Title: Captain Flash
Issue: Vol. 1, No. 3
Date: May, 1955
Publisher: Sterling Comics, Inc.
Cover Artist(s): Mike Sekowsky
If you’re looking for exciting superhero action, I’m afraid you’re gonna have to look elsewhere! Seeing “The Man Of Radioactivity” tossing rocks at a dinosaur is about as exciting as this obscure Oddball superhero comic ever gets!
Y’know, if there’s ever been a “generic” superhero, it’s gotta be Captain Flash, “America’s Ace Defender” who possesses an incredibly uninteresting costume, remarkably vague superpowers, a completely nondescript personality and an utterly useless sidekick! (At least he’s got one of the biggest logos in comics!) Yet some comic book historians consider CAPTAIN FLASH – the first issue of which bore a cover-date of November, 1954 -- to be the very first superhero published during the so-called Silver Age Of Comics! Sterling Comics published a total of only four issues of CAPTAIN FLASH; apparently, he was merely another flash-in-the-pan!
Somehow, Professor Keith Spencer can transform into Captain Flash (a name that’s a combination of two popular but unrelated Golden Age superheroes) by clapping his hands and setting off a “miniature atomic explosion” in his body. Based on details of the stories in this issue, he’s super-strong, with a body as hard as granite that can move at “blinding speed”, but there’s no explanation as to the actual origin of his powers. Captain Flash, “The Man Of Radioactivity”, is usually accompanied by his youthful sidekick Ricky (AKA Ricky Davis), but there’s not a clue as to how or why Captain Flash needs a youthful sidekick at all!
This issue’s 6-page “Captain Flash” cover-story, “The Beasts From 1,000,000 B.C.”, was drawn by Mike Sekowsky. During an emergency meeting in an Atom City laboratory, it’s revealed that the quality of uranium from their source in Africa has mysteriously deteriorated. Professor Keith (Captain Flash) Spencer decides to investigate and soon, he and his sidekick Ricky are jetting toward “the heart of the uranium-digging region”. There, they meet Ewa, chief of the Lakossa tribe, many of whom work in the uranium mine. Captain Flash explains his problem:
You’re just the man I want to see, Ewa! I’d appreciate a tour of your diggings! Magic ore not so magical lately!
Ewa introduces Captain Flash to his tribe’s medicine man Di-Ku, who takes the visiting superhero on a tour of the mine. There, he notices that the workers display carelessness and indifference. On their way back to the village, responding to a signal from a tribesman named Bana, Di-Ku pretends to stumble against Ewa, knocking him into a straw-covered pit in which lurks a fierce leopard! Captain Flash leaps to the rescue and rescues the chief, but the ambitious Di-Ku’s scheming is far from over. That night, he tries to poison Ewa, but Ricky accidentally drinks from the deadly cup meant for the chief. Blaming Ricky’s condition on “a rare jungle disease”, Di-Ku sends Captain Flash for an antidote found in “star-shaped flower found behind ice wall mountains.” Captain Flash and Ewa immediately goes to fetch these, unaware that they’re being followed by the sinister Bana. Slashing their way through the jungle, they arrive at the “unclimable” (sp.) ice-walled barrier, which Captain Flash shatters with a clap of his atomic hands! But once broken, the ice releases a trio of prehistoric dinosaurs, frozen there since the “glacial age”. His granite-like flesh immune to their teeth and claws, Captain Flash dispatches the monsters with his bare hands (in one of the frustratingly shortest dino-sequences ever!) as Bana watches. When he reports back to Di-Ku, feverish Ricky overhears their master plan to usurp Ewa’s power. Hours later, as Captain Flash and Ewa return with the antidote flowers, Ricky runs to warn them of Di-Ku’s treachery. Clapping his hands to recharge his atomic energy, Captain Flash rescues Ricky from their hurled spears and subdues the scheming scoundrels. Later, back in Keith Spencer’s secret underground hangar:
PROFESSOR KEITH SPENCER:
Well, it’s all settled now, Ricky…You’re cured of that disease…the jinx of the ice mountain is broken…and with Di-Ku and his men in jail, the uranium will come through okay!
You left out just one thing, Professor – thanks to CAPTAIN FLASH!
Also included in this issue of CAPTAIN FLASH are the following stories and features:
- “Captain Flash” in “The Fight Of The Century”, drawn by Mike Sekowsky. – A crime wave hits the southwestern US. The gang responsible included Muscle Man, a dim-witted thug “who has the strength of a thousand men” thanks to a serum created by the gang’s brainy leader, who holds a grudge against Captain Flash. Soon, with Muscle Man’s aid, (he tosses a huge boulder onto the tracks) the gang hijacks a railroad shipment of half a million dollars in gold. What’s worse, with the track blocked, an awful disaster looms as a second train approaches, unaware of the problem. On board are Professor Keith Spencer and Ricky Davis, who hear the freight train engineer’s whistle-call for help and change into their super-costumes. Using his atomic power, Captain Flash prevents the calamity, then heads after the fleeing train robbers. While he subdues the other gang members, Muscle Man sneaks up on him and clobbers Captain Flash with a blow “which is like a thousand trip-hammers”. Later, the humiliated Prof. Spencer resolves to discredit Muscle Man, so as Captain Flash, he challenges his brawny foe to a public bare-knuckle fight for a $1,000,000 purse. A week later, 100,000 screaming fans are present for the bout. Although he suffers a devastating roundhouse punch in the first round, Captain Flash springs back, avoiding Muscle Man’s blows and finally delivering a knockout in the third round. That evening, as Atom City’s newspaper proclaims “Muscle Man And Gang Jailed As Captain Flash Forces Confession From Gang” (huh?), Prof. Spencer congratulates himself, proclaiming “Well, it looks like Captain Flash turned out to be winner and still champion!”
- “Tomboy”, drawn by Edward Moritz. – (Here’s this nutty feature’s splash page.) One night, at a masquerade party at Lieutenant Charles Jackson’s house, a young girl named Terry Mallet frets over how to attract more interest from her disinterested boyfriend Bill Jackson. When Tomboy unexpectedly appears, Bill’s adolescent hormones go wild, even though he’s unaware that “Tomboy” is really is sister Janie, dressed in costume for the party. (Of course, Janie really is Tomboy, but that’s a fact she’s keeping to herself.) Her police detective father warns Janie not to pull such a convincing ruse ever again, since “it can cause a lot of confusion tomorrow when the department honors the real Tomboy”! The following day, Lieutenant Jackson insists that his daughter accompany him to the event to honor Tomboy at Banner Hall. Since she can’t be in two places at once, this presents quite a problem for Janie. Even worse, unknown to Janie, Lard Vinson’s crooked gang is planning its own scheme to “honor” Tomboy during the big event! Speaking of which, when the moment approaches when Tomboy is expected to appear on stage, Janie tries to get away from her father, claiming she has to make an important phone call. Instead, she’s astounded to see Tomboy – her alter ego – step on stage and receive a commemorative statuette from the Police Commissioner! With everyone watching the Tomboy impersonator, Janie finds an opportunity to sneak away and switch into her Tomboy costume. Moments later, at Banner Hall’s side door, the Tomboy imposter is greeted by the Mayor’s “official” limousine driven by Lard Vinson and his gang! (Earlier, they took care of the Mayor and his greeting committee with a “sleepin’ gas bomb”.) Thinking they’ve got the real Tomboy in their clutches, they take off. Seconds later, the real Tomboy shows up, confusing the Police Commissioner to no end. On her motorcycle, she follows the limo, one that pulls into a seedy downtown warehouse. Crashing through a skylight, she trades fisticuffs with a pair of Lard’s guards, then rescues her mysterious “twin”. Unmasking the girl, she discovers her lookalike’s true identity to be none other than Terry Mallet, her brother’s frustrated girlfriend! Meanwhile, one of the guards sneaks away and summons Lard and the rest of the gang to stop the duo, but Tomboy makes short work of them. That night, in the neighborhood “sweet shop”, Terry enthuses, “I never saw anything like it in my life! Tomboy went through those thugs like a bowling ball mowing down ten pins! You’re right, Bill! She’s wonderful!” Bill grouses, “And my sister Janie had the nerve to masquerade as Tomboy!”
- “Captain Flash” in “Sharkmen!”, drawn by Mike Sekowsky. – Twenty miles off the coast of Bermuda, Professor Wallace Thornton hosts a party on his yacht to announce the marriage plans of his daughter Carole and her fiancée, Leslie Adams. But the happy occasion is marred with their boat is boarded by weird-looking biped shark-creatures who grab Thornton, seal him in a bizarre bathysphere and drag him under the ocean’s surface. Days later, Carole and Leslie contact Prof. Keith Spencer, who believes that Thornton, America’s foremost expert on atomic submarines, is still alive! Later, Keith changes into Captain Flash, and the next day, he and Ricky visit the naval base at New London. With the aid of the authorities, they quickly convert a submarine into a lookalike for the USS Nautilus to use as a decoy to lure the sharkmen into revealing themselves. Their elaborate ruse soon does the trick, and donning scuba gear, Captain Flash and Ricky go “shark-hunting”! The sharkmen are no match for Captain Flash, so they release a hunger-mad tiger shark and a killer whale on him. They’re no match for his atomic powers, but during the fracas, the sharkmen manage to capture Ricky and take him to a plastic sub-oceanic bubble where they also hold Prof. Thornton prisoner. The Man Of Radiation penetrates the dome by filling his mouth with sand from the sea bottom and blowing a fine stream of it to cut through the bubble’s plastic skin. Once inside, the leader of the sharkmen pulls out an all-too-familiar machine gun and threaten to kill Prof. Thornton and Ricky if Captain Flash doesn’t immediately surrender. Ignoring the warning, Captain Flash dives between the sharkmen and their captives, using his body like a living shield to deflect the bullets. Suddenly, the “sharkmen” are revealed to be nothing but human beings wearing convincing fish-costumes, part of an elaborate plot to force Prof. Thornton into divulging top-secrets about our nation’s atomic submarines! After escorting the phony fish-men back to the surface, Captain Flash and Prof. Thornton extract a confession from them. A few days later, it’s revealed that Carole Thornton’s fiancée, Leslie Adams, has been behind the entire outlandish scheme, planning to sell the atomic secrets to the highest bidder. Suddenly, Leslie pulls out a pistol, threatening to kill Carole if anyone tries to stop him, but Captain Flash makes a move “with blinding speed” and grabs him. Later, Prof. Keith Spencer consoles tearful Carole with the rather blunt explanation that “He never loved you or anyone else – he just loved money!”
ODDBALL Factoid – Cartoonist Mike Sekowsky was one of the fastest and most prolific comic book artists of all time, with a remarkable resume that spanned nearly every comic book genre! Mike’s output varied from funny animals (ZIGGY PIG & SILLY SEAL) to kiddie comics (CAPTAIN KANGAROO) to teenage humor (“The Maniaks”) to romance stories to detective comics (AFTER DARK) to horror/mystery comics (BORIS KARLOFF’S THRILLER) to science fiction (“Star Hawkins”) to war comics (FIGHT THE ENEMY) to superheroes (JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS)! He also drew such Oddball classics as “B’wana Beast” (in DC’s SHOWCASE), THE INFERIOR FIVE and the “new” WONDER WOMAN!