THE COVER SAID IT ALL: Superman may have
been "faster than a speeding bullet," but here was a
guy who could actually catch speeding bullets in his hand. This
was definitely a hero going places in a hurry.
By 1940, the sales figures showed that superheroes were hot,
and DC was eager to repeat its own successes with new
characters. It found them within the pages of Flash Comics,
which was published by All-American Comics, DC's sister company.
(All-American was started up by Jack Liebowitz when his partner,
Harry Donenfeld, was hesitant to add more titles to the DC line.
Although the companies were separate entities, they promoted
each other's titles and shared the same distribution systems.
The two companies merged in 1944, when Liebowitz bought out his
partner, M.C. Gaines, a fellow who would go on to found EC
While Superman could do just about anything and Batman could
pull just about any tool from his belt, the Flash had just the
one superpower -- but when you're superfast, who needs anything
else? In his introductory caption to the first Flash story,
editor Gardner Fox called him a "reincarnation of the
winged Mercury," which probably explains the winged helmet.
His speed wasn't a gift from the gods, though; a laboratory
accident gave college student Jay Garrick his speedy
powers, although the writers never really explained how inhaling
"hard water fumes" could result in superspeed. (Then
again, this was the 1940s, and it was a little too early
for writers to use that old standby, radiation, as the source of
a hero's powers.)
The Flash's early adventures tended to be on the humorous
side, while later stories were a little more serious, and Flash
Comics raced to the top of the sales charts until the
title's cancellation in 1949.
Of course, the Flash wasn't alone in taking it there --
several strips were included in the first issue of Flash
Comics, including the almost forgotten "Johnny
Thunder," "The Whip" and "Cliff
Cornwall." But it was Hawkman who would become almost
as big a star as the guy with his name on the front of the book.
Back then, Hawkman was the reincarnation of an Egyptian prince
and the inventor of an anti-gravity "ninth metal,"
which allowed a person to fly. He wore wings and a feathered
cowl in honor of the Egyptian hawk-god Horus. Together with his
wife, Hawkwoman, Hawkman shared the cover with the Flash
throughout the run of the series.
Although the names "Flash" and "Hawkman"
have been used by different characters since those early days,
both continued to fight evil for the rest of the century, and
probably will for a long time to come. Both characters have
shown that you don't need fifty different powers to make it in
this world; sometimes, all it takes is knowing how to do one
thing, and how to do it right.
By the end of the century, many of the original DC heroes
from the 1940s were still a part of the DC Universe, playing
pivotal roles in several series and acting as mentors to the
generations of heroes that followed in their footsteps