A Tribute to the of






I'm sure I've remarked before that the Flash is probably a fairly close second to Batman as far as having a large, colorful rogue's gallery.  Some of them have really had some longevity, too.  In sequential order by first appearance, we have Captain Cold, clear back in Showcase #8, which was, of course, the second book featuring the Silver Age Scarlet Speedster, The Mirror Master in Flash #105, Gorilla Grodd and the Pied Piper in Flash #106, the Weather Wizard in Flash #110, Captain Boomerang in Flash #117, The Trickster in Flash #121 (at least I believe that was his first showing), The Top in Flash #122, Abra Kadabra in Flash #128, The Reverse Flash aka Professor Zoom in Flash #139 and the other half of the Temperature Twins, Heat Wave, in Flash #140.

There were also some second-stringers and just for fun I'm going to review the debut tale of Mr. Element, who first menaced Central City in Showcase #13, the March/April 1958 edition.  Furthermore, inexplicably, at least to me (I've not read the story), he changed identities to Dr. Alchemy in the very next issue of Showcase.  Maybe I'll look into that sometime in the future.  Meanwhile, back to "Master of the Elements!," written by John Broome, delineated by Carmine Infantino and his good friend and favorite inker Frank Giacoia and edited by Julie Schwartz:

Things kick off at the Palladium Jewelry Store where Mr. Element, dressed in a costume that features a stylized helmet including a red eye visor and a gas-mask-like hose along with two henchmen, also in costume, dubbed Argon and Radon.  A clerk in the back is able to call the police, so that a brief time later, when Barry Allen, Police Scientist, is meeting up with Iris West, news reporter, for a lunch date.  They both hear the radio broadcast and Barry ponders how he can change garb to deal with things as the Flash.

Iris announces that this is her chance for a scoop and quickly rushes down the sidewalk.  Barry lags behind and kicks up a concealing whirlwind so that he can deploy his costume from the compartment on his ring, allowing it to expand rapidly on contact with the air and the next thing you know, the Monarch of Motion is at the jewelry store.  Mr. Element is anything but surprised and the Flash cannot reach him to make the apprehension due to some strange, but invisible barrier.  He soon determines that he's caught in multiple minuscule strands of gold.  Mr. Element schools our hero that gold is the one element that can be stretched so thin that it becomes virtually invisible and Julie Schwartz provides an editorial note that gold has the greatest malleability of all elements.  A few years later Bob Kanigher would take advantage of that fact with the metal man, Gold.  I seem to recall that according to legend, he borrowed Julie Schwartz's book on elements when he was dreaming up the Metal Men.

The delay is sufficient for Mr. Element and his lackeys to successfully escape to their underground hideout.  Here we learn that there are actually six members of Mr. Element's gang and that he's named them after the six inert elements, symbolizing their inability to do anything without him.  He also begins to recount his origin, being interested in valuable elements such as diamonds, gold, silver and platinum even as a boy.  When he began to turn to a life of crime he decided that the only thing that could potentially stand in his way was the Flash and that by mastering the elements, he could gain the victory.  "Life is based on carbon!  So my emblem shall be the model of a carbon atom!  Elements are found in rocks—so my headquarters shall be among these underground rocks!  To inhale only pure oxygen, I wear this atmosphere filter!"

Later our hero is on patrol when he notes that the lights to the building containing the Harrow Mining Company are on, so he decides to investigate.  The Flash's attempt to vibrate though a wall is thwarted, however, and Mr. Element, speaking through the wall, explains that he's sprayed it with Vanadium, the hardest of all metallic elements.  Undaunted, the Fastest Man Alive uses his super speed to create friction with his hand, heating up the wall sufficiently to melt it.  He nabs Mr. Element and dashes off and across the Central City river bridge when Mr. Element uses a sodium pellet to create an explosion on contact with the water.  The concussion leaves the Scarlet Speedster dazed enough so that the villain can escape.

Element starts a crime-wave and develops new element based weapons, such as an accelerated oxidizing agent that handily rusts safes; magnesium flares and silicon-based, bullet-proof "super glass."

One night Barry and Iris are dining al fresco when some fireworks illuminate the evening skies, coalescing into writing from Mr. Element, predicting doom for the Flash upon their next encounter.

Taking the threat and challenge seriously, Flash begins to scour Central City until he finally locates his quarry, but Mr. Element is prepared with a projector mounted on a tripod.  He fires a burst of a newly discovered element, "Elemento," which is described as a form of magnetic light.  He is able to use it to grip and propel the Flash away from the Earth.

As he hurtles toward the stratosphere, heading toward escape velocity, it looks as though it's curtains for the Fastest Man Alive.  He'll either hit the moon or continue helplessly into the vacuum of space.

Incredibly, our hero soon lands safely back at his point of origin and takes down Mr. Element and his gang.  He then explains his successful escape.  The Flash realized that he could save himself by vibrating at super speed and using the gravitation of the moon to curve around it and return to Earth.  "Of course traveling at the speed of light, this entire occurrence lasted less than a minute—and by holding my breath in airless space, I managed to survive!"

Uh-huh.  I wonder what he did about the unbelievably cold nature of space?  Oh, that's right.  The vibration thing…

Mr. Element isn't quite ready to throw in the towel and is about to trigger a radium bomb when he realizes his wristwatch, which is also the trigger, is missing.  The Flash had noticed the "peculiar glow of the dial" and removed it at super speed, so that closes the first case with Mr. Element in a mere 12 pages.

The idea of elements seemed to be a recurring one in the DC offices.  We have Element Lad, for example, in the Legion of Super-heroes and Metamorpho, the Element Man.  I'm still kind of curious how and why Dr. Alchemy with his Philosopher's Stone came about from Mr. Element.  The only other story I've seen Dr. Alchemy in is the classic "Crisis on Earth I" and "Crisis on Earth II" Justice League of America stories, where I was led to believe he was a JSA villain.  I'll figure it all out one of these days.

Meanwhile, this classic tale of the Flash gets a solid rating of 8 on the 10-point scale.  These initial romps that birthed the Silver Age are fun and fascinating precursors to what was in store for the next several years.

Thanks as always for spending part of your day with us.  Please submit comments, questions and suggestions to: professor_the@hotmail.com.

C'mon back in about two weeks for the next edition of the Silver Age Sage.  The webmaster and I will be here with more musings and meanderings from the great Silver Age of DC Comics.  So, see you next time and…

Long live the Silver Age!



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