And continues, and continues, and….

§ August 28th, 2023 § Filed under flash § 19 Comments

So my mention of Cary Bates in my last post got some of you talking about the storyline that got Barry “Silver Age” Flash marked for death in the soon-to-follow Crisis on Infinite Earths, “The Trial of the Flash.”

As I am once again getting a late start on the ol’ blogging yet again, I’m just going to say a few words about this series and we can pick up the discussion in the comments or maybe later as another full post.

I’m taking the issue numbers that comprise this run from the one (and I think only) time it was all reprinted under one cover, the black and white Showcase Presents thick paperback. The book includes #323-327, #329-336, and #340-350 (the last issue of the series.) Why they skip #337-340 is something of a mystery, aside from the issues themselves maybe not referencing the trial in-story. (#328 was a reprint issue.) The first issue is a Pied Piper story, and then the next two are the first appearances of Big Sir. The latter omission is most puzzling given that an event in that story leads directly to a dramatic reveal in the trial itself.

For the uninitiated, “The Trial of the Flash” is a story about our hero killing (accidentally or not) his enemy the Reverse Flash as he attempted to murder the Flash’s new bride. As a consequence, the Flash enters the legal system as the courts try to decide whether or not the Fastest Man Alive was guilty of…MOIDER.

At the time, apparently some people thought this was the Slowest Story Alive, as they quickly tired of this interminable plotline. To be fair, it was only a couple of years long, but still at this point at DC Comics, an extended storyline like this was the exception, not the rule, particularly in comics like The Flash which had mostly Done-in-One or the occasional two or three-parter stories. I remember, just a couple of years earlier, the story that opened Saga of the Swamp Thing got some pushback from readers for its length.

It seems a little odd to me, in that it wasn’t like we weren’t getting mostly standalone stories along the way, with the continuing subplots interspersed with the primary plot of the issue (both in Flash and Swamp Thing. Though perhaps in Flash, once the trial became the primary driver for the last year’s worth of books, it got to be a bit much, I suppose. Balancing the need between satisfying monthly reads and an extended plotline can be tricky, and for readers accustomed to a different sort of reading experience.

Personally, I enjoyed the trial storyline, which was something you really hadn’t seen in comics before…a superhero facing legal consequences for a fatalitiy committed in the course of his actions. And it kinda sorta played out in a real time, almost, in that in The Real World a trial like this takes forever. I mean, most trials don’t end with, like, time travel, far as I know.

I have to do a little more research, but I think sales were…not great on this series as it reached its eventual ending at #350 (relatively speaking…I’m sure comics people now would push their own grannies off cliffs for the numbers it was getting). I’m sure that was one of the factors that went into deciding the Barry Allen Flash would be on the chopping block for the then-imminent Crisis on Infinite Earths.

But I still think it wasn’t a bad run of The Flash, that maybe was just a little too ahead of its time for the story it was trying to tell.

19 Responses to “And continues, and continues, and….”

  • Rob S. says:

    Great post! And here I thought I was the only person who actually liked this storyline! (Though as I said in my comment to your previous entry, I thought the year or so leading up to it (314-325) was even better, and no one talks about those!)

    I can’t remember if Bates had any post-trial plans for Barry were if the book hadn’t been cancelled, and can’t seem to lay my hands on my copy of Keith Dallas’s Flash Companion to check. But I bet if we’d gotten a somewhat leaner trial and a new starting point for Barry, people might have really dug it.

    Nothing against Wally, though — I loved those books too!

  • Joe Gualtieri says:

    And yet, the Greatest Flash Stories Ever Told included a long, Marvel Saga-style retelling of the Trial!

    I’ve been low-key working on completing Bates’s Flash run for awhile, but never prioritized.DC put out one HC of the issues where Iris was killed, but I guess it sold poorly.

  • Thom H. says:

    I’m glad DC employed Carmine Infantino on Flash and Curt Swan on Superman as long as they did, but I think both of them were producing pretty dated art by the early-mid ’80s.

    I can see why the whole company kind of needed a shake-up with Crisis, not necessarily because continuity was too convoluted, but because DC’s product was pretty blah at the time.

  • Chris Gumprich says:

    I remember reading this at the time, month after month after month after month after month…

    The actual death of the Reverse-Flash was an incredible shot in the arm for the series (does anyone remember the Eradicator? No, not that one, the other one.) but the trial just dragged out so very long. If I remember right (40 years ago) there were some delayed issues too.

    My dad stopped collecting at #347. I didn’t read the rest of the storyline until just a few years ago.

  • Dave says:

    The only story interminably longer than The Trial of the Flash is anything by Tom King.

  • LouReedRichards says:

    @Thom H.

    I like Infantino’s art of this period. It’s certainly a little wonky at times, but it still has a looseness and kinetic energy to it that I find appealing. The big broad faces are a bit much, and it takes the right kind of inker to make any of it work.

    I totally agree about Swan though. I’ve always found his work incredibly stiff and dull. At least Infantino’s style seemed to evolve, can’t say the same for Swan.

    To each their own, of course.

    I got into comics right before the beginning of Crisis. At the time Marvel seemed so much more exciting and interesting, DC just couldn’t compete.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “My dad stopped collecting at #347.”

    did he know it was ending at #350?


    I appreciate his art more now than when i was young. Also, for extra-nice looking Swan art, check out “Superman: the Earth Stealers”, though the story is kinda half-assed.

  • Oliver says:

    Of the 2000-plus comics in my collection, the only one I have with a double cover is Flash #339, a ‘Big Sir’ issue. Make of that what you will.

  • Thom H. says:

    @LouReedRichards: I actually like some of Infantino’s art in the ’80s quite a lot, too. If I recall correctly, he had some entries in Who’s Who that were really striking.

    For my money, Curt Swan in the ’60s can’t be beat. An absolute master draftsman.

    I just think that by 1983/84, their loose, thin-lined styles had become kind of dated. Byrne, Perez, Miller, Paul Smith, and John Romita Jr. were doing much more compact, detailed work around the same time, and that was more exciting to look at.

  • I charge thee with Willful Deception, Michael Sterling.
    You write an entire post about The Slowest Trial Alive and you INTENTIONAL fail to mention “Nathan Newbury”, which is the story’s greatest offense.

    You’re working for Barrys lawyer, aren’t you…?

  • Sean Mageean says:

    It’s interesting to get different perspectives on Progressive Ruiners’ opinions on the art of Curt Swan and Carmine Infantino. It’s also somewhat sad to think that the comics industry is a place where so much talent has been used and then discarded or not given steady employment over the course of their lifetime. I always got the impression that the guys who had been there since the early days of the industry….late 1930s/early 1940s, like Julius Schwartz and Stan Lee, tried to give steady work to their artist peers when they could –proved that the artists were competent draftsmen and visual storytellers who could make deadlines.

    I’ve read that Curt Swan took it pretty badly when he was forced off of the Superman books…which is actually understandable, considering how many decades he had been the main Superman artist. I personally found his art on the bland side, except when Murphy Anderson inked it…then, I think, it looked quite good; mostly in the early Bronze Age. But his figures generally seemed frozen in poses. But then one reads that Swan was George Perez’s favorite artist when he was growing up. So,the fact that Swan helped shape Perez is fascinating in and if itself. I think the few times I’ve seen Swan art from the late ‘4Os or ’50s it looked more vibrant and less stiff. But if I look at artists drawing Superman in the Silver Age, I prefer Kurt Schaffenberger and Jim Mooney’s rendering of Supes in Lous Lane or Supergirl stories or wherever.

    I think Carmine Infantino’s career arc is pretty interesting. When he was very young his style was very much in the Milton Caniff school, like on Infantino’s Golden Age Johnny Thunder, and Black Canary stories. Then, Infantino’s style really takes off in the Silver Age and his Adam Strange and Flash work is top notch…again, having Murphy Anderson ink Adam Strange really makes that work shine. But I would say DC–or National–Comics two top superstar superhero artists in the Silver Age are Infantino and Gil Kane, on Green Lantern, and The Atom… closely followed by Nick Cardy on Teen Titans, and Aquaman, and Bruno Premiani on Doom Patrol. Then, Infantino gets promoted to Art Director –and designs many iconic covers of the late Silver Age. Eventually, he becomes Publisher at DC as the Bronze Age is beginning, and, thanks to him, a lot of readers got to read reprinted Golden Age stories of the JSA, various JSA members solo stories, and/or stories of characters acquired from Quality Comics that were selected to appear in DC Comics…so, he sort of becomes a quasi-curator of comics history. Infantino also makes Kirby an offer he can’t refuse…so, thanks to that, DC has whole new worlds and great characters to explore in The New Gods, Forever People, Mister Miracle, The Demon, OMAC, Kamandi, etc. But even more importantly, as a fellow artist (and having worked for Joe Simon and Jack Kirby when he was very young) Infantino gives Kirby the respect and pay he deserves compared to the exploitation Kirby had to deal with over at Marvel with Martin Goodman and Stan Lee. Even though eventually the Kirby books aren’t selling ad well as Carmine had hoped, at least he had respect for the man as a talented and visionary artist. Next, Infantino and Stan Lee work together to get the first Marvel/DC crossover treasury edition out there where Superman and Spider-Man meet for the first time…and that was huge! And I think Infantino might have also been in on the early negotiating stages for Superman:The Movie, although by the time it was released, Jennette Khan was the publisher at DC. I would also say that it seems that under Infantino DC started stepping up its licensing…like Mego toys of various DC characters…and also getting a lot of Famous First Edition Treasuries published. Then, after Infantino is replaced at DC, he soldiers of and does work for the Warren magazines and over at Marvel. I actually think 1970s Infantino is some of his most interesting work… especially on Spider-Woman and Ms. Marvel, he brought a lot of sensuality to his drawings…and he had good inkers. Also, his Star Wars work is vibrant, although Chewbacca and some characters look off model. Although it is great that Infantino went back to DC in the ’80s, I find that by then his art had gotten too loose for my taste. I think one of the few loose artist who could almost always make it work was Gene Colan. But to be fair, by the time an artist is retirement age they could have arthritis or any number of health issues which might make it more challenging for them to draw as they once did during their glory days. But it is important to recognize all of these artists’ contributions. I really wish Ken Burns would make a documentary on comics which would at least cover the Golden through Bronze Ages with as much detail of the publishers, artist, writers, and main characters as possible. Just like Jazz and Baseball, Comics are a great American invention and used to be one of the great national pastimes.

  • Oliver says:

    Curt Swan drew the issue (Superman #335) where Supes basically turns into a Super-Crocodile, and I have to say Swan really seemed to enjoy the opportunity to go off-model for once. Perhaps not coincidentally, a few years later he also drew, very well IMHO, an early appearance of Killer Croc in Batman.

  • Sean Mageean says:


    I always thought it was interesting to see Bronze Age artists get to draw characters with which they weren’t usually associated…and with Swan, I found it interesting when he subbed for Perez on an early issue of New Teen Titans that featured Trigon.

    Based on his Brave and Bold art in general, and in particular when the original Teen Titans (Robin, Kid Flash, Speedy, Wonder Girl, and sometimes Mal and Lilith) teamed up with Batman, I wish Jim Aparo had been assigned to draw the Teen Titans in the late ’70s revival issues (as Nick Cardy had moved on to a more lucrative career in commercial art by then ).

    The DC Challenge was also interesting in terms of seeing a variety of artists draw a variety of characters.

    Also, I think one factor was that Swan tended to draw very static panels. If Swan was drawing a Silver Age Legion of Super-Heroes story based on young Jim Shooter’s layouts, the story looked much more engaging…perhaps Superman had just become a very conventional character by then. But props should, of course, be given to Neal Adams for making Superman look exciting on many late Silver Age and early Bronze Age covers. Also, I think Dick Dillin is underappreciated…his art was great on Bronze Age JLA.

  • Daniel T says:

    Bates found out over a year before it happened that Flash was going to be cancelled and just decided to keep on with the trial story until the end.

    “CB: Because DC had given me over a year’s advance notice of the Crisis and Flash’s inevitable demise, I was focusing all my energies on the Trial storyline, since it would now carry through until the very end of the book’s run. So in all honesty I never contemplated what Flash’s life might have been like after the verdict. But the far more interesting question is what might have been had there been no Crisis event? Well, for one thing the Trial would’ve probably ended a good 8 or 9 issues earlier. Flash would’ve been vindicated and found not guilty in the court of public opinion—but perhaps not by the court system. In fact, before the Crisis entered into things, I do remember toying with the idea of Flash being found guilty and going “on the run” (literally). This would’ve kicked off a new story arc which would have had Flash continuing to do his good deeds as a wanted man with an arrest warrant hanging over his head (sort of a variation on the Green Hornet concept of a hero who the authorities view as a criminal). What I liked most about this idea was the delicious irony of a Flash who ends up joining his own Rogues Gallery.”

  • LouReedRichards says:

    Very interesting points all around.

    I probably came off sounding harsher than I mean to about Swan. Thom and Sean both point to strengths that Swan had in spades. He was a very solid, competent artist, and I agree that the stuff I’ve seen from the early 70’s with Anderson’s inks was much more appealing. I also appreciate his vast output and dependability, hitting a deadline month after month, year after year is something that I think we probably take for granted from artists of his generation.

    From what I’ve seen, I prefer Joe Giella’s inks on the early Flash stuff to Anderson. One of the earliest back issues of any comic I bought was a somewhat beat up copy of #124 for a $1 in the mid 80’s.
    Giella’s scratchy inks really complemented the pencils, it just radiated an “early space age” vibe that was very appealing.

    Also: This is the most I’ve ever discussed either Swan or Infantino with anyone.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @ LouReedRichards

    That is the beauty of Barry Allen Flash and Hal Jordan Green Lantern — and Ray Palmer Atom (and to a lesser degree Adam Strange and Space Ranger)…they are heroes who radiate that “early space age” vibe, and post-WW II “can do” American spirit, when science and technology and the New Frontier were seen as the guiding light and anything seemed possible. But it is sad to see how these characters and their wives or girlfriends were treated in the late Bronze Age and Copper Age. And unless I’m mistaken, it was mainly Boomer writers who decided to star killing off support cast members and turning heroes evil. I guess Gerry Conway pretty much kicked it off with the death of Gwen Stacy…although maybe Jim Shooter had killed off Ferro Lad prior to that. Anyway, my point is that most Greatest Generation and Silent Generation writers were writing Comics Code Authority-stamped comics as entertainment primarily for kids and teenagers, keeping it mostly light and fun, and, if anything, primarily sparking an interest in STEM fields. I also think a lot of the Silver Age writers who were already middle aged guys who had been through WW II, and some of whom had been making comics since the late ’30s, wanted to continue to live in an Eisenhower and Kennedy Pax Americana and keep that status quo. Of course, the assassination of JFK was the beginning of the end of all that.

    Anyway, a few questions: I’ve read that the whole Green Lantern Corps idea was lifted from the pulps and a group called The Grey Lensmen. I’m assuming The Grey Lensmen is now in the public domain, but did DC ever do an Elseworlds story or anything where the Green Lantern Corps meet the Grey Lensmen? Also, did The Comics Journal or any other fanzine ever run an article on why so much death came to DC characters in the Bronze Age? Ferro Lad, Doom Patrol, Wing, the original Invisible Kid, Aquababy, Chemical King, Iris Allen, Earth II Mr. Terrific, Earth II Batman, Earth II Catwoman, etc., etc. I mean, beyond boosting sales, was there a reason?

    @ Daniel T.

    Interesting interview with Cary Bates. I wish Crisis had not killed off The Flash, and Cary could have continued the series in the direction he wanted to take it, with Flash as “The Fugitive”…although I imagine that the JLA would have tracked him down…or even just Batman would have taken him in to face justice. But, what if, beyond the Rogues Gallery, Flash had, in an act of self-preservation ended up teaming up with the Society of Super-Villains? Although it is entirely out of character for him.

    There was an All-Star Squadron Annual where the characters had to save a bunch of future presidents of the U.S. from Ian Krakull or some villain. I think there should be an Elseworlds tale where the Spectre learns of COIE and the impending Dark Age of comics, and to prevent it, various DC characters have to alter reality so that various comics creators or would be comics creators end up doing other things. So, “Alec Moone” ends up working at a mortuary, and “Hank Carpenter” ends up as a barkeep, and “Melvin Wolfgang” ends up as a high school teacher, and “Tom McLeland” ends up as a baseball player…Crisis on Infinite Earths is averted, the Dark Age of the late ’80s is averted, Image Comics is averted…Earth II and its characters remain, etc., etc. and House Roy is happy!

  • Snark Shark says:

    “Marvel/DC crossover treasury edition out there where Superman and Spider-Man”

    Ohhh the art on that was very, very good!

    “Also, his Star Wars work is vibrant, although Chewbacca and some characters look off model.”

    I agree with BOTH of those statements! THERE WAS A BUNNY!

    “I really wish Ken Burns would make a documentary on comics which would at least cover the Golden through Bronze Ages”

    He needs to get on that before more of them die! All of the golden age guys are gone (AFAIK), most of the silver age, and a surprising amount of the Bronze age people.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @Snark Shark

    Yeah, Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin created “the green bunny,” Jaxxon, as an homage to Bugs Bunny– but he’s a very polarizing figure to Star Wars fans.

    Agreed that the Superman/Spider-Man treasury edition had great art by Ross Andru…and a classic cover designed by Carmine Infantino and drawn by Neal Adams.

    As far as the possibility of Burns doing a documentary, you are right …most likely Jack Katz is the last…or one of very few remaining…Golden Age comic artist(s). But, a YouTube channel called Comic Book Historians has been posting some great video interviews that one fan took it upon himself to conduct with quite a few Golden Age artists….Murphy Anderson , Chuck Cuidera, Nick Cardy, Bob Fujitani, Harry Lamprey, Irwin Hassen, etc. , etc., back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and Burns could easily license some of those and use them in a documentary. At this point, if Burns was to actually pursue such a project, he would definitely want to get Steranko onboard as a consultant and perhaps even narrator, as well as interviewee. But, yeah, best to try to secure interviews with as many Silver and Bronze Age creators as possible before it is too late!

  • Snark Shark says:

    ROSS ANDRU!! HOW could I forget Ross Andru.