Mail from fans thrilled over Green Lantern # 13 (Jun., 1962) and The Flash # 131 (Sep., 1962) hit editor Julius Schwartz’s desk like an avalanche. It was early enough in the Silver Age that having two super-heroes meet and team-up was still an uncommon, and exciting, event. As tempting as it might have been to make the Flash-G.L. team a regular feature, Schwartz believed that familiarity bred, if not contempt, then certainly boredom. Instead, regular-but-infrequent doses of popular concepts, such as the annual Justice League/Justice Society cross-overs, would keep the fans’ appetites whetted for more.
Following that template, a joint Flash-G.L. adventure would appear nearly every year, alternating titles, throughout the rest of the decade. “Parasite Planet Peril”, from Green Lantern # 20 (Apr., 1963), saw the two Justice League pals once again drawn together in a crisis.
This “book-length novel” begins with trouble already in full bloom. As reported by a Coast City television newsman, California has been hit by an incredible malady called the “vanishing plague”. Across the state, the afflicted individuals first become pale, followed by an inexplicable and steady loss of substance until, within hours, they vanish from sight completely. So far, at least forty people have succumbed to the mysterious illness.
As scientists and public-health officials organise to tackle the problem, the authorities request the help of local super-hero, Green Lantern, and that of the Fastest Man Alive, the Flash. Also involved in the emergency are Carol Ferris, serving as a volunteer nurse, and Iris West, who has arrived in Coast City to report on the plague for her paper, the Picture News.
By now, after two vacations together, the ladies have become quite chummy and, during their down time, have a little girl-talk about their respective relationships with Hal Jordan and Barry Allen.
At the report of the next outbreak, the Flash whisks a stricken man to the hospital, where Green Lantern attempts to stem the plague’s effects with his power ring. Though the Emerald Crusader gives it everything he’s got, he’s unable to prevent the latest victim from fading away. On top of that, he’s too preoccupied to worry about the fact that he’s not feeling too good himself. He’s light-headed and white as a sheet, and it dawns on the Flash that it’s not because G.L. skipped breakfast that morning.
Yes, Green Lantern has the vanishing plague! For some reason, it’s affecting him at an accelerated rate, and as his strength of will lapses, he gives the Flash his power ring. The Scarlet Speedster pushes out every bit of green energy out of the ring that he can, but like before, it’s futile, and the Green-clad Gladiator vanishes before the Flash’s eyes.
The Flash kicks it into super-high gear. Suspecting a microörganism may be the culprit, he falls back on his expertise as a police scientist. Taking a tissue sample from one of the plague victims, he uses the power ring to magnify it a million-fold---and is stunned to discover the existence of an alien humanoid at the sub-atomic level. The Flash immediately uses the ring to shrink himself down to that infinitesimal size.
The Scarlet Speedster arrives to discover that Green Lantern and all of the other vanishing-plague victims are alive and well on this sub-atomic world, called Mikridion. G.L. gives his teammate the low-down.
Two native races cohabit Mikridion. One, the Mikrids, uses a form of mental radiation to enslave the other, the Bowerds. However, the mental energy required to do this is staggering and is nearly exhausted. In order to prevent a revolt by the Bowerds, the Mikrids kidnapped people from our outer world by shrinking them to their own sub-atomic size. Once here, the victims’ brain power was leeched and used to replenish the Mikrids’ mental energy.
The Flash returns Green Lantern’s ring, and together, the two super-heroes clean house. The story would be over by the end of chapter two---except for one thing. The Mikrids transport Iris West and Carol Ferris to their world and wire them to a device called “the devastator”. If the Flash uses his super-speed, or the Lantern, his ring, the devastator will detect it and automatically disintegrate Iris and Carol.
As it turns out, that’s not such a problem for Our Heroes. They simply do it the old-fashioned way, with fists. So accustomed to keeping their foes under mental domination, the Mikrids aren’t prepared for active resistance. It doesn’t take much more than “Look, your shoelace is untied!” for the Flash and G.L. to clobber the villains and rescue their girlfriends from the devastator.
They leave the freed Bowerds in charge and, one power-beam zap later, the Flash, Green Lantern, Iris, Carol, and all of the other kidnapped Earthlings are back home. Just in time for Hal Jordan and Carol to keep a double-date with Barry Allen and Iris. The fellows do the best they can to look surprised after making the mistake of asking the girls, “So, how did your day go?”
It’s just one panel, but it’s enough to remind the readers that the Flash and Green Lantern are just as much buddies when they’re Barry and Hal. In fact, they’re more extended socially by the fact that their significant others, Iris and Carol, have become gal pals, as well.
There are other signs that the camaraderie of the two super-heroes is growing. The Lantern confides to the Flash that he keeps his power battery hidden in his hangar at Ferris Aircraft. And when entrusted with the power ring, the Crimson Comet recalls G.L.’s earlier explanations on how the ring is activated by will power.
The next year’s Flash-G.L. offering---“Trail of the False Green Lanterns”, from The Flash # 143 (Mar., 1964)---opens by presenting police scientist Barry Allen with a baffling dilemma. Central City cops have arrested four men for brawling on a public street. That’s not the weird part. The kicker is all four of them are identical in dress and physical appearance---and each gives his name as Hal Jordan!
When Barry “casually” drops by the room where the men are being held, he sees four carbon copies of his friend, who should be half-a-country away, in Coast City. So identical are the four Hals that Barry cannot tell them apart, even after the real Jordan sends him a telepathic message via his power ring. It’s only when Barry spots the faint glow of the power ring that he pinpoints the genuine article.
Barry arranges for the real Hal to be released in his custody, and once alone, Jordan tells his chum that he’s as much in the dark as Barry is. Hal had been test-flying the X-35, a new ship manufactured by Ferris Aircraft. His mission was to fly the X-35 to the rim of space and then land it at a Ferris field near Central City. Since he was in the neighbourhood, Hal explains, he decided to pay Barry a visit. That’s when things took a bizarre twist. While walking toward police headquarters, Hal was ambushed on the street by his three look-alikes and forced to duke it out with them.
But the rugged test pilot has no more idea where his three doubles came from than Barry does. They change to their super-hero identities to solve the mystery.
It doesn’t stay a mystery long, however. Before they get started on their investigation, Green Lantern and the Flash zip out to the west coast, so G.L. can recharge his ring at his power battery. He barely finishes his oath when he and the Scarlet Speedster are confronted by a trio of Green Lanterns, the same three who had been Hal Jordans back in Central City.
“It was no trouble escaping from our cells,” they explain. “We simply willed ourselves to become invisible and flew off! Since we have become Hal Jordan and Green Lantern---we have all his powers and then some!”
The three G.L. doubles are more than glad to divulge what’s going on.
They were brought into existence by a man named Thomas Oscar Morrow. Morrow, a scientist, had devoted his career to inventing a machine by which he could travel through time. The best he had been able to accomplish, however, was to create a device which permitted him to view future ages.
With this capability, Morrow studied the creation of future inventions---what would be scientific marvels in our own time---and then copied them in his lab. And Morrow had no compunctions about using those futuristic devices to rob and steal undetected.
While Hal Jordan was piloting the X-35 on the edge of space, Morrow chose that moment to test his latest purloined invention, a duplicator. Morrow trained the ray of the duplicator on the X-35’s cockpit and, instantaneously, three identical replicas of Hal Jordan materialised in his lab. And not just physically alike. Each duplicate possessed the same knowledge, skills, and memories of the real Hal Jordan---and by extension, the Green Lantern.
Morrow discovered his lucky break when he forced the duplicates to reveal their knowledge by threatening to turn off the duplicator, which would immediately end their existences. This inspired Morrow. The criminal scientist had become bored with how easy it was for him to steal and he wanted a challenge. He sent the three duplicates to Central City to assault Hal Jordan, knowing it would lure Green Lantern and the Flash into his scheme. The goal? A battle of super-skills, in which the super-heroes would fight to prevent the three false Green Lanterns from stealing the world’s greatest treasures.
The trio of replica G.L.’s announce that they will, separately, attempt to steal the Mona Lisa, the Statue of Liberty, and a rare collexion of British gold coins. They challenge the Flash and the real Green Lantern to stop them.
Oh, by the way, they add helpfully, T. O. Morrow made some improvements on the power ring. Thanks to future technology, their power rings are not stymied by the colour yellow.
And it’s on! The three duplicate G.L.’s zoom away at blinding speed, with Green Lantern and the Flash in hot pursuit. The Scarlet Speedster catches up with one of their quarries in Paris, where the replica has used his power ring to suspend the Louvre in mid-air. With the aid of a cannon and some super-speed aeronautics, the Flash surprises the duplicate G.L. on the museum floor.
To his dismay, the false Green Lantern learns that even an improved power ring is no match for the Fastest Man on Earth. It’s still a close thing, though, before the Flash finally manages to kayo the duplicate. Then he takes the phoney’s power ring and uses it to imprison him in a green cage.
In New York, the real Green Lantern interrupts one of the duplicates lifting the Statue of Liberty with a pair of giant power-ringed tongs. The Emerald Crusader is outmatched by his evil counterpart’s enhanced ring, which hurls yellow-coloured explosive projectiles his way.
As he inevitably does, G.L. finds a way around the yellow weakness of his ring, detonating the explosives harmlessly in New York Harbor. Then he takes out his evil "twin" in a surprise attack and rescues Lady Liberty. Part Two winds up with that duplicate in a power-ringed cage, as well.
Part Three sees the Flash and Green Lantern meeting while they cross the Atlantic, on their way to foil the last robbery in London. To the readers who have been paying attention, a huge clue about the upcoming battle is given when G.L. makes it easier for the Flash to hurl across the choppy seas by power-ringing a ramp for his buddy to run on.
The Flash catches on, though. That’s why, in London, when he finds himself waylayed by two false Green Lanterns, instead of one, the Scarlet Speedster isn’t taken unaware. Instead, it’s the phoney G.L.’s who get slack-jawed, when the real Emerald Gladiator arrives in the proverbial nick.
From a monitor in his hide-out, T. O. Morrow observes the failure of the false Green Lanterns and switches off the duplicating machine, causing the replicas to fade out of existence. Our Heroes aren’t left holding the bag, though. They still have the power ring the Flash took from the duplicate G.L. in Paris. It didn’t vanish when the carbon-copy Lanterns did. Green Lantern commands the duplicate ring to lead them to Morrow’s secret lab.
A clever trick, but Morrow is even cleverer. The criminal scientist has a trick of his own, a lethal one, waiting on the Flash and Green Lantern when they arrive. There’s a nice big explosion, but thanks to some super-speed work by the Scarlet Speedster, all Morrow succeeds in doing is demolishing most of his futuristic machinery. The villain makes a run for it, but trips and plunges into an exposed coil. One blinding shower of electricity later, Morrow goes up in smoke.
“Is that the end of him,” Green Lantern says grimly, “or has he tricked us some other way?”
It turned out to be the latter. T. O. Morrow would resurface four years later as the villain behind the 1968 Justice League/Justice Society adventure that saw the creation of the Red Tornado.
“Trail of the False Green Lanterns” shows the friendship between the two heroes has firmly taken root. They’re familiar with each others’ abilities and weaknesses, enough to know instantly when something isn’t right. An easy sense of trust runs through their mutual undertakings. At the police station, Hal Jordan is confident that Barry will single him out from his three doppelgängers. And the Flash never doubts that G.L. will arrive in London in time so save him from the evil duplicates.
The last three Flash-G.L. team-ups of the Silver Age take advantage of the impact of their friendship on those around them. We’ll have a look at those on the next go-round.