A Tribute to the of

One of the starkest covers in my collection is depicted on issue #184 (+ back & house ad) of the Flash from December of 1968. It reminds me ever so slightly of the cover from #163, but perhaps that’s because of the similar black background and green logo to offset it. This one is mainly text and despite the complete lack of any action it is kind of a grabber, I think.

"Executioner of Central City!" was written by Frank Robbins with that immortal team of Ross Andru and Mike Esposito illustrating and Julie Schwartz editing.

The splash shows our hero in complete anguish, a massive smoldering crater behind him and a twisted welcome sign to Central City behind him. He’s muttering that one million people along with every other thing is gone and he’s to blame.

Things begin in Mt. Vista Ionospheric Observatory, a high tech laboratory just outside the city where a team is monitoring pulsars. Iris Allen has arrived to do a newspaper feature about their work, but just as she arrives, the scientists discover a converging of pulsars into a highly destructive force, headed directly for Central City (as depicted on page #2).

Iris, remaining remarkably calm, all things considered, is determined not to stand idly by while doom approaches from the skies and dashes to her roadster, which just happens to be equipped with a dash mounted telephone. She calls Barry to let him know what’s happening and soon the Flash goes into action.

Iris drives toward Central City, but is waylaid by a roadblock. Nonplussed, she exits the roadster and slips past the officer on duty.

Meanwhile the Fastest Man Alive has set up a tremendous ionic updraft (ionic?) by dashing around the entire city, faster than the speed of light. His thoughts describe it as a cosmic force shield. When he’s nearly spent, the pulsar globe strikes the barrier and bounces off like a billiard ball.

Flash has collapsed against a parked vehicle and when he regains enough strength to look up, he sees only a huge chasm where his city once stood. He can only conclude that he effectively deflected the pulsar globe, but must have also created an ionic vacuum (still ionic?) that vaporized Central City.

As Part II opens he suddenly realizes he’s been leaning on Iris’ roadster and that she must have made it back into the city and is therefore another casualty.

Just then he hears a telepathic cry for help and discovers a large humanoid form trapped in the mud nearby. He soon discovers that Zoral, a female scout from the far-flung future of the year 4005 is the one encased in the mud.

The duo compares notes and conclude that the sonic vacuum combined with the ultra- shock-wave created by the impact of the pulsar globe caused a time shift, bringing Zolar into 1968 and perhaps, just maybe moving Central City to 4005.

This, of course, creates a bit of a dilemma itself as all the contents of Central City, including Flash’s famed cosmic treadmill, which allows him to travel through time, are gone.

Just then, Zoral begins to vibrate and she quickly deduces that a time transfer shock had slowed her vibratory pattern to a sub-normal speed, but now she is speeding up and heading for 4005. The Crimson Comet leaps aboard for the ride, which takes a little longer than he’s accustomed to, so there’s time to learn a few things about future Earth.

For example, the people are larger in stature because of some pre-birth tinkering that adds genetic growth. They are further programmed to be averse to killing or other violence. They even have “weapons” that emit an anti-violence burst with a temporary effect.

Zoral further reveals that Dr. Yom, from her time, has developed a quantum-time-shift-resolver, for the purpose of bringing back actual people and locations from the past for contemporary study. Zoral serves as an advance spotter for the project.

Soon they materialize over a fantastic sight. Central City is below them and a PA is advising the inhabitants of where they are and not to panic, but please just go about their daily business. Uh-huh. I know I’d find it a bit difficult to follow my routine if I knew I’d just been shot unwillingly 2,037 years into the future.

As Barry and Zoral discuss the next course of action, they are intercepted by an armed patrol. When Zoral explains who she is they dispute that she is still alive and elaborate that Terra-I citizens do not lie.

Ultimately, through a poor shot on Zoral’s part, Flash is hit with her anti-violence emitter during their struggle and they’re brought into custody. Soon Zoral and the Flash have an audience with the mighty Dr. Yom, who is obviously pretty impressed with himself and his accomplishments, but when he learns from the pair that his greatest triumph was nothing more than an accident, he decides it cannot get out and ruin his precious reputation.

Once Barry is able to see his wife, safe and sound, via a monitor feed in the scientist’s lab, it jolts him out of the effects of the “pacifier” beam and he demands that Yom release Central City. As it happens, the powers that be don’t make the scientists docile, because somebody might need to provide actual defense to the planet, so Yom draws a destructive weapon and begins firing on the Scarlet Speedster. As the Flash does a super speed bob and weave it occurs to him that his best defense is to slow down his own vibratory pattern just enough to allow him to slip back a few minutes in time, so that he can turn the tables on Yom.

Once he succeeds and returns Central City to its proper space and time in 1968, he completes his own journey back and all is as it should be.

As a little added bonus, I thought I’d share my original of the last page (#23) of the story, by Andru and Esposito.

Interestingly, there’s a doodle of sorts on the back of the page and I’m guessing it was by Mike Esposito as there are no visible pencil marks. I miss my friend, Mike and am grateful for this little memento, again, courtesy of my dear friend the webmaster.

Honestly, this story didn’t do a lot for me. I enjoyed the art and some of the unorthodox panel layouts that Ross Andru liked to do, but Frank Robbins wrote what I thought was kind of a confusing story and it seems almost like he lifted a page from the Superman stories with the bottle city of Kandor, albeit no shrinking. I’ve never particularly been a fan of Robbins’ artwork, either. Maybe he’ll one day grow on me, but at present, with no disrespect intended, he just isn’t my cup of tea. I rate this one a mediocre 5.

It’s not the worst Flash story I’ve ever read, but it’s a far, far cry from the best and the character that heralded in the Silver Age and who first encountered his Golden Age counterpart of Jay Garrick, spawning a whole new wave of wonderful Earth 1/Earth 2 crossover stories, deserves better.

As always, the webmaster and I extend our thanks for your visit. While this is a labor of love and a hobby run slightly amok, we enjoy sharing our time and efforts with you, our readers.

Do let us hear from you with any thoughts or questions. Perhaps you’ve got a story or better yet a creator you’d like us to try and plumb. All notes are read with interest at: professor_the@hotmail.com.

C’mon back the first of December for a new edition of the Silver Age Sage and, as always…

Long Live the Silver Age!

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