A Tribute to the of

Did you know there's a technical difference between a team-up and a crossover story in the world of comics? I know I didn't, but I learned just what it is recently. According to a little blurb by Mike Gold, an editor at DC, "...a crossover is when a hero or a group of heroes meet in another hero's or heroes' book: Green Lantern guest-stars in The Flash, or the Viking Prince pops up in a couple of Sgt. Rock stories. A team-up is when two heroes (or groups) meet in a special title: Batman and Green Arrow in Brave and the Bold, Superman races The Flash in DC Comics Presents, and so on." Now, will I remember this distinction and does it matter all that much? Probably not on both counts, but I did find it to be an interesting little tidbit. With that in mind, and at the request of our dear webmaster here at the Silver Lantern, I'm going to take a crack at a bona fide classic from the Silver Age this time. Per our definition above it would be a crossover tale and it involves not one but two Flashes. Journey with me back to the year 1961, specifically September, when, in The Flash #123 (+ original cover art) Barry Allen meets for the very first time none other than Jay Garrick, Flash of the Golden Age in "Flash of Two Worlds."

It's only fitting that the co-creator (the other being artist Harry Lampert) of the Golden Age Flash, the incomparable Gardner Fox crafted this story with the help of Golden and Silver Age Flash artist Carmine Infantino doing the pencilling. Joe Giella with inks and Carl Gafford as the colorist. Editorial duties were aptly handled by the legendary Julius Schwartz. It turns out, in fact, that the idea for this story came from Julie Schwartz himself and he describes it in a foreword to the DC treasury entitled "The Greatest Team-Up Stories Ever Told." Allow me to quote him on the history behind this ground breaking tale:

"Flash, you see -- Barry Allen the police scientist and inveterate slowpoke, that Flash -- took his name because he was and old comic book fan. This mess of chemicals doused him and he got an electrical charge and it all turned into super speed and he needed an act to go with the powers. He used to read FLASH COMICS as a kid -- featuring Jay Garrick from Keystone City, that Flash -- and the idea was that he actually modeled himself after the Golden Age Flash who was, in his reality, a fictional character. Like the bolt of lightning that splashed the chemicals over Barry Allen it hit me: If there is an alternate reality for Barry Allen in which there is a fantasy Flash, and for us the both of them are fantasy characters, then wouldn't it follow that we are fantasy characters from his point of view, and he doesn't just read about us all the time because we don't do anything particularly interesting? I mean, do Frank and Dick Merriwell or Huckleberry Finn live in the DC Universe? No, they probably live in the Street and Smith Universe or the Mark Twain Universe. So how many universes are there? As many as we've got ideas for. So far, I realized, we've got at least two universes going, and it was time for a crossover."

So there's the premise. Now let's go to the story as these parallel worlds are discovered and breached for the first time. Much like his compadre from the Justice League, Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan with Carol Ferris, it seems that poor Barry Allen is often in dutch with his lady love, Iris West, though in this case it's due to his terminal lateness and he's stewing a little over that as he works his way to a rendezvous with her at the Central City Community Center. He is, as usual, late for their appointment and she seems to be pretty irked when he enters the theater area. It turns out that there's to be a presentation on behalf of the local orphanage and her fuming was directed at their featured entertainment, a no-show magician. Ever helpful (and relieved) Barry suggests that perhaps an appearance by The Flash would be an acceptable substitution for the afternoon's entertainment. Reappearing minutes later in his guise of The Flash, Barry wows the children with a series of super speed feats and works toward a grand finish by swiftly rotating and climbing an unsupported rope. As he reaches the top a loud "Pop!" is heard and he disappears completely, to the amazement of his audience. Unfortunately as the minutes pass he fails to reappear, much to the puzzlement of Iris and the children.

As we follow the Crimson Comet he finds himself in a clearing outside the city limits. He speculates that perhaps he inadvertently vibrated himself into a space warp that led him here and he makes his way back to town, but soon realizes that things aren't quite right. Familiar landmarks are missing and now he wonders if maybe it was a time warp that he blundered into. The more exploring he does the more confused he becomes as he discovers a long abandoned Community Building and the Keystone City Herald in place of the Picture News building. Hurriedly visiting a newsstand he finds the date is the same, June 14, 1961 but he's in Keystone City. Rushing to find a phone book with this new information in hand, he finds a listing for Jay Garrick. Shucking his uniform for street clothes he decides the only thing to do is visit the Garrick residence to try to make sense of his surroundings.

Finding Jay home along with his wife Joan, Barry soon recounts the origin of the Golden Age Flash to his startled hosts and tops things off by donning his own Flash uniform. He then tells them how he arrived there and his theory that he vibrated through a gap in the vibratory shields separating their two worlds, adding that two objects can occupy the same space and time if they vibrate at different speeds. The ol' police scientist strikes again. Barry then explains his own origin and career on his earth and tells Jay that he was inspired to become the Flash through reading of Jay's exploits in Flash Comics. He tells the incredulous Jay "A writer named Gardner Fox wrote about your adventures-- which he claimed came to him in dreams! Obviously when Fox was asleep his mind was "tuned in" on your vibratory earth! That explains how he "dreamed up" The Flash! The magazine was discontinued in 1949!" Jay replies that 1949 was the very year he retired as The Flash. [I guess Julie and Gardner chose to ignore or simply forgot about Jay's membership in the Justice Society of America and the adventures of that grand old team cronicled in the pages of All-Star Comics--the last of which occured in #57, dated 02-03/1951. The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide states that this issue is the last pre-Silver Age appearance of the GA Flash and his cohorts Green Lantern and Dr. Mid-Nite.] He then tells Barry that he'd been pondering coming out of retirement in answer to a series of thefts in Keystone City that have the police completely baffled. Barry offers to lend a hand and an alliance of Flashes is born. Fade to Chapter two.

The second chapter introduces three members of the Golden Age Flash's rogues gallery, gathered together and allied in the string of robberies. First is The Thinker, an ordinary looking chap who wears a metal hat that looks like it came from an Army surplus store and was immediately wired for sound. He calls it, of course, his Thinking Cap and it allows him the ability to cause anything he thinks to happen within a 50-yard radius. Next up is The Fiddler, who looks like he just stepped off a concert stage, though his tux is a vivid green with a bright yellow vest. He wields as his weapon a Stradivarius violin that has strange powers over those within earshot. The final member of the trio is The Shade, who appears to be a refugee from a Charles Dickens story. Decked out head to toe in black with only a cutout for his face, impossibly thin and wearing a matching black top hat, of all things, he holds a cane of his own invention which creates an impenetrable darkness.

Now perhaps I'm a bit jaded, but at first blush I find these "super villains" a bit less than menacing. I couldn't help but think of the old Superman radio serials where he was pitted against such dangerous thugs as "The Laugher." Laugh is right. Anyway, the trio splits up to commit another series of burglaries and our heroes prepare to do some investigating. Jay switches into his Flash costume via the tried and true Superman method of discarding his street clothes to reveal the familiar lightning bolt emblazoned uniform and they split up to canvass the city. Jay-Flash soon encounters The Thinker, who is brazenly stealing the Neptune Cup from the Jarvis Mansion, mentally manipulating all those around him with the Thinking Cap. As the Golden Age Flash tries to apprehend him, though, his projected image disappears. This happens repeatedly as Jay rushes from image to image until he is exhausted. While he still has his legendary speed, the aging Jay has lost much of his stamina and he ends up cold-cocked when he abruptly slams into a hurriedly closed door by the Thinking Cap. Barry-Flash, meanwhile, spots an odd phenomena as an inky blackness envelops a yacht moored at the waterfront. The Shade is aboard, looting the vessel of historical curios and navigating through his own blackout with the aid of specially designed contact lenses. Deciding the only way to beat this blackness is with a super speed induced whirlwind, the Flash of Earth One creates a vacuum like funnel that takes the darkness away. The Shade has taken the opportunity to board a small boat and to take off. Barry, using his amazing speed, pursues him by running along the surface of the water, but The Shade wields his cane once again and along with the blackness issues an oil slick causing The Flash to lose his footing. The humbled heroes later meet at Jay's house and decide that they should work together in order to be more effective against their slippery quarry.

Chapter three opens with The Fiddler wreaking havoc in another part of the city with the sonic aid of his violin. He plays it while the less-than-subtle Fiddle Car, doubtless inspired by the Batmobile, drives along with the aid of automatic controls. The "music" coming from the violin is shattering glass in nearby buildings and causing other chaos at a construction site when the twin Flashes arrive on the scene. Saving a potential victim from a falling I-beam, Jay tells Barry that the strange violin music described by the man can only be from The Fiddler. They soon find the malefactor at the Keystone City Museum, but before the fracas we fade back to the criminals' enclave where The Thinker and The Shade are comparing notes. They soon realize they're up against not one but two Scarlet Speedsters and they decide to go to the aid of The Fiddler. Upon their arrival at the museum, they discover that the Fiddler has things well in hand as the two Flashes dance helplessly, literally, to his tune. He is also having them act on his behalf to gather the priceless jewelry and gemstones in the museum. Once the pile of treasure is completed, The Fiddler issues a musical command to cause the Flashes to freeze in place. As the trio begin to leave with the loot, though, a surprise awaits as the heroes are reanimated and ready to rumble. Rapidly putting all three out of commission and then spiriting them to police headquarters, the villains learn that the Flashes were able to place the smaller gems into their ears, negating the effect of The Fiddler's tune.

Their mission completed, the Fastest Men Alive go back to the outskirts of town where Barry bids Jay farewell and vibrates his way back to Earth One. In the final panel of the story, Barry muses that the only ones who would believe what had happened are the readers of Flash Comics and he vows to look up Gardner Fox and tell it to him for a future comic plotline.

So ends the first meeting of the Golden and Silver Age. Appropriately enough, it was with the character who was first resurrected to herald in the Silver Age, The Flash.

While the story itself was very well done and enjoyable and of course is a landmark in it's own right, it is doubly significant in that it was the direct ancestor to a slew of outstanding team-up and crossover tales to follow. A few short issues later, in #129 (06/1962) to be exact, the two Flashes met again and it wasn't but a couple of years following that the entire Justice League and Justice Society of America joined forces in a fantastic tale that I'll doubtless get to here in the near future. This progenitor of great things to come must be given a rating of 10. A stand out classic, through and through. You should all know the drill by now. I continue to solicit your feedback and opinions at professor_the@hotmail.com. Thanks for your patronage and remember to tap your way back in approximately two weeks for another review.

Long live the Silver Age!

2000-2001 by B.D.S.

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