Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Don't be a Third Wheel, Flash!

During the Silver Age, it was fairly common for superhero books to have two or more shorter stories rather than one long tale. Flash 119 (March 1961), for instance, has an 11-page story involving the Mirror Master and a 14-page story guest-starring Ralph Dibney, the Elongated Man

Ralph's early appearances were all in Flash, where he was originally created as a supporting character for the Scarlet Speedster. It wouldn't be long before Ralph's popularity would get him the starring role in a Detective Comics back-up feature and an eventual membership in the Justice League.

But in 1961, Ralph was just getting started. This issue marks his third appearance and introduces us to his newlywed wife Sue. The two are on their honeymoon. For reasons that will forever be inexplicable, Ralph goes scuba diving alone. Ralph, you're on your HONEYMOON! Hang out with your wife, you idiot.

Well, he gets kidnapped by an undersea race called the Bredans, who are snatching up humans to serve as slaves. When Flash investigates Ralph's disappearance, he is also captured. Ralph has amnesia, but Flash helps him get his memory back and the heroes launch a two-man slave rebellion. The Bredans are defeated, agreeing to release all slaves.

It's a fun little story, written by John Broome and with Carmine Infantino providing great art. Images such as the Bredans fishing for humans being kept in a bowel or Ralph sitting on Flash's shoulders when the attack the Bredan war machines are all pure fun and easily justify the existence of this story.

But then, at the end of the tale, Ralph and Sue ask Flash to
stick around and vacation with them. While.. they... are... on... their... HONEYMOON!

And Flash accepts the situation apparently without thinking that this is at all awkward, thus happily becoming the third wheel on a date.

I guess being a top-tier superhero doesn't require social skills.

I'm making fun of this, but of course the story simply reflects the innocence of Silver Age storytelling and the fact that most comic book readers were kids. Broome and Infantino weren't interested in an exploration of the relations of a newly-married couple, but simply wanted to set up the story as economically as possible, so they could get to the really cool parts. And let's face it, a two-superhero rebellion against undersea slavers is a whole lot cooler than young love.

On another note, I think this is the one and only appearance of the Bredans. But the bottom of the world's oceans covers a lot of square miles. Underwater adventures in the DC Universe usually involves Atlantis, but there's no reason there can't be a few other smaller undersea cities down there.

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