Flash Comics #1
November 5, 2012
The fastest man alive! ...until the other Flashes came along, anyway.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. And welcome, my friends, to "Secret Origins Month 3"!
("Secret Origins Month" title is shown)
Linkara: A lot of people have been anticipating this year's Secret Origins Month, even throwing out suggestions for it that I should probably address. The big one is people wanting to see villain origins.
(Cut to a shot of the Legion of Doom)
Linkara (v/o): Unfortunately, that's not going to happen this year. Or probably even next year, or the year following, sorry to say. It's actually a rather good idea.
(Cut to two shots of superheroes, one from DC and one from Marvel)
Linkara (v/o): The problem is that we still have a lot of heroes to get through. Hell, we haven't even gotten to the first comic with the Avengers, and that's only because I want to do more of its members before I get to that.
(Cut to a shot of the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" comic)
Linkara (v/o): Another idea was to look at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' first comic. The problem with that one is the same problem I had with doing Spawn's origin: THEY'RE TOO RECENT.
Linkara (v/o): The idea behind Secret Origins Month is to go all the way back to the Gold and Silver Ages. Comics were different back then. They had different art styles, different ways of laying out panels, and a completely different way of writing. Hell, it's been pointed out to me that the reason comics used to have so many exclamation points in the dialogue was because they were afraid a period would be too small for the reader to see. That's the kind of fear they had back in the day.
(Cut to a shot of the cover of the first Flash comic, the subject of today's video)
Linkara (v/o): But anyway, let's get to our subject today: The Flash. Like with Green Lantern, we're going to look at the Golden Age version of the fastest man alive. And like the original Green Lantern, we'll get to Barry Allen eventually.
(Cut to a shot of the cover of "Justice League: The New 52")
Linkara (v/o): I feel even more desire to look at the Golden Age versions due to what's happened in recent times in comics. I've mentioned the DC relaunch before.
Linkara: (coughs) Pre-boot!
Linkara (v/o): And part of it is that superheroes only started appearing about five to ten years ago in their timeframe. They never had a Golden Age of heroes.
(Cut to a closeup of an installment of "The New 52", showing a revival of "Superman: Action Comics")
Linkara (v/o): There are positives and negatives to that. Hell, I made a web comic trying to give an optimistic view of the world having a superhero for the first time.
(Shots of other "early" versions of superheroes are shown, including the Justice Society)
Linkara (v/o): However, the big downside is that they lost one of the things that made the DC Universe so great to begin with: its legacy. The second book that I started regularly reading after "Teen Titans" that got me deeper into the DCU was "JSA", about the Justice Society, heroes who were still alive, even after serving in World War II. Were they old? Yeah, but they can still kick seven kinds of ass, and they still fought alongside a younger generation, occasionally passing the torch onto their children and grandchildren. There's so much history and intrigue, and that's what pisses me off so much about the reboot. It sweeps it all away, supposedly under this vague notion of "iconic", even though they keep changing iconic elements, and they're unable to describe what "iconic" is! But yeah, now we have heroes entering a time that's dark and kind of paranoid, and everything's gruesome and grim. It's the '90s all over again.
(Cut to 90s Kid standing there)
90s Kid: DUUUUUUDE!
(Cut to shots of the comic "Earth 2")
Linkara (v/o): Some of us are less upset about than others. Anyway, the Golden Age characters do have a new lease on life in the book "Earth 2", and while they've revised it so they're just starting out on this alternate Earth, "Earth 2" is a surprisingly good read, very enjoyable, and a reminder that "Cry For Justice" was simply some horrible delusion from James Robinson, and that he can still write really damn good stuff.
Linkara: So why am I talking about all this instead of the creation of The Flash himself? (becomes embarrassed) Well, that's because there's shockingly little information that I can find about the creation of the original Flash. (brightens up again) But maybe we could just let the comic speak for itself as we dig into "Flash Comics #1".
(Title sequence plays, followed by title card for this episode, which has Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" playing over it; cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): I should note that "Flash Comics #1", like Action Comics and Detective Comics before it, is an anthology, so we get other stories, too. Most noteworthy: the first stories of Hawkman and Johnny Thunder. Because I don't want this episode to run too long, and because I want to focus on The Flash, we're only going to look at Jay Garrick's inaugural story. The Flash debuted in 1940, written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Harry Lampert. While an anthology book, it is The Flash's name that's across the top, so he's the one who gets the main action on the cover.
Text: Introducing THE FLASH... Fastest man alive!
Linkara: And yet, I'm still waiting my pizza to arrive!
Linkara (v/o): The Flash is running to stop a bullet with his hand. Wow! ...That will just shoot a hole through his hand. The Flash's costume is... remarkably simple: a red skintight shirt with a lightning bolt on it, blue jeans with lightning bolts sewn on them, and a salad bowl helmet. Well, okay, it's supposed to resemble the helmet worn by the Roman god Mercury. Still, you gotta hand it to the guy. At least Clark Kent had glasses to cover up his face. This dude just puts on a helmet to hide his identity. (the comic opens to the first page) We open with The Flash doing ballet apparently, as his one foot is up on his tippy toes. And his torso is kind of bulky. And the other leg just disappears from sight... Maybe we got Rob Liefeld all wrong; he's actually an artist from the Golden Age who was somehow transported here.
Narrator: Faster than the streak of the lightning in the sky... Swifter than the speed of the light itself... fleeter than the rapidity of thought...
Linkara: (as narrator) Speedier than a Gonzales...
Narrator: ...The Flash, reincarnation of the winged Mercury...
Linkara: Uh, you may want to clarify if you're speaking metaphorically. With superhero comics, that's entirely plausible.
Narrator: His speed is the dismay of scientists...
Linkara: (as scientist, pretending to hold up a beaker) Only a science major could– (suddenly, a red flash streaks by, startling/annoying Linkara) Damn it, I am so dismayed! (throws down "beaker")
Narrator: But before he became known and feared as "the fastest thing on Earth," Jay Garrick was an unknown student at Midwestern University...
Linkara: (as narrator) Except for, well, all the people who knew him, as we're about to see. (looks around shiftily)
Linkara (v/o): Jay runs up to his love interest Joan and asks her out to a dance.
Joan: I don't think so, Jay... You're... a scrub on the football team...
Linkara: (as Joan) And you never stand up to Dr. Cox.
Joan: And Captain Bull Tryon's already asked me!!
Jay: You mean you won't go out with me--- just because I'm a football scrub?
Linkara: (as Joan) Well, that and the werewolf thing.
Joan: No... but because a man of your build and brains could be a star... A scrub is just an old washwoman!! You won't put your mind to football!!
Linkara: (confused) So... he's a towel boy for the football team? I'm confused now.
Linkara (v/o): Also, let this be a lesson, aspiring young men: the ladies only appreciate your strength and intelligence if it's put to use on a college football team.
Jay: So I'm...
Linkara (v/o): (as Jay) Hyphen...
Jay: ...an old washwoman, eh? I'll show her!!
Linkara: (as Jay) I'll only use regular strength on her laundry! (nods)
Linkara (v/o): Jay tries to do better on the football field, but still has trouble.
Narrator: But in the research laboratory, the football dub is a brilliant student...
Linkara (v/o): "Football dub"? He's the football team's translator?
Professor: Jay, you've studied the gasses emanating from "hard water" for three years...
Linkara: (stumped) Hard... water? They're experimenting on ice?
Linkara (v/o): Well, okay, obviously, Gardner Fox meant "heavy water", since that's what it tends to be retconned as in future stories. Jay works on it long into the night, naturally wearing a business suit while he does so, because that's appropriate attire for science. He goes on until three-thirty in the morning.
Jay: Three-thirty! I need a smoke!!
Linkara: (grinning) Oh, 1940s, never change.
Linkara (v/o): And guess what, all he does is turn his back to the lab equipment and just light up! RIGHT NEXT TO HIS EQUIPMENT, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!
Linkara: Dammit, I miss the days when you were allowed to smoke next to sensitive chemical mixtures in laboratories!
Jay: Boy, that feels good...
(Cut to a clip of the MST3K gang watching The Brute Man)
Crow: (as Hal Moffat) Boy, I love Six! I got to get a carton of these for my pregnant wife!
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): And I guess that cigarette was just so alive with pleasure for him that he completely leaned back onto the beaker full of heavy water, and it drops down to the floor and shatters, emitting noxious fumes.
Jay: WHEW... That gas is... powerful... stuff...
(While "Purple Haze" plays in the background, Linkara looks up, wearing a pair of blind glasses)
Linkara: Oh, wow, man...
Linkara (v/o): By the way, I would love it if it turned out that this whole thing was just an anti-smoking PSA.
Narrator: Overcome by the fumes, Jay lurches forward...
Jay: It...It's too much... for me...
Linkara: (as Jay) Squiggly lines... overpowering me... (groans and falls over)
Linkara (v/o): The next day, the professor who was working with him walks in and finds his body, which has been inhaling the "deadly fumes of the gas elements of 'hard water'." I don't think this comic knows what half of those words mean, especially not "deadly", because I imagine he'd be, you know, DEAD if he was inhaling DEADLY fumes all night. He's in the hospital for the next few weeks, but fortunately, he makes it through.
Jay: Boy, that food tastes good! I could eat a horse!
Nurse: You'll eat mush for another week...and like it!!
Linkara: (laughs) Have you noticed that my torso is really boxy? (frowns)
Linkara (v/o): In another section of the hospital, Colonel Sanders here is talking with the professor about what's happened to Jay.
Doctor: Unless the specialist from New York is crazy...your boy will be the fastest thing that ever walked on Earth!! The elements of hard water will speed up a person's reflexes...the gas injects him like a vaccination...
Linkara: Yeah, the gas injects him. (beat) Via his lungs. (another beat) What?
Doctor: Science knows that hard water makes a person act much quicker than ordinarily...
(Cut to the obligatory shot of the panel from "Superman At Earth's End", showing...)
Hitler Clone: Of course. Don't you know anything about science?
(Back to the Flash comic)
Doctor: By an intake of its gases, Jay can walk, talk, run and think swifter than thought... He will probably be able to outrace a bullet!!
Linkara: (holding up a gun) Here, let's go test it!
(Cut to the title card for this episode again, as we go to commercial break; upon return, the title card is shown again, before the review resumes)
Linkara (v/o): Jay's apparently safe to go home now, but he spots Joan outside the window and immediately runs out to her at super speed. He even proclaims...
Jay: WHEEE– Can I travel!!
Linkara: WHEE! Does this comic know dialogue or what?
Linkara (v/o): He super-speeds to a library to get a book for her and then returns it.
Jay: It scares me, sort of! But I guess I'm just a freak of science...
Linkara: (as Jay) In fact, you could say that I'm a super freak. Super freak. I'm super freaky.
Linkara (v/o): He asks her once again to go to the dance, but she says she only will if he plays in the state game. You know, I do have to wonder about people like this. If her love is dependent on football careers, what the hell is she gonna if none of these guys picked up for the major leagues? Anyway, the game comes, and Jay gets his shot and, of course, uses his superpowers to score touchdown after touchdown.
Jay: Boy, this is the stuff!! A football star-- and a date with Joan tonight!!
Linkara: With great power, there must also come... a hot date and the accolades from your peers.
Linkara (v/o): You should feel lucky you're in the DC Universe, Jay; if this was Marvel, your loved ones would have one foot in the grave by now. Jay eventually graduates and naturally, he is not some massive celebrity or something for his amazing superpowers. Nah, he gets to move to New York and become an assistant professor! Joan, meanwhile, goes off to help her military father in his "atomic bombarder" research.
Linkara: I'd make a joke about the Hulk, but we actually have a few more weeks to go before we get to him.
Linkara (v/o): In New York, Jay reads about some gangsters who keep eluding the district attorney, and apparently, that's all the inspiration he needs to become The Flash! Seriously, that's it.
Narrator: That night, the gangsters are visited by a figure clad in the wings of Mercury... a human bolt of lightning... THE FLASH!
Linakra (v/o): Aaaand we don't get to see any of that visit. We just cut to a bunch of gangsters quitting their profession because of this.
Gangster: He just disappears in front you!! I'm quitting this racket!!
Linkara: But what will you with all your green plaid suits if you're not a gangster?
Jay: I feel better... turning my speed into channels to fight crime...I feel useful to humanity!!
Linkara: (as Jay) I like narrating to myself out loud. I feel useful to the reader.
Linkara (v/o): Some time later, Joan and a professor spot Jay exercising by playing tennis with himself. Apparently, Jay and Joan didn't keep in touch... Must be the lack of football in his life... because Jay is surprised to see her. She says her father has been kidnapped and she hoped he could help. And all of a sudden, a car pulls up and someone shoots at Joan!
Narrator: Attuning himself to the speed of the bullet to avoid injury, he lurches forward!
Linkara (v/o): Okay, I joked about this with the cover, but actually, according to the physics of superheroes, it is actually possible for him to pluck a bullet out of the air if he's going as fast as it and he moves his arm in a sweeping motion, like how a catcher in baseball will still move their glove in the same direction the ball is going, to lower the stopping force necessary to, well, stop it.
(Cut back to the cover again)
Linkara (v/o): My problem with the cover is that it looks like he's just putting his hand in front of it, which is not going to stop it.
(Cut back to the comic in progress again)
Linkara (v/o): Here, though, he matches the speed and manages to catch the bullet, to the amazement of Joan and the other guy who still hasn't gotten a name yet. We cut to "another part of town", where the gangsters are celebrating their belief that Joan is dead. Apparently, no one bothered to look behind them as they were driving off to make sure they got her.
Thug 1: I, Sieur Satan, say that Williams will now tell us his secret base of the atomic bombarder!!
Linkara: (as Sieur Satan) Yes! He will totally be willing to help us once we tell him that we murdered his daughter! (nods) Wait...
Linkara (v/o): Also... "Sieur Satan". "Sieur Satan"!
Thug 2: And I, Serge Orloff, surgeon extraordinary, will give his daughter her life... if he tells!!
(Linkara stares, utterly stupefied; cut to a clip of an episode of Scrubs)
Dr. Cox: (to Todd Quinlan) Great moment there, dumbass. It starts out with a profound misunderstanding of how the human body works and winds up with you shattering some old man's hand.
(Cut back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Dudes, when a huge part of your plan depends on bringing the dead back to life, I think you might want to go back to the drawing board. And remember, this was plan A! Also, NO ONE TALKS LIKE THIS!
Thug 3: What of me, Duriel? I shall visit him in the Room of Mirrors to get his answer!!
Linkara (v/o): One dude is named Satan and the other is named Duriel. Kind of laying it on a bit thick, aren't we? Hey, I wonder who the bad guys in this comic are. I mean, they just tried to shoot and murder someone, but that doesn't quite convince me. So, this is what Duriel was doing before he was guarding Theriot and Tal Rasha's tomb, huh? Gotta say, I think he looks more horrific with the Snidely Whiplash mustache...
(Cut to a shot of Duriel in Diablo 2)
Linkara (v/o): ...than he does as the giant slug... mantis... thing.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, he goes to visit Joan's father in the Room of Mirrors.
Dr. Williams: These mirrors are stealing my mind!!
Linkara: Okay, dude, I wouldn't nominate you for "sexiest man alive", but you're not that ugly. I think you can live with seeing your own reflection for a few hours. Wimp.
Linkara (v/o): He still refuses to talk since his daughter wouldn't want him to reveal it. Satan, Duriel and Orloff discuss how selling the secret of the bombarder would make them all millionaires, though I do have to wonder how they plan to get past all the other military personnel on that base, but whatever. Duriel leaves to go get the body, since he's apparently an undertaker. He runs into Jay outside of her home and reveals that he knows about the shooting, despite them not having told anyone about it. Duriel then speeds off when he sees that Joan is fine. She says that he must be one of the "Faultless Four". She explains that the Faultless Four are four brilliant scientists who wanted the secrets of the atomic bombarder. And I guess despite being brilliant scientists, they all have to take second jobs, since Duriel said he was an undertaker. Jay changes into The Flash and speeds off in pursuit of Duriel, finding their hideout and confronting the Faultless Three, I guess. Oh, wait, there's a fourth guy who miraculously appears and isn't named here*, who shows up at the bottom of the page. They try to shoot him, but once more, he plucks the bullet out of the air and then runs off to find Joan's dad.
- NOTE: The fourth guy's name is Smythe, as the comic explains later.
Williams: I don't know who you are...but I'm mighty glad to see you!!
Linkara: Man, it's a good thing that Jay is completely indistinguishable from other men when he puts on (points to his own hat) a silly hat.
Linkara (v/o): He gets the guy back to Joan and runs off, the father saying that he...
Williams: ...didn't get a chance to see what he looks like!
Linkara (v/o): Eh, fair enough. I mean, he was probably exhausted from... uh, the mirrors. The Flash goes back to the headquarters of the four to overhear their plans. Their plan is to launch an attack on Coney Island Beach and then grab Joan and her father in the confusion. Not sure how they know that the two will be there, but whatever.
Flash: If I let them go thru with it, secure in the belief that all works smoothly... I'll get them in the act of murder!!
Linkara: (as one of the thugs) Hey, we can totally hear you over there! I mean, maybe you shouldn't be loudly announcing your own plans when you're just behind a curtain.
Linkara (v/o): So yeah, Duriel launches his attack in a plane with... a tiny machine gun, I must say, and The Flash is there to stop all the machine gun bullets before they can actually kill anyone. He then runs off to the four to nab them, but Satan slips out of the room and throws a switch.
Sieur Satan: I've killed The Flash!! I've electrocuted him!! The room is wired to kill...I...I've killed them all!!
Linkara: Geez, who would have ever thought a guy named "Satan" was untrustworthy?
Linkara (v/o): However, Jay was easily able to slip out of the room. Satan quickly goes to his car and starts speeding off.
Flash: You shall also die...even as Duriel, Orloff, and Smythe!!
Linkara (v/o): Even as they... what? Okay, 1940s, I'd appreciate it if your dialogue made a little bit of sense! Also, Jay Garrick will kill your ass if you threaten his girlfriend.
Narrator: Satan's mind cracks under the terrific strain!!
Linkara: (blissfully) Ahhh... I'm envisioning that the Satan that they're referring to is Mephisto, who can't stand the strain of Spider-Man's marriage and love, and he just gives them back to Peter and Mary Jane. Good times...
Linkara (v/o): Satan drives off a cliff and dies, his car apparently melting, based on this panel. And so, our comic ends with Joan's father talking about how awesome The Flash is, Joan winking at Jay and saying...
Joan: A secret's a secret, isn't it?
Linkara: Unless it's a really badly-kept secret. Anyway, this comic... is... not a great origin.
Linkara (v/o): Now, it's perfectly okay for Jay to not have some catch phrase or something to motivate him into crime-fighting, but how he gets his powers is that he was a dumbass while smoking a cigarette and just kind of literally stumbled into getting superpowers, and his first instinct for using them is win football games and attract the woman who only cared about football stars. The criminals' plan doesn't make any sense, and it lacks subtlety or nuance. But it's not offensive or anything, it's just... eh?... to the point where you're really not sure why you should care.
Linkara: As a character, Jay Garrick did a lot better as time went on, and there are plenty of better stories than how he began. But still, join us next week for the origin that's, uh...
(Hard rock music starts playing and Linkara listens intently; cut to black)
Voice: (distorted) I AM IRON MAN!
(End credits roll)
So no one bothered to call the police after the attempted murder on Joan?
How are the Faultless Four "faultless" exactly?
(Stinger: A shot of the panel where Jay starts leaning back toward the chemicals while smoking is shown again)
Linkara (v/o): Only a science major could smoke a cigarette like this!