Editor Julius Schwartz’s instincts had been on the money. By the mid-1960’s, fans of the Flash and Green Lantern eagerly anticipated the regular spectacle of seeing their favourite heroes go into action together. Writers John Broome and Gardner Fox had done a splendid job of building a friendship between Barry Allen and Hal Jordan, one that extended to others in their personal lives, like Iris West and Carol Ferris and Pieface. By now, it was completely believable to see them hanging out together.
For whatever reason, there was no Flash-Green Lantern team-up in 1965, but the following year saw the two JLA pals in another adventure that used their social lives as a springboard.
In fact, it’s another get-together between Barry and Iris and Hal and Carol which kicks off the events of “The Catastrophic Crimes of Major Disaster”, from Green Lantern # 43 (Mar., 1966). The girls have set this one up. The two couples will meet in Pineaire City, halfway between Central City and Coast City. But before they leave their respective hometowns, both fellows get the surprise of their lives.
In Coast City, Carol Ferris informs Hal Jordan that she knows the dashing test pilot is really the Green Lantern. She knows that he keeps his power battery hidden in his hangar and she even knows the words to his oath. Not having as much experience with these kind of in-your-face confrontations as Clark Kent has with Lois Lane, Hal responds with an unconvincing “Wha—wha—wha?”
Plausible deniability shot all to hell, Hal ‘fesses up and demands to know how Carol found out his secrets. She shows him a dossier she received in the morning mail. It’s got it all---dates, cases, peoples’ names—written down. Jordan’s been busted by someone. A thousand miles away, in Central City, Barry Allen is receiving the same astonishing news from his fiancée, Iris West. She got a delivery in the mail that spilled the beans on her boyfriend being the Flash.
Carol promises Hal that she will never reveal his secrets. Ditto from Iris about Barry. So, of course, the instant the foursome meets in Pineaire City, the two girls blab to each other about who their boyfriends really are. “We just had to tell each other!” says Carol, as if it was totally reasonable.
Fortunately, the two heroes don’t have to sit there and stew for very long. Suddenly, an earthquake erupts in Pineaire City. The Flash and G.L. go to work saving lives and property. Amidst putting out fires and shielding pedestrians from falling masonry, Our Heroes spot a trio of men in strange uniforms looting a bank. Incredibly, they find that their super-powers fail to affect the crooks.
Worse yet, the Scarlet Speedster and the Emerald Crusader inexplicably fall unconscious. When they awaken, they discover that they have lost their super-powers.
It’s all part of a plot by a brand-new super-villain called Major Disaster, who uses a “stress-null-beam” device to induce natural disasters wherever he wishes. When he was still a petty hoodlum named Paul Booker, he accidentally discovered the hiding place of the Green Lantern Casebook, a journal of the Emerald Gladiator’s adventures kept by his confidant, Pieface. Upgrading his operations, Booker became Major Disaster and intends to use the stress-null-beam to loot Coast City.
With his knowledge of Green Lantern and the Flash’s private lives, learnt from the casebook, Major Disaster waited until their next social gathering, then sent Iris and Carol the secret-laden dossiers. In Pineaire City, Disaster intended to eliminate G.L. and the Flash as threats, by removing their super-powers with the stress-null-beam.
Instead, the beam swapped their powers---the Flash’s super-speed was transferred to G.L., while the speedster was imbued with the green force of the power ring. But that’s O.K. with Major Disaster, as long as the two heroes don’t know that.
Fortunately for the good guys, they do figure it out and go into action using each other’s abilities. In the meantime, the Lantern realises that his buddy Pie’s casebook is the source of the secret information sent to their girlfriends. This leads to a priceless exchange between the two heroes. When G.L. reveals that he tells Pieface every detail about his adventures for the case book---every detail---the Flash looks royally hacked off at his pal. “You mean---you confided my secret identity to him?! But you had no right to----“
Relax, G.L. tells him. He took care of that angle; he used his power ring to block out Pie’s memory of the Flash’s secret identity.
But what if somebody else reads the casebook?
Our Heroes, along with Iris and Carol, make tracks for Coast City. They arrive in time to witness a full-blown meteor shower hit town, courtesy of Major Disaster. The Flash and G.L. handle that emergency, then head over to Pieface’s house, where the Power-Ringed Paladin catches more grief from the Eskimo mechanic.
Using his forensic knowledge as a police scientist, the Flash lifts a fingerprint from the casebook. A quick visit to the local F.B.I. office identifies it as belonging to Paul Booker, and from there, tracking the villain down is a cinch. The super-heroes have a little fun using their reversed powers to screw with Major Disaster’s head while they squelch his operation.
Disaster pulls out a heavy-duty version of the stress-null-beam device, but when he yanks the lever, it blows up in his face.
“The Catastrophic Crimes of Major Disaster” was the high-water mark of the Flash-G.L. team-up series. Like the previous entry, this one introduces a new super-villain who would go on to become a recurring foe. Yeah, Major Disaster was supposedly killed, but he got better and came back for a rematch against the Emerald Crusader solo in Green Lantern # 57 (Dec., 1967).
The reversed-powers bit was a simple twist, but an intriguing one. The heroes experienced a bit of a learning curve, but it really didn’t take them too long to figure out how to work with each other’s powers. You could attribute the Lantern’s rapid mastery of super-speed to being able to get in lots of practise in seconds. And as for the Flash, after having used G.L.’s power ring in one fashion or another in the previous three team-ups, he should know how the thing works by now.
This adventure also sees the most involvement by those closest to Barry Allen and Hal Jordan. The quandary over Iris and Carol being privy to their secrets and the fall-out from that takes up nearly the first half of the story. It’s all undone by the last page, thanks to a lame plot device by writer Gardner Fox and, for once, not a convenient brain-sanitation by G.L.’s power ring. But still, for most of the way, the reader was left seriously wondering if it was going to be a permanent development.
It begins intriguingly enough. Mr. and Mrs. Barry Allen (for, by this time, he and Iris have recently married, but he has not yet divulged to her that he is the Flash) are worried. Hal Jordan is due for a visit. He was expected to arrive a week ago, but so far, no Hal, and no word from him. Initially, Barry is less concerned than his wife; he assumes that Hal got tied up on a mission as Green Lantern.
That idea gets knocked into the dustbin when Barry is secretly contacted by the Guardians of the Universe. They haven’t heard from Jordan in a week, either. The Little Blue Guys have come to Barry to enlist his aid as the Flash in finding the Green Lantern of Earth. Barry grows unsettled, now. When the Guardians of the Universe are stumped, you know there’s a problem.
This moody, noir-ish opening, drawn mostly in shadows, is the best part of the story. Unfortunately, the plot shifts to the Central City home of Hjalmar Helms, a scientist preöccupied with the notion of time-travel. He worked for decades on a time-machine, without success, but not too long ago, after another attempt, the machine began to emit a peculiar energy. Helms discovered this strange force could be manipulated. He gave up on his dream of journeying to the future and, instead, brought the future to him, by constructing futuristic devices that man had envisioned to exist in the centuries to come.
In short, it’s a rehash of T. O. Morrow, the villain of “Trail of the False Green Lanterns”. It would have made for a better tale if writer John Broome had, in fact, used Morrow. Instead, the villains of the piece are a couple of second-rate burglars who break into Helms’s house and make off with his inventions. These two stumblebums---you can’t shake the impression that they’re Waldo and Presley from the old Mister Magoo cartoons---decide to use the futuristic devices to become super-criminals.
They recruit a couple more members and pull a few robberies. Their latest caper attracts the notice of the Flash, who interrupts his search for Hal Jordan to deal with them. Morons with super-weapons are still morons, and the Crimson Comet deals with them handily---until sheer dumb luck enables the crooks to get away.
The Flash takes a break from his Green Lantern-searching to get in some cuddle time with Iris, only to have it interrupted when she spots Hal during a television news report. He’s a bystander in the background. Barry ducks out, changes into his super-hero identity, and zips over to the site of the broadcast.
He finds his old buddy, but Hal has lost his memory. The Scarlet Speedster puts enough clues together to locate the hotel Jordan had checked into when he arrived in Central City. He takes the amnesiac Jordan to his rented room and uncovers the invisible power battery. The Flash forces Hal to perform the ritual recharging of his ring and his memory is restored.
Jordan tells his pal that, when he arrived in town a week ago, he began to recharge his power ring, just before setting off to visit him and Iris. But the instant his ring touched the battery, there had been a tremendous backlash of energy, enough to stun him and wipe his memory clean. He had been wandering around ever since.
By now, the readers were probably thinking, “Thank God! Now we’ll get to the real villain of the story!” If so, they were in for a disappointment. While they’re sorting out the details, the Flash and Green Lantern intercept a police alert that the Waldo-and-Presley gang is hitting the Central City Speedway box office. They respond and catch the crooks in mid-getaway. Super-weapons notwithstanding, it’s still pretty much “Godzilla versus Bambi.” One of the baddies is so spooked at confronting two super-heroes that he chooses to knock himself out.
From the crooks, the Flash and G.L. learn about Hjalmar Helms. From Helms, they learn about the “mysterious energy” emitted by his failed time-travel machine. The Lantern concludes that Helms’s machine had accidentally tapped into the power battery’s green energy. And the proximity of the battery, when Hal brought it with him to Central City, is what caused the memory-robbing backlash of force.
This is the weakest of the Silver-Age Flash-G.L. team-ups. The menace scarcely requires one super-hero, let alone two, and it would have worked much better as a solo Green Lantern story in his own mag. Perhaps with another member of the Green Lantern Corps, such as Tomar-Re, doing the searching for the missing Jordan. Still, the Guardians came to the Flash for help because they were aware of his frequent adventures with the Green Lantern of Earth. The fact of their occasional partnership was becoming a known quantity in the fictional DC universe.
It was solid with the fans, too. That’s why Gardner Fox was able to use the close friendship between the two heroes as the focal point of a Justice League case, in JLA # 54 (Jun., 1967). In “History-Making Costumes of the Royal Flush Gang”, Hal Jordan is critically injured when he inadvertently stumbles into a scheme of the card-crooks. When the Flash hears the news, he brings in his fellow Justice League members, who would have been unaware, otherwise, that one of their own was lying near death.
The last Silver-Age Flash-G.L. team-up broke the alternating-title sequence and appeared in The Flash # 191 (Sep., 1969). This tale appeared a little past my cut-off for the Silver Age, but it more appropriately belongs here. Besides it takes the partnership of the Crimson Comet and the Emerald Crusader to the end of the ‘60’s in high style.
“How to Invade Earth---Without Really Trying” once again has Hal Jordan visiting the Allens. By this point, Carol Ferris and his career as a test pilot are long behind Hal. After working as a charter pilot and an insurance adjustor, Jordan is now trying his hand as a toy salesman. A sales convention has brought him to Central City and an opportunity to enjoy one of Iris’ home-cooked meals.
Jordan is blindsided when Iris, playing matchmaker, has also invited to dinner a young lady for Hal to meet. To Hal’s dismay, the blind date is Olivia Reynolds, a rival in the toy business. The pretty saleslady outmatched him in a business deal when they met, in Green Lantern # 71 (Sep., 1969). Things are awkward enough as it is, but get worse when Hal inadvertently uses his power ring to probe Olivia’s mind and receives a painful psychic backlash.
Hal and Barry go for a walk to discuss the matter. Barry suggests that the effect might have been a safeguard in the power ring’s design, to prevent the wearer from using the ring for personal reasons. (I’m thinking this is the first time it was ever brought up that the Guardians might program functions into the ring that the Green Lanterns themselves don’t know about; it’s a concept that would be more fully developed in the Green Lantern mythos from the mid-1980’s and beyond.)
Whatever the reason, it’s pushed to the back of their minds when a spaceship abruptly lands in the local park and disgorges a crew of metal-clad aliens. They’re the Mogrians, and they’re here to conquer the Earth. Switching identities, the Flash and Green Lantern rush in, only to be confronted by a horde of bug-eyed monsters unleashed by the invaders. Our Heroes deal with the BEM’s handily enough, only to be blasted by the Mogrians themselves.
Green Lantern and the Flash awaken in a Central City alley, having been teleported there by the Mogrian weaponry. To their dismay, they discover that they have also been stripped of their super-powers. They have only a couple of panels to scratch their heads over it when a purple-skinned offworlder of a different race, the Lenglyn, materializes with the answers.
Throughout the cosmos, the alien explains, certain rare individuals are born with “U-minds”, subconscious mental powers of incalculable force, though the possessors of such minds are unaware of it. The tremendous energy contained in a U-mind provides the life-force which sustains the Lenglyn race. Because of this, the Lenglyn scour the universe in search of U-mind possessors. They do this in secret because, in an ironic quirk, should an individual become consciously aware that he possesses a U-mind, the mental powers are rendered inert.
The Lenglyn had just discovered that Olivia Reynolds was one of these rare U-mind holders, and they had begun the process of tapping into her subconscious mental energies when Hal’s power ring tried to probe her mind, at dinner. Fearing that the power ring-probe would make Olivia aware of her mental powers, the Lenglyn repelled the ring’s beam, causing the painful backlash felt by Jordan.
Aware now that Jordan was Green Lantern, the Lenglyn sought to divert him from investigating the matter further by dispatching their sentient robot-servants, the Mogrians, to stage a phoney invasion of Earth.
Their plan would have worked nicely---except for one thing. The Mogrians, weary of being under the thumb of the Lenglyn, turned a mock invasion into the real thing. And the first act of their rebellion was to kidnap Olivia Reynolds, drawing energy from her U-mind to power the weapons used against the Flash and Green Lantern, and to deprive the super-duo of their powers.
To save the Earth, the Lenglyn emissary telepathically contacts the captive Olivia and directs her to use her U-mind to restore the stolen super-powers to the Flash and G.L. Olivia succeeds in doing so, but now aware of her abilities, her U-mind becomes inert.
Back in fighting form, Our Heroes tackle the Mogrians, staying on the offensive until the invaders’ stored U-mind energy is depleted. After that, it’s a simple matter to mop them up and rescue Olivia. However, without the life-force supplied by the girl’s now-functionless U-mind, the Lenglyn face extinction.
Green Lantern repays the Lenglyn’s sacrifice by ordering his power ring to erase Olivia’s memories of the incident. With the girl once again ignorant of her U-mind, its tremendous subconscious power regenerates and the Lenglyn can draw nourishment from it.
It’s a high-note finish for the series of Silver-Age Flash-G.L. pairings. Granted, it repeated the theme of an alien invasion of Earth, used for the first three team-ups. But writer John Broome gave it a distinctive twist by surprising the readers with a fake invasion, then pulling a double-reverse by turning it into the genuine article. It was also a nice continuity touch to involve a recent character in Green Lantern’s series, Olivia Reynolds, as a central figure. Broome may have intended Olivia to be an on-going substitute for the departed Carol Ferris, but she never had a chance to take off. Olivia Reynolds’ third and final appearance came in Green Lantern # 75 (Mar., 1970), the last issue before the series added the Green Arrow as co-star and adopted its groundbreaking format of relevance.
The only real downcheck---at least, for me---was artwork by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. While Andru and Esposito were serviceable on the Wonder Woman and Metal Men series, their style did not convey the super-speed motion of the Flash, nor the sleek grace of Green Lantern. Their work on “How to Invade the Earth” is cluttered and a bit difficult to follow.
Like the Olsen-Robin Team, Nightwing and Flamebird, and certain other elements of the Silver-Age DC universe, the Flash-Green Lantern combo made such an impact as a fan-favourite that it’s vaguely surprising how few stories of the team there actually were. Only seven throughout the entire era. Whatever else the Silver Age was or wasn’t, it had the ability to leave a lasting mark on the readers’ imaginations.