I had seen ads for it in the pages of my DC Comics for weeks and lusted after it, but this issue of DC SPECIAL SERIES featuring the Flash in an all-new adventure that took up the whole of this Dollar Comic sized issue never made it to my local 7-11. By this point, distribution was beginning to get spotty for the DC titles, and in particular newly launched books never seemed to get to my neck of the woods. I pestered my relatives about this comic, hoping that maybe it would show up in their area–and one Saturday I got the call that my Uncle Jerry and Aunt Clementine had indeed found a copy for me. I was overjoyed. Being a sweet lady, my Aunt dutifully wrote my first name on the cover of my copy, so that it would be known to be mine. This is an act which horrified me at the time, but now, decades after she has passed away, I find that act of love meaningful.
This was a monster book, all-new, an adventure that brought together all of the Flash characters then extant: The Flash himself, Kid Flash, and Earth-2’s Golden Age Flash. Also appearing was Johnny Quick–an appearance that would cause some continuity agita once Roy Thomas began using him in ALL-STAR SQUADRON years later. That front cover by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez is great, one of the best FLASH covers from this era. Garcia-Lopez really could draw anybody from the DC stable well, and it’s no wonder that the look of DC’s mainstream licensing efforts reflected his style for so many decades. The book opens with a short prologue set in far-off Gorilla City, where the evil Super-Gorilla Grodd is being executed for his many crimes. The satanic simian is completely discorporated in on live television before the eyes of Gorillakind.
The big continuity event that takes place in this story is Wally West’s graduation from High School. He also, ultimately, reveals his identity as Kid Flash to his parents–these are very different incarnations of his parents than the ones who would turn up post-CRISIS, this is Bob and Mary. There isn’t a whole lot to them, apart from filling the roles of generic mother and father. Along the way, Kid Flash has an extended delusion that the girl he’s hanging out with becomes a super-speed motorcycle rider before burning up from the friction. This all proves to be a dream–the cause of which appears to be a hidden simian with a powerful raygun device. But Kid Flash is nonetheless compelled to break through an unsuspected speed barrier by traveling at a particular vibrational frequency in his chase for the phantom girl. Garcia-Lopez handles the artwork in this chapter as well, inked by the legendary Wally Wood, who isn’t as overpowering here as he sometimes could be. So it’s a strong set of visuals.
The next chapter is illustrated by the tried-and-true art team of Irv Novick and Joe Giella, both of whom had been regulars on the Flash’s adventures. And I should also mention that this entire monster was written by Cary Bates, the key FLASH writer of the 1970s and early 1980s, and edited by Julie Schwartz. In this chapter, the Flash visits Gorilla City to confirm Grodd’s demise. Solivar, the head of the civilization, tells Flash that he was against corporal punishment, but he was outvoted by his ruling council six to one. Thereafter, the Flash returns to Central City and a battle against his very first foe, the Turtle. The Turtle zaps Flash with a device that causes his speed-geared vision to malfunction, causing him to see other people and objects as moving at hyper-velocity, even when they’re not. This Slow-Vision dray was also zapped by the mysterious Simian from the Kid Flash chapter. Anyway, Flash works out that if he can accelerate fast enough, he can ping his vision back into synch–which he does, cracking through an unsuspected speed barrier in the process, as Kid Flash did earlier. After that, it’s a small matter to dismantle the Turtle’s entire headquarters and take him into custody.
Chapter Three of this extravaganza focuses on Jay Garrick, the original Flash who lived on the parallel world of Earth-2. We learn here that he has revealed his true identity to the world, since he’s largely in retirement. Artwork is provided by Kurt Schaffenberger and Murphy Anderson–Anderson’s inks give Schaffenberger’s pencils a nice sense of heft, bringing them closer in line with the accepted DC look of the period than they ordinarily might have been. As mentioned earlier, this story also marks the first new appearance of Johnny Quick since his solo strip ended in the early 1950s. He and his partner Tubby Watts have come to cover Jay Garrick’s press conference for their news service. But the covert simian uses his ray-weapon to cause an additional X-element to be added to Johnny’s speed formula when he speaks it, causing him to become malevolent. He and Jay clash a few times, and ultimately Jay also crashes through an unforeseen speed barrier as he tries to snap Johnny back to his senses–which he does.
Artwork for the central fourth chapter was provided by Alex Saviuk, a newcomer to the field who would soon afterwards become the regular artist on the FLASH series. Saviuk is probably best known these days for the many years he spent drawing Spider-Man, both in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN and in the Spidey Newspaper Strip. Anyway, all three Flashes are compelled to congregate at a certain spot by the remote telepathic control of our mystery simian, whom they assume is Grodd. But he’s not–and in fact, he drops dead partway through their clash. He was, rather, a dupe of Grodd’s–who suddenly begins to speak through Kid Flash himself. Turns out that when Grodd was discorporated, his atoms were scattered throughout a particular dimension, one that could only be reached through the use of super-speed. Accordingly, Grodd forced his minion to set up scenarios in which the three Flashes would breach this barrier, each one bringing back a portion of his essence. Now that they’re all together, Grodd is able to reconstitute himself.
What’s more, having merged his essence with the three Flashes, Grodd has also commandeered a portion of their speed. When combined with his Mind-Force powers, this makes him more than a match for his trio of foes. An extended battle takes place, with Grodd knocking the hell out of the triad of Flashes. Ultimately, Barry decides to try a trick that honestly should not work at all, despite the fact that his thoughts tell us that it “makes sense”. By vibrating into intangibility, he’s able to merge his bodily molecules with those of both Jay and Wally, becoming a triple-Flash for just a moment–long enough to kayo the speed-enhanced simian.
After that, all that’s left is a short two-page epilogue illustrated by Irv Novick in which we see Wally’s graduation, and he lays down some bad news on Barry. Wally wants to live an ordinary life, and so while he’s still going to be attending college, once that’s done, he plans to quit being Kid Flash and retire as a super hero. Barry understands his protege’s desire for normalcy and is supportive of this decision. It’s a bit of an odd beat in retrospect, in that in later years Wally would very much be defined as somebody who loved his powers and being a hero more than anything. But this characterization did continue on into the future into NEW TEEN TITANS when that series began.
This issue also included a two-page feature listing the various members of the Flash’s Rogues’ Gallery written by assistant editor Bob Rozakis, and another report on the in-production Superman film. As before, these grainy photographs of Jackie Cooper and Valerie Perrine did nothing to raise my level of excitement for the movie. They were a nice resume of the stars’ previous accomplishments, but those were all roles that came before me, and I wasn’t in the slightest interested at the time.