Tuesday, February 7, 2012

No Sad Songs for a Scarlet Speedster

Those kids don't know where to look.
The rumor is that DC Editor and midwife of the Silver Age Julius Schwartz had a rule for selling comics; put a gorilla on the cover, and it would sell. Additionally, the rule expanded to include fire, motorcycles, the color purple (as in the actual color purple and not, you know, The Color Purple, although look for Dynamite to launch their Purple Powers line next year with original covers by Alex Ross and special deluxe bonus covers by a photo negative of Alex Ross) and interrogatives (Why is Batman Ironing the Joker’s Shirts?? I know I’d like to find out).

What would also help sell a comic by gracing its covers would be big tits, wet ass, and well hung dudes sticking it in big open beavers, but then maybe I’m pitching to a different market. I’d have been a millionaire in the 1950s. Also, imagine a switcheroo world where there were tits on comic book covers but Julius Schwartz was running Maxim and every cover had a gorilla riding a purple motorcycle out of an inferno. Hey, as an aside, how do you check for a gas leak in your home office?

Also a part of the passel of tried-and-true comic book cover sales-boosters was flat-out blubbering like a stinking, fat, stupid baby. Tears sold comic books – no doubt it was part of the recipe for success enjoyed by the romance books, but the trend passed handily into super-hero adventure stories. Superman wept over many a man seemingly murdered by a misuse of the Man of Steel’s mighty super-powers, Batman bawled over the occasional cadaver of the Boy Wonder, and Green Lantern was snuffling through his own snot after he woke up in that hotel room with that dead hooker and a suitcase of Peruvian flake in his bed. “Why is Green Lantern Stuffing This Rolled-Up Carpet In The Trunk Of The Used Car He Bought For Cash At A Needles Dealership? Why Is He Buying So Much Lighter Fluid??” (PS Also purple and a gorilla.)

Still among the crying cadres over at DC in the swinging Sixties, the weepingest of the all was – by my estimation - the fastest man alive, Barry “Flash” Allen. I count at least a half-dozen covers where the Flash loses his shit and hucks back salt tears like an emotional deficient, not the least of which is the spectacularly treacly, awkward and plain unusual Flash #198…

I think maybe she's trying not to laugh, champ.

The story – amazingly titled “No Sad Songs for a Scarlet Speedster” – is the handiwork of well-respected writer and editor Bob Kanigher, whom youmight recall as being the inspired hand behind many of DC’s best war stories and the utterly berserk hand behind the story of how one time Wonder Girl fought a jive-talking splooge fountain. Basically, he was never at home writing the super-hero stuff.

Also ill at ease, by his own reports, with the super-hero stuff was penciller Gil Kane, who nonetheless never failed to put a single line down to paper which didn’t punch you out in front of your girlfriend and steal your wallet. Kane was always amazing, even in this … unusual … story. “The worst thing Gil Kane ever drew” is like “The worst thousand dollars a guy gave you for no reason to spend however you want.” The worst Gil Kane is also inked by Vince Colleta, but I digress …

The premise of the story is that The Flash is an imbecile. More specifically, he’s rendered an imbecile while trying to show off for three recalcitrant, angry youths he’d been asked to entertain at what I suspect was an Orphanage for Ungrateful Children. Probably most of these kids had parents, they were just such dicks about it they had to go to the orphanage.

Ahhh-ahhhh, he'll touch every one of us! 
The three callow youths – I didn’t bother to remember their names, they’re just that same group of three kids who always appeared somewhere in the Sixties and Seventies when someone wanted to show ‘a diverse group of youngsters’, one black guy and a coupla white kids, one of ‘em’s a girl. Infinite Junior Mod Squads, as far as the eye can see – sneer and turn their back on Flash, who just wants to spin on a single finger like a top for their amusement (This is, legit, what the Flash does to entertain kids. It’s even mentioned in an earlier issue as the stunt Flash likes to pull for kiddie bashes. I can’t front, I’d like to see that, possibly at that B-Boy competition Red Bull holds every year in Bavaria or wherever).

To get on their good side, the Flash tries to build a clubhouse for the kids, only to end up having to haul bricks and defend the kids from gunfire when a group of baddies show up and take affront at the casual abandon of zoning permit application procedures happening on their turf. The Flash takes a ricochet to the part of the brain which manages “self-respect” and promptly adopts the mental and emotional level of a five year old or something.

The kids take the Flash to a cave, as you usually do for victims who have suffered traumatic head injuries, and then hunker down to endure a siege by the aforementioned baddies, revved up for more of the o’ bang-a-bang. While the seemingly powerless Flash hangs out in the cave, communing with animals (I kid you not. He nurses an injured pigeon named Petey back to health while hiding out in the cave), the kids find their stones and civic responsibility, and defend the Flash long enough for him to get a second swat on the noggin and come back to normal.

Mind you, not before this scene happens:

Thanks to my Super DC 1976 calendar, this is an image
I will forever associate with Thanksgiving.

This is THE weirdest thing I think I may have ever seen in a comic book, and I’ve seen … almost everything else that’s ever happened in a comic book since forever.

Flash recovers thanks to cerebral hemorrhaging and the grace of the Almighty, and the kids learn something I forget what, leaving our hero to drag his tear-soaked cheeks and snot-bedewed upper lip back home and to a much deserved rest …

Hey lady, that guy probably has a major concussion, you shouldn't let him fall asleep!

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