A Tribute to the of

Greetings fellow enthusiast of the sensational Silver Age of DC Comics! It is with great pleasure that we mark the 60th anniversary of the character that ushered in the Silver Age back in 1956: The Flash!

Fastest Man Alive, Crimson Comet, Scarlet Speedster, Monarch of Motion. The Flash goes by several well-known monikers and he’s been featured here numerous times at the Silver Lantern, from his famed races with Superman to his many battles with his impressive rogue’s gallery and team-ups with the Doom Patrol, Green Lantern and let us not forget his many appearances in the Justice League of America. If any character truly epitomizes the Silver Age, it would have to be our own Barry Allen Flash.

So, how do you select a worthy story to mark this milestone? Well, you poke around and dig through the archives to make certain you don’t do a repeat and to my pleasant surprise, I discovered that I had not yet covered a significant, early adventure. This seems like the ideal time to cover the first appearance of Captain Cold in Flash’s second Showcase appearance. It’s Showcase #8 from May/June of 1957. That cover is by Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella. Interior pencils are also by Carmine with inking by his friend and purported favorite inker (at least that’s what Carmine told me when I had the great privilege and pleasure of interviewing him) Frank Giacoia and the Julie Schwartz-edited story, by the great John Broome is “The Coldest Man on Earth!

Before I begin, there’s an oddity on the splash page. This is the first story with Captain Cold in its pages, but the caption at the bottom of the page states: “The first encounter between the Flash and the amazing criminal called Captain Cold resulted in a defeat for the world’s fastest human! Under what fantastic circumstances would they meet again? And what new, ingenious trick would the scarlet speedster have to overcome in order to capture the coldest man on earth?” Weird, huh? Where’s Julie Schwartz when you need him?

The oddly garbed man in the opening panels, dressed like he’s just come from a polar expedition, right down to the slitted goggles, makes a dramatic debut in Central City, firing his cold gun at a skyscraper and freezing everything within, including the personnel at the bank. Sauntering unmolested to the massive safe, the tap of a small hammer shatters the frozen and brittle door, providing easy access to a pile of *ahem* cold cash.

Barry Allen, meanwhile, has been alerted to something going on at the Paragon building and decides it’s a job for the Flash to investigate. Releasing the famed miniature costume from the ring on his finger that expands rapidly on contact with the air, our hero is soon in action, using his uncanny speed to literally leap from rooftop to rooftop, then down the side of a building to confront the chilly one.

Captain Cold, emboldened by the success of his weapon, fires on the Flash, but to no effect. Our hero is able to vibrate through the cold blasts, but then the rogue switches tactics and fires at the flying feet of the Flash, making the pavement too slippery for purchase. He then slips away before he can be captured.

Now it’s flashback time as we learn the origin of this villain. Len Snart is in his rundown apartment perusing the newspaper and wondering how he could take on the Flash. He stumbles across an article about a comprehensive article about our hero in a scientific magazine. Taking his cue, Len breaks into the offices of said magazine and makes off with the manuscript where he learns that a cyclotron could potentially disrupt the Flash’s legendary speed. Editor Schwartz comes through as usual to explain that a cyclotron is a device for imparting very high speed to electrified particles by successive electric impulses at high frequency.

As luck would have it, there just happens to be a cyclotron building in town and Len Snart is going to use his new found knowledge to take advantage of the equipment. Unfortunately he’s not quite as savvy as he thought and the adjustments he makes are incorrect, but the device sends a radiating flash that strikes the pistol he’d designed and laid on a nearby surface.

Deciding to get while the getting is good, Len is soon challenged by an armed security guard. With little in the way of options and even less to lose, Snart wields his gun in hopes of intimidating the guard. To his surprise, he accidentally activates it and literally freezes the guard in place with the pull of the trigger. Armed with this remarkable new weapon, Snart designs his costume and then tries to think of an alias equal to the Flash. He goes through Mr. Arctic, the Cold Wave, Sub-Zero and the Human Icicle before settling on the alliterative Captain Cold.

Returning to the present, the thief is in his hideout, musing how to deal with his nemesis. He decides to experiment with different elements in his cold gun and tries some liquid helium, which surprisingly produces the mirage of a bear that then pounces, but leaps harmlessly through the Captain. Snart reasons that he’s been using absolute zero, or minus 460 degrees Fahrenheit and that it can obviously cause these amazing images, fading after a few minutes, which just might be the gimmick he needs to take on the Fastest Man Alive.

Soon, police scientist Barry Allen is receiving another alert, this time about a cold snap in the middle of civic park. The Flash is then racing to the location to find the lake frozen solid. Now that the trap is set, a concealed Captain Cold fires a burst of absolute zero, creating the illusion of multiple staircases flying at the Crimson Comet. Using his incredible speed to create a force wind to drive them back, the Scarlet Speedster is suddenly faced with…nothing. In the next few moments, Snart fires more bursts, creating images that appear to be otherworldly animals in a crazy carousel gradually constricting on the Flash and then a series of huge buzz saw blades. With each effort to overcome the threats, he hopes the Flash will wear himself out between their fading away.

Just then, our hero detects cold emanating from the saw blades and realizes the source of this scourge. Playing a hunch, he runs directly through them. Spotting his nemesis, the Flash turns the tables by running at such a high rate of speed, the cold gun cannot connect. Finally the Sultan of Speed wraps up his foe in a paralyzing net of air and hauls him in, closing out this 12-page adventure.

It’s interesting just how often the concept of cold has been used in comics, usually on the villain side. The icicle bedeviled the Alan Scott Green Lantern and the Justice Society of America back in the day. Mr. Freeze has given the Batman grief over the years. Polar Boy was a member of the reserve Legion of Super-Heroes and of course Firestorm the Nuclear Man dealt with Killer Frost. I seem to recall a young Carmine Infantino once working on a Jack Frost character in the earliest part of his career as well, but perhaps the greatest master of the genre is Captain Cold.

How could I give this story anything but the maximum 10 on the 10-point rating scale? An early Silver Age Flash classic from the venerable Showcase title and the rollout of one of the Flash’s most intriguing and dangerous villains make it a shoo-in.

Happy 60th, Scarlet Speedster! Despite the fact that Jay Garrick preceded you and they foolishly killed you off in the Crisis series, a good character can’t stay down and between the television series and upcoming movies, not to mention in print, you will doubtless continue to thrill fans for decades to come. We’ll be back with the next installment on the 15th of October, faithful readers. Be sure to click your way back and in the meantime, don’t be shy. Drop a line with whatever is on your mind to: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Until then…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2016 by B.D.S.

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