Monday, May 19, 2008

Cover Up: The Flash #345

I don't know what it is exactly, but I've always loved the cover to The Flash #345.

Click the image — quick!

At the time, seeing something like this on the stands was shocking, especially to a fan of The Flash. I hadn't been collecting comics regularly at the time — I was around 15, perpetually broke and dependent on the diabolical whimsy of the convenience store spinner rack — so I had no idea what was going on. But apparently, The Flash was on trial and someone was unmasking him in court! Holy Hannah!!

The entire storyline spanned 75 issues, and went from the Reverse-Flash murdering Iris (Flash's wife), to Barry Allen's eventual emotional recovery and engagement to Fiona Webb, then to the Flash killing Reverse-Flash in an effort to save Fiona from his late wife's fate! All this was followed up by some lengthy courtroom drama that had all the frothy hallmarks of a soap opera; shadowy figures, a relentless cop out for the truth, plastic surgery, secrets revealed and, of course, dramatic unmaskings.

This cover by Carmine Infantino super-concentrates all of that with a no-frills image, and would be the sort of thing you might see on an old romance comic. The extreme close-up puts your attention right on the drama, which is shared by the people in the background. And while word balloons on covers can really be overdone, this one just helps sell the whole dun-dun-DUNNNN! of the scene. I really like some of the visual cues in this image too, including the flat, brown background that gives the sense of a wood-paneled courtroom, and the wrinkled fabric of The Flash's mask that lets you know you're just seconds away from seeing his secret identity blown. Pretty exciting stuff for such a simple image!

Let me know what you think in the comments!


Jeff Hebert said...

That is a great example of a very effective cover, Maxo, thanks for sharing it. I cut my "Flash" teeth on Infantino, and while looking back I don't actually care for it all that much, at the time he really drew me in (pun intended).

I read a remark from sci-fi author David Weber when asked about what he thought of the covers to his books. He said roughly that covers are meant to do one thing -- sell the book. Given that end, he prefers to leave the cover design entirely in the hands of people who understand what sells books. As the author, he'd just gum it up by trying to have the cover be true to the book's contents, rather than to the cover's true mission.

I think Infantino does a great job here of doing both -- it's true to the contents, and it sells the book very well to boot.

Khairul H. said...

I remember that issue. Barry had a totally new face after Big Sir pummeled him in the previous issue. Good thing Barry knew some highly intelligent gorillas in Africa who were tops in reconstructive surgery.

Uhm...I am talking about the correct issue, right? I dont have that comic anymore but I do remember the murder trial story arc.

Maxo said...

Jeff: I had a very similar experience — a lot of Flash issues I remember enjoying were drawn by Infantino, but looking back at them now I can't really say the art is all that appealing. Especially when it comes to faces and expressions ... yikes.

Still, Infantino could draw the hell out of "speed" and I guess that's what you want from a Flash comic. And like you said — he could really make a cover come together.

Thanks for commenting!

Khairul: That's EXACTLY what happens! Flash's lawyer pulls off the mask and THAT'S NOT BARRY ALLEN! After Big Sir beat him to a pulp, Flash decided it would be better for everyone if his Barry identity just disappeared so he went to Gorilla City for a new face.

I'm amazed you could remember that much detail — this was one cooomplicated storyline!

Dr. K said...

I've been trying to re-read this 75-issue storyline recently, and it's been hard going. There are some highlights, like this issue, but a lot of it is slow moving and repetitive, especially in the interminable time between the death of the Reverse-Flash and the beginning of the trial, which seemed to take forever to get started.

rob! said...

even though the story went on waaay too long, some of the covers during this run were awesome in their abstract-graphicness.

this one almost seems Lichtenstein-esque--taking one little moment and blowing it up to fill the frame.

Maxo said...

Dr. K: Eesh, I can imagine. I only have a few issues from this particular part in the story, but I knew most of the plot because of all the flashback scenes — not to mention all the exposition from Barry! I was thinking about it, and 75 issues is what, about six years?! Is that right? That seems like a long time to draw out any story. I wonder how much of it was planned out, and how much was just rambling.

rob!: I'm with you - some of those covers are almost abstract in the way they became reduced to the simplest elements; one dominant color punctuated by the Flash's (or R-Flash's) costume, dramatic "camera" angles, equally dramatic word balloons — Lichtenstein is a fair comparison in terms of composition, I think.