Jul 11, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 137: The Flash v.1 #264, August 1978 (Two Weeks From The Dollar Bin - Day 1)


I have a soft spot for the Flash. I'm not entirely certain why, though I think it may have something to do with my very first introduction to him (or, at least, the first introduction I can remember) back in Crisis On Infinite Earths. He seemed, for the brief appearances he made in the series, to be a pretty cool and selfless hero, and I loved the design of his outfit. But I didn't really know much about Barry Allen or any of his supporting cast and back story.

I got more into the Flash when Wally West was wearing the scarlet costume and Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn were writing the title, because that was a badass run (see what I did there?). And more recently, having chatted with some friends about Wally being pretty much everyone's favourite Flash, we came to the conclusion that Barry Allen really is only cool in retrospect. The coolest thing he ever did was destroy the Anti-Monitor's antimatter cannon and save a bunch of universes and inspire Wally to become the Flash. Which is why, in current continuity, it really sucks that Barry is the Flash and Wally is, well, not really much of anything.

This is a pretty standard "superhero pretends to give up his identity in order to defeat a crazy supervillain" story. These happen all the time, and it's pulled off with grace and wit, and, since it's the seventies, a modicum of cheesiness. The larger point that I'd like to make with this book is that there are definitely some superheroes whose value lies mainly in their nostalgia factor; they become amazing only in retrospect, and those that follow them fulfill the promise of their predecessors. We could think about this typologically, in that Barry prophesies the magnificence of Wally's tenure as the Flash, and Wally's tenure makes Barry's more important and influential only in retrospect.

I'll have to hit up my Frye again before I can make a larger argument, but I think this might work for Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner as well. Of course, then we'd have to question why it is that Dick Grayson's Batman wasn't more successful, or longer-lived. (Though, that said, I loved Dick as the Bat. Shoulda kept him around waaaay longer.)

See you tomorrow.

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