Saturday, January 19, 2019

Flash Comics #2 - pt. 1

The cover may belong to Hawkman, but the first feature is still the Flash. The story begins on Broadway, during a show of the "Fancy Follies," referring to the Ziegfeld Follies. When the Flash shows up in the story he's just goofing off, showing off his speed by using Race the Car beside Joan's taxi. Joan, on other hand, has already been investigating this string of theater shootings and found their common denominator -- Lord Donelin of Ireland. The Flash upgrades his speed with the Invisibily Fast power so he can search the dressing rooms at the Follies, while Joan correctly goes after Donelin. Joan is either being played by the better player, or the Editor is using the supporting cast to do all of the Flash's work for him.

The Flash's powers seem to have long durations, but he rarely gets into combats and so his powers last in terms of exploration turns (10 minutes each).

Curiously, when Donelin's henchman Goll tries to sneak up on the Flash, Goll opens the door silently, but the Flash hears Goll breathing and foils his surprise anyway (though, really, doesn't it make more sense for Flash to have heard the door...?).

If you're wondering about these names, 1) Gardner Fox wrote this and Gardner often used obscure or made-up names (look at his own!), 2) Theo is likely short for Theodora, a real name (though an obscure one, the 628th most common baby name for girls in 1940), 3) yes, Goll is completely made up. Gardner may have been wanting something that read like "Gaul," or -- being as well-read as he was -- may have been thinking of Lord Dunsany's "gnolles."

When combat does start, Flash might have activated Race the Bullet, or Donelin might have simply missed his attack roll (it's hard to say, except when Flash starts doing fancy tricks like catching the bullets). What he learns is that someone is pulling Donelin's strings and has ordered more hits on showgirls, so he leaves without even tying them up first.

Back at the follies (for a guy with a girlfriend, Jay sure likes to come back to see the showgirls), Flash happens to spot a man in the audience pull a gun. It's possible that he just got lucky and won a surprise roll, but no speed-related powers help with surprise. Perhaps, since the audience member was in a dark theater (though it's not inked that way), Flash had to make a search for concealed check to spot the gunman. Speed-boosting powers can help give a speedster/superhero more search rolls.

A favorite tactic of the Flash is to strip his opponents to their civvies, the thinking being that even bad guys in the 1940s still had their modesty and dignity. Rather than over-complicate things, I would allow a simple hold to strip someone's shirt and pants off.

Flash encounters a trap; a wall panel that mechanically opens on its own, revealing a concealed crossbow that shoots into the room (1/2 HD attack, since it can't turn and aim).

Flash demonstrates that he can dodge five bullets fired from different directions practically simultaneously. The "Race the -" powers simulate this by buffing Armor Class (in theory, any Hero can do this, so long as the guns roll low enough to attack).

Duro is a made-up brand name for imported cigarettes.

This is what I wrote about this story back in The Trophy Case v. 1 #1:

"This story establishes that the Flash's girlfriend, Joan Williams, will remain an important character and at least as effective a partner in crime fighting as Lois Lane is for Superman. Here, Joan introduces the Flash to the showgirl in trouble, deduces the identity of the killer without Flash's help, finds out where the killer is hiding and even (intentionally or not is unclear) leaves a clue for Flash to find and follow her.

"Fox again experiments with other tropes that he will quickly abandon, this time the notion of the Flash leaving little lighting bolts as calling cards or even weapons.

"The best sight gags include the Flash both disarming and undressing an assassin in the theater and the woman in the theater who has to hold her dress down as Flash goes whizzing past. It is odd, though, how quickly this will become
an ongoing theme.

"No. of times unseen to date: 5
No. of bald bad guys to date: 2
No. of men undressed to date: 1"

Next up is Cliff Cornwall, Special Agent. That Gardner Fox wrote the story is evident in that Cliff's girlfriend is named "Lys" -- which has to be either wholly invented or a shortened version of Marlys (the 393rd most popular baby girl name in 1940).

The cliche of Heroes hearing plot hooks on the radio in the form of breaking news announcements is an old one, but here Cliff is flying over Montana (on his way back from last month's Alaskan adventure) when he overhears a radio auction of state secrets. Rather than land and try to figure out where the signal was broadcast from, he decides to fly to Panama because the state secrets come from there (which suggests to my mind that the bad guys would have already left Panama, but then I'm not a spy...). Cliff does not bother informing his superior officers in the FBI about this schedule change; he just does it.

We learn that Cliff is Special Agent G-30 and is high-ranking enough that he can walk in on any military base, announce himself, and demand an audience with their commanding officer. Cliff should still be 1st-level at this point.

The enemy country that is called Kovaria could be Germany, or more specifically the German State of Bavaria.

In Panama, Lys and Cliff separate and agree to meet at "Park Square." Using a generic name meant Gardner didn't have to do more research and find a similar location in Panama City.

In a hallway in Panama, Cliff runs into a femme fatale he's met before, Lolita Devere. He decides to trail her and see where she goes next, which turns out to be a shoemaker's shop (the shop has "SH" in the window, no doubt for "SHOES", instead of "ZA" for "ZAPATOS"). Rather than barge in and find out what she's doing in there, Cliff takes the time to go meet Lys, tell her what's going on, buy a cart full of fruit and a disguise for himself, and when he gets back to the shop just assumes Lolita is still in there (unless he paid a local to watch it for him behind the scenes?).

That night, Cliff leaves Lys trailing Lolita while he breaks into the shoemaker's shop. Just looking through loose paperwork in the shoemaker's shop, he stumbles across the names of the spies (Lolita and a Count Ruthnor) and an offer for $1 million for the Panama plans.

Count Ruthnor shows up, goes down in one punch from Cliff, and Cliff finds a list of code signals on his person. Solving the code (perhaps there was an answer key in those very useful papers he found), he knows that Lolita has orders to drug a U.S. lieutenant at the hotel where Lys has trailed her to. It turns out, they held the auction first but didn't have any plans until now when Lolita drugs the lieutenant and steals them from him. Although there was no mention of them in the papers, Lolita has two more spies working for her (or perhaps a different mobstertype).

(Flash feature read in Golden Age Flash Archives v. 1; the rest read at


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