Ok, so where was I? Oh, yeah… I was waxing nostalgic about the importance of comic books and their crucial role in helping you maintain your sanity during those long school’s out for summer vacations. So comic books in the summer were life savers, but there was an added bonus that the summer season brought. Summer annuals. The square bound summer annuals of yore were bigger oversized books featuring reprint stories of the various superheroes. They usually dipped back far enough so that the majority of the stories were new to you. It was a great chance to finally see stories that you’d only read about in the letter cols. The spotty distribution back then meant that you rarely saw every issue of a book unless you had the wherewithal to canvas every drugstore and supermarket spinner rack in the tri-state area. Sometimes the annuals would even reprint a story from the Golden Age of comics which took place shortly after the dinosaurs split. The summer annuals were time machines that offered you a look back at a plethora of comic books from a bygone era. A book like that could help you fend off large chunks of summer ennui.
Which brings us back to The Flash issue # 229. Although technically not an annual, this over-sized square bound package appearing back in the summer of ’74 like it did, it pretty much served the same purpose. The real purpose of these 100 page books, of course, was for DC Comics to be able to put out a book filled with art that they had already paid for and charge you three times the going rate for the privilege of owning it. This issue did contain one new story, and an old Flash/new Flash crossover at that. It features a Golden Age villain called Rag Doll who is giving the Earth Two Flash Jay Garrick fits to the point that he’s considering retirement. Jay’s wife Joan reaches out to Barry Allen for help. Barry helps Jay figure out that the Rag Doll’s actions are being controlled by another Golden Age villain, the Thinker who both Flashes then proceed to dispatch.
Along with that story, the book includes a Green Lantern reprint story, a Flash reprint, a Kid Flash reprint as well as aGolden Age story of the Flash and a brace of Johnny Quick tales. The latter yarns are illustrated by the inestimable Mort Meskin and make the book’s price worth it all by themselves. My only quibble with any of these reprint choices is that it would have been fun if the editor had taken the time to find a story featuring either the Rag Doll or the Thinker. I mean, come on, how hard would that have been? The art in the Golden Age Flash story is by Carmine Infantino and is a fascinating snapshot of the road he would travel on his way to his Silver Age immortality.