Sunday, February 28, 2010

Number 692

Speed freaks!

A popular character like DC's The Flash was ripe for imitation. An early imitator from 1940 was Quicksilver, although the story below doesn't seem to show much in the way of super speed. It was toward the end of Quicksilver's run in National Comics #71, published by Quality. Don Markstein's Toonopedia has some observations on Quicksilver:
. . . There was no explanation of how he got his super power or why he put on a costume and mask to fight crime.

. . . he also didn't have a personal life or even a name other than Quicksilver (unless you count "The Laughing Robin Hood", which is what newspapers sometimes called him), and was never seen out of costume. He lived with his young Chinese servant, Hoo Mee, in a cave, fitted out with living quarters and a chemical lab, in Oakwood Park, which was located in an unnamed urban area.
This particular story was drawn in fine fashion by Dan Zolnerowich.

Johnny Quick was a knockoff of the Flash by DC Comics, themselves. Johnny was the creation of Mort Weisinger. Johnny said a magic formula for his speed. This episode is drawn by comic book journeyman Ralph Mayo. Again, from Toonopedia:
Johnny's real name was Johnny Chambers. An orphan, he'd been raised by a family friend, Professor Ezra Gill, a scientist who dabbled in Egyptology in his old age. In translating an ancient scrap of papyrus, Gill discovered a "speed formula", capable of bestowing blinding speed on its user. He considered himself past the stage of life where such a thing would be useful to him, and so passed it on to Johnny, to be used in the cause of justice.

It wasn't a "formula" in the usual sense, but worked more like a magic word. By saying "3X2(9YZ)4A", Johnny gained the power of super speed — to the point where he could even fly short distances, which may not have made sense aerodynamically but didn't seem to bother comic book readers of the time. Saying "Z25Y(2AB)6" would return him to normal.
The final story is a previously unpublished story of The Flash. They're scanned from the 100-page Super Special, The Flash #214, from 1972.


Chuck Wells said...

I think that I would rate these stories in the order that you've "stacked" them, Pappy.

I loved reading Quicksilver the most, with Johnny Quick next and then the Flash. It's a tough call between these gems, and admittedly a fine line separates them, but there you go.

Murphy Anderson once told me at a convention that he had lobbied DC editorial staff very hard in the mid-to-late 1980's to allow him to produce a mini-series using many of the old Quality Comics heroes, particularly the Lou Fine characters. I remember seeing his nice sketch of Quicksilver in person. Too bad that project never got off the ground.

The Ghost Who Blogs said...

What, no Whizzer?

bazarov said...

The plot of the Flash story reminds me of the Philip K. Dick story "Paycheck" - does anyone know if Horselover Fat (as Dick occasionally called himself) was a comics fan?

Booksteve said...

I always loved the JOHNNY QUICK reprints from the mid-sixties on and later I ended up using his "secret formula" as a password for a longtime on the Net! (Not any more)

Pappy said...

Chuck, that would have been a project I'd have supported. Murphy did some beautiful reproductions of Lou Fine covers featuring some of those characters.

rnigma said...

This was before Johnny Quick turned heel and joined the Earth-3 Crime Syndicate...

Darci said...

Hmm, what were the ancient Egyptians doing with that speed formula that Professor Gill discovered? Was there an ancient version of Flash Comics, where stories of Hawkman and Johnny Quick appeared?
Joan Swift accidentally pronounced the speed formula in Adventure Comics #181 while going over some physics papers. She created a costume like Johnny's and dubbed herself the Queen of Speed. When the effect faded, she was unable to locate the formula in the papers again and couldn't recall it from memory.