Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Show and Tell: Part 2

A couple of years ago, I featured a bit of childlike show-and-tell here on Crimson Lightning when I proudly posted a crayon drawing lovingly crafted by my niece. The illustration was a bit rough around the edges, its details understandably simplified, but it unmistakably featured Superman racing the Flash. Naturally, it's a drawing that I cherish. After arriving for another visit just the other week, it didn't take long for the eager six-year-old comic book fan to demand access to her uncle's action figures and piles of back issues. She was particularly thrilled the day that The Flash: Rebirth #3 arrived in the mail. "Is this one new?" she asked, eyes full of wonder, covetously examining the crisp, shiny cover for the issue. With such materials on hand to provide inspiration, it wasn't long before I grabbed her crayons and a few sheets of paper and commissioned another sketch from her.

The new illustration features the same set-up as before, but my how she's developing as an artist! The Flash is unmistakable in his crimson costume, and his legs are bowed in preparation for a super-speed sprint. I appreciate her conception of the character; with that broad grin, the crimson comet looks so bright, cheerful, and friendly. Now there's a superhero to adore and admire! Conversely, she's done her best to portray Superman with stern, resolute determination--perhaps inspired by Ethan Van Sciver's own work. Her uncle, of course, chooses to interpret the man of steel's dour mug as an expression of bitter defeat. There can be, after all, only one fastest man alive!

Some relatives choose to measure a child's progress by marking off height on a scale along a wall. I, on the other hand, choose to catalog a series of evolving superhero illustrations rendered in crayon. My niece has completed an entire series of illustrations during her latest visit chronicling the adventures of the "SOOPERFRENDS," including individual portraits of Superman and the Flash. I promise to post a few others sometime next week. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Flash Facts: The Troposphere

"The troposphere--the lower layer of the Earth's atmosphere--reaches up to an average of 40,000 feet and may have such contrasting atmospheres as 95 degrees at the bottom and 70 degrees below zero at the top."

Issue: The Flash #141 (December 1963)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Classic Covers: Superman #199

Superman #199

The Adventures of Superman #463

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fast Talk: Plant Intelligence

Plant Intelligence: After last week's jibes concerning thinking computers, this outlandish lesson in hellish horticulture seemed a natural follow-up. As an entry in the regular Fast Talk feature, this Golden Age splash page requires little annotation. "The Plant That Challenged the World," by Gardner Fox and E. E. Hibbard, opens by playing a bit fast and loose with its scientific associations, informing readers that "immortal scientists such as Charles Darwin have long maintained that plants possess thinking brains with which they solve problems as real to them as our problems are to us. The Venus Flytrap... The Sarracenia... The Darlingtonia..." At the very least, the narrative's phraseology is misleading, and the outrageously escalating argument is deceptively constructed, but you can't deny the intrigue inherent to the premise! "It was the sternest test of his crime-clouting career when the Flash--the fastest man alive--attempted to stunt the growth of 'The Plant That Challenged the World!'" Pity the poor soul who regarded any issue of Comic Cavalcade as a scientific textbook. There must have been more than a few misguided youngsters who grew up eager to pursue a career in the frenzied and danger-filled field of botany, only to meet crushing disappointment in some humdrum hothouse.

Issue: Comic Cavalcade #5 (Winter 1943)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Flash Facts: Halley's Comet

"When Halley's Comet last flashed into view (1910), its 37 million miles-long tail extended more than half-way across the night sky."

Issue: The Flash #133 (December 1962)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sight and Sound: "Secret Origins of the Superfriends"

"Secret Origins of the Superfriends," another sensational installment of Hanna-Barbera's Challenge of the Superfriends featuring Jack Angel as the voice of the Flash, aired on the Saturday morning of 28 October 1978 on ABC. As usual, Stanley Ralph Ross and Don Messick are also on hand to voice Gorilla Grodd and Captain Cold respectively. This episode of the animated series presents a familiar yet fascinating alternate history dilemma which proves quite engaging--that is, if we are able to suspend disbelief in order to overlook a number of gaping plot holes. The Legion of Doom has conspired to erase Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern from history! Lex Luthor, of course, is rather biased in his selection. Fortunately, the tale's conclusion shows that time travel is apparently no problem at all for the likes of the Flash, Black Lightning, and Batman and Robin. Have the superheroes of the DC Universe ever possessed more power than during the average Superfriends adventure, when astonishing new abilities were established for each hero on a whim in order to resolve any and all dangling plot threads? Also, note how eagerly the fastest man alive volunteers for the assignment to travel to Paradise Island, a land populated entirely by beautiful women. I wonder what Iris Allen would have to say about all this?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fast Talk: Computer Control

Computer Control: In addition to showcasing young Wally West's offensive lack of manners, this little expository exchange from "The Kilg%re," a techno-thriller by Mike Baron and Jackson Guice, unveils a state-of-the-art computer system with some obvious and rather alarming design flaws. Professor Schmitz explains that S.T.A.R. Labs's Utah facility "is run by computer," and this computer "can think for itself, to a certain extent... With our robots and access to virtually every other computer in the western hemisphere, we're one of the foremost physics labs in the world!" Sentient computers? Robots? Total technical domination?! Can't you just hear the menacing underscore music swell beneath such boastful technobabble? Be thankful the internet wasn't designed by the software engineers of S.T.A.R. Labs. Naturally, by the end of this particular issue the electronics of the entire western hemisphere have been dominated by a malevolent artificial intelligence. Oh, well. Back to the drawing board!

Issue: The Flash (v.2) #3 (August 1987)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Upcoming: The Flash: Rebirth #6

The epic mini-series that has resurrected Barry Allen and energized the ongoing mythology of the fastest man alive concludes this September with the final installment of The Flash: Rebirth. Will the speed force and the Black Flash at last release one of history's most powerful speedsters? Will the crimson comet be able to save his one true love from an implacable enemy? Which of the scarlet speedster's fearsome foes have conspired to counteract his miraculous resurrection? The answers to myriad mysteries will--hopefully!--be revealed at last. The climactic issue, undoubtedly set to establish the status quo for a new ongoing series, will also unveil the new costume designed for Wally West by Ethan Van Sciver. Visit DC Comics for a full listing of their September solicitations.

Written by Geoff Johns; Art and covers by Ethan Van Sciver. In a battle along the outskirts of time, the secrets of the Speed Force have been revealed! The new archnemesis of those who ride the lightning is coming for Iris Allen. And the Barry Allen you knew is gone forever... or is he? What change does Wally West face? What destiny will Kid Flash choose? Prepare to meet a Flash Family that's both familiar and different...and get to the starting line for the next epic adventures of the Speed Force! On sale September 30, 2009. DC Universe. 6 of 6. 32 pg. Color. $2.99 US.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Flash Facts: Luminous Meteors

"Luminous meteors--called fireballs--are sometimes accompanied by a thunderous noise, similar to the effect which accompanies the passage of an airplane through the sound barrier."

Illustration: "Fireball flashing through night sky."

Issue: The Flash #203 (February 1971)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Quick Quiz: Most Wanted Resurrection?

The Flash: Rebirth is providing comic fans with further evidence that death has no hold over the colorful characters that populate our favorite comic books, and the forthcoming Green Lantern epic Blackest Night is set to take full narrative advantage of this unpredictable fact of four-color life. May's Quick Quiz poll asked readers to consider a number of significant deaths in the crimson comet's own corner of the DC Universe. Of the Flash's fallen friends and foes, which character would you most like to see resurrected?

A slim 3% of respondents cast their vote for Golden Age speedster Johnny Quick, who merged with the speed force during a battle with Savitar in Mark Waid's "Dead Heat" storyline. Savitar, of course, has also since met his end. Max Mercury, zen master of speed and onetime mentor to Impulse, lead this particular poll by earning 36% of the vote. Clearly, readers feel that Max's race is not yet run. 16% of all respondents championed Elongated Man Ralph Dibny, who is now one-half of a ghostly husband-and-wife detective team(!), for the rebirth treatment. Professor Zoom, who served as arch-nemesis to the second scarlet speedster, also stole away 16% of the votes. Considering Barry Allen's resurrection, it's unlikely we've heard the last of the Reverse-Flash. 13% of readers would like to see the return of James Jesse, the original Trickster. A slim 3% of participants selected this poll's wildcard, demanding more from the offbeat Rainbow Raider. Lastly, at least 10% of the blog's readers cast their vote in the Other category. Not a single vote was cast for Inertia, the evil speedster responsible for orchestrating Bart Allen's own short-lived death. Thirty comic fans participated in this poll.

The Flash: Rebirth is, of course, ongoing and each new issue continues to shake up the crimson comet's cast of supporting characters. The Black Flash, who delivers death to all speedsters, is being redefined along with the speed force and heroes and villains from across the DC Universe are falling as a result of Barry Allen's resurrection. Time will tell how this epic mini-series will ultimately alter the mythology of the fastest man alive, but it seems a certainty that Barry won't be the only character brought screaming back to life by Geoff Johns. Which of the memorable allies and rogues listed above would you most like to see return to the pages of The Flash? Which noteworthy corpses were conspicuous in their absence during this particular poll? Please, take a moment and let us know what you think using the comment facility below.

The next Quick Quiz is coming soon, but before the poll is posted in its usual sidebar spot, I'd like to take the time to gather some preliminary thoughts and opinions from the blog's readers. Inspired by a suggestion from our friend Frank Lee Delano, the next Crimson Lightning survey will ask respondents to imagine the scarlet speedster taking his first strides on the big screen! Who should star in the motion picture adaptation of The Flash? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

On Sale: The Flash: Rebirth #3

Who's faster? The Flash, of course. They don't call him the fastest man alive for nothing! It's always fun to see the scarlet speedster race the big blue Boy Scout, though, regardless of the circumstances. Tomorrow, Superman and the Flash find themselves racing each other once again in The Flash: Rebirth #3, and the stakes are sure to be high with the grim specter of death known as the Black Flash involved. Visit DC Comics for a five-page preview of the latest installment in what is shaping up to be a very mysterious mini-series.

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, June 08, 2009

Flash Facts: Electric Lamps

"About 3,000,000,000,000,000,000 electrons stream through a 60-watt lamp every second. Electric lamps burn out when the tungsten filament become thin enough to melt completely through at some point."

Issue: The Flash #121 (June 1961)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Sight and Sound: "Run"

"Run," a fourth season installment of Smallville written by Steven S. DeKnight and directed by David Barrett, aired 20 October 2004 on the WB. Featuring Kyle Gallner as Bart Allen, the episode introduced the scarlet speedster to the series' ever-expanding showcase of reinterpreted DC Comics icons. Here, Bart Allen is portrayed as an impulsive, misguided, and self-centered youth with much to learn from the more principled, if fallible, Clark Kent. "Run" features a number of imaginatively staged slow-motion action sequences, each conveying the awe-inspiring super-speed powers possessed by both Bart and Clark, and the plot allows the relationship between these two maturing heroes to develop into a meaningful friendship, allowing for significant future guest appearances. During the episode's memorable final moments, the cocky young speedster proposes a challenge that Clark can't refuse.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Fast Talk: Universal Annihilation

Universal Annihilation: Ahh, true love knows no bounds. We all know that Barry Allen would travel a mere 3,000 miles--the distance from Central City to, say, Anchorage--in the span of a heartbeat just to be with his beloved Iris. "The Thousand-Year Separation!" by Cary Bates and Irv Novick shows us that the romantic scarlet speedster would travel across even 3,000 years to rescue his soul mate! What I love about these particular adventure-ending panels, however, are the staggering implications thrown about concerning the Flash's arch-nemesis. After foiling Professor Zoom's latest scheme, a reprehensible plot intended to initiate unimaginable destruction, the Flash observes that the Reverse-Flash has undoubtedly made his getaway. "If the universe were to be annihilated, he must have prepared an escape for himself!" Only in a four-color comic book world could one hope to design and implement a strategy for escaping the destruction of the universe itself! Let this stand as further testament to the staggering strength and imposing ingenuity of those foes who oppose the fastest man alive! Professor Zoom's resurrection, during or after the events of The Flash: Rebirth, would seem a certainty. "We can count on it!" Despite such overwhelming scientific assertions, however, the crimson comet convinces us that there's no reason to fear. Even though the brilliant and evil Eobard Thawne may be at large, whilst the lovely Iris is in Barry's arms we're provided with "the best of all endings... a happy one!"

Issue: The Flash #237 (November 1975)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Fear not, friends of the fastest man alive! I have returned from the speed force! Crimson Lightning is recovering from an unexpected and therefore unannounced hiatus, for which I apologize. The last month has simply whizzed by, and it delivered more dilemmas and distractions than the monarch of motion himself would have been able to adequately address without some support from his superfriends. I plan to resume our regularly scheduled program as swiftly as possible, however. The week ahead will bring another installment of Ad Run, our new regular feature, as well as the usual installments of Fast Talk, Classic Covers, Sight and Sound, and news on forthcoming releases. With The Flash: Rebirth ongoing, my untimely comic blog lapse could be seen as criminal!

Next week we will also be reviewing the results of the latest Quick Quiz, on the subject of comic character resurrections. (Apparently, almost everyone is eager to see ol' Max Mercury in action again!) Speaking of our regular poll, I haven't yet dreamed up this month's question and I would like to take this opportunity to invite readers to suggest a subject for our next survey. Here's your chance to dictate not only the results of the poll but also its format! What matter of public opinion, be it trivial or profound, would you like to see addressed with the next Quick Quiz? Let us all know using the comment facility below. I'll select the most interesting suggestion as the subject for the next quiz.