A Tribute to the of

I haven't taken the time to research it yet, but it occurs to me that the Flash has been nearly as prolific a team-up partner as Batman over the years.  Within easy reach here at the nerve center of the Silver Age Sage I can come up with examples of the Fastest Man Alive being involved with tales alongside The Doom Patrol, several times with Green Lantern, the Atom, the Martian Manhunter and Batman, not to mention a few classic team-ups with his Golden Age predecessor, Jay (Flash) Garrick.  These, of course are in addition to his usual detail with the Justice League of America.  A busy guy was Barry (Flash) Allen in the Silver Age.

So, says I, why not a Flash team-up story for this edition of the Sage I've selected a team-up between the Fastest Man Alive and the Man of Steel in Superman #220 from October of 1969 in which editor Mort Weisinger served up "Who Stole my Super Powers?" That great cover is the work of Curt Swan & Murphy Anderson.  Interestingly the splash page by Swan and George Roussos doesn't show the story title.  Superman's famous logo is at the top along with a few words of text that say:  "READERS:  THERE IS SOMETHING DEAD WRONG HERE…"and beneath the figures of the Flash and Superman is a text box with an arrow pointing toward the Metropolis Marvel stating:  "HINT:  THIS MAN IS NOT SUPERMAN!"   A rather intriguing beginning, wouldn't you say?  Let's flip the page and see what is what.

The scene opens on "Balai Kai, a tiny island somewhere in the South Pacific."  We see a figure lying on the beach and while the text tells us it is Superman it isn't hard to tell that even with the telescopic view of the small figure that it's not a blue uniform on display.  As he regains consciousness our writer tells us that it is definitely Superman, despite the fact that he wears the uniform of the Fastest Man Alive.  Our tour of his thoughts quickly establish amnesia as our favorite Kryptonian has no idea how he got there or who he is, but when he sees the lightning bolt emblazoned on his chest emblem he deduces that he might be the Flash.  Testing his theory he zips along the beach and then determines to get back to the Flash's home base of Central City to try and learn more, since he lacks any sort of identification or clues to his secret identity.  He takes off across the ocean when we switch scenes to…

…a fenced pasture where a blond man wearing a Superman uniform has just regained consciousness in time to wonder many of the things Superman did, but more importantly that there is an agitated bull about to charge him.  Instinctively he runs for the barbed wire fence and leaps over it, snagging his uniform on a barb, but suffering no ill effect due to the indestructible nature of the material.  So, the super speed block is checked, but try as he might he cannot lift a nearby boulder or activate his x-ray vision.  He wonders if he's lost his other powers or cannot remember how to use them.  He next comes across the concealed pocket in the cape containing some super-compressed street clothes and more importantly a wallet belonging to Clark Kent.  Looking into a nearby stream he realizes he doesn't resemble the photo, but he cannot jar loose any helpful memories.  Indeed, he concludes he must use makeup to disguise himself as Clark Kent.  He decides to run back to Metropolis and see what he can learn.  A quick visit to a theatrical supply house yields the materials he needs to create a reusable disguise and his next stop is the Daily Planet.  Having reviewed photos in the wallet, "Clark" recognizes co-workers Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, Brad Hunter and Perry White, but despite his best attempts he cannot muster a passable story for his editor.

We now segue back to the genuine Superman who has just arrived in the Southwest and has decided to try vibrating at super speed through the wall of an abandoned building.

Part II opens with the ill-fated attempt when his high speed dash sends him straight through the wall.  He theorizes that like a straw in a hurricane that can be drilled through an oak his super speed powered him through the wall unscathed.  In the next panel a large piece of rubble bounces off his back, but the invulnerable Superman thinks it was merely a pebble and continues on his way until he reaches Central City.  Once there, however, nothing looks familiar.  He picks up a discarded newspaper, hoping it might help and discovers an article by Iris Allen about the Flash's visit to Metropolis to meet with Superman.  Deciding this may be an avenue to help him learn his secret identity and otherwise unlock his memory, he speeds toward Metropolis.

Back at the Daily Planet, Perry, hoping to get Clark back up to speed on his journalism skills, sends him on assignment to cover a society wedding.  Once there, though, "Kent" decides there isn't anything going on and heads back to the office.  As he's leaving the Flash zips by, noting the huge gathering by the church, but continuing along his way.

Back at the offices of the Daily Planet, Perry asks if Clark has the story.  Clark replies that there was no story as the groom didn't show.  An enraged Perry shouts that a no-show on that scale, among such prominent movers and shakers in Metropolis, was a huge scoop that Kent has just flubbed.  He's sent on his way until he can produce.

Our pseudo-Flash is having his own troubles as he cannot locate Iris Allen and doesn't want to draw undue attention to himself.  He locates a cast-off fedora and trench coat and eventually ends up cooling his heels on a park bench.  Who should happen to come along to the very same bench but the perplexed figure of Clark Kent?  After a few moments of thought-filled silence, the two men turn to one another to initiate a conversation, but quickly decide against it and walk away.  Once separated and comfortably concealed, each man re-dons his respective uniform (or reveals his in the case of the "Flash") and determines to get to the bottom of matters somehow.  The Faux Superman comes to the conclusion that he needs to consult the world's premier expert on speed, since that is currently his only ability, the Flash.  He beats a hasty retreat for Central City, while the "Flash" searches for Superman who should be out on patrol in his city.

After fruitless time spent in their respective searches, "Clark" arrives at the office the next day, very weary.  Perry tells him that a series of inexplicable disasters are occurring and the Planet needs to cover them, but he can tell his reporter is wrestling with some personal problem, so he grants him a few days off to get his head together.

Part III takes us to the Metropolis subway where, wouldn't you know, "Clark" and the "Flash" happen to cross paths again, but when the Monarch of Motion spots Kent he hustles him over to a secluded part of the station and shucks his overcoat and hat, followed quickly by exposing his uniform.  "Clark" replies that he is indeed Superman and the Flash replies that he is not and in a re-enactment of the cover swings a mighty left into the wall while declaring that he is Superman.  "You shattered that brick wall…you do have super-strength!"  "Sure…and you instinctively vibrated out of the way…as the Flash would do!  That proves you are the Flash!"  The two switch into their correct uniforms and Superman begins to remember the events that brought them to this point.

He recalls two days prior having detected a menace from space with his telescopic vision and summoning the Justice League for assistance, but only the Flash was available and responded.  The Man of Steel then elaborated to the Flash that the menace sends out destructive radiations to soften up a planet prior to its arrival, causing the rash of natural disasters.  The threat is the seed of a plant, reputedly the deadliest in the universe.  The Metropolis Marvel had seen the results of its work on another world.  The seed zeroes in on a planet, penetrates the crust and burrows to the core, sending roots throughout the planet that eventually exhaust all water and minerals until the planet becomes one huge plant that in turn repeats the cycle.

Realizing that time is of the essence, they decide to switch uniforms so that the Flash can take advantage of Superman's indestructible uniform and his own protective aura in lieu of a space suit, requiring only an oxygen mask.  Additionally if the intelligent plant life knew of the heroes the switch in costumes could confuse it.  They are quickly on their way, with the Flash hanging onto the neck of the flying Superman when they reach the capsule in space.

I'm sure many of you have picked up on the fact that I'm an old Star Trek fan as well, but when they reach the capsule and indeed are standing inside it brings to mind nothing more clearly than the Doomsday Machine that killed Commodore Matt Decker and that Captain Kirk destroyed by ramming the badly damaged USS Constellation into it.  The cylindrical nature and the glowing force within are nearly identical.  I can't help but wonder if the writer and artist might have been Trek fans, too.  Anyway, once inside, the force, which included some Green Kryptonite, blasted both our heroes out into space and back toward Earth, wiping their minds clean in the process so they could not warn anyone of the impending danger.

Now that the gaps are filled in and the Flash's memory is back to normal the question is what to do, as the latest scan by Superman's super vision reveals they have half an hour until impact.  The Flash asks if Superman can calculate the flight path and the Man of Tomorrow quickly does so, sketching it out with his thumbnail on the nearby concrete wall.  The Flash has a plan and soon the two heroes are in the Matto Grasso wilderness of Brazil.  After a super-speed survey of the area, the Fastest Man Alive returns to find that Superman has used his heat vision to prepare an area that he can repeatedly impact with his invulnerable body.  He has fused the ground solid to provide a firm enough surface and as he slams into the spot he succeeds in literally shifting the Earth out of its orbit, completely avoiding the trajectory of the pod, which is traveling at such a high velocity that it slams harmlessly into the sun where it is vaporized.

With the mission accomplished, Superman returns the planet to its natural orbit and the two men in their civilian personas meet up with Iris, ending the story.

As I mentioned above, the Flash has been too big a character to be confined to his own very successful title and this issue was prime evidence of the fact.  Whether participating in a team-up in the pages of Brave and the Bold or appearing in one of his numerous crossover appearances in other heroes' titles, such as this one, the Crimson Comet certainly made his rounds of the circuit.

I gotta say I was kind of disappointed in this story.  I don't know if I expected too much or what, but it seems like the whole hook, i.e. the switch between Superman and the Flash was immediately made known to the reader, so the plot simply hinged more on how they got to that point and when they'd get back than anything else.  I didn't completely buy off on their exchange of uniforms or that "Superman" would awaken to find himself sans makeup and so forth without it causing some sort of question in his mind, not to mention his lack of any classic powers other than speed.  Similarly how is it the "Flash" could remember about the Crimson Comet's uniform and abilities, but little else?  Some tales make it easy to suspend your disbelief, but others do not.  This one just didn't do it for me, I'm afraid and I've got to give this one a 5 on the 10-point rating scale.  The Silver Age was obviously winding down at this point and I think this mediocre story is a pretty good illustration of the fact.

The next occupant of this space moves in a fortnight hence! Please join us then!  If you've got questions, comments or a review request, direct them here to my handy e-mail:  professor_the@hotmail.com.

Until next time…

Long live the Silver Age!

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