The Flash 213 (March 1972) Story by Gardner Fox; art by Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella

“The Curse of the Dragon’s Eye,” The Flash 216 (June 1972) Story by Cary Bates; art by Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin, with Dick Giordano; includes “Anything Can Happen,” (reprint of Golden Age Flash)

“Green Lantern: Master Criminal of the Universe,” The Flash 225 (January-February 1974) Story by Cary Bates; art by Irv Novick and Dick Giordano

“Heart of Stone,” Flash 2 (July 1987) Story by Mike Baron; art by Jackson Guice

“Misdirection,” Flash 67 (August 1992) Story by Mark Waid; art by Greg LaRocque and Jose Marzan, Jr.

Exhibit 1: Main

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