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.