Mysteries of the Human Thunderbolt

In a previous post, I talked about the 1970s DC series Wanted which featured super-villains of the Golden and Silver Ages. If there had been a 100-page  Super-Spectacular for that title, I think most fans would have welcomed a Justice Society adventure. Although it would be reprinted in the 80s, I would’ve liked to see “The Day That Dropped out of Time”, which introduced Per Degaton, the time-travelling would-be dictator.

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I might established a super-team theme and include an exploit of the Challengers of the Unknown and one for the Doom Patrol (one of the earliest images I ever saw of the DP and one which made an impact)

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JSA-foe Degaton was created by John Broome, whose revival of the Flash not only revitalised the moribund super-hero  genre, it also generated a bevy of memorable and original super-villains.

I have only rarely followed the Flash: in the early 80s, when Infantino returned to the comic and Perez provided a Firestorm back-up; and in the late 90s, when Grant Morrison and Mark Mllar wrote the title.

In many ways, Flash was DC’s Spider-Man: a scientific crime-buster with a vivid rogues gallery. The major difference was the absence of Ditko and Stan’s neurotic tone; Barry Allen is an aspirational, middle class American male, at ease in the Kennedy era.

I’ve picked up a trio of Flash 80-page Giants from the Sixties over the last couple of months and thought I might review them here. The first and oldest- Flash 160 from April 1966- proved to be quite entertaining:

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 The Amazing Race Against Time: a rather humdrum 1959 telling of an incredible sci-fi premise. An amnesiac speedster turns out to be an alien android on a mission to seal a dimensional breach. The artificial Kyri is referred to as a “hominoid”: a Broome coinage I’ve never seen before.

Due of Danger: Lee Elias, whom I first knew from Marvel’s Human Fly, provides a handsome 1948 adventure. Jay-Flash, a likeable if sometimes bewildered tough guy, encounters the Fiddler. Not only is this murderous villain an evil twin, he actually feeds his musical mentor to crocodiles in his origin flashback! Like the Riddler, who debuts some nine months later, the Fiddler disappears into the drink at the end. This is one of the most satisfying introductions for a Golden age foe that I’ve read.

Danger in the Air: the 1960 debut of the Trickster, a gaudy villain in the mould of Superman’s Prankster, Infantino clearly enjoys drawing the improbable, air-walking harlequin and Broome gives him a circus back-story.  James Jesse ( note the witty alias) is also like a Jet-Age Mxyzptlk.

King of the Beatniks: a humorous satire from 1960 as schoolboy Kid Flash assists Jimmy King, a schoolmate whose cousin is the leader of a gang of crooked beats. The hipsters look scruffy and ridiculous,

Space-Boomerang Trap: from Nov. 1961 and the dawn of the Fantastic Four. Flash joins forces with Elongated Man and Capt. Boomerang to thwart an extra-dimensional invasion. The absure characters are fun: Barry’s friendship with Ralph and his willingness to trust “Digger” are likeable traits. The alien “Fatigue Guns” are a clever, pacifist weapon. Boomerang seems to have been inspired by Broome himself; Infantino provides several characterful close-ups.

The Adventure of the Antelope Boy: hailing, aptly, from Adventure Comics in 1947, this is a muddily drawn exploit of the King of Speed by Mort Meskin. It ranges from Africa to what I assume is NYC. The Antelope Boy is captured by racketeers but there’s a happy ending for “Feets”, a Bomba/Korak clone. He is recalled some thirty years later in Impala, the Zulu speedster introduced in Super Friends.

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This is a slightly less dull story for JQ, whose presence in All-Star Squadron is really his claim to fame- that, and inspiring Quicksilver’s motion in late 60s/early 70s Avengers.

Coming soon: 80 pages of Flash-y exploits in 1967

All images presumed copyright of their respective owners 

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