A Tribute to the of

Welcome to 2007 and another year of spending quality time in the great Silver Age of DC comics.

Forty years ago, in 1967 the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and the Supremes were on the radio.  Popular movies included "To Sir With Love, "The Dirty Dozen" and "Casino Royale" while television viewers enjoyed "Gunsmoke", "The Andy Griffith Show and "The Lucy Show".  Meanwhile back at National Periodical Publications, the Silver Age was hitting a pinnacle, at least in my opinion.  The majority of the products from this year that I've read have been some of my favorites and despite the fact that I've covered several in this very space over the last few years, I wanted to find another for your reading enjoyment and have selected Flash #170 from May of 1967 when the Fastest Man Alive faces "The See-Nothing Spells of Abra Kadabra!"  That intriguing cover art comes courtesy of long-time Flash penciller Carmine Infantino with inks by Murphy Anderson.  Carmine also handles the duties on the interior with an assist by Sid Greene while the great Gardner Fox is our author with watchful editorial oversight provided by Julius Schwartz.

Things begin in our tale with Barry and Iris Allen attending a performance of "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, playing at the Central City Civic Center.  Iris is acquainted with Margot Tyler, who plays Alisande and goes to greet her old classmate.  Soon it's Barry's turn for introductions, followed shortly by shaking hands with John Cardine, who portrayed Merlin.  Barry thinks to himself that the magic feats were truly impressive.  Shortly thereafter, though, something bizarre occurs as Barry hears a voice booming in his ears:  "I'm happy to see you here, Flash!  But don't worry—I won't tell the world you're Barry Allen—not yet!"  Certain that his secret is exposed, Barry looks around the room hesitantly, but seeing no reaction from the assembly, he decides he was the only one privy to the mysterious voice.  He glances at "Merlin" wondering if it could have been some sort of magic.  Continuing his line of thought he recalls that the only man he knows that could perform such magic stunts, that seemed very real on the stage, is his foe Abra Kadabra, who is currently cooling his heels in a 64th century prison.

In the next moment, a lucky break when Iris says she and Margot are off to a little place for a snack and some girl talk.  This affords Barry the ideal opportunity to slip away and activate the spring-loaded ring bearing a compressed uniform of scarlet that expands rapidly on contact with the air, affording him the ability to transform into the Fastest Man Alive, the Flash.

The first order of business is to tail John Cardine at invisible vibrational speed.  He spots his quarry entering the Ceramics Castle, long since closed for the day.  Following the figure inside, the Flash is surprised to see the actor has apparently vanished and additionally a gang of thieves are there helping themselves to some priceless ceramics.  The Crimson Comet doesn't so much as break his stride in taking down the gang with his speed and air movement maneuvers.  Shortly he is escorting the crooks to the local police station when a gray haired man approaches our hero.  Off to the right in the panel, partially concealed in the evening shadows we also see a figure looking on and a patented Infantino text box with a pointing hand asking the rhetorical question, "Who he?"

The gray-haired man has reached the Flash and introduced himself as the owner of Ceramics Castle and he thanks the Monarch of Motion for saving the treasures in his store and places a medallion into Allen's palm as a reward.  Barry retorts that he doesn't accept rewards and how did he find out so quickly what had happened, anyway?  Then he is distracted by the medallion.  Another pointing text box informs us that "Oh-oh!  You shouldn't have done that, Flash!  You took the bait—and are hooked!"  When he looks back up, however, the man has disappeared, so he leaves the device with the officer at the desk, who asks what the charges are against his captives.  In a weird twist, The Crimson Comet cannot recall, and after an apology, releases them.

Outside the station, the confused speedster wonders what just happened while we are given another "handy" text box:  "You say you want more for your money?  Tell you what we're gonna do!  Here are two more mystery men to wonder about!"  All three are wearing fedoras and trench coats, bringing to mind nothing more than film noir characters.

Our hero continues to ponder matters while strolling idly along the sidewalk when he comes upon a mugging.  The victim spots the Flash, though and tells the robber he's right behind him and indeed even tries to get the attention of the hero, who continues along, oblivious to what's happening.  Continuing along he fails to see an armored car hold-up and a dual gang drive-by shooting.  In each case the perpetrators see our hero, but when he doesn't react they go about their business.  Part I closes on that strange note.

The opening panel of Part II is a rough approximation of the cover and the Flash, deciding there's nothing going on that requires his attention, runs toward home, leaving carnage in his wake.

In the next panel our three mystery men are conferring.  One comments things are worse than anticipated.  The second suggests they interfere to stop the criminal activity, but the third says they don't dare until they get the Flash alone and in private.

Elsewhere a familiar gray-haired figure is also monitoring the activities of the Flash and delightedly exclaims that his scheme is working perfectly.  In the next panel, a startling transformation takes place as the gray-haired man, using his control pack, morphs first into John Cardine and then "Abra Kadabra, criminal genius of the 64th century whose future science enables me to function in this 20th century as a great magician!"

The inevitable flashback occurs when the criminal recalls that he'd been imprisoned in the 64th century after his capture by the Flash (from Flash #163, "The Day Magic Exposed Flash's Secret Identity!" per our editorial note) and was incarcerated with an escape proof robot, programmed to assist and entertain him.  The irritated magician is soon bantering with the mechanized man by asking for a file.  "A file is forbidden!  It could be used to saw through cell bars!"  The crook then asks for a sandwich for lunch, which is granted.  "If only you could cook!"  "I am programmed to serve more than fifty hot meals!"  "Why must you answer every statement I make?  I'd be better off if I didn't have to see or hear you—yeah, or speak to you, either!"  "Request denied!"  It is then that the criminal has an inspiration and quickly requests a length of I-34 wire, two solar energy cells, some mini cobalt lenses and other items.  The robot asks why he needs the items and Kadabra says he's going to make an educational toy for himself, which seems to satisfy the automaton.

After two straight days of working on his Psychonizer, it's time for a field test.  He shows it to the robot, explaining that it works like an anesthetic applied to certain portions of the brain, even the electronic variety, so that anyone who looks upon it can see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.  Abra Kadabra is then rendered effectively invisible to his mechanical guard because he is "utterly and totally evil."  Proceeding to burn a hole in the cell wall and with the Psychonizer at the ready, the 64th century man calmly strides out of the prison, leaving oblivious guards behind.

It isn't long until the criminal from the future is in the 20th century, plotting his revenge against the Flash.  While looking at the newspaper he discovers the casting call for "A Connecticut Yankee..." and an evil grin emerges as he decides that not only is he the obvious choice for Merlin, and more than deserving of the accolades from the imminent portrayal, but sooner or later he'll run into his quarry and with the aid of his Detectiring, will be able to easily locate the Flash if he gets within fifty yards.  Thus, when he shook hands with Barry Allen, the ring revealed he was also the Flash.  A quick telepathic message later and the game was afoot.  Soon "John Cardine" lured the Flash to the Ceramics Castle, where he'd sensed a robbery in progress, allowing Kadabra to pose as the owner and hand the Psychonizer to Flash.  Monitoring revealed that the work of the device was complete.  Flash couldn't testify against the crooks he'd apprehended, unable to speak evil; he couldn't see the criminal activity around him, unable to see evil and couldn't even hear the shooting and other mayhem, unable to hear evil.  Abra Kadabra is the only being who can restore our hero and he gloats that it will never happen.

We segue back to the Allen home, where a still perplexed Flash is about to enter when he realizes he's still in full uniform.  (Fast as he is, I still can't quite wrap my mind around the idea that he can conceal his night job from his wife, but far be it for me to throw any cold water on the storyline.)  A quick change later and Barry Allen enters only to utter in stunned amazement:  "I—must—be—seeing—things!"  Our writer poses the following:  "What's this?  Another complication—another twist—another fascinating facet to this tantalizing tale?  Get set for a thrill as you are about to meet—"

"Doctor Fate!  Flash of Earth-Two!  Doctor Mid-Nite!  What brings you here?"

The trio of heroes addresses the Flash and his Earth-Two counterpart, Jay (Flash) Garrick asks why he didn't stop all the crimes being committed tonight under his nose.  Allen replies that the city was quiet.  They then explain what they witnessed and Doctor Fate interjects that it must have something to do with why they're on Earth One.

Fate recounts that awhile back in his magical lookout post his magic crystal revealed an evil emanation extending through all space and time.  Utilizing the abilities given him by Nabu the Wise, the Master Mage located the evil-filled energy and tracked it to Central City on Earth One.  He then decides to visit his world's Flash and is pleased to discover Jay Garrick has another visitor in the form of Doctor Mid-Nite.  After briefing his fellow Justice Society members, Flash says that they need to alert Barry Allen of this threat, but they must use care.  He suggests they approach him in their civilian identities to avoid alerting the evil presence.  Fate thinks they should contact Barry in complete secrecy.  Mid-Nite insists on going as well, commenting that the last time he saw Barry (Flash) Allen (in Flash #159, "Flash's Final Fling!" available here in the archives and brought to our attention by another editor's note) he talked him out of joining him on a case.

So, plans laid, the three heroes are soon on their way to Earth One, bringing them back to Barry's living room.  Allen speculates that apparently Abra Kadabra has escaped his 64th century jail and returned to Central City, further complicating matters by putting a spell on him.  Doctor Fate quickly replies that magic is his department and he instantly attempts to remove the spell, but is unable to do so.  He says there is one thing he can do, however and that is to magically reveal Abra Kadabra's intended target for the evening.  He flashes an image on a nearby surface, but Barry cannot see it, still being under the influence of the "See No Evil" curse.  Jay says he's getting an idea and once Barry re-dons his uniform and the quartet of hero's spring to action, he asks what he can do when he's thus handicapped.  The members of the Justice Society assure him that all will be well and Part II ends.

Part III takes us to the scene of the crime, where only Barry is visible.  Jay is right beside his fellow Flash, vibrating at invisible super speed while Doctors Fate and Mid-Nite are concealed in a mantle of magic.  The criminals spot the Crimson Comet, but after his recent behavior they are less than fearful.  Jay guides Barry as weapons are drawn and just before he slams into them with the aid of Jay, Dr. Mid-Nite drops a blackout bomb to help.  Not to be left out, Doctor Fate, also still invisible, uses his magic to animate the golden statues on nearby pedestals to help put the crooks on ice.

Observing from the shadows, Abra Kadabra is amazed at what he sees and concludes that the Flash has somehow developed new powers since he placed the spell on him.  He presumes that he has inadvertently caused these new abilities as a result of his Psychonizer.  The magician then causes the floor to change into wooden hands that grip his nemesis while he goes forth to collect the gold, priceless beyond measure in the 64th century due to the metal being completely destroyed in his time.

To Kadabra's surprise the wooden hands begin to spin the Flash around.  What he cannot see is the invisible work of Doctor Fate, manipulating the wooden hands and sending Barry slamming into the thief.  Doctor Mid-Nite lends a clandestine hand with his Cyrotuber, which affects the nerves of the human body, allowing him to manipulate anyone he fires the device toward.  He successfully cushions the impact for the Flash.

Unwilling to admit defeat, Abra Kadabra starts the Scarlet Speedster's body into an uncontrollable mid-air spin.  Doctor Fate tries to intervene, but his magic is ineffective.  The crook from the 64th century then hurls the Flash toward the wall, but the Cyrotuber comes to the rescue again while Doctor Fate conjures a spell that makes it appear that the Flash has divided himself into multiple personages.  Abra Kadabra decides he cannot handle multiple Flashes and hastily removes what he believes is the source of his foe's newfound talents, his spell. 

The three Justice Society members look on in satisfaction, whispering to themselves that their plan worked and they tricked Abra Kadabra into removing his nefarious influence from their fellow hero.  They now sit back and watch the show as the Flash, now able to see his nemesis, rushes by him at super speed, dragging the other crooks in his wake to slam into the evil magician.

In a last ditch maneuver, Abra Kadabra casts a spell that causes the uniform of the Flash to constrict, beginning to crush him.  Using his only chance, our hero vibrates at invisible speed out of his uniform, belting the magician unconscious and then returning to it before the costume can hit the floor.

Mop up time and Doctor Fate is puzzled over why his attempts at overturning Abra Kadabra's spells didn't work.  Our writer explains that the reason is that Abra Kadabra uses 64th century science that merely seems like magic.  Flash uses the cosmic treadmill to take the crook back to his own time and the JSA members return to their world, ending this adventure.

Per my trusty DC Comics Encyclopedia, Abra Kadabra made his debut precisely five years prior to this one in Flash #128 in May of 1962.  While these two appearances weren't his only ones he didn't seem to enjoy the same status in Flash's rogue's gallery as Captain Cold, Grodd, the Mirror Master and others.  In this story he was a little over the top, but being the ego-centric character that he is, it isn't altogether inappropriate. What can I say but that Gardner Fox delivered the goods again?  I always particularly enjoy one of his signature touches of bringing back the fabulous Golden Age JSA heroes.  The splendid artistic endeavors of Infantino and Greene (I took special note of Carmine's shading techniques) were the ideal complement to a fine story and I hereby rate this issue a 10.

Oh and just for fun, a quick side note.  While recently patronizing a local fast food joint, the young lady at the counter complimented me on my Flash t-shirt.  There is hope for the rising generation.

We look forward to continuing to be your source of all the good things in the Silver Age as 2007 begins and as always invite your opinions, questions and requests.  You can express yourself at your convenience at my e-mail:  professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you in the customary two weeks when the next review will appear here and as always…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2006 by B.D.S.

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