This, for me, represents the nadir of the Julie Schwartz conundrum covers, at least up to this point. It is without doubt a beautifully rendered Gil Kane cover, but in every other respect and every other category of assessment, evaluation, critique and criticism, it’s a pretty sad case. The same wine has been spilled too many times, the boy has cried wolf once too often and Julie has played the same hand so often that this cover elicits little more than a yawn. It, along with the fact that I was busy teaching and learning the ropes on my new weekly comic panel, was one of the many reasons that The Flash pretty much dropped right of of my radar screen at this point in the run.
And the struggles continued inside. Robert Kanigher’s attempt to shape some kind of story from the cover is so silly that it can’t even be rescued by the excellent Gil Kane /Vince Colletta artwork. Contrived barely begins to cover it. In a nutshell: the Flash is grazed on his head by a bullet (which oddly never damages his uniform) by some crooks retrieving stolen loot hidden at a construction site which causes the Flash to act like a child. Some kids try a bunch of tricks to bring the Flash around but he remains stubbornly childish, even taking a nap at one point. The Flash then prays to God a la the cover and his powers return. So he captures the crooks and builds the kids a clubhouse. I rest my case.
True confession time: I really have a hard time separating Kanigher from his stories anymore after reading so many times about his cruel and vicious bullying of the sensitive and talented artist Mort Meskin among others. Normally, I’m a student of the “trust the art, not the artist” school of thinking, but somehow with Kanigher I’m unable to do that and I bring that baggage with me to every story of his that I read anymore. Maybe part of it is the fact that Kanigher’s contemptible behavior despoiled the golden realm that I imagined my artistic heroes inhabiting and forced upon me the sad realization that life beyond junior high school was still… you guessed it, junior high school. Which is no doubt why, in my approaching but not quite there yet comic strip, I would always inveigh against bullies and their ilk.
Okay, that took a bit of a turn… but on the brighter side, Mike Friedrich continues to prove himself a worthy acolyte of John Broom by turning in a delightfully Broom-like story featuring Zatanna the magician. In the Don Heck illustrated story, Zatanna disappears onstage and is sent back into the past where Friedrich basically reprises the princess and the frog story subbing a magical demon for the frog and a handsome knight for the prince along with a little help from the Flash. The Flash travels back to the past to help her by using his cosmic treadmill. I wonder what I would have thought if I had known back then that the cosmic treadmill would one day turn up as an homage prop in the Atomik Komix office in my approaching but not quite there yet comic strip.