My regular 7-11 still wasn’t getting copies of THE FLASH, so I wound up keeping up with the title by running across them in other further-off locations, during family shopping trips and the like. And so, I came across this particular issue at a distant 7-11 that was across the street from the fast food restaurant at which we had lunch that day. I want to say that it was a Jack In The Box, but I’m not 100% certain of that fact. Either way, it kept my run complete–for a little while longer, at least. For all that it had been supplanted by FANTASTIC FOUR and the more electrifying Marvel books that I’d begun following, I still had an abiding love for both the character and the series.
This issue, the second part of a two-part story, was of special interest to me in that it made a small change in the status quo and then kept it that way, rather than reverting things back as so often happened in the DC books of this period. So it seems as though writer Cary Bates and editor Julie Schwartz were beginning to look to shake things up, at least a little bit. As usual, the artwork was provided by Irv Novick, a longtime professional whose pencils defined the character for me as a kid. This reliable combination of talent had produced every issue of THE FLASH that I had bought new, all the way back to my earliest ones. They were as reliable as the seasons. I always knew what I would be getting on some level when a new issue of THE FLASH dropped.
Last time out, we learned about how Heat Wave’s analyst was treating his psychological aversion to cold. Accordingly, by using frigid temperatures, Heat Wave was at last able to triumph over his speedy foe, the Flash. he wasted no time in doing what villains for years hadn’t bothered with: unmasking Barry Allen. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t recognize Barry’s face–he still had no idea who the Flash really was. But undaunted, he placed the Scarlet Speedster into a deathtrap that would freeze him solid, the opposite of Heat Wave’s usual M.O. By the time that Barry had some around enough this issue to do anything about it, he was paralyzed and almost frozen solid. But by shooting off molecules from his body in a sort of nonsensical manner, the quick-thinking scientist was able to set up a chain reaction that shattered the lab and the pod that he was in, allowing the Flash to extricate himself and restore his normal temperature.
Not sure where his foe has gone off to, and needing some time to recover, Barry speeds back to the Allen household for a night’s rest and some recuperation with his wife Iris. At this point, the story sets up a subplot that immediately caught my attention, one that would become the main plot next month. Barry’s next door neighbor Barney, who had been introduced some months earlier as a would-be comic book artist, stops by. Iris turns the kid away, but that doesn’t stop him from spying through the room of the Allens’ den. And what he discovers is something that had been a minor background element since the very first Barry Allen story: he was a comic book collector! This is the sort of self-referential element that I would frown on today, but at the time I loved this–it made my hero closer to me in some way. Anyway, after sorting some back issues whose sale today could have paid for his house, Barry is ready to suit up once more as the Flash and bring Heat Wave to justice.
A brief pause here for this house ad showing off upcoming issues of both ADVENTURE COMICS and JUSTICE LEAGUEOF AMERICA. I’d never see ADVENTURE, but I did wind up buying JLA as usual. But the important thing here, concealed within the reproduction of the JLA cover, is that the cover price area has been left blank. This was the first indication that possibly not everything was going hunky-dory with the DC Explosion–by the time this book hit the stands, its cover price had been reduced from 50 cents to 40, and its size scaled back. But we’ll talk about the DC Implosion a bit further once we get there. But for those who need some immediate background, there’s a bit of a write-up here:
As the Flash sets off, though, he finds that he’s suffering from a side-effect of Heat Wave’s freezing and his own method of escape. Namely, that his body is turning into a blob of energy every time he accelerates. This doesn’t prove to be much of an impediment in stopping Heat Wave, and right as the story begins to wrap up, one of Heat Wave’s attempts to kill the Flash with super-hot temperatures rights his metabolism and turns him back into the Scarlet Speedster we all know. The whole thing feels like an unnecessary complication devised to prevent the Flash from kayoing Heat Wave pages earlier. As I mentioned at the start, while Mick Rory does wind up going to jail for his crimes, he still knows what the Flash’s real face looks like. So that becomes a lingering background element, a sword of Damocles hanging over the Flash’s head every time he and Heat Wave come into conflict in the future.
This issue wound up being more hugely important to me than I could have imagined or that I realized at the time. The weekly Daily Planet page, where Bob Rozakis plugged upcoming issues and answered fan questions, had added a new feature: a short comic strip produced by fan cartoonist Fred Hembeck. Over the course of the next couple of years, I would become a massive fan of Hembeck’s work, in particular his strip that ran in the Comics’ Buyers’ Guide, DATELINE @#$%. Mind you, I wasn’t receiving the Buyer’s Guide at this point, so I encountered those strips in collected form in a number of magazine collections released by FantaCo some time later. Which we’ll get to. But apart from a fan letter that ran in IRON MAN #112 some months earlier, this was my first encounter with Hembeck’s work.
The back-up story didn’t feature Kid Flash as the previous two issues had, but rather ran another short Flash story written by Cary Bates and illustrated in this case by Alex Saviuk. It was a flashback tale that revealed just how, upon gaining his super-speed and deciding to fight crime, Barry Allen came to possess his frictionproof uniform and costume ring. I may be overthinking things here, but I wonder if this story may not have been run instead of a Kid Flash story because the Kif Flash tale that had been planned was a two-parter, and editor Schwartz had become aware of the impending change to the format and realized there’d be noplace to run the second half. But that’s just speculation on my part. This story does feel like the sort of thing that had been intended for some other use, and which was repurposed here.
In order to craft the uniform he needs, Barry turns to his future father-in-law Professor Ira West and reveals his secret to the scientist. West is able to help Barry out, but he’s thereafter accosted by thieves who are after his rare and valuable stamp collection (!!!). The Flash rescues the old man and takes care of the burglars, but Professor West suffers a concussion in the process. His doctors indicate that this is likely to cause some absent-mindedness in the future–and indeed, when he was first introduced, absent-mindedness was the character’s primary characterization. He’s also got a spot of amnesia, so he doesn’t remember that Barry is the Flash or that he was the one that made the scarlet costume. So it’s a nice enough tale, albeit one that answers a question that I can’t imagine many readers were worrying about. The next issue spot on the final page indicates that Kid Flash will return next issue, so my speculation about this story’s original destination may be off-base.
The Flash-Grams letters page this time out includes a missive from Robin Snyder, who would go on to work for Archie/Red Circle and more notably would publish both the long-running fanzine THE COMICS dedicated to obscure comic book history as well as a wide line of creator-owned works by Steve Ditko. Here, he suggests getting covers for THE FLASH from Steve Ditko, Russ Heath, Mike Kaluta, Joe Kubert, Jim Starlin and Bernie Wrightson, which gives a strong sense of his artistic tastes at this moment.
6 thoughts on “BHOC: THE FLASH #267”
“This is the sort of self-referential element that I would frown on today, but at the time I loved this–it made my hero closer to me in some way.” Maybe there are readers today, The same age or close to your age back then, that would also like this connection. I liked that Grant Morrisson kept comics as links to the multiple Earths. It was used on a lager scale in Grant’s “Multiversity”.
I miss “Adventure Comics”. I’d like to see a monthly home for several DC’s currently dormant characters. Rotating features. Rather than take a chance on full issue miniseries. Plastic-Man.
Vixen. Black Lightning. The Demon. The Creeper. Black Orchid. Metamorpho. Ryan Choi’s Atom. J’onn Jonnz. New, modern, diverse versions of Starman or Captain Comet. The “Dawn of DC” is leaving them out. Instead giving readers additional versions of their “Big 7” characters. Similarly for a “Marvel Comics Presents”. Gauge the reader responses there, spin off characters into any slo outings as appropriate. You guys are also putting out more “character family” books.
I loved Bates and Novick as well. Novick with Aparo and Newton were my Batman guys as well as Novick being THE Flash artist.
While in general it hardly seems very helpful to know Flash is some random guy with blond hair (Central City is not a small village), I just realized Heat Wave actually has a good reason to have seen Barry Allen in person. Barry’s a police scientist – he’s likely testified in court about some aspect of HW’s crimes. It’s reasonable that HW knows he’s seen that guy before, but maybe it was months ago and he doesn’t remember exactly where or when (e.g. he wasn’t paying much attention to the boring expert witness droning on about energy signatures or kinetic residue).
Otherwise, the obvious thing to do is to try to hoax Heat Wave that the random blond guy lives in a mansion on the outskirts of the city, and set up a trap Flash Cave.
There’s a 1980s Green Arrow story where a business rival who’s bought up Ollie’s old mansion informs Ollie he knows his identity: a cave under the mansion, docks for a boat, a plane and a car, and it’s not that far from Gotham City — right, Batman?
“This is the sort of self-referential element that I would frown on today, but at the time I loved this–it made my hero closer to me in some way.”
Whereas if I had written or edited FLASH in the 80s, I would have seized on this to make it a regular element, a part of Barry’s personality to build around and make him less of a stiff and more appealing to comics readers of the time. After all, it was canon that that’s where he got his name, so why not roll with it? He didn’t have to collect _only_ GA FLASH, but making him a collector (of comics and perhaps other things) could have led him into situations that would be familiar to readers, like the weekly trip to Central City Comics or the search for the elusive issue of something, and to interact with supporting characters (FLASH badly needed more of a cast), and so forth.
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Hembeck was a delight. I’d never seen anything like him before (nor really since). I was just discussing elsewhere his contributions to a humor issue of What If such as “What if Peter Parker’s Uncle … Were Odin?”