Flash and the Silver Age
Welcome DC History Club historians to your selection for January, The Flash and the Silver Age. There is a lot to unpack here. The Silver Age came about from much more than just the rebooting of the Golden Age speedster. A confluence of circumstances involving U.S. society, popular culture, the state of the comics industry, the business and creative sides of DC Comics, and the brilliant reimaging of the Flash all combined at the perfect moment to launch comics as we know them today. There are suggested discussion questions below, but let your research and thoughts take the discussion wherever it needs to go.
As always, our research starts with the source material of the comics themselves, concentrating from Barry Alan’s debut in Showcase #4 to the creation of the multiverse in The Flash #123. Below I’ve suggested four representative issues, but don’t let that stop you from reading more as nearly every major Flash villain in created in that five year period.
Suggested Comics Reading
Showcase #4, the October, 1956 debut of the Flash.
Showcase #14, the May, 1958 fourth and final appearance of the Flash before he resumes his own title reflects the science fiction influence on Flash comics.
The Flash #115, August, 1960 the fourth appearance of Gorilla Grodd the Flash’s most persistent early Silver Age foe.
The Flash #123, August, 1961 and the Golden and Silver Age Flashes meet.
Suggested Research Reading
Below you’ll find a wiki post with additional suggested research reading. This includes an oral history of who’s responsible for creating the Silver Age Flash, the Encyclopedia Britannica entry on Silver Age comics, and a DC Comics produced discussion of the relationship between Barry Allen and Iris West. As always, we could use a lot more research reading, so as you do your own research, add resources that are to the wiki post.
Silver Age Flash research challenges.
In the spirit of the Silver Age we have a some fun challenges related to the Flash. First, many of us grew up learning science from Flash Facts posted in the magazines. So, post your own “Flash Facts“ about the Silver Age Flash. This could be anything from the circumstance leading up to the Silver Age, to the early Flash Silver Age comics, to their impact on comics today. You’ll see my first “Flash Fact” below.
Our second challenge is more difficult. Barry Allen is introduced as a “police scientist” from his first appearance, but he doesn’t ever appear to do any actual “police science.” Find and post the earliest example of Barry actually contributing as a police scientist to any case, even in a passing mention.
Suggested Discussion Topics
As I wrote above, this topic turned out to be far more complex than I first imagined. As you read the stories or find material about the Silver Age Flash, let your thoughts direct the discussion. My suggestions for a start at the discussion are below.
What influences from other comic genres and popular culture were important in the early issues of the Silver Age Flash? How did those influences impact his character and stories in the Flash.
What factors surrounding the creation of Barry Allen as the Flash do you think were critical in its ultimately launching the Silver Age? These could include anything from the comics code to the baby boom to the space/weapons race.
Lois Lane and Irish West are both journalists connected to a superhero and his alter ego, but their depictions differed greatly at the dawn of the Silver Age. Compare the late 1950s presentation of Iris West and Lois Lane. Try Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane # from 1958 for a comparison.
Use someone else’s “Flash Fact” as a discussion starter.
Suggest some good discussion topics and I’ll put them here.