Captain Flash bashing aliens; Ricky flying spacecraft. Artist: Mike Sekowsky.

CAPTAIN FLASH

Medium: Comic books
Published by: Sterling Comics
First Appeared: 1954
Creators: Martin Smith (editor) and Mike Sekowsky (artist)
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Some people consider this character, who came out in 1954, nearly two years before DC Comics' Flash, to have sparked the superhero renaissance that flowered in the 1960s. But if it wasn't DC's highly successful character that did it, why this one? He was only one of a steady stream of short-lived '50s super guys, including Fighting American, The Black Cobra and a revived …

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Blue Beetle, all of which came out earlier that same year. For that matter, Marvel Comics had briefly revived its Big Three, Captain America, The Human Torch and Sub-Mariner, the year before.

Comics historian Don Rosa (better known as the second-most famous cartoonist, after Carl Barks, to make Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge a major part of his career) notes that Captain Flash looked like a '60s character, and was the first in the '50s to have honest-to-gosh super powers. But while those claiming great influence for Cap may have gotten the idea from Rosa, his only real claim was that this one was ahead of its time. For that matter, the statement isn't entirely accurate, as Marvel Boy (1950) and Captain Comet (1951) both had the powers, and the latter, with artwork by Murphy Anderson (Hawkman, Atomic Knights), even had a '60s-style appearance. So did the same year's Lars of Mars, also by Anderson.

One theory connecting him to the revival has it that DC's management was alarmed by use of the word "flash" in the title, and feared loss of its dormant trademark if steps weren't taken to put its own Flash back in the public eye. Bolstering this theory is the fact that a '40s character named Flash Lightning inexplicably became Lash Lightning early on, and DC, well known to be protective of its Superman property, may have had something to do with that. But since none of those involved in the Flash revival are known to have acknowledged this spur to action, and all are now dead, this must remain mere speculation.

But whether or not Captain Flash had anything to do with what followed, he did debut with a November, 1954 cover date. Captain Flash #1 was published by Sterling Comics, which also did three mystery/horror series along the lines of EC's Tales from the Crypt only not as good, and apparently nothing else. With four issues published (the last dated July, 1955), Captain Flash was Sterling's longest-lasting title. The editor was Martin Smith, who has a few scattered credits as a writer and may, tho records seem not to have survived, have written this. The artist was Mike Sekowsky, a much better known comic book creator, whose later work on T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, The Mighty Crusaders and especially The Justice League of America is what prompted Rosa to compare Captain Flash's look to that of the '60s superheroes.

Captain Flash was Professor Keith Spencer, who, by clapping his hands, could set off a "miniature atomic explosion" inside his body. You'd think this would spatter a very large surrounding area with goo, but instead, it made him super strong, super speedy, and invulnerable — "America's Ace Defender", as noted on the cover of each issue. His young friend, Ricky Davis, didn't have any super powers, but put on a costume and tagged along anyway. Like The Black Terror's sidekick, Tim, and Magno's sidekick, Davey, Ricky was kind of cavalier about the secret identity business, and used his own first name as a superhero monicker.

Once his four issues were done, Captain Flash faded into virtual oblivion, remembered only by superhero buffs eager to top one another by citing more and more obscure characters as the supposed impetus for the upcoming flood.

In the 1980s and '90s, AC Comics (Sentinels of Justice, Femforce) made a specialty of buying up old properties from defunct publishers, such as Fighting Yank and The Avenger. Captain Flash was one of them, and is now part of AC's large universe of characters. Even there, he remains a very minor superhero.

— DDM

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Text ©2003-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Superior Comics.