They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and that’s certainly the case with The Ages of The Flash, a newish book by McFarland Publishers. Edited by Joseph J. Darowski, the slim (186 pages) volume features a generic image on the front that evokes the Silver Age version of the Fastest Man Alive, but does not portray his true uniform. I guess the lawyers at DC Comics are waiting to pounce on any unauthorized images of their mainline heroes. Or, perhaps McFarland is just being extra cautious, as they were with my Encyclopedia of KISS, which has a silhouette of Gene Simmons on the cover instead of an actual photo of him.
Regardless, this is an interesting book that covers a wide variety of aspects of the Scarlet Speedster, from “The Birth of the Silver Age Flash” to “The Rise and Fall of Wally West” to “The Persistence of Vision and The New 52,” which was a 2011 revamping and relaunching of the DC Universe superhero line.
I found two chapters in particular especially fascinating. “Politically Incorrect Humor: Examining the Three Dimwits Through a Disability Studies Lens,” which told me more than I thought was possible to know about quirky characters Winky, Noddy, and Blinky from the adventures of Golden Age Flash, and "Barry Allen’s Social Awakening in the 1970s," where Flash stories starting featuring socially relevant storylines. As much as I love whizbang Flash fun, it was cool when the book took on social issues, such as the counterculture movement. Barry Allen grew his hair out a bit and even had a favorite band, Washington Starship, which was a fictionalized Jefferson Starship (complete with Paul and Gracie, which were nods to Paul Kantner and Grace Slick).
It’s a shame there are no photos in the book (more fear of DC, I would imagine), so you might want to keep your laptop nearby while you are reading so you can look up certain characters mentioned who you are unfamiliar with. A different author took on each chapter, but you won’t see any comic book writers on the list. Rather, they are English professors, lecturers, philosophers, and the like, so the book has a definite scholarly tone and approach. It’s certainly very well written.
As a massive Flash fan with a near-complete collection of his Silver Age adventures, as well as shelves of memorabilia, I’m happy to have The Ages of the Flash in my collection. It would be nice if there were images to accompany the information (comics are a visual medium, after all), but I definitely learned some new things about my favorite character (several versions of him, in fact), as well as saw him in a new light regarding his place in society. Recommended.