Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Fast Talk: Neo-Magnetic Radiation

Neo-Magnetic Radiation: In service of his latest scheme for conquest and domination, the megalomaniacal Gorilla Grodd has invented a special machine of the sort we'd all like to test, I'm sure. The device emits "neo-magnetic radiation" which, once absorbed by the body, has the "extraordinary effect of making anyone who looks at me admire me--instantly and uncontrollably!" That's no mean feat for a villainous beast of Grodd's pedigree, mind you. Like all great evil geniuses, he then immodestly takes a moment to relax, basking in the neo-magnetic rays, and reflects admiringly on his undeniably impressive "super-brain." Considering the boundless scientific genius exhibited by each and every one of his various villains, it's amazing that lab tech Barry Allen was able to claim victory so often! (Do you suppose there's any connection between neo-magnetic radiation and the magnetic properties of Elemento?) Of course, Grodd could have also sought domination by cornering the market in self-help literature. Looking for a way to guarantee that elusive promotion at work or to ensure a spectacular first date? Want to try out neo-magnetic radiation for yourself? Look for the answers in the best-selling volume Gorilla Grodd's How to Win Friends and Influence People. Personally, I remain wary. Any radiation so seemingly miraculous is sure to be accompanied by some nasty side effects!

Issue: The Flash #127 (March 1962)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

Flash Facts: The Cost of Lightning

"The power packed into a lightning bolt amounts to only about twenty-five cents worth of electricity. Ironically, a quarter dollar's worth of lightning can cause hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage!"

Issue: The Flash #113 (June-July 1960)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Fast Talk: Magnetic Light

Magnetic Light:
I feel obligated to confess that, despite the weekly appearance of the Fast Talk feature, my knowledge of physics, chemistry, astronomy and the like is nothing but basic. Fortunately, the scientific fast talk of the Silver Age simply screams out to be recognized. The first appearance of Mr. Element in Showcase #13, for instance, offers plenty of educational tidbits concerning the periodic table before building to this outrageous development. In a demonstration that immediately disables the scarlet speedster before rendering him a literal crimson comet, the innovative supervillain proves his ingenuity by unleashing a heretofore undiscovered element, "a form of magnetic light" said to be "an element of speed." Sadly, though we're all aching for a more detailed explanation, the egotistical Mr. Element is interested only in ensuring his place in science textbooks everywhere by choosing to name this "elemental" discovery after himself. Just imagine the notational confusion that's certain to follow from an element unfortunately dubbed Elemento!

Issue: Showcase #13 (March-April 1958)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On Sale: The Flash #247

The Flash (v.2) #247 will be available tomorrow, just in time for the stuffing of stockings! The landmark issue marks the end--once again--of the second volume of scarlet speedster's series. Despite the issue's dire description, this certainly isn't the end of the legacy of the fastest man alive! The Flash will return, of course, in the long-awaited epic mini-series The Flash: Rebirth, from Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver, in April of 2009.

Written by Alan Burnett; Art by Carlo Barberi and Drew Geraci; Cover by Brian Stelfreeze. "This Was Your Life, Wally West" concludes! As Flash stands alone without his powers or family to support him, only one question remains--is this the end of the Fastest Man Alive? DC Universe. 32pg. Color. $2.99 US. On Sale December 24, 2008.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Flash Facts: Curveball

"A baseball can curve five to eight inches in any direction--depending on the direction of spin that the pitcher gives the ball. Most pitchers can give a ball a rotation of 1200 to 1800 revolutions a second."

Issue: The Flash #193 (December 1969)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Live Action: "Twin Streaks"

“Twin Streaks” (April 13, 1991)

Writer: Stephen Hattman
Director: James A. Contner
Editor: Bill Zabala

Synopsis: When the scheming scientists of the Intellagen Corporation encounter difficulties in their misguided efforts to artificially grow a super-speed human replicant, they seek a solution in the stolen DNA of the Flash. Their experiments thus give birth to Pollux, an imperfect clone of the fastest man alive that possesses all of his astonishing superpowers but none of his maturity. Pollux is a hyperactive delinquent with the intellect of a child and, desperate to gain a sense of identity, the clone recklessly attempts to claim the life of Barry Allen as his own!

Commentary: The scarlet speedster faces off against a cerulean comet in “Twin Streaks,” an episode that undoubtedly draws its inspiration from all those comic book tales featuring the Flash’s various dark doubles. “Twin Streaks” is a lot of fun, allowing John Wesley Shipp to play both an over-stressed Barry Allen and his dangerously underdeveloped twin. The adventure that unfolds is well-plotted and fast-paced, maintaining a level of high drama throughout. Of course, with more than one speedster on hand, there’s a lot of action and special effects spectacle to be witnessed as well. The silver and blue costume created for Pollux, with its bold Mercurial logo, looks fantastic. More importantly, the mythology-linked character is developed in interesting and sometimes unexpected ways. Though the figure of a childish, petulant, super-powered clone is the sort that could easily become an annoyance, the script wisely prompts Pollux to continually shift and develop, never allowing him to stand still and become stagnant. Guest stars Lenny Von Dohlen and Charley Lang provide menace and moral quandaries as Brassell and Whitcomb, the minds behind Intellagen, although the script fails to develop their conflict in any meaningful way. It’s also astonishing that there is no attempt made to capitalize on a certain twist inherent to the episode’s premise; after cloning the Flash, Brassell is aware of the superhero’s secret identity, but the episode completely ignores this as a potential subplot. The supporting cast is outstanding. In particular, there are several strong scenes involving Alex Desert as Julio and Mike Genovese as Lt. Garfield. The tension mounts during moments like these, full of character conflict. It becomes eerie and unsettling to watch Pollux play at being Barry Allen, attempting to usurp his genetic progenitor and appropriate his life. Because of this uneasy exploration of themes relating to identity and individuality, by the end of the episode there is something downright frightening about the cloned character. Unfortunately, the story opts for an uninspired finish, setting up a tragic end for Pollux and playing on the audience’s pity. Truly, because this memorable installment possesses such potential and opportunity, the great disappointment of “Twin Streaks” is the fact that Pollux was not developed as the television series’ own Reverse Flash.

High-Speed Highlight: In a feat of superhuman biology triumphing over ballistics, Pollux whirls to catch a bullet fired by scientist Jason Brassell before then winding up to hurl the projectile back with equal speed, killing his creator!

Quotable: “Tina, I watched myself die. It really brought home what you’ve always tried to make me understand, that I am only a man. And like all of us I am on a journey of a birth, a life, and a passing. Does that make any sense?” --Barry Allen comes to terms with his own fallibility and mortality after witnessing the death of his clone

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fast Talk: The Science of Ultra-Speed

The Science of Ultra-Speed: There are occasional Fast Talk entries that I feel require little or no explanatory text--they speak for themselves. In fact, there are some stand-out examples of comic book technobabble that simply defy all attempts at analysis. Take this scene of Professor Zoom hard at work in his lab, for example. After being released from state custody in a stunning testament to the ineptitude of the 25th century judicial system, the Reverse-Flash dedicates himself to "the science of ultra-speed!" What sinister scheme is this, I hear you ask? By developing technology capable of "speeding up electrons and other sub-atomic particles to fantastic rates" he intends to craft a ray gun that "will make whatever evil there is in a person flourish, like sunlight makes a plant grow!" (Eobard Thawne needs to hire a new speechwriter. Somehow, that illustrative simile just doesn't instill the appropriate level of menace. Come to think of it, I probably should have titled this week's entry "The Sunlight of Evil.") There are scientific leaps in logic and then there are scientific leaps in logic. This would be the latter. If any commenters can convincingly suggest a way in which accelerating subatomic particles in living beings would initiate a moral shift, I will have them nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Issue: The Flash #153 (June 1965)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rebirth Preview

As reported over at Speed Force, Ethan Van Sciver's latest column for Newsarama offers us a glimpse at his work on the forthcoming Flash: Rebirth mini-series, an illustration of the revitalized Barry Allen. The artist explains, "As promised in last week's column, here's a sneaky sneak peek at Flash: Rebirth #1. I took a quick digital photo of the corner of one of the pages. Shhh...don't tell Dan Didio! It ships April of 2009, so don't say we didn't warn you!" Visit Newsarama to read more of Van Sciver's newest "Your Time is Now Mine" entry or to view a larger version of the image.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Flash Facts: Halley's Comet

"Halley's Comet follows an orbit that enables it to make periodic visits in our skies every seventy-seven years or so. For more than three-quarters of this period, the comet is beyond the orbit of Neptune--where its speed slows down to about 1/2 mile a second. Its top speed as it flashes back toward the sun is 34 miles a second."

Issue: The Flash #106 (April-May 1959)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sight and Sound: "Captain Cold"

"Captain Cold," the seventeenth installment of The Flash television series, aired 6 April 1991 on CBS and introduced viewers to the titular Rogue. The episode was written by Gail Morgan Hickman, directed by Gilbert Shilton, and edited by Greg Wong. Brought to life by guest star Michael Champion, Captain Cold was reimagined for the series as an albino contract killer who freezes his victims. In the episode's climax, the scarlet speedster challenges this fiendish foe in a comic book-inspired confrontation that plays out on the streets of downtown Central City. These scenes offer a glimpse of the television show's likable supporting cast as well as its top-notch style and score. For those in search of a fast-paced drinking game inspired by the show, down a chilled shot each time that Barry Allen, Captain Cold, or a member of the C.C.P.D. makes use of a thermal pun!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fast Talk: Super-Speed Transfer

Super-Speed Transfer: After saving a fellow Blue Valley teenager named Howie from a lightning bolt one dark and stormy night, Kid Flash discovers that he's lost his superpowers! Revisiting the scene of the rescue, Wally West puts on his thinking cap and in no time at all formulates an elaborate hypothesis for what has occurred: "Many chemicals have a lead base--including the ones that originally gave me my super-speed powers. Deduction: When we were hit by the lightning, it created an electro-magnetic field which affected the chemicals that originally gave me my super-speed and transferred them to Howie!" Apparently, if you've paid attention during class, a high school chemistry course and a few wild generalizations are all that you need to understand the intricacies of speed science. This story also clearly gives us all reason to hang around speedsters during thunderstorms. Wally earns some bonus points this round for choosing his phraseology as if he were actually delivering some sort of thesis! Barry Allen's scientific rationale is clearly beginning to rub off on his young apprentice.

Issue: The Flash #266 (October 1978)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Flash Puzzle (1974)

The names of the villains in Flash's Rogues Gallery are hidden in the puzzle above. In addition, the names of the Scarlet Speedster's friends, as well of those of the editor/author/artist teams who have worked on The Flash are there. Can you find them all? To make it easier, we've listed the names... Good luck.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Flash Facts: The Year of the Gorilla

It appears as if Nnamdi, proud son of the great Solovar, is making good progress at the United Nations. The Associated Press reports that the UN has declared 2009 the Year of the Gorilla, representing a concerted effort to raise funds for endangered primate species. "The Year of the Gorilla was launched at a ceremony in Rome where Prince Albert II of Monaco and representatives from more than 100 governments gathered this week to discuss increasing measures for nearly thirty species endangered by pollution, climate change, and overhunting. Gorillas are threatened by diseases including Ebola, deforestation, and armed conflicts. They are also hunted for meat and their infants are captured for pets." If only we could establish an independent, invisible city hidden deep in the jungles of Africa for their protection. Visit news outlets such as CBS, Discovery, or the Year of the Gorilla website to learn more.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Live Action: "Captain Cold"

“Captain Cold” (April 6, 1991)

Writer: Gail Morgan Hickman
Story: Paul DeMeo & Gail Morgan Hickman
Director: Gilbert Shilton
Editor: Greg Wong

Synopsis: In the midst of a record-breaking summer heat wave, cutthroat crime boss Jimmy Swain prepares to take over the Central City underworld by eliminating his competitors. To that end he has hired the mysterious Captain Cold, a mercenary albino hit man wielding advanced weaponry capable of freezing his targets at subzero temperatures! When Swain contracts Cold to ice the Flash as well, the cold-blooded assassin becomes outright obsessed with ending the life of the fastest man alive.

Commentary: Another of the Flash’s famous foes is reinvented for the screen in “Captain Cold,” an episode that proves to be just about as much fun as you would expect given the fresh infusion of comic book inspiration. This story’s strength lies in its relative simplicity. Though the episode is padded by a pair of inoffensive subplots, the narrative’s focus is on an ongoing contest between the scarlet speedster and the icy assassin determined to destroy him, the sort of conflict that supported so many Silver Age adventures. Michael Champion brings a sort of dispassionate charm to the character of Captain Cold. To this day, Cold remains one of the Flash’s more well-drawn nemeses and his appearance on the television series is satisfying, barring one absurd and outright cartoonish scene in which he’s burdened with some laughable dialogue seemingly in an effort to exhaust all possible puns relating to the character’s frigid motif. The script manages to find some amusing and inventive ways for the villain to launch his attacks on unsuspecting victims; in the hands of Captain Cold, even a snow globe becomes a weapon. The episode’s special effects are noteworthy as they creatively combine lighting, make-up, and visual effects to represent the icy impact of the supervillain’s trademark cold gun. It’s nice to see noted character actor Jeffrey Combs guest star in the series as gangster Jimmy Swain, although he’s criminally underutilized in the story. A secondary storyline involving Officer Murphy’s attempts to cash-in on his memoirs proves to be more entertaining than another involving Lisa Darr as a ruthlessly ambitious reporter, so there are a few genuine laughs to be found amidst the bad puns as well. Like its predecessor “The Trickster,” this episode ultimately delivers just the sort of escapist entertainment you want from a television series based on a classic comic book. As you watch the Flash dodge blasts from Captain Cold’s ice ray, you can’t help but feel as if the series is at last attempting to make up for so many missed opportunities. In episodes such as this, the Rogues bring a sense of fun and adventure to The Flash that was distinctly absent from earlier installments. It’s a shame the series didn’t introduce them sooner.

High-Speed Highlight: Acting fast to save lives, the Flash runs in circles to create a frictional whirlwind in a desperate effort to defrost an ice-encrusted Central City bus before its encased occupants freeze to death inside!

Quotable: “There he was, the man who brought Central City to its knees, and there I was, Michael Francis Murphy, the cop who put law back in law and order! Only one of us was going to walk away from that so, suddenly… Aw, nuts. The truth is, I didn’t do anything. All I saw was a streak of red and a blaze of lightning.” --Officer Murphy nearly takes credit for Captain Cold’s comeuppance

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Fast Talk: Speed Breathing

Speed Breathing: Just to prove that scientific fast talk isn't the exclusive privilege of Modern and Silver Age adventures, here's Jay Garrick attempting to explain away the fact that he has miraculously survived a gas attack launched by a gang of crooks who are attempting to rob the Carson Bank for the villain known only as the Monocle. See if you can spot the flaw in the Flash's logic as he inhales and exhales the dangerous gases at an increased rate thanks to his accelerated biology. Upon entering the bank, he observes that his speed "is so great I exhaled that gas before it could take effect!" Honestly, I'd expect more of Jay, a trained scientist!

Issue: All-Flash #1 (Summer 1941)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Quick Quiz: Favorite Flash?

The first of Crimson Lightning's new Quick Quiz polls has just closed. The preliminary reader poll posed an obvious question: Who is your favorite Flash? The results are, perhaps, unsurprising. A minor 8% of all respondents selected the first man to take on the title, the legendary Jay Garrick, as their favorite speedster. 40% of respondents chose Barry Allen as their champion. No less than 44% of respondents selected Wally West as their preferred hero. Last, but certainly not least, a further 8% picked the fallen Bart Allen as the best of the bunch. Forty readers took part in the poll in total.

I plan to post a new Quick Quiz each month and, as a result, the polls will remain open for approximately thirty days. Once the poll has closed I'll be summarizing the results, as above. It will be interesting to gauge the differences of opinion that separate the many comic fans who pass by this blog when it comes to matters that relate to the scarlet speedster, his supporting cast, and his most significant storylines. Next up: Who is your favorite member of the Flash's famous Rogues Gallery?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Flash Facts: Gray's Paradox

In what could be considered a follow-up to our recent underwater Flash Fact concerning the shortfin mako shark, as well as a scientific extension of this blog's recent crossover with the Aquaman Shrine, the BBC reports that new research has revealed how dolphins are able to achieve incredible speeds in the water. "Gray's Paradox--named after British zoologist Sir James Gray--proposed that dolphins simply do not have the strength to swim so fast. But researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the US have now studied the movement of water around dolphins as they swim. The results show that dolphins can exert as much as 400lb of force with their tails." Now you know those sharp-looking fins on the back of Aquaman's legs aren't simply a fashion statement! Visit the BBC to watch a color-coded video tracking the bubbles that surround a speeding dolphin.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Crisis on Earth-Blog: The Flash (v.2) #66

Some threats are too big for one hero to handle. Some crises encompass more than one world in the multiverse. Certain epic adventures call for a crossover!

Today, for the first time, Crimson Lightning is teaming up with the Aquaman Shrine for a comic blog crossover! Both Rob Kelly and I will be reviewing the same book, The Flash (v.2) #66, and each of our reviews will inevitably examine this twist-filled tale featuring the Flash and Aquaman from a unique fan perspective. Once you've finished reading the Crimson Lightning commentary, race on over to the Aquaman Shrine for another in-depth review. This may provide the launching point for a new feature reviewing the crimson comet's comic book appearances, and I certainly hope that it will prove to be the first in a long line of celebratory comic blog crossovers. In any case, Rob and I hope that you enjoy what we're calling "Crisis on Earth-Blog!"

The Flash (v.2) #66

Title: "Fish Story"
Cover Blurb: "The Race You Demanded! Flash vs. Aquaman. Warning! This Scene Does Not Appear in This Issue!"
Cover Price: $1.25
Date: July 1992

Writer: Mark Waid
Penciller: Michael Collins
Inker: Roy Richardson
Letterer: Ken Holewczynski
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Cover: Michael Collins & José Marzan Jr.

Synopsis: A vacation shared by Wally West and Linda Park turns into a nightmare when their cruise ship is unexpectedly forced onto the reefs surrounding a mysterious island by a pod of sperm whales! A villainess calling herself the Marine Marauder has been using her ability to command sea life to prompt shipwrecks so that she may enslave the castaways. Her goal is the unearthing of a legendary Babylonian artifact known as the Crown of Enlil. Concerned only with the safety of the enslaved men and women around him, the Flash agrees to help the Marauder recover the crown and learns that Aquaman has been brainwashed into compliance as well! Working underwater with the king of the seven seas, the fastest man alive soon discovers a vast palace concealed beneath the island. The secrets contained therein were better left hidden, however. Both the Flash and the Marine Marauder are forced to contend with an ancient evil of unimaginable power when it becomes apparent that the Crown of Enlil has taken possession of Aquaman!

Commentary: There's nothing better than discovering a comic book in which your two favorite characters join forces. Ask any kid, they'll tell you. As my all-time favorite superheroes have always been the Flash and Aquaman, it's a joy to see any story featuring both characters in the roll call, let alone a proper team-up. In "Fish Story," written by Mark Waid, pencilled by Michael Collins, and inked by Roy Richardson, the scarlet speedster finds himself fighting both with and against the sea king in a self-contained story that's fast-paced and filled with plot twists. As a team-up tale, this issue is downright frustrating and ultimately disappointing, primarily because Arthur spends the entire story possessed by the malevolent spirit of Enlil, an ancient, vengeful god! It isn't until the issue's final page, in fact, that we're able to see Aquaman acting in character. There is some consolation to be found in the fact that the story repeatedly emphasizes his raw power as a superhero. When the Crown of Enlil takes possession of the King of Atlantis on a mysterious tropical island, even though he's being manipulated, there's a sense of tension and terror that accompanies the invoked understanding that this aquatic hero is one of the DC Universe's most uniquely empowered characters. With Arthur acting as a possessed puppet, there's never a moment in which the Flash shares the heroic spotlight. This serves to compliment the construction of Wally West, who was at this time an outright self-absorbed superhero. As always, the Mark Waid-penned narrative entertainingly explores the Flash's personality and provides him with a distinctive voice. Sadly, there are also missed opportunities aplenty in this tale. The story's villain is the Marine Marauder--a substandard supervillainess who first appeared in the pages of Adventures of the Outsiders--despite the fact that the script just screams for the presence of a more recognizable and formidable foe, perhaps the Ocean Master or Black Manta. As Wally comments snarkily, the Marine Marauder comes across "about as threatening as a Valley girl." She is capable of controlling sea life in the same manner as Aquaman, though, and this leads to a number of exciting sequences involving our finny friends. As in all of the sea king's many illustrious adventures, it's a delight to see undersea life--legions of sperm whales, swordfish, sharks, and octopi--taking part in the action. The issue's artwork is at times beautifully detailed, especially in the underwater scenes, and nicely represents our two iconic heroes. This cover has long been a favorite of mine, in part because it is easily the funniest cover of The Flash's second volume. There's some remarkable use of coloring in the issue as well, specifically in those tense moments during which Aquaman is possessed by the angry Enlil and his costume's traditional orange and green color-scheme is replaced with darker, more threatening browns and blues. Ultimately, this issue's stand-out highlights are those brief, atmospheric scenes in which we're able to watch the Flash modify his costume with scuba gear, find his sea legs, and join Aquaman in his watery realm, that beautiful but dangerous world that lies beneath the ocean waves. It's not often that the fastest man alive and the king of the seven seas are able to team-up and it's undeniably exciting to see them dive into the depths side-by-side.

High-Speed Highlight: Aboard the cruise ship S.S. Metropolis Spirit, Wally West tries to instruct the lovely Linda Park on the tennis court but is quickly caught-up in his own show of bravado, playing a fast-paced round of tennis against himself at superspeed!

Quotable: "We were a shipwreck waiting to happen... I started to black out, but not before catching a glimpse of the guy responsible for this catastrophe--as I was about to tell Linda, the only man I know who's fluent in whalespeak." --The Flash discovers that the one and only Aquaman may be involved in the shipwrecks surrounding a mysterious island

Comic Blog Crossover: On the occassion of our first comic blog crossover, special thanks go out to our good friend Rob Kelly. I've long been waiting for the chance to join forces with Rob and his blog. To read more about this uncommon team-up between two of the DC Universe's greatest heroes, don't forget to visit the Aquaman Shrine!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fast Talk: Principles of Quantum Mechanics

Principles of Quantum Mechanics: This one is a Fast Talk jackpot. This mind-numbing showcase of layered technobabble, which simultaneously attempts to address a number of plot complications relating to the ever-indefinable speed force and the complexities of time travel, speaks for itself. The evil clone Inertia has utilized 30th century technology to build a contraption designed to rob Bart Allen of his connection to the speed force. Dedicated to foiling that sinister scheme, Iris Allen attempts to aid Valerie Perez--and, by extension, the head-scratching reader--by offering a simple simile comparing the current state of the timestream to a roadway in a state of disrepair. Fortunately, the S.T.A.R. Labs intern seems to be up on her studies in theoretical quantum mechanics. I'll leave her incomprehensible mathematical formula--something along the lines of "(5x)-YV(=V)-(123)*(>)"--to you to decipher!

Issue: The Flash (v.3) #13 (August 2007)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

Flash Facts: Lightning Discharges

"Although a stroke of lightning appears to be a single continuous discharge, it is actually a series of about 20 discharges, each following the other in rapid succession, spaced up to about one-half second apart."

Illustration: "Artificial lightning produced in the General Electric plant by a discharge of about two million volts."

Issue: The Flash #113 (June-July 1960)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Live Action: "Deadly Nightshade"

“Deadly Nightshade” (March 30, 1991)

Writers: Howard Chaykin & John Francis Moore
Director: Bruce Bilson
Editor: Lawrence J. Gleason

Synopsis: A murderous vigilante proclaiming himself the Deadly Nightshade prowls Central City’s underworld, killing criminals in pursuit of a personal vendetta. The masked madman’s crusade of personal justice prompts a panic-stricken public to question the role played by their resident superheroes, foremost the Flash! Dr. Desmond Powell, the man who once operated as the city's original costumed crimefighter, dons the legendary identity of the Nightshade once more to join the scarlet speedster in an effort to end this upstart imitator's reign of terror.

Commentary: Just because The Flash was largely dissociated from the comic book mythology that inspired the television series doesn’t mean that it lacked a sense of legacy. “Deadly Nightshade” serves as a follow-up to “Ghost in the Machine,” one of the show's greatest adventures, resurrecting the Nightshade for yet another on-screen team-up bringing together two generations of Central City crimefighters. Though the resulting storyline simply cannot compete with its conceptual forerunner, this episode is nevertheless a satisfying installment. The interplay between the Flash and the Nightshade is endlessly entertaining, in part because of the considerable differences in style and skill that separate the two heroes. An uncertain Barry Allen seeks out Dr. Desmond Powell because of his years of experience as an anonymous, costumed public defender and the combination of characters adds a number of rich layers to the storytelling. Indeed, the episode's greatest asset is its vast cast of supporting characters. Familiar guest stars such as Mike Genovese, Dick Miller, and Richard Belzer are joined by such genre regulars as Richard Burgi, Denise Crosby, and Jeri Ryan. Miller and Belzer help to deliver a sense of believable liveliness to the setting, as always, and a subplot involving Crosby as a clinical psychologist intent on challenging the masked vigilantes of Central City proves to be more intriguing than it is irritating. The narrative maintains a brisk pace and tosses in plenty of twists and turns along the way. Shirley Walker's score is stirring, alternating between bold variations on the Flash's theme and a distinctive theme developed for the Nightshade. Costume designer Le Dawson also deserves praise, along with Greg Cannom and Larry Odien, designers of the Deadly Nightshade's electronic exoskeleton. Unfortunately, the final battle involving this technological plot device, fought between the Flash and the Deadly Nightshade at high-speed on the streets of Central City, is something of an anticlimax in spite of its originality. Whether the cause lies in the show's creative restrictions or its budgetary limitations, The Flash's strengths were always in plot and character development rather than action or superhero spectacle and “Deadly Nightshade” is one of those memorable stories that succeeds in part by recognizing this from the start.

High-Speed Highlight: Curtis Bohannan, the Deadly Nightshade, dons a computer-controlled exoskeleton designed to enhance his reflexes and hasten his response times in order to battle the Flash at his own astonishingly rapid pace!

Quotable: “Whatever his extraordinary speed, the Flash is playing out a macho adolescent fantasy… With all its problems, does Central City really need a self-appointed guardian angel, a masked man who should be under observation, not on the streets?” --Dr. Rebecca Frost psychoanalyzes the fastest man alive

Special Thanks: Thanks, as always, go out to Kelson Vibber for the screen captures featured here. Visit Those Who Ride the Lightning for an overview of The Flash television series, complete with character profiles!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fast Talk: 64th Century Science

64th Century Science: One of the most brilliant and endearing traits of those Silver Age stories featuring the scarlet speedster was their adamant approach to scientific problem solving. In the pages of The Flash, technobabble and imaginative science were capable of explaining any feat or phenomenon regardless of its strangeness or complexity. This is the reason I feature Fast Talk each Wednesday. What's important is the fact that the series was never vague or misleading regarding the stark difference between science and magic, even if the two were all-but indistinguishable in effect. The ultimate example of this policy, of course, is Abra Kadabra, that theatrical convict from the future whose technology masqueraded in the modern day as magic. In this panel, Doctor Fate himself experiences some momentary confusion when one of his "counter-magic" spells fails to work against the supervillain's sinister tricks because, as the editor explains, "Abra Kadabra was using 64th science to make his feats seem like magic--he wasn't really using magic at all!" Let this be a lesson to all conjurers and mystics preparing to head into battle against technologically advanced foes! Don't stories featuring the fastest man alive always manage to leave you feeling Darn Clever?

Issue: The Flash #170 (May 1967)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On Sale: The Flash #246

On sale tomorrow from DC Comics is The Flash (v.2) #246, the penultimate issue of the current series. With dramatic changes in store for the Flash family, the fate of Wally West has yet to be revealed but, as usual, the publisher's rundown would have us believe that the end is nigh!

Written by Alan Burnett; Art by Carlo Barberi and Drew Geraci; Cover by Brian Stelfreeze. As Queen Bee circles in closer for the kill, everything the Flash holds dear starts slipping away from him. His powers, his wife – what's next to go? DC Universe. 32pg. Color. $2.99 US. On Sale November 19, 2008.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Flash Facts: Shortfin Mako Shark

Here's a Flash Fact that evokes both of my favorite comic book superheroes, a scientific tidbit appropriate for either a Flash or an Aquaman adventure! New Scientist is reporting that the shortfin mako shark, capable of swimming through the ocean at up to 50 miles per hour, may owe its incredible speed to the texture of its skin. "The sharks can raise their scales to create tiny wells across the surface of their skin, reducing drag like the dimples on a golf ball. The minute scales--just 200 micrometers long--are made from tough enamel, such as that found on teeth, giving the skin a rough texture like sandpaper. Lying flat, they had previously been found to reduce drag as the shark swims." Surely those distinctive orange scales on Aquaman's tunic accomplish a similar feat! Visit New Scientist for details on how a team at the University of Alabama investigated the phenomenon.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sight and Sound: "The New Frontier"

Justice League: The New Frontier, a direct-to-video animated adaptation of Darwyn Cooke's award-winning limited series, was released on 26 February 2008, the second in a line of DC Universe original animated movies from Warner Premiere and Warner Bros. Animation. The film features the voice of actor Neil Patrick Harris as Barry Allen. In this action-packed clip introducing the Flash, the fastest man alive faces off against Captain Cold in downtown Las Vegas. The scene showcases the relationship between Barry and Iris rather nicely, emphasizing the driving sense of romance inherent to the construction of all of those characters who have donned the costume of the scarlet speedster. Of course, there's plenty of stunning, high-speed stunts on display as well!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fast Talk: The Fourth Quadrangle of Space

The Fourth Quadrangle of Space: Serious astronomers, look away now. While recently enjoying this story--"The Man Who Claimed the Earth!" by John Broome and Carmine Infantino--I must have paused to read the first panel here at least five times in a row, and each time that I attempted to absorb the information presented in that narrative box it amused me more than the last. The scene is apparently set in "the galactic universe of Olimpus in the fourth quadrangle of space." If that blatantly invented technobabble isn't specific enough for you, you'll have to consult an upside-down star chart or a drunken astrophysicist. And this is to say nothing of the fact that this little story swiftly establishes that all of mankind is but an offshoot of an ancient alien race before casually brushing that history-shattering fact aside and blatantly ignoring it forevermore! Somehow, I feel certain that I could get a few more posts out of this tale...

Issue: The Flash #113 (June-July 1960)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Find the Flash: Wizard World Texas

Wizard has posted a photographic walk-through of Saturday's events at Wizard World Texas. Among the costumed fans caught on camera was this pint-sized duo straight from the cover of The Brave and the Bold, a young Flash and Green Lantern. Judging by the heroic stance assumed by L'il Lantern, these boys seem like they would be a superpowered force to be reckoned with--that is, once they've grow into those masks of theirs!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Flash Facts: 100-Yard Dash

"The average speed of 20.4 miles an hour in the record-making 100-yard run is less than the 22.1 mi/hr average speed for the record-making 220-yard run! The lower average speed for the 100-yard dash is due to the fact that the time lost in getting up speed counts for much more in a short race than in a longer one..."

Issue: The Flash #106 (April-May 1959)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Live Action: "Fast Forward"

“Fast Forward” (February 27, 1991)

Writer: Gail Morgan Hickman
Director: Gus Trikonis
Editor: Greg Wong

Synopsis: Nicholas Pike, the vicious gang leader responsible for the murder of Jay Allen, has been released from custody on a legal technicality and his first act as a free man is to mastermind the assassination of the Flash! As the fastest man alive fails to outrun a high-tech missile programmed to obliterate him, he is suddenly thrown through time and finds himself in a dystopian future Central City where Nicholas Pike is mayor, oppression rules, and the mere mention of the Flash's name is illegal!

Commentary: “Fast Forward” is best thought of as The Flash's stab at presenting an alternate history story, a sort of televised Elseworlds adventure. Strictly speaking, the central premise of the episode is preposterous; it's unthinkable that a major modern American metropolis such as Central City could ever be transformed into such a nightmarish dystopia in the span of a single decade. It doesn't help that, as we watch these episodes on DVD, the futuristic setting of the story—March of 2001—has long since passed! We're clearly in the realm of temporal fantasy and a healthy suspension of disbelief is a requirement. It's a fairly standard alternate history nightmare at that, featuring the expected dictatorship, secret police, underground resistance movement, and all of the associated stylistic trappings. “Fast Forward” sports more noteworthy flaws as well. Early in the episode, Barry Allen loses faith in the strength and integrity of the legal infrastructure he works tirelessly to support and decides to run away. The episode sadly follows his lead by outright ignoring the legal quandaries that are presented to us up front. As Michael Nader's Nicholas Pike is a returning villain whose role in the show's pilot episode was pivotal, it's unforgivable that this script fails to elaborate on the circumstances of the villain’s miraculous release from prison. This only serves to contribute to the construction of Pike as a ridiculously two-dimensional villain. If the character had a mustache he'd be twirling it all the while and, unfortunately, the antagonist isn't all that engaging or entertaining. Nevertheless, there are also more than a few moments to relish in this fast-moving adventure, particularly a subplot in which we discover that the underground resistance movement of the future Central City has clung to the legendary scarlet speedster as an icon of justice and liberation even in his absence. It's undeniably satisfying to watch our troubled hero rediscover his faith in justice and become reborn as the protector of his hometown.

High-Speed Highlight: The Flash pushes himself through the uppermost limits of his astonish super-speed powers in a desperate bid to outrun a heat-seeking missile and, when the device detonates at his back, the superhero is tossed through time!

Quotable: “Someone once told me the Flash would be forgotten in a few years. I never thought he'd end up in a museum. All those people out there, waiting for me to save them. I don't know if I can be what they want me to be.” --An uncertain Barry Allen questions his legacy

Special Thanks: Thanks, as always, go out to Kelson Vibber for the screen captures featured here. Visit Those Who Ride the Lightning for an overview of The Flash television series.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Fast Talk: Circulatory Lightning-Shot

Circulatory Lightning-Shot: It's clear that the Weather Wizard has access to some truly astonishing technology. What's more astonishing is the recklessness with which he sometimes wields that technology. Here, using some sort of reflector emitting "strange radition," the Weather Wizard has paralyzed both Kid Flash and the Elongated Man with a so-called lightning-shot, the effects of which are "to stop your circulation!" To anyone with even a passing familiarity with human biology it should be clear that Wally and Ralph are facing far more dire consequences than temporary paralysis! If I could pass along some advice to poor misguided Mark Mardon I'd suggest that, however desperate he might be, he stop short of using his meteorological mastery to tamper with the organ systems of his arch-enemy's sidekicks.

Issue: The Flash #130 (August 1962)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day

Today is Election Day in the United States of America and citizens everywhere are headed to the polls to cast their ballot for president. The Flash and his good friend 30th Century Android Lincoln remind you of your civic duty. You carry the spirit of the American way. The fate of a nation rests in your hands. Get out there and vote!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Flash Facts: 1,000mph on Land

The BBC is reporting that the team that established a land-speed record by breaking the sound barrier with a car is preparing for another high-speed endeavor by constructing a car that will be capable of traveling faster than a speeding bullet--literally. "RAF pilot Andy Green made history in 1997 when he drove the Thrust SSC jet-powered vehicle at 763mph (1,228km/h). Now he intends to get behind the wheel of a car that is capable of reaching 1,000mph (1,610km/h). Known as Bloodhound, the new car will be powered by a rocket bolted to a Eurofighter-Typhoon jet engine. The team-members have been working on the concept for the past 18 months and expect to be ready to make their new record attempt in 2011."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sight and Sound: "The Chemo-Creature"

"The Chemo-Creature," written by George Kashdan, featuring Ray Owens as the Flash, aired 9 September 1967 as part of Filmation's The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure. There is, of course, scads of absurd science on display, as well as an "unearthly monster" just in time for Halloween. You'll never look at an ordinary ant in the same way again! The five-minute cartoon commendably attempts to showcase a wide variety of the fastest man alive's speed-related abilities. Most amusing, however, is an awkward moment during which two slack-jawed farmers inexplicably fail to recognize what is unarguably one of the most iconic superhero costumes in all of history--indeed, fail to react to the presence of a costumed superhero much at all!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fast Talk: The Reverse-Dimension Frequency

You can't craft a proper adventure for the fastest man alive without including a healthy dose of incomprehensible comic book technobabble. Over the years, Jay, Barry, Wally, and Bart have all played fast and loose with the laws of physics and, with convincingly authoritative narratives, managed to talk their way through it. Starting today, I'll be trying out a new regular feature spotlighting such instances of educational malfeasance. Fast Talk is dedicated to presenting those amusing panels and pages heavy on questionable scientific principles that leave us scratching our heads.

The Reverse-Dimension Frequency: This week's example of speedster technobabble combines two of my favorite staples of The Flash's far-out physics: mirror dimensions and vibrational frequencies. The Flash is seeking a way into the Mirror Master's domain, an "elusive reverse-dimension which exists within these mirrors." The key to unlocking that reverse-dimensional door? Why, super-speed vibration, of course! Like any good scientist, Barry Allen pursues a trial-and-error approach, incurring countless years of bad luck in the process. A look at all that shattered glass ("CRASSSHH!") leads me to insist that this is one pseudoscientific experiment you shouldn't try at home, kids.

Issue: The Flash #292 (December 1980)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On Indexing

When this blog stumbled and came to a standstill last year, updates over at the Crimson Lightning comic index became few and far between as well. As I am preparing to do a little more blogging, I'm also doing my best to catch up with the crimson comet and to bring the series index up-to-speed. The Flash #238, featuring part one of Tom Peyer's "Fast Money" storyline, is the latest issue to be added to the incomplete series index. Other recent installments will follow in the coming weeks. As it has been revealed that the current volume will be ending--yes, again!--with The Flash #247, and The Flash: Rebirth has been slated for release in April of 2009, I should have some time to get caught up. (Though I know there's a lot on the horizon for the Flash family, there's something quite painful about receiving that letter from DC Comics announcing that the current series will be coming to an end.) As always, keep your eye on the Crimson Lightning site for updates.

Monday, August 25, 2008


If Barry Allen were here--and it looks like he’ll be rejoining us, boys and girls, regardless of those most sacred creative laws that once governed the known comic book universe--he would tell me that there’s no pleasure to be gained from a job half-done. And he’d be right.

For a number of reasons, I was unable to continue posting daily entries in this blog beginning… well, precisely one year ago. That’s something that has always disappointed me in the days and weeks that have since passed. There are so many wonderful blogs out there, updated daily, dedicated to the colorful heroes and heroines of the vast and intricate DC Universe--blogs dedicated to Aquaman, the Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow, Plastic Man, the Atom, Hawkman, and others. Kelson Vibber has also since begun Speed Force, a brilliant blog devoted to the scarlet speedster. I read these blogs daily because they never cease to bring a smile to my face. These are blogs run by fans who grew up pinning their hopes and dreams to these characters, fans who connected, for one reason or other, with their superhero of choice. The desire to express that sort of affection, that sort of admiration, for both the medium and its incomparable superhero protagonists prompted me to first begin posting here at Crimson Lightning. I’m sorry that the real world (er, Earth-Prime) made me to stop.

So, why am I posting an entry today? In short, I mean to continue. At the very least, I vow to complete my project of cataloguing and reviewing the episodes of The Flash television series. I’d also like to offer occasional commentary, panels and pages, and general tomfoolery when time allows for it, particularly since the coming months promise big things for the Flash family. Indeed, although the comic book crossovers of the modern era take themselves deathly seriously, I’m interested in reminding everyone--myself included--why we all turned to comic books in the first place. Superheroes are fun, they make us smile. Comic blogs should make us smile, too. I’ll see what I can do, folks. I’d like to get some blogging done, because Rao knows there are still plenty of reasons for us to remember the fastest man alive.