Posts Tagged ‘the Flash’
Before I tell you about my favorite Speedster, you need to know about Quality Comics. Quality was a publishing house created in 1939 to capitalize on the massive popularity of comics at the time. Seventeen years later, people discovered how awesome television was and Quality, without a wildly popular character like Superman to keep it afloat, started circling the drain. Sensing a totally awesome deal, National Allied Publications (later known as DC Comics) swooped in and bought out Quality, earning the right to do whatever they wanted with characters like Plastic Man, Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters, the Blackhawks, and, my favorite Speedster, the underrated Quicksilver (name later changed to Max Mercury to avoid confusion with Marvel’s mutant speedster). Unfortunately for Max, it took DC almost 33 years to let him make an appearance in official continuity.
As for Max Mercury’s fictional history, it’s a bit vague before the acquisition. Max’s debut issue, November 1940’s National Comics #5 by the legendary Jack Cole (which, by God, I will one day own), didn’t lay out much except that Quicksilver’s real name was Max and that he was crazy fucking fast.When DC started playing with the old Quality characters in the 1970s, they gave them their own Earth-X to fight Nazis on. Then Crisis on Infinite Earths smashed Earth-X & Earth-One together, ret-conning the DCU timeline to imply that the Quality characters had been hobnobbing with DC this whole time. Mark Waid was able to use this to his advantage, bringing Max back in May 1993’s Flash Vol. 2 #76 to help out fellow Golden Age characters Jay Garrick and Johnny Quick fight the then-presumed dead Professor Zoom disguised as a then-presumed dead Barry Allen.
Waid gave Max a fuller backstory to replace Quality’s slapdash “look! he runs fast!” . According to January 1995’s Flash Vol. 2 #97, Max Crandall was a messenger for the US Calvary in 1838. He was buddies with the local Blackfoot tribe, but his douchebag fort commander (believing that “the only good Indian was a dead Indian”) issued a bounty on the entire tribe. Max later stumbled upon a bunch of dead ambushed Blackfoot Indians and one dying shaman. Having learned of a second ambush, the dying shaman painted a lightning bolt on Max’s chest and gave a little incantation, turning him into Ahwehota (known to the white folk as Windrunner) and asking him to prevent the massacre, which he did single-handedly. A couple years later, Max had honed his skills as a speedster and began hearing “a strange beckoning.” Upon chasing it, Max inadvertently hit terminal velocity and smashed into the Speed Force, amping up his own powers but transporting him forward in time to 1891. Time and time again he tried to reconnect with the Speed Force, and each time he was propelled a few more decades into the future, assuming new names and identities along the way including Blue Streak, Quicksilver, and finally, Max Mercury.
After finally making his Modern Age debut, Max used zen philosophy and his sped-up century of experience to teach Wally West new ways to improve his abilities. Max was even the first to tell Wally about the Speed Force (although quite vaguely) in Flash Vol. 2 #91. One issue later, Bart Allen arrived and Max Mercury was there to take him under his wing, attempting to teach a kid with the polar opposite of his own temperament how to be a decent speedster. Eventually Max learned that he had an estranged daughter named Helen in Manchester, Alabama (the product of a tryst he’d had in 1948 with a friend’s wife). He and Bart moved down South, stalked Helen (who sort of fell in love with Max which is hilariously gross), and trained like crazy. Later, in September 2002’s Impulse #88, a Golden Age Jay Garrick villain named Rival possessed the body of Max Mercury and battled the speedsters, eventually escaping into the Speed Force, trapping Max within. He didn’t appear again until Infinite Crisis #4, when he helped Johnny Quick and Bart Allen fling Superboy-Prime far away (from the confines of the Speed Force). Finally, in September 2009’s Flash: Rebirth #4, the resurrected Barry Allen dragged Max Mercury out of the Speed Force with him, back into the world of the living.
That’s why I love Max Mercury. Most people haven’t even heard of him (or they see him in the newer Flash-related titles and wonder who the hell he is) and yet he’s so integral to the mythos of all things speedster in the DCU. I mean, yeah, Max Mercury would never be able to carry his own title, but where would the Flashes be without Max’s wisdom and guidance? Probably all dead. So there’s that.
In San Diego, Geoff Johns mentioned we’d be seeing a new speedster. For two months I went on and on to anyone who’d listen about how the new speedster had better be a girl, and how come we don’t really have a girl speedster?, and HEY! SHOULDN’T THE NEW SPEEDSTER BE A GIRL?!
Two months later, at Long Beach Comic Con, I poked my hand in the air and asked:
“So, the new speedster you mentioned in San Diego, any chance it will be, you know, NOT a boy?”
Johns leaned into his mike.
“Definitely a girl.”
Or something like that, I was too busy spazzing out. But here we are. Flash: Rebirth #5 has finally made it’s way to the shelves.
Wally got a new costume. Whatever. Little Irey’s the new Impulse! Liberty Belle seems to be embracing her speedster roots!
Rob and I have been discussing the various DC “families” quite a bit lately. The Batman family is the most diverse, gender-wise (Barbara, Kate, Stephanie, Selena, Renee, Helena, and I’m sure Cass will show up again one of these days.) Superman’s got, um, Kara. The Green Lantern Corps has thousands of female members, but as far as the 2814 family goes it’s pretty much just Carol. Wonder Woman doesn’t really have a “family” in the sense that the other four do, and until recently the Flash Family women were just the wifeys. Joan, Iris, and Linda are some of the best written wives in comics, but speedsters they are not.
Still, you can’t just go creating female characters for the sake of having female characters. Part of the fun of Marvel and DC Universes is the rich history, the Big Picture that all these little stories are told against. Any new hero, male or female, needs to feel organic – there’s got to be a reason for them to exist. Thanks to Tim Burton, Batman: The Animated Series, and now Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, the Dark Knight has been the most popular DC character of the past few decades by a big long shot. Subsequently, the Bat family universe has grown by leaps and bound since the eighties.
Superman and Wonder Woman? Not so much. Yes there’s Connor and Krypto and Kara (and Karen? sort of.), and Cassie and Donna, but when you compare these relatively small posses to the massive Bat-family, the Green Lantern Corps, or the ever expanding Flash Family, Kal-El and Diana don’t have too many mini-mes. Those two are the platonic Zeus and Hera of the DCU, to replicate them too many times would negate their entire mythologies.
I’d certainly like to see fewer derivative female heroes in comics, but we need more women saving the world, period. They’re more likely to stick around if they’ve got a real place in the Universe, which is why the Bat-family women have managed to not only remain integral to Gotham, but to the DCU as a whole, even carrying their own titles. Bringing in more female heroes by using the existing hero families as a jumping off point is the easiest way to get more women into comics and keep them there, on the page and in real life.
But here’s why Irey’s a big deal. Jay was your grandad’s Flash. Barry was dad’s. Wally was ours. If the tradition continues, Iris West just might be The Flash to my kids. Now that’d be something.
When it comes to Barry Allen and his Silver Age stories, I notice a running theme (pun so totally intended): up until the last page or two, he has the absolute shittiest luck ever. It doesn’t matter who he fights, he always ends up knocked out, stranded, incarcerated, and/or pretty much powerless until he either remembers that he can vibrate through anything or that comic book chemistry can fix everything ever. Even when teamed up with somebody as legendary as Batman against somebody as dumb as Bork (as is the case in January 1969’s Brave and the Bold #81), he still manages to just get the shaft over and over again.
Our story begins at the Gotham City docks where street thug Carl Bork has been spotted trying to steal cargo from a ship. The captain must be crazy forgiving, because all he does is shoo Bork away. As he sulks away from the failed heist, Bork walks straight into the path of an oncoming truck and is creamed at full speed! But instead of dying like us normal folks, Bork just gets up and realizes that he is both now invincible and only able to talk in the third person (oh, that’s not going to be annoying)! He decides to try out his new found power by robbing a diner’s register. The cops show up and immediately try to shoot him in the leg (Gotham cops don’t have time to fuck around), but the bullet just bounces off!
Meanwhile, Barry Allen is getting a tour of Gotham’s police lab by Batman and Commissioner Gordon when they hear the call over the radio: there’s a “rumble” at the docks! Barry and Gordon carpool to the scene while Batman “flits” and beats them there, just in time to see a lone Bork challenging Milo Manning and his gang. Milo takes a swing at the invincible Bork, who survives getting hit with a forklift and pretty much just claims Milo’s gang as his own. Batman realizes that Bork is invulnerable and, for whatever reason, decides that his fist can do what a forklift couldn’t. Yeah, it can’t. Bork shouts his catchphrase, “You can’t hurt Bork but Bork can hurt you,” and then takes out a bunch of cops and hands Batman his own ass, just in time for Barry and Gordon to show up. Bork then announces that he’s taking over Gotham and there ain’t shit they can do about it. By the way, that annoying catchphrase? Yeah, Bork says it four times within the first seven pages (five if you count the cover).
A couple of hours later, Bork has practically the entire Gotham underworld under his control and has announced his demands to the Gotham City Hall. They have 24 hours to kick Batman out of town, give over half of the city counsel seats to his goons, and give him areas of the city that cops can’t touch. If not, there’s gonna be a riot! Batman decides that Bork must have gotten his invincibility at some point during his never before mention travels all over the world and asks Barry to suit up and figure out the where and how of it all. As the Flash, Barry gets the manifests to all of Bork’s destinations and discovers that he’s been all over the damn place, including a small unnamed African nation where he impoverished all of the citizens (somehow). And as luck would have it, their president has sent some commandos to Gotham to apprehend him! Simultaneously, those same commandos open fire on Bork but the bullets just bounce off! Batman shows up and everybody runs away.
During his investigation, Flash discovers that Bork was once shipwrecked on Desolation Island where the natives carved a magical sculpture of him. Oh, man, Barry is having some awesome luck! All he has to do is destroy the sculpture! He races to the island and finds the Bork statue on top of a volcano. Sweet! What could go wrong? Well, just then the volcano erupts and the whole island fucking explodes. The Flash and the statue are thrown into the air where is hit in the head with a lava rock and passes out. He lands on a big piece of driftwood while the statue gets caught in a current and is picked up by some “grizzled adventurer” in a sailboat. While Barry tries to follow the current, the adventurer gets caught in a storm miles away and the statue falls overboard. Just as the Flash finally finds it again, a tiger shark starts trying to eat it. Barry jumpkicks the shark (yeah, that’s kinda awesome), grabs the statue, and starts banging it against rocks. When that doesn’t do anything, he ties it to his back and starts running at the speed of light, trying to use friction to burn the Bork statue. He goes fast enough to end up both in the future and a different dimension, but that damn statue is still in one piece. When he’s about to give up, he decides, “Fuck it, I’m gonna shoot it with a laser.” It doesn’t do much, but it kiiiiinda burns a spot on the hand of the statue. Kiiiiinda success!
Meanwhile, Batman and Gordon confront City Hall, who are ready to give in to Bork’s demands. Batman says that Bork is just like Hitler (for some reason) and he and Gordon storm out. Apparently there are some panels missing, because the next thing you know, Batman is throwing Bork into a paddywagon while reminding him that invulnerability doesn’t mean that a jail cell can’t hold him. I, the reader, then think to myself, “Actually, it kinda does. I mean, couldn’t he just punch the wall a bunch of times until he knocks a hole in it?” One page later, Bork punches the wall a bunch of times until he knocks a hole in it. The African commandos catch up with Bork and decide that a blowgun will be able to do what machine guns couldn’t. The dart just happens to hit the same spot on his hand as the laser hit on the statue and it works. What are the odds!
Barry decides that the only way to destroy the statue is by throwing it into the sun (you know, the same way every fictional character has destroyed every fictional dangerous object ever). He straps it to his back, runs up a ramp, and vibrates through the sun with the statue, burning it to a crisp. At that exact moment, Batman punches Bork in the jaw, knocking his ass out. In the end, they send him to Africa to stand trial for being a douchebag and dicking over an entire country.
Final verdict? Barry Allen needs to get a fucking desk job and Bork needs to shut the hell up.
Finally, modern age comics are taking a cue from some of my favorite late-Silver Age books and are plugging in some secondary co-features. The Flash Vol. 1 #206 features a completely fucking absurd pair of stories: Barry Allen in “24 Hours of Immortality” and a bizarre seven-page Elongated Man co-feature entitled “Showdown in Elongated Town!” Well, hell, if the book comes with two stories for the price of one, it looks like you’re gonna get two recaps, too! Lucky, lucky you!
24 Hours of Immortality: Our main story starts out with Susan Logan, an aviatrix (which I’m assuming is a cross between an aviator and a dominatrix) and her son, Timmy, soaring amongst the clouds. She tells him in explicit detail about the Sky Devils Circus aerial stunt contest she’s entered to win his college tuition, to which he replies by reminding her that her husband is dead. Heartwarming!
In the next panel, neurosurgeon William Kandel and his wife, Sylvia, are cruising around in their convertible, talking about how some professor is both on the verge of developing a cure for cancer and dying of some unnamed something or other. Fortunately, Dr. Kandel is ready and able to perform the life saving surgery. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, for starters, how about Susan the Aviatrix crashing her plane straight into William’s car? Because that’s totally what happens. Both Sylvia and Timmy are killed in the flaming wreckage, leaving William and Susan to weep over the corpses of their beloved family members. But don’t worry, it’s totally cool, because THERE ARE ALWAYS ALIENS.
Enter the ghostly-looking Duus and Unuus, two aliens who claim to be “countless light-years advanced” over us (because how advanced your society is is measured by distance) and sent by the Astra-Counsil (dibs on the band name) to study humans under extreme stress. Since ghost-aliens are totally all-powerful and stuff, they decide to bring Sylvia and Timmy back to life on one condition: in 24 hours, Susan and William will die! William agrees to the deal and, since he’s a man, Susan automatically agrees too, even though she didn’t actually say anything. The aliens raise the dead, repair the plane and car, and say, “Oh, yeah, you’re also immortal for those 24 hours. Later!”
Immediately, William is back behind the wheel of the car, determined to save that professor’s life before his time is up. Unfortunately, he’s the unluckiest son of a bitch ever, and he drives right into the middle of a high-speed firefight between a bunch of convicts and cops. The Flash runs up just in time to watch William catch two slugs in the chest. Barry vibrates the front tires off of the convicts’ truck and uses his “ultra-vibrations” (kinky) to hurl them at the escaping convicts. He goes to check up on the totally not dead Dr. Kandel, who tells him the story of the aliens, right down to the same details Susan told Timmy in the plane (because Dr. William Kandel is everywhere all the time). He finishes by mentioning the professor’s impending surgery and asks the Flash to get them to the hospital. On the way, William mentions that the surgery takes ten hours and he only has 24 hours to live and he wants to spend time with his wife and his staff is only human and he wishes he had some way to “speed up their movements” and blah blah blah. Solution?
The surgery is a success and the Flash runs off to check out “the other human whom nothing can kill — for a day!” Instead of finding her, he finds a massive forest fire surrounding the airfield where the Sky Devils Circus contest is supposed to take place, threatening to shut it down! Poor Susan watches from her plane and worries whether she’ll ever get her son’s college tuition.
Thank god the Flash shows up. He simultaneously puts out the fire by running around it and lectures us about how fucking evil and apathetic people who smoke cigarettes are. He then runs up the smoke (what?) and pushes the plane the rest of the way to the contest. To make a long, stupid story short, Susan wins the contest by jumping out of her plane and landing on her feet, totally unharmed. Nobody questions how she pulled that off. She wins Timmy’s college money.
The next day, Barry, Susan, and Dr. Kandel all meet up where the aliens granted the day of immortality and, guess what, the aliens show up with guns, ready to kill the pair. The Flash trots out the whole cliche “you gotta get through me first” thing and the aliens open fire on him with a bunch of different space lasers, all of which he just vibrates through. Then the story ends in the most boring way possible. The aliens just go, “Man, fuck this. We’re going home.”
Here’s my question, though. If Susan and Dr. Kandel knew the aliens were planning to killthem, couldn’t they have just, you know, not shown up for the rendezvous? I mean, the aliens gave up pretty fucking fast in the end anyways. I’m pretty sure they’d have just gone, “Aw man, they totally stood us up. The Astra-Counsil is gonna be pissed!” Whatever.
Showdown in Elongated Town: This ridiculously short story starts out with Ralph Dibny running through an Old Western ghost town, suddenly realizing that he has no idea what the fuck he’s doing in an Old Western ghost town. The weird(er) thing is, the entire town looks like it’s being reflected in “a fun-house mirror” (hint, hint). Before he can think about what’s going on, his nose starts twitching and he’s confronted by a stretchy distorted looking cowboy-type.
After yelling that “the town can’t stetch enough fer the both of us,” the cowboy pulls out a revolver with a tiny mirror on top (hint, freaking, hint) and shoots a light beam at Ralph. Unfortunately, when Ralph dodges the laser beam, he bonks his head and allows the cowboy to switch places with a dummy, getting away. always the detective, Ralph pulls the dummy close to his face and realizes that only stuff far away from him looks all funky.
As soon as he comes to this conclusion, he finds himself trapped between a stampede of bulls and a rattlesnake! He quickly realizes that the bulls and snake are holograms (HINT, HINT, RALPH) and he ducks into a hotel window. Hidden from view, he POPS HIS EYES OUT OF HIS SKULL and realizes that somebody stuck funky shaped contact lenses on his eyes while he was spaced out. He grabs a rifle off of the wall and figures out who the cowboy really is, Mirror Master!
The Mirror Master tells Ralph that his plan was to use Ralph Dibny as a practice fight, kill him, and use his corpse to lure the Flash into a trap. But as we all know, you can’t kill a Dibny! Ralph packs himself into the rifle and shoots himself at Mirror Master’s dick, knocking him unconscious. The story (abruptly) ends in the ghost town’s Sherrif’s office, where Ralph discovers a “mirror-mesmerizing gizmo” and a bunch of old movie posters. The last panel is just Ralph staring at a passed out Mirror Master. Creepy!
So, this is old as all get out and prooobably something you’ve already noticed and/or known about forever (especially if your name happens to be Kelson) but I don’t care. I just noticed this and it made me way, way happier than it probably should have.
First, we have the cover to John Broome’s the Flash Vol. 1 #105 from March 1959, Barry Allen’s first ever solo title and the the first appearance of Sam Scudder as the Mirror Master (which I will totally one day actually own).
All right, now let’s take a look at the cover to Mark Waid and Michael Jan Friedman’s the Flash Vol. 2 #105 from September 1995, in which Wally West helps out, gets tricked by, and fights second Mirror Master, Evan McCulloch.
Oh, man. That’s one of the funniest tributes to a past cover I’ve ever seen. Awesome!
The absolute best thing about the new Long Beach Comic Con was the MASSIVE artist’s alley, which took up most of the exhibition floor. We picked up a couple of little sketchbooks and went ’round collecting cool sketches from artists we like – some big names, some little ones. Check ’em out (and click to enlarge)!