BONUS BOOK – Flash Force 2000 (November, 1984)
Writer – Robert Loren Fleming
Pencils – Denys Cowan
Inks – Sal Trapani
Colors – Joe Orlando
Letters – Gaspar
Editor – Andy Helfer
Happy New Year, Everybody!
For my American readers… are ya tired of seein’ H&R Block commercials yet? Lord knows I am. I hope you all had wonderful Holiday Season, full’a family, friends, and food. But now, as the song says, it’s time for us all to “muddle through” (somehow).
That said, today we’re looking at a Matchbox car tie-in called Flash Force 2000 (if only it were called Flash Force 2020, am I right?). It took me a minute to recall what this one was all about… for a second, I actually thought it was a Barry Allen Flash-related thing. It ain’t though! It’s something else altogether… for better or worse.
I’m reading this in an issue of Tales of the Teen Titans (since I already had that longbox open anyway), and was reminded that this was an issue of that series I’d wanted to cover on the blog for quite some time. It’s a story that features a team called the RECOMbatants, who are analogous to the DNAgents from Eclipse Comics… which led to an unofficial crossover between the two books. The DNAgents title would follow suit by introducing their own version of the New Teen Titans, called… of all things, “Project: Youngblood“! (DNAgents #14 – July, 1984)
Pretty wild, right? Well, the only reason I didn’t go through with covering the the unofficial crossover, was… this Insert Preview! I felt as though it would “muddy the waters” so to speak, and being a completionist, I’d have felt weird leaving it out. Welp, after today’s post, that won’t be a problem anymore. Hopefully, before long, I’ll cover the New Teen Titans/DNAgents crossover event here!
This Insert Preview appeared in the following issues (all cover-dated November, 1984)
- Batman and the Outsiders #15
- Blue Devil #6
- Superman #401
- Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes #317
- Tales of the Teen Titans #48
- World’s Finest Comics #309
Oh well, those are problems for another day… let’s see what this story is all about!
We open with a quick-n-dirty look at what will be going on, presumably in the year 2000. Remember… the future was such a long time ago. Turns out there was a disaster… that both changed and reshaped the world, which is something the narrator will not allow us to forget. Civilization has been whittled down to one major hub city… called Technopolis. From it spurs a road, the Transway, which connects it to other, smaller communities. And so, they built cars so they can travel. There are good guys, and there are bad guys… naturally. The bad guys are the “Mutant Scavengers” called the Dark Seekers. As we join the story, the Seekers are raising a bit of hell on a trio of travelers. After beating up/killing the humans, they look to salvaging their autos. They do so under the orders of the EEEVIL Terminus-3!
We shift scenes back to Technopolis, where this event is being played out on the monitor of a genius inventor named Dr. Malcolm Ryder. He laments the loss of the convoy, and blames himself for not showing them how to properly operate these new post-disaster cars. He presents his “latest development” to his son, Flash and… I’m going to assume, Flash’s girlfriend Shari. It’s a V.M.C.: a Vehicular Memory Chip, which is to say, something that can be implanted… either in a human, or a vehicle… it’s not quite clear.
Now, this entire scene… well, the audio of it anyway… is being played out in Terminus-3’s base. Wait, I thought he was just salvaging scrap with the Mutants? Oh well, whatever the case… ol’ Termy is tickled almost as pink as his base by the news.
Back to Technopolis… Flash’s twin brother Damon finally wakes up, and joins his father, brother, and would-be girlfriend. Ya see, it would appear both of Mal’s kids wanna git with Shari. This is a rather jumbled, and highly dramatic scene. Damon asks Shari out… she turns him down. Flash shoves Damon, who bops into Malcolm, causing him to drop the V.M.C. Malcolm tells Damon to be more careful, which prompts an epic teen-age rant… ending with Damon insisting he never asked to be born, nobody will ever understand him, and that he’s running away. He actually leaves the safety of Technopolis and heads into the wastelands. Good Lord, we’re only on page four.
Damon makes it about five steps out of the city before being descended upon by Dark Seeker Mutants. Rather than fight back, he just begs them not to hurt him. Whatta guy!
As luck would have it, Terminus-3 just happened to be wandering by… and he calls off the Mutant attackers. After lying to Damon about wanting to make peace with Dr. Ryder, he and Malcolm’s dumber son become fast friends. Thinking that facilitating peace talks will make him an instant hero, Damon even offers to help Termy enter Technopolis using his security clearance!
Back inside, Damon waits for Flash and Shari to head off on their date before presenting his father with, perhaps, his new research partner… Terminus-3! This is obviously a trap… and Termy threatens to kill Damon, unless Dr. Ryder, get this, “programs his driveless cars… for EVIL!!!”. What’s that thing where the best villains always think they’re working for “good”? Well, not here.
Dr. Ryder throws his hands in the air, and agrees to program the cars… for EVIL. Terminus-3 insists he wastes no time… the EVIL transition will begin right now!
As the process begins, Terminus-3 is giddy as a schoolboy… literally jumping up and down chanting “Eeeeevil! Eeeeevil!” as though he’s friggin’ Simon and Hecubus on Kids in the Hall.
See? His celebratory “EVILing” is so loud, it manages to stir up ol’ Flash Ryder, who’s going to check out what all the hub-bub’s about.
Down in the lab, Terminus-3 forces Damon into one of his EVIL “Rampager” cars… which, begins to operate on its own. So, I guess those V.M.C.’s are for the cars then? Anyhoo, the car takes it upon itself to… get this… kill Dr. Malcolm Ryder! Like just atomize the poor sumbitch! Like how the Sentinel does Wolverine during Days of Future Past! Of course, Flash arrives on the scene just in time to see this go down… and, in the driver’s seat of the killer car… his twin brother. Uh-oh! Further “uh-oh”… we’re only on page friggin’ eight.
Damon and the Rampagers take off, and Shari enters the scene. Dr. Ryder shares a few final words with his favorite son about a “secret weapon” he’d prepared before perishing. Flash heads into the next room where he’s greeted by a trio of programmed non-EVIL cars… Maz(da), Scout, and ‘Vette. These cars tell Flash of yet another top-secret project the Doc had been working on, and sends the sobbing son through the third corridor in order to find it.
Shari heads up to the Technopolis gunnery and proceeds to fire into the swarm of Rampagers that are headed their way. Meanwhile, the “Hot Rods” Maz, Scout, and ‘Vette launch into some bumper-car action! We get three or so pages of cars crashing into one another… with plenty of comments about their “explosive bumpers” which just so happen to be the main (and perhaps, only) “feature” of the Flash Force 2000 Matchbox toys.
The Hot Rods make quite a dent in Terminus-3’s car-army (carmy?), until the Mutant baddies launch the (dun, dun, dunnnnn) Battle Van! The Battle Van is, well, exactly what it sounds like… and it’s tremendously huge. Not sure why Termy and Co. don’t just try and sell these things rather than doing… whatever the hell they’re trying to do here.
Before the Battle Van can do any damage, we learn what Flash’s final gift from his father was… Dr. Ryder’s Tornado Chopper! Terminus takes one look at the whirlybird before calling off the attack! Seriously… that’s all it takes!
Terminus flees from the van, and heads over to pluck his hostage Damon Ryder from his EVILmobile. Damon isn’t cool with any of this, but doesn’t seem to have any choice in the matter. In the air, Flash has a clean shot at the Big Bad… but chooses not to fire, as he cannot bring himself to harm his twin brother.
We (finally) wrap up with Flash taking all of his late father’s responsibilities in Technopolis… and a twenty-one gun salute in honor of Dr. Malcolm Ryder.
Holy Cow, you guys… is it still 2020, or did we miss it? Damn this was endless. Funny, out of this entire BONUS BOOK project, I bet this piece will wind up being the least read… but it took the longest time to do!
As a kid who, despite owning dozens of Matchbox/Hot Wheels cars, never cared one bit about ’em… I’ll give the creative team a bit of credit in trying to assign a measure of personality and purpose to the Flash Force. The backstory is a bit… I dunno… precious, but it works in a pinch.
I still don’t have much of an investment in the cars… I mean, I couldn’t even get into Transformers… because, what are the stakes there? A robot is destroyed… you rebuild the damn robot. Sure, it’s a hiccup, but when the dust settles, the robot (or in this case, car) will be back, often better than before. I suppose where this story… err, shines (?) is in the human bits. Our twins are basically a post-apocalyptic Goofus and Gallant…
… which, I suppose is as good a trope as any. I haven’t ever come across any of the mini-comics that followed this Insert Preview (each toy came with an issue), so I don’t know if they ever reconcile. If I were to make a guess… I’d assume that they planned to reunite them, but the toy line got cancelled before they could. Either that, or they were saving it for an animated series. Who knows? Not me.
Overall… this sure was something we read today. The art was good… and, it seems as though Fleming tried his best to make something interesting of this. Sadly it falls a bit short of that Hot Wheels series we looked at back in the long ago. They can’t all be winners!
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