This was the second of three consecutive issues of FLASH that I picked up during an unexpected trip to the Heroes World store with my grandparents, after having missed them in the normal course of events. But I almost missed this book for a second time. You see, while I had noticed that there were three issues of FLASH on the spinner racks at Heroes World that I needed, I must have been over-excited by being in the place, and so I wound up only pulling #262 and #264 for my stack. I didn’t discover this error on my part until we were all back in the car and headed on our way out of the Levittown Mall. Like a scene out of Miracle on 34th Street, I begged my grandparents to go back, that I had missed something important–and they were dutiful and accommodating enough that they wound up doing just that. So we raced back to Heroes World and I dropped 35 cents for the elusive book. My grandparents had no understanding as to what or why I was so enamored of comic books, but they always went above and beyond if it meant making me happy. I don’t know that I really appreciated that at the time, but I do now.
As we went over yesterday, this was the third part of a four-part epic, the longest story I had ever experienced in the pages of FLASH and a bit of an indicator that things were going to be changing for this title that had been so consistent and reliable for the entirety of my comic book collecting career. It was written by Cary Bates, my favorite writer as a young boy, who had visited Earth-One where the super heroes live not once but twice, and who wrote virtually every issue of FLASH for more than a decade. He was accompanied by Irv Novick, a solid craftsman whose interpretation of the Scarlet Speedster was the accepted style of the 1970s. Novick was just as regular a fixture as Bates was–he drew almost every issue for a 70 issue span beginning with #200. That consistency was something that I appreciated as a reader, though it could become stultifying as well. But when you picked up an issue of FLASH, you knew what kind of a story you were going to be getting, and you knew what it was going to look and read like. The same wasn’t true for a lot of other titles during this period, whose creative teams shifted sometimes on an issue-by-issue basis.
This issue eats up a ton of pages in the opening on recapping the event s of the previous two–I suppose, being the first four-parter that the series had ever run, editor Julie Schwartz wanted to make sure that readers who were coming into the story in the middle knew what was happening. So first it’s a Central City reporter broadcasting the news that speaks about how the Flash is washed up, outperformed by Central City’s newest champion, the Ringmaster. And thereafter, as Barry Allen exercises on his cosmic treadmill, his adversary the Golden Glider beams him additional flashbacks from recent events–how his wife Iris has also thrown him over for the Ringmaster. The Glider lets the readers in on the fact that she’s behind all of this, a fact that she doesn’t let Barry in on. but it’s all pretty obvious, isn’t it? Either way, it’s a bit creepy when we cut over to the apartment of Beau Baer, freelance writer, who is also the Ringmaster, and find Iris there–as well as the Glider, who watches them be all lovey-dovey while imperceptible to them.
Later, as promised in the preceding issue, the Flash and Ringmaster meet up with one another to go on patrol as a team, in the hopes of sniffing out the Golden Glider. But all they manage to do for most of the morning is to save a biker and a kid on a skateboard. When the two sit down over a quick bite to compare notes, Flash tells the Ringmaster about how the Golden Glider has been dedicated to making him suffer ever since his old enemy the Top met his end–a demise that she holds Flash responsible for. And as if on cue, the Glider appears, bathing the pair of heroes in crystals (which were her recurring motif as a Rogue) that attacked their nervous systems.
What follows is a typical Flashy fight, with the Scarlet Speedster and his new ally the Ringmaster trading blows and barbs with the teched-up Golden Glider, who is mostly able to make monkeys out of both of them. When Flash snatches away her flying skates at super-speed, he discovers that the Glider has booby trapped them to propel Flash to the center of the Earth. By the time the speedster recovers from this trap and returns to the surface, the Ringmaster has ensnared their foe in a paralyzing rung. But Flash his still vibrating uncontrollably thanks to thw radiation within the skates, and so when he goes to shake Ringmaster’s hand in congratulations, the effect is that the paralyzing ring is disrupted and the Golden Glider makes good her escape–just as she planned. Now, Flash no longer just looks washed up, but like an actual impediment to the much more capable Ringmaster.
Depressed and downhearted (and still unaware of how much the Golden Glider has been manipulating events), that evening Barry packs up his Flash costume along with a recorded message announcing his retirement from crime-fighting to be sent to police headquarters. He’s ready to hang it all up and let the Ringmaster carry on the fight in his place. It’s a sad moment for our hero. And even sadder is Barry’s reaction when the front door opens and a female voice rings out. Barry is elated that it might be Iris coming back to him, but it’s only their college age boarder Stacy Conwell returning from some time away. Barry has to act quickly in order to prevent Stacy from also learning his secret–not that it should matter all that much at this point, giving his impending retirement.
Elsewhere, in Beau Bael’s apartment, the Glider is once again observing invisibly as Iris tells her new man that the Flash isn’t a reliable partner, and that he shouldn’t continue to team up with him–a request that he readily agrees to. But there’s another complication brewing, and it’s this: after observing him up close and in battle, the lovelorn Golden Gilder has begun to fall for her own creation, the Ringmaster. And that means that Iris Allen has to go. But rather than simply bump Iris off herself and step into her shoes, the Gilder has a more delightful brainstorm: she’s going to manipulate the Flash into doing away with his own beloved wife! And on that somber note, the issue is To Be Continued.
I don’t recall offhand if I’ve written about this house ad before or not. But either way, it ran in this issue of FLASH as well. it was for the launch issue of DC COMICS PRESENTS, a new series that would feature Superman in team-up adventures with stars from throughout the DC line. First up was the Flash, which made it a comic of interest to me. But unfortunately, like most new DC books of this period, my local 7-11 didn’t carry DC COMICS PRESENTS, and I missed this issue. In fact, I wouldn’t see the book until #14, after I had started buying my new books at a newly-opened stationary store which carried a more complete selection. But I liked this glimpse of early issues of WORLD’S FINEST COMICS and BRAVE AND THE BOLD.