Y'know these are pretty fun! And If you're not  careful, you'll learn something before it's done!

Thinking about the Scarlet Speedster, I was wondering:

  • Was Barry a police officer during the Silver Age? Or was he an employee of the Central City Police Department? Could he make arrests? Could he carry a gun?
  • With Barry dating and later getting engaged to and then marrying reporter Iris West, could there have been a conflict of interest? Did he talk about cases with her? Was he her source?
  • Wally West, Kid Flash, was never really portrayed as a sidekick. Why did he have more freedom being a super-hero than Robin or Aqualad? Did the Flash supervise him at all?
  • Why did so many of the Rogues NOT possess any actual super-powers, just weapons and gimmicks? Most didn't even invent them themselves. Why not just take the gizmos away? And who was the most dangerous of the Rogues? (Not counting Professor Zoom, Abra Kadabra and Gorilla Grodd)
  • We all know that the world-famous Elongated Man was the only super-hero to publicly reveal his true identity but when did Ralph learn the Flash's real name?
  • Did Barry own a car? I know that it's an odd question but why would Barry spend money on something he didn't really need? Clark Kent never bought a car!
  • Why did the writers always make going to Earth-Two such a big deal over in Justice League of America when the Flash did it so easy in his own mag? (Not to mention Green Lantern and even the Atom!!)
  • Was there any evidence that Flash possessed any sort of super-strength? I mean I wouldn't want to be kicked by that guy!!
  • Why didn't the Flash have any of the depth of background that Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman had? Except for his costume-ring and the Cosmic Treadmill, he had no gadgets, no secret lab, no specialized weapondry, no personalized headquarters ("The Racetrack", maybe), no place to call his own, unless you count Gorilla City. Why did he himself have no gimmicks?
  • Silly Time: Why didn't All-American Comics sue him for calling himself "The Flash"? If I got doused with every chemical known to man AND got struck by lightning and gained super-speed, then dubbed myself the Flash, I'm sure that I would get a cease-and-desist order from Time Warners, the meanies!

I need some Flash-Facts, please!

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Most of your questions, Phillip, don't lend themselves to precise, title such-and-such issue number such-and-such, answers, but I'll see what I can do.

 

 

"Was Barry a police officer during the Silver Age? Or was he an employee of the Central City Police Department? Could he make arrests? Could he carry a gun?"

 

The best answer I can give here is---"It depends." 

 

In real life, crime scene investigators (CSI's) may or may not be sworn police officers.  It depends on the jurisdiction and the budget of the cognizent law-enforcement agency.  This is one thing the CSI television-show franchise gets right.  In Las Vegas, the CSI's are not sworn police officers (thus, they have no power to arrest or detain; nor are they authorised on the basis of their employment to carry a gun).  In Miami, CSI's are sworn police officers.

 

Going back thirty or forty years, it was much more common for CSI's to be sworn police officers who "graduated" to the specialty of forensic science.  Since then, the pendulum has shifted in the other direction and many departments hire unsworn personnel with education and training in some area of forensics.  Many police departments on tight budgets find this advantageous because it pays unsworn CSI's less than it does its sworn officers.

 

My inherent knowledge of the Silver-Age Flash is not as impeccable as it is of some of the other series, so it is quite possible that someone else will find a chapter-and-verse to contradict me, and that's fine.  But, as I recall, the series never specified whether Barry Allen was a sworn police officer or not.  Certainly, he was never shown to carry a gun---which he would be required to do on duty.  I don't often recall seeing him at crime scenes, so his rôle would not appear to be one of a crime-scene tech, to collect evidence and take photographs of the crime scene.  More likely, he was assigned to the laboratory, probably as a forensic chemist (based upon the shelves of chemicals from which he gained his super-speed in the first place), whose job was to test items of evidence for the presence of blood and other substances, presence of poisons, and things of that nature.

 

The one thing I do recall which might imply that Allen was a sworn officer was an exchange between him and Iris West (before she became privy to his secret I.D.).  It followed a situation in which he is out with Iris and a crime takes place, forcing him to slip away to become the Flash.  In the final tag, Iris says something to the effect of "I had to leave to report the crime to my newspaper---I am a reporter, you know.  But why did you take off, Barry?"

 

Allen responds, "Well, I had to follow the suspect, Iris---I am a policeman, you know."

 

But there's enough wobble in that exchange---it's light-hearted banter---that it's not enough to definitively insist that Barry was a sworn police officer.

 

 

"With Barry dating and later getting engaged to and then marrying reporter Iris West, could there have been a conflict of interest? Did he talk about cases with her? Was he her source?"

 

In and of itself, it was not a conflict of interest.  Think about it for a moment:  if it was a conflict of interest for a reporter to date or marry anyone who might become the subject of press interest, then reporters wouldn't be able to date or marry anyone.  Now, if Barry possessed information about a crime, information which, by law or department policy, he was required to keep confidential, he could not tell such information to his wife, whether she was a homemaker or a secretary or a reporter.  There's no special requirement that says one has to tell a reporter things.

 

If Barry did tell his wife confidential information, then it wouldn't be very professional of him.  And if Iris tried to coax information out of him, or used subterfuge to do so, then it wouldn't be ethical of her.  Undoubtedly, the two of them came to a personal covenent on this early in their relationship.

 

 

"Wally West, Kid Flash, was never really portrayed as a sidekick. Why did he have more freedom being a super-hero than Robin or Aqualad? Did the Flash supervise him at all?"

 

In the case of Robin and Aqualad, they were both wards of their senior partners---Robin, as Dick Grayson, legally to Bruce Wayne; and Aqualad, by mutual consent, to Aquaman.  Thus, these two served as regular partners to the senior heroes.  The Flash, on the other hand, had no direct responsibility for the life of Kid Flash.  As Wally West, he had parents and a home in Blue Valley.  The Flash was once-removed, both in terms of responsibility and geography from Kid Flash.  That made a regular partnership more difficult.  There's no problem in Batman taking Robin along on patrol, but it's more difficult for Kid Flash to accompany the Scarlet Speedster every night---Wally would have to constantly make excuses to his parents, establish cover-ups, explain away peculiar actions.  None of these things Robin had to do with Batman, nor Aqualad with Aquaman.

 

 

"Why did so many of the Rogues NOT possess any actual super-powers, just weapons and gimmicks? Most didn't even invent them themselves. Why not just take the gizmos away?"

 

That , I should think, goes to the imaginations of Flash writers John Broome and Gardner Fox.  Too bad we can't ask them.

 

 

"We all know that the world-famous Elongated Man was the only super-hero to publicly reveal his true identity but when did Ralph learn the Flash's real name?"

 

Pre-Crisis, I don't think there ever was a Big Reveal, in which the Flash disclosed his secret identity to the Elongated Man.  Most likely, Ralph learnt it, behind the scenes, when he became a Justice League member, since that occurred during the period when it was (foolishly) decided that the JLA members should share their secret ID's with each other.

 

And since I'm needed elsewhere right now, I'll get back with you later on your other questions.  In the meantime, I hope this helps.

Picking up where the Commander left off: 

Did Barry own a car? I know that it's an odd question but why would Barry spend money on something he didn't really need? Clark Kent never bought a car!

It's an odd question because you're not really thinking it through. Clark didn't need glasses or an apartment, but he had them. Clark lived in Metropolis, which was pretty cosmopolitan and provided good public transportation, so he might've gotten away with saying he used the bus. I don't think that was the case with Central City. So Barry without a car would've been difficult--although taking all those buses would've given him a good reason to always be late.

Plus, it's hard to take luggage on vacation, bring home a new TV or do many other lugging of things when you're the Flash running into Barry's apartment with stuff that would burn up in the heat. Not to mention taking a girl on a date. Having a car isn't just a getting-somewhere issue for a guy who can run real fast. If nothing else, he may have had a company-issued car to help him get to crime scenes. But he'd probably want a car, Flash or not, and he had a pretty good job.

The first image of Barry in a car that comes to mind is him driving off on his honeymoon in Flash #165. It could be Iris' car, but he's driving. There may be others, it'd just take some thinking to figure out when and where.

Why did the writers always make going to Earth-Two such a big deal over in Justice League of America when the Flash did it so easy in his own mag?

Visiting Earth-2 took vibrating all your molecules at just exactly the right speed. As the Master of Molecules, Flash remembered that speed and could replicate it reasonably easily. The others, despite all their powers, couldn't do it as well. GL *may* have just been able to say to his ring "Take me to Earth-2" and it figured out what it needed, but maybe it was just knowledgeable, like Siri, and not all-powerful in being able to simply do it. The Atom could shrink, he couldn't vibrate.

What I find astonishing is that now, a lot of scientists follow "string theory" which postulates that all matter is made up of tiny little strings vibrating at different speeds--and that as a result, there are other universes (possibly 11) all vibrating at different speeds connected to ours. I should've paid more attention to my SA comics and less to my science class! OK, I was doing that anyway, but still.

Was there any evidence that Flash possessed any sort of super-strength? I mean I wouldn't want to be kicked by that guy!!

He obviously was partially invulnerable, or his hip, knee and ankle joints would’ve worn away. Intaking oxygen took something different too, I imagine. So he had more powers than was usually acknowledged. Some of those might be written off to his "aura," however that worked.

He often lowered someone to the ground or lifted heavy weights by whipping his arms around to create wind drafts, but I don’t think he could arm-wrestle Superman or anything with just sheer muscle power, despite the workout his legs got circling the globe. Certainly, Infantino drew him with a pretty sleek physique.

Why didn't the Flash have any of the depth of background that Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman had?

Short answer: Julie Schwartz. He wasn’t a baggage kind of guy like Weisinger was with Superman, or a goofy anything-goes guy like Kanigher was with WW. If you compare Flash to Schwartz’s other heroes: GL, Atom, Hawkman, they’re much the same way. No Imaginary Stories, no imps, no bits of business always cropping up.

As to why Julie took that approach, he was a sci-fi guy, and a lot of that other stuff delved into fantasy and other kinds of stories that he didn’t like so much, I guess. Those were all plot-starters, and Julie probably didn’t think he needed them and they cheapened the stories. He did do a “dream” story for Flash, but only the one, and one “imp” story. That was enough.

Why didn't All-American Comics sue him for calling himself "The Flash"?

It was no doubt out of business. Or, it liked the notion of a super-hero with the same name as their comic. Or, they tried to sue him but couldn’t serve him the papers and didn’t know who he was and couldn’t just put the name “Flash” on the legal papers and expect it to hold up, since when he didn’t show up they wouldn’t know where to go get him.

Or, Jay Garrick came over from Earth-2 and told them that if they sued Barry, he’d sue them back for way more for using his likeness and adventures and for revealing his identity. Or, Earth-1 laws don’t allow super-heroes to be sued.

Or, they did sue him and then Superman showed up with some amnesium and made them forget that they had ever put out a Flash comic. Or, Wonder Woman showed up and lassoed them all with her lasso and made them reveal embarrassing things about themselves that she threatened to reveal if they sued him. Or, Bruce Wayne bought the Flash comic copyright and gave it to Barry. I may be running low here, but something there should handle things.

-- MSA

If I got doused with every chemical known to man AND got struck by lightning and gained super-speed, then dubbed myself the Flash, I'm sure that I would get a cease-and-desist order from Time Warners, the meanies!

Probably so, but if you changed your name to The Flash--or Super Man or Bat Man, there's not much they could do. Nic Cage named his kid Kal-El Cage, and they couldn't sue him.

And again, even in our world, if you did don a super-suit and flash around calling yourself The Flash, how is Time-Warner ever going to sue you? They'd have to catch you to serve you, and you probably wouldn't be hanging out somewhere they would anticipate seeing you, unless you and they show up at every fire or hostage standoff. Even then, you could just bounce around so fast they could never catch you. And then once they serve you, you could just ignore it and say they must've served some other masked guy calling himself The Flash, because you never got it.

Frankly, I think by now if you did get super-speed, you'd have to call yourself "Super Speed Guy," because every other name that denotes something really fast has been used. And that includes "The Whizzer."

-- MSA

Mr. Age said: Frankly, I think by now if you did get super-speed, you'd have to call yourself "Super Speed Guy," because every other name that denotes something really fast has been used. And that includes "The Whizzer."

This reminds me of something that came to mind recently as I was reading Showcase Presents The Spectre. DC was fond of using descriptive nicknames for its characters on second reference. Spectre was the Discarnate Detective or the Ghostly Guardian, etc.

I'm assuming the nicknames weren't protected by copyright law, so in theory, could Archie, Tower, even Marvel, have come out with a super-team comic featuring Scarlet Speedster, Man of Steel, Caped Crusader, Emerald Gladiator, Sea King, Girl Gladiator and Son of Mars?

Hoy

Did Barry own a car? I know that it's an odd question but why would Barry spend money on something he didn't really need? Clark Kent never bought a car!



I know by the time the Bronze Age rolled around he did. I read an issue last year where he was loading stuff into his car from his garage. 

I am significantly chastised about Barry and his car. But man, I can't picture him enjoying driving and being caught in a traffic jam!

Barry's occupation as "Police Scientist" has been seared into my brain. Solving these mysterious crimes in Central City, I wonder if they had police scientists in Gotham? But then again why bother?

Actually it was the Earth-Two Atom that travelled interdimensionally with his *ahem* "atomic vibrator."

I think there were different concepts of alternative universes in earlier SF, and DC's Earth Two concept was influenced by more than one of these. One concept, which goes back at least as far as The Blind Spot by Austin Hall and Homer Eon Flint, is that different universes might exist in the same space. A passage I've seen from this work speaks of the universes as able to coexist because of all the space there supposedly is in an atom. The work first appeared in Argosy All-Story Weekly in 1921. I don't know where the notion that the universes might be separated by different vibratory speeds goes back to, but I was just reading in Mike Ashley's and Robert A.W. Lowndes's The Gernsback Days a reference to its use in a story of Ray Cummings's in the first issue of Astounding Stories of Super-Science. According to Ashley it was a "theme popular at the time".

 

Why alternative universes came to be spoken of as other dimensions I don't know for sure. It might be from the notion that other continuums might have a different number of dimensions to ours. This goes back at least as far as Flatland: A Romance in Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott Abbott (1884), which is only short, easily found on the net and worth the read.

 

In the early 20th century time was often spoken of as the fourth dimension. H.G. Wells had already used this notion in The Time Machine [1895]. Cubists were/are sometimes seen as concerned with painting the fourth dimension. (According to this page "To know an object from different points of view takes time, because you move the object around in space or you move the object in space. Therefore to depict multiple views (simultaneity) implies the Fourth Dimension (time)." I doubt this is what the Cubists were really doing.)

 

Incidentally, DC in the 60s had at least three different concepts of alternative universes. In Julie Schwartz's titles there was the Earth One, Two etc. system but also alternative universes with non-parallel civilisations (e.g. in Green Lantern #13 [the first Flash/GL team-up - I can't remember off-hand exactly how this one's relationship to our world is described], Justice League of America #13, The Flash #135 [=the story in which Kid Flash got his second costume], and the universe Dorella comes from in the second story in The Flash #157). In the Super-books there existed an infinite number of parallel universes with parallel versions of Earth. The story in Green Lantern #27 involved a series of planes that get progressively more distant from ours, but that was a one-off.

Clark Kent never bought a car!

In the TV show he was often shown driving a car. A pretty cool one too, in my opinion!

Andy

 a super-team comic featuring Scarlet Speedster, Man of Steel, Caped Crusader, Emerald Gladiator, Sea King, Girl Gladiator and Son of Mars

For most of those, I think they could do it. Man of Steel I think is copyright, as probably is Dynamic Duo, as they've both been used for titles. The rest probably are up for grabs. And some of the available nicknames were pretty esoteric: Vizier of Velocity, Pinioned Paladin. They sound more like descriptions than names, though.

But man, I can't picture him enjoying driving and being caught in a traffic jam!

I understand the image, but which super-hero would enjoy that? They all had better means of transportation in their other identity, but they still had the trappings they needed. Hal Jordan drove away from Ferriss Aircraft in a station wagon, of all things. Peter Parker drove a motorcycle, and Tony Stark had his own chauffeur! He was getting stuck in traffic and wasn't even driving. 

The story in Green Lantern #27 involved a series of planes that get progressively more distant from ours, but that was a one-off.

Thanks for the universe info, Luke! I had a discussion with a friend of mine who is heavily into SF, and he couldn't think of an earlier alternative-universe kind of situation as Schwartz developed that appeared  in SF.

In GL #42, the Zatanna issue, there was a war between two universes, one in which the universe was expanding and the other where it was in a steady state. At the time, those were the two theories of how our own universe was operating. Nowadays, we know the expanding theory won out. But I don't think I'd learned those concepts in science class by the time I was reading them in GL.

Except now they know the universe is expanding faster than anything can explain, which negates the original ideas on how it will end (slowing to a stop or reaching an end point and snapping back). The best explanation for how it happens is: other universes. So Jay Garrick might be out there somewhere, reading Flash comics. 

-- MSA

Why didn't the Flash have any of the depth of background that Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman had?

 

Adding on to Mr. Age's answer, one basic difference between the Flash and most of the other Silver Age heroes was that Barry Allen was just a regular guy, with no pretensions of grandeur (although there was a Flash Museum in Central City, Barry had nothing to do with it). Barry's boyhood hero, Jay Garrick, didn't go in for gimmicks or secret hideaways, and so neither did Barry. He was a Midwestern guy who already had a good life for himself before he gained his superpowers, so rather than sacrificing that good life for the sake of "getting away from it all," all he had to do was suck his costume back into his ring, and voila, he was back to the real world he loved.

I can't delve into this as deeply as I want to, but I'll dip in quickly:

 

Titles can't be copyrighted. If you wanted to write a book about a tornado plowing through your home and scattering your comics collection to the four corners of the Earth, and call it, say, "Gone With the Wind," have at it. There are issues about confusion in the marketplace, where somebody who bought your book might be expecting a historical romance about the Civil War, but you can't judge a book by its cover, right?

 

That said, titles can be and often are trademarked, and that brings with it a whole set of legal entanglements that I couldn't begin to describe.  



Dave Blanchard said:

Why didn't the Flash have any of the depth of background that Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman had?

 

Adding on to Mr. Age's answer, one basic difference between the Flash and most of the other Silver Age heroes was that Barry Allen was just a regular guy, with no pretensions of grandeur (although there was a Flash Museum in Central City, Barry had nothing to do with it). Barry's boyhood hero, Jay Garrick, didn't go in for gimmicks or secret hideaways, and so neither did Barry. He was a Midwestern guy who already had a good life for himself before he gained his superpowers, so rather than sacrificing that good life for the sake of "getting away from it all," all he had to do was suck his costume back into his ring, and voila, he was back to the real world he loved.

I'd also suggest that in some ways he did... but since Schwartz was a different sort of editor than Weisinger, the background elements were different, and less noticeable (and less branded to the specific character, like Krypto or Batwoman). Schwartz didn't mine Barry's origins -- as you mention, he was just a regular guy who got caught in a freak accident -- but he did furnish him with recurring background elements such as Gorilla City, the Flash Museum, the Cosmic Treadmill, the Flash Ring, villains so developed that many (but not all, which I find interesting) formed a society, allies like Elongated Man and Kid Flash, and frankly, the whole of Earth-2. There was plenty of worldbuilding going on in Central City, but very little of it wore the Flash insignia.

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