Welcome back to the Zoom Room, where we break down classic stories featuring Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash!
After last week’s look at Flash #237, we’re jumping back in time to Flash #233 and “The Deadly Secret of the Flash!”, by Cary Bates, Irv Novick and Tex Blaisdell. This is a crucial Flash tale featuring some of the seeds of the Death of Iris Allen story and a vision of Professor Zoom that is still vital in Flash comics today. Links to artwork and research are included throughout this post. For previous annotations, click here!
COVER: Dick Giordano’s first of two Flash covers in 1975.
PG 1 & 2: The opening page shows a scene that does not actually happen. Stacy Conwell first appeared in issue #232. She was the daughter of Detective Charlie Conwell, who first appeared on the cover of Flash #197 (Gil Kane! See also: Barry Allen’s hair) as a friend of Barry. He was killed in Flash #224 during a run for District Attorney (Barry tripped while trying to catch the bullet), and the Allens agreed to take in Stacy while she attended college. Stacy made 15 Flash appearances between 1975 and 1978.
PG 3: A report of tornadoes over the radio prompts Barry to make a super-speed exit, returning to the vehicle in the same instant. A body suddenly appears on the side of the road, and Barry pulls the car over. He sends Iris and Stacy for medical help.
PG 4: The only “victim” here is a clothing store, as Barry created the accident scene at super-speed by confiscating a mannequin from a nearby store. Flash states that the “wind force of an average twister is well over 500 miles an hour…”, but according to the Center for Severe Weather Research only the most extreme tornadoes reach speeds of over 300 MPH.
PG 5 & 6: The third of three tornadoes won’t be undone as easily as the first two, and Flash finds himself drawn in and bombarded by energy-bursts courtesy of Professor Zoom. Zoom’s origin is re-told here. He calls the energy-bursts “cosma-spurs”, the “deadliest form of energy discovered by 25th-Century science!” Three farmers race to congratulate Flash, only to find an empty, smoldering Flash uniform.
PG 7: Flash’s demise is reported over the radio. Iris is shocked by the news, but Barry shows up the next instant. Barry’s facial expression almost gives the story away.
PG 8: Barry tells Iris that Flash is going to lay low in an attempt to “…smoke Professor Zoom out into the open!” After dropping Iris off to run some errands, Barry is typically late picking her up throughout the day. Iris is upset, but soon turns incredulous when her husband compliments her non-existent “new hairdo”. Zoom’s last encounter with Iris was in Flash #165, and at the time she was sporting a different style.
PG 9: Echoing the sequence from page two, Iris explains that she secretly set Barry’s watch back 25 minutes in order to “put him on schedule!” She was even able to come up with the average number of minutes Barry is usually running late. Now, however, the watch is showing the correct time. Iris deduces that this “Barry” is not her Barry, at which point Zoom stands revealed.
PG 10 & 11: Explaining his plan, Zoom’s obsession with Iris comes into full view. This is an important upgrade to the character, as Zoom’s fixation on the love(s) of Barry Allen remained one-of-if-not-the major plot device through The Death of Iris Allen and The Trial of the Flash. That is not to mention The Return of Barry Allen, where Wally West recalled how his aunt’s life ended at Zoom’s hands and sought retribution. The page-one image showing Flash attacking Iris is of course more effective visually, but was more symbolic of the story than accurate.
Zoom is felled by an invisible punch delivered by a ghostly Barry Allen, who had vibrated to intangibility and survived Zoom’s tornado attack. Held a phantom by the cosma-spur radiation, Barry built up his strength until he was able to overcome Zoom with a vibratory shock-wave.
Like most of the issues from this era, Flash #233 balances a lighter tone with some pretty horrific circumstances. Zoom is clearly portrayed as a predatory monster with no identity, and he began to cast a long shadow on Flash that would lead to some major payoffs in later stories.
See you back here next week, when we will start breaking down The Trial of the Flash!