Welcome to yet another RETRO REVIEW. This week I have pulled out my copy of Flash # 123 from DC Comics. It’s cover dated September 1961, so it would likely have been on the comic book racks in June of ’61, right as summer vacation began for kids across the United States. In fact, the Flash actually mentions the date being June 14, 1961, as he reads a newspaper on page six of the story within.
The cover is drawn by Carmine Infantino and inked by Murphy Anderson and announces the story title; “Flash Of Two Worlds!” and even goes on to say; “a spectacular story that’s sure to become a classic!”. And truer words were never written. Take a look:
A classic cover, if there ever was one. We see the hero of the comic; Barry Allen in his Silver Age Flash identity, on the left, as he races to save a man in the foreground. But on the right is the Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick, also racing to save the same man with a brick wall separating the two Flashes!
As the cover proclaimed the story was indeed titled; “Flash Of Two Worlds!” and it was written by Gardner F. Fox, who also was responsible for scripting the Golden Age Flash stories. The penciller was the cover artist, Carmine Infantino and the interior inking assignment was handled by Joe Giella. The classic issue consumed the whole comic and was told in three chapters.
Chapter one opens with Barry Allen on the way to meet Iris West at an event for the Central City orphans. Iris is the chairperson for the event and has arranged for a magician to entertain the children. The magician has failed to show, so Barry says he thinks he can get the Flash to sub as the afternoon’s entertainment. Exit Barry and enter the Flash. As the Flash, Barry entertains the children for an hour and as his last trick, he duplicates the India Fakirs’ trick of climbing a rope hanging free in the air. As he completes the trick he disappears into thin air and doesn’t return.
Barry finds himself in Keystone City when he reappears. Apparently, he has vibrated between Earth-One where he resides and Earth-Two, the home of the Golden Age Flash! A pseudo scientific explanation is given about worlds sharing the same space but they are vibrating at different frequencies. Barry decides to look to see if the hero he use to read about in comics, and who inspired him to become the Flash in the first place. lives on this world.
And sure enough, Barry finds Jay Garrick listed in the phone book. He decides to visit him, which gives Gardner Fox an excuse to recap both of the Flashes origins for the readers. It seems that Jay has been retired for a number of years, but some mysterious robberies taking place recently in Keystone City have made him decide to come out of retirement.
Chapter begins with Barry offering his assistance and together they set out, but soon they separate to cover more ground. The Golden Age Flash encounters his old foe, the Thinker. Jay/Flash attempts to capture the Thinker, but fails. Meanwhile, the Silver Age Flash finds another Golden Age foe, the Shade. who is committing a robbery on a yacht. They face off against each other and the Shade gets the upper hand and escapes from Barry/Flash, as well.
The two Flashes get back together and decide that if they can’t win individually, that they will tackle the villains together. This of course sets up the third chapter of the story!
Chapter three begin with the Earth-Two villain, the Fiddler creating havoc with his mystical stradivarius violin. At it’s this portion of the story that is represented on the cover. In case you’re wondering, the Golden Age Flash whisks the man out form under the falling beam, while the Silver Age Flash creates an updraft of air which causes the girder to return back from whence it fell.
They then track the Fiddler to the Keystone City Museum where the Fiddler gains the upper hand causing the two Flashes to dance to his music. It’s at this moment that the Shade and the Thinker catch up, as well, to warn the Fiddler that there are two Flashes, not just one. But needless to say, he already has discovered this.
Using his music he causes the heroes to empty the jewel cases that he had come to rob, telling them to only bring him the larger jewels and the big jeweled treasures, the crowns and the scepters. But this is actually the cause of his downfall. What? Yes, since he has only asked for the larger jewels, the two Flashes have picked up smaller jewels, as well, and placed them into their ears, thus causing the pitch of the Fiddler’s music to change, allowing them freedom of will and movement again.
Quickly the two Flashes defeat the surprised villains and even explain how they were able to escape for the Fiddler’s charmed musical notes. The story ends with the Silver Age Flash duplicating the vibrational frequency and returning to his own world. The Golden Age Flash observes and thinks; “So that’s how he does it! I must remember so I can visit his Earth sometime!”. Which nicely sets up future crossovers between the two Earths and the Golden Age and Silver Age heroes of Earth-One and Earth-Two.
Over the years many fans have wondered why the Silver Age Flash’s world was called Earth-One and that the Golden Age Flash’s world was called Earth-Two, when the Golden Age came first, so shouldn’t their world be given the Earth-One designation? Years later, editor Julius Schwartz gave this simple explanation; ” It’s simple, as Fox and I plotted the story, I recalled that (Robert) Kanigher‘s first story of the Silver Age Flash had Barry Allen inspired to become a hero with his new-found speed by recalling the Flash Comics he read as a youth. So as we talked, I kept referring to the world where Jay Garrick lived as “a second earth” and that made it, logically, Earth-Two.”
So there you go, right from the “horse’s mouth” or at least the editor’s mouth and he was there, so he oughta know! This was the first time DC Comics revived one of their Golden Age heroes, but it certainly wouldn’t be the last time. Jay Garrick appeared in later issues of the Flash and the Golden Age Green Lantern crossed over into the SIlver Age Green Lantern’s comic and or course, there are those wonderful and classic Justice League of America and Justice Society of America cross-overs within the pages of the Justice League of America comics.
I’m a big fan of these early cross-overs and I highly recommend you searching them out for yourselves and adding them to your collections, you won’t be sorry! That’s all for this edition of RETRO REVIEW, but please be sure to come back next week for a new Fabulous Find. Take care people and be seeing you …