Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

The Flash #175

The Flash #175

Cover date: December 1967

"Race to the End of the Universe"

Writer: E. Nelson Bridwell
Penciller: Ross Andru
Inker: Mike Esposito

Cover: Carmine Infantino & Mike Esposito

Reviewed by: Tom-EL

Click to enlarge

One evening, Central City Police Headquarters received an anonymous phone call reporting that the Weather Wizard and his gang planned to disable the city's main power station, and use the blackout to cover their thefts. The bulletin goes out to the police, picked up by police scientist Barry Allen in the police labmobile. Barry put on his Flash costume and headed to the power plant, carrying a special lightning rod he'd been working on intended to neutralize the the Weather Wizard's lightning bolts. Seeing the Weather Wizard, he goes to the top of a close-by building to install the rod. At that moment Superman arrives, impervious to a lightning bolt hitting him. The Flash thinks "Superman? What's he doing in Central City?" The two heroes work together to apprehend the weather Wizard and his gang, then Flash wants to know why Superman is in town. Superman replies that the Flash summoned him on his Justice League signal device. "Come off it! I never touched the signaler!" says the Flash, indignantly. Superman answers "The call came for me... and it was on YOUR special wavelength. If you didn't call me, who did?" Later, Barry discusses the mystery with Iris West over dinner.

In Metropolis the next day, Clark Kent on a routine assignment sees two men from the Southside Mob about to rub out a member of a rival gang. He changes to Superman and, hearing the gun fired, knows he will have to outrace the bullets. He gets in front of the man in time, expecting the bullets to hit him and bounce off, but they never made contact because the Flash arrived, picking the bullets out of the air. Again, the criminals are turned over to the law, then Superman says to Flash "Why the grandstand play? I was doing okay on my own?" Then he says "Where have I heard those words before?" The Flash answers that those are the same words he said to Superman one day before. "And I suppose you are going to deny you called me with your JLA signaler?" asks Flash. "You bet your winged boots I deny it!" responds Superman. The two agree that someone must be cutting in on the JLA signaler. At that moment, they both get the signal for a Justice League emergency meeting, and together, they head for the secret sanctuary.

As they enter the meeting room, all the other JLA members are there, believing that the summons came either from Superman or the Flash. Superman says that his hunch about someone cutting in on the signal must have been right. Then they find out who it was, as a voice says "Shrewd guess Superman, it was us." Standing before them are Rokk and Sorban, two rulers of the gambler's planet Ventura, that Superman and Batman have had previous dealings with. They gamble with each other on anything. These two had put some money on the first race (Superman #199), and not being satisfied with the outcome, now insist that the Flash and Superman race again. They want a re-match, but this time it's to be on a course that runs across the Milky Way Galaxy, the exact length being just under 240,000 trillion miles, a mere 40,000 light years. They have arranged an incentive, if Flash loses, they will destroy Central City, if Superman loses, then Metropolis perishes, and Superman assures the Flash they are capable of doing it. If they refuse to race, then Rokk and Sorban will destroy both cities. The Flash points out that he can't live in space or run across it. Rokk informs him that it's easily taken care of. They fix it by placing a special energy aura around Flash that will both provide him with oxygen, and form cosmic dust particles into a pathway he can run on across the galaxy.

Green Lantern decides that it's time to break up this farce, and lunges at the aliens. Rokk and Sorban were prepared for the League's attemped resistance. They place GL in constricting gold energy hoops, Martian Manhunter in a cage with bars of fire, Wonder Woman is tied to her chair with her own lasso, and Aquaman is covered by a transparent shower stall that paralyzes him. Simultaneously the other members were all rendered helpless. With no apparent recourse, Superman and Flash agree to the race, and outside the sanctuary they both take the starting position. Snapper Carr fires the starting gun and the race begins. The Flash thinks about all of his friends that will perish if he loses, while Superman is having the same thoughts about Lois, Lana, Jimmy, and Perry. Superman sees that directly ahead of him is a solar system with a red sun, so he will have to detour. Making the adjustment, takes him through the system of Rokk and Sorban's home world. He looks down on Ventura with his telescopic vision and he sees a volcano about to erupt. A moment later he sees something he considers incredible, and he knows that the race must be ended. The Flash and he will have to turn back - IMMEDIATELY!

Meanwhile, the Flash has run across a derelict spaceship. Seeing that the ship is damaged, he enters it to see if the men inside need help. There is nobody inside, but the hatch closes behind him. At that point, his aura stopped working and he began having trouble breathing. Sorban, watching on a moniter, laughs believing that Flash can't escape his trap. Suddenly the oxygen returns and Flash vibrates out. Outside he sees that the ship was really a space plant that can shape-shift in order to lure oxygen-breathing beings inside. Like all plants, it breathes carbon dioxide, which animals exhale, giving off oxygen, allowing the Flash to escape. Sorban, watching on the moniter reacts with disappointment that the Flash escaped, which seemed "fishy" to Green Lantern, given that Sorban was betting on the Flash to win.

Superman finally caught up with the Flash. He tried to warn Flash about what he discovered, but Flash sensed a trick and wouldn't listen. Before he could explain further, kryptonite meteors in their path forced Superman to detour again, with Flash using the meteors as stepping stones to pull farther ahead of Superman. Rokk and Sorban continue to watch the monitor and seem to be happy that Flash is ahead. Sorban comments that Superman was out of the way, when a voice said "Who says I am?", they turn and see Superman there. Sorban was prepared, pulling out a gold kryptonite rock, and expecting Superman to lose his powers. Superman collapses, then changes into J'onn J'onzz, then gets back up, explaining that the flame cage wasn't strong enough to stop him from shape-shifting. When he became Superman, he took on Superman's immunity to fire, also his weakness to kryptonite, but not before J'onn could turn the gold kryptonite into lead. Manhunter is placed back in the flame cage, with the fire's power increased to keep him from shape-shifting again.

The scene returns to the Flash in space, who is about to the end of his kryptonite meteor path. He steps on another meteor, but this one isn't hard, it's soft and the Flash begins sinking into it, unable to vibrate out. From afar, Superman sees that the Flash needs help, so he throws another meteor over which knocks Flash's quicksand meteor into a nearby planet's atmosphere. The quicksand meteor burns up, freeing the Flash, who was protected from the heat by his special aura, he then continues the race. Superman tried a second time to warn the Flash that this is a trap, but he still thinks Superman only wants to save Metropolis. Superman tells him "I'm going through this yellow sun, I'll wrap you in my indestructible cape and take you through". The Flash responds "Nothing doing!" and continues on his own way. When Flash passes by a planet, two spaceships fire vibratory rays at him, believing him to be an intruder. Flash tries to avoid the rays, but can't. Again Superman comes to his aid, using his heat-vision to melt the ships' guns. Tiring, the Flash goes down to the planet to rest. Superman flies down to meet him, and Flash says "You win Superman! I'm too tired to finish the race". Superman replies "Quitting eh? Admitting at last that you're NOT the fastest man alive!" After Superman leaves, the Flash sits, believing he has failed all of his friends. Then he hears a voice calling his name. He doesn't understand how anybody there could know his name, but the voice says "I know it. Listen to me." The Flash can't believe what he sees.

We rejoin Superman, who is about to fly through a nebula on his way back to Earth. A vortex appears in the nebula, pulling him in. Superman heat-visions a message on a large stone next to where the Flash is sitting, that says "FLASH - NEED HELP - URGENT- SUPERMAN". The Flash stops thinking about quitting and at super-speed, he's up and on his way. Reaching the vortex, the two race together in the opposite direction of the vortex spin, freeing Superman. The two travel together, thinking it's time to finish the race. They approach Earth at super-speed in a neck and neck finish. The trapped JLA are in the sanctuary watching the race closely by monitor. On one side of the monitor, from the angle he's looking at it, Batman believes Superman is the winner. From a different viewing angle, GL, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman thought the Flash crossed the finish line first. As Superman and Flash enter the sanctuary, Rokk appears to use magic against Superman, while Sorban comes at super-speed against the Flash. Superman and Flash both win their fights, and the spell that held the Justice League captive ends. Rokk and Sorban turn out to be in reality, Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash from the 25th century and Abra Kadabra, from the 64th century, both are Flash's enemys. Superman knew the two were fakes when he looked at the volcano on Ventura, because he saw the real Rokk and Sorban, betting with each other on which volcano would erupt first. Flash became aware of the trap when Green Lantern got a message to him, by using his ring's reserve power to enhance Aquaman's telepathic powers with sea creatures, so he could telepathically get a fish on that planet to imitate speech and give Flash the warning while he was resting. The entire plan was a plot by the two villains to destroy the Flash.

Then Flash says "I didn't notice which of us won". Superman replies neither did he. Green Lantern says it was Flash, Batman says it was Superman. Snapper Carr says "The finish must have looked different from different angles". The Flash and Superman then look directly at the fourth wall with the Flash saying "How about it readers? Which of us do you think won?" and Superman adding "Look at the pictures and make up your own mind."

3Story - 3: This is a sequel to the first race as told in Superman #199, and the second of more races that Superman had with the Flash, including Barry Allen, Wally West, and one with the original Flash, Jay Garrick in 2001. E. Nelson Bridwell was a talented writer who began working for DC Comics in 1965 as an assistant to editor Mort Weisinger on the Superman titles, as well as being the creator of DC's super-hero parody comic, The Inferior Five.

For the second time, the question of who is faster remains unanswered. Overall, not a bad story, my problem with it is plot loopholes, starting with Flash's mis-trust of Superman. They've been JLA teammates and worked together for how many years now? One of the things that contributed to the League's ability to always win is that the members always looked out for each other. It absolutely does not figure that the Flash might even consider that Superman would be willing to sacrifice Central City in order to save Metropolis. Flash knows him better than that. Secondly, after years of reading the silver-age Justice League stories, if all the members were trapped or held prisoner and one could get free, their standard M/O would be to free the others, not squander the opportunity as J'onn J'onzz did, getting himself put back in his flame cell. The opportunity to turn the gold kryptonite rock into lead doesn't seem like much of a payoff for his trouble. Third, the race result. I could accept the ending in Superman #199 of a tie, but come on, they're all watching THE SAME MONITOR, and because some are standing from the monitor in one direction, and some are standing a different angle from it, they get a different view of who won? I would have been willing to buy the idea of a second tie, but this notion of "I thought it looked like Superman won", "No, it looked like the Flash to me" was a little bit hokey and rather pointless. This race clearly set up the need for a third race, which appeared in World's Finest #198 & #199.

3Art - 3: Ross Andru is a talented artist in his own right, but I would have prefered to see this story pencilled by Carmine Infantino. After all the years that Infantino pencilled the Flash, I had trouble seeing the Flash in a different style, particlarly Ross Andru, whose work always looked to me like it belonged strictly in Marvel Comics. In Andru's defense, I thought his up-graded style was well suited to the 1976 Superman vs. Spiderman DC/Marvel crossover.

4Cover Art - 4: As much as I like the work of Carmine Infantino, to me Esposito was not his best inker to get the true flavor of Infantino's pencils. The cover he did for Superman #199, inked by Murphy Anderson was much more to my liking.

Pre-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews



  • Superman #76 (May/June 1952) - “The Mightiest Team in the World”
  • Superman #80 (January/February 1953) - “Superman's Lost Brother”
  • Superman 3D (1953) - “The Man Who Stole the Sun”, “Origin of Superman” and “The Man Who Bossed Superman”
  • Superman #87 (February 1954) - “The Prankster's Greatest Role”
  • Superman #88 (March 1954) - “The Terrible Trio”
  • Superman #89 (May 1954) - “Captain Kent the Terrible”, “Superman of Skid Row”, and “One Hour to Doom!”
  • Superman #91 (August 1954) - “The Superman Stamp” and “Great Caesar's Ghost”
  • World's Finest #88 (May/June 1957) - “Superman and Batman's Greatest Foes”
  • Superman #115 (August 1957) - “The Midget Superman!”
  • Superboy #65 (May/June 1958) - “The Amazing Adventures of Krypto Mouse”
  • Action Comics #242 (July 1958) - “The Super-Duel in Space”
  • Superman #123 (August 1958) - “The Girl of Steel”
  • Superman #127 (February 1959) - “Titano the Super Ape”
  • Action Comics #252 (May 1959) - “The Menace of Metallo” and “The Supergirl From Krypton”
  • Superman #129 (May 1959) - “The Girl in Superman's Past”
  • Superman #130 (July 1959) - “The Curse of Kryptonite!”, “The Super-Servant of Crime!”, and “The Town that Hated Superman!”
  • Jimmy Olsen #40 (October 1959) - “Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl's Pal”




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