by Michael Vance & Jon Suter
August 14, 1998
Reviews in this issue:
Iris West Allen's "Life Story of the Flash"
Shadows and Light
For C. C. Beck, "less is more" was the core belief of his artistic philosophy. In the early history of comic books, his Captain Marvel was briefly the most popular character in comics, even outselling Superman.
C.C. Beck's style was comparable to animation art. He believed that telling an entertaining story clearly was the principal task of comics. That belief lead to the only successful title ever published bimonthly for a time in America, Captain Marvel Adventures.
Beck accomplished this by crafting visually exciting, larger-than-life characters that were accessible to his audience. It is rare, even today, to find someone unacquainted with "Shazam!", the magic word that turned young Billy Batson into "The Big Red Cheese". Captain Marvel. The lightning bolt on his big red chest remains equally recognizable.
Born in 1910, Charles Beck drew cartoons for Fawcett magazines from 1932 to 1939 before becoming the principal force behind Captain Marvel. With artist Pete Costanza, Beck co-directed a company that supplied the bulk of Captain Marvel material for Fawcett publications. He also created the advertising icon, "Captain Tootsie for chocolate Tootsie-Rolls.
His career centered on this character although he also worked on Spy Smasher and Ibis (Fawcett), and Fatman ('65, Milson). The titles that may include his work include: All Hero, All New Collector's Edition, America's Greatest, Fawcett Min., Legends, Limited Collector's Edition, Marvel Family, Master #21, Mighty Midget Comics, Special Edition Comics, Whiz, Wisco and Xmas Comics, and several "give-a-way" premiums (1939-'53 Fawcett; 1973-78 & '87 National as Shazam). Beck wrote, edited and drew. Because many Fawcett creators went uncredited, a comic book price guide is essential in pinpointing which issues contain Beck's work.
The '87 Captain Marvel title published by Marvel Comics has no connection with Beck's character.
The work of C.C. Beck is highly recommended.
Some older titles are expensive and difficult to locate. Price guides or comics dealers help. Comics shops, conventions, mail order companies and trade journals are best sources. Prices vary; shop around for the best values.
A book whose "existence" has been known for years to fans of the superhero Flash has finally been published. For $19.95, collectors can acquire a hardback copy of Iris West Alien's "Life Story of the Flash" (DC Comics, 1997).
Of course, it's a hoax. In 1993, in flash #79, we learned that the book had been/would be published in 1997.
The existence of the book has figured prominently in Flash stories; it also serves as a terse summary of the careers of Barry Alien, Wally West and others.
Several prominent figures helped create the alleged biography: Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn share the script while Gil Kane, Joe Staton and Tom Palmer provide the art.
Anything by Kane is worth examining, and Palmer is one of our best inkers, but this is not their best work.
The balance of prose and illustration is about right.
Of interest is the revising of the classic "Flash of Two Worlds" story. Since the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" series destroyed established continuity, we have known the first meeting of Jay Garrick and Harry Alien needed revision.
The first version was more credible.
Much of the book deals with the career of Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash. How Iris West explains her memories of the day Zoom killed her is a problem rarely faced by biographers.
The Zoom section disagrees somewhat with the 1993 story line, "The Return of Barry Alien" in Flash #s 74-79. How much did Zoom really learn about himself from reading the biography?
I have a suspicion that Zoom might be Barry Alien in yet another time paradox.
Flash #79 ended with Wally West destroying Zoom's copy of the biography four years before it would be published. He did so to avoid knowledge of his own future. The book ends with ambiguous references to crises facing Wally and Impulse.
This is probably worth the price for the revisions of continuity.
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