Flash: Savage Velocity

Ah, the 1980’s. MTV, Ronald Reagan, Rocky Balboa, The Terminator, Freddy Krueger, buddy cop movies, Pee Wee Herman, Jason Voorhees, Ollie North, contras. Sting, singing Russians. I could go on but I won’t, because boy oh boy the 80’s sucked but the decade did produce some great comics. Thus, when Comixology held their annual end of the year sale, I picked up a copy of this book. I read some – not all – of the issues back in the day, and wanted a complete collection. The writer, Mike Baron, produced a bunch of comics in the 80’s – Nexus, Badger, The Punisher – and of course The Flash.

First things first: this is a very different Flash. Barry Allen, temporarily dead, is replaced by his youthful sidekick Wally West. Wally has been depowered– he can’t break the sound barrier, has to eat two or three times the amount of a normal person, and passes out after he uses his super speed.

Wally himself is written like a 20-year old. An immensely privileged, stupid lucky 20-year old. He buys a lottery ticket and becomes a multi-millionaire. His mom moves in with him and he can’t bring himself to throw her out. His girlfriend is a decade older than him. She’s also married, and when her husband finds out he injects himself with a steroid that gives him super strength and speed and tries to kill Wally. As happens in superhero comics.

Other standout villains in this volume include Vandal Savage, a caveman who dresses like a French lord and designs a highly addictive drug that grants its users super speed. The Chunk is a human event singularity who must consume 47x his weight or implode. The people Chunk consumes are transported to an apocalyptic hellhole. Despite this, Chunk isn’t exactly Doctor Doom, and is written more as a misguided soul than a villain.

This is a nice run by Mike Baron, who only stuck around for 14 issues plus an annual. The issues move fast, pun intended, and there’s an endearing weirdness to the stories, most of which are inspired by the 1980’s – Max Headroom, drug epidemics, the Cold War, ‘roid rage.

Wally himself isn’t portrayed in a very heroic light, whether he’s having an affair with a married woman, puttering around his Long Island mansion, or going to parties hosted by Mafia Dons. He’s written as a materialistic man incapable of saying no to any woman. Unsurprisingly, most of his relationships are shallow and dysfunctional. This was all part of DC’s grand experiment of giving their heroes personalities. It didn’t go on long, but it sure was interesting while it lasted.

I recommend this graphic novel. The first comic book I ever bought was an issue of The Flash, back in 1978 when Barry Allen wore the scarlet tights. I’ve read a lot of Flash since then, and I am here to say that Wally is a more interesting character than Barry Allen ever was. The powers that be might have brought Barry back, but Wally will always be my Flash.

WNUF Halloween Special

I grew up during the 1980’s, a very special decade. We had Ronald Reagan, big hair, Satanic Panic, video arcades, Bruce Springsteen, heavy metal, Freddy Krueger, petting zoos, VHS tapes, monster truck tournaments, Beautiful Mount Airy Lodge, help-a-child foundations (all that’s needed is a desire to help and a clean criminal record!) and cheesy commercials for hot dog joints, to name just a few.

The WNUF Halloween Special starts with a news broadcast, where we hear all the local news – dirty attack ads in governor races, a local dentist giving money for Halloween candy, a Christian group claiming that Halloween is evil. The Halloween Special itself, which takes place in a supposedly haunted house where a young man killed his family and claimed the Devil made him do it, doesn’t start until about twenty minutes into the movie.

As is fitting, the WNUF Halloween Special comes complete with commercials for carpet joints, local dentists, bad TV shows and petting zoos. I watched a lot of TV in the 80’s, and can tell you the commercials are spot-on. As the night progresses and the kiddies go to bed, the commercials get weirder and more risqué. The special has been recorded on VCR, and the watcher fast-forwards through the duplicates.

The actors and actresses of this movie look like real people, not airbrushed gods and goddesses. Frank Stewart, the narrator of the Halloween Special, has messy hair and the sleazy appeal of a used car salesman. His guests include a pair of fake psychics and their pet cat, along with a priest who becomes increasingly terrified as the night goes on. They have a call-in séance where a caller tells us that Iron Maiden rules and White Lion sucks. It’s amateur hour, but Frank soldiers on, even though it becomes obvious that something’s in the house.

I wouldn’t call the WNUF Halloween Special found-footage because technically the footage isn’t found. But it has links to that genre; other influences include The Amityville Horror and the BBC mockumentary Ghostwatch, which I reviewed last year. The commercials get a bit annoying, but this is a movie worth seeing, if only because it takes us back to the 80’s, that magical decade!