A Tribute to the of

While I'm pleased, as always, that you're here, faithful reader, if you're reading this particular edition of The Silver Age Sage, it means that one of the interviews I'm not so patiently waiting on have not yet reached fruition in time for my self-imposed deadline. I have a few out there, but circumstances have prevented my getting the finished products as yet. Hopefully next time. Meanwhile, I hope you won't mind a review of an issue of The Flash from August of 1966. Its issue #163 and purportedly sports one of editor Julie Schwartz's all time favorite covers rendered by Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella. That great pencil and ink team also did the interior for "The Flash Stakes His Life on You!" The tale was written by John Broome.

The splash page addresses the readers, telling us of the peril the Flash is in and that we, the public can help him (and one of Carmine Infantino's famous "Helping Hands" are there pointing to us from the "Y" in "You.") We see a wraithlike Flash, not unlike the one on that dynamite cover of his team-up with the Spectre in the Brave and the Bold #72 when he was "Phantom Flash, Cosmic Traitor!" (reviewed waaaay back in the first year of this feature) but he is even more minuscule and wraith-like and a mustachioed bald man in a suit is literally blowing him away with a puff of breath.

Turning the page we see a small girl on a pier by the river when she accidentally drops her doll into the water. At that opportune moment the Fastest Man Alive happens by and runs across the water to retrieve her treasured toy. The grateful child promises to never forget him.

Switching scenes, that same man is in a laboratory elsewhere in Central City conducting an experiment that he's worked on for a decade. His cat is under a large lamp and at precisely 3:00 his housekeeper arrives with milk for the cat, but she is surprised to not only find no cat, but that she can't understand why she thought Mr. Haddon had a cat in the first place. She quickly excuses herself and Haddon grins triumphantly thinking to himself that the radiation worked and he now only has to increase its power to work on the Flash.

And where is our hero? Speeding his way up to police HQ to see if he has any mail before returning to his civilian identity of Barry Allen, Police scientist. The Scarlet Speedster is in for a shock, though, when the desk sergeant doesn't recognize him. Back out on the street, Flash encounters an ex-con that he helped put away, but David Gulch walks right past him without a hint of recognition. Then, things get even worse, when the Crimson Comet notices his left hand is becoming transparent. He bolts for the office of his fiancée, Iris West at the newspaper and finds that she doesn't recognize him either.   As his own personal nightmare continues to unfold, he hears a police officer getting a call on a call box (fancy that!) about a robbery in progress. Flash decides that he can at least still function as a crime fighter when he sees his reflection in a store window and finds that his whole body is going transparent and light and he feels all but weightless. His form begins to seem more like a wispy cloud and he finds it difficult to run, but he still makes the attempt until he happens to run right into Haddon, who is perpetrating the robbery. The thief addresses the startled Monarch of Motion and then blows our hero around with the breath from his lungs, ultimately cornering him in his house/laboratory, where he announces he will destroy him, closing out Part I.

Part II begins with a smug Ben Haddon lighting up a cigar and regaling the Flash with his ingenious plot. Haddon spread his radiation over the city and it promptly wiped out the memory of the Flash from all citizens of Central City, save Haddon himself. "And since our own belief in ourselves is based on how others feel about us—you began at once to lose your identity! Your contact with reality was shattered! You began to fade away! Right now there's only one thing that's keeping you from disappearing altogether..the fact that only one person still believes in you—namely me!" He then hits a switch that will erase his memory of the Flash and walks away, convinced he's pulled off his destruction of the Flash. Our hero has indeed faded further, until a greatly reduced outline is virtually all that remains, but he's not yet gone. He speculates that someone must still believe in him and it occurs to him that it must be the little girl he'd encountered earlier.

At an agonizingly slow pace, interrupted by the odd wind that further slows him down, the Flash makes his way back to the pier and when he gets closer to the girl, he is fully restored, but when he begins to walk away, he starts to fade again. He then hatches a plan and after introducing himself to Alice and explaining his plight, she accompanies him to a place where he can use his restored speed to create stacks of pamphlets telling his story and asking the people of the city to believe in him. She helps distribute them and he also makes his plea: "Stop! Read this—my life depends on it!" The plan works as people become convinced and soon the Flash is back to his robust self. He hastily goes back to search for clues at Haddon's home, finding a key piece of information in his cellar about the purchase of a South Pacific isle called Bora Balu. After determining latitude and longitude of the island, he speeds across the water in search of Ben Haddon.

Haddon, meanwhile, is living the dream, being waited on hand and foot by native women and also employing armed body guards. Little does he realize that the dream is about to become a nightmare when the vaguely recalled Fastest Man Alive arrives to take down the hired guns and Haddon faster than the eye can see.

The story wraps up with the local interest story on television about Alice and how she helped restore the Flash. As a result, donations have poured in for the poor little girl, giving her a solid future and ending the story.

I don't know for certain, but I suspect this was another of the famous Julie Schwartz cover-done-before-the-story efforts and Carmine Infantino's dramatic cover layout and pencils, perfectly embellished with Joe Giella's inks inspired a pretty nifty tale. It was nice to finally find out the story behind that classic cover and I give this story a solid 8.

I'd also like to mention that Joe Giella still does a pretty fine cover re-creation, as I'm pleased to show you here. Look familiar? If you're interested in commissioning Joe, please let me know and I'll be happy to put you in touch. He's reasonable, quick (though he'll tell you otherwise) and a true pleasure to deal with on all levels.

Thanks, as always, for spending time with us. I'm hopeful that next time around I'll have an interview ready to supplement my review.

Remember that my e-mail is at your disposal for comments, questions or whatever else crosses your mind: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Keep the faith and…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2009 by B.D.S.

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