Who's the Silver Age Flash?

Who's This? The (then) fastest man alive.

The facts: Barry Allen, the second Flash, was the brainchild of editor Julius Schwartz, writer Robert Kanigher and penciler Carmine Infantino, ushering in a new age of superhero comics in Showcase #4 (October 1956). He traded that initial success for a revival of the old Flash Comics, now simply, The Flash, continuing the numbering from #105 (March 1959) after a handful of Showcase appearances. As other reimaginings of Golden Age heroes followed, several followed Barry into the Justice League of America as well and would become one of the pillars of the DC Universe through the Silver and Bronze Ages. His book fell on hard times in the early 80s and was cancelled with issue #350 (October 1985), just in time for his death in the Crisis on Infinite Earths. He who started a universe (Earth-1) would die with it and pass the torch on to his sidekick Wally West. And for a while, it seemed like Barry would be one of those characters, like Uncle Ben or the Waynes, whose death couldn't and shouldn't be undone. But, ya know, comics. The Flash: Rebirth mini-series brought him back in 2009, and a new series would follow. The New52 would also make him THE Flash and only recently has Wally taken the reigns of the Flash ongoing again, but Barry is still out there, wearing the red suit in parallel to his replacement.
How you could have heard of him: Barry still appears in The Flash, and was its star until fairly recently. Though portrayals vary, he's the Flash of the TV show and the DCEU movie franchise. Everyone probably knows who the Flash is at this point.
Example story: Flash #197 (May 1970) "To the Nth Degree" by Robert Kanigher, Gil Kane and Vince Colletta
The cover promises a secret identity story, which is old hat, fuggetaboudit. Instead, we'll look at the SECOND story told in the issue because when I think of the Barry Allen Flash, I think of science stories. And "To the Nth Degree" looks like a crazy science story to me. I mean, it starts with high-octane label licking from "absent-minded professor" Ira West!
As you can perhaps imagine, Prof. West is sending a super-telescope - one with a lens ground to the Nth degree so it can piece hyperspace! - to Barry, and a crappy home 'scope to the Astronomical Society. Both look like the models you can have at home. But where's the Flash in all this? Ah yes, making love to his lady!
The year in 1970 and Barry and Iris are married. It's his birthday, if you know what I mean. That evening, Barry receives the telescope as a gift and finds he can focus in on planets as far as Betelgeuse, even see their cities, and this particular planet is in the process of exploding! Super-science lesson for you folks: If you attune your vibrations to an ultra-light beam coming from a planet, you can "flash" there at hyperspeed. I've done the math, and it's true. Speaking of math:
And here you thought the Speed Force tricks were just in Wally's era. Of course, none of this explains why it doesn't take Barry 300 years to get there, so he's just daydreaming about facts and figures. Whoever said that Barry Allen was the most boring superhero alive may have had a point. He also tells us that Betelgeuse is 40,000 times more luminous than our sun, so the planet is a hothouse. In fact, it's so hot, the people there are humanoid flames.
Now I'm kind of questioning my contention that Flash stories SCIENTIFIC. Maybe the solution? So it appears the planet's core is overheating, which is causing it to go the way of Krypton. The Flash must cool it down somehow. As his blood boils. Well, it's a two-pronged attack: First smother the flames (I don't think a planetary core is really "on fire") and then wave your arms to produce icy blasts (can someone check THIS math?!).

The day saved for these random aliens, the Flash next races to the light beam from the telescope and rides out of there at a billion times the speed of light. But Iris is panning the damn thing (at those distances, the faintest touch of the instrument would send the beam careening), so Barry has to use dust motes as stepping stones (never letting gravity take hold of him) to reach it. But will Barry now spend all his time detecting problems in space and riding the beam to help? No, because the next day, Professor West shows up to fix his mix-up and ends up dropping the things and destroying its special lens. That's fine, he left the formula for the Nth degree lens written on a wall in his lab... but haha - ironic! - he asked someone to repaint the walls so the huge scientific breakthrough is under two coats of paint.

The Bronze Age didn't happen overnight at the turn of a calendar page, did it? As a counterpoint, here are some Flash Facts that debunk some of the "science" in this story.

Who's Next? A vegetable villain.


ten-cent media said…
Nice inks by Vinnie here.