- Posted by Johanna on September 6, 2006 at 8:33 am
- Category: Superhero Reviews
- PUBLISHER: DC Comics; $19.99 US
Superman vs. the Flash is the classic “who’d win?” situation. The Flash’s only power is superspeed, so he has an advantage in a race, but Superman is super at everything and has the advantage of being DC’s premier hero. Over the decades, they’ve faced off six times, with varying results. The stories collected here range from 1967 to 2002, and the creative lineup reads like a who’s who of superhero comics.
The book reprints
- Superman #199 by Jim Shooter and Curt Swan (1967)
- The Flash #175 by E. Nelson Bridwell and Ross Andru (1967)
- World’s Finest #198-199 by Denny O’Neil and Dick Dillin (1970)
- DC Comics Presents #1-2 by Martin Pasko and José Luis García-Lopez (1978)
- Adventures of Superman #463 by Dan Jurgens (1990)
- DC First: Flash/Superman by Geoff Johns and Rick Burchett (2002)
Also included are the covers, by such notables as Carmine Infantino, Bob Oksner, Kevin Nowlan, and Neal Adams.
The first time the two heroes race, it’s to fundraise for the United Nations. Since the course is three times around the globe, there are plenty of geographical tidbits included. The two heroes wind up helping each other out as obstacles arise, but they do it secretly so neither will feel indebted to the other, a quaintly old-fashioned idea.
A tie provides the excuse for a rematch several months later. Two alien gamblers hold cities hostage to force another race through the Milky Way galaxy. The setting allows for some crazy science fiction concepts and characters pretending to be someone else.
The third race finally determines a winner. Time is being screwed up, with the past and present intermingling, and the fix is to have Superman and the Flash run through the cosmos. The fourth story is a race through time, spurred by warring alien races.
In the modern era, magical imp Mr. Mxyzptlk gets the heroes racing “for the first time” — since the Flash now is Wally West, the former Kid Flash. The final story has 64th-century magician Abra Kadabra setting up Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick against Superman.
This book is also a time capsule of changing comic techniques. The 1967 story, for example, includes straightforward layouts based on a six-panel grid and thought balloons such as “Would Iris be surprised if she knew her husband was the Flash!” Other members of the Justice League appear only to stand around wishing the competitors luck and giving each other status updates.
The 1970 story is full of double-talk and magical plot-solving devices hiding under scientific-sounding terms. The heroes speak with more attitude than in the previous stories, and everything is portrayed more dramatically on a larger scale, as though bigger was better.
In the 90s, layouts are crowded, with more happening on each page. Superpowers are treated more realistically, with downsides and limitations on hero’s abilities. The final issue uses full bleed pages (without panel boundaries) to tell a darker, more threatening story.
Overall, the book is an interesting overview of DC history. And it’s a small thing, but with a book like this, it’s nice to see page numbers. They make it much easier to look up a favorite artist’s work.