As I mentioned in my last post, issue #267 of The Flash contained a small gem of a back-up story by Cary Bates that I liked so much that I wanted to give it a bit more air here. It’s titled “The Origin of the Flash’s Uniform” and it’s the kind of story that can easily go so wrong, but which in this case went so right. Instead of retconning the continuity with a silly story that some poor writer will have to re-retcon down the line, this explanation of the Flash’s uniform drops neatly into the canon creating not a ripple with the exception of an undercurrent that quietly flows back to the run’s early days.
Things kick off with Barry deciding that he needs a uniform to protect his identity. He settles on Iris West’s father as someone he can trust to get the job done. He reveals his secret that he’s the Flash to Professor West, shows him a sketch of what he wants, and the good professor agrees to make a uniform for him secret ring compartment and all. While they are meeting, we see some crooks casing the place so they can steal Professor West’s stamp collection. They decide to come back when the professor is alone.
Later, after Barry has already road tested the new duds as shown in Showcase #4, he gets a call from the professor saying that someone is breaking-in. During the call, one of the crooks pistol whips the professor into unconsciousness. When the Flash shows-up, he captures the crooks and then takes the comatose Professor West to the hospital. It turns out that the the concussion he received will going forward cause intermittent periods of absent-mindedness. Of course, he doesn’t recall that Barry is the Flash. So what writer Bates has done here is neatly provide a uniform origin story, keeping it within the family of characters, and couples that with the explanation for Professor West’s famous absent-mindedness. All in all a good days work of writing on Bate’s part. I certainly hope he rewarded himself that day with a nice pizza or something because he earned it.