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)

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