August is Flash Month in our Retro Review Corner!  Why?  Well, the various Flashes (Mssrs. Garrick, Allen, West, Allen et al) have all led rather momentous lives, including a few stories so notable that they’ve become hallmarks of their given comic ages.  F’rinstance, are you prepared to experience ‘The Day The Flash Weighed 1,000 Pounds?’  Your Major Spoilers (retro) review of Flash #115 awaits!

Flash115CoverTHE FLASH #115
Writer: John Broome
Penciler: Carmine Infantino
Inker: Joe Giella/Murphy Anderson
Colorist: Uncredited
Letterer: Gaspar Saladino
Editor: Julius Schwartz
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $600.00

Previously in The Flash:  It was a one-in-a-million accident: As police scientist Barry Allen stood in his lab, surrounded by “every chemical compound known to man”, a freak lightning bolt smashed through the chemicals, empowering him with the ability to move faster than the speed of…  Well, pretty much everything.  Now the Fastest Man Alive, he used his skills, his mind and his blinding speed to thwart cut-throats, world-beaters and jerks of all stripes, quickly becoming the vanguard of an all-new wave of superhumans and jump-starting the Silver Age of Comics.

That’s assuming you don’t believe the REAL origin of The Flash

Or, for that matter, the OTHER REAL origin of The Flash

Then, there’s also the time he met his hero, The original Flash, breaching the multiversal barrier for the first time…

Or the time he raced Superman around the world, around the world, around the world, ala Daft Punk…

But the next stop (Retrologically speaking, anyways) in the faraway jungles of Africa, where a dimensionally displaced city of hyper-intelligent apes live, with their bad seed, Gorilla Grodd until high surveillance in their prison wing.  Clearly, there’s no way that he could ever escape to cause any more mischief, right?

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Man, it’s got to be awkward when a Cosmic Gorilla King has your personal aura number, and can drunk-dial you at all hours of the day.  “Hey… Hey, whaddaya doin’, Flash?  Wanna come ‘n sing Karaoke?  We got ‘Daydream B’liever!  *Burrrp*”

See, he’s an ape, which is like a monkey, which sounds like Monkee–  Skip it.  Bygones.  Aaaaanyway, reports of Grodd’s demise, much like Mark Twain’s, were somewhat premature, as the mad primate had actually created a special formula out of the very earth beneath him, a pill that allowed him to fake his death, and send his mine out into the ether to possess the body of another creature.  By stunning coincidence, that creature is one William Dawson, a drifter with no friends or family, and also a newcomer to Flash’s own Central City.  How lucky is that?  Grodd quickly finds that Dawson has come to town to apply for a job as Assistant Manager of a Carnival Sideshow (!!), a job to which his particular skill set is miraculously well-matched…

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“It’s cool, man.  I speak chimpanzee.”  Grodd easily gets the job, but finds it quite boring, especially since his mental prowess and mastery of chimp tongues (Wow, that sounds really disgusting) make the job a snap.  Reverting to type, he quickly assembles his chimp brigade into a criminal gang, using their incredible strength and agility to boost valuables from all over Central City.  This, of course, gets the attention of one Barry Allen, police scientist with a startling secret…

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Flash puts the simian criminals in jail (??), but quickly figures out that there must be someone masterminding the robberies.  When the sideshow manager reveals that his new assistant split with all the primates, Flash sets off to find our Mister Dawson, only to run straight into Dawson/Grodd’s latest invention…

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This… is… Um…  I can deal with the rampant coincidence in this story, because, honestly, it’s the Silver Age.  Most of the time, the cover image was created first, and the creative team given the task of reverse-engineering a story from whatever lunacy the editor and cover artist came up with, but the use of Fat Flash as a sideshow act is a bit questionable.  That’s not just because I’m offended as a fat guy (Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty offended as a fat guy), but because only pages before, the carnival owner fingered Dawson and MET The Flash, who then went out after Dawson.  I’m bothered that he couldn’t put two and two together in this situation.  Fortunately, The Flash lumbers past the hall of mirrors, one of which shows the reflection of a thinner Flash, jogging his memory.  Barry Allen sets off for the strip mall to find a Jenny Craig, or perhaps a Jazzercise outlet…

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I’d say that Flash should be less worried about remaining fat and perhaps more worried about dying horribly from extreme dehydration, which is a much more likely probability.  Also, for those of you who wonder how they got around “Dead Grodd” when he clearly kept reappearing for decades after this story, note that final panel, as the power of his mind-force begins transforming Bill Dawson into a duplicate of Grodd’s gorilla form.  Returning home from the most difficult shave of that barber’s life, Grodd is somehow startled by the appearance of a man whom he clearly would have heard scraping through the doorways…

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Ever the puckish trickster (not THAT Trickster), Barry Allen uses the super-elastic costume that he created to mess with William Dawson’s head, before launching into the man with the kind of beating that Rocky Balboa gave Apollo Creed, smashing him to the floor with such force that he ricochets up only to get pummeled again..

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Let me be the first to say it: William Dawson is clearly dead after that beating.  D-E-A-D, or at the very least bleeding to death from massive internal blunt-force trauma, while Barry Allen enjoys a nice dinner with Iris.  The moral of this story?  Do NOT $&#* with The Silver Age Flash, and whatever you do, don’t make him fat, because he will straight-up murder you at super-sonic speeds in your own home.  The second half of our story is a VERY early appearance of Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man (whose first appearance was in issue #112, a few months prior), so early in his heroic career that he is still wearing his short-lived mask!

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Ralph, unlike any of the heroes before him, used his powers to make money, you see, and has found himself independently wealthy enough that he’s ready to give up his super-identity entirely and travel the world.  It’s a pretty cool moment, one that is only slightly undermined by the fact that it’s the Silver Age and clearly it’s just the adventure hook for Ralph’s next backup story.  Setting off on his new gig as a tourist (while still wearing his full purple costume and mask, mind you), Elongated Man starts his journeying in the Yucatan, home of the Gingo trees which bear the fruit that gives him his power.  The natives believe the jungles when the Gingo grows to be haunted, but Ralph finds that a foolish suspicion…

Instead, he discovers that the place is full of aliens with shrink rays.  Wouldn’t wanna believe in any old superstitions, now, would we, Ralph?  Luckily, just before being shrunken, Elongated Man sent for The Flash, who has REAL super-powers…

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Flash comforts the poor stunned bunny, then sets off at super-speed to save the day, actually telling Ralph that “MAYBE your ability to stretch yourself will be an important help!”  Harsh words, Barry…  Harsh words.  Rather than be offended, though, Elongated Man smiles it off, agreeing that it’s a good plan, and the two heroes engage the giant aliens.  Flash gets in good licks, but is captured, leaving the Stretchable Sleuth to his own devices…

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So far in this issue, Flash has turned over a brigade of thieving apes, the brutally battered corpse of Grodd-Man and an INVADING ALIEN ARMY to the authorities, proving once and for all that the policemen and soldiers of the DC Universe are the real heroes, picking up after the glory-hound Justice League sweeps through and smashes entire city blocks to take down a bank robber.  Goofy as it is, though, you can understand why DC’s current editorial staff is so enamored of these charming Silver Age tales, and almost understand the idol-worship of Barry “Dull As Dishwater” Allen.  There’s a kinetic madness to these pages, a combination of science-fiction and the goofiest Golden Age superhero tropes into a weird melange that is fun to read, even if you’re personally offended as a fat person.  In short, The Flash #115 tells a couple of fun, lightweight mashup stories that, while not even remotely realistic, are still fun, kind of clever and well-drawn by several of the elder statesmen of the comic business, earning a better-than-average 3 out of 5 stars overall.  If it’s a choice between goofy ape/alien adventures and yet another gritty “TRUST NO ONE! EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG!” crossover schmageggi, feel free to sign me up for the telepathic shrinking apes…

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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1 Comment

  1. Kirby
    August 3, 2014 at 2:51 pm — Reply

    Great review, seeing Elongated Man in a mask always throws me. I do love those weird alien designs. (Fingers crossed for Dibnys and telepathic apes in the upcoming TV show.)

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