Flash #203 (1971)

Flash #203 (February, 1971)
“The Flash’s Wife is a Two-Timer!”
Story – Robert Kanigher
Penciller – Irv Novick
Inker – Murphy Anderson
Cover Price: $0.15

There are a handful of covers I’d love to have blown up to hang on my wall… this is most definitely one of those covers!  It’s somehow wacky and comicbooky while still being somewhat haunting.

In my research I discovered that a lotta folks thought that civilian walking behind the Flash was Stan Lee or Gray Morrow.  Turns out it was just some random dude who they threw a beard on.  The truth is always less fun, ain’t it?

We open aboard the Justice League Satellite where a lonely Flash arrives a bit early for his shift on monitor duty.  His wife is away on assignment… and he’s also just learned something about her that has left him a bit shaken.  He meets an… oddly passive-aggressive Superman.  I mean, really passive-aggressive… he’s all like “I’m a lonely alien… but what would you know about that?”  Yeesh.  This starts Flash’s walk… er, run… down memory lane.  He shares the story of Iris West’s secret origin…

Ya see, a few days ago Barry returned home to find a note from his wife… one which revealed that she was being drawn 1,000 years into the future!  So, a quick ride on the Cosmic Treadmill (which looks so weird in Barry’s house), and he arrives in the year 2970!  It’s a strange desert landscape and the Sun glows red.  He appears below a river… in a tube!

Now if you’ve ever traveled through time, you know what kinda thirst ya work up.  And so, Flash heads up to the tube-river and bores a hole to get himself a drink.  Little does he know that stealing water is a capital offense in 2970… and he is chased off by some futurecops.  

He is able to evade capture by vibrating through a nearby mountain… and winds up standing before a strange “self contained city”… it’s really quite the thing!  Super interesting to see.  As he approaches the city he spies some gigantic mutant vegetation… like giant tomatoes and stuff.

Inside the town, he accidentally bumps into a citizen who bumps into another citizen who had just procured his family’s daily allowance of water.  Before a fight can break out, a siren begins to sound… and all of the folks start heading for shelter.  Coming down a nearby staircase… is Iris!

She tells Barry to beat it… he doesn’t belong here.  Flash doesn’t quite understand… and she doesn’t really need much arm twisting to spill the beans.  She claims that while cleaning out her father’s basement she came across a locket with the name “Iris Russell” engraved on it.

She picks it up… and it begins speaking to her!  It tells the story of the Secret Origin of Iris Wes– Russell!  Ya see, Iris was born on the doomed planet Krypto– oh, wait… that’s the wrong one… but as we’re about to learn, it’s not too far off.  Here goes: In the future, the Earth has split into two factions… Earth-West (no relation) and Earth-East.  The two sides were in conflict, and when West got word that East was preparing to drop the nukes, the Russell family decided to send their only daughter Iris BACK TO THE PAST.  She appears on the backyard patio of the West family in the weeks following Mrs. West’s miscarriage.  They decide to raise the child as their own.

As the story winds down, Iris is met by her father Ira who confirms it all as true.  We get a little bit of the “How could you have kept this from me?” spoo from Iris, but really now… you’d imagine that’d be a tough subject to broach.  After a chat everything is hunky-dory, and Iris even wears the locket!  While fixing dinner for her husband… she begins to feel a vibrational pull… to the future!  This is when she writes the note.  She signs it “H”, which I don’t quite understand.

Before we know it, Iris arrives in the year 2970… and wouldn’tcha know it, no sooner does she appear than her birth parents just happen to stroll past!  Talk about convenience…

Her parents take her to a tower where they tell her the story of their own survival.  They reveal that Earth-West is kept under constant surveillance from Earth-East.  They are often raided for slave labor and other unpleasantness.  We get a pretty grim view of the future here.  Suddenly a Spy Satellite flies by with a message… it would seem that Sirik, Supreme Leader of Earth-East has decided to take a wife… and wouldn’tcha know it, he’s picked Iris Russell-West-Allen!  Iris, good daughter that she is agrees if it saves Earth-West from another nuclear situation.

Back in the present… future-present… present in the future, but after the future flashback we just read… er… back at the point in the future where the Flash has found Iris (there we go!) Barry says he’ll take care of ol’ Sirik.  It just so happens that Sirik is arriving right at this moment!  Barry challenges Sirik to a fight to the death for the hand of Iris… and Sirik, sporting dude that he is, is hip to the idea.

The battle begins with… Flash running away!  Sirik sends his men to give chase, and they follow him to… a playground?  Like, seriously… a playground.  He trounces the grunts with relative ease… and by the grace of a swing set.


Barry confronts Sirik, who has situated himself behind a “trick wall”.  Ya see, it’s like a ballistic two-way mirror… he can fire through it, but it shields him from attacks.  I guess it’s a good thing he wound up on the right side of it!

What Sirik wasn’t counting on was Barry’s ability to vibrate through walls… which, ya know… he does!  Sirik gets his butt kicked pretty soundly.  The baddie then reveals that for every half-hour he doesn’t return to Earth-East… missiles will be fired at Earth-West.  Convenient, that.

And so, in the matter of two panels, Barry vibrates the onslaught of missiles into exploding prematurely in the sky… and the destroys the missile sites in Earth-East.  Wow.  In a third panel, he solves world peace.

The story wraps up with Barry and Iris returning to the present… well, the present insofar as it’s still 1970 and part of the story Flash is sharing with Superman.  They return just a split-second after Barry had leapt to the future.  We close with Barry ending his tale… and Superman kinda being a jerk about it.  Playing “can you top this”, like “Well, at least you have Iris… I’m all alone.”  Gotta wonder what crawled up his butt today.

What a weird issue!

In being a post-Crisis, and thereby post-Barry DC fan… I never had all that much in the way of context for Iris being a future-child.  When I read through the tail end of this volume… ya know, the Cary Bates Trial of the Flash stuff, Iris was dead… having been killed by Reverse Flash, but then she was back in the future… and she and Flash retire there after Flash #350… just in time for his ultimate moment of profundity during Crisis.  I guess I never thought all that hard about it… and just accepted that Iris was somehow connected to the future.  That’s kinda the way being a comics fan was back in the day… or at least the way I was.

Little did I know that the idea of Iris being out-of-time was introduced some 15 years earlier!  Let’s chat that up a bit.  I kinda joked about it during the synopsis, but it’s kinda striking how similar her origin is to Superman’s.  Sent to safety in the face of destruction by parents… arriving before a childless couple, who raises the baby as their own.  It might have been funny to pop back to Flash and Superman’s chat at that point to see his reaction.

Speaking of Superman… wow, he was in rare form here wasn’t he?  I mean, he appears in all of two panels, and is insufferable in both!  I never considered him to be a sad sack… but here we are.  He’s like that guy you know that you can’t confide in, because instead of listening to your plight, they just try to top it!  You get a lot of “You think that’s bad…?” replies… and you just wanna walk away.

While I enjoyed this story, I gotta say… it was awfully convenient.  It might sound hypocritical to raise that observation in light of my disdain for today’s “for the trade” decompressed storytelling, but everything just fell into place perfectly here.  Flash immediately found Iris in the future… Iris immediately found her birth parents in the future… Sirik immediately arrives to accept Flash’s challenge… and Flash immediately disarms the entire Eastern half of the globe.  Not that I’d want this expanded into a six-issue arc, but maybe give it a few more pages.  Then again, I’m not sure if they realized the kind of ramifications this story would have… perhaps they assumed it would just be swept under the rug, and never referenced again.  I’m guessing there were folks who wish it were!

The art here was really nice.  I think I might be a bit gun shy on pre-Crisis Flash books because I don’t dig Carmine Infantino’s later style all that much… but that’s like a decade after this.  Either way, I was pleased to see this was a Novick book.  Also, I mentioned it above but… dang, what a wild cover!  Love it!

Overall, this might be an issue worth tracking down.  It adds a whole lot to Flash lore, and is an all-around fun read.  Unfortunately the SHOWCASE Presents line petered out before this issue could be reprinted… though, for your convenience it is available digitally.

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