In my last entry, I mentioned the close friendship between the Silver-Age Superman and Batman. In fact, it started long before the Silver Age. If you count all media, their friendship began in 1945, on the Adventures of Superman radio programme. And it was validated in the comics in 1954, when the heroes began teaming up in the pages of World’s Finest Comics. By the time Mort Weisinger got his hands on World’s Finest, the idea that the Man of Steel and the Cowled Crusader were pals was a given.
The “super-hero buddies” concept has a host of benefits. A visiting hero adds zing to a writer’s plot. And it allows for some cross-pollination. If Wombat Man appears in an issue of Captain Spatula, then Wombat Man fans will probably buy that issue and might become fans of the Captain, as well. Or the other way ‘round.
It also appeals to the youthful readers’ mythologising of their comics favourites. Showing Wombat Man and Captain Spatula to be good buds is one of those Neat Ideas that youngsters glom onto. The same goes for establishing that the two great heroes share the same universe. And editors are keen about such things.
At least, Julius Schwartz was. Schwartz is regarded as the architect of the Silver Age. It was his revival and refit of the Flash, in 1956, which most consider to be the launching point of the Silver Age. With his revision of the Green Lantern in 1959, the era was off and running. Schwartz followed up with modern versions of other Golden-Age stars---the Atom and Hawkman---but The Flash and Green Lantern were the flagships of his editorial fleet of magazines. Given Julie's sharp editorial instincts, it was inevitable that, sooner or later, his top stars would team up for an adventure.
It took a couple of years, but it finally happened in Green Lantern # 13 (Jun., 1962). It wasn’t the first meeting of the Flash and the Green Lantern, of course; that had happened when the Justice League of America was introduced two years earlier. But the Scarlet Speedster and the Emerald Gladiator had never bumped into each other outside of a JLA meeting before.
The title of the story---“The Duel of the Super-Heroes”---played to another favourite topic of young comics-fans’ backyard discussions: if two heroes were to fight, who would beat whom? The narrative text on the splash page made that clear:
The mighty Flash---and invincible Green Lantern---pitted against each other? How could such a situation possibly arise---when both champions have always fought on the side of justice against evil?
The stage is set when Barry (the Flash) Allen’s girl friend, reporter Iris West, is assigned to do an interview with top-notch Ferris Aircraft test pilot Hal Jordan. The story doesn’t show how Iris manages it, but she wrangles an invitation from Carol Ferris for her and Barry to join Carol and Hal out west for a vacation at a luxury resort near Coast City.
Hal Jordan is secretly the Green Lantern, and he returns to Earth from a space mission barely in time to make the drive to the resort with his buddy, Pieface. Pie, a Ferris mechanic and the only person on Earth to know of Jordan’s dual identity, and his wife have also been invited to the resort. He tells Hal about the addition of Barry and Iris to the party. Since Hal was looking forward to using the vacation time to put the moves on Carol Ferris, he takes the news of a third couple---including a lady reporter who wants to pin him down for an interview---with a certain amount of reservation.
Pieface has his own concerns. He’s noticed that Hal doesn’t seem to be all there. He’s forgetful and he misstates his oath when he recharges his power ring before leaving for the beach. He doesn’t get any better when they get to the resort and introductions are made all around. When Hal learns that Barry and Iris come from Central City, the ace test pilot fixes Barry with an intense stare and blurts, “Isn’t that where the Flash hails from, too?”
Even Barry, who’s known Hal for less than an hour, realises something isn’t quite right about him. “I’m beginning to think this Hal Jordan is an odd one!” he reflects.
What Pieface and Barry Allen don’t know---but we, the readers, do---is that, on his way back to Earth, Green Lantern was shang-haied by a warrior race called the Spectarns, who reside on a world in another dimension. The dimensional barrier between Earth and Spectar can be penetrated only by moving at a speed faster than light. The Spectarns’ original plot was to capture G.L. and seize his power ring, enabling them to pierce the barrier, invade the Earth, and conquer it.
That idea was scratched when the aliens discovered that they could not remove the ring from his finger, or duplicate it. Submitting the Emerald Crusader to a mind-probe, they discovered the existence of the Flash. That gave them a “Plan B”. With their mind-probing device, the Spectarns implanted a post-hypnotic command in G.L.’s brain: return to Earth, capture the Flash, and bring him back to their world. Then, the Spectarns will diagnose the secret of the Crimson Comet’s super-speed with their “computo-analyzer” and duplicate it.
Back at the Sea Palace Resort, Jordan is still acting loopy. In the midst of their socialising, Hal walks away from the group and stays away for some time. He does this every four hours. Out of concern, Pieface speaks to Barry Allen privately and tells him as much as he can about Hal’s other odd behaviours without revealing his secret identity. Barry agrees to help, and the next time Hal wanders off, the police scientist follows at a discreet distance.
Barry sees Jordan enter a seaside cave and goes in after him. From hiding, he sees Hal change into Green Lantern. Deciding he can help his Justice League pal more as the Flash than as Barry Allen, he dons his scarlet costume at super-speed and approaches the Emerald Gladiator.
Big mistake! As soon as Green Lantern spies the Flash, the full force of the hypnotic command takes over his mind and he launches an attack. For the next six pages, it’s a super-powered contest between G.L’s power ring and the Flash’s super-speed. The first round ends when the Scarlet Speedster eludes the Lantern by changing back to Barry Allen and mingling with the pedestrians on a city street.
G.L. draws his quarry out by power-ringing a mirage of a tidal wave about to hit Coast City. To save lives, Barry changes back to the Flash and finds the Lantern waiting in ambush. Only a handy yellow beach umbrella saves the speedster’s bacon that time. (As all Green Lantern fans knew, due to a necessary impurity in the materials from which it was made, G.L.’s power ring had no effect on anything coloured yellow---and there always seemed to be a lot of yellow things around wherever he went.)
It dawns on the Flash that the best way to find out what has affected his fellow JLA member is to let himself get caught, which he does. G.L. delivers the Flash to the Spectarns, who immobilise him in order for their computers to analyse the nature of his super-speed. The aliens then erase Green Lantern’s memories of his encounter with them and send him back to Earth. (No, the Spectarns weren’t that stupid; they tried to kill G.L. first, but discovered that his power-ring protected him from all mortal harm.)
Back on Earth, Green Lantern changes back to Hal Jordan and drives out to the Sea Palace Resort, where he learns that his sense of time is a day late and a whole grunch of memories short. He has Pieface make excuses to the others while he ducks out and orders his power ring to inform him of what happened to him over the last twenty-four hours.
Once up to speed, G.L. zips back over to Spectar, frees the Flash, and together, they make quick work of the Spectarns. As soon as they’re back home, the Scarlet Speedster feels that, since he discovered that Green Lantern is Hal Jordan, it’s only fair that he reveals his secret identity to him. And he does.
The last panel of the story included a blurb informing the readers that “The Duel of the Super-Heroes” was the first of a proposed series of stories featuring the two heroes working as a team. “If you would like to see more of this dynamic duo in action, let us know!” the fans were asked.
Not surprisingly, the fans liked the idea, and there would be six more Flash-Green Lantern adventures over the course of the Silver Age. Like the Superman-Batman team-ups, these stories were real treats, and gradually, the friendship between the Scarlet Speedster and the Green Gladiator became almost as popularly known as that of the World’s Finest Team. But with some significant differences.
First, there was a relatively equal power-balance between the Flash and G.L. This made it easier for the writers---John Broome and Gardner Fox---to make their team-ups plausible. This was unlike the Superman-Batman pairings, in which the plots often had to be skewed awkwardly in order to keep the near-omnipotent Man of Steel from making his non-powered chum superfluous.
The close friendship between the Flash and Green Lantern worked a little differently in another way. While Superman and Batman were known to be tight buds, there was rarely any interaction between their civilian selves, as Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne. It was established that, publically, Kent and Wayne knew each other and occasionally they met on the street or something. But the mild-mannered reporter and the millionaire playboy were never seen palling around together.
On the other hand, Barry Allen and Hal Jordan were close friends to each other as much as the Flash and G.L. were. In fact, most of their subsequent team-ups resulted from their civilian ID’s hanging out together, usually in the form of double-dates with Iris West and Carol Ferris. The stories built on this, with Iris and Carol becoming gal pals of their own.
This growing relationship is what set up the next joint Flash-G.L. adventure, “Captives of the Cosmic Ray”, from The Flash # 131 (Sep., 1962). It’s vacation time again, and Carol and Hal have invited Barry and Iris to Carol’s spacious Coast City estate. The fellows are making a “week-end warrior” event of it, too, indulging in a series of sporting competitions. At the start of the tale, Barry has beaten Hal in tennis and swimming, while Hal has come out on top in golf and billiards. (You wouldn’t have expected Barry Allen to be that much of a sportsman, but it goes a long way to explaining how a dashing, he-man test pilot and a quiet, unassuming police scientist get along so well.)
The deciding activity is an archery contest, but before either man can release his first shaft, a flying saucer zooms low across the Ferris estate, headed toward Coast City. While the girls duck for cover, Barry and Hal duck into a cabana, switch to their super-hero identities, and take off after the saucer. When they catch up to it, the Flash is caught in a tractor beam and is dragged off by the mysterious ship. Green Lantern follows it through a space-warp to an alien world.
The Crimson Comet and the Emerald Crusader become separated and each has a time of it, as the very world seems to come to life to attack them. Snow storms, deadly phantoms, intensified gravity, lava flows, and a hostile, sentient mountain. Separately and as a team, Our Heroes survive and having found that the saucer which brought them there was automatically programmed, with no-one on board, they decide to get out while the getting is good.
Once back on Earth, a stunned Flash and G.L. discover that our world has been conquered in their absence---by an alien race called the Myrmitons. And in record time too, since the super-heroes were gone for only a couple of hours. They are confronted by the alien leader, who reveals that they were deliberately lured away from Earth to keep them from interfering with the Myrmitons’ invasion. (I guess the rest of the Justice League was away on a space mission that week-end.)
The Myrmiton leader threatens to annihilate the Earth with a cosmic-ray weapon, unless Green Lantern surrenders his power ring and the Flash submits to a ray designed to remove his super-speed. With no other choice, they capitulate.
Rather, they seem to. At the last nano-second, the Flash pulls a super-speed trick that preserves both heroes’ powers while making the Myrmitons believe they are helpless. There is still the matter of the cosmic-ray death device, but this time, it’s the Emerald Gladiator who comes up with the plan to deal with that. It works, of course, and the Myrmitons wind up on the same would-be-conqueror scrap heap as the Spectarns did.
Back on the Ferris estate, Barry and Hal explain their absence to Iris and Carol by claiming to have been captured by the Myrmitons. “In a way, at least, it’s true,” thinks Hal. Oh, and as for the archery contest, both Barry and Hal keep missing their targets and agree to call their competition a tie.
“I don’t get it,” ponders a puzzled Carol Ferris. “It’s as if . . . each was trying to let the other win!”
“Captives of the Cosmic Ray” showed a true friendship developing between the Flash and Green Lantern, more than the usual pro forma smiles and handshakes whenever two Silver-Age DC heroes met. Next time out, we’ll take at how that played a part in the rest of their Silver-Age team-ups.