The Pied Piper has entered Central City. Did you catch all the inside bits and pieces? Check out the latest Flashback for a rundown of references, Easter Eggs, and more!
After his encounter with The Rogues, Barry must face off against a new villain, Pied Piper.
Let’s kick things off with a little rundown of the big bad this week:
THE PIED PIPER
Hinted at last week, but coming out in this week’s episode, Hartley Rathaway first appeared in The Flash #106 (May 1959) to vex the Scarlet Speedster. Created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino, Hartley was born deaf in the comics. Later cured, the villain became obsessed with all things sound, and how he could use it to hypnotize those around him. Following the Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Pied Piper retired from crime fighting, and became really good friends with Wally West and his wife Linda.
Hartley was also the first openly gay character at DC Comics. This episode made this a key character element to Hartley being disowned by his family.
The Pied Piper’s history gets a little convoluted during the One Year Later and Final Crisis story arcs, and now in the New 52, Hartley is the conductor of Central City’s orchestra. In previous incarnations, Hartley did use his scientific knowledge to help figure out big science problems.
ZOOM OR PROF ZOOM?
Harrison Wells is front and center this week, showing off his running abilities, and most importantly showing his ability to tap into the speed force using the stolen Tacyon device from Mercury Labs. Why is this interesting? During last week’s episode, Dr. Wells was trying to make Barry the best Flash he could be, which is the thought process Hunter Zolomon (aka Zoom) came to during his origin story. However, the use of technology to make him acquire the same capabilities of the Flash is definitely the Silver Age trademark of Professor Zoom (Eobard Thawne). Either the creators (including Geoff Johns) are intentionally throwing this conflicting origins at us to keep us off guard, or something very interesting is about to happen when the Cosmic Treadmill is used somewhere around episode 15. Keep in mind Geoff Johns is the person who created Zoom in September 2000, and the entire death of Barry’s mother is from Johns’ first run.
THE SPEED FORCE
What is the Speed Force? It is the energy that surrounds all things that the speedsters of the DCU tap into. It is not quite one of the fundamental forces of nature, but rather a byproduct of The Source and The Godwave – which is a whole other conversation dealing with the New Gods and the origins of the DC Universe. The Speed Force has been reconned into the very fabric of DC continuity, so I haven’t been able to pin down the exact first appearance or reference of the energy field. We do know that the Speed Force was “created” sometime during Barry Allen’s run (no pun intended), and was a big story element during the Wally West era.
THE ROYAL FLUSH GANG
The opening sequence of this week’s episode had Wally chasing down a bunch of criminals on motorcycles. If you looked closely you may have noticed a card motif on their helmets. After the break, the crew was referred to as The Royal Flush Gang. Though the criminal organization has been around since March of 1966, many will probably know the group from Batman Beyond and Justice League Unlimited television series where they were recurring villains, and for Terry McGinnis, a love interest.
The teams first appearance was in Justice League of America #43, and they were created by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky. Though the second iteration of the Royal Flush Gang gave Maxwell Lord the ability to manipulate the Justice League International, it is the All Suits version of the gang from Superman: The Man of Steel #121 that turned the hoodlums into a major crime organization in America.
Superman: The Man of Steel #121 revealed that the Royal Flush Gang had expanded. The Royal Flush Gang is now an organization that reaches across America, with cells in every major city. Instead of five members, each “cell” has fifty-two, split into four suits run by the “court cards”. Each member has a playing card value, and those who rise or fall in the Gang’s esteem gain or lose a “pip”. Notably, Stargirl’s father was a “Two”; upon defeating him, she transitioned from the Star-Spangled Kid identity to Stargirl in JSA: All-Stars.
Will we see the Royal Flush Gang become a recurring problem for The Flash? Long time fans of what has now been coined “the arrowverse” know that the Royal Flush Gang first appeared in the first season of Arrow in the episode titled “Legacies”. My guess is we’ll see them again.
Iris West is hired by Central City Picture News as a cub reporter to give the paper the inside track on all things Flash. Iris is assigned to work with Mason Bridge, a Pulitzer award winner. In DC Comics, the only character close to that name is Mason Trollbridge, who first appeared in Flash Vol. 2 #15 (August, 1989), as a Wally West supporting character.
After Wally West lost all of his money, he had to move into an apartment. Mason lived down the hallway from him. He and Wally became good friends. He even helped him track down Vandal Savage.
For a while, Mason even revitalized the Clipper, taking the guise on himself. His short-lived career was rather unsuccessful. The few crimes he halted included a hold-up where both the perpetrators and the victims ended up laughing too hard because of Mason’s antics. He did, however, collaborate with a powerless Wally in defeating the Abra Kadabra.
We know that Bridge will begin investigating Harrison Wells and S.T.A.R. Labs in upcoming episodes, but will he do it in disguise? Will he become the Clipper – a childhood hero of Trollbridge’s? It would be an interesting wrap around if the creators did that here.
CENTRAL CITY PICTURE NEWS
In the comics, Iris (Allen) originally worked for Central City Picture News as a photographer. From what I’ve been able to track down, the first appearance of the paper was in Flash Vol. 1 #109 (November, 1959) that also featured an appearance by Mirror Master. That particular issue featured Mirror Master using a mirror to shrink Barry Allen down to tiny proportions. We know Ray Palmer (played by Brandon Routh) and Felicity Smoak (played by Emily Bett Rickards) are scheduled to appear on an upcoming episode called “All-Star Team-Up”. Perhaps Mirror Master will be the featured villain of the week?
This is the first time we’ve seen this character appear as Iris West’s boss at Central City Picture News. It seems really odd that at this point in the show the creators are using names that are not a reference to anything DC Comics related. There is a comic book artist named Bob Larkin who worked for Marvel, a character from the Golden Age named Lance Larkin (Fun Comics #70), and a Clyde Larkin, who was erased from existence during the collapse of the Multiverse in 1985. In the Pre-Crisis years, Clyde Larkin was also known as the Polka Dot Bandit of Earth-Two and was a Green Arrow villain.
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