For Your Consideration: DC’s Flash of Two Worlds

Robert Greenberger

Robert Greenberger


by Robert Greenberger

There are some stories that just connect with an audience, opening up possibilities heretofore unimagined. Some surprise the creators, the sales surge inspiring sequels and further exploration but none may have the significance that “The Flash of Two Worlds” had, changing the nature of the just evolving interconnected DC Universe, and shaping comic book storytelling for generations ever after.

Once the parallel worlds concept was introduced, and fans liked it, Editor Julius Schwartz returned to the well time and again as more and more worlds were explored until the 1980s, when it was considered an impediment for new readers so the universe had to be cleansed. Worlds lived, worlds died and the DC Universe – and comics – were never the same again.

Flash of Two Worlds Deluxe Edition HC

Flash of Two Worlds Deluxe Edition HC


With the CW spending the fall building up to the five part “Crisis on Infinite Earths” storyline to air in December and January, it’s fitting that DC celebrate those seminal stories in Flash of Two Worlds, a hardcover collecting the Scarlet Speedster’s Silver Age exploits with Jay Garrick, his Earth-2 counterpart, from The Flash #123, #129, #137, #151, #170 and #173. The set was written by Gardner Fox with John Broome tackling the final story, and entirely pencilled by Carmine Infantino. Joe Giella inked all but the final story, which was from Sid Greene, and all the covers are by the team of Infantino and Murphy Anderson.

Having already established that Barry Allen had been inspired by the Flash Comics of his youth, Schwartz and Fox concocted a way for the two to actually meet. Using the actual scientific theory of parallel realities existing on different vibrational frequencies, they brought the concept to the four-color page and gave us Earth-1 (where Barry lives) and Earth-2 (where Jay Garrick resides) – an error in precedence that Schwartz later regretted.

Performing stunts for Central City children at a local community center, Barry accidentally vibrated himself into a similar, but different world, one where heroes operated back in World War II and were retired. He sought out the now-married Jay and Joan Garrick and convinced them of the truth. Garrick admitted that a new crime spree perpetrated by the Fiddler, the Shade, and the Thinker had fueled thoughts of a comeback. Taking Barry’s appearance as a sign, Jay put on the winged helmet once more. Together, they tracked down the Fiddler, the Thinker, and the Shade.

Flash #129

Flash #129


This story is one of the most reprinted ones from the DC Vault given its popularity while the cover became a much-imitated icon. The reader response prompted Schwartz to bring Garrick back for issue #129, where the rejuvenated hero comes to Earth-1 in search of a meteor that may save his world from destruction. But first, he helps his friend tackle the odd pairing of Captain Cold and The Trickster. Garrick also takes time to recount an old adventure with his Justice Society of America s readers are treated to a flashback with cameos from Wonder Woman, Atom, Hawkman, Green Lantern, Black Canary, and Dr. Mid-Nite.

Flash #137

Flash #137


The sales and reader response remained strong so Schwartz was ready to roll the dice and go bigger. He had Fox work up the legendary “Crisis on Earth-2” story for Justice League of America #21, but seeded the way a month earlier with the story from Flash #137. Here, the opponent is the immortal villain Vandal Savage, last seen in All-Star Comics #37 (1947), who has managed to kidnap the somewhat rusty members of the Justice Society, all inspired to return to active duty by Jay Garrick. Barry Allen gets involved when he spots mysterious lights appear over various American cities until he realizes they are the home bases of the various Earth-2 heroes so he vibrates across the dimensional barrier. He fights Savage and goes on to free Garrick, Atom, Hawkman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Dr. Mid-Nite, and Johnny Thunder.

Flash #151

Flash #151


For their fourth meeting, Fox revived The Shade, who has also managed to pierce the veil between worlds and rob on Earth-1, bringing the loot to his base on Earth-2. It takes two Flashes to find the clues and then tackle the villain, whose powers have been amped up since his last appearance.

Flash #170

Flash #170


Jay Garrick gets a taste of Earth-1 crazy in the form of the 64th Century villain Abra Kadabra in Flash #170, which also appearances by Dr. Fate and Dr. Mid-Nite as the casual use of Earth-2 characters continued to grow throughout the 1960s. (After this issue, the Speedster’s next appearance happens to be an odd team-up with The Spectre, which I discuss in my other column this month, all about The Spectre: Wrath of the Spectre Omnibus).

Flash #173

Flash #173


The book’s final tale has another dynamic Infantino cover, from a long line of celebrated must-buy covers. This marks Broome’s only story and the first crossover to involve Kid Flash, who has missed out on all the parallel worlds fun. It’s interesting to see how quickly Garrick returns to the title, perhaps a sign of how well received each has been. All three speedsters have been kidnapped by Golden Man, a mutant from the planet Vorvan, who brings them to his homeworld in order to hunt them down for sport. By this point in 1967, that story felt like a bit of a throwback to the earlier days of the Silver Age. It also marks Infantino’s penultimate appearance as penciller.

I cannot stress how seminal this first tale is and how important the collection of stories has been to DC’s continuity. Once the parallel worlds worked in one title, Schwartz kept revisiting them, pairing other Golden Age heroes with their Silver Age counterparts, testing other revivals in Showcase and sprinkling new worlds along the way. It took time, parallel worlds became a tried and true element in super-heroic storytelling, first at DC then Marvel, and so on.

If you haven’t read these before, now’s the time.

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