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Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics [Blu-ray]
THE JOKER, LEX LUTHOR, CATWOMAN, DOOMSDAY, BANE. What makes them so thrillingly watchable? So terribly wonderful? So extremely vital to our super heroes and their worlds? This new feature-length documentary explores these questions across seven decades of DC Comics' hallowed Rogues' Gallery of infamous evildoers.
Many thanks to reviewer Wallace Harrington (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: George Klein
Cover: Carmine Infantino
"Superman's Race With The Flash"
One day in Metropolis, a car went out of control speeding wildly down the street producing mayhem and Superman swept down from the sky to prevent an accident. There was nothing unusual about this until a man on the street yelled, "Quick, my stopwatch". As Superman lifted the car above his head preventing a collision, the man announced, "Three-fifths of a second. Not bad". The man's companion looks baffled. "What do you mean, not bad. What's with the stopwatch? Haven't you heard?" the first man asked. "Heard about what?" "About the race!" exclaimed the first.
Meanwhile, in Central City, the Flash whirled through a robbery stopping a gang of crooks. "Hmm! 1.5 seconds! Of course, there were 6 of them and he wasn't going at top speed", said an onlooker. Looking over the man's shoulder another man commented, "He's fast all right... but how does he match up against Superman?" The crowd turned to look at a huge sign that announced an amazing event. The Flash vs. Superman. The Greatest Race of all Time. Saturday June 10th.
How was a race like this ever arranged between the world's two fastest men? Several weeks earlier, the Secretary General of the United Nations called Superman and the Flash for a conference. He told the two heroes that the United Nation's funds to help the sick and hungry of the world was depleted, and asked if they would consider running a race to raise money for the fund. "Well, I'm game if the Flash is", said Superman. "Count me in", said the Flash. With that agreed, the Secretary General's assistant led the pair to view the course. "You will circle the earth three times", said the assistant pointing to a giant map, "each time on a slightly different route... selected for the obstacles they include."
Soon, all major newspapers picked up the story. In Metropolis, Perry White assigned Clark Kent to cover the story, while in Central City, reporter Iris Allen, wife of police scientist Barry Allen (who is secretly the Flash) had an exclusive interview with the Flash in the Picture News. Interest was high and the excitement grew by the minute as the UN issued a limited number of sweepstakes tickets to raise the much-needed money.
But, wherever there was a sweepstakes, there were also the rackets. The Ajax Import Company Building served as a front for America's largest gambling syndicate. Standing before his collected lieutenants, Mr. Vincent, head of the syndicate, announced that the European Syndicate had covered their bet of one billion dollars on Superman. "So", says Mr. Vincent, "we must make sure that Superman does not lose!" And to assure that the syndicate had hired Dr. Werner Von Broder, the great criminal scientist, to create a fake Flash, complete with rocket-powered boots... fast but not fast enough to beat Superman."
A similar meeting was occurring at that precise moment in Paris, where the Enterprises International de Europe served as a front for the Continental Crime Syndicate. They have placed their wager on the Flash and also intend to collect their winnings with the help of the famed criminal inventor Dr. Robert Carson. "Ah! The Americans are as good as beaten", thought the syndicate.
Finally the day of the race arrived and heroes from all over the world gathered at the starting line. To one side, Aquaman and Hawkman wished Flash all of the best, while Batman, Green Arrow and the Atom encouraged Superman. Moving to the line, Superman and the Flash shook hands, and the rules were explained. "This will be a footrace", explained the referee, "so you, Superman, cannot fly... your speed will be limited. Your skill in using it will be the determining factor!"
With the shot of a starting pistol, they were off, appearing only as red and blue-hued blurs thundering along spectator-lined streets. Before long, they were in the Atlantic Ocean, heading for Africa. Flash was able to run over the waters surface, but Superman had to swim through the waves. Travelling at 140,000 miles per hour, the two approached the coast then zipped through the Algerian Sahara to the Pyramids of Egypt. The heat of the desert slowed the Flash slightly, but when Superman had to climb over the pyramid of Cheops at Gizeh, while Flash vibrated through the building, the two were even again.
Entering a small village, the two were moving so fast that they couldn't avoid a merchant moving his cart across the square. Colliding with the cart, the merchant's figs flew into the air, and are just as quickly collected and replaced in the cart by a pair of blurs. The race continues across Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan. From the cold of the Himalayas, to the fertile coast of India, on to the jungles of Rangoon they ran, stopping only to help some Burmese lumberjacks fill their lumber quota. Heading out into the Pacific, the two continued on not knowing that a typhoon lies in their path. US patrol boats attempted to warn the Flash of the storm, but they were moving too fast and sped past the boat. The seas got heavier, and when a wave struck the Flash from behind, Superman used his super-breath to help him regain his balance. "If he felt indebted to me, he might not go all out to win", rationalized Superman.
The two passed the Hawaiian Islands, through Mexico and were racing through the Colombian Andes when they witnessed the eruption of Tolima, an active volcano. Suddenly, from the mouth of the volcano flew a piece of Kryptonite and Superman began to stumble. Vibrating his feet, the Flash opened a fissure covering the Green Kryptonite. "Superman will think a volcanic tremor caused it. Now he won't feel indebted to me", thought the Flash.
They began the second lap jockeying for position. Each of the speedsters led for a moment, then the other. At the American Gambling Syndicate, Mr. Vincent gave the word. "When they start the final lap, sound the ready alert!" At the same time, Superman and the Flash were trying to cross a frozen lake in Saskatchewan. Superman used his super-balance to glide across the lake, but the Flash lost his balance and landed hard, knocking himself out. Superman quickly changed to Clark Kent, and returned to make sure that Flash is all right then sent him on his way.
Soon they completed their second lap and were approaching San Francisco. On a deserted road in Nevada the American crime syndicate was preparing a trap for the Flash, while only a few miles away, the European Syndicate was laying a trap for Superman. The Americans placed a huge panel of bulletproof glass in the road, too transparent for the Flash to see. Moving so quickly he smashed into the panel before he could avoid it. Superman was also moving so quickly that he could not avoid a trap of Kryptonite dust in the road. Both racers collapsed and were taken prisoner. Then, each syndicate provided their own imposter equipped with rocket-powered boots to replace the abducted racer hoping that the other racer would win. Members of the Justice League monitoring the race noticed that both men are running decidedly slower than before.
The American syndicate was holding Flash captive, tied with a special rope that would tighten if he tried to vibrate free. The European syndicate held a weakened Superman hostage using K gas. But, even in his weakened state Superman was able to locate the Flash and used his heat vision to burn through the Flash's ropes. Then, the Flash sped to Superman's aid, jamming the valve on the K gas cylinder. Free of their bonds, both Superman and the Flash corralled the syndicate members, then whizzed off to the finish line.
Ahead, both of the imposters come to a halt. "You're a phoney", yelled the fake Flash. "And I suppose you are not a fraud, eh, senor?" asked the fake Superman. While those two were arguing, they heard a noise, like the sound of thunder, and then were blown aside, reeling, as the real Superman and Flash blazed toward the finish line. With every step, their pace increased and their determination grew stronger. Breathless crowds lined the last miles to watch the two race to the final moment of decision... A Tie! "We broke the tape simultaneously, just as we planned", thought Superman. "Since neither of us won, none of the gamblers can collect."
Walking over to a group of Justice League members, Superman and the Flash told the police that they could find some crooks tied-up in Nevada, and two very dizzy imposters on the road. "But there's still one thing that hasn't been cleared up", says Green Lantern. "Which of you is faster?"
Story - 5: This story, like many of the good stories of the 1960s was not a deep, relevant tale full of angst and personal travail. It was simply fun, and with time this particular story has become a favorite of Superman fans. Almost every Superman fan has asked the question... who is faster the Flash or Superman? While this story didn't actually serve to answer the question, it was the first of several Superman-Flash races including Flash #175, Worlds Finest #198-9, and even more recently the Superman animated cartoon series. This story was also special in that during this time period DC did not often have crossovers in a character's own title. There are obvious exceptions, but unlike Marvel, most DC characters lived in their own books and had crossovers in other titles like Brave and Bold, World's Finest, and Justice League. This story included many other characters from the DC universe, and established the Superman title as the focal point for the whole line.
Art - 4: Curt Swan and George Klein's Superman work here is very solid. The figures are well drawn, the faces expressive, and the backgrounds full of detail. My personal preference is their earlier work, from 1962-5 since I feel that Klein's inking was much tighter then. Still, this is a well drawn and well-paced story with all of the wonderful touches you would expect from a Curt Swan drawn tale.
Cover Art - 5: Carmine Infantino had been the regular artist on the Flash since the character returned in 1956 to begin what has come to be called the Silver Age of comics. He was asked to draw this cover and did a fine job producing what has become a classic cover. Superman and the Flash are the two central figures, powerfully drawn with Infantino's characteristic speed lines. An added plus is all of the other heroes lining the background. It is a wonderful prelude to a great story.
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