DC First Issue Flashback – Showcase #4: Barry “The Flash” Allen
Hello there! Thank you for joining me once again for DC First Issue Flashbacks! In this series, we will be looking at the first appearance of many of DC’s great characters, from A-List All-Stars to D-List Dorks.
Story by: Robert Kanigher
Art by: Carmine Infantino
We begin at a radar station with a little bit of foreshadowing, as the men at the station notice something seemingly impossible on the screen. Something… or someone… has broken the sound barrier, and it is traveling on the ground.
We then cut back to the lab of Barry Allen, a “police scientist,” that is enjoying his break by reading an old issue of the Jay Garrick Flash. Barry comments that every chemical known to science is in his lab (conveniently) and as he goes to grab a chemical off the shelf, a lightning bolt shoots into the lab and smashes some of the bottles. The chemical doused Barry is a bit shaken up, so he decides to take a taxi back home. Unfortunately, the taxi is already pulling away as Barry exits the police building. Running to catch the cab, Barry begins zooming past it and eventually stops running at a diner, where he decides to clear his head. We get the classic moment of Barry catching the falling contents of a waitress’s tray. Barry returns home before his date with Iris, to which he is late. However, he arrives at just the right moment and pushes Iris out of the way before a stray bullet fired by the Turtle Man hits her.
A few days later, Barry decides that he will use his new found powers for good, just like his favorite comic book hero, Jay Garrick. Barry rigs the police laboratory with a crime scanner and designs his famous red suit, which expands from a ring on his finger. Barry rushes to Central City Bank, where the Turtle Man is staging a heist in two stages. The Turtle Man has escaped onto a boat and Barry runs out onto the water, defying gravity as he runs. However, the speed of his run is kicking up waves that push the Turtle Man just out of Barry’s reach. Barry busts out his first speed trick by running in circles around the boat, trapping the Turtle Man in a whirlpool. Barry brings the Turtle Man to the authorities, and the press ask what to call the mysterious hero in red that was able to capture the crook in a flash. Barry smiles and exclaims that the reporter just said it… “The Flash”!
*This issue also contains a second story about Barry Allen, but I figured it would be best to just cover the origin.
This story is about as typical as you can expect from a classic origin story. Robert Kanigher wastes very little time explaining how Barry received his powers and showcasing these new powers in his first case. The dialogue is a little bit clunky, but not quite as cheesy as you may expect from the Silver Age. Where this issue really shines, however, is the art. Carmine Infantino has always been a master at making Barry look so incredibly fast. The shape and colors of the speed blurs are excellent at conveying just how quick the fastest man alive would be. Infantino’s use of multiple panels to display slow motion are also very effective for showing Barry’s new found ability to process information rapidly. The characters have this wonderful, almost pulp comic, look to them and the iconic Flash suit looks great (even in its first appearance).
Surprisingly, the “first” comic from the Silver Age holds up pretty well. The pace and the art create a nice read out of otherwise bland material. The story is very simple, but given the age of this issue, really effective at introducing a new character. Every Flash fan (whether of the comics or the excellent CW TV show) should give this issue a read at least once.