As the Silver Age of Comics began to wind down, while the fortunes of the assorted super heroes whose careers had helped to define that period were similarly on the wane, it was other genres which were feeling the pinch the most. Among the titles having a bit of a rough go of it was JERRY LEWIS. When initially licensed in the 1950s, Lewis was one of the hottest comedians on the country. But by the late 1960s, while he was still a favorite of the generation who had grown up with him,. he didn’t hold the same appeal for the kids coming up behind them. (The fact that Lewis had an ongoing comic book title well into the 1970s is one of the most amazing things about the man.) Anyway, in order to spice up interest in the series, DC had taken to producing the occasional story in which the funny man crossed paths with some of the company’s biggest super hero stars. Batman and Robin and Superman had both done their time. And while it would seem as though Wonder Woman would be the obvious selection to go third, at this particular moment her series and status quo were in the process of being overhauled. So instead, it was the fastest man alive who stepped into the breech!
“The Flash Meets Jerry Lewis” was a shorter story than the earlier two team-up adventures, taking up less than a full issue. It was also handled by a different writer: rather than Arnold Drake, who had been blacklisted by DC for the crime of having attempted to secure benefits for himself and the other creators of his generation, it was E. Nelson Bridwell who scribed this outing. Bridwell was a master of DC continuity, even then, and he’d had experience with comedy. He’d sold features to MAD Magazine before coming on staff at DC, and had originated the Inferior Five, a super hero parody inspired in part by the Fantastic Four. Artist Bob Oksner once again provided the visuals.
Bridwell’s got the perfect way into the story at his fingertips as well. Recalling a story that editor Julie Schwartz had commissioned concerning a tailor who made costumes for super-villains (a tailor who was named after prominent DC fan Paul Gambaccini), Bridwell uses the same conceit here, though not with the same character, Paul Gambi. The story opens with Jerry and Renfrew bringing Jerry’s sweater to a tailor to have it cleaned. But the tailor is hustled away by underworld goons, and Jerry fins himself watching the store. It turns out that this establishment has set itself up as the wardrobe to the super-villains after Paul Gambi’s arrest, and it isn’t long before Captain Cold shows up to trade his prison uniform in for his regular duds.
Meanwhile, the Flash is on the lookout for a number of his old enemies, who have broken out of prison all at the same time. He happens across Jerry, and Lewis is in need of a new delivery boy as Renfrew has been frozen solid from his encounter with Captain Cold. Jerry gives the Flash a stack of his enemies’ new costumes as well as addresses where they can be located. This seems as though this is going to be the simplest round-up in Central City history. Unfortunately for all involved, there’s a complication: the tailor had been taken away by the insidious magician from the future, Abra Kadabra. Seems Kadabra had left his magic wand inside his white cape when he last sent it to be cleaned–and now he’s looking for his property back. it isn’t long before the wand falls into Renfrew’s hands.
In the meantime, the Flash has circled back to the tailor shop, intending to investigate it incognito as Barry Allen. As you might expect, Jerry and Renfrew run roughshod over Allen and his wardrobe. More germane to the plot, however, Barry loses the ring containing his compressed Flash costume in the tailor shop–this is such a common occurrence in this story, one wonders if this wasn’t somehow the tailor’s whole racket all the time. Upon finding the ring and ejecting the costume from within it, Jerry naturally puts it on–the better for mistaken identity hijinx to occur.
Jerry is self-possessed enough that only a few minutes later, he’s ready to turn the Flash’s uniform in to the police (figuring that the Flash won’t want to fight crime in his underwear.) But before he can do so, Renfrew, not wanting his fun to end, zaps his Uncle Jerry with Abra Kadabra’s wand–which energizes Jerry’s boots, making him as swift as the Flash. Lewis doesn’t have a whole lot of control over his newfound speed–but for Renfrew, that’s a feature, not a bug.
Elsewhere, Barry Allen realizes that his costume ring is missing, He zips home to pick up a spare–where his new wife Iris Allen is suffering from a bad head cold thanks to the winds her husband is always whipping up as he darts around. It’s a goofy bit of business, but a fun observation about the character as well. Now attired in his regular red uniform once more, the Flash heads back to the tailor shop for the showdown.
But despite the Scarlet Speedster’s great velocity, Abra Kadabra gets there first, and his thugs grab up Jerry thinking him to be the actual Flash. Abra attempts to get his wand back from Renferw, offering him the princely sum of a dime for it, but the kid ain’t biting. But Renfrew’s control over the wand isn’t good enough to ward off Kadabra.
But at that moment, the real Flash shows up–and despite a momentary setback where Renfrew accidentally knocks him out with Abra’s wand, the genuine super hero is able to mop up both Abra’s gang and the master villain himself in no time flat. (Literally–the Flash runs Abra Kadabra through a hot press in a singular bit of absurdity.)
And that’s about all she wrote for this adventure–except that Renfrew manages to keep hold of Abra’s wand and is poised to use it for more mischief. That never actually happened, at least in terms of it showing up in another story. This wasn’t quite as entertaining as the previous two Lewis/super hero outings, but it still must have seemed like a lucrative vein to continue to mine, because there’d be one final story just a couple of months after this.
2 thoughts on “Jerry Lewis Meets the Flash”
This was a pretty good Flash story, too!
A tailor (Gambi’s assistant Leach) did indeed take over the business while Gambi was locked up, so that’s a nice continuity detail.
I wish DC would release an Inferior Five TPB. I had no end of fun reading them as a kid and I still enjoy them as an adult.
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