Thursday, March 29, 2007

Silver Age Top Five

What are the most important DC Comics of the great Silver Age? There are a few obvious contenders and, thanks to his illustrious publication history, the Flash's adventures immediately spring to mind when we ask ourselves that question. Silver Age Comics has posted a list of their top five. The scarlet speedster is in first place with his debut in Showcase #4 (1956), the historic issue that inaugurated an era. The list also finishes with Barry Allen and Jay Garrick's classic first meeting in The Flash #123 (1961). Also recognized are classic issues of Adventure Comics, The Brave and the Bold, and Superman.

First, of course, is Showcase #4, the comic that started the superhero revival that is probably the biggest aspect of the Silver Age. To give you an idea, during the 1950s, DC Comics published 3,397 different comics, of which 849 were superhero-oriented (including Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen). In the 1960s, DC published 3,579 different comics, of which 1,629 were superhero-oriented. The return of the Flash kicked off that surge.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Flash Facts: Straw in a Hurricane

"When Barry Allen had been the Flash they had always said he could run through anything like a straw, driven by a hurricane, could penetrate an oak tree. But they never said what happened to the straw." --Lois Lane, The Flash (v.2) #24

I can't stop watching Mythbusters. It doesn't matter how often it's on or how many times I've seen the episode. I'm hopelessly engrossed. Why post my confession here? Tonight in the regular Mythbuster's timeslot they'll be airing a rerun of another episode with a connection to the mythology of the fastest man alive. Can a piece of straw, driven by the strength and speed of a hurricane, penetrate a tree? That's the question under scrutiny in episode sixty-one.

This particular myth has been repeated many a time in the narratives of The Flash--including the above cited Flash (v.2) #24, written by William Messner-Loebs--in part because the crimson comet himself is able to use his superpowers to penetrate solid objects. After building a rig to propel straw at a palm tree at 320 mph, the world record for wind speed at ground level, Jamie and Adam observe that the straw acheives penetration of only a quarter of an inch. The myth, in other words, is busted. Fortunately, our dedicated hosts take things to the next level and then test materials such as reed and piano wire using the rig, with more entertaining results. Now, if a straw were to be imbued with a bit of acceleration from the extra-dimensional speed force...

The "Deadly Straw" episode of Mythbusters airs tonight at 9:00pm on the Discovery Channel.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Neil Patrick Harris as Barry Allen

Newsarama has reported that actor Neil Patrick Harris will be providing the voice for Barry Allen in the upcoming direct-to-DVD adaptation of Darwyn Cooke's The New Frontier. Harris joins a cast that includes David Boreanaz as Hal Jordan, Kyle McLauchlan as Superman, Brooke Shields as Carol Ferris, and Phil Morris as King Farraday. The film's score has been composed by the late Shirley Walker. In Newsarama's latest "Animated Shorts" column, Executive Producer Bruce Timm discussed the project with Steve Fritz.

Bruce Timm: "I think it’s going to be really, really good... It’s a really big story... New Frontier, even though it’s a big sprawling thing, kind of does dovetail. There’s all these great bits throughout the entire novel that don’t initially seem to go anywhere, but ultimately lead up to the big finish. I hated to do it but some of my favorite parts had to be cut out just to get that whole story down to the 70-minute length. Ultimately, we managed to keep what we think is really important without throwing the baby out with the bath water. I was amazed at that when I watched the animatic a little while ago. All I could think is ‘Wow! That’s New Frontier,’ and not just a Cliff Notes version of it."

Monday, March 26, 2007

On Sale: JLU Season 2

Here's a reminder that Justice League Unlimited: Season Two is now available on DVD from Warner Home Video, part of the "DC Comics Classic Collection." The set includes the final thirteen episodes of the animated series on two discs. This collection is another must-have for Flash fans. In addition to the action-packed series finale--an epic adventure featuring Gorilla Grodd and the Legion of Doom--two episodes stand out. In "The Great Brain Robbery," Michael Rosenbaum and Clancy Brown trade roles as the Flash and Lex Luthor unexpectedly swap minds. Hilarity ensues. In "Flash and Substance," the monarch of motion takes center stage to battle his famous Rogues Gallery alongside Batman and Orion. This excellent episode features many elements from the Flash's mythology and nods to classic comic adventures.

In the final 13 episodes of Justice League Unlimited, Grodd recruits Lex Luthor, Sinestro, Bizarro, Giganta, and hordes of other villains to form the Legion of Doom, leading to numerous action-packed episodes of villains fighting the superheroes of the expanded JLU. The core members of the original series--Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl, Flash, and Green Lantern--are supplemented by such heroes as Green Arrow, Black Canary, Supergirl, Red Tornado, and Mister Terrific. But even waves of super-beings would be a bore if the stories weren't compelling and well-thought-out, and dashed with humor. It's the respect for the viewer's intelligence that elevates JLU beyond a kids' series to arguably the best animated-superhero show ever.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Live Action: "Watching the Detectives"

“Watching the Detectives” (October 18, 1990)

Writers: Howard Chaykin & John Francis Moore
Director: Gus Trikonis
Editor: Bill Zabala

Synopsis: Private detective Megan Lockhart has discovered that Barry Allen is the Flash! Even worse, her employer is corrupt Central City District Attorney Thomas Castillo, a man with strong ties to a local mobster. Castillo is intent on dominating his partner in crime and soon both Lockhart and the Flash are being manipulated to that end. Knowing that his secret identity protects his loved ones, a blackmailed Barry Allen is forced to use his superpowers to support Castillo’s selfish schemes, even as a dangerous arsonist-for-hire continues to strike at strategic waterfront properties.

Commentary: The Flash hits its stride with this third installment, “Watching the Detectives.” This episode is more satisfying than anything that has come before. The story doesn’t rely on gimmicks or clichés like its predecessor. Instead, the script weaves an engrossing plot using a line-up of well-drawn characters. John Wesley Shipp, able to balance strength and humor, is excellent as always as Barry Allen. The show’s supporting cast is in place in the background, too, and they’re all delightful characters with something to bring to the action. There’s Alex Desert as Julio Mendez, Richard Belzer as Joe Kline, Dick Miller as Fosnight, and, of course, Vito D’Ambrosio as Officer Bellows and Biff Manard as Officer Murphy. (Murphy and Bellows, in particular, are hilarious. Their scenes represent the highlight of any episode.) Guest star Joyce Hyser is also memorable as sassy P.I. Megan Lockhart--memorable enough to warrant a return appearance later in the series. Additionally, this episode makes great use of the Flash’s unique superpowers. A pivotal scene that climaxes with Castillo forcing Barry to prove his abilities by pulling the pin on a grenade is later followed by a very funny sequence in which the fastest man alive brings down an illegal casino by rigging all of the games at high speed. This sort of action could only be delivered by the Flash and, for the first time, it helps the series to stand apart from those comic adaptations that so clearly influenced it. The unique art direction is impressive, as always, and Shirley Walker’s jazzy score adds to the atmosphere. It all comes together in an episode that is suspenseful, exciting, funny, and fast-paced. “Watching the Detectives” is outright fun in a way that sets a standard for the series.

High-Speed Highlight: In a ploy to force Barry Allen into proving he is Central City’s masked protector, Thomas Castillo pulls the pin on a grenade with a four-second fuse and tosses it at Earl, our hero’s beloved dog. Barry has no choice but to replace that pin and safely stow the grenade, all before the glass of water he’s dropped has a chance to hit the floor!

Quotable: “The angel of Satan! Red as the devil!” --Religious pyromaniac Noble John Spanier spies the scarlet speedster

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

February Sales

Diamond Comic Distributors have released their sales numbers for the month of February, and Newsarama has posted a review of the market data. The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #9 comes in at number forty on the list of the top 100 comic titles, just behind Marvel's Ghost Rider #8 and ahead of Daredevil #94.

31. Superman #659 ($2.99) DC - 70.05
32. Black Panther #25 ($2.99) Marvel - 67.91
33. Detective Comics #828 ($2.99) DC - 66.38
34. Supergirl #14 ($2.99) DC - 63.70
35. Punisher War Journal #4 ($2.99) Marvel - 63.68
36. Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #17 ($2.99) DC - 63.48
37. Ultimate Fantastic Four #39 ($2.99) Marvel - 62.65
38. Ghost Rider: Trail of Tears #1 ($2.99) Marvel - 59.23
39. Ghost Rider #8 ($2.99) Marvel - 58.60
40. Flash: Fastest Man Alive #9 ($2.99) DC - 56.77

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Power Records

Today Rob's Aquaman Shrine offers us a look at memorable merchandise from Power Records, an album released in 1975 featuring audio adventures for the Flash and Aquaman! The forty-five offers two separate superhero stories: the Flash takes on "The Three Faces of Mr. Big" and Aquaman stars in "The Defeat of the Dehydrator." The album also features some beautiful cover artwork from Neal Adams. As Rob already knows, nothing brings a smile to my face more than seeing my two favorite superheroes racing into action together--even if it is hard to reconcile the fact that the Flash's powers lie in land speed and Aquaman works best in the ocean depths. (In the depths of my forever childish imagination, this is not a problem for such a dynamic duo.)

The Power Record seen in Rob's collection uses stories first recorded for Songs and Stories About the Justice League of America (1966), the third in a series published by Tifton Records following the delightful Children's Treasury of Superman Musical Stories (1966) and, naturally, The Children's Treasury of Batman Musical Stories (1966). The Justice League record features a song and a story each for Wonder Woman, Plastic Man, Metamorpho, Aquaman, and the Flash. ( The scarlet speedster's theme tune is particularly catchy. "The Flash! The Flash! The Flash! Meet the mighty Flash! In a fight he'll smash, crash, mash a whole gang of crooks or snooks. Hey, he'll just clobber any kind of bad guy, thief, or robber. The world's fastest human. Yeah, man, the Flash!" In the past I've seen this ditty attributed to songwriter Arthur Korb, though I have absolutely no way of confirming that.)

Using the link above you'll find the entire albums available for download at Way Out Junk, a brilliant blog devoted to offering such nostalgic wonders online. This stuff is solid superhero fun of a type you just can't find anymore; the songs and stories are more than a little silly, but they're imbued with the sort of entertainment and innocence that pervaded all of the Silver Age. I can't tell you how much it delights me to have these albums on my iPod, especially during tedious commutes when I'm in, as Rob describes it, a retro mood. Be sure to seize upon that final download link before it too becomes unavailable!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Upcoming: The Flash #13

DC Comics's solicitations for June have been released, and The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 is among them! Both the brief plot description and cover preview for this issue are rather ominous, though the publisher is promising that Tony Daniel's art will be extra "stunning" on the finished product.

Written by Mark Guggenheim; Art by Tony S. Daniel and Art Thibert; Cover by Tony S. Daniel. The Flash must make the choice he was offered at the beginning of "Full Throttle." And you won't want to miss the stunning full version of this cover--but you only can catch it when this issue races into stores! DC Universe. 32pg. Color. $2.99 US. On Sale June 6, 2007.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Screen Grabs

Thanks to the efforts of Kelson Vibber, the man behind Those Who Ride the Lightning, Crimson Lightning's bi-weekly Live Action feature will now include screen grabs from The Flash television series. I had hoped to post memorable imagery from the series as part of the ongoing feature and now, with Kelson's help, it looks like that's going to happen. The existing entries for "Pilot" and "Out of Control" have already been updated. My thanks go out to Kelson for his generosity.

Those Who Ride the Lightning, it should be noted, features an extensive sub-section dedicated to The Flash television series. There you'll find profiles on the show's memorable cast of characters--heroes, villains, friends, and family. Readers looking for more information on the series should be certain to reference the site.

Live Action will continue, of course, next Thursday with "Watching the Detectives," another action-packed adventure for the fastest man on television!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Recognizing Ringo

Over at Comic Book Resources, the latest installment of Bill Reed's 365 Reasons to Love Comics spotlights a talented artist who first grabbed the attention of readers everywhere by visually redefining the fastest man alive--Mike Wieringo.

Mike Wieringo (or just Ringo, as many call him) is a great artist. Call him cartoony if you want, but he’s got an energetic, clean style that has all the right hints of Parobeck, Kirby, and Romita Jr. in it, to name a few... I first encountered his work on The Flash with Mark Waid, where he illustrated one of my favorite issues of any comic ever (and which I see will be appearing in a Greatest Flash Stories Ever Told volume!): [The Flash (v.2) #91].

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Monday, March 12, 2007

Reviews: The Flash #9

The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #9 is now on sale and represents a new beginning for Bart Allen as the Flash. With this eagerly-awaited issue, Marc Guggenheim begins scripting the scarlet speedster's adventures. Will Bart Allen be rescued? Will The Flash return to former heights of glory? Will comic fans everywhere be able to put the early issues of this near-catastrophic relaunch behind them and look forward to a bright future for our fleet-footed hero? By all accounts, The Flash #9 delivers a reassuring response to such haunting questions. The new issue isn't in my hands just yet--you can imagine my impatience, now at Impulse-like levels--so you'll have to wait for me to weigh in on this latest chapter in the fastest man alive's history. In the meantime, here's what the rest of the online community has to say about this fresh start for the Flash...

  • Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag, the woman behind the wonderful Unofficial Aquaman Website, succinctly sums up her thoughts on the new issue in a single line at the Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog: "Another good issue. I particularly like the name of the bad guy at the beginning. Recommended." (Oh, and if you like comic book reviews, you're going to love Tegan's classic Aquaman series, Ripples Through Time.)
  • Over at the Comics Nexus, a review attributed to Mathan "I Miss Max Mercury" Erhardt notes that our confused young hero is finally acting like his old self. "Guggenheim does a great job of jumping onto this much maligned title. He makes it fun read and, even better, Bart actually sounds like the Bart Allen that fans have grown to love... All in all, Guggenheim is off to a solid start. This title finally has an issue that's not only an enjoyable read, but that it sounds like Bart. It's a fun issue that also spotlights Bart's character and growth. If you've given up on this title, now is the time to give it another chance."
  • All About Comics's Phil Mateer is cautious in his optimism, but agrees that this is the issue to pick up if you're a new reader or a reader that's ready to return to the series. "This is… encouraging. It’s a one-issue story, accessible to new readers, but Guggenheim also gets in a page-four joke about Bart’s complicated continuity that name-checks Hawkman and Wonder Girl, and lets him, um, flash his credentials for longer-lived readers, too. It’s not world-shattering, but it’s competent, and a good jumping-on point; that’s a definite improvement over most of the previous issues of this relaunched title."
  • Iann Robinson, posting his review at Our Worlds at War, is one such newcomer to the title and he's already impressed. "I just started picking this up and so far it's been a real joy to read... Bart is just starting to learn what a real hero is and how much sacrifice is involved. This issue moves the action along nicely and does a good job setting us up for the major story arc that's coming our way. A great read!"
  • JediSheltie of Film Frontier Reviews also praises Guggenheim's character work and the story arc that's being established. "This is definitely the reboot that Flash #1 should have been--an action-heavy showcase for the Flash that manages to work in his current situation in broad strokes without drowning the reader in thick layers of backstory. The promise of having Flash involved in coming 'big events' is a bonus, and well worthy of one of DC's most recognizable properties."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Live Action: "Out of Control"

“Out of Control” (September 27, 1990)

Writer: Gail Morgan Hickman
Director: Mario Azzopardi
Editor: Greg Wong

Synopsis: The homeless of Central City are being used as human guinea pigs, and the police are ignorant to their plight. Barry Allen personally investigates the matter and soon links the mysterious deaths to Dr. Carl Perkins, one of Tina’s old friends, a man who is growing increasingly obsessed with his dangerous experiments in genetic manipulation.

Commentary: Consider this the closest the series will come to a crossover with The Incredible Hulk (1978). On second thought, that’s not fair to the green goliath’s classic show. There are enough layers to this episode’s opening acts to grab nearly any viewer’s interest but, in the end, “Out of Control” is a ridiculous and pointless adventure. As the story’s villain, Dr. Carl Perkins further represents The Flash’s interest in exploring the connections between morality, science, and the law. The practical purposes of Dr. Perkins’s dangerous and bizarre experiments are never suggested or explored, however. They’re merely utilized as a means of prompting cheap battle scenes involving poorly-realized monstrosities. A sequence in which Bellows, Murphy, and the Flash stalk a German Shepherd transformed into a poor man’s werewolf can only be watched from between your fingers--not because it’s frightening but because it’s downright embarassing. Dr. Perkins is simply a mad scientist out to create senseless chaos. A subplot involving a love triangle between Barry, Tina, and Perkins serves only to portray the show’s protagonists as disappointingly childish. Additionally, Barry’s superhero alter ego is almost an afterthought in this tale with little to do, a seemingly glaring misstep considering this is the first regular episode of the series. Sadly, “Out of Control” is an episode that opens with promise but ultimately lives up to its name.

High-Speed Highlight: Using the pointed star of a security guard’s badge, the Flash swiftly slices a circular hole in the glass door of a sealed vacuum chamber.

Quotable: “It’s not my responsibility to be the conscience of the human race. I’m only a scientist.” / “I disagree. I think we’re all responsible.” --Dr. Perkins and Barry Allen argue the morality of genetic research

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Justice League Retrospective

Newsarama and Brad Meltzer have posted the cover artwork for Justice League of America #7. The unique retrospective design pays homage to a number of previous incarnations of the team--and it includes a place for our buddy Barry Allen. The panelled image was created by seven artist: Eric Wight, George Perez, Luke McDonnell, Kevin Maguire, Howard Porter, Gene Ha, and Ed Benes!

Brad Meltzer initially posted the image at his MySpace page, and DC Comics has also provided Newsarama with the covers to Justice League #7, featuring the various iterations of the team over the years, including the new roster... Of the image, Meltzer said: "Here it is, the cover to JLA #7, courtesy of Eric Wight, George Perez, Luke McDonnell, Kevin Maguire, Howard Porter, Gene Ha, and Ed Benes. And yes, that's the issue where they get the new headquarters. Writers need to know when to shut up, so I'm letting the image speak for itself. Thanks to Eric Wight for the brilliant design."

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Monkey Cover

Blog theme days are fun, as regular readers of Crimson Lightning or The Aquaman Shrine will no doubt attest. (Don't believe me? Be here on Thursday for Live Action, or Friday for Classic Covers.) Over at Dave Carter's Yet Another Comics Blog, it seems every Sunday is Monkey Covers Day! Why? Because monkeys and comic book adventure go together like peanut butter and bananas. Sunday, March 4th's monkey cover comes from The Flash (v.2) #45 and what may be my all-time favorite scarlet speedster storyline featuring Gorilla Grodd.

Sunday is Monkey Covers day here at YACB. Because there's nothing better than a comic with a monkey on the cover. Grodd has totally p0wned Wally West on Greg LaRocque & José Marzan, Jr.'s cover to 1990's Flash #45. (Standard disclaimer about evil intelligent gorillas not really being monkeys applies.)

Monday, March 05, 2007

WonderCon '07

Another weekend, another comic book convention. What did we learn about the Flash at this weekend's WonderCon? Here are the few tidbits I've managed to pick up from coverage of the event...

  • At a panel promoting Warner Bros. Animation's upcoming direct-to-DVD films--that is, Superman: Doomsday, Justice League: The New Frontier, and Teen Titans: The Judas Contract--Bruce Timm acknowledged that DC's animated projects will continue to depict the most iconic versions of these characters. In the case of the Flash, however, that might not be a simple creative decision. Newsarama notes that Timm pointed out "that with a potential Green Lantern project, the decision would be an easy one--they would use Hal Jordan, given that he was the classic version of the character for years and has just returned to the forefront of the DC Universe. In the case of someone such as the Flash, Timm admitted, the decision would be a more difficult one, given the now four Flashes, which would open the possibilities of centering on one Flash, or showing all of them in one movie that spanned the generations. 'Each character has their own specific challenges,' Timm said."
  • The "DC Universe: Super Heroes Go DVD" panel also suggested that the cancelled Justice League: Worlds Collide project--a film that was planned to bridge the gap between the Justice League animated series and its successor, Justice League Unlimited--may yet be produced. DC and Warner Bros. are considering a number of direct-to-DVD animation projects to follow the current slate of films. What character might be starring in the next animated feature to be announced? Timm stated that Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and Catwoman are on the short list. (An Aquaman animated movie would certainly keep me happy during the long wait for The Flash feature film!)
  • An audience member at the "DCU: Great Expectations" panel reiterated a question that was seemingly answered by Dan Didio at last week's New York Comic Con: Who is the Flash in the enigmatic Countdown teaser poster? According to Newsarama, DC scribe Adam Beechen was quick to respond, "The fast one." There. That's settled, then.
  • Wizard reports that during a panel spotlighting Jeph Loeb, the writer acknowledged that it was his script for a feature film based on The Flash that helped him break into the comic industry. "Once a fan sitting in the audience at conventions, Loeb broke into comics when his script for a Flash movie did not make it to the big screen but drew DC’s attention. Even with his foot in the door, Loeb said, DC was hesitant to give him plum assignments and even more hesitant to give him the pages he needed to finish his story arcs. But with a little help from a few talented artists, Loeb was able to demonstrate his skills in the medium."

Thursday, March 01, 2007

In Search of Screen Grabs

One element that will be missing from the new bi-weekly Live Action feature is episode-specific images from The Flash television series. I always strive to post appropriate artwork or imagery with this blog's posts, but high-quality photographs from The Flash television series are hard to come by. Unfortunately, although the series has been out for some time on DVD, I haven't found any site online that offers screen captures from the series and I'm not able to create them myself. If anyone has any suggestions in this regard, please feel free to post them. The next installment of Live Action will be posted, with images or without, next Thursday.