Welcome back Flash aficionados or as I like to think of you Flashionados. The subject of today’s Flash Friday is the Flash’s final tryout in Showcase No. 14, the cover of which shows the Flash leaping upward through the sands of an hourglass. Now I’ve often read that Julie Schwartz was the one more often than not who came up with the ideas for the covers. So I’m thinking that perhaps that was the case here. However it came about though, it created quite a pickle for the poor writer who was in this case Bob Kanigher. In order to work the hourglass into his story he had to somehow get us to believe that a scientifically advanced culture from another dimension was still using hourglasses… as cages no less. It calls for a suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader that borders on illegal. But I figure, if Kanigher was game, well, count me in too.
On the second page of Giants of the Time World!, in an opening triangular panel Infantino’s art is really beginning to shine aided and abetted by the inking of Frank Giacoia. The art is elegant as it shows Barry meeting up with Iris on the sidewalk. He’s a little late as usual and whosever idea it was to have them meet under a large clock deserves some retroactive kudos for the nice touch. We’re immediately treated to Kanigher’s reuse of observing the Flash’s speed from Barry/Flash’s POV. Again, it’s a beautiful way of showing what super speed would look like from the Flash’s perspective and I remain surprised that it is little used going forward. The main reason it won’t be used much is that this is Kanigher’s last Flash outing. He’s a fine writer but firmly wedded to the old school format that was DC Comics forte up to that point. Which means that each plot driven story has a certain stand-alone status without much reference to past events or character continuity. So you get things in this story like the fact that Iris West can suddenly pilot a fighter jet (like I said, borders on illegal) and the fact that the Flash somehow instinctively knows how to use his speed to reach other dimensions. Sure these stories are unsophisticated, but one of the things that attracted me to the Flash in the first place was they were just a tiny bit more sophisticated than the typical DC fare. The change was incremental and largely the purview of writer John Broome, but it was discernible to my twelve year old self, and distinct enough to lead me to think about how, as a writer myself, I might take these stories even a bit further. They opened doors in my thinking. To have a viable suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader, you need to start from a believable and recognizable base which this particular story lacks and why this formulaic type of comic book story was on its way to being relegated to the old school comic book story abbattoir. The time giants are disposable straw men who have the ridiculous ability to pass through a life cycle every hour. Why this would be considered a good thing still has me scratching my head. We will never ever see them again and, for me, it’s not nearly long enough. Oh, and the Flash rescues Iris from the giants (probably could have just waited and hour until they were all dead). Surprise.
The second story on the other hand, The Man Who Changed the Earth!, continues to build on the Flash mythos as Mr. Element returns albeit with a new name, Dr. Alchemy, and a new outfit. The idea of a recurring villain is nothing new to to the comic books, but here we’re not starting over from scratch. The previous story is referenced and the thread is picked up from there returning us to a world we understand and are familiar with and that’s a very important distinction. Again the villain’s background is fleshed out which allows us to invest in the character as well. The plot is the standard one where Dr. Alchemy outwits the Flash in the early encounters until the Flash finally outwits him in the end, but because of the aforementioned touches the result is somehow more satisfying and it leaves you wanting to know what is going to happen next with these characters. And what happens next is that the Flash finally gets his own book.