Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Oddball Flash of 1968

FLASH #180 from 1968 has just GOT to be one of the most politically incorrect mainstream comic books of all time! The new artist team of Ross Andru and Mike Esposito pumped new life into the Scarlet Speedster following the nearly impossible act of Carmine Infantino in this first of two parts but oh, that writing! Frank Robbins, here making his DC debut, was already a veteran comic STRIP writer/artist (of the Caniff school) best known for his many years of JOHNNY HAZARD. Inventive and action-packed, his airplane themed continuities (reprinted by Ken Pierce years later) were quite enjoyable. He would later write some of the era’s best BATMAN stories. His art by that stage, unfortunately, always seemed to me to be quite frankly just horrid! On BATMAN, THE SHADOW and Marvel’s INVADERS I just wanted to scream at his bizarre anatomy or outlandish (and anachronistic) hairdos! Even his later HAZARDs as seen in THE MENOMONEE FALLS GAZETTE look like they were done by a highly stylized amateur. AAAARRRRGGHHH!!!
None of which prepares one for this outrageous FLASH story in which police scientist Barry Allen and his wife Iris, on vacation in the Far East, stop off to ask an old Japanese police friend about a still-at-large war criminal as a favor to "the Chief". Since the Chief of the Central City police probably doesn't care that much about him, my guess is that Barry's talking about the Doom Patrol's Chief! Makes sense! Anyway, the friend, Capt. Hash, has the stereotypical Japanese difficulty in pronouncing certain letters…so of course this is milked throughout the book for humiliating laughs at his expense! Even the villain is later revealed to have the same problem. Not so the hero’s girlfriend, however, who is said to have graduated from UCLA.
Barry and Iris also meet up with an Akira Kurosawa-like film director (known for his Samurai pictures) who knew Barry back at UCLA. (Him too?) The director refers to Barry as "Flash" only to have our hero whisper to his wife that this had been his nickname on some unspecified sports team back in school! Hmmm…Isn’t Central City supposed to be Chicago? Why was Barry Allen at UCLA? And wasn’t he a science geek known for being slow? Was the "Flash" moniker some sort of dig? And say, why didn’t Iris know about this nickname?
While the director is flirting shamelessly with Iris, Barry’s "Flash senses" kick in. WHAT TH…!??? Hey, Frank, just cuz Peter Parker has a Spider-sense doesn’t mean Barry Allen gets a "Flash-sense!" I’m serious.
A dead samauri is found and Hash demonstrates just how impervious to harm his armor is by firing into it with a .357 Magnum…point blank in a tiny room. Wonder where those bullets went?
Flash ends up fighting flying robot Samauris and a master swordsman before being taken prisoner until the following issue.
When Flash finally confronts the villain’s swordsman sidekick, though, the caption mentions that he is left with egg on his face. Somehow or other, Flasher SEES or hears that comment because…HE FREAKIN’ ANSWERS IT!!!!!! " No appetite for eggs now," he says.
Finally, check out the two seemingly random footnotes in the story’s final couple of panels. Welcome to DC Frank. Tomorrow we’ll have a few panels from part two of this story which, for eighteen years, was used at our house by my parents to keep a broken window jammed shut.


  1. Clearly Flash-instinct is the ability to perceive narrator captions. I believe this has something to do with his super-speed enabling him to vibrate through the fourth wall.

    And it turns out Central City is either in Ohio or Missouri.

  2. Anonymous10:53 AM

    You may know that those Flash samurai villains just made a reappearance in the Brave and the Bold?

  3. Anonymous4:47 PM

    Yeah, that Frank Robbins plotting
    and dialogue is pretty outrageous,
    but give editor Julius Schwartz some "credit" for approving this
    script and making sure it got produced and out to the newstands
    in a timely fashion. His editorial
    "blue pencil" must rolled under his desk that day!

    Sam Kujava

  4. Anonymous5:09 PM

    Oh this is hilarious! Man, love that Silver Age! :-)

  5. Anonymous6:05 PM

    Dude - are dissin' the phenomenal Frank Robbins?!? Granted, this "Frash" stuff is pretty abysmal, but YOW the Batman and Invaders and Shadow was COOL as anything: very stylised and unusual, didn't look like anyone else's art AT ALL. I always loved it! Seemed like he had been "working up" to these his whole career.

    Wotta joy looking back on the oddball entertainments of the past - that same weird feeling with these comics, as with, say, old time radio: "Did they actually think this way back then?!?"

    ...yes, they did...

    And having been through the 1980's, I know how important an impressive hairdo is...