Monday, May 31, 2010

Flash Facts: Hypersonic Speed

"When an object travels at a speed greater than Mach 5, it is said to move at hypersonic speed."

Editor's Note: "Mach is a unit of speed measurement for an object moving through a medium, equal to the speed of sound in the same medium--760 mi/hr at sea level."

Issue: The Flash #124 (November 1961)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fast Talk: Radioactive M-Metal

Radioactive M-Metal: We couldn't wrap-up our month-long tribute to the supervillain Abra Kadabra without resurrecting the old Fast Talk feature, for though the character is built from a concept that cleverly allows for the conflation of science and magic, even Kadabra's Silver Age origin is utterly dependent upon senseless scientific technobabble. Desperate to escape the year 6363 A.D. and its society's obsession with scientific achievement, the mad magician Abra Kadabra decides to seize control of a groundbreaking experiment in time travel. The means to traverse centuries is granted by a jury-rigged two-part apparatus: a "time-vehicle" driven through a corresponding portal by the "propulsive force" granted by "radioactive M-metal," a mysterious element harvested from a fallen meteorite. (What happens when you create an alloy of M-metal and Nth metal? Presumably, it would allow you to fly through time whilst knocking out any ghosts or monsters encountered along the way!) If this explanation sounds a little too convenient, it's because it is. Given the questionable terminology spouted by these so-called scientists--who, we are told in a wonderfully over-descriptive narrative, spend their days working in "a building dedicated to science"--it's a miracle that Kadabra survived his trip through time! This, of course, is just one of countless science fiction stories that utilize the broad, widely-misunderstood label "radiation" as a storytelling shortcut. (Kadabra should dose-up on some neo-magnetic radiation while he's at it!) Is it at all conceivable that any form of radiation could provide what is being described here as a propulsive force, let alone propel one through time? Can you imagine what the Periodic Table must look like in the DC Universe?

Issue: The Flash #128 (May 1962)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Onomatopoeia: KRRT

KRRT: Though the mustache-twirling Abra Kadabra might appear at first glance to be a mere comic caricature, this fugitive from the future is easily the match for some of the DC Universe's darkest villains. Beneath that showman's smile, behind tricks designed to dazzle and distract, seethes a twisted and terrifying psyche. In the hands of Abra Kadabra, even the most childish of magic tricks is made unforgettably macabre. Never was this more true than in tales such as "On the Run" by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo, one of a chain of stories during which Kadabra took a starring role among Wally West's recurring arch-enemies. Infuriated by repeated defeats, obssessed by the desire to reclaim perceived past glories, the perverse prestidigitator makes his sentiments and intentions clear to a captive Flash by adding grisly punctuation to that old, familiar sleight-of-hand involving a rabbit and a top hat. (Kadabra's diatribe, finishing with a slight but nonetheless sickening sound effect, is presented here in full for its full effect.) What happens to that poor little bunny is better left unspecified--indeed, it cannot even be illustrated! Suffice it to say, this is certainly the most troubling--and, perhaps, dramatically effective--of the onomatopoeia we've seen thus far. Abra Kadabra's is an ego to be reckoned with.

Issue: The Flash (v.2) #90 (May 1994)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

Flash Facts: Swordfish and Sailfish

"Sharing the honors of the fastest fish are the swordfish and sailfish, which skim through water with 68 miles-per-hour speeds."

Issue: The Flash #156 (November 1965)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Onomatopoeia: THWOK

THWOK: It's hard to believe that a technological magician possessing almost limitless power could be defeated with a simple left-hook to the jaw and yet, time and again, this is how the sultan of speed is able to topple his futuristic foe. With a swift blow--represented here but briefly by one of the myriad onomatopoeia variations used to represent hard-hitting punches--Abra Kadabra and his bag of dirty magic tricks are rendered inert. Of course, what makes the Flash such an exceptional superhero is the fact that he cares enough to speedily catch and cradle his nemesis following that blow, sparing Kadabra from an otherwise nasty fall. Again I ask you, is there a more kindhearted hero than Barry Allen?

Issue: The Flash #182 (September 1968)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Upcoming: The Flash #5

DC Comics has announced its upcoming issues for the month of August, including our first glimpse at The Flash #5. "The Dastardly Death of the Rogues!" continues as the fastest man alive witnesses the start of an all-new Rogue War pitting the Rogues against the Renegades. The issue's summary is filled with tie-in teases, too, so expect the lingering effects of Blackest Night to be felt by the scarlet speedster's resurrected foes. Visit Newsarama for a complete listing of books and products available from DC this August, or visit DC's The Source for a sneak peek--finally, a male Star Sapphire!--at the Brightest Day crossover tie-ins.

Written by Geoff Johns; Art and cover by Francis Manapul; Variant cover by Ryan Sook, Fernando Pasarin & Joel Gomez. Brightest Day continues with a shocking connection to the White Light as Captain Boomerang and the Reverse-Flash experience a bizarre event that ties them together. Meanwhile, it’s the Rogues vs. the Renegades with the Flash caught in the middle! On sale August 18, 2010. 32 pg. FC. $2.99 US.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Flash Facts: Vertical Sprint

"While running the 100 yard dash, a sprinter does sufficient work to theoretically lift himself 240-270 feet into the air."

Issue: Superman vs. The Flash (1976)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sight and Sound: "Chill of the Night!"

"Chill of the Night!," an outstanding installment of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, premiered 9 April 2010 on Cartoon Network. The episode was written by the legendary Paul Dini, directed by Michael Chang, and features Diedrich Bader as Batman, Jennifer Hale as Zatanna, and Jeff Bennett as Abra Kadabra. This animated series provides endless fun, rarely if ever disappoints, and, even with all that being said, "Chill of the Night!" represents its most stunning story to date. Shadowed by the opposing influences of the Spectre and the Phantom Stranger, the caped crusader is forced to choose between justice and vengeance as he follows a trail of clues that may lead him to solve the murder of his parents. In addition to the voice actors listed above, the episode guest stars Adam West, Julie Newmar, Kevin Conroy, and Mark Hamill! As an added bonus, the story features a brief appearance from one of the Flash's renowned Rogues. In the traditional teaser sequence, Batman takes on Abra Kadabra after teaming-up, appropriately enough, with Zatanna. Given Dini's well-known love for the Zatanna, it's clear that in this instance Abra Kadabra was chosen as an appropriate counterpart for the sorceress superhero, not vice versa. Nevertheless, a multitude of Kadabra's familiar tricks from various classic comic appearances are on display as the magicians duel it out at a Gotham City museum. Perhaps next time Batman will let the scarlet speedster himself join in the action!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Onomatopoeia: HA HA HA

HA HA HA: "Feel the strings... Feel the joints... Feel the wood... Feel the points..." With a sudden sparkle, Abra Kadabra performs what may be his favorite magic trick of all, transforming the ill-fated Chester "Chunk" Runk into a bulbous wooden marionette bound by string and rhyming incantation to the demented puppeteer's will. (Puppets, of course, have been associated with the villain ever since the publication of The Flash #133, featuring one of the Silver Age's most memorable classic covers.) Kadabra's so delighted by this trick, in fact, that the air is soon filled with the sinister onomatopoeia we most associate with the comic book supervillain. From an early age we're taught that these joined letters--"HA!"--equate to the sound of human laughter. The onomatopoeia is so ingrained in our consciousness, in fact, that we sometimes utter the word itself in place of actual laughter! None wield it quite so well as the supervillain, however. Where would the likes of the Joker, Sinestro, or Black Manta be without it? In this instance, Abra Kadabra seems only too happy to demonstrate. Is it any wonder Wally West fears for his sanity?

Issue: The Flash (v.2) #23 (February 1989)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

On Sale: The Flash #2

Abra Kadabra remains locked-up at Iron Heights, but the Rogues Gallery proper and their futuristic doubles are spreading havoc in The Flash #2, on sale tomorrow. In all honesty, for this Flash fan's money, the first installment of this revitalized series was more captivating, more entertaining, more impressive than the whole of The Flash: Rebirth combined. Geoff Johns has brought our beloved characters vividly to life for an engrossing, twist-filled tale in the classic scarlet speedster style and, perhaps most notable of all, Francis Manapul's artwork for the series is simply marvelous. It's a joy and a relief to have Manapul on this book, really. In other words, "The Dastardly Death of the Rogues" is shaping up to be the sort of story arc that you don't want to miss! Not convinced? Visit DC Comics's The Source for a five-page preview and a glimpse at Manapul's stunning artwork for the new issue.

Written by Geoff Johns; Art and cover by Francis Manapul; Variant cover by Ryan Sook. Brightest Day shines its light on the continuing saga of Barry Allen--The Fastest Man Alive! The Flash continues his investigation into “The Dastardly Death of the Rogues” as the case takes a dramatic turn and Barry corners a suspect… and can’t believe who it is! On sale May 12, 2010. 32 pg. FC. $2.99 US.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Flash Facts: Lunar Orbit

"The moon falls about 1/20th of an inch toward the Earth every second. But because in that same time-period, the moon also moves about 3,300 feet in a horizontal direction, it is just enough to compensate for the fall and keep the moon in its steady orbit around the Earth."

Illustration: "Segments of elliptical orbits of Earth and moon."

Issue: The Flash #128 (May 1962)

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Onomatopoeia: SSSCREEE

SSSCREEE: The outcast magician Abra Kadabra makes his escape from the distant year 6363 A.D. in "The Case of the Real-Gone Flash" by John Broome and Carmine Infantino. It's not magic that provides the means for his travel across centuries, of course, but science. Launching a stolen rocket through a time portal developed by the enterprising scientists of his era, Kadabra must first endure a harrowing plunge through the screaming torrents of the time stream, visually represented for us in beautiful flowing style by Infantino's use of an appropriate onomatopoeia. This is one of those ideal instances in which the sound effect itself is artistically integrated with the composition of the panel--which is, perhaps, more than we can say for the timeship's subsequent "PLOP!"

Issue: The Flash #128 (May 1962)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Rogue Spotlight: Abra Kadabra

Things have been running a bit slow of late here at Crimson Lightning, and that simply won't do. How shall we liven things up? I've decided to take my cue from The Idol Head of Diabolu, Frank Lee Delano's wonderful tribute to the Martian Manhunter, which often dedicates itself to examining the "Vile Menagerie" that has threatened J'onn J'onzz over the years. For the month of May, then, we're going to embrace insanity and give the blog over to a member of the Flash's own celebrated Rogues Gallery, and I know precisely where to start...

Abra Kadabra is my favorite Rogue. That may prove a surprising or controversial admission, particularly among the cult of Captain Cold or those who revere the Reverse Flash, but no one entertains me like that sadistic sorcerer from the sixty-fourth century. (Fortunately for us, the Flash indisputably has some of the greatest villains in comicdom, and it's terribly difficult to choose a favorite!) Created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino for The Flash #128 (May 1962), Abra Kadabra serves as an embodiment of Arthur C. Clarke's law that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

An exile from the sterile world of the sixty-fourth century, utterly obsessed with the showmanship of the old time stage magician, Kadabra's banishment to the twentieth century allowed him to wield mind-bogglingly advanced technology disguised as sorcery, and Central City's crimson comet soon became his foremost target. As a result, The Flash blatantly engaged in an exploration of the sort of intellectual transmutation that takes place in the pages of every single superhero comic, where the lines between scientific achievement and pure, inexplicable magic are bent, twisted, and made all-but indistinguishable. Truly, Abra Kadabra is a sort of rebellious poster child for the rules that made the great Silver Age and dictated the shape of all that would follow. He is the "magic" to counter the Flash's "science," though the two share far more in common than meets the eye.

Though Abra Kadabra stands as perhaps my favorite supervillain in the Flash's distinctive line-up of arch-nemeses, this wasn't always the case. It was writer Mark Waid who made it so beginning in The Flash (v.2) #67 (August 1992), slowly twisting the character into one of Wally West's most obsessive, dangerous, and cruelly entertaining foes. In Waid's hands, the charismatic Kadabra became both physically and mentally deformed, his ever-more spectacular defeats scarring his body and warping his mind. When confronting his mortal enemy, Kadabra delighted in performing as conjurer, illusionist, puppeteer, and prestidigitator, repeatedly forcing the scarlet speedster to serve as escape artist. The mad magician, a calculating Moriarty to Wally's Holmes, possessed that precise combination of qualities that makes for superb supervillainy: dangerous power and sinister intent fueled by a flare for the dramatic, a sick, sadistic, and sometimes downright silly sense of manic playfulness. Ever since the sort of memorable battles witnessed in the likes of "The Dark Flash Saga," the appearance of Abra Kadabra on the comic book page has always left me giddy. His recent rivalry with fellow time traveler Professor Zoom, tantalizingly hinted at in Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver's The Flash: Rebirth, has me hooked.

For the month of May, Crimson Lightning will be dedicated to the one and only Abra Kadabra. Presto chango! Our regular features will continue on their regular schedule, but you'll find that the likes of Onomatopoeia, Ad Run, Sight and Sound, and Classic Covers will be dominated by Kadabra's twisted magic tricks. Might we spotlight other Rogues in the months to come? Time will tell. For now, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, prepare to be astonished, amazed, and a little bit sickened! The show is about to begin...

Monday, May 03, 2010

Flash Facts: Jupiter's Moons

"The revolutionary speed of Jupiter's innermost satellite is one hour and fifty minutes. It takes the outermost of Jupiter's dozen satellites 758 days to circle the giant planet."

Illustration: "View of Jupiter from its closest satellite."

Issue: The Flash #149 (December 1964)