BHOC: FLASH #DC-22

More than anything else, it was this next comic that made me a fan forever. And again, I couldn’t tell you why I decided to purchase this comic at this time. I know I got it at the 7-11 and that my Dad bought it for me. But I didn’t know who the Flash was. I can only assume that I was attracted by the fact that it was so large. But whatever the reason, this one was life-changing for me.

The 1970s was the final decade during which either Marvel or DC had a strong, dedicated reprint program in place. This approach would begin to be replaced by collected book editions in the 80s and 90s. But here, in 1973, reprints were a regular portion of each company’s output. And it turns out that, while I liked the current comics of the 1970s, I really, really liked (and like the comics of the 1960s. To quote a friend of mine, “Anything done in the 1960s, regardless of quality, is pure gold.”

I loved absolutely everything about the Flash. I loved the simplicity of the power–the ability to run faster than anyone. I loved the costume, still one of the best-designed super hero uniforms ever devised. I loved carmine Infantino’s clear, open vistas and his sense of movement. I loved John Broome’s fun, super-science-based narratives that were still tinged with humanity. I loved the colorful villains of the Rogue’s Gallery.

This first 100-Page Super-Spectacular was an excellent introduction to the character and his world, because it featured stories that included examples featuring most of the other key Flash-related heroes. The first story introduced me to Kid Flash, who started out as a smaller version of his mentor, but who got a sleek new costume in this story. I liked him, too.

The second story in the book featured Johnny Quick. There’s really no arguing that Johnny’s golden age stories were both better drawn and often better written than those of original Flash Jay Garrick, but I have to say that I never quite warmed to him in the same way. I recall almost nothing about this particular tale.

On the other hand, I was completely won over by the four-part story of the original Flash that was included in the issue. I didn’t yet understand the difference between Jay Garrick and Barry Allen, but it almost didn’t matter. The above image was staggering to me–I imagine that my reaction was similar to what modern fans feel when they see an Alex Ross image. That E.E. Hibbard shot of the Flash looked so real, so much like a photograph, that I couldn’t understand how it had been done. But it gave the character even greater legitimacy to my young mind.

The story is still pretty timely, too. A criminal conducts a smear campaign against the Flash, painting him as a dangerous menace and getting him to retire. In his absence, crime is on the rise, until a new hero, Muscleman, suddenly appears! Muscleman, it turns out, is Blinky, one of the Three Dimwits who hang around with the Flash, who uses self-hypnotism to turn himself into a fighting tiger. But his power is wearing off, causing the Flash to have to come back, in a resolution that sees all three Dimwits posing as Muscleman before hanging up those tights for good. It was a fun story, very involved for a golden age tale, and perfectly pitched so that a six-year-old like myself could enjoy it.

Next up was the Flash’s buddy, the Elongated Man, here drawn by Murphy Anderson.

There wasn’t much to the story, a typical E-Man back-up involving a mystery that the ducile detective is driven to solve. But Anderson does some fun stuff with the Elongated Man’s stretching powers, clearly inspired by Jack Cole’s Plastic Man.

The final story in the issue teams up Flash with the Elongated Man, and introduced me to Captain Cold, the character I have since always associated as the Flash’s number one enemy.

The story concerned a new super-computer whose radiations affect E-Man, causing him to intercede any time the Flash attempts to capture their chilly foe. What comes across most nicely is Ralph’s shame at what he’s doing–he has no explanation for his actions, and feels like he’s betraying his friend and letting him down. By the end, the status quo is restored, but it’s a fun journey nonetheless.

By the time I was done with this issue, the Flash had become my favorite super hero, a condition which persists to this day. Also, I hadn’t realized it yet, but I had stumbled upon the commonality between the comics that I enjoyed the most. For like SUPERMAN #268, most of these stories were edited by Julie Schwartz. As time went on, it would inevitably be Julie’s books that spoke to me the most, even when they featured the same characters as other non-Julie releases.

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