Friday, August 01, 2008

Potted Review: The Flash Companion

THE FLASH COMPANION
224 page Trade Paperback - by Keith Dallas

Let me be upfront with this review - I bought my own copy. Even though I am listed in the credits, and Keith Dallas and Jason Sacks both asked me a lot of questions about Ross Andru and quoted from my Partners For Life volume, I have not and do not expect to, receive a free copy. So this isn't being paid for in any way, shape or form.

Now that's out in the open, God, what a book! Of late there's been a sheer glut of such 'companion' books coming out from various publishers, TwoMorrows appear to be leading the way with them. The quality of them vary somewhat, some are good, some are light on detail and some appear to be merely excuses to print decent scans of original art, not that there's anything wrong with that. This companion is everything that anyone could want in such a volume, it's informative, well written, entertaining, features high quality art and even better, leaves the reader wanting a second volume, if not more. Unlike some volumes that make me wonder why, and some that are now at Volume III or IV that, frankly, should have stopped at Volume I, this edition cries out for a sequel, if only to cover the other artists, writers and editors who worked on the character over the years. For example, I personally own over 100 pages of Norm Breyfogle's original art on Flash stories (including almost all of the three issue Elseworld Flashpoint mini-series), none of that is touched upon in this volume. I'd love to see originals of Javier Saltares Flash story that he drew which John Byrne wrote around the same time as the Flash television series, which is also covered in this volume (I've always loved Saltares and adore his Ghost Rider, even if the stories weren't much chop).

With the Flash Companion, Dallas and Sacks, along with a cast of others, have provided an almost complete history of the character, one of the most popular and enduring in comic books, as seen through the eyes of the people who were there. There's interviews, comments and quotes by the likes of Sheldon Mayer, Gardner Fox, Marv Wolfman, Mike Barr, Alex Saviuk, Bob Kanigher, Cary Bates, Mark Waid and many more, along with, of course, two of the guys who did more to relaunch the title and arguable the entire Silver Age of comic books, Julius Schwartz and Carmine Infantino. And do remember, when it came to revamping and relaunching superheroes, The Flash came first and set the template for many to follow. Indeed an argument can be made that without the Flash relaunch in Showcase comic books as we know it today just wouldn't exist. I doubt we'd have Marvel Comics without the Flash, let alone the bulk of DC and the companies that have followed.

For me one of the best sections was seeing the legendary Ross Andru double covers. Ross, as editor of the title, wasn't always aware of what he'd ordered and not only bought two different covers for the same Flash book in the early 1980s, he also drew two different covers for the same issue. Brilliant! Reporting fallacies such as that only serve to make the man more enduring. It's hard to find a fault with this book, but there is one - it's too short. That's why I'm going to pressure Keith and Jason for a follow-up, hopefully they'll be able to sell a publisher on the idea. When you consider the sheer amount of time, effort and genuine love for the medium and character and you can see why this is a book worth tracking down and buying.

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