A Tribute to the of

Another Silver Age milestone, readers, as the debut of DC’s Silver Age, aka the first appearance of the newly revamped Flash in Showcase #4 [Sage #3], is 65 years old! Since that was one of the very first reviews here at the Silver Lantern, I’m taking a slightly different tack by spotlighting a tale as a long overdue follow-up in Flash’s final Showcase appearance.

It’s Showcase #14 with a publication date of May/June 1958 and an on-sale date of March 18, 1958. That stunning cover (+ splash page) is by Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella with Ira Schnapp letters while the story I’ve chosen, the second one in the book, titled. “The Man Who Changed the Earth!” was written by John Broome with Carmine once again handling pencils with inks by his long-time friend Frank Giacoia and editing by Whitney Ellsworth, officially, but actually by Julius Schwartz.

This tale is actually a follow-on to Flash’s previous Showcase appearance in issue #13 (his third Showcase slot) when we met Mr. Element. I mentioned in that long ago review that Element abruptly became Dr. Alchemy in issue #14 and one day I’d check it out. Today is the day. So, this fourth and final Flash story in the pages of Showcase prior to the launch of his own book will tell us just how and why Mr. Element transitioned to Dr. Alchemy. Let’s go see…

Things begin innocently enough with Barry (the Flash) Allen, mild-mannered police scientist, getting a ring on the landline from girlfriend Iris West. Rather than reminding the perpetually tardy Mr. Allen about their date later that night, Iris, calling from her job at the Picture News, is letting her beau know that she’s just got word over the ticker that Mr. Element has escaped from prison and she’s got to cover the story, so their date will have to wait.

Allen no sooner gets this important bit of news when he activates that well-known spring-loaded ring compartment on his finger, revealing the scarlet-colored uniform that expands rapidly on contact with the air and allows him to become the Fastest Man Alive, the Flash!

A quick change of scenes on the next page and we see the new Dr. Alchemy hanging out in a subterranean cave beneath the city. Been reading some Batman comics, doc? It appears to be a laboratory and he’s monologuing about developments. “There is no more ‘Mr. Element!’ I have adopted a new identity—one that will enable me to deal with my enemy the Flash! From now on—I am Dr. Alchemy!” A quick, patented, Julie Schwartz editor’s note explains that, “Alchemy was an early and mysterious form of science which concentrated on changing certain elements into other, more valuable elements!

The monologue goes to his thoughts and he further elaborates that change is the key word and that among other things it allowed his escape from jail. A flashback reveals the incarcerated criminal talking with his cellmate, Ben Sniper, who spoke of his “lucky stone.” As the erstwhile Mr. Element learns more about this stone, he decides he must have it for himself. After digging his way out with a spoon (and he doesn’t look a day older after all that time and effort), he breaks into Sniper’s quarters and finds the stone. As he experiments with it, he deduces that it’s actually the Philosopher’s Stone of the medieval age and after a few experiments, he learns how to use it to change elements into other substances. He then vows to change, as the stone is able to change things, from Mr. Element to Dr. Alchemy.

Soon, Alchemy is leveraging his new capabilities by robbing a Central City Bank. The Flash, who has been criss-crossing the city at super speed, arrives and discovers his new/old foe. A smug Dr. Alchemy demonstrates his new abilities by changing some coins into quicksilver, or mercury, to foil the Flash’s traction capabilities. While our hero slips and slides, the villain takes off.

Once the Flash finally regains his footing, he starts a super speed chase, following Alchemy to the subway and finally to his hideout, but Dr. Alchemy intended for the Crimson Comet to follow him and proceeds to bring the Philosopher’s Stone into play, changing the very walls of the cavern into reflective crystal that both cast multiple images of our hero back at him like some sort of bizarre house of mirrors from a carnival and causing a bright, blinding effect.

Alchemy slips away while the Flash is thus suffering sensory overload until our hero uses a rock to destroy the walls and neutralize the effects. With Alchemy gone, however, the Monarch of Motion must call it a day.

The newspaper headlines the next day inform Barry Allen that the new name of his nemesis is Dr. Alchemy. Later, the police scientist hears an alert over his receiver that something strange is happening on the East side, where ordinary trash cans have been converted to solid gold.

It’s merely a decoy, though, as Dr. Alchemy is busily cracking a safe on the West side, but it doesn’t fool the Fastest Man Alive and soon he’s taking on the man with the Philosopher’s Stone again. This time, Alchemy changes the very air around the Flash into strong strands of rubber that hold onto his body. Ever resourceful, the Scarlet Speedster soon uses the small amount of play in the bands to move back and forth, further and further until he’s able to launch himself free as if from a slingshot.

In the next split second, he relieves Dr. Alchemy of his precious stone and very deliberately accelerates to 25,000 miles per hour before giving it a mighty heave into the atmosphere. Julie Schwartz is on hand again to explain in an editorial caption: “Any object moving 25,000 mi/hr or faster, will escape from the earth’s gravitational field and never return!” (In spite of Julie's explanation, the "good" Doctor was able to retrieve the stone, as he recalls, in Justice League of America #21 [Sage #48])

Now powerless, the antagonist is easily escorted to police headquarters and put on ice. The Flash ponders how his foe had transformed himself from Mr. Element to Dr. Alchemy, and wasn’t done yet as he’d soon change yet again from Dr. Alchemy to a numbered prison uniform.

That puts a nice shiny bow on this Silver Age tale and we at the Silver Lantern salute the Flash, Barry Allen, for bringing us into this era of comics that we love and revere!

As always, it’s a pleasure to be your host here at the Silver Age Sage. The goal is to continue digging into this time period’s rich catalog of thrilling stories and hopefully to learn some things along the way.

As per usual, the latest review will be right here waiting for you in approximately two weeks, or September 1st, if you prefer.

Your patronage is appreciated and the standing offer to participate is still on the table. If you have a question, comment or suggestion, simply drop a line any time to my email address. It is regularly monitored and can be found at: professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you at the appointed time and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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