In the second outing of his own book, The Flash and his readers are introduced to the Pied Piper. I was never much of a fan of this character and neither were too many other readers apparently because he was never destined to become one of the front line members of Flash’s rogues gallery. I think that a big reason for this is his costume which quite frankly is a little silly looking. He looks more like he should be entertaining at a kids birthday party rather than leading a gang of criminals. His story is frankly not the most inspired and we don’t even get the usual background build-up concerning who he is and where he came from. I think that for all of these reasons I just found him to be somewhat off putting not all that interesting. And I’m sure that his being on the cover is the reason I made one of the biggest mistakes of my twelve-year-old life! As mentioned on a previous Flash Friday, I didn’t climb on board and officially join the Silver Age until issue #115. But it could have happened a lot earlier because I actually stood in the Rexall Drugstore on Brown Street and held this book in my hands. I didn’t realize until years later when I encountered the book in an archive collection that I had actually leafed through it and decided that it wasn’t quite up to my standards. What a blunder! Not only did I miss getting inspired these characters and the art and writing a lot sooner, but I missed the first appearance of probably my favorite Flash villain of all time… Grodd the super gorilla.
Grodd was in the first issue I eventually did buy and I was so taken with him that I was green with envy when I saw in that story that I had missed his consecutive run in #106, #107 and #108. An amazing villain who was brought back in three consecutive issues to boot. That just wasn’t done in those days. Grodd obviously inspired the writer John Broome and it showed. The story also came with a super secret city of scientifically advanced gorillas located in the heart of Africa. For some reason, this concept was right in my twelve-year-old wheelhouse. I’d always been fascinated with the mystique and romance of the dark continent. A continent wherein existed a mountain with its base in the jungle and its snowy peak in the clouds. It’s no doubt why I wanted to one day climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and why I eventually did. Ramar of the jungle, Jungle Jim, Congo Bill, Sheena et al were heroes who fanned the flames of my imagination. I even created my own rip-off jungle hero in one of the comic strips I was always working on, an example of which can be seen in the intro to Vol. 2 of The Complete Funky Winkerbean.
The combination of super science and African lore was irresistible. And it apparently was to a lot of other discerning comic book readers because Flash editor Julie Schwartz would one day discover that a gorilla on the cover invariably seemed to sell more issues, and yet, the best character and best story in the book weren’t featured on the cover. Had they done that I’m more than sure I would have bough that book. If I had, I would have seen Grodd begin his plan of world conquest by trying to eliminate the Flash. I would have seen him clashing with the Flash and nearly succeeding before the Flash was able to run him to ground. I would have met the leader of Gorilla City, Solovar, and see Grodd steal the force-of-mind power from him. Solovar had been captured and had been playing dumb to avert suspicion and not give away the existence of Gorilla City. When Grodd steals his power, he seeks out the Flash, takes him to Gorilla City where with the Flash’s help Grodd is captured. There was something downright exciting about these characters and their secret civilization. It’d be clear why Grodd would endure while the Pied Piper would eventual be relegated to the abattoir of failed villains.