Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Number 2147: A Flash of purple lightning

We find out a couple of things in this tale of the original Flash from 1942: the Flash can travel at almost the speed of light (that’s fast!), and he can sew a parachute and save a transcontinental flight full of people before it crashes (that's fast and talented!)

Fast and talented Flash (secretly Jay Garrick) goes up against yet another comic book “scientist,” who uses his genius for bad. In this case, tossing around purple lightning bolts that look just like cartoon lightning bolts (a la Captain Marvel). It is written by Gardner Fox and drawn by E. (for Everett) E. Hibbard, with inks provided by Hal Sharp (per the Grand Comics Database).

The Flash was another of DC’s characters who was popular enough to appear in more than one comic book, and whose career was cut short by the end of the 1940s from sagging sales. He was revived in 1956, and the rest is history.

From Flash Comics #29 (1942).

The Flash had imitators. Here are three tales of speedsters, including Johnny Quick, Quicksilver, and the Flash himself in a 1940s story unpublished until 1972. Just click on the thumbnail.


Daniel [] said...

When I first started reading superhero comic books, the Silver Age Flash was one of my two favorite characters (the other being the Batman), but I quite appreciated each appearance by the Golden Age Flash. I think that Gardner Fox had real affection for the character, which was why he was depicted in an appealing manner and a large part of the reason that a mythology was constructed to allow him to return to the comic books.

But I notice that, in this story, Jay reminds me too much of to-day's television version of Barry Allen, the Stupidest Man on Earth. The story depends on Jay being mentally slow to off-set the advantage of his being athletically fast.

The art here is primitive, as was the art for many of the Golden Age superhero characters. Of course, many things contributed to the collapse in popularity of the superhero comic books in the late '40s, but I wonder to what extent the problem was one of the art not evolving to sustain the characters. I realize that some elegantly drawn characters didn't survive, and that Wonder Woman and the Batman were sustained by work that was always or often primitive. But it seems to me that some of the characters who fell by the wayside could have maintained profitability had they not been dually starved for investment in writing and in illustration.

Pappy said...

Daniel, when I compare some of the other publishers, especially Quality Comics where the artwork was miles above the primitive art of DC Comics, I believe more discerning readers decided to place their dimes with the better art.

Quality also had to shed most of its superhero line and follow what other publishers were doing. In the years after the war I assume the readers of superhero comics, except for the most popular, just got tired of superheroes.

Rafael Arturo Sánchez Ambrosio said...

Hindsight is always 20-20, and many factors contributed to superheroes stopping being cool.

Its hard to review these, with their "science" villains and heroes, the art is no worse than some of the crap put out today and fair for its time.

Always consider artists back then didnt have the luxury of having a whole month to finish their pages, as they were paid by how many pages they could do. Thereis a reason the kirby barrier exists.

In comics, the final quality depends mostly on the inker, who can bring out good stuff put of horrible pencils, or ruin nice pencil lines, these guya worked with actual brushes, so no undo button, no layering, no save this and finish tomorrow.

Remember, these were "garbage" comics made to entertain young kids or teens.