Tuesday, March 31, 2009

On Sale: The Flash: Rebirth #1

Barry Allen is back! Tomorrow, the stunning story behind the scarlet speedster's surprise resurrection begins to unfold in The Flash: Rebirth #1, an issue launching an all-new epic mini-series from Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver. As if you needed the reminder...

Written by Geoff Johns; Art and covers by Ethan Van Sciver. Through the decades, many heroes have taken the mantle of the Flash, but they all ride the lightning that crackles in the wake of the greatest hero the DC Universe has ever known, the man who sacrificed himself to save the Multiverse: Barry Allen! Following the events of Final Crisis, Barry has beaten death and returned to a fast-paced world that a man out of time wouldn’t recognize. Or is it a world that is only just now catching up? All the running he’s done before was just a warmup for the high-speed race that he and every other Flash must now run, because even though one speedster might have beaten death, another has just turned up dead! From Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver, the visionaries responsible for the blockbuster Green Lantern: Rebirth and The Sinestro Corps War, comes the start of an explosive and jaw-dropping epic that will reintroduce to the modern age the hero who single-handedly birthed the Silver Age of comics! DC history will be made, and the Flash legacy will be redefined! On sale April 1st. 1 of 5. 40 pg. FC. $3.99 US.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Flash Facts: Hurricane Force

"When moving across a land surface, hurricanes lose their power because they dry up and because of the friction between its winds and the rough ground."

Illustration: "A scene in Miami, Florida, after a hurricane heading westward had swept across the coast and almost spent its force."

Issue: The Flash #141 (December 1963)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Live Action: The Best

With Crimson Lightning’s regular reviews of The Flash television series at an end, I’ve decided to take some time to look back over the show’s surprisingly varied twenty-two episode run. CBS’s The Flash, developed by Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo, was an admirably inventive series that proved itself capable of employing a wide variety of storytelling techniques borrowed from a number of distinctive genres. Barry Allen’s adventures in the crime-ridden streets and alleyways of Central City often coupled the requisite superheroics with familiar formulaic elements borrowed from police procedurals, detective stories, romantic comedies, urban thrillers, horror stories, or science fiction tales. Some of these adventurous outings, of course, proved to be better than others.

Our last installment of Live Action featured a veritable rogues gallery of failures, listing four of the series’ worst episodes. It’s good to have that unpleasantness behind us. This week we’ll look at the top three episodes, as well as one honorable mention. If it takes some time to consider which of those stories from the live action television series deserve to be classified as the worst, the best of the series can be identified in an instant. When I pause to recall or reconsider The Flash, I am immediately reminded of those thrilling installments that served to define the series and have ensured its unique place in television history. Indeed, memories of these stand-out stories still linger from their original broadcasts nearly twenty years ago. They have left an indelible impression.

Here, then, are the scarlet speedster’s greatest triumphs on television…


1. “Ghost in the Machine” brilliantly combines an outright celebration of the superhero genre with a variety of mischievous and mesmerizing thematic explorations. Actor Anthony Starke’s performance as the Ghost, an anachronistic supervillain obsessed with television, allows The Flash to interrogate the very medium in which it is presented. Similarly, Jason Bernard’s performance as Nightshade, a retired costumed defender, revitalizes the Flash as hero and protagonist and invokes a sense of history and enduring legacy that had heretofore been lacking. The end result is the television series’ best episode, a stunningly inventive and irresistibly intriguing adventure that boldly pushed the possibilities of the show’s formula and format.

2. “Watching the Detectives,” one of the show’s early successes, beautifully integrates action, drama, and comedy elements. It set a standard of quality for all those episodes that would follow. Barry Allen’s efforts to overcome the manipulating machinations of corrupt District Attorney Thomas Castillo are undeniably exciting and leave us with lingering concerns relating to morality and justice; the action and intrigue are tightly scripted and there is an enticing film noir atmosphere about the proceedings. Additionally, this story introduces viewers to Joyce Hyser as sassy P.I. Megan Lockhart, who remains one of the series’ most memorable recurring characters.

3. “The Trickster” is unrepentant wild fun. In clear defiance of frequent and often misguided attempts to render The Flash more realistic or more grown-up, this installment rebelliously forces the live action television series to acknowledge its comic book roots and effectively redefined the show for the second half of its single season run. Of course, the episode earns a slot amongst the best of the series for its unforgettable depiction of the title supervillain alone. The Trickster, an electrifying character brought vividly to life by the incomparable Mark Hamill, stands as the one Rogue the live action television series reinterpreted to brilliant effect.

Honorable Mention: “Double Vision” is packed with a surprising plenitude of engaging and unexpected elements that allow it to stand out amongst other installments of the series. Against the colorful backdrop of an annual Day of the Dead festival celebrated in Central City’s Spanish Hill, a cast of captivating characters becomes entangled in a complex and compelling plot that is both tightly scripted and beautifully realized on screen. The episode’s art direction, score, and cinematography are simply exceptional. This unique story juxtaposes or mixes a number of seemingly disparate ingredients--such as the religious beliefs of Santeria and the threat of cybernetic technology--and capitalizes on the surprising themes and effects that result.

Truly, the fastest man alive had some outstanding adventures on television, and it’s difficult to choose only a single honorable mention. (In particular, I agonized over not recognizing “Good Night, Central City.” It very nearly earned the honorable mention.) Be sure to use the comment facility below to share your own thoughts and opinions regarding the series. Does this listing evoke any fond memories of the crimson comet’s televised exploits? What’s your favorite episode of The Flash?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fast Talk: Escape Velocity

Escape Velocity: Superman and the Flash have shared many a race, but none of those competitions has taken the form of a safe and simple lap or two around the track. Those races have always been fraught with peril and outrageous obstacles. In this episode from The Flash #175--featuring "The Race to the End of the Universe" by E. Nelson Bridwell and Ross Andru--the monarch of motion has been caught in a sticky, viscous sort of meteor laid out as a trap. He is saved only when the Metropolis marvel, his esteemed competitor, graciously hurls that meteoric anomaly into the atmosphere of a nearby Earth-like planet. Considering the speeds that the Flash achieves on land, it's no surprise that he's able to survive the extreme heat of atmospheric re-entry: "my aura protects me from friction-induced heat!" How will our quick-thinking hero manage to escape the planet's gravitational pull, however? "By whirling, I can set up a tornado of air which'll lift me back into space!" Let us cast our minds back to this week's installment of Flash Facts. Escape velocity, "the minimum speed required for a body to overcome the effects of Earth's gravity," is 25,000 mph. Let us also take into account the fact that the Flash would likely be close to 75 miles above the surface of this planet, the point at which the effects of atmospheric re-entry would begin to be felt. Is it at all conceivable that the crimson comet's now-famous tornado maneuver, dependent upon manipulating the air-currents of an ever-thinning atmospheric envelope, would allow him to acheive escape velocity? Or should he be signalling the man of steel for a bit of flight-enabled assistance? Oh, and the less said about Super-Ventriloquism, the better!

Issue: The Flash #175 (December 1967)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Upcoming: The Flash: Rebirth #3

DC Comics has released their solicitations for June, allowing us our first glimpse at the synopsis and cover artwork for The Flash: Rebirth #3! Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver will continue their epic mini-series celebrating Barry Allen's return in spectacular fashion--by pitting the scarlet speedster against the man of steel! No one can resist a race between Superman and the Flash, and The Flash: Rebirth will feature the latest contest between these two titans. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my money's on Barry! Visit Newsarama for a full listing of the comics available from DC in June.

Written by Geoff Johns; Art and covers by Ethan Van Sciver. At last, the answer to the question that’s plagued DC fans for decades: Who’s faster, Superman or the Flash? Call your bookie and bet the farm, because you’ve never seen a run like this--and if speedsters keep dying at the pace they’re going, you might never see another one again! On sale June 10. 3 of 5. 32 pg. FC. $2.99 US.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Flash Facts: Escape Velocity

"Escape Velocity is the minimum speed required for a body to overcome the effects of Earth's gravity. At the Earth's surface, the velocity of escape is 25,000 miles an hour; 500 miles above the Earth, it is 22,300 miles an hour; 5,000 miles from the Earth it is reduced to 16,630 miles per hour.

Illustration: "Atlas missile taking off from launching pad."

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

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sight and Sound: "The Trial of the Trickster"

"The Trial of the Trickster," the final episode of The Flash, written by Howard Chaykin and John Francis Moore and directed by Danny Bilson, aired 18 May 1991 on CBS. In the episode's delightfully demented climax, the Trickster takes over a Central City courthouse, dons judicial wig and robes, and puts the legal system of the municipality itself on trial! Macabre hilarity ensues. These outrageous proceedings are made possible by the scarlet speedster himself, who has been brainwashed into acting as the Rogue's playful partner in crime. Only a timely attack of conscience, and the surprise arrival of Dr. Tina McGee and P.I. Megan Lockhart, allows the fastest man alive to redeem himself and save the day. Unarguably, guest star Mark Hamill steals the show as the insane James Jesse. His sense of humor is so infectious, in fact, that at episode's end we're left hoping he'll make good on his desperate last-minute getaway!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fast Talk: Inspirational Speed

Inspirational Speed: On the eve of Barry Allen's triumphant return, there's been much debate regarding how the second scarlet speedster's powers compare with those of his predecessor or successors. Was Jay Garrick as fast as Barry Allen? Regardless of the speed science involved, the first Flash's wife isn't willing to underestimate the power of a positive example! In a telephone interview with Dr. Tina McGee, Joan Garrick explains that her husband didn't share the voracious appetite and high-speed metabolism of Wally West, but he couldn't quite match the speeds demonstrated by his successors either. Nevertheless, she observes that the inspiration imbued by Barry Allen was a superpower in and of itself! "He was never as fast as Barry, although he always used to say that he felt faster whenever Barry Allen was around. 'That boy makes me feel twenty again,' he used to say." Clearly, whatever Dr. McGee might have to say on the subject of speedster biology, there's an element of speedster psychology involved as well!

Issue: The Flash (v.2) #24 (March 1989)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


I'm off to the movie theater this afternoon...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Flash Facts: Tornado Winds

"The counterclockwise winds of a tornado revolve spirally upward with speeds as high as 500 miles an hour."

Issue: The Flash #150 (February 1965)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Live Action: The Worst

It saddens me to acknowledge that Crimson Lightning’s reviews of The Flash television series are at an end. I’ve had a lot of fun revisiting this unique program nearly twenty years on. If this blog’s run of reviews hasn’t yet convinced you to pick up The Flash on DVD, let me offer one final push. To this day, the scarlet speedster’s series remains one of the most remarkable and entertaining superhero shows ever produced for television. Even during this golden age of superhero cinema, it’s a series worth remembering and worth revisiting. Before we finish with our bi-weekly Live Action feature, however, I thought it would be fun to take some time to reflect upon the show’s triumphs as well as its failures.

Airing twenty-two episodes during its single-season run on CBS, The Flash displayed remarkable versatility in its storytelling, but with this came some dramatic variations in quality. In the end, the series was something of a mixed bag. Tuning in each week, there was an equal chance that you would be seeing some sort of banal or clichéd police drama rather than a wonderfully inventive take on the superhero genre. This week Live Action will comment on three of the show’s more frustrating installments. When I rank the episodes of the television series, these are the three that settle to the bottom. Next time around we’ll look at the top three episodes, the best and the brightest.

Here, then, are the Flash’s most miserable misadventures…


1. “Out of Control,” only the second installment in the series, is an utter embarrassment. While most television series struggle to find their footing in those first few episodes to follow the pilot, The Flash nearly fell flat on its face right out of the gate. A horrific monstrosity built of two-dimensional characters, stale drama, stock social commentary, and ropey special effects, the episode is redeemed only by the fact that all of the scarlet speedster’s subsequent televised adventures were brilliant by comparison.

2. “Sins of the Father” features a poorly structured and relatively uninspired script but, more tragically, it also serves to prove that even a television series following the exploits of a superpowered costumed avenger can be just plain boring. Guest star M. Emmet Walsh is a constant annoyance as Barry Allen’s irritatingly irascible father, and the mission he undertakes with his son plays out on-screen as a sort of second-rate police or detective tale. The episode also features one of the series’ most forgettable villains, Johnny Ray Hix, a clichéd escaped con utterly unworthy of facing-off against our superhero protagonist.

3. “Be My Baby” tries desperately to deliver both drama and laughs but lamentably falls short. The Flash was capable of occasionally hilarious comedy, it’s true, but you wouldn’t know it from watching this particular installment. This is the episode that casts Barry Allen as babysitter to an imperiled infant, and the situational comedy that ensues is neither enjoyable nor funny--not even unintentionally funny. Even the exceptional Bryan Cranston, guest starring as one of the series’ more offbeat antagonists, can’t save the story.

Dishonorable Mention: “Tina, Is That You?” is perhaps the most absurd adventure of the entire series. Whether the story is intentionally mocking one of the show’s own recurrent absurdities--namely the utterly unconvincing romantic tension forced upon Barry and Tina--or simply pursuing over-the-top plot twists in a misguided attempt at comic book-inspired dramatic effect, the end result is an episode that ridicules both of the show’s protagonists and leaves the audience questioning how seriously we’re meant to take The Flash.

There’s sure to be a Quick Quiz poll relating to The Flash television series at some point in the future. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts regarding the show’s worst episodes using the comment facility below. Do you still carry any unfortunate, unshakable memories of the crimson comet’s televised exploits? What’s your least favorite installment of The Flash?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fast Talk: Liquid Oxygen

Liquid Oxygen: It is often remarked by those who underestimate the fastest man alive that he is a superhero that simply "runs fast." Using a similarly limited logic, we could surmise that the wicked Captain Cold is a substandard supervillain because he simply "freezes things." The brilliance behind these characters lies in the inspired range of scientific principles their basic superpowers were associated with via the storytelling--which is, of course, to say nothing of characterization. Take this example. After interrupting a robbery in progress, the Flash finds himself immersed in a rather exceptional deathtrap. Captain Cold has fired his freeze-gun and "instantly the very air turns liquid about the Flash as sub-zero temperatures liquefy the oxygen he needs to stay alive." Nevermind the fact that a cursory look at the process of manufacturing liquid oxygen indicates that fractional distillation would be required to separate out the substantial nitrogen component of the air that Barry Allen is breathing. As he's swimming in a room flooded with liquid oxygen, both highly volatile and significantly cryogenic, the monarch of motion is lucky that he's lived long enough to even reflect on the possibility of drowning! Of course, miraculous survival can always be explained away with a quip: "He won't get away with this! For every cold trick--I have a hot one!"

Issue: The Flash #150 (February 1965)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Find the Flash: MegaCon

Kelson Vibber didn't spot the Flash during his recent visit to WonderCon, but it seems as if there were plenty of speedsters on hand at MegaCon in Orlando, Florida! At Speed Force, Kelson has posted a nice collection of snapshots and photostreams featuring fans who attended the event dressed as their favorite character from the pages of The Flash, including this pairing of hero and nemesis. Zoom looks angry enough--or perhaps he's just plain annoyed to be there! Visit Speed Force for more fun with costuming.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Flash Facts: Meteoric Velocities

"Meteors with velocities up to twenty-six miles per second are members of our solar system; those with greater velocities are merely passing through our solar system from interstellar space."

Illustration: "Mean altitudes at which meteors appear and disappear. A) Upper limit of the atmospheric layer whose illumination causes twilight. B) Beginning of the stratosphere."

Issue: The Flash #208 (August 1971)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Sight and Sound: "Divided We Fall"

"Divided We Fall," that standout installment of Cartoon Network's Justice League Unlimited discussed in our last installment of Sight and Sound, contains wonders far more mesmerizing than the knock-down, drag-out battle between the Justice League and the Justice Lords. You didn't think our discussion of the episode would end there, did you? In the animated adventure's jaw-dropping climax, the Flash unleashes the full brunt of his astonishing superpowers on the merged Brainiac-Luthor in a desperate attempt to save his teammates and the world. This is the Flash fighting without limits. The dizzying sequence introduces viewers to the speed force in reimagining concepts first explored in The Flash's epic "Terminal Velocity" story arc. In the aftermath of a battle in which the scarlet speedster has seeming perished, Superman struggles to restrain himself from finally murdering his arch-nemesis. Truly, the scene stands as one of the most memorable and powerful moments of the series and it serves as an exceptional showcase of the true extent of those unique abilities possessed by the fastest man alive. Watch... and be amazed!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Fast Talk: Flash Metabolism

Flash Metabolism: Here's a fun fact! Thanks to an accelerated metabolism, the Flash's unique body is capable of processing quantities of drugs such as phencyclidine that would prove lethal to the average human--though, unfortunately, not without being affected by their dangerous and intoxicating effects. After assaulting his fellow superheroes and embarking on an embarrassing super-speed rampage that nearly destroys their shared satellite headquarters, Barry Allen is subjected to what amounts to a Justice League of America drug screening. The results aren't promising. With all of the accuracy and attention to detail of a trained neurobiologist, the ever-impressive Superman explains that his x-ray vision has discovered microscopic "traces of P.C.P. and other 'junk' drugs clogging the tissues!" Using his equally impressive power ring, Green Lantern observes that his friend has absorbed a dose of angel dust "big enough to kill an elephant!!! Only his unique Flash metabolism pulled him thru!" Admittedly, this week's subject for Fast Talk was chosen primarily for its entertaining panel illustration, but it draws our attention to a scientific loophole used frequently in adventures featuring the fastest man alive. Is there anything--high-calorie consumable, potent potable, neurotoxic chemical--that the scarlet speedster's metabolism can't handle? All this in an issue approved by the Comics Code Authority, too! I hasten to add that, as the man of steel points out, "Obviously, he didn't do this to himself!" Don't do drugs. Stay in school.

Issue: The Flash #277 (September 1979)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Quick Quiz: Favorite Love Interest?

February's Valentine-themed Quick Quiz poll asked visitors to consider those love interests who have been associated with the fastest man alive over the years, women such as Joan Garrick, Iris Allen, Fiona Webb, Tina McGee, Linda Park, and Valerie Perez. Of these brilliant and beautiful leading ladies, which stands as your favorite character?

Intrepid reporter and occasional time-traveler Iris West Allen--aunt to Wally, grandmother to Bart, and the love of Barry Allen's life--earned a significant 31% of the vote. 9% of the blog's readers cast their ballot for brainy beauty Dr. Tina McGee, who, portrayed by actress Amanda Pays, served as a recurring romantic interest on The Flash television series. No less than 51% of all respondents selected the one and only Linda Park-West, wife to Wally West. Valerie Perez, S.T.A.R. Labs intern and onetime love interest to the impulsive Bart Allen, picked up a further 2%. Golden Age heroine Joan Garrick and romantic stand-in Fiona Webb received no love from the readers. 7% of respondents chose to vote in the Other category, with at least one of those votes being declared for Carol Bucklen, Bart's first girlfriend. Forty-five readers participated in the poll.

Romance has been an integral part of the mythology surrounding the fastest man alive from the very start. It seems that each man to put on the costume of the crimson comet is destined to find his soul mate. Each of those heroes has, as a result, been driven onwards by a limitless passion. Linda Park's position at the lead of this particular poll seemed assured considering the strong role developed for her throughout The Flash (v.2). She earned my vote, as well as votes from many others. With The Flash: Rebirth on the horizon, however, you can bet that the remarkable Iris Allen will soon be back in the spotlight. Which of these women is your favorite character? Let us know using the comment facility below.

Before The Flash: Rebirth thunders into comic shops everywhere and comes to utterly dominate our discourse, the next Quick Quiz asks you to cast your mind back to those pivotal issues that came to define Wally West during his time as the fastest man alive, back to those stunning storylines that kept us reading the scarlet speedster's book. Who could forget the astonishing plot twist at the center of "The Return of Barry Allen," or our maturing hero's discovery of the speed force in "Terminal Velocity"? What comic tale could rival the Flash's deadly showdown with Zoom in the tragic "Blitz," or the winner-take-all battle between supervillains from the thrill-packed "Rogue War"? Of these significant storylines from The Flash (v.2), Wally West's most epic adventures, which is your favorite? Select a title from our sidebar poll!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Flash Facts: Neptune's Orbit

"It takes the planet Neptune 164 years and 280 days to complete a single orbit around the sun. Though it was discovered in 1846, the planet will not return to its same discovery place in the sky until the year 2011."

Issue: The Flash #193 (December 1969)