BHOC: FLASH #266

Pretty certain that I got this issue of FLASH at my local 7-11, but for some reason, deliveries of issues of FLASH were grwoing a bit more haphazard there. In a few months, I’d miss an issue of the title, something that was almost unthinkable to me, and it would be many years before I’d finally track down a copy. The Flash had been my favorite super hero of my childhood and early comic book reading days, and I still enjoyed his adventures, even as my attention was largely turning to the somewhat more sophisticated (or at least novel) Marvel Comics that I had begun pursuing. It was still fun to get a new issue of FLASH, but by this point I understood the essential formula of the series, and so the stories weren’t quite as exciting to me. This was, I think, a difficulty the book was experiencing in general, and it would lead to a major shift in only a few more issues as well.

Part of what made FLASH so familiar was the utter ubiquity of its creative team. Like clockwork, you could expect any given issue during this time to be written by Cary Bates (then one of the few writers whose name I recognized and followed, based almost entirely on his appearances in FLASH and JUSTICE LEAGUE) and illustrated by Irv Novick. Novick’s style defined the look of the character in my youth. It turns out that FLASH was just another assignment for Irv, and he gave it no special thought. But to me, he was the guy. The Flash’s Rogue’s Gallery was another appealing facet of the series–he had the deepest bench of noteworthy enemies with which to clash of pretty much any character in comics at this time.

This two-part story led to a bit of a status quo change on the part of the villain of the piece, Heat Wave, though we wouldn’t really know that until the second part. It opens with Heat Wave and his goons pulling a heist at the Central City Museum of Art. Unfortunately for Mick Rory, Barry Allen is there accompanying his wife reporter Iris Allen, and so the Flash appears instantly to confront the criminals. He’s able to mop up Heat Wave’s henchmen, but the fiery felon is able to get the drop on him after an air conditioning unit explodes. Yet, rather than finish off his swift foe, Heat Wave feels compelled to retreat, to get away from the scene as fast as he can.

A quick stop here for a house ad touting some new upcoming releases from DC in the wake of their DC Explosion. I was especially interested in DEMAND CLASSICS as, even from what little they showed of the cover here, I could tell that it reprinted the first team-up between Barry Allen and Jay Garrick, the original Flash of the 1940s, a tale I was hungry to experience. Unfortunately, the DC Implosion that would strike the company in short order killed a number of projects, and DEMAND CLASSICS was one of them–it never came out. And I wouldn’t get to read ‘Flash Of Two Worlds” for another fifteen years.

The Flash and Iris are puzzled by Heat Wave’s withdrawal, assuming that there must have been some strategy or motive involved in it. Heat Wave is equally concerned about it, and so he turns to his analyst for answers. Yes, Heat Wave is seeing a psychiatrist, one who is aware that he is a super-criminal but who doesn’t seem to care. We get a reveal here on Heat Wave’s untold origin–how he had been accidentally locked in a freezer during a childhood trip to a meat-packing plant. This experience gave him a phobia concerning cold, and drove him to master fire and high temperatures, turning him into Heat Wave. His shrink, though, thinks that Rory needs to overcome his hang-up about cold if he’s ever going to grow and advance as a super-criminal.

Empowered by his psychiatrist’s analysis, Heat Wave sets up another score with the intention of luring the Flash to the scene and destroying him. He targets the Alden Norton estate, a famous arctic explorer who died the previous year. Heat Wave mesmerizes the staff of Norton’s igloo-shaped mansion (only in Central City, right?) and has them summon aid from the Flash. When the Scarlet Speedster arrives, Heat Wave gets him on the back foot with his usual heat-powered tricks–but none of them are able to put the Flash down for the count. And ultimately, the Flash is able to lay hands on Heat Wave, and that’s it for the super-heated villain.

Except that it isn’t. When the Flash removes Heat Wave’s hood, he discovers that the man he’s been fighting is actually the mesmerized butler. Heat Wave himself has been posing as the butler, and he uses the Flash’s momentary shock to strike him down. Wasting no time, Heat Wave removes the Flash’s mask, revealing his true identity. Fortunately for Barry Allen, he’s not a famous figure, and so Heat Wave has no idea who he is. And it doesn’t really matter to the villain, as he puts the Flash into a rig designed to super-cool his body down into suspended animation, And that’s the cliffhanger that we go out on. That status quo change I was talking about earlier is Heat Wave knowing Barry Allen’s face–that doesn’t get resolved by the end of this story. And so going forward, there’s always the chance that Heat Wave will change to see Allen in public and be able to identify him as the Flash.

The Vixen didn’t strike back on August 8th, as her series was another one whose launch was scuttled by the DC Implosion. She wouldn’t show up for a few years, until creator Gerry Conway wrote her into an issue of ACTION COMICS with Superman.

The back-up story was another short 8-page adventure of Kid Flash, in which the boy speedster’s powers are transferred to another kid in a lightning strike. That kid, Howie, immediately begins to use his newfound powers to rob banks and the like, while the powerless Kid Flash is stymied in how to stop him and regain his super-speed. Eventually, having tracked the felon down, Kid Flash causes some high tension power lines to drop onto the both of them–an incredibly dangerous course of action, it must be said–and regains his natural powers. It’s a solid story with some good art by Alex Saviuk, who would shortly take over the lead Flash feature from Irv Novick.

4 thoughts on “BHOC: FLASH #266

  1. I always like “I unmasked them but i’ve no idea who it is!” twists — DC did it with Robin in a Silver Age story too.
    I love the idea that along with the Rogue’s Gallery having their own costume designer, there are enough crooks in need of therapy to support an underworld psychiatrist (though maybe he has a day job doing ordinary therapy on the side).
    The Bronze Age was good to Heat Wave. His bag of tricks in the Silver Age didn’t amount to more than having a small flamethrower. Bates got more creative with his heat-based gimmicks.
    I believe the Deadman story didn’t come out until Adventure Comics went dollar sized a few years later.

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  2. I loved this story when it first came out, though the conclusion was not as much satisfying, but still good. I liked the good background Heat Wave was given, beyond simply being the anti-Captain Cold,: you could sympathise with this fellow, and I was sorry when Bates quickly dismissed him some months later during the Yorkin’s rampage.
    Also, the story was quite solid and found a way to make this villain a conceivable menace to the speedster: the unmasking scene was very well done and made totally sense. Barry Allen is no millionaire, nor a TV anchorman, neither the best test pilot around. Is a “nobody”: an average smart guy with a good job and a normal family, who was given a great power and used it for good because is basically… a great guy! This was very peculiar of silver/bronze age Flash, and I never quite liked the dark twist the character background had since his resurrection (murdered mother, wrongly jailed father, etc.) . That was OK for any other hero, including Wally, but Barry Allen was just a good guy who liked to simply do the right thing, which ultimately led him to suffer a great loss and make the supreme sacrifice and become a great hero. You don’t always need to get your uncle killed, have your homeworld destroyed or your parents slayed to make the right choice!

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