Posts tagged silver age
Anyone who reads these columns know that I am a big fan of the Flash. I previously showed the origin of Barry Allen as the Flash in the very first Secret Origins column, before the current format took shape. Even though his origin was recounted, I figured that Barry’s tale needed a revisit, because I didn’t tell the true story. You’ll need to take an aspirin to protect yourself from the barrage of facepalms you’re bound to give yourself in this, The Real Origin of the Flash!
Our tale starts innocuously enough, with Barry (Flash) Allen tracking down a bunch of jewel smugglers. Being just normal-type thugs, the Flash routes them easily, even toying with them. Just when he’s about to wrap things up though, the unexplained ”aura” that protects Barry from friction-heat just goes away…
Since Barry is conveniently fighting at the docks, he takes a dip to douse his spontaneous combustion. Before he can figure out a reasonable explanation for what’s happened, the answer is given to him as he emerges from the drink. A stout fellow in green robes and too-big spectacles explains it was he who removed the friction aura and furthermore he had to, as it is the first step in removing Barry’s super-speed entirely! The Flash, rightly so, asks who the heck this guy is and what right does he have to do take his gifts away!? Well, he’s Mopee, Initiate 10th Class of the Heavenly Help-Mates! A mere description doesn’t do the guy justice though…
Which is MUCH less likely than this, don’cha know?
Mopee is nonplussed. He even taunts Barry a little, saying “Do you really believe that’s what happened, a scientist like you? I deliberately brought that lightning down!” You know, much more scientific. Anyway, Mopee decides to start at the beginning. When he reached the 10th class initiate level, he was tasked with giving a human the gift of super speed. He picks Barry because he’s honest, brave, and sincere. While that’s all true, it seems good ol’ Mopee took a wrong turn on the way back from Earth. Because of this, he wasn’t able to report to his (much more competent) superiors for a few years, during which Barry because one of the more celebrated crime fighters on the planet. Normally, that’d be a “no harm, no foul” situation, but when he does make his report to his betters, we find Mopee made a pretty grievous error in bestowing powers on Barry.
I dunno. That seems like a pretty arbitrary rule for people with that kind of power.
Barry, nice guy that he is, believes this crazy story, mainly because he doesn’t have much of a choice. He muses that it might be nice to be powerless, no responsibility or anything. Also, he wouldn’t have to tell his new bride Iris his secret identity. Win-win, right? Barry quickly reconsiders though, because he wouldn’t be able to go adventuring anymore. It doesn’t really matter though, because Mopee is all like, “Hey man, the law is the law, you’re losing your speed no matter what!” That is, until Barry convinces him to check his bylaws for a loophole. As it turns out, there is, and it’s just as ridiculous as the rest of this tale so far!
Just between us, I’m starting to think that the Heavenly Help-Mates are a celestial frat house who just like to torment humanity. At any rate, Barry, who has gone this far and just wants to keep being the Flash asks how much money he’ll need to buy said chemicals. Math (among other things) isn’t Mopee’s strong suit and tasks Barry with figuring it out himself. It turns out to be $94.36 which equates to about $660 in 2013 dollars. Since Barry is married, he can’t hire himself out as a gigolo, so he does the next best thing, take an ad out in the paper! Mopee think that Barry’s ad lacks panache, so he alters it a bit to sound more urgent.
“Yes, this trial will suffice. ‘The paddling of the swollen ass… with paddles“
Seriously though, the Flash is tasked with making high-speed deliveries cross-country. What follows is an Indiana Jones-esque series of stops on a map, until there is only one package left, back in Central City. As luck would have it, Mopee is being his old self and Flash loses his friction aura again, resulting in this…
Oh, that explains EVERYTHING! He’s just drunk!
Before we can find out what’s in the package, we’re given a flashback back to last night when Flash was fighting the jewel smugglers. In a case of being too smart for their own good, the hoods figure Flash isn’t following them so he can shadow them and find their boss. As far as criminals in comics go, that’s pretty astute. So of course, he’s dead wrong, what with Flash having lost his friction aura instead. Anyway, the crooks get the bright idea to put the Heart Diamonds they smuggled into a package in the warehouse they pass by. You can probably guess where this coincidence is going to take us, and sure enough, we find the Heart Diamonds in the burning package. Not knowing the crooks themselves are behind this, Barry assumes the fine gent who hired him is, so he doubles back to the shipping company. There, the bad guys just happen to be there to retrieve their diamonds. The Flash then unleashes some built up stress on them…
You’d think a force 12 times more powerful than a Tornado would kill a man. Thugs were made of sterner stuff then.
You’d think Flash has the upper hand, and you’re right. However, being pinned against a wall thanks to centrifugal force won’t stop these guys, as one somehow manages to pull a gun and fire! Again, you’d think with his fears expressed in the above panel, Barry would just move out of the way at super speed, but he instead opts to vibrate his body and let the bullet pass through him! A valid tactic, even though his body would be torn apart if his protective aura did in fact fail. Let’s watch, shall we?
Hooray for unnecessary suspense!
So, after that (literal and metaphorical) bullet was dodged, Flash proceeds to knock out the crooks with a series of super speed punches while they’re still stuck to the wall. Mopee offers to catch the falling baddies for Barry, seeing that he’s just been so wonderful about his
hazing ordeal. Mopee recreates the accident that gave Barry his Flash powers. Barry has one last question for Mopee, but he has to return to his home planet.
And Mopee was never seen again. DC in fact pretty much disavowed this story almost immediately. This issue has never been reprinted, and Mopee has been relegated to an comic continuity joke. All joking aside though, I freaking love this issue. It’s so absurd, that you can’t help but love it. It’s also the very first Silver Age comic I ever bought for myself, based purely on the cover. That Julius Schwartz sure knew what he was doing to get kids to buy comics.
This story appeared in The Flash v1 #167, February 1967. As mentioned above, it’s never been reprinted.
Well, DC Comics’ New 52 is just over a year old now, and the company’s latest gimmick is to publish a bunch of #0 issues to explain the origins of the various heroes/concepts in their books. One of these is the concept of Earth 2. The series is meant to show, well, a second Earth with vastly different heroes than our own. That’s all well and good. In fact, alternate worlds/realities have always fascinated me. The story that made me aware of the concept is the first story of the original Earth 2. Not only is it a fun story, it also explained the concept of how two Earths can exist far better than the recent Earth 2 #0 did. I want to share it with you all, so here’s the Secret Origin of Earth 2!
As our story opens, Barry (Flash) Allen is late (again) for a date with his sweetheart, Iris. As he arrives at the Central City Community Center, Iris is indeed incensed. Luckily for our bow-tied boychick, Iris isn’t mad at him, but rather the magician that was hired to give a group of orphans a show at the very same community center. Relieved to be off the hook, Barry immediately apologizes, but offers to get his pal, The Flash to fill in. What a guy, he gets to blow off his lady friend and impress her at the same time! Anyway, The Flash speeds in and entertains the roomful of waifs with a variety of speed-based tricks including playing a game of tennis by himself. That’s not as impressive as it sounds. I can do the same thing, provided there’s a wall handy. Anyway, the show goes on, and Flash ends the show by emulating an old fakir trick. He uses his speed to keep a rope in the air, then he climbs it and then…
This is also how he avoids paying the check in restaurants.
The Flash does reappear, but when he does, it’s in an empty, flat field. He surmises that he was vibrating so swiftly that he may have inadvertently created a wormhole and transported himself outside of the city limits. He’s not entirely correct, but as we’ll see, he’s closer to the truth than he thinks. Barry soldiers on, but nothing is looking familiar. Thinking he may have also traveled backward in time, he dashes over to the local newshawk to get a copy of the paper. From that he finds the date is correct, but he is now in Keystone City. Barry, being a police scientist, has a hunch, and checks the phone booth to see if “he” still lives in KC. It turns out “he” is actually Jay Garrick. So Flash decides to zoom on over (as Barry Allen, natch), and tell the original Flash he knows who he really is. This seems like an ill-conceived idea to me. Anyway, he does regale Jay, and his former girlfriend, now wife, Joan Williams-Garrick with his the aging speedster’s own origin. I won’t repeat it here, but you can check out the Secret Origin I wrote about it here. After their stunned reaction, Barry reveals that he too is a Flash, and recounts his origin, which I told in my way in the very first Secret Origins column here. Barry-Flash then does his best to explain his theory of “What the holy heck is going on around here!?”
Well, um, thanks for simplifying that for us lay-people, Flash.
This is actually pretty cool. It’s still very comic-booky, but the writer, Gardner Fox, knew his science. This theory is actually based on the Bose-Einstein condensate. Who said you can’t ever learn anything from comic books? Anyway, back to the story, Barry-Flash explains to Jay that he knew of his exploits thanks again to Gardner Fox. You see, Fox said the original Flash stories came to him in his dreams, so obviously his brain was tuned in to the vibrational frequency of this other Earth. Science! Furthering this early example of meta-fiction, Fox stopped writing Flash stories in 1949, the very year Jay says he retired! Anyway, with all of the “scientifical” explanations over with, Jay mentions he was actually going to come out of retirement because of a strange rash of robberies that have befuddled the police of Keystone. No one knows who is perpetrating these crimes, but we the readers quickly find out!
Why thank you villains, for your succinct exposition!
And as is the custom in 60′s-era comics, both the villains and heroes split up to
pad the story cover more ground. Jay get the first crack at the villains, specifically, the Thinker. Yet, the Thinker is of the old school. So confident is he that the Flash he knows is a pushover, he leaves a rather obvious, if not completely ludicrous clue which Jay finds toot suite.
The thinking cap is amazing. Not only can it fool people’s minds, it can also give animals vocal cords!
And so, Jay-Flash makes a beeline to grab the Thinker, and he does, kind of. Unfortunately, it’s just a mental projection. The Thinker pulls this trick on Jay like, 10 more times, until Jay is nearly exhausted, his endurance not being what it once was. So tired is he, that he is felled by a door slammed by the Thinker at the speed of thought. Oops!
Meanwhile, Barry-Flash is canvassing the city when he comes across a strange inky blackness on the city’s waterfront. Going to investigate, Barry finds the blackness is actually enveloping a yacht. but he can’t do much about it, seeing as he can’t see a thing. Thankfully, this is a silver age comic, and physics don’t always apply, so Barry is able to use a spectacular speed stunt to dissipate the darkness…
“There’s no WAY the Flash could outrun a boat!”
As you might have guessed, the Flash uses his incredible velocity to run across the surface of the water, but the Shade is a tricky devil and casts his darkness on the water as well, only this time, he also mixes oil with the darkness… somehow, and Barry can’t keep his footing, allowing the sinister shadow to get away.
Going 0-2 against the nefarious crooks, both Flashes meet back at Jay’s apartment to come up with a new game plan. Namely, a team-up. They speed off together into the city. While they do that, the FIddler is playing his hand (and his violin). The Fiddler uses the literal discord of his maniacal music to cause distractions so no one will pay him any mind/ While he rides around in his gigantic car. That happens to be shaped like a violin. Villains don’t do “inconspicuous”, OK? Anyway, due to the Fiddler’s machinations, the Flashes are momentarily pre-occupied with saving civilians, giving us the in-comic version of one of the more famous covers in comics history.
“You knock him out, and I’ll get his wallet!”
Eventually, the Scarlet Speedsters track the Fiddler to his hideout, and are about to storm the building. Meanwhile, the Shade and the Thinker are comparing notes, and discover there are two Flashes to deal with. Unfortunately for the good guys, the Fiddler already knows that…
Not only is he making his puppets dance, the nefarious Fiddler is also making them steal jewels for him! Laden with treasure, the terrible trio are set leave. The Fiddler commands the Flashes to stay motionless for 24 hours. You have to love old-time comic bad guys, especially in Flash. They don’t want to kill anyone, then just want to be rich. Inexplicably (well, not really, since it’ll be explained in a second) the Flashes are free, and use their new-found element of surprise to take out the triumvirate of terror in an incredibly fun sequence.
“Curses, how could I overlook that incredibly convoluted reasoning!”
Actually, it does make a bit of sense. Earlier, the Fiddler ordered the Flashes to ignore the smaller jewels and focus on the more elaborate treasures. Instead of tossing them aside, the Crimson Comets actually stuck them in their ears, causing the pitch of the Fiddler’s music to change just enough that it allowed them to break his control. Makes perfect sense, right?
So with the day saved, it has come time for the speedsters of two worlds to say their goodbyes. They return to the empty flat field outside of Keystone and we’re left with a status quo that will define the DC Universe for the rest of its days, both in terms of multiple earths and of having character legacies! And on a personal note, I was even more hooked on comics than before thanks to this story.
Even I’M surprised I didn’t make ONE vibration joke in this whole column!
I don’t know about anyone reading this, but I’ve had a good amount of fun doing these funny-animal origins. I’ve hit a bit of a roadblock though, and that is finding proper origins for some of them! I really wanted to do Rocket Raccoon and especially Hoppy, the Marvel Bunny, but in the former case, the origin issue seems non-existent, and in the latter, the origin issue is so far out of my price range that I’ll never see it. Some of the characters I wanted to feature only have implied origins, like Squeak the Supremouse. What’s an unpaid blogger who’s committed to a theme to do? Then I recalled a character which many of you have probably never heard of. He never had his own title, he never really had a story that lasted more than a couple of panels, yet he is fondly remembered by many. Who is this strange turtle with powers and abilities far beyond those of other terrapins? Well, interestingly enough, he didn’t have an official origin until his career in comics was considered over! Tuck your cape inside your shell as I give you… The Secret Origin of Super-Turtle!
Now, like I said, Super-Turtle’s origin doesn’t come into play for quite a while, so we have to do some guesswork. Being a turtle, he is long-lived, during his career, he has met Clark Kent at least twice, once as Superboy and once as Superman. It seems early on, that the two heroes have a bunch in common, similar powers, similar costumes, even the same disguise in their civilian identities. What really separates the two is how they go about their super-business. Let me illustrate:
As you can see here, Super-Turtle must have been operating for some years if the thugs know of Superman. This leads me to believe that for the first part of his career in crimefighting, S-T preferred to work from the sidelines, or in the shadows. I mean, he’d have to do a lot of explaining, being a talking turtle and all. But now that he has taken his act public, he is overshadowed by other super-people and feels he has to overcompensate. It’s a sad, sad tale (not really). His troubles would continue when he’d encounter local law enforcement, taking his fantastic abilities for granted…
As depressing as that scene is, you could imagine Super Turtle brushing it off. Why shouldn’t he help out his fellow defenders of justice? Sadly, it wasn’t just the police officers taking him for granted, though. As the legend of Super-Turtle grew, so did his reputation for being a doormat. Good old S-T took it in stride though. Slow and steady wins the race, after all. On the other hand, the poor treatment just wouldn’t stop. Why, before you knew it, even overpaid laborers were taking advantage of the Titanic Tortoise.
Still after this shoddy treatment, Super-Turtle was undaunted. He knew he has to use his gift to aid the world, and no unkind acts were going to stop him. That’s when they started, The jibes, the snickers. S-T was becoming the laughing-stock of the hero trade. It was starting to get to him. Not even his armored shell could protect a broken heart. He was about to hang up his cape forever, when his super-hearing picked up a distress call. Of course he couldn’t ignore it, noble hero that he is. What happened next though, well, it flipped the way S-T would live his life right around…
This second meeting of the two heroes made something snap in our hero, Super-Turtle. After witnessing Superman rushing headlong into battle, without a care to his surroundings made S-T delve more into Superman’s history and found something startling! Superman was the kind of man who took no guff from anyone, did things his way, and darn the consequences! To you and me, these were examples of what has become known as “super-dickery”. However, to Super-Turtle, it was an inspiration. He was through being a doormat! He came to understand that his power made him a figure to be revered, not laughed at! Like Superman, he could save the world, but do it to his advantage. It started simply, with a bit of vanity. Seen here is Super-Turtle’s first selfish act, but it’d be far from the last.
After that incident, it just got worse and worse. Super-Turtle started doing more and more uncouth things. He started playing pranks on his paramour, convincing people that he killed his own alter ego, he even took a page from Superman’s book, he started wearing a Pope hat and declaring himself king. He ego was getting too big for his shell. It all came crashing down for Super-Turtle when he shirked his responsibilities for fame…
Super-Turtle’s picture was indeed in tomorrow’s paper, with the headline — “Super-Turtle: Murderer!” It’s a sad tale. You see, in the time it took S-T to return to the scene of the fire, the elderly woman had inhaled a lot of smoke. Super-Turtle did save her, but the amount of toxic fumes the woman was breathing took their toll shortly afterward. The animal kingdom was in shambles! Their hero, their most noble protector had failed them. As for Super-Turtle himself? It hit him the hardest. All he wanted to do was help people, but he let it all go to his head. In disgrace, he hung up his cape, ate a bunch of rotten fruit and got drunk. He spiraled in despair for many years. In time, people forgot about the one-heroic turtle. S-T never forgot though, after 20 years of wallowing in self-pity, a funny thing happened. The Crisis on Infinite Earths. While he wasn’t involved in that conflict, he was lucky enough to survive on the merged Earth that came out of it. The caveat? No one had ever even heard of Super-Turtle on this new Earth! He could make a go of it again, have a fresh start! This time, he would do things right. With this revised Earth came new enemies and responsibilities as well, thankfully this gave our hero focus, and before you know it, he was back to his old self!
So all’s well that ends well, right? Sure, Super-Turtle had a rocky road, but he eventually came out on top. This wouldn’t be a Secret Origins column without, you know, an origin though. So here I am happy to present to you, the actual, not made up and totally serious Origin of Super Turtle!
These stories originally appeared in a range of comics from the mid-to-late 1960′s There are too many to list! The actual origin comes from Silver Age 80-Page Giant July, 2000. The story weaving the pages together was my own idiocy, however.
It’s my opinion that late 90′s DC Comics are probably the best of my generation, you had amazing runs like Grant Morrison on JLA, experimental series like Chase, outright fun titles like Hourman, and great fifth week concepts like Final Night and DC One Million. One of the true lost gems of that era is the Elseworlds 80-page Giant. For the uninitiated, Elseworlds is a label DC slaps on a title that gives us an alternate take on our favorite heroes, be it something like Batman becoming a Green Lantern, or Superman becoming a sports icon/businessman! Elseworlds is where anything can happen, and I love those stories.
The Elseworlds 80-page Giant on the other hand is a mystery to most people, the issue was pulped when a story depicting a baby Superman got into a bunch of cartoonish hijinks that would kill a human baby. DC didn’t want to get in trouble for the content, so the entire issue was scrapped, but not before a trickle of issues made it to the UK. I was lucky enough to grab a copy of the issue at Wizard World in 2000, shortly after it was published/scrapped and before it skyrocketed in price. Ironically, of the stories in the issue, only two have ever seen the light of day, including the controversial story that got it pulped in the first place!
Now while fair use won’t allow me to post the entire issue (I’m hoping for a digital re-release, myself), I can recount some of the highlights, such as a story where the stretchy heroes/villains of the DCU are placed in a Lovecraftian horror story, and retrospective on a universe where all of the heroes are actually musical acts. My absolute favorite though, is a collection of mock-up splash pages made to emulate classic silver-age DC titles. There are no stories, but these “opening pages” are enough to get your imagination working overtime, so I present to you, Silver Age Elseworlds!