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Five Goofiest Moments in the Flash (Volume 1) #175-180

Every day this month will have the five goofiest moment from a five-issue stretch of a particular comic book run. Once a week it will be the ten goofiest moments of a ten-issue stretch. Here is a list of the moments featured so far.

Today we’re looking at The Flash #175-180 (you might notice that that is six issues, well, #178 was an all-reprint issue, so I’m not counting it), which were all drawn by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, with a different writer handling each issue (E. Nelson Bridwell wrote #175, John Broome wrote #176, Gardner Fox wrote #177, Cary Bates wrote #179 and Frank Robbins wrote #180). These issues are all from 1967-68.

As always, this is all in good fun. I don’t mean any of this as a serious criticism of the comics in question. Great comics often have goofy moments (Kirby/Lee’s Fantastic Four is one of the best comic book runs of all-time and there were TONS of goofy stuff in those 100 plus issues!).

HONORABLE MENTIONS

So common it loses its goofiness points…

The whole “head enlarged” bit was used fairly frequently during the Silver Age, so I can’t really make too big a deal out of the Flash getting an enlarged cranium in #177…

It’s still pretty darn goofy!

They were lucky that they didn’t have the Department of Homeland Security in 1968…

In #179, the Flash is transported to Earth-Prime, which is, in effect, OUR Earth. Once there, he meets up with Julie Schwartz so that he can build a Cosmic Treadmill.

Don’t you just love that Julie Schwartz is able to just go out and pick up all the materials needed to build a cosmic treadmill?

Even back then superheroes were mean to each other…

In #175, two villains try to manipulate Flash and Superman into racing each other again (as they had the previous year in the pages of Superman). To start, they hack into the JLA signal so that first Superman answers what he thinks is a distress call from Flash and later, the reverse. What is strange here is how angry both heroes get to their fellow Justice Leaguer lending a hand…

During the race, later in the issue, Superman tries to lend Flash a hand. I love Flash’s reaction…

Where’s the trust, Barry?

5. That’s probably not the best use of your power, J’onn…

In #175, the rest of the Justice League is held captive while Superman and Flash are forced to race (with the loser’s city being destroyed). Well, Martian Manhunter gets free in a truly absurd use of his powers…

So he can BECOME Superman? And he just, what, chose not to do that this whole time? Especially when doing so would have meant no vulnerability to fire? Weird idea by Bridwell.

4. I don’t think I WANT to know what they’re talking about…

In #180, Barry and Iris Allen go to visit Japan and Barry meets up with a fellow crime lab guy. Well, once there, the two men discuss how Barry is not single anymore…

Tentacles?!? I don’t think we want to know what they’re talking about, do we?

And yes, they are, indeed, apologizing for not having the Japanese guy exclusively saying “r” instead of “l.” More on that later!

3. Yeah, the velocity spectrum can totally lead you into dreams! Why not?

In #176, Iris is having a terrifying dream while suffering from a terrible fever. Her dreams are so strong that they might end up killing her! Barry has to find a way to help her, and boy does he find a way…

The dude RAN into her dreams!!! That’s badass, but also totally absurdly goofy.

2. Oh, those fish are quite common…

So during the race in #175, Flash is despondent when he is contacted by someone…

What he was told was that the whole thing is a scam set up by two of Flash’s Rogues. WHO informed him of this is, well, quite bizarre.

Here’s how it went down…

Ah, yes, the good ol’ “imitate human speech” fish. I think I saw that at the aquarium last year.

1. Oh, I didn’t know that about the Japanese! This is such a helpful comic book!

As mentioned, in #180, Barry and Iris travel to Japan where they meet up with an old police friend of Barry’s.

Check out their introduction…

Yes, there is a caption to explain to you why they’re putting “r”s in place of “l”s!

Later on, with a character who, no joke, is named Tushi (seriously!), we discover that she can speak English well and we’re told how…

That’s some really bizarre stuff, huh? I intentionally had us stop at #180, because otherwise, I’d have to repeat all the same goofy (plus pretty offensive) stuff from this issue in #181, as well, as the jokes keep coming in exactly the same fashion.

41 Comments

It’s almost as if they just made it up as they went along.

daniel the demon cleaner

May 11, 2011 at 5:22 am

Ohh, Silver Age Comics, I could never stay mad at you and your goofy nonsense.

If you haven’t heard it, you should listen to the Tom Vs the Flash podcast about this era of Flashdom. It’s hilarious http://tomvsjla.libsyn.com/

It seems the colorist is taking terminology of “yellow” for Asian people quite literally.

I’m surprised the part about running into dreams wasn’t #1, it is by far the goofiest one to me. As soon as I read it, I knew that had to be the John Broome issue. He was the master of having characters do one-time-only unbelievably useful feats that they never used again.

The other candidate for the Broome story was the Martian Manhunter episode where he displays that fantastically useful power that he never uses again before or after, but the exposition was too short and not clunky and didactic enough.

Ah, yes, the good ol’ “imitate human speech” fish. I think I saw that at the aquarium last year.

I’m confused, are they saying they took a regular fish and made it capable of imitating human speech, or are they saying that they took a fish that was already capable of imitating human speech and used their powers to augment that ability? Although I’m not sure if one option is any less goofy than the other…

The Martian Manhunter thing is in the E. Nelson Bridwell story, not the Broome story; indeed, that story, from Flash v.1 #175, displays Bridwell’s “continuity cop” trademarks as a writer — he packs in lots of little bits from various old DC comics. Virtually every trick the JLA members pull off in it is a bit of repurposed trivia from an earlier story. The J’onn bit, for example, is mostly down to Bridwell remembering that one of the Martian Manhunter’s very earliest stories claimed that he took on *all* the attributes of other beings he imitated. (This was a contradiction in those stories, since “John Jones” was usually portrayed as vulnerable to fire, but consistency wasn’t always a strength in the earliest days of the Silver Age.)

Here, that gets paired with a bit of Superman trivia about Gold Kryptonite, a seldom-seen variant back then for obvious reasons. Geoff Johns recently modified the rules on Gold K so that it only temporarily drains Kryptonian super-powers, and that’s the only reason it turns up so much nowadays. Similarly, Rokk and Sorban are the seeming antagonists here, and they’re from a few World’s Finest Comics stories, not from an old Flash issue. Even GL’s ring trick is a one-off abilitiy he used in a story about 5 years earlier that even GL’s writers never seem to have returned to. (Well, I think Steve Englehart used it with John Stewart once, but Englehart at DC tended to do what Bridwell did with forgotten Silver Age minutiae.)

Also, a goofy moment from that “giant head Flash” story I’m surprised didn’t turn up here at all: the mega-cranium, caused by the Trickster’s raygun, somehow makes Barry/Flash ultra-arrogant. As Trickster puts it later in the story, “[M]aybe my ray acts on people that way — making them a mental swell-head before turning them into a physical swell-head!”

In other words, because “swelled head is a figure of speech for “egotistical,” in the DC Universe a ray that literally swells your head makes you an asshole as a side effect. It’s the world’s first metaphorical death-ray! (Also, the end of the story has a misplaced word balloon so that Iris gets Barry’s dialogue.) These Flash issues really see to have been produced in a rush, and it shows in various ways.

As goofy as all of these are, the Ross Andru / Mike Esposito artwork is gorgeous. Andru and Esposito’s contribution on The Flash gets forgotten as they replaced Carmine Infantino, who created the character and established the look best known for the character, but it’s great. A very different take than Infantino, but dynamic and powerful: you can see these guys are already on form for the work at Marvel they’re about to take on.

True, Flash was hardly the only hero to get “swell-headed” back then (mostly because it was associated with “evolved human forms”) but I think he is the one best known for it today.

Btw, Flash left that Cosmic Treadmill *behind* on Earth Prime; it would reappear later in a Justice League story where it transported writer Cary Bates to Earth-Two where he became a supervillain and killed the Justice Society until God revived them. Yes, seriously. And some people complain about fanfiction! :D

Oh man, how many Superman/Flash races were there? I get that it’s a fun idea to revisit but here the heroes seem to actually resent each other despite having been comrades for a while already. It even gets mocked in-story by Iris!

(Btw, THE most extreme version of their race -that I recall- was in DC Comics Presents #1-2 where they raced each other ACROSS TIME ITSELF, yet again because some aliens wanted to settle an argument.)

About the Japanese thing: true, they don’t have the “l” sound but that’s only a problem when they try to speak English; if they were talking in Japanese the whole time, their conversation would NOT have sounded like that!

Matthew Johnson

May 11, 2011 at 8:35 am

@ T: as late as 1993, Christopher Priest felt the need to tell the colorist of “Xer0″ that an Asian character should be colored normal fleshtone, not schoolbus-yellow

Scott Rowland

May 11, 2011 at 8:42 am

Velocity Spectrum=Speed Force? Mark Waid, are you out there? Was that issue an inspiration to you when you came up with the Speed Force?

Frank Robbins was normally a pretty good adventure writer of the old -fashioned school, but those Flash issues were the absolute pits. Luckily Julie Schwartz put him on Batman, where he did a really nice job, albeit one overshadowed by Denny O’Neil who was laso writing Batman at the time..

As goofy as all of these are, the Ross Andru / Mike Esposito artwork is gorgeous.

Oh, totally. They did a great job.

are they saying that they took a fish that was already capable of imitating human speech and used their powers to augment that ability?

That one, I believe.

as late as 1993, Christopher Priest felt the need to tell the colorist of “Xer0? that an Asian character should be colored normal fleshtone, not schoolbus-yellow

That’s incredibly depressing.

I believe this one is probably the best set of goofiest moments for this feature thus far.
I’ve never really cared too much for the flash, but now I’m interested even if it’s all Silver Age-y and racist.

Man, now I’m imagining what a great Sandman story could have been spun out of Barry’s ability to run into the Dreaming.

I’ve never really cared too much for the flash, but now I’m interested even if it’s all Silver Age-y and racist.

At least they apologized for momentarily being slightly less racist than usual in one panel.

I believe this one is probably the best set of goofiest moments for this feature thus far.
I’ve never really cared too much for the flash, but now I’m interested even if it’s all Silver Age-y and racist.

By Silver Age Flash standards, these panels actually are not that goofy in comparison. The early Broome/Infantino issues are the height of the goofy insanity.

Yeah, I still sometimes have the strangest feeling I’m turning into a puppet.

‘Sounds like you just want me to give up so you can save Metropolis!’

Yeah, who cares about millions of innocent lives when we have a contest to win.

i wonder what it would have been like if comics were done back then the way they were done today, with a big brain trust of 4-8 writers and some editors who go to a writers’ summit to plot out the next huge crossover? Imagine a crossover in the Silver Age done by John Broome, Bob Haney, Mort Weisinger, Julie Schwartz, E Nelson Bridwell and others, all building off each others’ ideas?

daniel the demon cleaner

May 11, 2011 at 2:52 pm

I wonder what it would have been like if comics were done back then the way they were done today, with a big brain trust of 4-8 writers and some editors who go to a writers’ summit to plot out the next huge crossover? Imagine a crossover in the Silver Age done by John Broome, Bob Haney, Mort Weisinger, Julie Schwartz, E Nelson Bridwell and others, all building off each others’ ideas?

I Would Read That.

daniel the demon cleaner

May 11, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Dammit, the quote thing didn’t work

daniel the demon cleaner

May 11, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Oh! Wait. It worked. I’m confused.

I fixed it for you.

daniel the demon cleaner

May 11, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Hey, thanks man!

I kind of wish there were some moments of this type of goofy in today’s comics. I mean, who wouldn’t buy a comic about Wolverine getting an enormous, swelled head? Just picture it!

Pete Woodhouse

May 11, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Yeah, for real Silver Age goofiness you can’t beat Infantino & Broome (or Fox) Flash.
Flash turned into a slab of pavement? Into a puppet? Into a mirror (I think)? Into 1000lb? Into an old man? Swapped legs with the Mirror Master? Given an alternate origin (Mopee) that everyone immediately ignored? Menaced by a Broome Rogue’s Gallery gimmick-of-the-week? Check on all that.

Barry had so many wacky transformations in the Silver Age that sometimes you had to wonder whether he and Jimmy Olsen were separated at birth.

Barry actually didn’t transform as much as people would have you believe. Certainly not so much as to be mentioned in the same breath as Jimmy Olsen. NOBODY can hold a candle to Jimmy Olsen’s transformations. That’s all he did, and occasionally get superpowers. Barry spent a lot of time fighting Rogues and aliens and beings from another dimension.

And yeah, Flash v1 #180-181. See if THOSE get reprinted ever. I honestly can’t believe that DC signed off on that. Have things changed so much in 45 years? Good thing, if they have.

Nobody thinks “..meet my child bride..” is a bit shocking when used in modern context?

Or is that a cultural thing that Im missing by not being American

It is meant to be shocking. Barry was making a joke.

What I find particularly funny is that although Tushi may speak perfect english, her japanese has clearly suffered.
[If I remember correctly (from reading Shogun, 25 years ago), -san is the male honorific (i.e. equivalent to Mr.), and for women -chan should be used instead.]
But then since they were only playing for racial stereotype slapstick, there was obviously no need to concern themselves with actual details like the difference between Mr. and Mrs.

Somewhat lost in the rush of the Martian Manhunter turning into Superman is the fact that he used “Martian science” to turn Gold Kryptonite to Lead. Really? He can transmute elements? Is this yet another of MM’s super powers?

But then since they were only playing for racial stereotype slapstick, there was obviously no need to concern themselves with actual details like the difference between Mr. and Mrs.

I think once a comic is operating under the premise that all Asians are schoolbus yellow, it’s a safe bet cultural accuracy is the least of the creators’ concerns. :D

If I remember correctly, the Martian Science that turned the Gold K into lead was one of MM’s many (many) single-use-ever powers.

When I was in first grade I was put into a speach therapy class for my Rs and Ls. I was pre-signed up to it because I was Japanese, and therefore would naturally have trouble with those sounds even though I was born to parents who only knew English and raised in the same small town as all the other kids. Although, in the grand scheme, that is one of the least of the racist things that happened to me while growing up in WV in the 70s and 80s.

Theno

Murf– You’ve got it all wrong. -San is perfectly acceptable for male or female. -Chan is a term used for children, or as a playfull term of endearment for close relatives or friends or lovers (similar to a diminutive-type nickname), but from what I’ve seen it does seem to be more common for females.
As far as I am aware, there is no Japanese equivalent of Mr and Mrs.
So calling her Iris-san is correct. Calling her -chan would’ve been way out of line.

You should read some manga. It can help a lot in picking this stuff up.

“as late as 1993, Christopher Priest felt the need to tell the colorist of “Xer0? that an Asian character should be colored normal fleshtone, not schoolbus-yellow”

The second arc of Sandman Mystery Theater (published in 1993!) had asian characters colored yellow!

I think that was the reason why it (and the rest of the series) took about a DECADE to be collected, while the first arc got into TPB fairly qickly. The solution for that particular conundrum was easy: The characters were recolored.

(Yes, ten years to do a recoloring. Quick thinking clearly not being DC’s strong suit…)

always thought the cosmic treadmill was gooffy. plus green lantern having to use a fish to get a message to flash not to mention flash being able to run into dreams. thus proving the old flash writers had a interesting sense of humor they were putting into the comic back then.

So…the gold kryptonite permanently removed Jonn’s ability to transform into Superman the VERY FIRST TIME he bothered to try that? Kind of a shame, but he doesn’t seem all that upset about it. Now, if they’d taken away his ability to become Supergirl, I think we’d have seen some bloodshed….

On the other hand, that whole street seems to be freaking the hell out over Flash’s Howie Mandell impression. Really? Must not be Central City, coz I expect they’re pretty used to seeing Flash turn into a badger or grow a third leg pretty much on a daily basis.

Is there really any reason Schwartz shouldn’t have been able to buy all the parts of a cosmic treadmill? It’s just a treadmill, isn’t it? Except for the part where you write “POSITIVE” and “NEGATIVE” on it with a Sharpie. And if you wrote “dream dimension” instead, could Barry have stayed in that hospital room next to Iris’ bed?

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