Flash Made the Most SHOCKING Discovery About His Spouse, Iris, 50 Years In the past
This is “Look Back,” a feature I’ll be planning on at least for all of 2020 and possibly beyond (and might be forgotten in a week, who knows?). The concept is that every week (I’ll probably skip the four fifth weeks of the year, but maybe not) of the month I’ll highlight a single issue of a comic that came out in the past and talk about that issue (often in larger scale, like the series as a whole, etc.). Each week a comic from a different year is shown that came out in the same month X a few years ago. The first week of the month is devoted to a book that came out ten years ago this month. The second week is devoted to a book that came out 25 years ago this month. The third week is devoted to a book that came out 50 years ago this month. The fourth week is about a book that came out 75 years ago this month. The occasional fifth week deals with books from the years 20/30/40/60/70/80 years ago.
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Today, based on a suggestion from reader David B. (who feared I wouldn’t get this in 2020), let’s go back to December 1970 for the Oddball Flash # 203 by Robert Kanigher, Irv Novick, and Murphy Anderson, Where We Learn something shocking about Iris West Allen.
The Flash was in an interesting position in the early 1970s. An important memory of books published by Julius Schwartz in the 1960s and early 1970s is that there was no “official” author on a series. Schwartz would only assign a script to a specific writer. Usually this meant the same author got a certain book on a regular basis, so by default they were the regular writer on the series, but it was never an official thing. Denny O’Neil once joked about it, saying that people often talked about his “run” in the Batman titles and he said he never saw it as such, but kept getting Batman assignments from Schwartz. If he got an assignment for another book, he would write this one instead. With that in mind, however, it is clear that if there was a regular Flash writer, it was John Broome. Broome had helped shape the Flash and was the lead author of the book in the 1950s and 1960s. Carmine Infantino was the book’s original artist, but he was director of DC’s editorial staff by the late 1960s and stopped drawing the book. Ross Andru and Mike Esposito were hired by Wonder Woman as the book’s regular art team, but by 1970 Andru and Esposito had left the book to try and start their own publishing company.
Robert Kanigher was sort of Schwartz’s standard fill-in writer at the time. He was the kind of guy who could come in and tell you a competent story in no time. The problem with Kanigher is that he didn’t care at all about the book’s established continuity, so he wrote these incredibly quirky stories. His philosophy seemed to be, “Whatever makes a child take the book off the shelf is fine with me.” With the 200th edition of Flash, Irv Novick became a regular pencil draftsman. The great Murphy Anderson inked it and gave the book a sense of continuity. At the same time, Neal Adams also got some Flash covers, which was either a sign that DC believed Flash deserved cover from DC’s top cover artists, or alternatively, Flash NEEDED cover from DC’s top cover art -Artists.
Kanigher would stay on the series for about a year and then Cary Bates basically took over the rest of the series’ history and wrote it until it was canceled at # 350.
One of Kanigher’s famously quirky story ideas was # 203, which started with Flash, who spent time with Superman on the Justice League satellite, where Superman is strangely combative about his lonely condition on Earth. This leads to Flash telling him a story about his wife …
Flash came home the other day to find a message from his wife, Iris West, stating that she felt like she was being dragged a thousand years into the future (I would make fun of this crowd of people who know how is this feeling). but they actually explain it later in the story). So Barry goes to the future to save her. When he gets there, she tells him that she wants him to go.
Of course not him. He urges her to see what’s going on and she explains that she discovered she was born in 2945 and that her parents sent her back in time to protect her from nuclear war …
Her parents had just had a stillbirth so they just pretended she was their living daughter. In a way that seems to fit in with the modern days of the comic strip’s “explanations”, Kanigher suggests that Iris ‘father’s famous absence was due to his trying to push the memory of Iris’ origins from the future …
In the future, Laos was the only country that was not disbanded during the nuclear wars. So it’s a world superpower. The head of Laos is quite a racist caricature and he insists that Iris be given to it. So Iris wanted Barry to leave, feeling like she had to sacrifice herself to protect her birth parents (who somehow survived the war). Barry then of course defeats all Laotian soldiers and then destroys all nuclear weapons in the world. He and Iris return home.
Funnily enough, Superman is unaffected by this story and still insists that his problems are worse than Iris’s since she has Barry. I think Superman “wins”.
Interestingly, Kanigher then explicitly admits that Iris’ origins are based on Superman’s origins. That was nice (no credit to Siegel and Shuster, of course, since they were a persona non grata at DC at the time). Iris ‘future origins are insane and yet they made a huge impact on the comics, including her and Barry who had kids who would later become superheroes (and her son and wife then had Barry and Iris’ grandson Bart Allen, who as Impulse known hero and their daughter have the granddaughter of Barry and Iris, XS, who would also become a legionnaire).
Thanks for the suggestion, David!
If you have any suggestions for January (or other later months) comics 2011, 1996, 1971, and 1946 that I should put in the spotlight, email me at [email protected]! However, here is the guide to book cover dates so you can make suggestions for books that actually came out in the correct month. In general, the traditional time span between a comic’s cover date and a comic’s release date has been two months (sometimes three months, but not during the times discussed here) for most of comic book history. So the comics have a cover date that is two months before the actual release date (i.e. October for a book that came out in August). Obviously, it is easier to tell when a book was published 10 years ago since there was internet coverage of books at the time.
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About the author
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Brian Cronin, Senior Writer at CBR, has been a professional contributor to CBR comics for over a dozen years (primarily with his “Comics Should Be Good” column series, including Comic Book Legends Revealed). He wrote two books on comics for Penguin-Random House – Was Superman a Spy? And other comic book legends revealed and why does Batman wear shark repellants? And other amazing comic trivia! and a book from Triumph Books, 100 Things X-Men Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die. His writing has been published on ESPN.com, the Los Angeles Times, About.com, the Huffington Post, and Gizmodo. On his website, Legends Revealed, he features legends about entertainment and sports. Follow him on Twitter @Brian_Cronin and email him suggestions for stories about comics you would like to see at [email protected]!
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