She’s one of DC’s most recognizable characters now, but back in 1947? Black Canary was sorta-kinda the villain! Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Flash Comics #86 awaits!
Writer: Robert Kanigher/Harry Lampert
Penciler: Lee Elias/Carmine Infantino/Harry Lampert/Joe Kubert
Inker: Joe Kubert/Joe Giella/Carmine Infantino
Editor: Sheldon Mayer
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $6000.00
Previously in Flash Comics: Though the book shares its title with Jay Garrick, The Flash, it was always a book with two lead features, the other being Hawkman. (Flash’s solo book was All-Flash Comics, for obvious reasons.) other folks popped up here and there, such as The Ghost Patrol, The Whip and Johnny Thunder, a member of the Justice Society with Flash and Hawkman. This issue is actually a turning point for Flash Comics, as the debut of a brand new character, a noteworthy creator, and the beginning of the end for one of the book’s original heroes. It begins when Johnny Thunder is beckoned by a beautiful damsel feigning distress.
Of course, the help that she needs is ROBBING A SAFE, in which she claims she left her mask for a masquerade party, proving that Johnny may be brave and he may be gallant, but he’s as dull as a sack of doorknobs. Left high and dry by the femme fatale, Johnny does what Johnny does best: Call for help!
This story is the work of a 22-year-old Carmine Infantino, in his DC debut. Eventually, Carmine would become the regular penciller for Green Lantern’s title, the JSA stories in All-Star comics and would eventually co-create the Silver Age Flash. Carmine would also serve as DC’s editorial director and later publisher in the 1970s. Carmine’s recollection of this era was that Black Canary was intentionally created to give the moribund Johnny Thunder series something spicy, hence her bad girl fishnets and leather jacket. As for our man Johnny, even without his pink guardian angel, he’s still incredibly lucky.
The Thunderbolt arrives just in time to find his charge sitting on a heap of defeated thugs, only to discover that the pilfered mask was a special one sent by gangster Socks Slade. Only those wearing the masks would be allowed entry into Socks’ latest soiree. Of course, thanks to Master Thunder, that number now includes the vigilante Black Canary.
Things look dark for the daredevil crimefighter, until once again, Johnny Thunder arrives to help her out. Cue the lightning!
While the Pride of Badhnisia wraps up the thugs, Black Canary makes her escape, leaving Johnny to wonder if he’ll ever see her again. The answer is 100% yes, as she would appear five more times before taking over Johnny’s slot in Flash Comics, leaving him in limbo for years. According to Infantino, it was no big loss.
This issue also features The Flash himself, encountering a dinosaur in a pretty forgettable adventure, a one-page Sam Spade adventure/ad, the Ghost Patrol encountering another phantom and Hawkman fighting a Purple Pilgrim. All in all, Flash Comics #86 is most memorable for the dual debuts of Black Canary and Carmine, signaling the writing on the wall for Johnny Thunder, with some remarkably well-done art across the board, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall. 70 years later, Black Canary has been the leader of the Justice League and a recent film star, while Johnny Thunder had a brief cameo on the first episode of ‘Stargirl’, which doesn’t exactly PROVE Carmine Infantino’s theory that she’s a much better character… but it doesn’t really disprove it, either.
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FLASH COMICS #86
The first appearance of Black Canary is short, sweet and good-looking, with the rest of the issue never dipping below pretty good. Besides, any Jay Garrick is good Jay Garrick!