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CSBG Archive

Almost Hidden – The Pied Piper Comes Out of the Closet

Even with this large amount of comic books that have been collected in trade paperbacks, there are still a number of great comic books that have never been reprinted (I’d say roughly 60% of them are DC Comics from the 1980s through the mid-1990s). So every day this month I will spotlight a different cool comic book that is only available as a back issue. Here is an archive of the comic books featured so far.

I want you folks to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com with your suggestions for comics that I should feature this month. I’d like to see what you all would like to see get more attention.

After the nice response to the previous piece I did on William Messner-Loebs’ Flash run, I knew I had to use this issue, as well, when we gained one of the few openly gay superhero supporting characters in DC Comics History in 1991’s Flash #53, written by William Messner-Loebs and drawn by Greg La Rocque and Jose Marzan, Jr.


In Flash #53, there is a fun story where Superman teams up with the Flash to save Jimmy Olsen from a bad guy who is demanding (in exchange for Jimmy) a supposedly dead dictator from a South American country. Flash’s mission is to find that dictator (as his speed makes him a very good finder of stuff).

It’s an interesting tale. Here a couple of pages from this story…

La Rocque does a really nice job on Superman there.

Of course, though, the REAL highlight of the issue is this opening sequence, featuring Wally West talking things over with his former foe and current friend, the Pied Piper…

Really well done passage, particularly for 1991.

Be sure to try to snare a copy of this issue to see how the situation is resolved. It’s really well-handled by Loebs.


You could feature every issue in this installment. Loebs’ run was just that good.

As a side note, they printed a letter a few issues later from a person who went off about how terrible homosexuals are with all kinds of bull crap arguments. The response to it was inspiring. Essentially telling the letter writer that if that’s how he feels then he can go read something else and they would be happy to lose someone like him as a reader (but more eligantly with talk about the superhero principals and so on).

That’s awesome.

another one i hoped showed up here espically given that piper outed himself all over a conversation about the joker sexuality. plus loved messner loeb flash run.

Yeah that run by Messner Loeb really deserves to be revisited as its a gem. I love almost all of the Wally West series but the Grodd story in issues 45-47 are possibly my favourite of the lot.

Yeah the Messner-Loebs’ run is really one of those runs that should be so well regarded. Its up there with the Waid stuff and for me miles ahead of the Johns stuff, which I like just fine it should be said. In a series that was stunning in how consistently good it was over 230 issues its was probably the Grodd story in issues 45-7 by Messner-Loebs which is the pick of a very, very fine bunch.

Making Piper a villain again was so lame.

What??!!! The Pied Piper is a villain again??!!!

I think that bothers me as much as bringing back Barry Allen.
Don’t tell me…Geoff Johns’ doing?

Got it in one MAD…and they had his (and Trickster’s) whole straight and somewhat narrow turn to be the machinations of The Top and Barry Allen…. *groan*

This scene was classic Wally though. When he relaxed, his mouth usually went faster than his sense….ALWAYS led to funny and awkward situations…

Got it in one MAD…and they had his (and Trickster’s) whole straight and somewhat narrow turn to be the machinations of The Top and Barry Allen…. *groan*

REALLY?! That’s a horrible retcon.

Let me guess, Identity Crisis fallout? I know Catwoman’s turn to the side of angels was retconned as a mindwipe post-Identity Crisis so I’m guessing that’s the culprit here too. (And yes I know I can Google it but I’ll just post it here anyway.”

Is every one of these going to be The Flash? Can I just skip ‘em if I have no interest in the character or his run? Or how about something non-DC related?

I thought Pied Piper was the one bad guy turned good that stayed good in the IC fallout. Even as someone who just started reading Flash right around IC, I thought it was pretty lame they were ret-conning all that away.

Wait, there were rumors that Joker was gay?


Is every one of these going to be The Flash? Can I just skip ‘em if I have no interest in the character or his run? Or how about something non-DC related?

1. No, only two of them have had anything to do with the Flash, although so far that’s the only title to have received two entries.
2. Yes, please do skip them. I tend to skip blog posts, news articles and anything else that’s on a topic that doesn’t interest me rather than, say, going to the sports section of my newspapers site just to say, “Football does not interest me. Please write about something else.” But that’s just me.
3. West Coast Avengers was pretty non-DC-related, although it’s definitely been a DC-heavy feature so far,

As Brian pointed out, it’s probably going to be pretty DC-centric because Marvel’s been collecting almost *everything*. The only really great Marvel material — as opposed to forgotten failed titles or generally-disliked runs — that hasn’t been collected consists of material subject to expired licensing deals like ROM or the first volume of Master of Kung-Fu.

I dunno, the 1980s Bruce Jones Ka-Zar series was brilliant, and it hasn’t been collected. I’d say “yet,” but it doesn’t seem like Marvel is really hitting the Ka-Zar archive much.

There is another level of sheer guts in this story.

The folks at DC had Superman guest starring in the same story as Pied Piper came out of the closet. So any kids who bought this issue because they are fans of Superman would be presented with a sympatheticaly portrayed gay character.

Wally’s reaction was also refreshing in its realism. Surprised and initially uncomfortable to discover one of his close friends is gay, but not making such a big deal as to angst about it for days and days.

And I second Buttler’s recommendation. 1980s Ka-Zar was great. I know Bruce Jones is more or less despised for his later work, but still…

Wow, this is crazy. I think this is the ONLY issue of Flash I have in my collection. Probably because of the Superman team-up. Haven’t thought or looked at this comic in decades, but yeah, it was a good one. Forgot how good LaRoque could be, too.

What the hell are your talking about, Daryll B? He never became a villian again, especially under Johns’ run. As a matter of fact, the issue after Johns’ last issue was a story from Immonen about Wally and Piper hiking up a mountain together.

“Wait, there were rumors that Joker was gay? ”

I wonder if this bit was in response to ‘Arkham Asylum’.

““Wait, there were rumors that Joker was gay? ”

I wonder if this bit was in response to ‘Arkham Asylum’.”

From reading at the time, I think it was him being shown putting on lipstick in DKR that initially sparked that interpretation. There was (I can’t for the life of me remember exactly where) a mention in some non-continuity, fourth-wall breaking (possibly even a Marvel “What The –?” parody) story around that time where the “real” (i.e. off stage) Joker complains about his entire characterisation being re-evaluated overnight to him being gay all of a sudden just because ONE writer showed him using lipstick.

What? Catwoman’s personality was retconned as some mind wipe, too? I don’t know why, but coming up with some funky magical in-universe reason for resetting characters somehow seems worse to me than just ignoring a development over the years. I would prefer just ignoring changes than retroactively changing some old story to suggest that yes, that DID happen, but the person was not in their right mind back then. Some lame “I just changed my mind” explanation would even be better.

By the way, isn’t there something just slightly bigoted in the fact that one of flash’s most flamboyantly dressed foes turned out to be gay? Yeah, maybe all these characters have crazy outfits, but Pied Piper’s outfit is one of the most… well… “gay”. But I suppose the choice may have been partly made because he was one of the lamest, least threatening villains.

Yeah Bill, that was a What The.

Ethan: gay men are known to sometimes have flamboyant tastes. I don’t see the problem here.

Thanks Tom! Good to know my memory wasn’t playing tricks on me, at least this time.

"O" the Humanatee!

August 10, 2011 at 10:18 am

I really wish they would collect this run, as I didn’t buy it first time out. Despite being a huge fan of Messner-Loebs’s Journey – it’s one of my all-time favorite comics – I never gave much of a chance to his mainstream work, partially because compared with his personal work (but not with a lot of other writers’ work) it was so conventional. Also, I’d never been a Flash fan, and Greg LaRoque is a deeply mediocre artist. (I did read Messner-Loebs’s Wally story in Secret Origins Annual #2, which was quite wonderful – as was Robert Loren Fleming’s story in the same issue, which has probably been retconned out of existence.) But reading their DCU Retroactive Flash issue (nowadays I’ll do whatever I can to support Messner-Loebs, who’s been through some incredibly rough times) reminded me of just how good they could be at well-constructed, engaging, witty, and humane stories.

About that LaRoque Superman drawing: It’s so beyond his usual standards (and he very rarely drew at that scale) that I gave it a closer look. Y’know what? I think it’s a copy of Gene Colan drawing (not necessarily of Superman), turned upside down.

What? Catwoman’s personality was retconned as some mind wipe, too? I don’t know why, but coming up with some funky magical in-universe reason for resetting characters somehow seems worse to me than just ignoring a development over the years.

Yeah, unfortunately. Catwoman #50, written by Will Pfeifer, was a face-off with Zatanna over messing with her mind and making her be good. And indeed, it’s pretty lame.

My tastes must be wired weird. So many people think Kevin Maguire is a great penciler, and now that flying Superman that looks to me like an inferior Greg LaRoque piece, so much so that it reminds of Mike Zeck’s pencils, is being described as a superior piece that just might have been traced from Gene Colan?


Luis – You don’t like Maguire OR Zeck? Or did I read that wrong?

Baron, Loebs and Waid. The Flash was a mighty book at that time. And DC was miles away from Marvel at that time too, quality-wise.

The mustache on ‘El Presidente’ was laugh out loud.

I liked it, especially the ‘Wally West, fastest foot in mouth.’ part.

But then Wally’s ‘my’ Flash. Barry who?

Great Marvel runs that haven’t been collected:

DeMatteis/Zeck Captain America. These are my all-time favorite Captain America comics and introduced the current Baron Zemo in a great, epic storyline, so it’s extremely bizarre that they haven’t been collected.

Dakota North by Thomases and Salmons

Mantlo/Buscema’s Hulk

And DC goes way beyond “the favorite DC comics of Brian’s teen-through-young-adulthood”! We desperately need second Showcase volumes of Jonah Hex, Unknown Soldier, and Warlord!

Loebs run on Flash is my favorite of any comic writer, and it was this kind of stuff that made it so great to me. The characters all felt very real, from Wally to Mason Tollbridge to Chunk. And while I really liked Waid’s run, I miss those characters.

Also, not long after this issue, Wally and Piper pick up the conversation, which turns to a talk about AIDS. The great thing about Loebs’ take on Wally was that he was a great hero, but a young naive guy – he was in his early 20s, raised in the Nebraska and fell into being a celebrity. There were plenty of stupid things he would do or say that made him human, something that is sadly missing from most comic heroes.

I’ll definately have to pick up this issue! Thanks for spot lighting it. I started reading Flash with Waid and I loved it. So many great stories and characters – and Pied Piper was one of them. It was ashame how Johns pretty much put him back INTO the closet. He has a habit of blackballing the gay characters (see Obsidian in JSA too).

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