Saturday, June 8, 2013

Magnificent7 Part 2: Bow Ties are Cool

The Flash: The Greatest Stories Ever Told
By John Broome, Gardner Fox Carmine Infantino, Cary Bates, Mark Waid, various

Recommended Listening:          Born to Run- Bruce Springsteen (1975)

“Together we could break this trap/ We’ll run till we drop, baby we’ll never go back”- Born to Run

Motion, fluidity, and a promise of escape to somewhere better are all that the Flash and the E Street Anthem can offer to you, gentle reader. At first it may seem too obvious a stretch in pairing the two, but to someone who spent high school in a small ignorant town repetitiously and ritually running around a track with lines like “Baby this town rips the bones from your back/ It’s a death trap, it's a suicide rap/ We gotta get out while were young” I hoped I could make it out alive from the Time Bomb High School just a little faster via light speed into a brighter future a million miles from my hometown. Springsteen’s song and the Flash both extend a hand to anyone to run along side them into the unknown, which isn’t what they are running from, but boldly towards.

The Flash’s design and conception is like a butterscotch Fender Telecaster. Elegant and simple in design, yet versatile in doing anything from melancholy doo wop to razor edged punk. The coolest Flash, Barry Allen, broke out in 1956 and on the heels of Rock and Roll. In the 50s and 60s he visually looked someone you'd see on Mad Men. In his crew cut and bow tie he juggled between making deadlines as a forensic scientist and showing up late to dates with his fiancee, who was in the latest fashion. A dashing combination of a nonviolent Dexter and a monogamous Don Draper as Barry, but as the Flash he was chasing the dragon into psychedelia.

Possessing only super speed, Barry Allen can do just about anything his writers imagine and make it believable in a Pop fused SF manner. Grant Morrison once wrote that the Flash has to use his powers like a science fiction writer writes. In most of the Silver Age stories and the ones in this volume, the Flash rarely ever just punches out a non super powered foe, which is lazy and maybe more importantly, recklessly dangerous. As someone who abhors real world violence, it’s always a delight to see a fictional hero intelligently dispose of a villain without using fists.

 It needs 1.21 gigawatts of electricity

If you’re a fan of Doctor Who, then Barry Allen, the Fastest Man Alive, is the other guy in the cool bow for you. Besides always standing up against injustice like the Doctor, in this volume the Flash is also an explorer of time, alternate worlds,, a hidden city of super evolved gorillas, and meta fiction. Barry, just like his readers is a comics fan. He even visited our world and went to the offices of DC Comics in NY to ask the then famous editor, and an architect for revamping many DC properties in the Silver Age, Julie Schwartz for help building a version of his Cosmic Treadmill to return back into his fictional reality.

Once bestowed with superpowers, he never needed a plausible reason to become an altruistic hero other than a childhood of reading simplistic superhero comics from the Golden Age. Of course his favorite was the 1940s’ Flash, Jay Garrick, who he meets in the classic “Flash of Two Worlds”, which introduced the idea of multiple universes existing on different vibrations in the DCU.

A sad trend in many current comics is to provide characters with lost family in order to justify them becoming heroes, but that’s actually quite insulting to at least a few decent paramedics, social workers, 9/11 First Responders, and others around the world with vocations in which they try to do the right thing in life for humanity, and they probably do it without needing to avenge dead relatives.

Running can be an isolating sport. You’re often trying to beat your past glories. You might not even notice your opponents struggling to keep up or outdistance you. The Flash’s race is a relay and a legacy of passing the baton and yellow treads on to another speedster. That legacy and the family created from it runs across the history of the DCU from the rebirth of superheroes in the Silver Age, through the Dark Age when Barry Allen sacrificed himself to save the universe, and helping usher in the Renaissance Age with writer Mark Waid’s character building on Barry’s former kid sidekick, Wally West, and worthy adult inheritor of the lightning bolt sigil.

Although the person in the suit changes every now and then the Flash is always running towards a better tomorrow, which is something that helped me and I hope others to get over hurdles. That was a lame pun, and I apologize. I never did hurdles. I ran long distance, even in winter with shorts and a hoodie, thinking if I kept moving I wouldn’t get cold or bitter. Something that the Flash can teach you that can’t learn from track or cross country is that you don’t get the chance to stretch when it really counts.

"Don't look back"

No comments:

Post a Comment