Thursday, April 10, 2008

All Together Now (DC)
Where: Secret Origins #32 When: November 1988
Why: Keith Giffen & Peter David How: Eric Shanower

Quick Fix...
Well, while DC's weekly series Countdown simmers toward the boil of Final Crisis, we've got our own convergence of plotlines! Over the past couple of weeks we've been talking superhero teams, and after closing on the League, it seemed like a perfect segue to go back to the Secret Origin of the Justice League! We'll talk more about the League in the second half, but if you want to get yourself up to date, why not check out the back issues! [A League of their Own!, An Appelaxian A Day..., JLA: Classified #3]

Blink and you'll miss the subject of this half of the Quick Fix!
If you're new to the site, you might like to know that we review and tally superhero fights whilst talking about the medium and the materials in question. Amongst the many feats of multi-tasking is our cumulative Super Stock rankings, now entering their third full year of record. Anyone keeping tabs will know the Flash, in his many incarnations, isn't looking too shabby against the competition, but that isn't quite enough for me...

Regardless of your preference, the Flash is undeniably one of the greatest superheroes of all time. It's the unashamed colour of the character - bright red with a yellow lightning bolt - and the simple distillation of superhuman feat: the ability to run faster than anything in the world.

As the science of speed thrust itself on the modern readership in the Silver Age of comics, the character gained new complication through contrivances for abilities new and old, but for the most part, it's left the basic mechanics of the character uninterrupted for nearly seventy years. The Flash runs fast!

So, who is the Flash?...

When I think of a character that embodies the viability of succession in mainstream superheroes - it's the Flash! From the original 1940 Jay Garrick, the Flash was among the successful crop of Silver Age DC revamps that also included distanced revisions of Green Lantern and The Atom.

In 1956 DC debuted it's new union suited scarlet speedster, who was struck by a bolt of lightning that embued him with the powers of the superhuman speed force! A police scientist by day, Barry Allen straddled the line of magic and fantasy carried by his predecessors, while also incorporating pseudo-science in ways that would define the Silver Age and the following Marvel Age of the 1960s.

Allen's reign as Flash introduced many classic elements into the comic book zeitgeist, among them the lightning bolt origin, and the hidden costume compressed in an inconspicuous ring. The character continues to be revered to a degree that has kept him officially dead since the 1986 Crisis on Infinite Earths, where his heroic sacrifice prevented the destruction of everything at the hands of the Anti-Monitor's anti-matter canon. A rare feat in comics!

Allen was succeeded by the Flash most modern readers will be intimately familiar with; Wally West. West was anything but a new character when he graduated into the role, having spent several decades in a yellow version of the suit as the original Kid Flash. Though there remain to this day dedicated fans to the former, West's transition has to be one of the most impressive in modern comics, with his widespread acceptance leading to an ironic pickle.

Twenty years after West's successful transition into the title role, it seemed DC comics were to attempt to do it all again with then-Kid Flash, Bart Allen. The move proved unpopular, and by design or response, the new Flash was killed months after accepting the role, coinciding with the official return of Wally West, who remains the Flash to this point.

The Flash, (similar to the Green Lantern), has become a tent-pole amongst fans for their fandom and era of readership. Most can describe their version of the character, and for me, particularly through a childhood of back issues, I've come to regard Barry Allen as my Flash. Of course, Wally West has been a present and enjoyed influence, but in thinking about it, I realise I prefer Allen.

Definitely one of the big hitters of his time, the Barry Allen Flash is consistently numbered amongst the founding membership of the Justice League, despite it's many revisions. In the version we're looking at from 1988, Flash finds himself accepting acknowledgment from the Queen of England, when word of wildfires takes the speedster across country for an investigation.

The Flash arrives to discover a giant flaming man stalking the streets of Croydon. Quick thinking leads Allen to generate a mighty wind to attempt to blow the creature out, but alas, the Appelaxian is only ignited further by the gust.

As with the other Appelaxian invaders, the Fire Giant attempts to use his abilities to transform the Flash into a creature of flame. Fortunately for our hero, control over his molecular structure is key to the manipulation of his speed, meaning he easily vibrates to a frequency of normalcy.

Freed of the afflication, the Flash heads for a nearby lake, using his speeds to tread water and create a contained typhoon. He manages to direct the swirling funnel of water toward the flaming giant, but the heat of the creature's flame reduces the water to steam before it hits. Looking for an alternative, the Flash tries the same trick, this time with sand, but the Fire Giant uses his heat to turn the sand to glass!

Recognising his failures in fire fighting, Barry Allen's smarts kick in, and it finally occurs to him to remove an element to extinguish the flame!
Moving at super-speeds the Flash creates a vaccuum in which the creature cannot sustain it's flames -- revealing beneath the grey form of a humanoid shell. In it's native tongue the Appelaxian howls cries of objection as his mind is wrenched from the vessel in which he was to compete.

As with the other heroes who encountered the Appelaxian gladiators, Flash learns of the presence of another in the Everglades. At mach speeds the Flash makes a beeline across the ocean, in the direction of the United States!

In keeping with our recent discussions, I do confess my preference for the Barry Allen Flash, but not at the cost of progress. I appreciate the reverence with which the character is regarded, and enjoy the influence Allen continues to have on the mantle of the Flash, but also happily accept the succession of the role.

Time constraints have hindred the fluidity with which I wanted to talk all things Flash, but there's still time to wrap up on a key issue that convinced me to tackle this issue now. Despite an A-list resurgance for the character under writers like Mark Waid and Geoff Johns, the Wally West Flash is in the worst shape of his printed life.

After the bungled mess of Bart Allen's brief stint as the character, and the shafted disappearance of West post-Infinite Crisis, attention cast on the character has been mostly negative. Mark Waid failed to endear to audiences in his suspended stay on the book, leading to fairly despondent remarks from the writer, who was somewhat baffled by negativity for the domestic themes of the series, and the introduction of superpowered kids fastracked to adolesence.

Ordinarily this might be where we'd devise some sort of simple solution, but y'know what? If DC want a writer they can hire me! Hmph! That, and we are running long on time and I have other things I need to do.

The Flash is a very sure thing in comics terms.
Bringing the character back from a scenario as dire as this is hardly the toughest gig in comics, but one does wonder if this might be another negative underside to the editorial strangle at DC comics. As other characters are more intrinsicly attached to developing stories, has the Flash perhaps been left to languish in a world without purpose, or his famous rogue's gallery?

With the Rogues wrapped up in Salvation Run, it certainly seems like the mutant-kids have become the unwelcome distraction in a title forced to internally generate problems in an event-driven franchise. Whether or not this is an excuse, or an explanation, I leave to you, but it's certainly a disappointing turnaround from the glory experienced just a few years ago.

ARTWORK: Alex RossThe Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 5.5
Winner: Flash

This version of the Justice League origin is no longer in print, but that doesn't mean you can't find other great stories collected in the Infinite Wars Amazonian Gift Shoppe! Who knows, you might even find a solution to Flash's creative problems. Seriously! Amazon is that good! And remember, by using purchase links provided, you help sponsor the Infinite Wars of Future Past!

All Together Now (DC)
Where: Secret Origins #32 When: November 1988
Why: Keith Giffen & Peter David How: Eric Shanower

Quick Fix...
After five individual tales of triumph, this is where I'm supposed to tell you what happens when the would-be Leaguers descend on the Florida Everglades.

Thing is, that one's a little long for the Quick Fix, and while this version of the League condenses the membership to skim over the world famous trinity, it does still have an Appelaxian to account for: The eerie Crystal Creature!

Before we get to the very brief events of this encounter, it might be worth elaborating a little on previous versions of the story.
The Justice League is effectively borne out of the necessity of their combined efforts in the Florida Everglades. That said, if you're keeping count at home, and remember that Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman feature in the original version of this tale, then there's one Appelaxian too few.

1962's tale, told in Justice League of America #9, described the meteor vessels for the Appelaxians as containing Kryptonite. Thus; when the final alien lands in Greenland, it's requires the attention of the 'World's Finest' pairing; Superman and Batman; who respond in a two-pronged attack that sees Batman towing the meteor with his Batplane, leaving Superman to turn the Crystal Creature to coal.

1982 recalled the story thirty-years later!
Justice League of America #200 revealed the heroes hid the meteors across the planet, resulting in a story that pits a mind-controlled 'big seven' against their contemporary counterparts. One of these days we might get around to reviewing the battles of each heroic pairing, but for now, this is digression to the Nth-degree!

In this 1988 revision of the story, (which has since been reset to the original), the Trinity are removed to be senior members of the superhero community.
The previous five are rallied in much the same way, albeit with Black Canary switched out for the lower key version, and when a lone Superman finally arrives to the story, the others are left in awe.

In fact, so distanced is Superman from the other heroes, that his battle with the Crystal Creature is gleamed over to a degree that we're introduced only to a track of footprints in the snow, an a dark smear that was once the alien.

That's right! You don't even get to see what this Appelaxian looked like!
So, as I struggle to find ways to fill space without stealing time from the next inevitable discussion, which will be about the Everglades team-up, we see the flipside of what this version means for the Justice League, and perhaps one of the reasons I prefer this version.

There's a delicate balance, I find, in the theory of the big seven heroes of the Justice League, and how that translates to modern comics. Even though we saw a very viable example in Grant Morrison's take on the team [JLA: Classified #3], noone could honestly describe Aquaman as a feature character in today's lineup.
As much as we theoretically like to think of this version of the league as the penultimate representation, ultimately each character is far too involved in their own divergences to logically be a part of the League's global watch.

Batman alone epitomizes the disbelief, given his staunch dedication to Gotham. One city in a country, or world, the League supposedly polices. So, as much as it's nice to think of this great seven teaming up for the establishing years of the Justice League [of America], there's so much more to be considered.

Top 25 Leaguers
#1 Batman
#2 Superman
#3 Steel
#4 Green Lantern
#5 Green Arrow
#6 Flash
#7 Hawkman
#8 Flash
#9 Martian Manhunter
#10 Aquaman
#11 Wonder Woman
#12 Zatanna
#13 The Demon
#14 Hawkgirl
#15 Green Lantern
#16 Green Lantern
#17 Black Canary
#18 Atom
#19 Guy Gardner
#20 Powergirl
#21 Phantom Stranger
#22 Dr. Fate
#23 Zauriel
#24 Captain Atom
#25 Dr. Fate
For me, I like the compromise of this origin.
By focusing on second-tier characters, I admit, it strips some of the majesty of the League, but it makes up for this in plausibility. While Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman observe their own territories, as well as the global concerns that creep into their perspective; this version of the League plausibly dedicates their time to team adventures.

Sure, there's still a suspension of disbelief for crossover.
Aquaman has Atlantis, Flash has Keystone City, and Green Lantern has an entire Sector 2814 to oversee; but, the nature of the team as a response to larger problems, and the expected suspension of disbelief, is so much more managable with characters not supporting major features and multiple titles.

Or at least, that's what I'm saying now.
This might be one for a rethink. My brain's on whitenoise and I don't think I've given this the thought it really deserves. Still, hopefully I've at least given you something to think about. Lord knows I haven't done the thinking... I need a drink!... Get off my lawn!

ARTWORK: Jim LeeThe Fight: 1 The Issue: 5.5
Winner: Superman

While Mike "recharges his batteries," why not fund his dirty habit by heading over to the Infinite Wars Amazonian Gift Shoppe! Wonder Woman might have been erased from the 1988 version of the JLA origin, but that doesn't mean you can't still get a bargain from Amazon online! By using purchase links provided on the site, you help sponsor future entries in the Infinite Wars. Entries better than this.

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