I love comics. I love superheroes. I have loved both for more than 30 years and have amassed a fair sized collection of comic books and collectibles over the years. Yes, I’m a grown man, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still be a fan, collector, or aficionado of both the medium and its most popular format. It used to irk me when people made fun of me for being a collector – as if being into comics and toys stunted my growth or made me less of a man. Well, as the years went on I’m still a fan of comics and superheroes and toys; I still have the items I grew up with and I still appreciate them with much fondness. I can’t say the same for all of those naysayers. They are a fading memory.
Thru the years (I shouldn’t have said that now I have that Kenny Rogers song stuck in my head), as my tastes changed or evolved, I would have a favorite character. I like many comic book characters, superheroes or not, but in this posting I would like to discuss my favorite characters — I’ll describe a little bit about their history and origins, appearances in other mediums, and pinpoint the defining moment in the character’s rich history that made me their…Super-Fan!
In the land of DC Comics, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman have traditionally been the company’s heavyweights…their icons…their money makers…their most recognizable properties. But their pantheon of characters is vast, and The Flash is one of the upper echelon. The Scarlet Speedster, the Crimson Comet, or Fleet Feet whatever you want to call him, the Flash is an important — central — and key figure in the DC Universe Mythology. My first exposure to the character was in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when he appeared in the Hanna Barbera cartoon Challenge of the Superfriends.
A few years later, in 1984, the Flash was the third figure that I purchased in my Kenner Toys Super Powers action figure collection. He had a cool power action mechanism where you would squeeze his arms and his legs would move in a running motion. The action figure also beautifully displayed the Flash’s sleek and iconic look designed by the late great comic book legend Carmine Infantino. Although I love the design of the character, and appreciated his super speed power set — these items were not the defining moments that made me a Super-Fan (we’ll get to that in a bit).
There have been several characters that have brandished the Flash moniker over the years. The original Flash was created in 1940 for National Periodicals sister company All American Publications (they all merged and became what we know today as DC Comics) by Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert in Flash Comics #1. This speedster was named Jay Garrick and his exploits ran throughout the 1940s to 1951 — he then disappeared from publication for almost 10 years.
In 1955, in an attempt to revitalize a dying comic book industry, DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz hoped to reignite superhero comics and so tasked artists Carmine Infantino and Robert Kanigher to create a new Flash character in the pages of the fourth issue of a relatively new showcase book aptly titled Showcase. The issue debuted in 1956 and this new Flash had a sleeker look, and an origin and power set far more suited for the atomic age of the 1950s. As Jay Garrick was a star athlete who got doused with experimental “hard water” that gave him his speedy powers (lame-o origin) — Barry Allen (the new Flash) was a Police Forensics Office who was struck by lightning that also struck the shelf Allen was standing in front of. The mixed cocktail of chemicals on the shelf and the lightning mysteriously altered Allen’s physiology and granted incredible super speed powers! The character was a hit, and soon other forgotten stalwarts from the 1940s were being reimagined as well; such as the Green Lantern, Hawkman, and the Atom — all of whom transitioning from their previous mythical origins to ones more steeped in science. Very quickly a new age…a Silver Age…of comics was born and growing as fast as the Flash could run.
In brief, the Flash was given his own title (essentially Flash # 105; right where Jay Garrick’s character had left off a few years prior), he became a longstanding founding member of DC Comics title book, the Justice League of America, and he amassed a colorful collective of villainous rogues to contend with — like Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Heatwave, Weather Wizard, and Captain Boomerang along with countless others. In 1961, in Flash #123, Barry Allen crossed thru a dimensional barrier to an alternate version of the Earth where he met the previous Flash — Jay Garrick! This meeting established a precedent of alternate universes — a Multiverse — that became countless over the following 25 years.
In 1985, as part of celebrating their 50th year, DC Comics launched the game-changing maxi-series Crisis on Infinite Earths. The series was an important attempt at streamlining and cleaning up the DC Comics Universe. It was intended to do away with multiple Earths, inconsistencies due to 25+ years of conintuity errors, and to trim the fat on redundant characters (like Supergirl).
MY DEFINING FLASH MOMENT – WHEN I FELL IN LOVE WITH THE CHARACTER
Ironically, the moment I really started to love the character is the precise moment that DC Comics killed him off. In Crisis #8. The Flash travels faster
than the speed of light to reverse the Anti-Monitor’s anti-matter wave cannon. He destroys it but pays the ultimate price to do so! I’ve been a fan ever since and was incredibly excited when he returned 20+ years later in Final Crisis!