BY THE LATE 1950s, the comics industry was in pretty bad shape. Except for Superman, Batman, and a handful of others, the heroes of the Golden Age were forgotten. A restrictive code of conduct disallowed all but the most inoffensive stuff, television cut deeply into the comic book’s core audience, and distribution problems put many smaller publishers out of business. War, romance, humor, science fiction — these were the steady sellers in an industry that almost forgot how to create heroes.
Almost, but not quite.
No one knows whose idea it was, but the creators at DC began toying with a superhero revival in the mid-1950s. Since the Flash was one of the company’s most popular heroes of the past, it fell upon editor Julius Schwartz to resurrect the speedster from his four-color grave.
But the new Flash would not be the same as the old Flash. Schwartz edited the original Flash Comics until the book’s cancellation in 1949, and he was not interested in looking back. He agreed to bring back the character, but only if he could make a few changes. By the time he was finished, the Flash’s name was just about the only thing that remained unchanged — the new Flash was younger, sported a sleeker costume, and worked by day as a slowpoke police scientist named Barry Allen.
In retrospect, the character might have seemed like a winner, but this was still the 1950s, and launching the Flash in his own title was a risky proposition. DC Showcase was an anthology that was developed as a tryout book for DC — new characters would be introduced, and if readers liked them enough, they would get their own series. Response to the new Flash was so favorable that he was brought back in later issues and then awarded his own series in 1959.
It’s hard to overestimate this book’s impact on comic history. Before Showcase #4, the heroes of the Golden Age seemed doomed to past glories, with only Superman, Batman, and a few others to carry the torch. But the Flash’s phenomenal success spawned revivals of other famous heroes from the past — Green Lantern, Hawkman, the Atom, the Spectre, Dr. Fate, and more were given new leases on life. In almost every case, the characters were updated and redesigned for a new age, which made them seem as fresh as the day they were first introduced. And in 1961, Marvel Comics, encouraged by DC’s success, began resurrecting its own old heroes to join new ones in their monthly adventures.
It didn’t happen quite as fast as the Flash, but there was no denying the excitement that was building. Comicdom’s Silver Age had officially begun.
The Flash (Volume 1) was a title that ran 246 issues, from February/March of 1959 until October 1985. It primarily featured the Silver Age Flash. The numbering of the series picks up from Flash Comics at #105, which ended with issue #104 in 1949.
READ: Showcase #4: First Silver Age Flash Barry Allen
From The 100 Greatest Comics of the 20th Century By Mitchell Brown
Did you know…
The Flash’s alter ego, Barry Allen, was named after comedian Steve Allen and radio/TV personality Barry Gray.
The In a later Secret Origins story, it was revealed that the bolt of lightning that turned Barry into the Flash was… the Flash himself. His death in the 1985 Crisis mini-series transformed him into a pure form of energy that traveled fast enough to go back through time, creating a cause-effect time loop. Barry Allen’s death led to his sidekick, Kid Flash, taking on his name and costume.